kacunk's Profile on Ping.sg Paradise Of Black Metal: September 2010

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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Deafheaven - DFHVN


Like the first piercing shard of light through the black, tumultuous clouds of argument that have erupted in recent months over the ‘infestation’ of the black metal scene by shoegaze and post-rock arrangements, Deafheaven arrive. Coupling graceful, soaring melodies with striding, empowering sections of metal – this self titled EP takes the wandering intrigue of bands like Wolves in the Throne Room and marries them to the style Neige has come to categorise (and then consistently rape) in recent years.

DFHVN emits certain Krallice and Liturgy like vibes during the animated sections of riffology before coalescing and diving freefall into a discharge of overburdened euphoria. Mild associations with depressive black metal can also be made: the meandering, arpeggio distortion played at mid pace, the howling, abyssal vocals. This switch between sections of driving metal and melancholic uncertainty recurs throughout the EP. Final track Exit: Denied summons an impressive funeral doom felt ending. Church bells hover over brutally slow riff progressions before guitars low in the mix introduce melody and a sense of direction.

DFHVN is epic. The music is engaging, ardent, hypnotic, despondent and exhilarated. The musicianship is tight, thought provoking and presents one of the best progressions into this territory of sound I have heard. Give Daedalus a listen and try not to get sucked in – watch the track evolve from jubilation to complete melancholy in a matter of minutes. DFHVN liberates. It couples the sublime with the introspective. An undiluted recording of our reaction to the awe-inspiring, euphoric revelations of life.

You can hear and download the release for nothing over at the Bandcamp page, although I heartily recommend you donate some of your cash to their worthwhile cause. A cassette version of the DFHVN demo will be made available shortly as well as an EP at the backend of January. The band will be recording a full length in December which will make its way onto vinyl in the early months of 2011. All go in the deafheaven camp – give their EP a listen and help this fledgling project out a bit.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Carl Sagan - Cosmos: A Personal Voyage

"The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends powerfully on how well we understand this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky."



Carl Sagan will redeem mankind yet. Watch here.

Vehementer Nos - Vehementer Nos

This is how to approach progressive black metal. Organic instrumentation, intelligently and reverently composed sections of metal juxtaposed and at times intersected by key moments of classical euphoria. Think of the blind wanderlust of the majority of black metal bands, remove any insignificant sections or ‘filler’, include the ‘french black metal’ tag and you are only just beginning to comprehend the release presented before you.

Released in 2007 on Osmose Productions (still waiting on the day that this sees a vinyl release), this release tracks six years of composition by Vehementer Nos. Unsurprisingly, this is their only release to date then.

Very hard to pinpoint a key sound on this release. Key staples of any black metal band – guitar, drum, bass and vocals are the motivating force. Violins and extra instrumentation are kept to highlight key pivotal aspects of the music, never venturing into the backdrop of over burdening synth ambience or badly integrated harmony. The violins practically flow with the music when summoned, they highlight and further the drive, refrain or release – whenever they are needed. This is what makes this project from France so incredible. They know how to write impassioned, vitriolic black metal at the best of times - usurping the customary black metal paradigm by subtly including different instruments and paying attention to the structure of their tracks.

Overall, comparions to A Forest Of Stars and Altar Of Plagues are appropriate but not full descriptions of the music. Predominantly distorted tremolo guitar work under hefty, double bass gauntlet drums – the mass of the melody and direction of the album are undertaken almost wholly by the guitar which do a great job at guiding the songs to places outside your usual sphere of expectation. As a simple black metal album, the changes in direction, speed and arrangement are enough to warrant a post. Take ‘Absurde’. The track sways to and fro in a sea of dissonant chord arrangements, almost tortured vocals and equally undecisive tempos. The melodies swim through distortion to acoustic sections, before the inclusion of a flute brings the whole track spiralling together. At 7.15 the previously dissonant and largely wading track takes direction at a crescendo point, unleashed and given depth by the inclusion of the flute. Seuls contains an equally awe-inspiring number of dynamics, changes and refrains that leave you nothing short of inspired.

Each track differs largely from the previous and whilst the melody of the strings pays blatant homage to a classical upbringing, the openly blasting sections of metal that counterpoint the more sublime passages are equally as brilliant and characterised. Album closer, Dans Le Flôt, is perhaps the highlight of the entire album. A melancholy piano opens proceedings, is greeted by a lone violin before swelling to include the entire mass of instrumentation. The riff is truly inspired, drums ache and groan through a pattern I rarely observe in metal and the vocals retain the stereotypical French accent that suits the despair and transcendent value of the track completely. Strings and guitar weep and direct the wall of melody before the inevitable collapse as the album retires.

Perfect progressive avant-garde black metal that goes so far beyond anything I can think to put into words. Order here, and give it a listen/drop them a few emails over at their Myspace to convince them to make more music like this.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Life In The Dark: The Sunya Is Rising


Sunyata Recordings are completely annihilating all label competition at the moment. I have no idea where they find the artists; I just hope they keep plumbing the abyssal underground for these gems. Pre-orders have just been put up for the ultra limited Life In The Dark EP; The Sunya Is Rising. Limited to 25 copies, a purple CDR enshrined in black card, all sealed and stamped in an envelope. A truly picturesque aesthetic for an honest, poignant release.

Piano and voice ebb and flow as a candid sense of melancholy and appropriation swamp the listener. You are greeted by sultry notes that glisten to the spoken word of Anne Sexton's 'The Fury Of Sunrises'. Within minutes the track has evolved and hazily breaks into the recognizable Nadja-fed drone. Piano strokes haunt and recur throughout the piece lending an overall feel that leaves me somewhat reminiscent of early Nortt material. There are even harsher moments tamed by underlying ambient fuzz that bring Heartache era Jesu to mind. The release integrates all the familiar aspects of shoegaze, drone, industrial and even funeral doom to create a pivotally compelling piece of music.

The composition is heavily drone oriented with a brilliantly calculated ear for refrain and release that has largely dissipated from Nadja releases as their back catalogue became ever more convoluted and uninteresting. 35 minutes of unabashed hazed up synthdrone teeming with melancholy and splendour. Drums hiss and crackle behind a field of reverb, samples pulse from the wreckage and shine side by side with piano as the only sensibly clear sounds. Vocals wail under the current of the track - left deep at the bottom of the mix. I implore you to check out an excerpt from The Sunya Is Rising on the Sunyata Recordings Sampler (here), and immediately pre-order before this ultra limited release ends up in the dark too.

