Witchblood – Hail to Lyderhorn(2014)

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Article by David Rosales

Witchblood is a black metal band that falls on the darkest corner of the folky side of the fence. While not specifically minimalist, Hail to Lyderhorn is a very simple and straightforward music that leans completely on the guitars for content and texture. This album may get repetitive or even a little thin at times but its saving grace is its coherent diversity of textures and techniques. The scant but effective use of keyboards is laudable, being effective as it is magnetic.

The guitars function as one only voice most of the time, with a trusty bass for a spinal chord. The meanness of this portion of the instrumentation places great stress over the role of percussion. The drums have now to fill up spaces and act like the second rock in the bolas of an Argentinian gaucho. To Witchblood’s merit, this is accomplished more than satisfactorily, with drums that compliment or mirror the metal strings, rising to the occasion as required.

Comments will be made about the quality of the vocal performance, which is neither deep, rich nor very powerful. Despite this, the overall result of the music in Hail to Lyderhorn does not seem affected negatively noticeably because of this. In part this is because, as with the instrumentation, the vocalizations were performed well within the boundaries of their limits, allowing them to perform effectively, and therefore avoiding the possible blunders of overextension. We may also want to point out that the textures for guitar riffs and their chosen registers stay clear of the space in which the voice moves. When the guitar’s approach changes (for example, arpeggiating chords into higher notes), the vocal approach also changes, sometimes to a haunting witch chant.

Released in 2014, Witchblood Hail to Lyderhorn is a deserving release that might have escaped the radar of most fans who would otherwise have derived much value from it. While it’s no classic or game changer, this album is nonetheless a low-key example of shrewd amateur efficiency and spirit.

Editor’s note: “Hail to Lyderhorn” was briefly covered in our best of 2014.

Enslaved and Wardruna members collaborate in Skjuggsjá

Metal flavored post-rock (modern Enslaved) and ambient folk oriented music (Wardruna) are both established things. I am not so sure the fusion of such in Skjuggsjá, a side project album featuring Ivar Bjørnson and Einar Selvik, is as common. Skjuggsjá does seem to feature all the pretension inherent in either, and was apparently written and first performed for the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the Norwegian constitution of 1814. This studio recording will release on March 11th; the released single does not seem to emphasis the potential metal instrumentation of such a project, although scattered live clips suggest some effort towards this end on other tracks.

Tengger Cavalry frontman to perform at Carnegie Hall

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Our previous editor was not a fan of Tengger Cavalry (accusing them of being simplistic stadium metal dressed up in Mongolian ornamentation), but they’ve managed to score a performance at the prestigious Carnegie Hall. However, if promotional materials are to be believed, this is going to be an ‘unplugged’ performance that emphasizes the folk/world music elements of the band over their rock/metal influences. Viewed in this light, it seems more mundane; Carnegie Hall has presumably seen many distinguished performances from folk music acts throughout its history. This is still a great boon to the band’s fame and a possible boost to the presence of Asian metal bands in society. The concert will be held on December 24th in the Weill Recital Hall.

Chthonic frontman running for congressman in Taiwan

By now, metal musicians and fans participating in politics isn’t entirely unheard of; even in Asia you can find such prominent examples as Joko Widodo (president of Indonesia). Freddy Lee, the frontman of the Taiwanese symphonic black/folk metal band Chthonic, is running for a seat in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, as reported by Blabbermouth. Lee has participated in his country’s politics for some time and is running as a member of the recently formed New Power Party, which advocates for Taiwanese nationalism. In the past, he’s apparently used his position in Chthonic to promulgate these political views. Part of his campaign includes a free concert in Taipei on December 26th, which admittedly may be a bit difficult for our primarily Western audience to participate in.

Al-Namrood – Diaji Al Joor (2015)

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Al-Namrood is so kvlt that they can’t even turn down their projects’ master levels a few decibels. While simply nudging everything down a bit so it doesn’t clip as much might not be the best way to go about it, the fact that this completely insane brickwalling that’s apparently been dogging the fellows throughout their career goes yet unresolved on Diaji Al Joor does not exactly fill me with hope. As previously mentioned the last time a DMU writer took notice, Al-Namrood’s big gimmick is that they’re from Saudi Arabia and are theoretically risking more to get their content out. Remove their background and the absolute garbage mixing job, and you’re left with an okay but generally underwhelming folk metal album with some black metal influences.

