Sunday, November 3, 2019

Monthly Blast: October 2019

I let my music collection stay on shuffle while reading and relaxing in my office at night. This lends an aspect of spontaneity to my listening. I relinquish control of my predispositions and biases and hope that what comes on next is not something god-awful. More often than not, I'm pleasantly surprised, such as when a few nights ago I was served Paul Chain and Billy Joel in a row. Sometimes I'm not as lucky. In some ways, you recognize interesting things about records this way; things which don't appear as easily when you pick out and know what is coming on next.

I've been reading Patrick Rothmus' Name of the Wind on a recommendation. I was about thirty pages in last night when unexpectedly -

"GIVE ME FUEL GIVE ME FIRE GIVE ME JABABABABA." 

Never had I realized that Metallica's lowest moment so jarringly rolls into the soundsphere. It's like being punched in the back of the head while walking. Somehow I imagined James Hetfield transmogrifying out of thin air into a depressed physical manifestation of his own inner demons - which have been on full display recently - and flailing around the room like a disgruntled Nascar driver around a track. It ruined my night. I closed my book calmly, being careful not to get too close as to startle James as he jumped back and forth from the top of my floor speakers 'Hetfielding' in the corner. I turned off the music with a gentle click and went to bed, thankful that I made it out alive. 

So now, having readied myself over the past few hours, I decided to actually listen to Reload start to finish. Moments of torture I had forgotten about arose such as the goat noises in "The Memory Remains" and I did come to some new revelations which I am sure will never come up in conversations with other metal fans... such as how did the band not get called out for the "Enter Sandman" ripoff main riff in "Slither"? I guess it has something to do with the fact that no one has ever actively listened to Reload. But that moment of James blinking into existence around me without warning never occurred again - and the album was less for it. Without startling me, Reload is a monument to the band's crawl towards the gutter; when randomly encountered, it's a terrifying edifice existing within the darkness of my hard drive ready to pounce when I least expect it.

Arcane Malevolence - Wicked Turn Of The Vine (2010)

In 2007, Arcane Malevolence, from Connecticut, released a demo called Of Biblical Proportions. It was a mostly generic mix of black metal-this and deathcore-that which, while not unpleasant, did little to interest me. A Self Titled 2009 demo followed. Somehow I came into possession of the full length, Wicked Turn Of The Vine. I wish I could send it back to where it came from. Aside from offering only three new tracks - four of the seven could be found on their previous releases - the original versions were much better. Though the production is subpar and the songs are only mediocre, the biggest reason for this falls squarely on the shoulders of vocalist Chris Baldwin. Baldwin's vocal performance, though expressive, is irksome and thespian. If Garm's vocals on the seminal Arcturus albums were on a level comparable to Shakespeare, then Baldwin's vocals on Wicked Turn of the Vine would be the equivalent of a Troma bowel movement; as if they belonged to the lead singer of a System of a Down cover band who has Turret's Syndrome; so mismatched that if his vocals were left off the album to simmer in the depths of a harddrive, eventually the computer enclosure would suddenly be wearing Juggalo makeup. As mediocre and indifferent I am to the rest of the poorly produced music on this record, the vocal situation is a definitive deal breaker that drag this album so far into the mud that Les Claypool is concerned they're going to ruin the only mainstream hit anyone remembers Primus for other than the South Park theme song. The band did a decent job with the packaging but I'm glad this is off my desk now. I've vacuum sealed it into heavy duty As-Seen-On-Tv pouches and wrapped it in electrician's tape so it doesn't leak onto other music in my long-term storage bin.

At Night - At Night Demo (2009)

Dug this out of a box of random old tapes and CDrs. Not sure where / when I got it however it is somehow connected to Matt Gittings of Eerie up in New Hampshire. I believe it was recorded at his studio or something. At Night offer eight tracks of early 90's style grindcore which reminds me of a mix between Napalm Death and certain moments of Bolt Thrower. The Foursome's goal of violence and aggression is furthered by the inclusion of samples of gunshots, one of which cues the first track nicely, and the rest of which are jumbled into the last instrumental outro track which don't seem to coordinate with the underlying rhythm tracks. When the last track first played, I thought something came apart in my back passenger side brake compartment, banging around the drum and giving off all sorts of sudden noises. The main men here are Marble, on drums, and Mavrogeorge on guitar. Bass and vocals are both session musicians. The drumming and guitars are impressively performed. The tone of drums focuses on the metallic essence of the cymbals and adds a sharp attitude to the overall tracks. The songs, all unnumbered, have well placed melodic shifts, momentary breakdowns, catchy transitions, and occasionally even draw from an almost hidden black metal sentiment, while remaining entirely in the grind and even crust vibe. The vocals, provided by 'Ian' are scratchy and raw with a hint of cadence; they fit well though don't necessarily stand out or add a huge amount to the release. Persistent and driving, I could see this appealing to many fans on the extreme end of punk, grindcore, and crust. Having no additional information on the band, no lyrics, no idea of song titles, it's difficult to point to what actually might be contextually relevant beyond the quality of the music. Some additional effort into the package would have helped this otherwise acceptable DIY release.

Botonist - Ecosystem (2019)

This is my first foray into Botanist, being drawn into Otrebor's world, The Verdant Realm, through an interest in the overall concept first, and the music second. Musically, Ecosystem is difficult to describe overall and it doesn't seem to fit into any simple categorization. Botanist, here, is a collaborative group with Otrebor and a swarm of live musicians. Think of it as extreme metal drumming played over black metal instrumentals provided by bass, dulcimer, and a shadowy guitar (or something). Vocals are wailed screams in the vein of European depressive black metal bands like Eindig or Laster with heavy use of clean vocal harmonies as atmospheric effects. The songs are not done a disservice through this arrangement. Quite opposite in fact. The dulcimer is an aggressive tone which adds a lot of spit and snarl to even uplifting moments. The bass is also of significance, with all the other instruments taking up a certain space on the treble end of the spectrum, the sleek low end provided fills in and cues some of the album's most intense moments in songs like "Harvestman." The rich textures, exceptional playing, and dynamic compositions across the album offer a lot to return to across repeat listens. Regarding Ecosystem's concept described is similarly vivid and unique. As described by the band, the album deals with the the ecosystems of redwood forests and "with mankind's impact on those forests, particularly calling into question whether humanity has an operating 'ecosystem' of its own." This philosophical approach to understand humans in terms of the world we are creating around us as opposed to the world within us is intriguing. It recalls the earliest periods of philosophy and it's attempt to understand existence through observation of the physical world, explaining man as elements viewed in nature. The album single, "Red Crown," is not the strongest moment on the album for me. It's cheerful melody, almost impatient dulcimer usage, and the harmonious and beautiful vocals may be impressive, however I'm partial to the darker moments. I will be checking out some more of the Botanist material from this, especially the other collaborative material where Otrebor's live musicians were also involved. For me, the music here lives up to the concept for me.

