Friday, April 17, 2015

Necropole - Ostara


Necropole play a very tense style of orthodox black metal driven by fast-changing melodies contrasted by a slower-changing root. It's all about tension in ther air, an endless stasis of eerie, menacing discord. Their style is very similar to Sargeist, though Necropole use two guitars, which pairs the contrast of melody and dissonance differently.

Nearly the whole running time adheres to this orthodoxy of the same tremolo patterns holding a static tension. Each song starts with a blast beat section, slows it to a back beat, then repeats. The exception is the bridge of "Trahison fratricide" which progresses nicely with a dual-tremolo harmony over double bass. Ironically, it is the shortest song which progresses the most. Despite the ever-shifting guitar parts, only one song really goes anywhere - everything is framed within the fairly strict adherence to patterns. Tension isn't built up and released, it is the unrelenting mood of Ostara. The melodies are merely a feature of the soundscape, not themes which guide you through the experience.

To once again compare Necropole to Sargeist, the tension patterns on Let the Devil In were longer, more pronounced, and drawn out. The tracks were shorter and the buildup and release of tension much more grand. Necropole's songs flow smoothly, but don't really go anywhere, a contrast to the typical dissonant French style which has an abrupt and jarring flow which escapes resolution with sharp turns.

Ostara has an enjoyable atmosphere and aesthetic, but aimless and unfulfilling songwriting that fails to complete the experience.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Emerald Weapon - Emerald Weapon EP



Here's one for the hall of shame.

"Experimental Black Metal / Drone from the Pacific Northwest"

There are four components to this:
-Black metal: Crappy bedroom black metal where the reverb's presence exceeds the original recording.
-Experimental: Only marginally capable of playing fragments of music. Ticking drum machine, no semblance of composition.
-Drone: Synth/feedback/noise filler triples the running time.
-From the Pacific Northwest, which I guess has a lot more prestige than saying you're from Portland.

"We have hand crafted CD's available to help enhance the experience we set out to create on this project. Explore the depths of your own mind.."

This looks like a middle school art project. Is that really how you want to present your music? I suppose this looks like what the music sounds like, but I'd rather not have that experience enhanced. I can practically smell the construction paper, Elmer's glue, and Play-Doh while listening to this.

...is that a greeting card?


"Limited Edition Handmade Compact Disc."

I always thought limited edition splatter vinyls were a lame gimmick, but a limited edition black splatter CD-R? That's so bad that it's funny.

"We put together these kits in our kitchen."

I can tell.

"We wrote and recorded this EP in our Southeast Portland apartment."

It sounds like it. There are actually two funny pieces of fluff here. Their BandCamp profile cites their location as the Pacific Northwest, and now they have to specify which part of Portland they're from. It was recorded in an apartment, like you couldn't tell, but that sounds a bit nicer than the typical asphorism of "bedroom black metal."

The release is "sold out" so I guess you won't be able to get your very own thank you note in sloppy cursive on a hand-ripped piece of notebook paper. I'll include the link to the BandCamp page even though it is hand-written in the picture below!


http://emeraldweapon.bandcamp.com/album/emerald-weapon-ep

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Weirding - Each Birth Is a New Disaster

Listen at Bandcamp (not recommended)

Wouldn't you just love to snuggle up with the warm tone of an Orange amp at night? I could sleep through this. Do you think that simple fuzz pedals have an inherent value? The pedal's not the only thing with two holes and a knob. Tone-basking checklist aside, the production is fair enough on this album, the music is just dead boring. You'll have to deconstruct the definition of riff to excuse this shit, it's stoned alt rock with a few riffs stolen from Matt Pike. t's a trash can with the components of doom metal in it, but it's not the cheesy B-flick horror of Black Sabbath, it's a kid mashing a tritone who think he's cool because he's playing an organ. Instead of conveying a state of doom, it just revels in the boom of their tube amps. Boom metal. I think that's what I'll call it from now on. Unless you're absolutely in love with any bassy rumble and ready to apologize for every failing of an album because you feel they're <i>doing the right thing</i>, there's little to redeem a guitarist whose two moves are a downtuned drone and a power chord. Most egregious, the drummer basically bounces down a row of toms and constantly rides a crash cymbal - it's like he's trying to channel a constant state of burnout. To sum it up, there's a good riff to start track 4, after which you realize that the 37-minute runtime feels like at least an hour.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

CTP-024-L: Vin de Mia Trix - Live In Kharkiv


Out 4/14. Vin de Mia Trix's Live In Kharkiv was recorded in 2010 in Ukraine and features an unprecedented example of live material sounding 20 years old. Fans of classic Doom Death Metal such as Paradise Lost and Morgion will want to find a place for this incredible tape. Features 45 minutes of material as well as an expansive cut-and-paste DIY layout.