Fellow LURKER Richard described this to me as ‘epic’, and few words really hold as true. For a two track, 35 minute drone metal EP to hold sway over you for the duration and not fall into the catacombs of blatant Nadja worship, there is a telling sense of artistic integrity that is not being celebrated enough. Pre-order or miss out.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ensorcelor: Urarctica Begins

Urarctica Begins, debut EP from the ambitious convoy of Ensorcelor, is a 36 minute voyage through some of the most expansive, introspective sludge ever to grace Canadian shores. Awash in an array of influence and distorted feedback, grating tensions and euphoric releases, rasped vocals that sing of the end over crushing guitar melodies. Haunting, mesmerising and full of the conviction and tension a hardcore upbringing imbues – this Quebecois five piece have forged a monument of timeless winter, expansive soundscapes and lovecraftian storytelling.

The brutal fucking winter. It has a serious effect on who you are - I believe that.


The material on Urarctica Begins deals primarily with the remote extremity of the arctic, untouched and isolated from man’s sphere of influence for time immemorial. Fitting, considering the winterlike taint to the clear guitar passages, the haunting corridoors of feedback that cave and coalesce between episodes of instrumentation lend a blizzard like cold to proceedings. Tracing an understanding of the chosen theme, represented clearly enough through the music if not by the lyrics (available here), was further elaborated on by Jonah, vocalist for the five piece:

Urarctica Begins is sort of a superficial reference to a William Gibson novel. There is a chapter called ‘Antarctica Starts Here’ and that phrase was bouncing around my head for a while until it started picking up a lot of psychic and conceptual detritus. I have always been really interested in the arctic and Antarctic. There is something profoundly fascinating about the extremity, the remoteness and isolation, the distension of our regular time scale - the idea that there is snow out there which has been piling up for millenni. There is a mystery and a drama to it that has been exploited by the artistic imagination in so many ways, Lovecraft and Shelley being two outstanding examples, both of whose work has had a major influence on me lyrically and personally. Getting back to the point, Urarctica sort of plays on the philosophical idea of ur- which is the pure formal expression of a thing. For example the ur-cat would be the pure idea of a form of a cat, of which all living, real cats in the world are only specific material approximations. Urarctica is a sort of original ice, from which all ice, all coldness is derived. Furthermore, “Ur” is a name which has been applied to what is postulated to be one of the first supercontinents on the face of the earth, over 3 billion years ago - from which our current continents are formed. In this way the Urarctic is this icy realm which precedes our arctic and Antarctic. For Ensorcelor, Urarctica is not so much a place as it is a force – the return of an original coldness that obliterates. It is an indomitable coldness because it comes from within. It is not a physical cold, it is a metaphysical cold. You know, like the summertime blues.

As coagulated as the philosophical soup behind Urarctica Begins is, the EP lives up to the idea. We have a vocalist who takes time over his lyrical murmurings and a band that produce flowing, unconventional sludge to the coldest peaks of expectation. Closing track, ‘This Even Doom’, was made available on the Sunyata Recordings Sampler (available here), and tracks the band at their most expansive and inventive. A clean guitar melody paves way for a torrential passage of sound that builds and expands on the initial idea until the crescendo of the wave. Jonah explains: ‘I like the way slow, drawn out music tends to be an immersive experience - you can't really dance or thrash to it, you just have to sort of stand there and soak. I think that this music it lends itself really well to creating expansive soundscapes, and also to playing with different narratives, lyrically. You really get a chance, in a 10 minute song, to develop themes over time that in a 3-5 minute song would be so compressed that they would be pointless to try to explore’.

The striking direction and momentum behind the music is one of the debut EP’s strengths. Never dull, unclear or disordered – the music treads a variety of ground. From the piano and airy vocal duet midway through ‘This Even Doom’ to the thick turbulent sludge in play throughout the EP’s shortest track; ‘Sleep Forever In The Brine’. The band’s obsession with creating music epic in scope while never detracting from the tracks impact is clear: ‘I think we are more compelled by ideas and atmospheres – we are always saying "Oh, this needs to be more crushing. Or that has to be more plodding, or epic, or bleak or whatever.” It is often couched in language of weight and space and topography in a way. It can easily sound cliché, but I think we are very influenced by the evocative landscapes of fantasy and sci fi novels, be it Frankenstein, or Ballard, or Tolkien, or His Dark Materials.’ Soak it up I say. Urarctica Begins is epic. It is interesting. It teeters on the edge of pretentiousness without ever falling into the brink of vain, uninformed musical misadventure.

Urarctica Begins has already garnered a lot of attention from a number of labels. Available in America on cassette from Gay Scientist Recordings, in Canada on cassette and CDR format from Media Tree (The guitarist's own label, soon to put out the undeniably strong effort by his other band - Æsahættr) and soon to be made available in the UK by Sunyata Recordings - there is little reason for letting this slip past you. If you do happen to live in the arctic, and somehow have made it onto the world wide web, the release is also available as a digital download from Alien8 for a very reasonable price.

If you have already imbibed the whole of the release and are eager to hear more, then we have some good news. Ensorcelor 'are actually in the process of wrapping up the mixing of a new record, which is somewhat embarrassingly destined to be a double lp - because of the 4 songs, only one of them is under 20 minutes long. It takes some of the ideas we were playing with on the demo and develops them more fully. Also develops them more slowly. It's pretty ridiculous.' Long may the sludge prosper!

Yersinia Pestis - A new music and arts forum

Forums are great things. They can be incredibly informative if all the users are tuned into your interests and the community is active and friendly. There is a downside though. Forever Doomed, for example, is immensely popular and the amount of users that flood through its seemingly infinite threads is colossal. As a result, any decent discussion becomes tiresome and difficult to follow, relegating the forum's most practical use as little more than a fairly decent release/label/gigs news stream with a bit of trade. But from too much of a good thing to just plain... awful, you have forums like that of Full Moon Productions. While it has its uses, the discussion that goes on there is normally brain-numbingly idiotic with essentially 90% of the posters posturing and flexing their 'black metal warrior' muscles to the best of their ability. And trolls. Trolls everywhere. So if you're finding yourself sinking into the mire of posts on Forever Doomed and, like me, cannot spend more than two minutes on the FMP forum without feeling just a bit stupider, we have good news!

Josh Mcalear, tatoo artist, freelance metal illustrator and the man behind the Yersinia Pestis distro has founded a brand new forum under the same name. The aim seems to be focussed on intelligent discussion regarding the kinds of music we all know, love and obsess over, visual art and horror movies too! If this sounds like your bag, then I thoroughly recommend that you sign up and start throwing around some ideas. With a forum in its infantile stage like this, it is difficult to say whether it will grow into a success. But regardless, if it catches on, registering will cement you as a core member of the community and who can say no to that? I'm signing up right now, see you in there.