Glaukom Synod - Macabre Remixes (2017)

Glaukom Synod, the French noise/grind/electronic project, just seems to have endless amounts of material floating around. This set of remixes is a compilation of a 2008 tape release and tracks from a Split with The Processus, similarly harsh and electronic, with some interesting background ambience which, if you have a neighbor like me, would be easy to imagine coming from their backyard as they do latin dances. So Glaukon Synod's material here is nothing different from their other releases which I've reviewed: Harsh Electronic Noise with hyperspeed industrial flourishes, like a murder factory on a speed it doesn't normally operate on. It's like listening to a lot of glitchy computer software running at the same time. I've always been enamored with the quirky rhythmic sensibilities which G.S. comes up with in these songs such as in "Transluminescence To The Cube II (Nail Hurt)" or "Le Traitement De Grace (Insane Crypt Inseminator Mix)". The Abba cover threw me off at first and is an interesting inclusion. I prefer the second version of "Gangrene Control" on this compilation, due to the subtle addition of spoken vocals and I like the opening track rendition of "Subterranean Nuttgrabber" better than the version further down the tracklisting which is overly complicated; compositional space is in short supply throughout here, and there is always something going on allowing minimalist elements and simpler passages to stand out. If you enjoyed the other Glaukom Synod material, you'll like this as well.




Käärmekristus - Spiritual War Alchemy (2018)

The first CD release and first release which is mostly communicated in English from Ophiuchus and his main artistic expression, Käärmekristus, Spiritual War Alchemy proves to be yet another strong release from this enigmatic force. Deeply personal and spiritual, the lyrical content here shows it's creator exploring the esoteric quandaries of elemental magic, cosmology, and individualism. But at the heart of Spiritual War Alchemy is a grouping of tracks which nearly rivals what is still my favorite of his releases, Venite Ad Me Satanas. Starting with a long ambient intro which is the album's weakest moment, we are ushered into "Growing Madness" which sets the tone for the album: repetitive yet endlessly evocative melodies and hypnotic drumming woven into excellently paced songs. Ophiuchus' vocals are a highlight for me. At times a grumbling mournful spit, other times spoken with a deep resonant masculinity, and of course you have the standard gnashing throaty screeches. The strongest tracks here start with the truly excellent "Ride To The Emerald Halls" and ends two tracks later with "Poisonous Black Iron". "Ride To The Emerald Halls" is a perfect black metal instrumental - grandiose, majestic, and image forming. Use of elements such as bells, chimes, and other percussion gives it a gallant weight. It would be fair to say this album is worth picking up for that track alone however the following "Magical Chant Of The Dark And Mystical Forest" is the perfect contrasting follow up track. The fastest and most intense track offered is dreary, unsettling, vampyric, and - momentarily - sweet and airy. Ophiuchus eschews his standard format and displays a mastery of painting with melody as he hovers over the uplifting climax with a slow guitar solo. The booklet and package is resolutely DIY but done well. Nuanced personality such as tertiary "Shifting Shapes of Reality" being called "Twisting Shapes of Reality" in the booklet show an artist in the process of forming and crafting his art. The raw yet powerful production makes Spiritual War Alchemy Käärmekristus' most accessible release, even though it's limited to only eighty-one copies. Ophiuchus is keeping a tight reign on this project, allowing it to be what he wants it to be and go where he wants it to go. I'm fine with it as long as it ends up in my lap because he is creating some incredible music.




Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Quercus Rubra #1 - Northern Red Oak

Quercus Rubra - Northern Red Oak

This oak was growing in the ground next to my fence. I liked the kink in the trunk and the taper that the tree already had. I left it in the ground last year, as I knew that digging it mid summer would have killed it. I decided I would dig it and pot it this spring as the buds were beginning to swell, right before leafing out. Early April of this year I potted the tree. By the end of the month, it's first buds had opened and began leafing out. I knew I had some decisions to make with this tree. There was a thick branch crossing mid-trunk. It had been cut back in the past causing the two side branches. I also needed to hope roots regrew from the cut tap-root. There were no branches low as well. The kink in the trunk was now looking truly weird, with a sharp angle that jutted out to the left. The more I looked at it, the more I decided it was a flaw in the overall style.

The tree grew through the spring and fully leafed out quite nicely by mid-summer. By mid June, the tree was growing nicely, with several pushes of foliage growth, but no evidence of growth down on the trunk. I decided to attempt to wire the branches up top at this point to try my hand and getting some different angles off the trunk to potentially grow the trunk into. Having not decided on the final style for the tree at this stage, wiring the trunk away from each other and into the sun also afforded the leaves a chance to all get as much sunlight and growth as possible. I covered the soil, a formula of 100% Napa 8822 Diatomaceous Earth, with sphagnum to keep some moisture in the pot. I fertilized throughout the summer occasionally with 14-14-14 Osmocote slow release fertilizer.

Towards the end of the summer, around August, I began using a small amount of water soluble solid fertilizer with each watering when I felt that the slow release was not giving me the healthy growth on the oak. I used the leaves on my Alder as a reference point for this. Because Alder is a nitrogen fixing tree, which can produce it's own nitrogen, I can compare how green it's leaves are to other trees to determine if trees that should have dark green leaves are getting enough fertilizer. This tree wasn't. After beginning the new regimen, it's leaves began to green up. This tendency can help gauge other trees as well so an Alder is a good tree to keep in a collection for this reason.

Today, I captured some of the tree's early autumn color setting in. Just like fully grown trees, bonsai will turn colors with the season. Here, you can see some of the red coming into view. Note the small front branch low on the tree. After I removed the branch from the middle of the tree that I didn't like from the beginning, the tree began activating buds lower on the trunk. This branch grew from a bud in the perfect location. Next year, I will allow this branch to build up some strength by pruning the upper branch that is most vigorous. Eventually, I will chop the whole tree back to this low branch to grow out from that point. Currently I do not know the age of this tree. I expect it to be around three or four years. I will know for sure when I do my first cut back to the low branch - I will be able to count the rings on the trunk at that point.

Here, you can see the smaller leaves turning the distinctive red which Red Oak is named after. Note the size of my finger; oaks are notorious for having leaves which do not reduce well however I have had several buds on this tree push leaves that were smaller in size once in the pot. Red Oaks have different growth habits compared to White Oaks. You can tell the difference between the species by the type of lobes on the leaves - Red Oaks have pointy lobes while White Oaks have rounded lobes. White Oak species do not require a stratification period for their seeds to germinate while Red Oak species do. I have not seen many people with Red Oak bonsai so this tree is an experiment but I am pleased with this leaf size. If through ramification the leaves naturally reduce to this size, this will become a very nice tree to train.

