Article by David Rosales; get more perspective by also reading his article on Timeghoul
Much has been said about Demilich here and elsewhere, but remarkably little has been written about the potential of their music as ground for future bands to elaborate. For starters, the fact that Demilich has a solid fanbase and many admirers among professional musicians, but very few bands produce music in the same vein tells us that it is no easy task. This may also be due to the fact that most people tend to confuse appearances with mechanics, and mechanics in turn with character and essence. It seems to me that there is very little to elaborate, since Demilich is only distinctive at its very surface, in a very similar case to Immolation’s. Anything anybody may take from them besides this sort of surface plagiarism are the abstract concepts of loosening and playing with rhythm and mode consistently to achieve a distinctive sound. Perhaps even taking cues from their distinctive style could yield the foundation for the trademark sound of a younger band.
First, what makes Demilich stand out is their idiomatic approach to death metal that takes the best out of playing with tritones and off-putting harmonies in the context of the gore-flavored aura strand of the genre. Where Immolation goes for uncomfortable and dissonant, Demilich takes the modal/harmonic and rhythmic aspects of death metal to the extreme of this aural potential without incurring in the surface character deconstruction of Immolation’s coloring. Both of these bands, however, make use of standard death metal song-wide structuring techniques of the riff-salad kind with motific liaisons.
This surface extravagance coupled with an inner orthodoxy makes it very tricky for anyone to successfully extract the core of their teachings. In the case of Demilich even more so, since it is the silly side of their music’s character that stands out the most, making it particularly difficult to emulate them without producing obvious imitations. This may lead younger bands to think that a particularly derivative passage’s conspicuous appearance might be mitigated by mixing it into a hodgepodge of different styles and sounds. But to the perceptive listeners out there this will only sound like a motley fabric, a bag o’ tricks on display intended to fill in for actual content (Editor’s note: Have we told you about carnival music?).
Finally, superficial appreciation of the music of Demilich often leads fans to single out their music as “progressive”, as “opposed to traditional death metal”. Frequent readers of this site should immediately identify the grave mistake in this. Be that as it may, when you take the misunderstanding how progressive death metal in general is, and you put it together with the common metalhead’s idea of what progressive rock or metal is, you may begin to envision the monumental blunders that might come as a result.
Rather than insert Demilich-sounding passages into modern Dream Theater soundtracks, the young death metal musician might take head from the way Demilich balances out their outlandish sound. Demilich’s music, when seen at an abstract and aural level, can be divided into passages that are either more pounding, more syncopated or what we now call doom-laden (Demilich never stops too much in these power chord phrasal statements, though, so they do not really stand out). The emphasis on groove and the goofy-gore character is a constant that gives them their trademark sound.
The value of these concepts lies in learning how to produce sections that create variety within a narrative, with a distinctive and constant language that lends a personality of its own to the music. The narrative is produced through the equivalent of formal statements, developments, pauses for air, retaking of the topic, etc, in their musical manifestations. This is the greatest value of the best classic death metal bands: their outstanding ability to articulate.
Article by Corey M
Finns Necropsy have been plugging away since 1989 but only recently (2011) released their first full-length album. In 2015 they released their second album, Buried in the Woods, showcasing a disciplined, modest, and even joyous approach to death metal. Every time I hear this album I get the sense that Necropsy’s members do not have any type of heady agenda or driving vision; rather they simply enjoy making plain-old death metal, emphasizing straightforward riffs that rely equally on rhythmic adherence and playful-but-conventional melodic deviations.
The actual sonic texture of the album is smooth and clear, taking full advantage of 2015’s recording technology. Both bass and distorted lead guitars are appropriately crunchy but never so deep and fuzzy as to approach the obscure levels of Infester or Incantation; they chug, ring, soar, and sing without losing a trace of clarity. This lucidity of individual tracks allows each instrument to be heard clearly and effortlessly, which is a major benefit since many of these songs shift back and forth between relatively uniform (all instruments playing the same thing) segments to more harmonically complex bits. Drums sit comfortably behind the melody, encompassing the other instruments and filling in the far left and right stereo space with just the right amount of reverb, never intruding on the melody. Meanwhile, the vocals only appear as low pitched roars that are somewhat hard to decipher, and mainly serve to augment the otherwise simple rhythmic interplay that generally features concomitant guitars and drums. During the last song, synthesized organ and string sounds come in to support the closing chord progression, but aside from this final track, the songs are functionally supported exclusively by the guitars, drums, and vocal patterns.
