Thy Invocation of Hell In-stock at Analog Worship

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Thy Invocation of Hell zine 21st anniversary reprint from Afterlife Productions is available in the United States from vinyl specialist distro Analog Worship. The zine is packed with interviews conducted in the early, formative days of legends like Beherit, Blasphemy, Varathron, Immortal, and Emperor. Afterlife Productions themselves are down to their last 30 copies for those close to Malaysia.

Thy Invocation of Hell Reprint

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Malaysian label Afterlife Productions has restored and reprinted Southeast Asia’s first black metal zine, Thy Invocation of Hell. It’s packed with interviews from tons of legendary bands, all conducted in their early and formative years, before wannabe rockstar egos and commercialism took hold. Buy it. From the label’s Facebook page:

Continue reading Thy Invocation of Hell Reprint

Codex Obscurum – Issue Nine

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Codex Obscurum
Issue Nine
45 pages

As the internet reaches its peak, the inherent deficiencies of the post-“Eternal September” online audience reveal themselves. Drowning in vast amounts of MP3s and data, they have stopped choosing best over better, and simply accept whatever is not offensively horrible on the first listen. As a result music quality has plummeted. Zines like Codex Obscurum are reversing this by shining the spotlight on the quality that stands out and ignoring the rest of the flood.

Issue Nine opens with an Immolation interview. While I love Here in After, I usually skim Immolation interviews because the Ross & Bob show are so focused on being nice sociable guys that very little is said that I could not glean from liner notes. Interviewer Kevin Ord however takes a subtle but aggressive approach in asking Immolation “where’s the meat?” The result is unsatisfying, as one might expect for the band that defecated out Kingdom of Conspiracy, a parody of their former works worthy of SNL. Ord gets to the core of where this band is now and if there is an echo, it is not his fault but an honest reflection of what happens when death metal bands realize that two-note speed metal with death metal vocals is a path to Pantera-oriented glory where Here in After makes fans happy and bands poor.

Interviews follow with Mitochondrion, Horrendous, Evil Power, Ectovoid, Beithioch, Savage Master, Cemetery Filth, Hideous Divinity, Akurion and visual artist Daniel “Sawblade” Shaw. Each of these tries to bring out the purpose of the band, acknowledging subtly that many of these bands are B-level art workers who merely hope to pay tribute to their influences before going back to day jobs. Beithioch may be most interesting with its culture-based, whisky-infused Irish tangent on the idea of death metal and black metal as resurrection of the invisible values that hold humans together and keep us all from committing suicide in gas station restrooms. Each interview is carefully posed and diligently edited, filtering out the noise of grammatical train wrecks and misspellings that blight most zines.

After a centerfold of intense zine branding art, the reviews come forth. These are more descriptive than critical, but in trying to make a narrative out of each band, reveal how successful these artists are in expressing something more than a vague genre identity. Some of these reviews tempt as purpose and aesthetic vision appear in the words, but others make me want to run far away from what sounds like disorganized aping of the near-past. The reviewers are gentlemen who let the music speak for itself in symbolic translation instead of vocalizing their critiques, which makes it both more informative and more fun for the reader.

This issue ended too soon, but not for lack of content, but mainly because I was all set to read all night! Issue Nine ends in an editorial which by focusing on criticism of the underground, issues some potent criticism of its own of the underground, which is gratifying to see in a time when most people are too busy playing “follow the leader” to notice the quality differential over the years. It rounds out a solid issue and gives some placement to the interviews and reviews which preceded it.

Codex Obscurum continues at full strength after quite a few years now of activity, forging ahead where the internet has abandoned metal and the industry has failed it. This zine emphasizes selectivity and so has avoided treading the well-worn ruts that most big magazines do, but has also avoided the underground fanboi mentality which holds that a fifteenthrate Incantation/Demoncy imitation is just as much news as the originals. These writers have kept this zine going strong and show no sign of stopping, which makes it fortunate for us readers who need a breath of fresh air in the fetid stench of the decomposition of the corpse of the underground about now!

Codex Obscurum – Issue Eight

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Codex Obscurum has distinguished itself over the course of seven issues by putting the underground first and focusing on quality of music, in addition to a range of topics about what we might call metal culture, or other areas of life in which metalheads find an interest. Over time, the editors have become more adventurous and now include a wide diversity of genres, artists and the ever-popular gaming features and editorials.

Issue Eight takes up the mantle with eleven band interviews, two live reviews, thirty-nine album reviews and an artist interview. These span genres from traditional underground bands to rough roadhouse hard rock, touching on grindcore and punk and even juggalo rock, giving the kind of panoramic view of the genre that big glossy magazines pretend they have. Speaking of, apparently Decibel referred to Codex Obscurum as “elitist,” which is a media code word for not regurgitating the spew from promotional mailers, and that gratifying tendency means that a refreshing honesty about the limits of many of these bands cuts back the hype and focuses on the actual.