On a related note, an interview with Josh is in the works. He's done artwork for Incantation and Nuclear War Now Productions among others. And that's enough of a resumé for us!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Urfaust - Praise Intoxication samples


Stop the fucking press - Urfaust have uploaded a brief sample of material from the upcoming album Praise Intoxication & Hail Possession to their myspace. From the sound of it, the sample appears to be snippets from two distinct songs but of course that is mere conjecture. The first half is Urfaust at their fastest. The second half shows their more familiar mid-paced (drunken?) swagger. Either way, very excited and you should be too.

Australian and Anti-Christ: Australian Death Metal

This is by no means an uncovering of death metal obscurity but rather a celebration of a scene that has endlessly improved. Do you know of any other exceptional Australian death metal bands that should be represented here? Help us help you by commenting.

Throughout the late 80s and into the 90s, Europe and America held the monopoly on the fledgling death metal style. In those days, suggestions that Australia might one day rise as an antipodean bastion of forward-thinking and terrifying variations on metal’s most aggressive form may have been sneered at. But here we are pushing ever deeper into the abyssal 21st century with extreme music increasingly poised to surprise, revolutionise and lay waste to what has come before. Over the last 20 years, Australia’s steady output in this field has been nothing short of a triumph, with now – TODAY – falling under the reign of these new lords of terror. A highly innovative and incestuous scene, here’s a look at some of the heavy-hitters and emerging talent.


Order of Orias

Can you spell ‘criminally underrated’? It starts with Order of Orias. Awakened in 2007, this quintet came to our attention last year with the unleashing of their debut EP, Offering. A ferocious merging of black metal aesthetics with death metal muscle, discordant riff slinging and a life-affirming, elitist ideology, this is one Australian band that simply demands your attention. Order of Orias tightened their vice grip on 2009 with a swift follow-up in the form of the Birth EP, a honing and progression on what the band deems their infancy. This was available for free download from their myspace until recently and is now seeing a proper release through Germany’s Obscure Abhorence Productions around December/January. We interviewed them back in May so head here to get a sense of what they're about.

Offering seemingly appeared out of the ether, displaying a band with an aura of maturity rarely assigned to a debut recording. Throat shredding vocals ride atop a multitude of dynamic and varied riffs, discordant and chaotic yet impressively reigned in by very accomplished musicians. Far too chunky and riff-orientated to fall into solely black metal waters, but open minded enough to avoid the sometimes limiting perception of death metal. Birth continued the adept straddling of this murky middle ground, thick with blast beats and melodic chord structures but juxtaposed with powerful low end tremolo riffing and rhythmic palm muted sections that enforce mandatory head thrashing. We are eager to hear what Orias's legions produce with the advent of a debut album. Great band, get into it!

Highlights:
Offering: 'Flesh Conspiracy'
Birth: 'Apotheosis'


Deströyer 666

From newcomers to an old staple of the scene, there's no doubt Deströyer 666 have played their part in putting Australia on the death metal map. Although now based in the Netherlands, Deströyer 666 is an Australian band through and through with origins in the seminal black metal blast of Bestial Warlust. Formed in '94 as a solo outlet for the warlord K.K. Warslut, Deströyer 666 immediately took on a more audible assault than the band's predecessor with the '97 debut, Unchain the Wolves.

Not strictly a straight cut death metal project but a potent mix of all the best aspects of thrash, black and death metal. My favourite release is Phoenix Rising which sets the scene perfectly with a sample from the folk musician and cult leader, Mel Lyman"I am going to burn down the world. I am going to tear down everything that cannot stand alone. I am going to turn ideals to shit. I am going to shove hope up your ass. I am going to reduce everything that stands to rubble. And then I am going to burn the rubble. And then I am going to scatter the ashes. And then maybe someone will be able to see something as it really is."

On a background of pitch black, sweeping synths, if the opener 'Rise of the Predator' doesn't sufficiently shit you up then perhaps the gripping series of thrashing arpeggios will, with lyrics celebrating the perpetual predatory and destructive nature of man. A classic from start to finish, if you aren't familiar with this and the rest of Deströyer 666's strong back catalogue I suggest you mend your ways and start here. September 24th sees the release of To The Devil His Due, a compilation of rare and OOP seven inches on a 12" LP through Kneel Before The Master's Throne Records.

Highlights:
Unchain The Wolves: 'Australian and Anti-Christ'
Phoenix Rising: 'Rise of the Predator', 'I Am The Wargod (Ode To The Battle Slain)'


Stargazer

Our excitement that new Stargazer material was on the horizon this year was evident in that it overflowed into multiple posts. But that excitement was well founded as any who have heard their debut The Scream That Tore The Sky will attest. A mammoth 13 track journey into the some of the most progressive death metal this side of Opeth, the album is an effective melting pot of extreme metal ideas executed with a supreme technical ability and compositional confidence. Equal measures of epic melodies and unstoppable thrash-based attacks line The Scream That Tore The Sky, an album so detailed and multi-faceted that new details emerge with every listen. I haven't had the chance to explore the new album A Great Work Of Ages yet but am frothing at the mouth to get my hands on it. It was released on September 7th through Profound Lore. Stargazer also marks the beginning of that 'incestuous' aspect to the Australian death metal scene, with its inspired members filling the ranks of a number of other landmark bands.

Highlights:
Everything? I'll get on that new record now...


Cauldron Black Ram

Ever wondered what old school pirate death metal would sound like? Wonder no more: Adelaide's Cauldron Black Ram has had this thematic enclave covered since '96. If you were hoping for a death metal Alestorm though, you may be disappointed. But thank fuck that's not the case. Sharing members with the aforementioned Stargazer and other Australian luminaries, Portal and Misery's Omen, Cauldron Black Ram have placed this peculiar concept somewhere between the sludgey death of Teitanblood and the razor-sharp riffage of Grand Belial's Key. Again, THANK FUCK.

Cauldron Black Ram provide some much needed light relief from the lofty concepts and super cereal approach of its related projects, remaining marvellously tongue-in-cheek and true to their bizarre theme even in interviews. The 2004 full-length debut, Skullduggery was reportedly recorded in a cave with this year's follow-up, Slubberdegullion, recorded in a "back-alley brothel". Gimmicks aside, both albums are very noteworthy additions to current influx of anti-technical, filthy death metal. Awesome.

Highlights:
Skullduggery: 'Imp'
Slubberdegullion: 'Satanic Whores in Bestial Brothels', 'Blunderbuss'


Portal

No discourse on Australian death metal would be any where near complete without a mention of Portal: These current darlings of the scene are perhaps somewhat responsible for the recent antipodean renaissance. Their utterly bewildering and nauseating take on death metal noise harks back to the atmosphere that was attempted by the earliest death metal stalwarts (see: Necrovore) but strips away any attempts at characteristic riffs, favouring an abstract collage of pure undistilled aural terror. And that is why everyone loves them, not to mention a consistent veneration of the Lovecraft mythos and guitars that sound like a sodomized Chewbacca.