On the trunk, there seem to be some more latent buds which have appeared. Hopefully next spring, I will have more low branches to work with on this tree and I can work on getting a good start on developing some long-term branching to grow out. I also am interested to see how the bark comes along next year. At the moment, this is one of my best prospects for a nice potential bonsai. There is another one growing in the back by the shed so I may have a second by this time next year.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Kaarmekristus - Venite Ad Me Satanas


Earlier this year I managed to have rekindled an interest in Kaarmekristus. I was unaware that Kaarmekristus had released new material because in the past Ophiuchus would simply mail me copies of his releases when he made them. While getting down to business and finally reviewing Kuolen Kusta Virta which he had sent me, I stumbled upon the new releases through the label he is now operating: Death Monument. Having followed the band since the first Demo, I didn't have to think twice about purchasing. I went ahead and bought the two new releases from Ophiuchus which I had not heard: Venite Ad Me Satanas and Spiritual War Alchemy. My concern going into the two releases is that it would show stagnation. Previous releases showed little progression of any sort. The raw, lo-fi black metal he had been pressing to tape was full of the stuff of black metal demos of past. The production was crumbly, the tape layouts simple, and the lack of connection to digital outlets refreshing and pure.

Venite Ad Me Satanas is the progression and shift I was waiting for. The release comes wrapped in a cloth bag, which spills out it's black metal contents - a lyric sheet, tape case with glued on labels, patch, and tape also with glued on labels (all DIY made) - in the manner a downtrodden artist who has reawakened dumps out his brushes frantically to capture some immediate revelation. For me, the feeling can be described as similar to being given an individualized gift on your birthday. The material on this tape is supreme black metal. Ophiuchus has achieved here what I have been laying in wait to experience from him. While the lo-fi qualities of the past have not slipped away into the past, the clarity and production emphasizes this homeliness into an atmosphere more than what it would present as simple tape-hiss-demo-feel. And yet, musically, much of this rekindles memories of previous releases.

The tape opens up with a long introductory track, much the same as Ajan Lopun Alku. An acoustic guitar strums a somber melody, supported with marching drums and drawn out distorted chords before sweeping quickly into "Pieyden Syuyyksiin", an immediate track that alters back and forth between a cold and dank hook melody in same fashion and feel as "Transylvanian Hunger." Ophiuchus' vocals are a combination of deep mournful bellows and scratchy throat scrapes in a high register. Unfortunately the lyrics are in Finnish and I can not translate but they are one of two songs whose lyrics are provided in the fold out. It is quick and decisive. An excellent opening track. It leads into "Portaat", the other track which has lyrics provided in the booklet. The track doesn't actually contain vocals. Slower, more reliant on the beating monotony of the kick drum, a hypnosis can be found in it's short length none-the-less.

Thus ends the first side of the tape or, what I think of as, the traditional side. The second side contains two official tracks and an untitled track which may actually be a cover. These tracks are brazen, touch upon some elements which Ophiuhcus never previously utilized. "Valon Kirkaauteen" opens in much the same style as the two tracks on side A, however mid-way through breaks into a more open, Cascadian theme. A shimmering guitar melody is included over the slower peaceful phrasing that drags out until the end of the track. It shows a melodic and emotional depth of writing which Ophiuchus had not previously touched upon. "Dvi" opens with terse acoustic chords before riding out the pastoral theme to the end of the song with distorted guitar chords accentuating underneath. The whole manner in which these last two songs shift into this more melodic and content emotional plane is something unique. To me, it sounds like the influence of an artist such as Empyrium, which is evidence of a higher plane of composition.

The final song offered on my tape starts out with a rumbling bass line and bursts into a combination of the two styles offered on the previous tracks. I originally thought it might be a demo track, or something unfinished, but it is my favorite song on the tape after the opening "Pieyden Syuyyksiin" and I now know it to be a version of "Poisonous Black Iron", a song from Spiritual War Alchemy. I honestly can't tell if it's the same version on tape or if it's a different version - the mix sounds a bit different to me, especially the vocals. It is also the longest track here at six minutes long. The final two minutes are more or less ringing of notes and strings with some subtle feedback at play and some cymbals being brushed or played with. I feel as though this track could have been something beyond what it was. Tightening up the opening, imbuing some minute structure to the song with the feedback and noise section opening back into the track somehow... I love it for what it could be, and not what it is. The tapes ends drifting in this ethereal noise, leaving one alone. This is the best release in Kaarmekristus' discography up to this point. Powerful emotive and cold lo-fi black metal in the Scandinavian Style with some nuance but a lot of tradition.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Boom Lake - Banff National Park


Boom Lake Trailhead. Before climbing in
altitude, the trail crosses Boom Creek, Boom
Lake's runoff, by this wooden bridge. The
trail before climbing also hosts species of
Mountain Laurel, Alder, and wildflowers.

This past week my wife and I took a trip to Jasper and Banff National Parks in Alberta, Canada. The trip predominantly focused on hiking some of the more known and trafficked trails in the two large parks such as the Sulfur Skyline, Larch Valley, Maligne Canyon, Valley of Five Lakes, and Plain of Six Glaciers. We found ourselves with an empty morning, however, one of the days we were near Banff, and took a gamble on a trail that didn't have as much notoriety: Boom Lake. This trail is not along the Icefields Parkway, the main road going between Banff and Jasper, instead off the highway which connects Banff and Kootenay National Park. The lesser awareness of this trail was evident from the rather empty parking lot at the trailhead. While other parking lots had at least ten vehicles or campers parked in the narrow spots, Boom Lake had a single truck parked.

After picking up some lunches at Storm Mountain Lodge on a whim - a very good whim - we pulled into the lot. The trail is a subalpine trail dominated by mountain trees such as Black Spruce, White Spruce, Douglass Fir, and Englemann Spruce. The occasional Lodgepole Pine also made itself known, throwing it's tightly bound cones across the trail. Lodgepole Pine is one of a handful of Pine species which require forest fire to open the cones and cause seed dispersal, similar to the eastern Pitch Pine species. Collecting Seeds from this species requires collected cones be dry-cooked on a stove top so that the cones will open and the seeds can be removed. In a natural setting, forest fires melt the outside of the cones, and the seeds get carried by ashen winds to the nutrient rich soil. The spruce and firs gave the majority of the trail a wintry Christmas-candle scented perfume.

The trail's vista is normally sub-alpine forest.
Thick spruce trees offer shade and a wind -
break. It's a comfortable hike.
This trail is approximately three miles to the lake, then three miles back over the same trail - known as an "out and back" trail. Boom Lake is, like most of the other lakes in the area, a glacial lake, formed as glaciers carved out the mountain and then receded, leaving a hole which was filled by the runoff from the melting mountain snow and glacier. The sediment in this runoff gives the lakes in Banff and Jasper particularly brilliant hues. Peyto Lake, Lake Louise, and Moraine Lake are some of the brightest blues. Moraine Lake, while we were there, looked close to the color of a sapphire. Lake Louise and Peyto Lake were the color of turquoise. Boom Lake, though not quite as stunning as it's more famous neighbors still holds it's own luminescence; Boom Mountain in the background an impressive backdrop.