On a scale of Orphaned Land to Melechesh, Al-Namrood leans closer to the latter for keeping a greater amount of metal technique in their formula. For whatever reason, they end up consistently midpaced in all instrumentation and otherwise lean towards a consistent sound. From a musicological perspective, their consistent use of Arabic maqams (a seven tone system of tuning and intonation) makes for a great selling point in the Western world and, amongst other things, leads to some dissonant/microtonal droning sections that I barely hear in metal; I furthermore believe that more ambitious and proficient musicians could do great things with such. On Diaji Al Joor, this potential is squandered and turned into tedious filler that adds little of value. This is best described as more of a vocal-driven album, anyways – the vocalist (who goes by the pseudonym of “Humbaba”) barks and rattles his way through these tracks and seems to have some idea of how to vary up his inflection and pitch to make himself more interesting and prominent. I’m cynical enough to call him a case of wasted potential given the lack of direction that manifests below him.

I’d probably go as far as to say this is, in spite of its clear flaws, ever so slightly better than Melechesh’s recent effort (Enki) was, since it’s a bit less openly streamlined and digs a hint deeper into its respective reservoir of musical ideas. That judgement may, however, be too subjective for your tastes. Even if it isn’t, the fact that Diaji Al Joor fails to rise beyond a basic level of competence makes it an irrelevant comparison.

Melechesh – Enki (2015)

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Back in 2010, Melechesh’s previous album (The Epigenesis) made its way onto our “Best of 2010” list. I don’t know what to make of that, but this year’s batch of Melechesh doesn’t live up to that hype, despite sticking to the band’s signature mixture of streamlined extreme metal with older substyles and (importantly) a Middle Eastern folk garnish. The problem here is a common one – directionless, flat, almost random songwriting. Whether or not this afflicted previous works by the band is hopefully something someone more versed in their past might be able to shed some light on.

That the structural side of this album is so underwhelming is belied by the good first impression that Melechesh makes with their polished sound. They succeed in combining their three aesthetic streams where many bands stumble with two… or less. For instance, the band constructs almost every riff and phrase they use from vaguely exotic scales like the Phyrgian dominant, the double harmonic (“Arabic”), etc. This indicates greater dedication to the aesthetic than, for instance, Nile, and doing something similar in your own work will probably get you further in the long run than merely tossing in some instruments that are culturally relevant to what you’re trying to imitate. Not to say that Melechesh doesn’t add in extra instrumentation, but it’s skillfully incorporated into their sound to the point that it never seems incongruous. The older metal and rock elements, in comparison, don’t make themselves as immediately apparent, but they imbue this recording with a strong sense of conventional musicality that makes it easy to pick up off the shelves and listen to by the standards of its nominal genre.

The deception this entails means it took me a bit to pick up on how little of the content here was actually making its mark. Enki showcases its share of isolated musical ideas with which one could build a song, but arranges them in an entirely haphazard and arbitrary fashion. The general lack of dynamics also helps in building an environment full of interchangeable content – one entirely folk interlude (“Doorways to Irkala”) and some halfhearted soft sections does not an adequate substitute make. It may be that drone and repetition form an integral part of Melechesh’s songwriting, but the best bands to rely on such techniques don’t simply vary themselves through minor variation, but arrange such in a fashion that allows for actual in-song progression. Melechesh’s failure to do so combined with other aspects of their style make for an experience that decays to irrelevance shockingly fast.

SJW war on metal heats up

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Following the banning of Disma from the Netherlands Deathfest by SJWs, those cuddly political fanatics have attacked again by setting fire to a black metal club in Germany.

As reported in local news, the entrance to the club — originally a tiki-themed club now repurposed to be one of the most important black metal venues in Germany — was set ablaze in the night by SJWs who identified with “Antifa,” originally an anti-fascist organization that now works alongside other SJW groups. These groups publicly claimed responsibility for the attack and issued the ominous statement, “This fall we have some catching up what was missed in the last few years!”

Interestingly, Blackland Club was not a Nazi club. It allowed black metal bands to play there and by all accounts, most of the bands who performed at the club were not political in any way. SJWs attacked under the excuse that it provided a platform for Nazi bands, ignoring the fact that most black metal bands have extremist philosophies that make the Nazis look like Williamsburg Democrats. The club became a target because it did not adopt the SJW line that those who do not expressly reject certain beliefs must be destroyed. Some of the “evidence” compiled by SJWs includes that people there wear Burzum tshirts.

This type of phenomenon — a witch hunt organized by an internet hate mob motivated by SJW ideals — was last seen in the Disma debacle where SJWs pushed Disma to apologize for possible pro-Nazi statements by one member. The point of the apology is that it humiliates the person, and shows everyone else a broken and contrite citizen who acknowledges that he has been disciplined, which instills fear in the rest of us of the same happening to us. That is the point of all this SJW scene policing: to create fear and through that, compliance and control. SJWs have made their demands clear: support our ideology or we will destroy your career. This is the power of having an internet lynch mob to deploy against non-conformists.