Highlights:
PH'NGLUI MGLW'NAFH CTHULHU R'LYEH WGAH'NAGL FHTAGN
Oh... and Outre's 'Omnipotent Crawling Chaos'


Impetuous Ritual

Holy shit. Impetuous Ritual are devastating. This probably has something to do with the fact that they share bassist and drummer with Portal but it is in the lumbering guitars that Impetuous Ritual draws its power. Each listen to their debut and only recorded output, Relentless Execution of Ceremonial Excrescence is a draining, exhaustive experience. The textures on this album lend equally from Incantation, Disembowelment and Portal, bordering on the exhilarating abandon of the latter's foul death metal interpretations but it is the additional influences that make this release something truly special. For level 80 death metal fans only!

Highlights:
Relentless Execution of Ceremonial Excrescence should be listened to in its entirety.


Disembowelment

Casting back through time a bit but also saving the best for last. Almost worth a post in their own right, Disembowelment came, slayed and conquered, then departed the death metal underground almost as soon as they had arrived. Disembowelment released a couple of early demos, an EP, then the tumultuous 1993 full-length Transcendence into the Peripheral. This is a landmark album for so many reasons but mainly because it single-handedly fashioned the splicing of death metal with the dirge pace of doom, eventually bearing the rotten fruit of funeral doom.

Long have New Jersey's Evoken reigned in the absence of the death/doom forerunners and while they are more than worthy of this inheritance, they have tampered with the blueprint set down by Disembowelment very little. Transcendence into the Peripheral remains a masterpiece of depressive death metal: wafer thin guitars grunt out intense tremolo'd passages to grindcore-pace drums only to descend the depths of isolation and despondency at the drop of a hat. The despairing atmosphere was largely achieved by the incredibly cavernous production. Drum strikes echo and bounce around a simulated abyss, a habitat perfectly suited for the emotions the band intended to invoke. The inclusion of a crisp, clean guitar sound only augmented the dreariness of the album and is a treat every time it appears. This album destroys me with every listen, and if you haven't heard it yet you should let it destroy you too.

Highlights:
Transcendence into the Peripheral: 'The Tree of Life And Death', 'Your Prophetic Throne Of Ivory', 'A Burial At Ornans' but the entire work is essential and should be listened to from start to finish.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Krieg Interview: Eternal Warfare of the Conscious Mind


Krieg return to glorious form this winter with 'The Isolationist'; a rendition in outsider philosophy, misanthropy and the lackluster compulsion of modern man. Representing the first full length since Krieg’s reformation, ‘The Isolationist’ treads a familiar warpath; ugly, unrelenting and impenetrable arrangements, turbulent vocal actuations and cacophonous ambiguities. Much less about comprehension as experiencing the abject disgust and hate in pure, undiluted form. With contributions from Wrest (Leviathan), Chris Grigg (Woe) and Joseph Van Fossen (Noctuary), Krieg’s bolstered ranks have fashioned a sound at times violent, brooding and unnerving.
Imperial has been a forerunner in the American Black Metal scene for nigh on fifteen years, with his contributions and audial manifestations never far behind his troubled psyche.


Eternal warfare of the conscious mind. LURKER interviews Lord Imperial.


What is the story behind 'The Isolationist'?

As a theme it’s sort of a semi cohesive look at the various degrees of degenerate thought and experiences that my life has taken me through since childhood. Similar to the personal nature of “The Black House” and it’s theme of vivid nightmares; “The Isolationist” is based on what has caused those nightmares in the first place. I’ve had a pretty odd life in that I’ve had a lot of occurrences, self afflicted or outer antagonist’s puppeteering, that I find to be more interesting and, I suppose, therapeutic, to write about vs. the usual black metal topics. That isn’t to say these topics are beneath me or that I don’t appreciate them, they’re just not what Krieg’s last ten or so years have been about. I have other projects for that.

‘The Isolationist’ has a distinct feel. Keeping the unrivalled chaos behind releases like ‘The Black House’ but incorporating a far greater emphasis on melody and structure. Does this represent a move away from the great influence bands like Profanatica and Beherit had on the project pre-hiatus? What inspiration, be it artistic, philosophical, sociological informed 'The Isolationist'?

Not really. Profanatica and Beherit were both pretty big influences in terms of black metal for this record, maybe more so than in a long time. I think it’s just the natural pace of things; it’s certainly less melodic than “Blue Miasma” was, but I don’t know if this is something that will continue. I’ve spent a lot of time able to think, read, listen to new sounds, and just get myself together as I’ve gotten older so I’m sure that all somehow comes into play in terms of inspiration. There are a few obvious ones, like the fiction of Bataille (not the philosophical works or non fiction) which Wrest put me onto a few years back, as well as Bukowski in terms of the scorn for the world in an American-without-a-country sort of voice. Lovecraft’s way of describing things as well, not really the mythos at all, but the actual way he uses words to illuminate his creations has had some impact.

How have the contributions of Chris Grigg (drums) and Wrest (Bass) influenced the outcome of the album? Did the writing process differ from previous efforts?

Every person involved with a Krieg record is given free reign within the guidelines for the album. I enjoy seeing how people will interpret my ideas and bring their own identity into play. I always have final say in what is kept and what is discarded, of course, but I try not to be a bastard about it.

The writing process had some similarities to the last two records, mostly because the writing was completed in the studio. In the past I’ve had to worry about what could be considered limitations with the studios I worked in. This time, however, was completely different because Volume Studios is sort of like a playground for noisemakers. So ideas that could not be executed on previous records were no issue this time around. The only problem could be compared to a painting: it’s difficult to know when it’s finished and when to put the brushes down.

You have a well documented history of anxiety problems, depression and self-loathing – eventually culminating in the dissipation of Krieg. Why the revival? Is there a semblance of catharsis in Krieg that other projects just could not fulfill?

It helps counteract what has been diagnosed as bi polar disorder. While I get satisfaction from everything I am involved in, Krieg is the one ship which is mine to steer. It’s my first born. It’s the only real way for me to exorcise personal demons, the little cracks in the fault lines that need a release or the land implodes. It’s the one mistake I can attempt to atone for.

Are there any European shows in the pipeline?

Sometime in 2011 but nothing at the moment is definite. It’s been five years so it would be good to get back.

The recurrent use of Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho that litters Krieg's back catalogue has roots in an abject disgust for modern, materialistic man. Are there any redeeming characteristics of civilization? Or is the whole venture inherently self destructive?