After an hour and a half hike, the shores of the lake appear without notice. The rocky shore is littered with large stones which offer plenty of spots to sit and relax while taking in the view. I took time to explore the old, alpine firs that had managed to grow in the rocky terrain. Stunted and twisted, they were often no more than four or five feet tall yet, since bearing cones, clearly over thirty to forty years old. The cones on firs are noteworthy for standing upright on the branches and disintegrating as they ripen to seed-bearing age. As they disintegrate, the seeds are spread. Upright central cone stalks left after cones had blown off were visible on many of the trees. We spent a solid hour and a half here, eating our delicious lodge-sandwiches. My wife spent time taking pictures and then napping somehow after finding two rocks that together formed a comfortable bench.

Alpine Fir Cone. Boom Lake in Background.
This tree was growing with several others on
top of a large flat slab of stone. It's roots ran
over and down below the rock impressively.
We walked back to the car in about an hour. The ascent to the lake was only about seven-hundred feet. Compared to hikes of two-thousand feet for the Larch Valley, and at nineteen hundred feet for Sulfur Skyline, this was barely difficult. Most of the steep hiking was frontloaded on the early sections of trail, which then maintained a mostly flat course the second half. The ground was mostly frozen, with little ice, so we didn't feel it necessary to wear any additional footwear other than hiking boots. For Plain of Six Glaciers and Larch Valley we wore microspikes. We hadn't purchased them for Sulfur Skyline, however we probably should have. While we made it down that icy and slick trail with no issues, another hiker wearing improper shoes - sneakers - took a bad tumble and clearly injured his shoulder. We learned later on that three hikers had to be air-lifted off Plain of Six Glaciers trail.

This is a very nice moderate difficulty trail and for a family or those getting into hiking and outdoor recreation. Other than the steep ascent early on, there is little to cause worry. The trail is clearly marked, maintained, and has bathrooms at the trailhead. I read that this trail can be muddy after rain and in spring, but can not verify this. I would recommend bringing waterproof shoes during this season. The fact that there aren't many people using this trail is nice for those looking to get out into a less touristy area in Banff than Lake Louise or Moraine Lake which can get very busy. Though we didn't see any large animals on the trail, we did see some squirrels, birds, and various tracks. We still carried bear spray, as we did on every trail, as black bear and grizzly bears are common throughout the park.


Regarding The Defense of Extreme Music Through Normalization


A lot has been said regarding the revelation that the Dayton Ohio shooter fronted a pornogrind band. What stood out to me was how most of the coverage I read online in articles surrounded trying to  explain to everyday people what something called 'pornogrind' is in a way which doesn't attack the genre or make pornogrind sound abominable. It is folly to think that in 2019 we are trying to talk nice and matter of factually about bands like Cock and Ball Torture while in 1985 Tipper Gore and the US Senate was chasing Dee Snider around for writing "We're Not Gonna Take It" claiming it would cause violence and anarchy. At least there are still some holdouts with this mindset out there to do the bidding of what was once the mission of pastors, priests, and clergy the world round. These holy men and women retain an interest in engaging their enemy, the Dark Lord, wherever he appears - in our case: extreme music. Oddly enough, while everyone that loves extreme music does their best to defend it by downplaying it's extremity, this contingent of the conservative right furthers the cause of extreme music by maintaining that extreme metal is in fact... well... extreme.

As critics of extreme music attempt to portray exactly how extreme it is - in both sound and content by honing in on specific cases - fans and supporters of the art are quick to dismiss outlier cases and examples. Compare this to the way in which 'journalism' often operates: news cycles latch onto and leech dry specific events that are not representative of the whole to push whatever agenda is in mind. If this is the professional norm, shouldn't we want this methodology to apply to metal as well? Now that I think about it, maybe I'm actually pointing out the problem with the current methodology of professional journalists here. Either way, shouldn't the agenda of extreme metal and extreme music be one of maintaining and pushing extremity, instead of accessibility? Please, don't confuse this with your perspectives on inclusion: extremity is not in conflict with but a proponent of the much heralded virtue of inclusion.

I can't help but feel it is all disingenuous. Why is it necessary to defend this extremity in a way that softens the genre as a whole? If extreme metal - and extreme music in general - is to exist on a plane which remains extreme it must be supported in a way that does not normalize it. Has anyone else noticed the preponderance of reaction videos on youtube to metal music videos and live footage where a reviewer not normally involved or knowledgeable with the genre does their best to raise their own credibility by critiquing 'obscure' metal bands? The underground is seeping forth into all avenues; the sewer has now become the one-foot section of road by the curb where runoff and wastewater is in full view of everyone. My mother asked me the other day, out of the blue, "Are there really white supremacist metal bands? I am reading a book and the character becomes involved in the white supremacist underground." It was interesting to have to explain that there are still places where dangerous viewpoints are openly harbored if not welcomed, but it was unnerving that a book-club book chosen by middle-aged women would be shining light on the dirty underbelly of something which shouldn't have light shown on it. My response, after a quick explanation of the pagan and nationalistic tendencies that simmer in the Eastern European Black Metal scene, amounted to "within Metal there are all the extreme viewpoints expressed globally as a whole, as the content is often a representation of the existing most extreme positions."

While Pop-culture leeches, youtube stars, mainstream authors, and Antifa and their black-scarved doppleganger groups do their best to raise a ruckus, they're systematically proving that Heavy Metal is truly one of the few holdouts of open dialogue and spread of ideas - of all types - there is. By my reasoning, this is now the most extreme aspect of the genre; there has not been a major stylistic increase in extremity in decades. As an example of just how extreme the content can be, even in metal there is a contingent of metal fans that feel that there must be some universally acknowledged rule set which governs what is acceptable to sing about or write about or base a band around. There are those fearful of other people intellectually confronting and engaging with controversial, racist, or taboo content which is already available to be digested and investigated at large. Who are they protecting anyway?  And how? The attempt to boycott bands, the attempt to drive promoters hosting bands into hiding, the attempt to cause financial harm to clubs is the manner in which mainstreamers are actually normalizing extreme music. These tactics serve only those whose music is superficially extreme and thus removes one of the few defining extreme elements which separates underground extreme metal from mainstream rock groups. In a short while, we will only be able to go see bands who sing love songs. It'll be like the 1950's except with blastbeats and HM2 pedals. How extreme would a bunch of bands singing love songs over death metal music be? I want to be able to go to a controversial show, experience the band, and then determine my perspective on what I am hearing. I grow stronger with intellectual conflict and do not want a filter on information.

What happens when the accepted conventions of thought swing the other way and it is now unspeakable to defend those of the LGBTQ community, or promote the importance of climate change science, or civil and human rights for minorities across the globe? Extremity goes both ways, whether you are Napalm Death singing about the monstrosity of corporate greed and other generally left-leaning perspectives or Iced Earth imbuing albums with a decisively patriotic and conservative flair. Listening to Orphaned Land recently, I can't help but think that they are a perfect example of a band which exemplifies the importance of free flow of thought in the genre; an Israeli band tackling a number of religious and spiritual topics, playing metal in a region not accepting of it, and espousing opinions on the political quagmire that is the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. The extreme stances held in situations like this foster discussion and, potentially, resolutions between peoples and the self.