As political instability in the US and Europe accelerates, we are likely to see more of these clashes as SJWs attempt to unify their ranks. This reveals SJWs are involved in metal only incidentally because their actual purpose is to be involved in politics, and they want to use heavy metal as a propaganda weapon in that fight. This is why their increasingly shrill, intolerant and dogmatic voices are infesting metal, punk and rock as happened when record label Run For Cover Records cut ties with band Whirr over “transphobic” — meaning not fully approving of transsexualism — messages on Twitter:

Last night, the Bay Area band Whirr posted a series of negative tweets about G.L.O.S.S., a punk band whose lead singer is a transgender woman. (The tweets have since been deleted, but an archive can be found at Stereogum.) Among other things, they tweeted, “g.l.o.s.s. Is just a bunch of boys running around in panties making shitty music,” and compared G.L.O.S.S. to the Buffalo Bill character from The Silence of The Lambs.

While this is clearly vitriolic, it is not any more vitriolic than what is regularly posted on metal bulletin boards on the internet. But it does provide an opportunity for SJWs to create a “teachable moment” in which they destroy someone’s life to remind the rest of us to toe the line or we, too, will be on the chopping block. One label created a religion out of this division, and said, “We have zero interest in working w/ hateful people.” That they have in turn created a hateful echo chamber seems like too much thinking for them, but the result is that the metal/punk scenes are polarizing: there are those who are SJW, and there are those who SJWs consider their enemies for not being SJW.

This behavior is not specific to SJWs in metal. Everywhere they go, the commandment is the same: Destroy the unbelievers. If you deny their ideology in public, they will seek you out not to disagree with you, but to try to get you fired and otherwise socially ostracized. It is their one weapon, the threat that they will declare you something the media thinks is bad (“Nazi,” “racist,” “sexist,” “transphobic”) whether or not there is any truth to it, and you will be unable to participate in our liberal-leaning society as a result.

In the meantime, refuting a recent SJW attack which claimed that folk metal was plagued by “sexism” and “racism” but never quite showed how that was true, some sources have begun posting an extended list of folk metal bands that are not white, male and pointed toward European mythos:

Amocualli – Aztec folk metal from Mexico
Arkan – Islamic folk/death metal from France
Kartykeia – Hindu/Vedic folk/death metal from Russia
Melechesh – Mesopotamian folk/black metal from Israel (ethnically Assyrian and Armenian) now based in the Netherlands
Myrath – Oriental folk/progressive metal from Tunisia
Rudra – Hindu/Vedic death metal
Skinflint – folk metal from Botswana
Tengger Cavalry – Mongolian folk metal from China

As usual, the SJW story does not add up because SJWs are ideological fanatics and not realistic members of society. Western Civilization continues crashing into the abyss and no one will do anything about that, so they focus on nice low-hanging fruit like convincing all of us to support the right of transsexuals to listen to black metal too, even though no one had ever attempted to deny them that ability. The best way to combat this is to end the perception that SJWs speak in any way about whether someone is “good” or not, and see them for what they are: lonely fanatics in their lonely apartments, raging at the world for not granting them more power.

Primordial vocalist Alan Averill weighs in on SJW academics

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Folk metal band Primordial vocalist Alan Averill inveighed against social justice worker (SJW) academics who recently witch-hunted “racism” and “sexism” in folk metal, claiming they are johnny-come-latelies using the authenticity of the metal name to draw attention to their careers. Writes Averill:

I don’t know whether to be bothered sharing this shit…..I think what these fuckwits fail to understand, or rather as usual intellectual ghost hunting is the place that ‘folk metal’ takes within the overall timeline and context of metal. The imagery and themes of folk metal are distilled from metals’ pre-occupation with fantasy not necessarily from a historical or factually based context, nor does it have to be. The language of for example Viking mythology has been perfect for metal since Zeppelin wrote ‘The immigrant song’.

Folk metal essentially took the place culturally in metal from where power metal left on in the late 90s and early 00s. Often it has more to do with role playing, gaming and fantasy….just with furry boots.

Claiming that is is somehow racist because it borrows from pre christian European history is just pointless and reductionist, bands do not have to apologise or justify singing about their culture and as I said most of it is through the prism of fantasy and myth because the imagery is simply perfect for heavy metal.