Most of the things that could redeem the failing experiment of humanity are rejected due to financial, religious, or social considerations. And the material drive is only getting worse and worse, fueled by technological shit no one needs instead of using the same science to try to fix how badly we’ve fucked up the planet. There are certainly redeeming qualities in humanity but good luck finding them nine out of ten times. It will be even more of a difficult task with the spread of American pop culture and the violent resistance that religions offer. It will be interesting to see what of the world is left in twenty years.

What single Krieg release best encapsulates the ideology of the project and why?

Difficult question. I don’t think any specific release could best sum it up, I would offer more a collection of songs from each era as a single listening experience to show the evolution and constants which have carried themselves over fifteen years. Maybe “The Black House” simply because besides “The Isolationist” it’s representative of unwelcomed change. People expected “Destruction Ritual” pt II and were mostly upset. I’m sure there are people that expect “Black House” or “Blue Miasma” sequels out of this new record, they will also be disappointed.

What is your opinion on today’s black metal scene? What music are you particularly enjoying at the moment?

I don’t pay a lot of attention to it. I don’t read message boards so I guess I’m missing whatever drama there is these days. I only pay attention to bands that I like or check out things that are either handed to be at shows or recommended by people whose opinions I trust. In terms of the American scene: lots of white belts and flannel shirts. Lots of outsiders with no real grasp on the heritage associated with underground black metal.
Music I’m listening to these days, really this week since it changes often, would be the new records by Profanatica, Satanic Warmaster, Woe, Maniac Butcher, Murmur and others I’m probably forgetting. I listen to a lot of old records, or things outside of black metal like Public Image ltd, shoegaze, New York Dolls etc. Various music for various moods.

Your thoughts on the following quotes:


...aesthetic pleasure consists, to a large extent, in the fact that, when we enter the state of pure aesthetic contemplation, we are raised for the moment above all willing, above all desires and cares; we are, so to speak, rid of ourselves.

It sounds like the moment during or immediately after orgasm to me. Or when a drug kicks in. Oblivion. Something that is sought constantly and only truly occurs momentarily and less powerfully the older and more jaded we become. The little death we seek that we know sooner or later we’ll awake from.

“The deepest problems of modern life derive from the claim of the individual to preserve the autonomy and individuality of his existence in the face of overwhelming social forces, of historical heritage, of external culture, and of the technique of life.”

No one wants to be forgotten or die alone. Everyone wants their lives to matter. As the world fills up faster, like all landfills, and technology brings us “closer” this is more of a difficult thing to achieve since the nature of relationships are in question. Sisyphus rolling the boulder forever upwards. Ouroboros.

“Only the descent into the hell of self-knowledge can pave the way to godliness.”

Utter bullshit. Ask most people who have gone through hell if they would rather have the insight they have because of their experience or if they’d want to start again and never go through it. Most people would rather go through their lives ignorant to this knowledge than to carry the burden that this descent will heap upon you for the rest of your life. It could also be reworded to sound like ex junkies who found Christ. Excuses people make to trick themselves into comfort.

Candlelight will release 'The Isolationist' October 26th on North American shores. Stream 'All Paths To God' here. Contact Krieg.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pallid - An Embodiment / Cadence II: Winter Solstice

Here at LURKER we're no strangers to decent ambient music. In the past we've been lucky enough to be introduced to the darkened, brooding calm of Sequences and the shambling free-folk of a death cinematic, two projects that have been creating beautiful and meticulous soundscapes for some time but remain regretfully unnoticed by the wider world. So here's another underground ambient project that has totally undeservedly been gathering dust in our inbox and only recently has been allowed to seep into my consciousness.

When Marlyland-based Pallid's sole-member Andrew Mayton gave me a polite reminder that he had sent us some music, he put succinctly: "This is for you if you are having trouble sleeping." He was spot on. Anyone that knows me would be aware that I'm a heavily nocturnal creature. At night is when I get most of my work done and, more importantly, most of my music listening done. Of course, this can be accurately translated as insomnia. And Pallid's gentle lullaby atmospheres certainly weave an aura of relaxation that could usher even the most wretched insomniac off to the land of nod. But that isn't to say that Pallid is boring by any means. A seemingly infinite level of intricacies are present for the astute music fan to wrap their head around, all brilliantly shrouded by an overall disguise of stark minimalism.

An Embodiment (2010)

On initiating the demo An Embodiment, the opening track 'Look To Yourself' introduces layers of subtly wavering frequencies embraced by a hushed white noise. The shimmering collage of sound is beautiful enough in itself, yet it is over the course of the piece's 15+ minutes that it sluggishly begins to represent a melody of sorts. Two or three recurrent notes seep into the droning soup every now and again, which somehow cause a slight shiver to shoot up and down my spine. It's comparable to the earlier ambient work that Velvet Cacoon knitted between their black metal experiments, like 'Bete Noir' and 'Northsuite', but in this case Pallid's sound-generated murals are far more detailed and a lot less menacing. The repetitive nature of a piece like 'Look To Yourself' also induces a favourable Basinskian feeling to the mix, with the whole product warping and transforming over the course of its running time.

The rest of the demo is generally a development on this minimalist theme; extended track lengths but with a blissfully absorbing atmosphere. Pallid experiments with the sonic possibilities of densely layered guitars, drones and loops with ability and aplomb. The sleepy-eyed sombreness on display in Pallid's compositions works as a vivid tribute to that hissing, drone-based heaven that Liz Harris of Grouper has at the core of her sound. In fact, Pallid could be seen as a Grouper with all the pop structures and melodies stripped away, baring a hazey and mystifying ambient underbelly.  An Embodiment culminates in the beautiful haunting dirge of 'Of the Clouds that Hide the Moon', a piano-based piece considerably more accessible than its counterparts and a great ending to a very promising demo.

Cadence II: Winter Solstice (2009)

The laconic melodies that fuel the ending to An Embodiment are examined more completely in the earlier demo, Cadence II: Winter Solstice. Those dissatisfied with the lack of notes in An Embodiment may come around with this demo which is more rooted in minimal post-rock. Song structures other than an evolving ambient rumble exist here, with opener 'We Told Our Tales Around a Fire' taking a lightly distorted guitar thoroughly doused in delay and reverb, the godsend effects for any ambient musician. Simple, sleepy strums form the basis for harmonies to work their way into the piece, sounding somewhere between a heavily compressed brass or woodwind instrument. If marathon face-tingling fuzzdrones are too much for the lurker with ADHD, then Cadence II may have hit a winner with none of the three compositions exceeding the ten minute mark. That said, both releases are genuinely great stuff. Fans of Windy & Carl, William Basinski and Stars Of The Lid will be in their element here. Both demos are available for free download below but more compositions can be found on the Pallid soundcloud. Photos.