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Eric Carle - The Very Hungry Caterpillar


Years of experimentation and innovation have metamorphosed metal into countless forms, from speed metal to the slow languor of bands like Sunn O))). With Eric Carle's death metal album, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, continues this metamorphosis, changing metal into something more like Cage's 4'33" than any other active band out there. This is because there is no music on this album. Only silence. Unlike Cage's myopic experiment, which is limited in time, TVHC has no determinable track length, or even tracks. Still, this high-quality release feels too short.

With album art suggestive of a Kafkaesque nightmare and Lovecraftian lyrics detailing a voracious and decadent beast, TVHC is a death metal masterpiece. The guitars show a lot of restraint, as there aren't even any solos. Drums likewise lack any blasting, and of course there isn't any audible bass (which is just so typical in metal albums, especially on ones with no music).

Despite the album coming in a vinyl-sized booklet, there are only lyrics and artwork inside, not even a blank vinyl. This challenges our very idea of what metal is, and even what music is, so it must be pretty thoughtful. The project's mysterious lineup consists only of Eric Carle, who oddly enough uses two pseudonyms "author" and "illustrator." Still, this doesn't sound like a solo project, rather it comes across as something less than that - which makes it so much more.

I give this album 10 silk cocoons out of 10. Upon request, I will supply several excruciatingly detailed graphs, charts, and spreadsheets further explaining my opinion.



Saturday, March 28, 2015

Azoic Interview


Today we have a chat with Benedikt, founder of Iceland's Azoic where we talk about music, language, and some of his activities outside of metal. Keep an eye out for the band's upcoming EP, which the band may have given us a glimpse of the cover art on their Facebook page. This interview is the last one from the Icelandic black metal article, and Benedikt sure made it an interesting one. Enjoy:

Apteronotus: The band’s last full-length, Gateways was in 2012, and it looks like you guys have been keeping busy, what has Azoic been up to since then?

Benedikt: Mainly we have been working on new songs and the work is almost over for an EP. We did some live gigs locally but nothing worth noting. 



A: Gateways had a mix of Icelandic and English lyrics, even within particular songs like “Spirituphysics.” What motivates the decision to have lyrics in one language or the other or even using two?

Benedikt: To create a differing atmosphere was the main motivation. The Icelandic tongue fits well to some aspects of what we do and will play a bigger role in the future. Also, it gets exhausting quiet quickly only writing lyrics in your second language and Icelandic does feel more fitting for some parts.

A:  

In a prior interview with Slaying Tongue you had described music as “a portal for something not expressible by our language.” Why do you feel that music has such a powerful capacity for expression when compared to everyday language?

Benedikt: Well languages are very different. Expressing emotions can be difficult in your own mother tongue let alone in a second language. So music or art in general can channel emotions or a certain atmosphere cross any language barrier. “Gateways” tries to characterize this, perhaps in a metaphysical way.


Azoic - Gateways (2012)
A: How old were you when you first started getting into metal and what is the story behind how you first start playing music?

Benedikt: I had a very musical upbringing. Both of my parents have always been in a choir and both of them play the piano. At age six I was put into Violin class and I stuck to that for about seven years until crossing over to classical guitar. In the northern part of Iceland were I grew up there was not much to do so starting a band was probably the best way to kill time.

My first exposure to metal was when I was about ten I think and heard some Metallica songs (Kill Em All) at my uncle’s house and I’ve been hooked ever since.



A: Azoic has gone from a solo project to a duo and then expanded into a full band. How has the influx of new members influenced the writing process and direction of the project?

Benedikt: It has changed the direction completely for the better I think. At first I had a very precise and narrow vision of what should be allowed and delivered. Now each of the other members contribute to the writing process which gives way to a more creative environment. I can assure you that there won’t be another album sounding like “Gateways” and for us that is a positive thing.  

A: 

From looking at the Azoic Facebook page, it appears that the band’s arsenal now includes a 5-string bass and 8-string guitar. How easy is it to get the gear that you want in Iceland, especially with atypical instruments?

Benedikt: 
Yes we have use both 4-string and 5-string bass and also 7- and a 8-string guitars. Prices are much higher here than in mainland Europe and in the US but you can get any instrument you want, both on in music stores and on the “black market.”