Judging by the description in the preceding paragraph, we should have all the ingredients necessary for a good death metal album. But, just as we find in actual food recipes, the order of ingredient addition, and time spent baking, are just as crucial to the final product as the ingredients themselves. Buried in the Woods is a smooth listen from front to back, as the creators probably intended. The casual listener may stop their analysis there; the more attentive listener may find that the conservative nature of the songs lend themselves to a relatively shallow range of dynamics. But this criticism is mainly aimed toward the album as a whole; the songs themselves move effortlessly between sections that slowly change in feel until making a satisfying shift back toward the introductory riffs. Nevertheless, by the fifth song you’ll have heard the band’s whole lexicon of riffs, which range from the derivative (mainly Grave-ish Swedeath and Sinister-ish NYDM) to the interesting-but-uninspired.
Finnish bands like Demilich and Demigod generated some bizarre death metal that, while unconventional by even death metal standards, was nevertheless intuitively relatable because the music presented a vision of horror that was spiritual-arising-from-the-biological. The songs expressed such extreme and severe experiences through a human lens that we as listeners were lead to question and explore our own peripheries of personal experience, and push our imaginations toward the impossible; that is the special territory of death metal. With this in mind, the generic horror concepts of Necropsy relate only to the biological and immediate sensations, falling short of that ability to breach into the “imaginal”; that territory in which we can experience events through the potency of imagination alone, affecting our feelings/biological chemistry on a profound scale.
Listen to Buried in the Woods because it illustrates several examples of a decently transparent and reliable template that can be used in constructing songs in a style as unorthodox as death metal. While you listen, you will probably find that such formulaic methods of song structure only work if there is a balance between surprise and rationality in the shifts between riffs. If the focus is too close toward surprise, the result is like metalcore, which lacks melodic structure and relies on rapid and unexpected dynamic shifts in rhythm and overall feel. If the focus is too close toward rationality, then you get something like Buried in the Woods, which is written skillfully enough to not be boring, but too conventionally to be exciting. Personally, I listened through it several times and developed fond feelings toward a few songs, but I won’t be listening to it again any time soon.
A few weeks ago, the opportunity to interview Finnish band Desecresy presented itself. Having been a long-time fan of their three solid albums of old school death metal with melodic and doom-death touches, I leaped at the opportunity. Little did I know that I would be fortunate enough to speak to both members of this dark and intense band, Tommy Gronqvist who plays all instruments, and Jarno Nurmi who commands vocals. Nor could I know that Desecresy fans have a lot to look forward to in the coming years. I expected intelligent and challenging answers, and neither I — nor you, Dear Reader — will be disappointed. Read on for my interrogation of these musical mood-crafters from the dark Finnish woods and caves…
Tommi: Starting up Desecresy I wanted to concentrate more in the songwriting and creating instead of live playing. That is why there was never full line up gathered for Desecresy since there is no real need to have a separate guy for each instrument. From the beginning it was clear that Desecresy was more about the mood and therefor the song structures on the first album were less complicated compared to the Death Metal I had worked on before. Desecresy was never meant to be a tribute band or plain old school/retro band. Towards recent times, I have been happy to see that there are people who seem to get that.
Jarno: Yes, there definitely seems to be more understanding nowadays that we, among some others, are not merely an old-school death metal band. I think the beginning was quite fluent because there was no need to find more musicians, though it naturally took some time to get into the new thing after finishing others. Maybe there was also a certain kind of counter-reaction to the schedules and struggles of a band that plays live like we did earlier but it has proved to be more than just a reaction and we’ve had the chance to work effectively and release albums without problems with members joining and leaving.
What does the name “Desecresy” mean, or where is it from? (It might be a neologism of “desecreation” + “heresy”?)
Tommi: You could also throw secrecy in that neologism. Of course Desecresy is not a “real” word so its meaning is more in the feel of it than an actual description. I think of it as something that lies hidden not yet revealed.
Jarno: Yes and this idea of something hidden and unveiled has been one of the guidelines to me when considering the art of Desecresy and writing lyrics for example.
Your music is often described as doom-death, or slower death metal with doom metal influences. What doom metal bands influenced you? Were you inspired by nearby doom like Skepticism and Thergothon? What death metal influenced you? Did you have any other influences, including non-musical ones?
Tommi: The doomyness mainly comes from comparatively dropped tempo and the atmosphere, that is not so often searched by Death Metal bands. I haven’t listened much to the bands you mentioned. I do like some Doom/ Doom Death bands but to use them as reference of influence would be misleading. To mention some influential death metal bands I would say Abhorrence, Bolt Thrower, Demigod, Grave, Immolation, Incantation etc. I try not to be too much influenced by any particular band, so trying to make these lists always feels somewhat forced.