Download: An Embodiment / Cadence II: Winter Solstice

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Secrets of the Tune: Grand Belial's Key and Das Deutschlandlied


This is the first in a series of posts on things I've found buried in the music, lyrics and artwork of metal records. Maybe people have picked up on this stuff before - if you have, tell us about it. The idea is to provoke discussion and maybe discover more of these hidden details.

Listening to Kosherat the other day, my ear picked out a familiar tune, which on previous listens had gone right over my head. Woven into a riff in 'The Bearded Hustlers' is the opening phrase of the German national anthem, Das Deutschlandlied. Have a listen and see for yourself:


Grand Belial's Key vs. Haydn's Deutschandlied

Why, you might ask, would an American band want to bring in a theme from the German national anthem? The answer's in the song's history. Nowadays only the third verse of the Deutschlandlied is sung, but during the Nazi era it opened with the infamous words, Deutschland, Deutschland über alles ("Germany, Germany above all"). Thanks, perhaps, to its use in war films, people outside Germany are more familiar with the earlier version of the anthem than with its modern replacement. The association with the Nazi era, then, is kind of understandable. You only have to type the opening lines into Youtube or listen to Wolfnacht to see that the NSBM kids are all over it like a rash.

Grand Belial's Key have always been careful not to endorse Nazism too explicitly in the public eye, or in their lyrics. And they've not done too bad a job: concentrating (as they usually do) on lyrics alone, the Metal Archives simply list them as 'Black Metal' rather than 'NS Black Metal'. Despite this relative coyness, though, it seems that GBK still like to throw in the 8dd b8ne for the true bel14ver.

Has anyone noticed anything similar elsewhere in their music? Or in metal in general?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Woe Interview with Chris Grigg: A Treatise On Control

'Quietly, Undramatically' presents a milestone in the history of Woe - purging the music of any outsider influence, revelling in the existential quandary of oblivious being and recruiting full time touring members from the likes of Absu, Woods of Ypres and Rumpelstiltskin Grinder. A marked improvement on 'A Spell For The Death Of Man', the music remains largely pessimistic and bleak in its outlook save a few elevated sections of transcendent bliss and clarity. Empowering, uplifting and completely unique; 'Quiety, Undramatically' paints a fuller picture than we have come to expect from black metal. This is a band developing their own sound and feel beyond the stale tethers of the USBM hallmark. Woe sets a standard that has raised the bar - enraged by social anxiety and existential depression, the cathartic nature of 'Quietly, Undramatically' has enough variation and composure to make your album of the year list. Chriss Grigg took some time to answer a few questions for LURKER. 


Why 'Quietly, Undramatically'?

There are a few different reasons. Much like a lot of the ideas on this album, it has meaning on many levels so it's really up to the listener to decide what fits their interpretation best. For me, though, it's a statement about disappearing in a massive universe that doesn't really care about us. The album is very much about obsessing over the addictions or problems or characteristics from which we can't seem to escape but the title track is a reminder that the universe really doesn't care, nothing really matters. It's a very bleak, sobering moment that helps me keep things in perspective. I also appreciate the contrast between the title and the content, which is anything but quiet or undramatic.

Woe began as a solo act - what brought about the gradual progression to fully fledged band?

Time and necessity. We started playing live with the others relegated the title of "live members" but with all the time and effort they put in, it didn't seem fair to make them second-class citizens. Even more than that, they're simply better at what they do than me! Evan's a far better drummer, Shane is a phenomenal bassist, and my strength (if I have one) is composing, not playing guitar. It made sense to have everyone involved to represent the band as it is if you see us live.

'Quietly, Undramatically' sees Woe treading new territory, incorporating refreshing dynamics above and beyond an ear for a good riff and a pocket full of misanthropic despair. Recently more bands are pushing the contextual boundaries of Black Metal - musically, thematically. How much discussion and rehearsal took place before you were fully satisfied? Discuss the writing/recording process, especially now you have morphed into a full band.
Well, even though we operate as a full band, I'm still making conceptual decisions like some short dictator, so I can't say much discussion went into it, though everyone is fully supportive of my decisions... as far as I know. My intention while writing the new album was to focus on dynamics because I wanted an album that represents life, or at least my life as it is right now, a bit more accurately. "A Spell..." was accurate for the time when I wrote it but, well... I've grown up a bit, I've chilled out a lot, and I wanted something that was a bit heavier, a bit more serious.
   
The writing process didn't change all that much. I wrote all of the songs, demoed them at home (though this time I used a drum machine instead of recording them myself to speed things up), and then sent them to the guys. Evan learned everything beforehand and went into the studio with me to record. Shane and I worked on the bass together. Matt Moore came in at the end and recorded the leads you hear in the title track and the outro to "Full Circle," which we wrote together. It was then mixed at my home studio.
   
The big change to the writing process was my decision to avoid the Scandinavian BM worship. I wanted something that stood on its own a bit more so I focused on what I saw as my own style, the dramatic, ultra-melodic riffing of songs like "Longing is All That Will Remain" and "I See No Civilization" and pushed it further. That was very much a conscious effort and I'm happy to see reviews picking up on it... Shows I can do something right! Haha.

Why does Woe create music? What fuels your inspiration beyond the transience of the human condition?
I can't help myself, it's just in my blood. You know, after the last album, I tried to write other music and just couldn't do it. Even now, I'm trying to write other music but I find myself working on new Woe songs. A big part of the album is about trying to come to terms with who you are. I think that the negativity that fuels Woe is very much a part of me, as much as I try to fight it. The music is good therapy.

What lyrical themes does the new album deal with - does the change in music echo a change from the largely self-reflective, pessimistic verse on 'A Spell for The Death of Man'?

It's a different perspective on it. The first album is a lot angrier about life and the world. It deals mostly with the response to human interaction and how we abuse each other almost compulsively. The new album is a more sullen adult who is actually trying to come to terms with the world as it is but also their own shortcomings. It's a much more personal album. I find it more pessimistic because of how serious it is but I try to leave lyrical interpretation open to the listener. There's a lot of language that references addiction in a really general way, but this doesn't necessarily mean a chemical addiction... It's anything that the individual can't change. In my case, it's about depression, which is something I've been fighting since I was young, but the listener can decide what, if anything, it means to them.