I for one would rather have an open market for the trade of perspectives, theories, and ideas. I am capable to confront ideas myself and take responsibility for my viewpoints on them. The intellectually capable should not remain passive about relying on someone else to determine what information they can receive. Perhaps an argument can be made that there are people out there who can't decide for themselves how to interpret information. This is true and there are those who aren't intellectually strong enough to deal with sensitive topics - we have all heard of someone being 'triggered' by something, haven't we? I can't help but find it ironic, though. Imagine an army of anemic unhealthy individuals regulating how much weight bodybuilders, weightlifters, athletes, and our soldiers across the country could exercise with because they were 'triggered' by the physique of these powerful men and women. Ultimately, this would reduce the overall strength and health of the population, would it not? Isn't the same true of content? We must exercise our morality, intellect, and reason by coming into confrontation with information and concepts which force us to exercise our minds. Extreme metal is a 'benchpress' for the mind, if you are looking for an analogy. The people that can't rationally deal with information interpretation on a personal level shouldn't be the ones to determine what content can be disseminated on a societal scale. The lowest common denominator will only ever dip lower and lower under these circumstances.

And so we must continue to defend extreme Metal and extreme music in a way which does not water down the content which exists - even the most reprehensible, vulgar, and morally unacceptable. We must protect the creative opportunities for terrible people to create terrible content so that we, the intellectually stable, astute, and capable, can feed on this conflicting material and grow stronger in our defense of what is right. I am fearful of what I am seeing on a daily basis on the internet: watered down articles and click bait leading to desensitization towards extreme content and an apparent defense of extremity via explaining how something isn't really extreme. I think a lot of this was already a sketch deep in my brain somewhere, lines and shapes formed from an increasing concern and dissatisfaction with the direction technology is taking society, and I couldn't quite get the right proportions. Sometimes it takes a mass shooting and a killer who played guitar in a pornogrind band to act as paintbrush. 

Monday, September 30, 2019

Monthly Blast: April, May, June, July, August, September

This summer was life in fast forward for me. It's hard to find time to write reviews when so much has been going on. Intake of the artistic elements is superseded by an almost white-noise-in-the-background quality - or lack thereof - of attention. This isn't to say I have been absent from my passion. On the contrary, I've revisited a lot of material and aspects of Metal which fall by the wayside, finished recording a new Sacrificial Blood album, as well as some other projects. Sometimes it simply takes a few months to recharge the critical ear; to advance outward in perspective; to give life and experience itself time to ferment new concepts and theories on what it is that draws us into this music. This noise clearly has deeper meaning than svper br00tal gory album covers!

I recently read an article by Steve Knopper - an author of several biographies and writer for Rolling Stone, etc, - writing for the Chicago Tribune titled "Everything about Babymetal is Metal" which spoke volumes about the general ignorance regarding the perception of metal in the mainstream music / journalism world. Without nit picking every line, the general gist was how Babymetal was born out of the pop world with singers who knew nothing about metal and were thrust into this stage act. "Yet until 2010, Suzuka Nakamoto and Moa Kikuchi had never heard the genre and found it “scary"... Back then, a talent agency, Amuse, put the young Japanese singers together and fused a musical concept that, somehow, nobody had ever thought to try..." Though commonplace in the pop world, manufactured groups are hardly the norm and rarely born out of talent agencies within Metal as a whole. I can't easily point out a metal supergroup which hasn't been assembled through the work of a label who gathers previously well known and credible musicians for the one off project. Credibility has already been achieved through years of toiling in dingy clubs, demo creation, moving through the ranks of independent labels, and supporting the heavy metal underground at large.



Speaking of credibility: "...2016′s “Metal Resistance,” played down the pop and emphasized the metal. The album contains no sprightly “Gimme Chocolate!!” novelty and skews downcast and sludgy, perhaps to build credibility with metal loyalists who saw the band open for Metallica and Guns N’ Roses. Babymetal studies its fans carefully and makes an effort to please both the metal and Japanese-pop side of its base." Aside from Knopper's apparent lack of knowledge of the actual Sludge genre - Metal Resistance is not three Japanese pop stars singing over Take As Needed For Pain - putting out an album styled specifically to 'build credibility' has never been an allowable method to 'build credibility' within the metal genre... ever... at anytime. Credibility is either had or it isn't. It is not something that is focus grouped and worked into a marketing plan. Brands have been built through endless refinement and perseverance and infinite tweaks and shifts yet never through fabrication. Additionally, I tried to get through four tracks on this album and if "Yava!" isn't some form, type, or subcategory of 'sprightly' I need four new dictionaries.

Among other things mentioned that are sure to make the old guard contingent shake their head and clamor for the end to this hell in which we've found ourselves, a total disregard for the Natural, is at play. "Babymetal put together early singles like “Doki Doki Morning,” which opens with a few seconds of cutesy, Auto-Tuned pop vocals, then plunges into Metallica-style guitars." Also, "The band’s live show is carefully choreographed: The singers perform in samurai-warrior costumes, often black, as a masked, nameless band provides the Slipknot-like oomph." My skin is not malleable or flexible enough to handle all this cringing! At the heart of this issue is a lack of honesty and integrity to the music created. Autotuned vocals may be cruise control for music made for 12 year olds with no standards for musicianship, but in a genre which is built around a foundation of musical competence, capturing live sounds, and as little post-production trickery as possible, this sort of falsity will never pass muster. Any time I hear the word 'choreographed' in reference to a live show, and it's anything other than Rock ' n' Rolf and Majk Moti hip hugging in unison in the Death Or Glory live video during "Raw Ride," there's a 99.6% chance it's not metal.

I originally tried to feel sorry for the women who have been dragged into this group by a talent agency but I felt it increasingly difficult as I considered that they are somehow being viewed with the same respect and acceptance as talented underground artists, some who have slaved away for decades with little to show for it other than a rabid base of die-hard fans and incredible musical acumen. In my opinion, Babymetal is in fact the logical result of the Metalocalypse generation - a generation where Metal's gateway was not metal music but metal as a aesthetic device. "But they are fun and put on a great live show!" The same could be said about a donkey show. I'm not buying the argument as it relates to Metal. 'Fun' can be an attribute of having a good live show, but it is not the sole gem in the metal treasure chest. I imagine seeing a lot of Babymetal in the second hand stores in about ten years. Ultimately, something which Knopper didn't catch here, is that when you set the music aside, in fact nothing about Babymetal is Metal.