A: Without saying anything that would be too revealing, what exactly is the black market for musical instruments in Iceland like? Is it getting around some kind of tax?

Benedikt: Haha no, most of the used instruments are sold between people without any store involvement. For example through Facebook or a forum or something like that. There is no black market activity that I know of (although that would be much more interesting.)

[Side note: I was really hoping a crazy story like "we meet under the volcano next to the glacier at midnight, the guitars are hidden in a big crate marked Fiskeboller" but I really appreciate Benedikt's honesty when faced with my ignorance. Of course, he could just be protecting the black market's secrecy!]

A: 
What bands have you been most interested by lately?

Benedikt: The last band to really hit me is actually not a metal band. It’s called Swans and I’ve really been digging into their new album “To Be Kind.” Very very interesting music IMO and seeing the live is something else.

The Antichristian Symphonies (2013 Split - Baalberith / RÁN / Loup Noir / Azoic / Váboði)

A: 

If you had to estimate, how many people do you think have heard Azoic’s music and how do you feel about the listening public’s reception so far?

Benedikt: Well we have about 2000 downloads from our direct site and then a couple thousand views on Youtube but it’s hard to tell who actually listens.

The reception has been exceptional and we’ve gotten some very decent reviews. Most of the attention seems to originate from the US but also from Europe.



A: Outside of the music world, what are some things that you do for fun or have a real passion for?

Benedikt: I’m studying Geology which I got into because my passion for understating our surroundings (the mountains, rivers and volcanoes). Also I’m a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (training in Mjölnir MMA gym) which has grown to be my second biggest passion besides music making.


A: When did your get your blue belt and do you compete at any events as part of your training?

Benedikt: I've been a blue belt for about a year now and yes I compete regularly (currently training with the Mjölnir competition team.)

A: Music is a multifaceted endeavor that can involve tasks like composition, individual practice, band rehearsals, playing live, mixing, and designing visuals. What part of making music is most satisfying for you?


Benedikt: Performing live is really the high point for me. It’s kind of the end point for endless hours of hard work in the rehearsal space, where it all pays off.

A: 
Thank you for your time and for doing the interview! Is there anything you would like to add for a final comment?

Benedikt: Thank you too for good questions and thanks for taking the interest in our band!






Thursday, March 26, 2015

Wormlust Interview

 
In this interview with H.V Lyngdal of Wormlust, (parts of which are quoted in the prior article about Icelandic black metal) a bit of background context is helpful, since some of the questions and responses build on topics that he had discussed with others in awesome interviews in the past. In short, Hallucinogenesis is the upcoming album from Wormlust, The Feral Wisdom was the project's latest full-length from 2013 (which was noted to have been created during long periods of time without sleep). Also, the project Martröð, which he mentions later in the interview, is a pending project featuring H.V Lyngdal and members from bands such as Aosoth, Krieg, Leviathan, and Blut Aus Nord. See his thoughtful and expansive comments below:

Apteronotus: What is the current status of Hallucinogenesis and how much sleep deprivation has gone into working on it?

H.V Lyngdal: There were delays, some probably due to putting a time limit on the creative process. Most of it was that every last piece of gear broke down beyond repair and needed to be replaced. Finally the process of going through hours of musical ideas was slower this time around since the quality consciously went up. It is pretty much finished, I had to make a vow to myself that the version I am finishing up will be the last version. No more changing it around because of some idea of perfection. There have been sleepless periods, mostly this offering has been on my mind constantly since I began imagining what it could be 3 years ago. 

A: In terms of hours of music, how much material would you estimate that you have written over the past twelve months?

H.V Lyngdal: Past twelve months has been around 5 hours of riffs and maybe 3 of atmospheric stuff, but I started writing for the album back in 2013 and so everything summed up is around 20 hours, riffs and soundscapes. Some of it very thought out and (each progression) while others have a wider brush stroke that lead to being other themes and variations instead. The principle is that 99% of the effort is utter shit, but the energy going into it will leave 1% of material that is usable and perhaps
half of that is any good. Divide it up again and there is the music you can actually release. Then there is the question of how to compose those pieces together, maybe only one second of a riff was interesting so I will place it in the composition somewhere it challenges you. 

Wormlust - The Feral Wisdom (2013)

A: Why is it that you are so drawn to psychedelics and making chaotic music?

H.V Lyngdal: Saucerful of secrets clicked with me on a spiritual level and sent me on a journey that had me listening to the obscurest 60's rock bands a few years later. What it was is that drew me to it I can't say, but I remember getting really claustrophobic on that first listen of Saucerful, with images of universes being born and dying, Firelit tribes of antiquity worshiping the stars.