Sexist? again rubbish, I can think of quite a few ‘folk’ metal bands who have written tomes and hymns to the goddesses of the ancient world, both Cruachan and Waylander from Ireland spring to mind. You can find the same reverence for the feminine in nature in not only my own band Primordial (who are not folk metal but have connections to that scene) but also in bands like Enslaved, Wardruna, Our survival depends on us, Dordureh, Fen, Eluveitie, Negura Bunget among so many others (yet this is conveniently ignored) . Not to mention the band quoted as starting the whole genre Skyclad, even a cursory glance at their lyrics and imagery will suggest the opposite of this study. Again just a cherry picked argument from someone hunting ghosts.
Not to mention the fact that if you have ever attended a pagan metal show in Europe or the USA (and I’ve been at loads) you will find a very very healthy % of the crowd are women and often on the stage, the general feel of pageantry and joviality in this scene is least of all full of the macho behaviour these authors are looking for. It’s a young excitable scene which likes to play dress up, dance around and drink a beer or two…

You want ghosts? go ghost hunting somewhere else

I once lectured about Black Metal here in Ireland…to a room full of people full of agendas and opinions and angles for their own conspiracies and prejudices. My opening line
‘You can’t intellectualise a punch in the face’
…..you weren’t there and I am going to tell you how it was so shut up and listen.

You can read the full rant on a favorite social networking site for bored cube slaves to vent about the meaningless of life where some of the feedback has been quite interesting. The backlash against SJWs, revealed by Metalgate when one of the researchers mentioned above, Karl Spracklen, unfriended me over Facebook for allegedly un-PC postings elsewhere on the internet, has now reached a broader audience which is tired of outsiders interfering in metal to pick up on its perceived cachet of cool.

Academics create witch hunt against metal

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Academics, always in a position to justify their jobs and knowing they can make headlines by finding “racism” and “sexism” under every rock like 21st century witchfinders general, have recently released a study claiming associations with racism and sexism in folk metal.

As Leeds Beckett University states:

“Through the study, I found that although women fans of heavy metal enjoy folk metal with the same kind of passion and intensity as male fans, and there is no doubt they find identity and belonging through the music, the heart of folk metal is predominantly masculine. The warrior myth that folk metal is focused on is normalising this masculine predominance in our modern day world- men still have enormous social, cultural and political power.

“Folk metal’s obsession with warriors and cultural purity, displayed through tales of Vikings and dressing up as Vikings on stage, reduces belonging and identity in a muti-cultural, cosmopolitan society to a few exclusive myths. It is showing white men how to be white men and showing women and ethnic minorities their place in European society.”

Talk about jumping the shark: the definition of “racism” used by these academics is pride in your heritage and masculinity, in the context of music enjoyed by women (and, from my observation, people from minority groups as well). What is this, then? It’s another attempt to browbeat metal into going along with the SJW agenda by calling us bad names and hoping we’ll apologize, purge the dissenters and start repeating the correct message as these academics see it.

Karl Spracklen, previously interviewed here, became part of Metalgate when he “unfriended” me on Facebook and presumably helped block me from the Metpol mailing list after SJWs attacked me for allegedly having opinions that were not politically corrected. It is interesting that he, as a white male, caught the fear and now has joined the SJW side.

As always, metal remains a desired commodity. Metal symbolizes rebellion and freedom. That is why many groups — Christians, Nazis, SJWs, corporations — would love to be able to control it and have it parrot their party line, thus controlling more minds. But as Metalgate pointed out, the resistance in metal to such control is strong and we enjoy telling society where it can stick its pretentious and manipulative “moral” standards.

Skyforger – Senprusija (2015)

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This Latvian band represents what happens when all of the correct elements are assembled, but the aesthetic takes precedence over songwriting, and so the latter is filled in with random elements to fit the vision of the former. This shows the limits of vision because this framework imprisons musicality within aesthetics, in the converse of technical bands who come up with cool riffs and back-invent a purpose to them. Skyforger combines black metal, speed metal and nascent death metal into something a lot like the early works from Dodheimsgard: compelling rhythm, but a lack of internal connection creates a sense of genericism that clashes with the aesthetic and leaves the listener with a vision of lost objective.

Bouncy speed metal riffs collide with black metal and ripping early death metal style riffs to support the vocals, which apparently say something significant, but owing to the need for vocal predominance force songs into a verse-chorus format that reduces riffs to background sound, which in turn limits their role to bouncing around and providing some contrast to that, but never taking the lead in song development. As a result, Senprusija feels like a platform for the vocals and what stands out most is its speed/death metal roots, which are composed of what is essentially straightforward rhythm riffing partnered with melodic hooks. This makes for a pleasant listen, but one too disunified to stand the test of repetition.

Taking a page from the book of fast speed/death bands like Merciless, Skyforger keep the melodic hook as the center of the song but pair it German speed metal style with a chanted and rhythmically catchy chorus which quickly dominate the rest of the song. The constant chugging riffing, as happened on later Vader and Slayer albums, reduces focus from the interaction between riffs and fails to suspend disbelief because this style fits too easily into the rock framework which requires constant competing internal distractions to advance the song. As a result, consciousness is lost and songs subdivide into parts. There are many good riffs on this album, but the whole does not add up.