Atomic Cretins - Spiritual Cancer (2019)

My first engagement with their attack was at a show down in DC at The Pinch. Sacrificial Blood was also on the bill so, as is often the case with more local acts, I saw them first in the flesh. I was very impressed with their live performance; recognizable riffs, tight musicianship, and an undeniably Philadelphian attitude - the city seems to have it's own patented posture - captured my attention. I was pretty excited when this EP landed in my inbox. Having not heard the now sold out previous tape, We Worship Death, or the also sold out debut tape, Too Stoned To Die, I previewed those on bandcamp; Too Stoned To Die was a 50-50 mix of crossover and hardcore punk with We Worship Death losing some of the punk influence and leaning towards some speed metal elements mixed with the crossover. Spiritual Cancer finds Atomic Cretins continuing this trend of eliminating the punk elements from their sound and going full speed metal / thrash. In fact, this EP has the band sounding more in line with the contemporary speed metal movement. Bands like Hellripper and Midnight come to mind however Atomic Cretins are not as sleazy as Midnight and not as black metal slanted as Hellripper. Speedwolf also draws a comparison however AJ Defeo preferred the raspy to Reed's Motorheadesque tobacco infused throaty howls. Jay Mazillo's bass playing is a big part of the EP, opening single, "Satan's Hound's" with a gravely low bass riff as well as "Dig Your Own Grave." The guitarist duo of AJ and Hit Cunningham offer some nice lead work but I their guitar tone is a bit thin for my tastes. The production is one of the aspects which could be improved. The EP doesn't have a 'powerful' effect on me and is something which they benefited from in the live setting. Even though I'm not entirely a fan of the tremolo picking riff, I think the best song here is "Out Of The Coffin". Atomic Cretins seem to still be finding that mix they want to play, but this EP is a major step forward for the band, even if it isn't on par with the best of this style. Spiritual Cancer is not a bad EP if the speed metal / punk / crossover thing really appeals to you.



Cadaver In Drag - People Meant To Die (2003)

A Husk Records release, I picked this up when ordering the other Husk Records material. I gave it a handful of spins in the car - like eight total since the sixteen minute playtime was enough for four plays a commute each day - and nothing in particular stuck with me, relegating People Meant To Die to the 'burn pile'. This is one of the first Cadaver In Drag releases, finding the band exploring not much beyond grindcore and noise - a combination which does not normally whet my salivary glands. The quartet rips through the nine songs in a frantic blaze of riffs, screams, clatters and crashes. It's difficult to normally tell what is going on or if the band is doing something determinate. There are only a few tracks in which a combination of mayhem and control appears: "Tackhammer", "Hermaphroditehandjob", and "Sorority Whore". Otherwise I find it difficult to find purposeful moments of arrangement and decision making. Back in high school, a friend I knew who I used to hang out with would make music like this in a shed we built from stolen lumber from local construction sites. We thought the songs were cool but in reality, it was spurts of riffs written on a whim and pieced together haphazardly with no attention for what constituted a song. Even in grindcore and noisecore, a song can have structure and sound focused. Often, short songs done well sound incredibly purposeful. An example where this is done here is "Sorority Whore," a thirty-second blitz of atonality with a recurring guitar phrase that gives the track focus. Final track "Baptized In Embalming Fluid," a weird synth experiment, runs a torturous seven minutes long... six minutes and forty seconds longer than worthwhile by my call.

Enthroned Serpent - Ancient Witchcraft (2016)

Enthroned Serpent is a newer project out of Athens, Greece. Ancient Witchcraft, thus, carries the trademark brand of their countrymen. A melodic sensibility is utilized to great effect to propel songs forward and is the band's strongest point here, molding captivating melodic elements and phrases together. While Rotting Christ and Varathron are sure to be invoked, other non-Hellenic Black Metal bands that might draw comparisons are Seer Bliss or Dissection. The members themselves are not known names which, considering the level of playing on Ancient Witchcraft, is surprising. The weakest track, "Ghost," though less melodic, and is more comparable to the standard second wave black metal bands, still contains a nice helping of what makes Enthroned Serpent tick. The weakness here then is mostly due to the vocal performance. It's this song which vocalist Rex Sanguis is least effective on, as his  screechy style does not offer much dynamic interest. Compare this to the vocals on a track such as "Condamned" where his vocals are dynamic, powerful, forceful, and at times draw on deeper vocal techniques to incorporate  authoritative tonality into the album highlight. "Condamned" is the best track for me, hearkening back to other early 90's Mediterranean bands such as Mortuary Drape. It is propelled by the intricate guitar leads of Kallidor and Nazgûl. Ancient Witchcraft's longest track, "The Channeling" is quite complex, with all sorts of sections including a quiet murky section that drips along at the midpoint. This is a promising initial offering from Enthroned Serpent. I'm not thinking twice about keeping my eye on the band. 



Heavy Load - Death or Glory (1982)

Following the passionate and honest yet slightly amateur sounding Full Speed at High Level, Sweden's Heavy Load offered Death or Glory. It's easy to see why Heavy Load are so popular in Europe - well-written and ballsy no frills Heavy Metal courtesy of Ragne Wahlquist on guitars and his brother, Styrbjörn, on drums. Since the band's inception, the two form a natural songwriting duo. Vocals on the album are split three ways between Ragne, Styrbjörn, and second guitarist Eddy Malm and yet, it's difficult to feel like there are three singers. The trio of singers is an interesting arrangement. A close listen reveals Styrbjörn seems to have a slightly deeper, aggressive tone compared to Ragne but even listening closely is difficult to pick out individual singers. The production is well done, giving space to each instrument naturally. The drums stand out tonally for the big natural kick easily noticeable throughout the record and especially on stand out tracks like "The Guitar Is My Sword," where Styrbjörn's drums drive the song forward. A lot of the tracks are firmly in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal style; there are moments of less aggressive melodies such as the choruses and chord progressions in "Still There Is Time" mixed in with ballsier riffs. Early Accept and Blitzkrieg come to mind throughout the album. Favorite tracks for me are either the anthemic opener "Heavy Metal Angels" or closer "Daybreak Ecstacy", where Heavy Load tout their strongest songwriting and most adventurous melodic usage in a weaving dark tale with evocative lyrics focused on finding guidance and light in a world of darkness. Death Or Glory is worth the time for fans of older Heavy Metal and NWOBHM styled bands.

Narrow House - Thanathonaut (2014)

I was generally really impressed with the Ukrainian's first album, A Key To Pangrieb, however after a host of listens over the course of several years since it's release, I have several mixed feelings on Thanathonaut. I decided to pull out this one again a few weeks ago after it fell out of a box after moving stuff around in the house I hadn't touched in a while. In one sense the album is still unique and expressive with a progressive cinematic streak. On the other hand, the album can be overthought, segmented, and hollow. The guitar tone is one of those love - hate moments, ringing out across songs with a mechanical and futuristic timbre that contrasts the classical elements in an unwelcome clash and clatter. For example, "The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life" culminates in a section with brass instruments, piano, strings and synths with the guitars churning underneath. Cutting the digitized tone would have created a truly beautiful organic and natural feel in an epic soundscape. Contrast this with the next song, "Furious Thoughts Of Tranquility" which has a chugging industrial mechanized feel that ends abruptly; the tonality fits well here but the song feels like it's a segment of a larger entity which never materializes. This epic and grand scope is something I miss from their debut. The only song over the five minute mark is the final track, "Возрождение", an at times incomplete sounding cover of Virgin Black's sombre "Renaissance." Many of the other songs simply don't sound fully realized to me, which is a shame because of all the great ideas floating around and melodic movements the band has developed. Thanathonaut is bulbish - large and swollen with ideas that fill up space that are only partially palatable. I don't know how much internal pressure Narrow House put on themselves to finish the record, but it just feels like it needed some more time. Not sure what will happen with the group, as they've been in hibernation since this album's release in 2014. I'd be curious to know what the band is doing now.