Non-musically the surrounding environment over all gives its own influence. I think changes of the seasons and changes of light in particular effects the music in the north. I don’t only mean natural environments either. For instance, colossal concrete or metal structures such as industrial buildings, bridges, water towers etc. have a surreal feel of space and solitude that can also transcend to music. “Infinite Halls” is one example of influence and inspiration from such surroundings.
Jarno: Surely playing death metal means we’re automatically influenced by at least some of the old bands, for example the ones Tommi mentioned but they are definitely only a part of the big picture. In the earlier years when playing in some other bands there was probably more will to sound like someone else or do something similar but not that much anymore. I have been a big fan of the Finnish death metal bands as well as the ones from the US and UK, for example Demigod, early Sentenced, Incantation, Immolation, Bolt Thrower and Benediction. Lot of black metal has influenced me, Burzum, Graveland, early Behemoth, Hate Forest, Ulver etc. I have to admit that I haven’t been following doom metal that much, only some early Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus.
I find non-musical inspiration from mythology and history as well as nature. Some easily noticeable traces of these are visible in the lyrical concepts of Desecresy, refering especially to Greco-Roman and Northern mythology but these are usually handled through interpretative and renewing process. Some experiences of everyday life do influence song-writing but in such subtlety that the songs or lyrics don’t lose their feeling of otherness or remoteness. Literature inspires me a lot, such as Hermann Hesse, Knut Hamsun, Philip K. Dick, Aldous Huxley and many of the old masters of literature, poetry and philosophy.
Desecresy songs often make use of a single-picked rhythm lead melody over power chord rhythm guitar, which I compare to early Paradise Lost and the second part of Burzum “Key to the Gate” in a recent review. Were these influences? What prompted you to choose this musical direction? What do you like about it?
Tommi: I can’t really say those bands are influences to Desecresy, but similarities between bands don’t always come from direct absorption of influence. The similarities may be representative of where the bands are coming from musically and where they are going to. Even bands with different musical backgrounds may come to explore similar elements. Through Desecresy I want to search deeper to the dark and atmospheric feel without forgetting the core of Death Metal. This style works better for having memorable songs compared to some other forms of Death Metal (great in their own ways too) that concentrate on speed, technical maneuvering or just brutality.
Jarno: Early Paradise Lost and Burzum are both fine examples of highly inspiring and often atmospheric music that has depth in it and both have original feeling and mood in their releases. If we can speak of influences, attaining the atmosphere and depth with music is certainly something to seek and I believe in this sense some bands like Bolt Thrower and Demigod have also brought the realization that this kind of things can be done. I enjoy the certain seriousness there is in Desecresy and the strict concept of the art.
On Arches of Entropy, a death metal and Bolt Thrower-style grindcore sound can be heard. Why did you choose this style, and why did you migrate toward more Scandinavian death metal sounding material on The Doom Skeptron (more Abhorrence than Bolt Thrower)? (What inspired the title “Arches of Entropy”?)
Tommi: First of all, early Death Metal bands from Finland (which is not included in Scandinavia) such as Abhorrence, had different sound from the Swedish (Scandinavian) Death Metal! Sorry I’ll just step down from my soapbox here. I know what you mean by “Scandinavian.” Anyways… There was never an attempt to swing our style from one influence towards another. Merely to migrate towards our own sound. Every album is a counter reaction to the previous one, so some aspects are more present than others in each album. Probably that is why they may give different associations of bands to the listener. The title of the debut album refers to crypts containing the seeds of destructive forces.
Jarno: Arches of Entropy was the primitive beginning and I enjoy it as such. Raw and primitive, yet the mood and atmosphere is already there. The Doom Skeptron evolved a bit further and naturally Chasmic Transcendence was again a new step on this path. Interestingly the form of an arch has stayed visible in our album cover art for each of the first three albums and I’d like to think of this as a symbol of getting deeper in the original idea and bringing it into being. So the same “destructive force” has stayed there and has been looked at from different views without getting too much into one-sided naive and simple outlook at it.
As a two-person band, touring would be difficult. Do you have any plans to play live, and how would you pull it off?
Tommi: We haven’t been planning live sets, but I don’t want to restrain us by declaring that we would never do that. We would have to scratch up some kind of live session band to do it of course.
Jarno: As playing live is not among our priorities I think it would demand a very special occasion to ever do so. I don’t see it happening yet but who knows what the future might bring.
Much of your music seems to exhibit a contrast between death metal style interlocking riffing of an intensely structural nature, and atmospheric parts of a more relaxed and layered approach. What do these compositional techniques represent or what are they intended to do, and how does the contrast work in your songwriting?