The chaos in music in the music can be thought in relation to chaos magic, both artforms are interconnected, the inner turmoil of the self manifested.

A: Which bands, if any, do you feel have had better success incorporating psychedelic music into metal?

 H.V Lyngdal: Mostly the bands that are not trying to be psychedelic, it's the old shamanistic tribal trance that every musician taps into on some level once or twice, through repetition. I could talk about Von in relation to krautrock bands like Neu! easily. That is the basis of the thing, but the other level would be musicians who are conscious of the label like myself. Being aware of the fact can have you playing with the idea of the "song", like in art. Is it still a song if you do this and that with it? Warp it. Destroy something integral to a tradition. Most bands seem to think buying a delay pedal is what makes a psychedelic band, but if you are aware of what you are trying to attain then you have to change your approach to the thing as a whole. By that I am talking of those that think, "I am going to make psychedelic music". It in itself has no defined style so the freedom to alter the music is vast. I haven't really heard many bands utilize the idea total creative freedom to that degree that use the label, but I can give a couple of  names to nail the point in. On these opposite spectrums are f.e Murmuure and Lurker of chalice. One is consciously making weird stuff while the other is made from instinct and emotion. Abigor is the quintessential psychedelic black black metal band for me, Negative Plane is also up there.

H.V Lyngdal Created the Cover Art for the Leviathan / Krieg Split
A: As someone who has studied art history, how do you feel that your education influences how you create music and visual artwork?

H.V Lyngdal:  I can relate it to the movements of happenings, duchamp, dada-ism, surreralism and ad nauseum. Its just like building a god-head and projecting your self unto it, its giving names ,symbols and power to a thing. What I do with music and visually is always a self portrait, that is how I view it. I alone create it and its a reflection of me, a singular entity. I have only done one commission artwork that was not truly from me and it turned out horribly, I am not credited with it. The most important thing I have learned from art is the importance of having your own voice, that is probably why I am not behind a Mayhem clone project.

A: On the topic of visual arts, are there any cover art projects that you are currently working on and can discuss?

H.V Lyngdal: No nothing, my mind does not handle working on music and images in the same time period.

A: Do you think that being an Icelander has an influence on what your music sounds like?

H.V Lyngdal:  Well, I could not really know. Hypothetically I could imagine not being born on Iceland and it is a nice thought. For me my music is just experience. Having played it and analyzed it long enough. Sociologically I can have the distinction of being an "old timer" within the black metal circle here, going back almost 15 years. Done dozens of random things.  I played drums on two rehearsals on what later in essence became Svartidauði, before that I was a member of the only active black metal band around 2000, failed horribly at playing keyboards for Potentiam. Later in 2003 I made 5 handmade copies of my first demos and sent I think 3 of those to labels, that until 2009 was my only effort into releasing my stuff and even then that was at someone else behest. All along I was playing in horrible bands on auto pilot, a band formed during every drinking binge. I was the only when in that situation, and when I think about it I can define how Iceland influenced my music: It gives no support! Want to release something/play abroad/get your efforts recognized? Forget it.

It is through our own efforts like hungry wolves that we are getting respect abroad. Even today for me personally there is not much support here, f.i "experts" like the zine Andfari etc. have never given me the time of day.

Usually the question is if the landscape is a influence on the music and I believe you are getting to that at another and less obnoxious angle. The answer is yes, every black metal project and band stares into the snowy horizon teary-eyed when they write and play their music.

Wormlust - Seven Paths (2009 Demo)

A: You’ve mentioned being unsatisfied with lyrics translations, citing a communication gap. Aren’t miscommunications inherent in lyrics anyways, or is language more fundamental for you?

H.V Lyngdal:  How I wrote those particular lyrics was basically untranslatable, I used Nordic compound words that would be incoherent when translated over to anything else. The loss of communication in lyrics comes mostly from not understanding the overall idea behind them is. You basically do not understand even though you can easily read it. Not being able to give people at least words so that they can try to decide on their own makes the whole idea of having lyrics useless. Trying to convey an idea, narrative etc. with a gag over your mouth. Placing such importance on words I derive from the orthodox side of myself where lyrics are transmuted into scripture.

A: Of all of the feedback you had heard or read about The Feral Wisdom, what has been the most memorable?