Interviews abound. This latest edition begins with a relaxed interview with The 3rd Attempt that gives some context to the last two generations of black metal, then launches into an energetic discussion with PanzerBastard that reveals some of the Motorhead plus apocalypse thinking behind that act. It follows with an honest and ambitious interview with Skelethal, whose thoughtful responses make me want to listen past the name, and a somewhat guarded interview with Castrator where the band’s attempt to repeat its talking points fades under wily questioning. Then comes an interview with songwriter Ninkaszi about his latest project, Impenitent Thief, which covers a decade of New England metal in a few pages. Noisem follows with an interview of probing questions and somewhat surface-level answers, revealing more about this band than the band intended. After that, Jake Holmes of Plutonian Shore, Under the Sign of the Lone Star zine, and about ten other bands talks Morgengrau and gives some context to what this band has released. Then arrives a rough-hewn interview with hard rock band Rawhide, a contemplative discussion with Zemial, and a detailed look into Blood Red Throne. After the centerpiece of pen and ink art, Teutonic speed metal lords Blizzard weigh in with an irreverent but topical interview.

CO: You’ve started your own paper zine called Under the Sign of the Lone Star. Can you tell us a little about it, and how we can order a copy?

JH – Under the Sign… started as a reaction against click-baiting, witch-hunting, hypersensitive-PC and overall-clueless “metal” blogs/mags that are unfortunately ubiquitous these days. The PMRC may have been the enemy of the 80s, but at least they never passed themselves off as “one of us” like these rags do! The premise of Ut-SotLS was to write about Texan bands that I really like without stirring controversy or spreading gossip for increased ad revenue: passion, not profit. (16)

The centerpiece takes the form of a deliciously gory mythological-apocalyptic-dystopian scene hanging in blackness, which adds to the mood of the zine, and divides an interview with artist Sebastian Mazuera, who reveals quite a bit about the craft of metal art and the thought process behind it. Then the zine takes a Burzum/Bolt Thrower turn with an article about Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, showing the development and pitfalls of this very metal pastime. Most interesting here is the analysis of how fan interaction shaped, and possibly limited, the game. From the gonzo journalism department, two honest reviews of metal festivals — Blastfest and Messes de Morts — revealing the alcohol abuse and manic social aspects as well as the performances by bands both well-known and nearly unknown. These gave more of a feeling of “being there” than the usual paint-by-numbers reviews, plus hilarity in an honest and uncensored look at how well these bands actually performed.

Incorporating elements of crust, doom, even death metal at times this band can take a left turn in their composition at a moment’s notice. From open palm droning and melodic riff structures moving into driving thrash renditions and crusty d beats, these types of elements give the band a really varied and aggressive sound…With tasty build ups making use of both dynamics and tempo, their song structure is quite complex and makes for an entertaining replay value without seeming repetitive after multiple listens. (47)

From there, it is on to the reviews. These establish both how a band composes and records, and reviewer reaction to the utility of listening to the material in question. Although the review of juggalo band The Convalescence is a high point for sadistic mockery in the best offhand zine style, the bread and butter here is nailing a realistic buy/avoid assessment of bands from Empyrium to Tau Cross, Dysentery to Malthusian, and W.A.S.P. to Paradise Lost. These read well, are witty and biting, but are unstinting with praise where it is deserved. Choice of albums here shows more of a strong hand with the reviewers choosing both movers ‘n’ shakers of the underground as well as undernoticed contributions of interest. It would be hard to find a more straightforward and observant review section in print.

Many have claimed the death of the zine, but with more people cutting the cord to the internet because of the sheer amount of spam disguised as reporting, having a volume like this — that you can pick up and then feel you have a good basic grasp of the scene after an hour of reading — reduces the chaos and puts many metalheads with otherwise full lives back into the game. On its eighth issue, Codex Obscurum has expanded its reach without losing touch with its direction, which is a feat of focus that most metal writers should aspire to.

You can still get copies of Issue Eight through the CO online store.

Codex Obscurum Issue Nine pre-order opens

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Underground revival zine Codex Obscurum Issue Nine is ready for pre-order at the CO online store. The editors say:

The zine is still only $3 +s/h. The zine should be shipped in 2-3 weeks. Preordering helps us offset the cost of printing the zine. Thanks for the support.

Issue #9 contains:

  • The art of Daniel Shaw
  • Akurion
  • Cemetery Filth
  • Deathhammer
  • Ectovoid
  • Hideous Divinity
  • Horrendous
  • Immolation
  • Mitochondrion
  • Savage Master
  • Beithioch

Codex Obscurum #8 available for pre-order

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Codex Obscurum arose in the 2010s to revive the utility and flavor of metal zines from the 1980s, but doing so in an internet age, chose to focus on selectivity over attempting to compete with the flood of raw (and mostly wrong) information. Now this zine is on its eighth issue and has featured most of the classic and new bands of stature which are active in the underground.

The eighth issue promises to have many new delights for the metal reader. According to the zine, this issue features:

  • The art of NecroMogarip
  • Blood Red Throne
  • Noisem
  • Zemial
  • Castrator
  • Blizzard
  • Morgengrau
  • Rawhide
  • PanzerBastard
  • The 3rd Attempt
  • Skelethal
  • Impenitent Thief
  • …and many more…

You can order your copy — they are now shipping — at the following location for $3 plus shipping:

Codex Obscurum: a retrospective

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From its beginnings as an unsteady homage to the zines of years past to its current role as commentator and gatekeeper of quality underground metal, Codex Obscurum zine has grown and refined its approach over the past five years. Today the editors released a photograph of issues one through eight in all their glory, and we thought we would share it with you.