Tygers of Pan Tang - Spellbound (1981)

As it would be for any lover of good, classic New Wave of British Heavy Metal, it is inevitable to find yourself confronted with either of the first two Tygers of Pan Tang albums. Spellbound, the sophomore album is more to my liking. It's more hard hitting, varied, and interesting. There is an edge to the guitar riffs which was only partially found on Wildcat in songs like "Killers". Spellbound contains some rather well-known tracks. The record's arguably heaviest track "Hellbound" was covered by several bands including Heathen and Destruction but in my eyes the album's hardest track might go to the rough-nosed "Blackjack." My version of the record (1981-MCA-5235) has this switched with the position of "Tyger Bay" from the original run order. I'm not sure it is much of a benefit or a hindrance, as "Tyger Bay" in the nine-spot follows the light-hearted rocker "The Story So Far" with a similar level of speed and contrast. Opener "Gangland" is a favorite for me... must be something about NWOBHM bands and songs called "Gangland" being awesome. John Deverill gets a lot of credit from me for making this record so enjoyable. His crooning, powerful, and - at the right times - emotive vocal performance draws comparisons more towards Robert Plant or Rod Evans' performance on Deep Purple. The record would have been served well by a grittier and hungrier guitar tone. Drummer Brian 'Big' Dick - I laughed like Butthead when I first read the liner notes on this record - is adequate but gets lost behind Deverill's performance as well as that of guitarists Robb Weir and John Sykes. Deeper cuts from this record worth attention include "Silver and Gold" and "Don't Stop By", a solid punctuation mark on the end of what would be the band's peak record.

Vicious Rumors - Vicious Rumors (1990)

Though their cult-classic Digital Dictator gets the majority of the attention, Vicious Rumor's self titled record is, in my opinion, as essential and potentially an all around stronger album. I'll put it this way: if Digital Dictator is Vicious Rumors' Crystal Logic then their self titled is Open The Gates. Yes, we still get incredible guitar solos and lead work courtesy of Geoff Thorpe and his ideal complement Mark McGee, Carl Albert's vocals are as powerful and as emotive as ever, Larry Howe's bashes and pounds away with his typical level of precision, and Dave Starr's bass playing is just as key to holding all the guitar riffs together. To my ears though, there is less reckless abandon and a greater amount of purposeful mature songwriting on Vicious Rumors. This is evident in tracks such as Ship of Fools or Down To The Temple. Don't Wait For Me and Hellraiser imbue the album with enough bricks and mortar metallic might to offset some of the 80's glam metal elements which have always shown up in Vicious Rumors' music. A song like Axe and Smash at times appears to head in a Crimson Glory Transcendence trajectory only to instead end up somewhere totally different. As a album closer, Digital Dictator has the definite winner with Out of the Shadows. I have found myself liking a different song more every time I've listened to this album. Initially it was Ship of Fools that clicked, then Down To The Temple, then Don't Wait For Me, and by that point, I was able to listen to World Church and raise my fist instead of smirk. Production-wise the album is punchy, balanced, and spacious with clarity for every instrument to shine. It's a better production job than even the stellar Digital Dictator. Though I have the cassette version of the album, after digitizing it I was still impressed. This should be in every US Power Metal fan's treasure chest right along with the other required gems like Master Control, Transcendence, Awaken the Guardian, The Warning, and all the Manilla Road albums between 1980 and 1988.

Wömit Angel - Under Sadistic Pressure (2019)

Necessarily barbaric for the punk-infused black thrash that they play, yet never truly attaining the over-the-top viciousness which would make them truly cold-blood black metal miscreants, Wömit Angel's Under Sadistic Pressure comes across as run-of-the mill. Plenty of blasting provides only an adequate contrast for the album's better rhythmic moments, those being the polite punk blips, such as in "Sadocommand" or the drumming during "Religion Latex Suffocate's" chorus where riffs and rhythms give brief insight into the trio's foundational influences. It's these punk elements and the thrashier moments that give Wömit Angel an identity beyond their blackened peers yet the rather paltry inclusion of these moments all ends up being inconsequential in totality. One of the album's weakest components is the vocals of W. Horsepreacher. A hoarse bark in which the listener can hear the pain - pain as in W. H. likely had a hard time swallowing for a day or two following recording - with which the performance is delivered is unfortunately not dynamic enough across the blitz of ten tracks to give enough variety to the band's stream of riffing. The short songs give little room for complexity however some highlights in songwriting peek through in the form of momentary melodic movements in "Under Sadistic Pressure" and tempo breaks in "Slaughterbuster." Guitar solos - not standard equipment for these warriors - are only made use of when it works for the songs which hints at some compositional acumen. Wömit Angel aren't breaking any rules here, though, and it's hard to fault them for anything other than being generally uninteresting.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Local Upcoming Shows: Polemecist, Necrosexual, Inoculation, Mutilatred, Gryla, Immolation, Blood Incantation, Sacrificial Blood, Vivisect, Morder




Vivisect will have copies of their demo tape, Fuming Death, a CTP release, at this show for sale. Very limited quantities of this will be available at the moment. If you are going to the show, be sure to ask me or pick one up from Dan and Vivisect. If you are seeing this and want a copy, please email me. They are 'on demand' only for the time being and will not be added to the online store.


Monday, September 2, 2019

Ataraxie Interview


Ataraxie are the bedrock of French Extreme Doom. I have been a fan since their 2008 opus, Anhedonie and have returned to their discography numerous times throughout the past decade only to discover more treasure buried in the slow shifting epics the band crafts. An emotional underpinning of powerful melody has always been the band's stylistic trademark which Ataraxie has masterfully nestled into powerful and massive production quality. 2019 sees Ataraxie with a new record:



Contaminated Tones: Briefly, can you give a basic history of how Ataraxie's sound has changed from it's earliest years to current style? You formed in 2000 but the only remaining original members now are you and Pierre, on Drums. To my ears, the material from the Live demo is much more Death metal influenced than the ultra-slow Funeral Doom style you've adopted over time.

Jonathan 'Marquis' Thery: You’re totally right about the evolution of our music. Actually, when Ataraxie was founded, we started by rehearsing and then playing live a few rearranged songs from my previous black/death metal band Reign Of Evil. As we’ve never been a band into covers, that was the fastest way to learn how to play together. So the song ‘Black coat of death’ that appears for instance on ‘Live In Rouen’ has never meant to be an Ataraxie song…That’s also why you can’t find it anywhere else.