H.V Lyngdal: Getting to know other musical creators is the best thing to come as a result of that release,  I joined a project "Martröð" early last year. This project has been the impetus for getting better at my craft, I would write 1-10 things a day for it for a month and try to do better or at least differently on each try. It is a much needed construct of discipline. But I also enjoy hearing stories of people tripping to the album, using it as a table coaster to sniff things off of etc.

A: There has been a lot of press coverage about Iceland having its first pagan temple in a 1,000 years, with construction beginning in February 2015. How do you feel about this?

H.V Lyngdal: I did not know anything about it, I have been living in a cocoon basically, all our medias are owned by political parties now so I have stopped reading them. Things are going very wrong. My stance has always been the abolition of all religion basically. People tend to confuse the amazing Icelandic sagas with what the heathen religion of today is. For starters there are no reliable written records of anything concerning how heathen held their beliefs so there go the ties to tradition. What is there left then? Folk in costumes in opposition to the ruling religion that is Christianity. I can also take my favorite literature, marry it to my beliefs and give it a name - and I do. All within the comfort of my own home and definitely not inside a post-modern toilet-sculpture like the "heathens" seem to be doing.

A: Well that is all for questions, I appreciate your time. The last words are yours.

H.V Lyngdal: I would just like to acknowledge that this is one of the few interviews I have answered where the questions are well thought out.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Mannveira Interview


Mannveira's EP Von Er Eitur was released back in March of 2014, just over a year ago now. Despite this being a well received release, and the project's only one to date, there was little information about the man behind Mannveira, Illugi. Fortunately, Illugi was available to do an interview to shed some light on the nihilistic project and answer some questions about his past, present, and future along with some comments that went into the prior article about Icelandic black metal.

Apteronotus: What is your earliest memory of listening to metal, was it something you enjoyed immediately or did it take time to click?

Illugi: Luckily for me, metal is something I grew up with so I've always been very fond of it. It did take me some time to really appreciate more extreme stuff when I was a teenager but it grew on me like a tumour, eventually.

A: Why did you form Mannveira?

I: Because I wanted to use the material I had written and I wanted it to sound like I had imagined it.

A: Before Mannveira, you played in Abacination. How did everyone in Abacination get to know one another and will those demos ever be re-released?

I: I think everyone in Abacination met through the internet because they were looking for some like-minded people to make music with, and then I joined because I'm friends with the singer and he recommended me as a bass player. I am fairly certain though that the demos won't be re-released, due to lack of general interest.

A: The label you are on, Vánagandr, has a fairly sizable group of black metal musicians, some of which you have played with before. What then is the driving force behind creating the music Mannveira mostly individually rather than collaborating?

I: It is mostly because Mannveira is the first music I made that was specifically the way I wanted it to be and I didn't feel like it needed someone else's input. However, I collaborated with some people to write some new material and will probably continue to do so from now on.

A: My understanding is that Mannveira translates to human virus, and Von Er Eitur translates to Hope is Poison. Are these fair translations or is some meaning lost? Do you feel that art, and your lyrics in particular, can truly be translated?

I: Your translation of the titles is absolutely correct, but I feel that the lyrics and the atmosphere surrounding them would be completely lost in translation.



A: When it comes to musical influences, how do you think the bands that you enjoy have impacted how you make music?

I: Of course, there is a great impact from the artists I enjoy in my music, but I try my best not to imitate anyone and to develop my own sound.

A: Many outsiders comment on Iceland’s unusual geography when interpreting Icelandic music. What do you think of the idea that the mood of your music is somehow shaped by your physical surroundings?

I: It makes sense to a certain degree, the connection between the two maybe isn't that strong, but of course your environment has an effect on you no matter what, so the extremely dark, long and unforgiving winter in Iceland has an effect that we can't deny.

A: While there are many metal bands in Iceland, is there a defined or separate black metal scene, given that the country has so many black metal bands that incorporate large amounts of dissonant sounds?

I: The number of black metal acts in Iceland has grown considerably in the last 2 years or so, which has turned into a pretty specific scene that maybe doesn't get involved too much with bands involved in other genres, but there's always a small bit of interaction between the black metal band and bands from other genres (live shows and such) for diversity's sake.

A: What gear did you use to get the sound on Von Er Eitur and are you satisfied with the end result?

I: Honestly, I borrowed pretty much all of the equipment that was used to record, so I can't really specify what was used because I'm not so sure myself. I was very pleased with the end result though and it is only fair to mention that those who assisted in making it did an excellent job.

A: What are your long term goals for Mannveira and are you working on any other projects?