Tommi: The use of those different approaches is there to create a mindset that is not aggressive or filled with pacified wonder, but somehow beyond those stages. That contrast is the biggest challenge in the music of Desecresy. Atmosphere is easily disturbed by structural changes in riffing and drum work, but Death Metal on the other hand often relies on the intensity of those changes. It is a guest to discover the philosopher’s stone to combine those elements to be simultaneously present in harmony.
On Chasmic Transcendence, there seem to be some influences from newer styles of metal, but adapted to the old school ways. What were these influences, and how did you put them into your own musical language so to preserve the old school feeling?
Tommi: Chasmic Transcendence is an album that could not have been recorded in the early 90s, and our goal was never just to repeat what was done back then, even though we are influenced by bands of that era. Again it is impossible to point some specific influences that would have been used to increase the modernity of the album. Everything I have ever heard influences what I come up with. What matters is how those influences are harnessed to create something new.
Jarno: It’s difficult to point out what influences the album holds in itself and I’m also a bit afraid of over-analyzing our work publicly. I feel it’s like a result of everything that was done to that point during the existence of Desecresy. It couldn’t have been done in the early 90s but it’s also an album that couldn’t have been done by any other band either.
Your songs are highly distinctive individually, but also seem to work together as an album of similar themes and related ideas. Do you “design” albums as a whole according to a plan or concept, or does this similarity come from other factors? What effect do you think it creates?
Tommi: The songs are first worked with separately but later, as there is more material and the lines of the album begin to form, there will be consideration of how much of which elements should be presented in each song. Certain similarity within the songs keeps the album whole. Jumping around too much between styles and states of mind only creates a tasteless mishmash.
Chasmic Transcendence was selected by DMU as one of the best of 2014. Your other albums belong on best of lists for their respective years as well. Are you getting the amount of fan attentiveness you hoped for? Is it difficult for original acts in metal at this point in time? Why?
Tommi: We have noticed that Chasmic Transcendence was included in your list and some other best of 2014 lists as well. It is gratifying to get that kind of recognition! I am so used to negative feedback that it has been a pleasant surprise to me. I think we are getting enough fan attentiveness. Things shouldn’t be too difficult for any band these days unless they are motivated by money or some rock stardom fantasy.
Jarno: I have been very happy to receive all the positive words and feedback from deathmetal.org and from people who contact us via email or facebook etc. It feels like we have received more attention after Chasmic Transcendence and of course it takes years of work to build up some reputation and we’re still relatively unknown. Yet I know we’re not really making it easier at all for people to find out about Desecresy as we don’t tour and don’t promote aggressively and to many we’re probably not the easiest music to listen to and get into. I think that healthy amount of elitism is needed and I am quite happy how things are slowly progressing.
Do you have plans to develop your musical style in different ways, such as longer songs, instrumental songs or more technical elements? Have you ever considered experimenting with longer melodies like Summoning?
Tommi: Maybe there will be longer more technical songs or maybe there will be shorter more primitive songs, or both. The songs form in the process. There can’t be that specific plan before hand of what will come. There may be longer melodies heard in the future but the repetition of a shorter melody is a deliberate choice in Desecresy songs.
Speaking of those leads I have a little bone to pick about that in depth analysis of Chasmic Transcendence on deathmetal.org. There was some complaint about the monotonous and simplistic use of lead guitars and how they are linked to the other parts of the songs. Desecresy‘s guitar leads are not meant to launch to some traditional ballad guitar solo wanking! They are meant to be minimalistic and nihilistic. Their purpose is not to be sentimental, but to set a certain stoic mental state.
Jarno: Some want us to be more aggressive and brutal, or more melodic or epic or faster or whatever but it would turn us into completely different band if we followed suggestions that people write in the internet. Yet experimenting on what works with Desecresy and what does not is certainly an on-going process but I’d say there is a certain artistic ideal for Desecresy and straying from that wouldn’t possibly bring good results. Anyway, as long as it’s reasonable and the purpose is clear I think there’s still a lot possibilities for songs that are for instance longer just like on the Chasmic Transcendence we had mostly shorter songs.
When you compose songs, what do you start with (a concept, an image, a riff, a melody, a structural idea)? When do the vocals and lyrics come in? How do you know when a song is “ready” for release?
Tommi: The composition of a Desecresy song can start with any of the things you mentioned. Lyrics and vocals come in at stage where other instruments are recorded and songs are other wise some what complete. There are sometimes changes made to the songs at the very last stage of the process. Eventually you just have to let go of the songs and the album and call it a day. That is surprisingly difficult mentally after a year or so of working on them.
Many claim the internet killed the death metal underground. Is this so, in your view? How is the underground doing? Does it still exist?