Aside from the long list of duties performing in other bands - what musical projects do you have particular respect for at the moment?
I'm so wrapped up in my own crap that I don't check out new bands all that much unless they're somewhat local. The Philadelphia scene has some fantastic stuff going on, particularly Infernal Stronghold, Sadgiqacea, Deathbeds, Nothing is Over, Nightfall, Bubonic Bear... I could go on and on. Non-local, I really love NYC's Castevet, Klimt 1918, Wodensthrone, and Ludicra.

There's an undeniable punk/hardcore edge to Woe that has made a return on the new album. Do Woe's origins lie in the punk scene? What bands did you play in before?

I'm glad you hear that! I found it funny that so many reviews of the first album referenced a punk feel since I worked so hard to avoid it! This time, I kind of said "fuck it" and took away my no-punk restriction, placing the d-beat on the table for a very slight palette-expansion. I've been playing metal-influenced hardcore/punk (not metalcore, mind you... and maybe it would be hardcore/punk-influenced metal) for almost my whole life and I identify much more with the punk rock attitude and delivery than metal pretension and pseudo-sophistication. At the same time, metal has crept into literally everything I've ever done because I've always listened to it more than anything else, so before anyone starts saying that I'm some hardcore kid playing black metal, keep in mind that I'm more of a metal guy who was playing hardcore. Haha. To me, the new modern American scene is very closely tied to the punk and hardcore scenes and I think that it's this "fuck you, I'll do what I want" attitude that has allowed so many unique black metal bands to pop up during these past few years.



You've been doing a lot for the Philadelphia metal scene lately, promoting and putting on a lot of shows. Was there ever much of a 'scene' to speak of there or is it a more recent development? Are there any up and coming Philadelphia/PA bands that LURKERs should be aware of?


Well, I do what I can to help out! I need to be careful of how I answer this because I don't want to say anything that is wrong or unfair. From my perspective, there have always been a good number of metal bands in Philadelphia but with the exception of those who had ties to the DIY punk/hardcore scene, it was difficult for them to get much done. So... there have always been bands, there have always been people interested in underground metal, it was just a matter of finding a way to help get the show information to interested parties. My site, phillymetal.com, does that in a very simple way. If we go by the number of shows posted on the site, we can say that the scene is stronger than it was a year ago, but this could also have to do with the fact that more people are using the site now than they were a year ago. There could have been shows going on that we didn't know about because word of the site hadn't reached them yet. So it's tough to say.

As for bands, I don't know if there are many that you guys would be too into. There's a great black metal band called Labyrinthine that puts out stuff here and there. There's Infernal Stronghold, who absolutely rule. My favorite is this new band called SADGIQACEA, who are a kind of doomy proggy... thing -- really great sound, talented songwriters. There are more bands, a hell of a lot of them. Your best bet is to actually check out the site's shows area and look at some of the bands playing. Any smart person listing a show includes a good description and link.

You've had a long working relationship with designer and illustrator Justin Miller, who did a great job on both the debut CD and LP and returns to handle the artwork on 'Quietly, Undramatically'. How do you go about designing the sleeves? Is it a collaborative effort, or is it mostly left to Justin?

I've known Justin for years. We went to high school together, played in a band (thrashy hardcore band Near Dark) for years, and he's always done art stuff for me. When it comes to Woe, I trust him completely. He gets the demos, he gets the lyrics, then he starts getting mixes just like everyone else in the band and he's free to start developing his own art concept. He keeps me updated and asks my opinion about things, I get to make suggestions and requests, but I trust his decisions 100% and he has full creative control over the artwork. He has never let me down.

'Quietly, Undramatically' is clearly a personal and intimate work. You seem unwilling to divulge your own thoughts and feelings behind it in much detail, favouring the listener's interpretations. Is this a stance against a majority of 'conceptual' black metal bands that seem to spoon-feed their fanbase lofty and occult nonsense?

That's a really great question, one that's a bit tough to answer. I... am fearful of giving away too much because there's a very fine line between "emotional" and "emo." I'm inspired by real events and real reactions to real situations but I'm very careful to not write "a song about a girl" or "a song about someone who pissed me off." I'd much rather write something that is personal but will have meaning once I'm not upset about this or that situation. It has meaning to me but as I grow, I can still appreciate it on a different level, still perform it with sincerity. I also think that it makes it a more engrossing experience for the listener since they can apply it however they choose to their own world.
   
The album, for me, is very much about coming to terms with the reality of my very real, very serious depression. Or not. It's also about growing up and assuming responsibility. Or maybe it's about drug addiction. The last song is a very clear "fuck you" to the phony element of the black metal scene, right? "The stupid, the boring, the fair-weather friends. Pretentious, obnoxious, they strive to pretend. With costumes and gimmicks, they angle to shock. Like children, they cherish the lies that they bought." Or maybe it's more about taking pride in what you do and not shrinking from who you are in a world of fakes. "When the sun reappears to stand against the dark, we will rise and know that hatred is our heart." The open-ended aspect of it is very deliberate but so is the clear, easy-to-interpret language. Everyone can decide. If someone wants my personal opinion, they're welcome to write me!

Or, conversely - any literature, philosophy, popular world belief that fuels your inspiration? [you seem like someone completely at the mercy of the universe - which is a belief I can strongly relate too. Does existentialism/cosmology (thinking in particular about Lawrence Krauss' talk on a Universe from Nothing as well as Stephen Hawkins' recent comment from his upcoming book that God does not fit into our current picture of the universe) or the pursuit of truth in general play a strong part?]

I'm going through a period of deep philosophical exploration, really trying to make sense of the individual's place in things and the meaning of it all. Heavy stuff. Unfortunately, I feel like I'm losing because all signs keep pointing to, "nothing matters." I feel like if I keep examining it, I'll come to another conclusion. The Lawrence Krauss talk is new to me but I'll check it out. Hawkins's comments were timed either very well or very poorly because he's talking about exactly what's on my mind... and it's not helping. Haha. My girlfriend and I recently took a road-trip to the Creation Museum in Kentucky -- a total shit-show, very terrifying and a real eye-opener about the state of our country -- but being surrounded by so many people who were so sure of where they came from and where they're going really had an effect on me. I'm rambling here but... I need to figure it out and I will.
   
I very much like Existentialism and the parts of Satanism that are unconcerned with everyone but the individual. I identify with philosophies that deny the existence of Judeo-Christian God and encourage the individual to find their strengths and focus on them so they can build a life that they find fulfilling. At the same time, I don't like aligning myself with any one group, I like to pick and choose elements of philosophies that fit me. Woe is very much an offshoot of this intense individualism. It encourages deep introspection, serious analysis of one's shortcomings, and wants the individual to think for himself, by himself. You have me rambling now.


And one personal question: Where can I get the 2007 demo from?

It's not very good, man. I'll upload it and send it to you soon.