I: There is a split release being planned for sometime in 2015 and plans for some live shows as well, although I can't really go into any details regarding neither one of those plans yet.

A: Illugi, thank you for doing this interview and for your time. Do you have any final comments?

I: Yes, keep an eye out for the Icelandic black metal scene in the coming years!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Icelandic Black Metal: The Dissonant Branch



Introduction

Breathtaking glaciers, vast tundra, and stark lava fields; Iceland’s landscape is remarkable and unparalleled. This fascinating country has a population of only around 325,000, but it is also home to an unparalleled metal scene. Over 50 black metal bands, with a staggering 30 of them currently active according to the Metal Archives. While it’s never fair to generalize an entire country’s music scene, there is a fascinating dissonant subset of Icelandic black metal. These bands each have a chaotic take on the genre, and while having individual approaches, they are also often compared to one another.

Rather than lumping the bands all together or even tackling each individually, this article will delve into the dissonant Icelandic black metal scene as a whole. In addition to background information, we'll also have previews of how some of the bands feel about their influences, their language, and their environment. Part of this will include looking at data take from the Metal Archives, band websites, and pulling quotes from past interviews. Additionally, I conducted three standalone interviews with the following bands: Mannveira, Wormlust, and Azoic.

So, who are some of the dissonant Icelandic black metal bands? Here are the first that come to mind, a diverse crowd for sure, but not an exhaustive list:


Top Row: Svartidauði, Carpe Noctem, Wormlust
Middle Row: Azoic, Mannveira, Vansköpun
Bottom Row: Naðra, Sinmara, Misþyrming
Lonely Row: Nornahetta

Perhaps the most well known bands among this scene are Svartidauði, Carpe Noctem, and Wormlust. After that, the risks of leaving out bands increases, but it is safe to include Sinmara, Naðra, Mannviera, Vansköpun, Nornahetta, and the newest of them all Misþyrming, who have had a meteoric rise in popularity. While Azoic leans very heavily on the death side of black/death metal it’s probably also fair to include that highly dissonant project as well. Keep in mind that this is focusing only on a certain sub-style of black metal, so Icelandic black metal bands like the doomy 〇, the famous Sólstafir, or the relatively traditional Curse or Úrhrak aren’t today’s topic. That said, there are always gray areas (Árstíðir Lífsins for example flirts with some similar sounds) and if there are more bands that fit, I’d be glad to hear about them. While we're name dropping bands, NYIÞ is basically in the same vein of dissonant Icelandic black metal, but without the metal. Worth checking out for anyone who enjoys the ambient sides of these bands.

Timeline

To start us off with getting an idea for the scene as a whole, here is a timeline of what this particular group of bands has been up to since 2002 when Svartidauði first formed:



This chart doesn’t include splits, compilations, or live albums; but you can see that the bands in this group haven’t been particularly prolific. All in all, there were no full-length albums before 2012, and there are only six in total now, as of March 2015. Despite all of the recent attention and formation of younger bands, you can also see that the roots go fairly far back. Releases under former band names are in parentheses.

Band Member Web



 (This is a diagram only of band member overlaps and is not intended to reflect musical similarities.)

Considering that the island nation has a small population, with about 122,000 of those living in Reykjavik, one might expect a great deal of band member cross-pollination. Looking at the above web, you can get a good impression of how often this has happened and how the band's members connect to one another. With around 30 individuals among these bands between current, former, and session musicians this web strikes me as showing only a small amount of overlap given the close-knit circumstances. Nornahetta has no member information publicized at this time, but considering that they are also a Vánagandr signed band, you might be able to make some educated guesses.

Some points worth noting:
  • Abacination is split up, but everyone listed as “current” in the chart was part of the last known lineup. (Illugi of Mannveira has said that he fairly certain the Abacination demos won't be re-released.)
  • To keep things clean, I’ve ignored name changes, so for example Kristófer is a “former member” of Wormlust, but only by virtue of playing with the band when it was called Wolfheart. 
  • I’ve included H.V Lyngdal as a former member of Vansköpun based on his September 3, 2013 statement in a Puro Ruido interview that Pestuus (formed in 2008) mutated into Vansköpun. 
  • Don't read into the two groups not overlapping. If you were inclined you could connect members of Naðra and Svartidauði through the death metal band Shrine (formerly known as Gone Postal).
Labels

Interestingly, you can see from the above web that two labels in particular have a very strong presence in this scene, Vánagandr (an Icelandic label) and Terratur Possessions (a Norwegian label). Carpe Noctem is signed to Code666 (an Aural music subsidiary), Vansköpun to Barghest, and Wormlust to Daemon Worship Productions. Azoic is the only unsigned group of the bunch. 