Heathen Call – Volume IV

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In the early 1990s, before Wikipedia and Metal-Archives destroyed knowledge by standardizing it, zine editors were like guerrilla truth-fighters. At their day jobs, they stood in front of copiers while a colleague nervously kept watch, running off thousands of sheets that they then stayed up until dawn stapling and preparing for mailing. Everyone who could be a fanatic took his or her turn firing off publications.

Heathen Call comes from that same spirit. Its goal is to write about heathen music, which is the intersection of folk and metal with sometimes ambient/soundtrack overtones that focuses on pagan/ancient topics and aesthetics. If the medievalism of Dead Can Dance or the Ren Faire seemed like fun, but with the vicious realist approach of metal, that would be the heathen underground. In this issue, Heathen Call covers long-running folk band Changes, black/folk metal band Gjhallarhorn from Ukraine, heavy metal band Akashah, and black metal band Grafvolluth. While this slants the content by weight toward the metal, the most interesting part is the Robert N. Taylor interview with Changes in which he discusses the challenges of staying realistic in a world dedicated to frivolous distraction to avoid seeing its inner emptiness. Changes formed in 1969 and in theory would have been included in the great folk music explosion, but they did not fit in with the flowers in the hair message of the age. Taylor brings forth not only forgotten history but more fully developed ideas on pagan, heathen and traditional culture than one normally hears.

This zine is spectacularly short and clean. The focus is clearly the content. With elegant but sparse graphics, black-on-white layouts designed for easy reading, and selective content of interviews with questions that get into the depth of purpose and motivation behind these artists, Heathen Call would not fit in with the “what amps do you use?” and “have there been many groupies this tour?” type writing that populist magazines aim for, nor the political dogma zombie recitation of the political magazines. As such, this is a rare animal. It would be interesting to see more interviews with people such as Robert N. Taylor and other thinkers in this area, and getting away from the also-ran black metal bands who are exploring a heathen area tangentially to being participants in the dead, bloated and off-gassing black metal scene, but as a content-based zine Heathen Call provides an interesting, quality read for those interested in this niche spanning multiple genres.

Codex Obscurum issue #7 available for pre-order

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The seventh issue of New England old school metal zine Codex Obscurum has been completed and is now available for pre-order.

Featuring a list of bands including Deceased, Thanatos, Crypt Sermon, Dawn of Demise, Wastlander, Undergang, Blood Incantation, Magic Circle and Drug Honkey, the zine promises to be a continuation of the past concept of this hand-produced stapled and Xeroxed zine, which is focus on the music from a fan perspective without the nonsense and trappings of the music industry.

Compilation of Death – Volume II Issues I & II

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In the many years of reading about metal, I have often wished for something like Compilation of Death: a zine that goes back through other zines, pulls out the best content and annotates it so that a historical record is composed from many sources. Each of the stories in this zine are like a shelf in a great library of metal, usually about a band but equally possibly a scene, a sound or a time.

What you will find among these pages is a carefully curated view of metal, which borrows whole pages from zines from the periods in which these bands were active, combines them with current-day interviews and perspectives, and assembles them into a kind of metal investigative reporting that shows us a well-rounded picture of each band or topic.

Compilation of Death carefully gives credit to each of the source zines and includes information on how to contact them, so in addition to being a feast of metal zine information, this is a promotion for the entire idea of zines, which are experiencing a renaissance as people tire of the information overload — which guarantees a predominance of low-value content — and endless useless people who clog today’s internet. Democratizing content merely means that every bad idea gets repeated thousands of times and good ideas get driven to the periphery, so that established commercial interests with the bucks to advertise on the big sites win out. Zines on the other hand are by their nature curated, meaning that someone plays the role of librarian/editor and picks bands deliberately, asks questions with intent, and reveals something unique to that subject with the resulting reporting. This is different than the assembly line process of web sites and big metal magazines, who process whatever the labels send them in roughly the same way with surface changes so that the “quirky” outlook hides the utter sameness and entropy of it all. What made zines powerful was that they had purpose, which allowed them to reveal a truth non-objectively and for reasons of itself, instead of secondary reasons like popularity and profit. Compilation of Death doubles down on this concept by not only choosing direction and topic, but picking from the vast number of zines out there the best of what is written on that topic.

These two volumes offer reading matter that can be pored over many times because they are bursting with details that become increasingly relevant the more one knows about a topic. In addition, metal historians will find many unknown but important details here confirming the motivations of bands and their art, in addition to a broader perspective on the people behind the music which is never revealed by the more uptight, formal and procedural interviews conducted by big magazines. For those who want a heavy dose of information about the underground in a form that rewards the diligent reader with a deep understanding, Compilation of Death is a treat that can be revisited time and again to bring out the nuance of its topic.

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