Tommi: In some ways the internet has killed the underground as it was defined in the pre-internet time, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Sure you don’t need as much commitment anymore when anyone can find and listen to some obscure bands with just couple of clicks. On the other hand, since you don’t need to belong to a specific social circle to find those bands, more individuals have a possibility to find something great by their selves regardless of their connections. I also think that in the end, the underground metal is and always has been a bit vague term.
One could claim that something like Finnish Death Metal of the early 90s for instance could not have happened if there had been internet at the time, because there would have been too much world wide interaction restraining some initial characteristics to appear. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that. I am sure however that without the internet, many of those bands would be unknown to most of the people that now are aware of them — including me.
Jarno: I don’t always know what people mean when they speak of the underground. I am not at all interested in every shitty band that there is trying to gain some underground reputation, yet I think most of the interesting bands that I listen to are part of the underground. In the past it was more difficult to find the right bands for yourself as you might not get much information from anywhere. Nowadays it’s probably equally difficult to find the bands because the internet is overflown with music and things to hear and it’s just too easy to become deaf and numb. The good side is that you can find interesting things by yourself without getting in touch with all the stupid people hanging around in the scene.
I think people easily accept bands that are not doing anything interesting after all and the internet gave every band almost equal possibilities to gain attention which is nowadays easily achieved if you have a funny or stupid idea of how to market your band to the audience. Some years ago some people could just call their new band religious or orthodox black metal and attain a mysterious image and the attention was guaranteed. Of course such deception will never last long but it always hinders the things that later on turn to be the most important things of a certain period. This is probably how it has always been and will be and somewhere beneath the hype and superficial facade the underground is doing just fine.
I know you both have day jobs and normal lives. What is your practice schedule like, and how does Desecresy fit into your lives? Are your families and friends (and jobs) accepting of what you do?
Tommi: I have not been condemned to hell by anyone I know this far.
I do kind of keep my band activities to myself because there isn’t much reason to share that with people who are not into it. As we don’t have a line up to play live, we don’t really practice together. I work on the instruments and record them. After that Jarno records his vocals.
Jarno: I think friends as well as other acquaintance have been quite supportive. I don’t speak much of my views or interests with my family or colleagues, though, and after all I’m not really interested if they support them or not. Schedule-wise it’s sometimes a bit complicated but I think we’ve had quite steady progress and not as much trouble as there could have been had there been a full line-up to rehearse with.
How do you achieve your distortion? What technique do you use to make your albums sound subterranean but clear and loud without being overpowering like some modern productions?
Tommi: Distortion mainly comes from Line6 über metal distortion pedal and the original Boss Heavy Metal II (Japan version). I don’t want to bore anyone with more details, nor do I want to give out the secrets of the trade, so to speak. I think there is a bit of home distillery side flavor in the Desecresy sound that much of the modern productions lack.
What’s next for Desecresy — are you writing material, thinking up ideas, and/or plotting world domination? If people want to know more about Desecresy, what should they do? Will you ever tour Texas and help us shoot guns, drink beer and wrestle alligators?
Tommi: Well that tour seems unlikely and from what I hear Texans don’t need help shooting guns or wrestling alligators! But as Finns we could extend a helping hand towards that beer. I know I like draining Budweiser down my throat! Or maybe there’s some more local Texas beers, I don’t know..
We have just finished our fourth album called Stoic Death, which will be out somewhere in the future, so keep an eye open for that! We are working on that world domination but meanwhile you can contact us in email@example.com or through firstname.lastname@example.org.
I guess that’s all from me. Thank you for the interview! Appreciate your interest!
Jarno: Though we don’t tour or play gigs I do encourage someone to book us somewhere on the other side of the globe just to have some beers, I wouldn’t mind! Meanwhile I hope The Stoic Death will be out as soon as possible! Thank you for the interview and your great work with Death Metal Underground!
Finnish band Agonized got the break last year that they wanted two decades ago: a horde of people interested in their only demo, “Gods…,” which was subsequently and sequentially released on CD-R, vinyl, CD and tape.
Created in the old school style of primitive rumbling death metal somewhere between Belial and Demigod, “Gods…” comprised four tracks (and an intro) of disturbing inhuman noise shaped into musical form. Since metal has not produced any style more compelling than old school death metal, interest in such material has accelerated over the recent years.
We were fortunate to get in a few words with Jari from Agonized about “Gods…” and the circumstances of its creation, and how and why it endures today…
Was there a “Finnish sound” to death metal, or multiple Finnish sounds? It seems to be popular to group bands like Funebre, Demilich, Xysma, and Demigod together and proclaim a similarity to them. Does this sound exist? Is Agonized part of the group that uses this sound?