Vánagandr is run by Dagur and Tómas. As you can see above, both of them are also involved in multiple active bands. Dagur in particular is especially busy, being credited with the mixing work on releases by Mannveira, Naðra, and 〇. Stylistically, Dagur's thumbprints leave a rawer and savage sense of chaos compared to some of the more heavily produced bands.




 





While Terratur Possessions has a larger overall roster, two of the Icelandic bands there also share a common recording studio: Svartidauði and Sinmara, who have both worked with Studio Emissary, which has worked on recording, mixing, and mastering for many bands. This studio is run by Wann, also known as Stephen Lockhart, who is also heavily involved in making music and is an active member of Sinmara. (See above web). As a trivia note, Wann is originally from Ireland, which is pretty amazing when you consider how much he has contributed to this scene. In contrast to Dagur, Wann's productions are razor sharp and clean, giving breathing room for technical flourishes.

"There was never an option in our minds to have somebody else then Wann handling the whole recording process with us and we will be working with him again in the future." - Svartidauði in a Mortem Zine interview.



Influences  

When you are talking about any number of musicians, you are going to come across a variety of musical influences. More often than not though, when reading reviews about these bands you'll see a comparison to Deathspell Omega. Now, no matter your opinion on the quality of that band's 2004 release, Si Monumentum Requires Circumspice, it certainly has had a major impact in black metal. For better or worse, the name Deathspell Omega has also become nearly synonymous with dissonance. Just like any comparison though, thinking about a particular band can be useful in a general sense, but becomes less so when you take a deeper look at the scene. While it is ultimately up to each listener to decide whether the comparison is fair or superficial, let's see what some of the bands have to say about their influences:

 We don't really recognize it as 'the French sound', there are some similarities but bands all around the globe are scanning the obscure path of extreme genre mixing. - Azoic when asked about the influence of the French sound in Slaying Tongue, (where the interviewer also lamented that all bands experimenting with dissonance are automatically compared to DSO)
“Svartidauði is Svartidauði” Svartidauði fielding a question in Mortem Zine about constant DSO comparisons. Blunt but understandable.
“...the classic NoEvDia bands from the turn of the century....This particular movement was undeniably a strong influence on Chao and still holds a place in our hearts, although we have widened our horizons a lot since then.” Sinmara's  response to an Andfari inquiry about Orthodox black metal influences.
We are not a single entity, we are five different individuals who each draw from different types of music, art and experiences when making Black Metal. Alexander of Carpe Noctem, when asked about influences generally, noting the collaborative nature of songwriting in a Metal Temple interview. 
Of course, there is a great impact from the artists I enjoy in my music, but I try my best not to imitate anyone and to develop my own sound. Illugi of Mannveira in the Contaminated Tones interview, wrapping up the issue elegantly.
The range of reactions here is unsurprising, but this last quote gets to the real heart of the issue. Most artists want to create their own individual  sound and not be pigeonholed as a clone. What's also important is how this shows that Icelandic black metal, even when looking at only the dissonant variety, isn't a monolith. The bands may have similarities, but is comparing them to any single band without saying anything more nuanced any better than comparing all black metal bands to Darkthrone? At the same time, no band is a special snowflake existing outside of all influences, but there is a real value in recognizing shades. Hell, Azoic, Wormlust, and Svartidauði all have mentioned enjoying the band Swans, which surprisingly may have been referenced more than any other band.


Language

Snorri Sturluson - Icelandic author, believed to have written one of the Sagas

Black metal as we know it today has its roots firmly in Norway. But it isn't commonplace to hear black metal in the Norwegian language, and the majority of the founding bands favored English. In contrast, the Icelandic scene's dissonant branch has made heavy use of the Icelandic language, with more þ's and ð's than you can shake a stick at. (As a side note, many people seem to think these letters are both D's, but they both make "th" type sounds that I have been assured I don't pronounce correctly.) Supposedly Icelandic is quite close to Old Norse, yet you won't find much in terms of Viking-themed metal among these bands.