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Monday, September 06, 2010

Slayer Issue 20

After getting more than a little excited regarding the compilation of the infamous Slayer fanzine's best bits, I thought I should mention that the publication is breaking six years of silence for one last death throe exhalation. Unsatisfied with the results of #19 as the last issue, Metalion has been back in the commander's chair to make this final effort worthy of Slayer's immense history. And he's not fucking about. #20 includes interviews and articles with a massive roster of important bands such as Deströyer 666, Watain, Kreator, Master's Hammer, Sunn O))), Jarboe, Funeral Mist, and an extensive feature and tribute to Bathory to name but a few. The issue also includes Ancient Morbidity, a mini LP by the Swedish death/thrash/black metal legends and Per Yngve “Dead” Ohlin's first metal vehicle, Morbid.

Metalion on #20: "Comparing it to other issues I never cared about, I just make what I make at my best way possible. Sometimes it is good and sometimes it is shit, but you can never know that when you are creating it. Still, if you thought SLAYER was shit in the past this will not change your mind, it is SLAYER with all the errors, shitty journalism etc. Even if it has been over six years since the last issue I don’t think anything could change that. And don’t expect any new issues anytime soon - I feel like its all over, truly an ending in flames. Finishing some of the pieces have taken an outstanding amount of time and to get into that process again is very unlikely."

Slayer #20 is limited to 2000 copies, so plenty to go around. Expect this to crop up in the Nuclear War Now store soon.

Locrian explore 'The Crystal World' on new album

November 27th will see the return of Chicago's Locrian with the third album, The Crystal World. To be released through Utech Records, this new work sees Locrian treading an interesting conceptual path as an aural exploration of the themes set down in J.G. Ballard's 1966 science fiction novel of the same name. The story follows a doctor's journey deep into the African jungle to a leprosy treatment facility. On his travels he discovers that a bizarre, apocalyptic occurrence has crystallised a portion of the forest, engulfing everything it encroaches upon. I haven't read it, but if there was ever a reason to pick up a copy then surely Locrian's new album is it. Joining the core membership of Terence Hannum and André Foisy is Steven Hess of On, Pan American and Ural Umbo fame taking on percussion and electronics duty. From the horse's mouth:

"Hess’ contribution pushes Locrian deeper into the abyss of despair rendering a sound that is darker, bleaker, and engulfing than any of the group’s previous releases. Locrian continue the conceptual trajectory of blackened drone that the group initially embarked on during their first studio album 'Drenched Lands' (2009). Masters of layering, 'The Crystal World' finds the group manipulating tones and textures that transport the listener to an apocalyptic wasteland. At times, the layers are serene and somber, at other times they are chaotic.

Of Locrian’s three studio albums, 'The Crystal World' is the essential release, finding the band creating a sound all of their own. A sound that evades simplistic analogies to black metal, power-electronics, noise, or other categories. This is the album that will stun fans of the bands previous works with how far the group has come from their early releases. Vinyl edition out on Utech Records in 2011."

Artwork is being handled by the lord of visual hell, Justin Bartlett, and Locrian are to debut the new material at the Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina on Thursday, September 9th.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

The Prehistoric Origins of Drone

Primitive Sun(n) amplifiers?

Metal and Stonehenge go back a long way. The great stone circle has captured the imagination of metal bands since the genre's beginnings, and a fascination for lost civilizations carries on today, blissfully untroubled by parody. However, some recent trends in archaeology hint that the affinity between metal and the prehistoric could go deeper than we think.

According to NewScientist, a new school of archaeologists believes that some of the earliest human constructions, including Stonehenge, were specifically designed to create powerful acoustic effects. Experiments carried out at Stonehenge and at the full-scale reconstruction ('clonehenge') in Washington have shown that the sites can produce some very strange and very impressive noises.

The most interesting experiment involves a drum machine placed at the edge of the outer circle of stones (video below: watch with headphones). As long as you stand right by the speaker, you can hear that it's playing a bass drum loop at about 120bpm. But as soon as you move away, the reverberations from the other stones begin to drown out the drum until all you can hear is a rich drone.



Stonehenge, in other words, would be a terrible place to address an assembly or preach to a congregation: a voice can be heard loudly, but like the drum, the percussive consonant-sounds would blend into an indistinguishable soup of echoes. On the other hand, a large number of these monuments resonate most effectively at frequencies within the adult male vocal range. This has led some to suggest that the sites served to enhance the sound of human chanting, either for ritual or musical purpose, or perhaps both. Melodies or words might be lost to the reverberations, but the resulting drone would have given even Sunn O))) a run for their money.*


Of course, 'acoustic archaeology' involves a good deal of speculation. With no written documents surviving from the age of Stonehenge, there's no firm evidence that these effects were deliberate. But as archaeologist Paul Deveraux points out, in the 3rd millennium BC the average person's hearing would be far better tuned to fine detail than someone's today: you'd rely on it much more for hunting, awareness of danger, and so on. So why couldn't a musical tradition develop that concentrated more on the finer aspects of sound, such as texture and harmonics, than on more blatant features like melody?

These finer aspects lie at the heart of several of metal's subgenres. Drone doom is the most obvious example, but not the only one. The very same features of texture, harmonics and tactful reverberation come together to make up the 'atmosphere' that is so important to Black Metal. Every strike of the pick in a tremolo riff brings with it a new harmonic; the faster and more repetitive the blastbeat, the more it becomes a rich wash of texture. Get these things right and the most compositionally minimal slab of BM becomes a masterpiece of atmosphere.

Metal's reliance on the finer details of sound could provide a direct link to the lost music of the distant past. Perhaps, then, its fascination with forgotten civilizations is more natural than any of us ever realised.


* See also this article, which claims that Stonehenge has the unique effect of cutting the treble and deepening the tone.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Deathspell Omega - Paracletus



Deathspell Omega have signed to Season of Mist to unleash their latest metaphysical horror November 9th, this year! Moving to a larger label for North American territory, away from the long relationship with the AJNA Offensive - this will inevitably have the implication of larger audiences, and (hopefully not) label coercion - I can only hope the elite stick to their uncompromising guns and deliver something that topples the supreme Chaining the Katechon. All eyes are on the Season of Mist front - keep lurking for more news as and when it arrives.

"Season of Mist is proud to welcome kult French black metallers DEATHSPELL OMEGA to the North American roster! On next November 9, the mysterious, meta-physical, black metal omega lords will unleash their fifth album, "Paracletus".
Initially emitting raw, traditional black metal, this enigmatic entity experimented and evolved into a more technical, eviscerating evil. Outside of the music, very little is known about its member's beliefs and ideology. What is certain however is the return of the most revered kult band in the world!
More details on the album soon ..."