I think there was. There was a similar sound to bands of that era. Like there was, or still is “Swedish sound.” It might be pure coincidence that bands played like that. In our case, we listened to Xysma, Abhorrence and Disgrace in 90s so those really had a big influence on our music. Of course every band sounded like their own style, doing their own mix of influences through the “Finnish” filter. You simply cannot say all Finnish bands sounded the same. They just had some Finnish trademark on their sound. I cannot define that better. I am not a musician haha.
What drew you personally to death metal back in the late 80s and early 90s? Did you have any connection to metal before death metal? Do you know if the other members of Agonized had a similar experience?
Three of us grew up together. Me, Janne (bass) and Mauno (drums) were childhood friends and have known each other since we were something like seven years old. We started like any other young kid those days. First there was Iron Maiden, W.A.S.P. and Kiss. I remember I bought my first W.A.S.P. record when I was ten years old. After that we just tried to find more and more extreme and heavy stuff. Then we started to find out heavier stuff like Slayer, Bathory and Destruction to name a few. I think this has been the way many of today’s death metal fans have started. Also I had some sort of punk era in between.
After Napalm Death released From Enslavement to Obliteration we read about them from Finnish music magazines and were like, “Whoa, that must be some cool shit.” At that time only way to get your hands on Napalm Death records was to travel to Helsinki from Lahti by train and buy them.
When I found that Napalm Death LP in Helsinki, at the same time I saw Carcass’s Reek of Putrefaction LP and Bolt Thrower Realm of Chaos. When I got home from Helsinki and put on the first notes of the Napalm Death LP, I could say my head exploded. What an absolute annihilation after listening years of thrash and speed metal. After that I got into the next LP, Carcass… yeah, right… Another deadly hit. Rest is history. I have never survived that actually. So I am still on that road.
When did Agonized form, and what were your inspirations and influences at that time? Did you have any non-musical influences, like literature or other forms of art or culture?
Agonized was formed in 1990 if I remember correctly. Janne, Mauno and I wanted to play some death metal after hardcore/grind experiments but it was really hard to find anyone skilled enough to play guitars. We put an advert on a Finnish music magazine that we are searching some guitarists to play death metal. We got contacted by two dudes (Antti and Mika) from Vantaa and went to see if it would work out. We had a nice playing session and everyone thought let’s play something together. We gathered few times, in Vantaa and Lahti, to play together.
As we were arranging concerts in Lahti for underground bands we played few shows on those events. Agonized had big influences from Bolt Thrower, Carcass and Xysma. Those must have been the most influential bands on Agonized, at least for me. I don’t remember any non-musical influences. No, I don’t think there was any non-musical influences. Agonized was mostly for just having fun playing the music we wanted to hear.
The band put out one demo, “Gods…” Can you tell us how this demo came about? When did you write the songs, and how did you record it?
After few shows we decided to record those tracks we played to tape. Songs on this tape are all Agonized ever managed to come by. Our shows contained only those tracks and I remember we played those twice to play even a decent length of set. All songs was born at those rehearsals we had together. We just started playing and decided that “hey, that sounded cool” and continued to another one.
“Gods…” was recorded in a local studio, we got two or three hours of free use of it with the guy who mixes the tape. Guy behind the desk did not have any idea what to do with this kind of music. I doubt he had never even mixed any metal band. We just listened the results and said “do this, do that…”. Guitars and drums were recorded first. After that we recorded vocals and last bass. Janne had some issues in his life and did not manage to recording session, so Mika played also bass on “Gods…”
Whole thing was ready in those two or three hours we got to be in the studio for free. We could have done it better with more, but were totally broke as we were just a bunch of kids who spent all their money the previous evening getting wasted. So we had to accept the fact that we did not have any money for more studio time.
Apparently the band members went separate ways after the recording of this demo. Do you know why this was? Did you personally want to keep going as Agonized?
After recording, I remember some got bored playing death metal and wanted to play something else. I myself was bored with my whole life and started some sort of seven year period of self destruction with substance abuse and techno haha. So I kind of departed from the whole scene to a completely different world. Couldn’t care less about Agonized or the whole scene. Of course I still listened to some bands but was completely away from the scene for years.
Looking back, what do you think of the demo, and the potential that the band had?
I have always thought it is a good demo. Still we could have done it better. But maybe if we would have done it with more time, it might have lost its primitive approach and become shit. Maybe, just maybe, it was done in the best possible way. Without thinking too much of the final result. Band definitely had potential, if we had just continued playing.
But due to personal problems and interests that just was not possible.
Several former Agonized members reunited in Cadavericmutilator, which as far as I know has never released a demo. What was Cadavericmutilator like?