This got me thinking though. Why do so many Icelandic bands write in Icelandic, especially when so many bands have English lyrics?
"I feel that the lyrics and the atmosphere surrounding [the lyrics] would be completely lost in translation."  - Illgui of Mannveira on why his lyrics are in Icelandic, Contaminated Tones Interview.
"it is my native tongue, so meanings and ideas can be communicated in a personal and direct manner, not hindered by translation into another language" Alexander of Carpe Noctem, in a Metal Temple interview, where he also talked about how Icelandic has phonetic properties that fit well with black metal. 
"How I wrote those particular lyrics was basically untranslatable, I used Nordic compound words that would be incoherent when translated over to anything else..."   - H.V. Lyngdal of Wormlust, an excerpt from a broader discussion, Contaminated Tones Interview.
"The Icelandic tongue fits well to some aspects of what we do and will play a bigger role in the future. Also, it gets exhausting quiet quickly only writing lyrics in your second language and Icelandic does feel more fitting for some parts. ... languages are very different. Expressing emotions can be difficult in your own mother tongue let alone in a second language. So music or art in general can channel emotions or a certain atmosphere cross any language barrier. “Gateways” tries to characterize this, perhaps in a metaphysical way."- Benedikt of Azoic explaining the band's bilingual approach, Contaminated Tones Interview.
While it's only speculation on my part, you have to wonder if living on a relatively linguistically isolated island contributes to these beliefs. So, how many of these bands are singing in Icelandic? Well, in an interview with Blight of Plebians, H.V. Lyngdal of Wormlust noted that Vansköpun inspired him to write lyrics in Icelandic. So, if we put Wormlust in the Icelandic language column and make some educated guesses based off of song titles when lyrics are unpublished, things look like this:



 Landscape


In the world of fine wines and some other high-end food items, there's an idea called terroir, where geography supposedly imputes unique flavor-characteristic into items. Some people expand this disputed concept to almost spiritual levels, believing that flavors can capture the "essence" of a region. Others take this idea and apply it to music, and in a way this a common theme in discussions about Icelandic metal bands. It's almost as if people believe that the extreme geography must have an extreme influence on the music. 

Now don't take the skepticism here as a suggestion of the other extreme, that a person's surroundings and experiences have absolutely no influence on their music. In sum though, does anyone really think that the environment or geology are huge factors of what makes up a person's artistic direction or personality? This is another topic that Icelandic bands have fielded a number of questions about, so here is another sampling of quotes on the topic:
"The Icelandic environment is also definitely something that affects the atmosphere of the music." Dagur of Misþyrming in an interview with noisey.
"It makes sense to a certain degree, the connection between the two maybe isn't that strong, but of course your environment has an effect on you no matter what, so the extremely dark, long and unforgiving winter in Iceland has an effect that we can't deny." Illgui of Mannveira, Contaminated Tones Interview.
"Usually the question is if the landscape is a influence on the music and I believe you are getting to that at another and less obnoxious angle. The answer is yes, every black metal project and band stares into the snowy horizon teary-eyed when they write and play their music. "- H.V. Lyngdal of Wormlust, answering a question about whether being Icelandic influences his music, Contaminated Tones Interview excerpt.
"I’m studying Geology which I got into because my passion for understating our surroundings (the mountains, rivers and volcanoes)."- Benedikt of Azoic, Contaminated Tones Interview. 
I went from initially thinking it was too stupid of a question to ask, to ultimately sitting in surprise while reading Benedikt's response. It goes back to the idea of how it isn't fair to stereotype these bands. Sure, the influence Iceland's geography has on its metal bands it probably overplayed, but you can see a range of responses: explicitly acknowledging a musical influence, accepting an influence in a more abstract sense, humorously mocking the idea, and finally a band actually named after a geological era and created by someone studying geology.


"...yes, every black metal project and band stares into the snowy horizon teary-eyed when they write and play their music"    - H.V. Lyngdal of Wormlust


 Interviews

Listening to, reading/writing about, and interviewing these bands was a really rewarding process. Rather than making this post even longer, the interviews will appear separately over the next couple of days. I encourage everyone who read this to read the full interviews, along with those conducted by other websites, in order to get the full context of what the bands are saying. Links to the Contaminated Tones interviews below:

Mannviera Interview

Wormlust Interview

Azoic Interview

Addendum: Check out Abominor, which a commenter let me know about, and they also released an EP, Opus: Decay, shortly after this article went up. They definitely fit into this style, and the EP was also mixed, mastered, and recorded by Wann at Studio Emissary. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

CTP-023-I: Hellripper - Manifestation of Evil


Hellripper's awesome demo "The Manifestation of Evil" is out now. Speed Metal of high caliber for fans of Midnight, Speedwolf, Venom, and Maximum Oversatan. Accompanying this release, you can get both Manifestation of Evil and the Sacrificial Blood live tape for $8.




Limited to 100 copies.