Actually it was other way around. Cadavericmutilator was before Agonized. It was a noise/grindcore band including Janne, Mauno, me and several various members playing guitars. We made few shows and actually recorded one demo, which was not spread anywhere. It was just pure chaos. Just blasting with some noisy guitars playing whatever and two vocalists screaming with shitloads of effects on them. That demo would have been nice to hear today, unfortunately it was destroyed as I shot holes through the master tape when I was being a bit paranoid years ago hahaha. Well, it was quite crap anyways. So no big loss.
Some reviewers have mentioned that Agonized, while using the classic Finnish death metal ™ style, had more of the pace of Autopsy and the grinding presence of Carcass. Did any of these bands factor into your listening? How do you describe the music of Agonized?
I would describe music of Agonized as a hybrid of American and Finnish death metal. It is just like Bolt Thrower and Carcass mixed with Xysma. At least I think so. Some have compared it to Mortician, but I must admit that any of us did not even know what Mortician was back in the days we were active. So I cannot compare us to them.
I thought it was a stroke of genius how the band (or you alone?) managed to first release a CD-R of the demos, build interest, then get a 7″ released, build more interest, and finally get the CD re-release on Aphelion records. Can you tell us how each of these steps came about, and roughly how many copies of “Gods…” are out there as a result?
Actually this re-release fuzz is completely my fault. I wanted to just have a personal copy on CD-R, but due to high popular interest I decided to release 140 copies of CD-R so that people who want it can have it. Very soon after I did that, Emptiness released a 7″ that was limited to 500 copies. Patches were made at the same time to include with some of the copies. Also Aphelion released a CD version quite soon after this, limited to 1000 copies.
Latest news is that there is coming a tape version that has limitation of 100 copies. This will be released by Dunkelheit. Tape version is a bit different one. After all these other releases I found a nice copy of “Gods…” tape from Mexico (thanks Agata) and tape version uses that as a source. So it sounds a bit different than other versions that use Mr. Moyen’s tape as a source.
What have you done since the days of Agonized? Are you still active in the death metal community? What about the other members?
After Agonized I was away from this world for seven years with my substace abuse problems I defined earlier on this interview. For 15 years I have now been sober and have four great little kids and a wife and a daily job. Sounds boring eh? So I do not have time to be very active in anything. I do collect CDs and mainly they are death metal. New and old. There are excellent new albums and bands popping up every week. But it’s not like I am being active, just listening to same kind of music as when I was a kid. I do not know about other members. I suppose some of them do have some music related projects but no idea what kind of.
Are there any plans to get Agonized back together and write more material? If not, why? If so, what can we expect?
There was some discussion of this with other members. But as for now, at least I think this would not be so good idea. At least not under the name Agonized. I think reunions are not a very good idea after over 20 years of silence. When “Gods…” was released we were 16 year old angry young metal heads with great passion to do what we do. How in the hell that same can be achieved now, when we are like 40 year old dudes with families. I could do vocals, but I doubt it will be the same anymore. I’m not saying that when you are 40 you can’t play death metal, but for sure it won’t be the same band as it was over 20 years ago. It would be completely different story. But… Never say never.
Do you think death metal and underground metal are still relevant? Why do you think people are still drawn to this art form?
Absolutely. Seems to be very alive and kicking. Death metal is here to stay, where would it go. People like me like to listen to it. What would I listen if not death metal? I have grown with it. It is a tool to get away from this every day life for just a while. People want to release their anger by playing it and why not. It gives youth of today a good alternative on all the shit this world hits at you from every side.
Underground metal is a honest form of music and way to express yourself. Not the crap you stumble across everyday to make you dumb. I also do admire bands that have been around since the beginning. That is one hell of an achievement to play this kind of music 20-30 years active, touring and recording. Now that is something.
Adramelech, long viewed as a younger brother to legendary Finnish death metal band Demigod, ride again with the re-issue of their classic Psychostasia on Xtreem Records. Revered for their ability to mix subtle melody with mid-paced death metal rhythms to produce an enveloping sense of pervasive darkness, Adramelech like Demigod found their way into many death metal collections but remained out of the spotlight that favored more dramatic bands.
The new version of Psychostasia features three live tracks, two taken from the Seven EP, and remastering of the original album. According to those who have heard it, this produces a louder but more even sound while preserving the nocturnal atmosphere and menacing ambiguity of the original.
Xtreem Music, a continuation of Repulse Records, continues a long tradition of putting out quality underground releases and now augments that tradition by adding quality re-issues such as this one to its catalog. A new generation of fans — being of the personality type too alert to be fooled by the circus music of metalcore or bore-drone of shoegaze black metal — may discover the majestic power and infernal might of classic Finnish death metal with this release.
- Heroes in Godly Blaze 4:11
- Psychostasia 4:06
- Seance of Shamans 3:27
- The Book of the Worm 6:11
- Thoth (Lord of the Holy Words) 3:10
- Mythic Descendant 4:19
- As the Gods Succumbed 5:02
- Across the Gray Waters 3:59
- Intro – Heroes in Godly Blaze (live) 5:51
- The Sleep of Ishtar (live) 3:56
- Seven (live) 4:18
You can purchase Adramelech – Psychostasia here:
Agonized will violently sodomize the inner core of your fragile soul. – Sarjoo Devani/Explicitly Intense
Not every band from the frozen north aimed for melodic and energetic interpretations of death metal; many, like fellow Finns Belial or the Swedes in Obscurity, chose instead to write grinding cudgels of primitive bass noise that sounded like a winter avalanche of the soul overtaking all hope. Agonized created a six-song demo in this vein and sadly were lost to time after that point.
Gods… resembles a Scandinavian version of the ultra-primitive death metal of Morpheus Descends in that songs start with simple motifs, often two notes shaped into a compelling rhythm, and then ride that pattern through textural changes such as alternating tremolo/single-picked, tempo doubling, and layers of vocals. This pattern is then confronted with an oppositional pattern which is extremely similar, causing a kind of crossover which tends to find itself in a third pattern which is a mid-paced melodic overview of the previous two. It creates a result that must be like rising from the frozen wastes to walk along mountain ridges.
Perhaps most famous for its title track, which includes a distinctive riff shared between Agonized and Beherit (on both Engram‘s “Axiom Heroine” and Drawing Down the Moon‘s “Thou Angel of the Gods”), Gods… evokes the raw purpose of the death metal and black metal underground. This was not political music; it was a rejection of what civilization had become in its reliance on friendly, happy, positive, “human” values. Thus it turned toward the inhuman. These churning dark riffs and gurgling demonic growls convey the point aesthetically that the days of enlightenment have failed us, and darkness has come again, rising from below to destroy all who were fooled by the false light.
As has been said countless times before, the worst record review is a waffle: “It’s OK for what it is, if you like that.” This corresponds to someone neither moved to ire or adoration by a work; in other words, it barely registered. Convulse is not like that. It is a band to both love and hate, but at the same time.
Evil Prevails should be loved for the rare moments of clarity in which riffs are glued together to reach a conclusion that makes sense out of them, causing a sense of rising above the confusion of life as the various dots connect. Themes add up and then grow, and this is where the band shines. They develop beautiful riffs from less interesting ones, and in those riffs, have a sublime sense of how phrase corresponds to emotion.
On the other hand, the dark side of this release is twofold. First, many of its riffs are simplistic in an American football death metal way, reminiscent of Carbonized or Grave but less enigmatic. Second, when riffs aren’t galloping across your forehead, the band likes to work in random rock, blues and jazz influences that don’t fit with the whole. These are not only incongruous, but relatively undistinguished.
Some might say that this in itself is an unorthodox aesthetic. By making a grab-bag of parts, Convulse is exuding deconstruction or nihilism, in other words. However, more likely, this mirrors a committee. The average is bad, but occasionally someone has a flash of inspiration; in the meantime, dramatic people who are good at what’s normally accepted are busy getting in their moments in the sun, showing off and getting promoted.
As a result, it’s hard to like Evil Prevails; it’s a mess with some nuggets of gold. If you like plodding bands like Gorement, the brutal riffs will not disappoint; if you like incomplete-synthesis bands like Afflicted you’ll enjoy the guitar fireworks. But more likely you will background the music until a nugget appears, have an “Aha!” moment, and then forget it as the churn goes on.
Deathchain, a Finnish band that shares members with Demilich, Winterwolf and Jess and The Ancient Ones, recently released a video for their song “Seven Asakku Shadows” taken from their latest album, Ritual Death Metal.
The video is a slow motion celebration of flowing metal haircuts, complete with a guy pouring milk on his head and Antti Boman providing backing vocals in a robe and Cthulhu mask.
Ritual Death Metal is out now on Svart Records.
Fan of Finnish Old School?
Québécois band Chthe’ilist (pronounced “K-tee-list”) play an exciting mixture of death/doom metal influences, where the music is kept crawling among maggots by a healthy dose of Demilich, but is tastefully highlighted by Chthe’ilist’s own twisted inventions.
This is their full demo (also available as a free download from the label), Amechth’ntaas’m’rriachth (I won’t even try to pronounce that):