Then, we logically decided to work on our own songs which had to be in the doom/death vein. Thus, our very first tracks can be found on ‘The Other Path’ demo. Yet, as we were a really young band, we had to find our way to get rid of all prominent influences and find our own musical path. That’s also why ‘The Other Path’ demo owns typical Ataraxie gems but also many non-mature sides IMO. So only time and distance enabled us to reach a first mature state on ‘Slow Transcending Agony’ album. I think we really succeeded in crafting our own style during that period as we developed and polished all typical Ataraxie ingredients.  Yet, as we’re a band that has always refused to repeat ourselves, we just decided to push all limits further on ‘Anhédonie’ by focusing on the extreme doom. Then, everything after ‘Anhédonie’ is just a matter of natural evolution through the years.

CT: In the 2009 Issue 1 of SOLEIL TRISTE, there was an interview with Jean from Ostra Records who remarked that the label was formed to distribute and bring awareness in France to extreme doom. Jean said that "Many didn't even know that this music style was existing and the few who knew it without being fans were seeing Shape of Despair as the incarnation of Doom Metal. Julien (label owner) was very fond of Doom so he wanted to try to stop the misinformation to some extent... although according to me most of the job has been done by just one French band: Ataraxie." What are your thoughts on this impression regarding Ataraxie's importance to the extreme Doom scene in France?

JMT: I think the situation of the whole French doom metal scene is better than ever in France. There are never been so many existing bands in France and our scene is extremely rich and varied! French bands used to be counted in the fingers of one hand (Northwinds, Dark white and Despond) when we started at the beginning of the 2000s. We have to admit that genre finally managed to get the recognition that it deserves with the time. We also can see French doom metal bands are regularly booked at big metal fests like Hellfest and also given the opportunity to tour all over the world. Remember that as a doom/death band, we only used to play at local gigs with black or death metal bands in France at the beginning of Ataraxie. It took us almost 4 years to succeed in performing our first gigs outside France with only doom bands.

Yet, the good thing is that many doom metal fests have even been set up in 15 years like Doom over Paris or Rotomagus doomicus metallicus fests. I still hope more fests like will see the light in the future in France. Yet, there are still a lot a lack of understanding inside the French metal scene about the genre itself. At the end of the 90s/early 2000, too many metalheads were convinced that goth metal bands (Theatre Of Tragedy ersatz) or unclassifiable bands like Amorphis or Tiamat were doom metal bands. I had so many argues with various metalheads about that. Now replace goth metal term by stoner/sludge and unclassifiable by post metal and you get the situation of doom metal nowadays.

As for the role of Ataraxie, you’re too kind! I don’t know if we’re only band that made more popular doom metal in France. The very first French doom metal bands like Dark White, Garden Of Silence or Northwinds were the first ambassadors in the 90s. Remember that Northwinds used to be signed on Black Widow records from Italy that is still highly praised by both prog and doom metal fanatics. We are obviously among the French precursors of the genre but definitely not the only ones as another wave of really popular bands arrived around 2003/2004 like Monarch, Monolithe and Funeralium! I’m convinced that Monarch is more way more popular than Ataraxie for example.  And don’t forget about other great bands like Rising Dust, Hangman’s Chair or Huata that later enriched later the aura of the French doom metal scene by touring almost everywhere.

CT: Hugo, thank you for also answering of my questions as well! As an outsider but involved in the broader French extreme doom genre, before joining Ataraxie in 2014, were you familiar with the band? Did you consider them, as Jonathan and Frederic mentioned in the Doom-Metal.com interview as early leaders in what would become a broader extreme doom european scene?

Hugo Gaspar: Yes, I knew the original members of Ataraxie, before joining the band, because we are coming from the same city (Rouen) and we shared the stage for several gigs. For me, Ataraxie was the best Doom Metal band in France but it doesn’t mean that they are not an underground band anymore, and this is what I like. The band are still playing an extreme doom/death metal, even if it doesn’t seem very mainstream nowadays; but I think they don’t care at all and it’s a good thing.

CT: Your first release was the "Live in Rouen" release that was released as a split. I have a version with a number of other live tracks. Can you figure this out? Has there been other versions of this release available with eight songs instead of the four that were on the split?

JMT: To be honest, I don’t remember much about that first demo. I can only tell you that was a split with Hyadningar that was supposed to gather 7 tracks in total. 4 from Ataraxie and 3 from Hyadningar. I don’t remember about another version. Yet, we may have released another one after first version sold out... We used to do the things in such a DIY way at that time!

CT: A song that stood out to me lyrically early on in your history was "Unholy Prayer." It speaks about how religions have compelled humans to destroy those of different thought. I was curious if you would be interested in expanding on this in the context of the recent political events that have been going on in France such as the 2015 Terrorist attacks, the 2016 Nice vehicle ramming, as well as what seems to be a continuous stream of other terrorist activity and attacks in the country.

JMT: I totally agree with you about the absence of evolution of religions through centuries and I would even say that all can be held responsible. Even if the 3 main monotheists religions pretend to care about ALL humans (remember God created all of us…), they actually just care about their own followers and power above all. That’s why they’ve all have been a real burden for the development of mankind as they’ve never ceased to encourage intolerance/scorn/hatred towards the supposedly unfaithful ones, and I don’t even speak about machismo in general. You can even notice that the concept of unbeliever can be found in each monotheist religion (heathen, miscreant, goy).

So as religious authorities are extremely good at making links between infidels and evil, terrorism is an understandable answer at the end. Anyway, all monotheist religions have had their violent era in history and they still gather violent groups of people that they more and less tolerated among them. People from Opus Dei, orthodox Jews or Salafists are all wicked and dangerous people. They just embody the most fucked up side of religion. For me religious people can be divided into 2 categories: 1) Wicked people, 2) Dreamers (= people into irrationality) who think god is behind everything that can’t be explained by science. That’s why I don’t agree when those ‘dreamers’ try to convince people they’re the sole genuine religious people. Terrorists just don’t have the same concept of religion as dreamers. Nobody is right or wrong at the end as religious principles/beliefs is only about interpretation…Fortunately, religious beliefs are not the only thing that characterizes people as the personality of someone if often far wider than that. Thus, you can find many Christians, muslims or jews that are nice and respectful people.

CT: The Other Path demo contained three newer songs that were not on the live album. Is it fair to say "The Other Path" set the stage for the Ataraxie sound going forward? In my opinion, it is still one of Ataraxie's best songs. What do you remember about the creation of this track, and was it a precursor for Ataraxie's sound going forward.

JMT: As previously said, I’d rather think the whole ‘slow transcending agony’ album crafted our own sound. Yet, that’s true that ‘the other path’ may be the closest song to ‘Slow Transcending Agony’ ones as arrangements started being more complex on that precise track. That’s been so many years was composed… I remember Sylvain composed the first and last riff one and I composed the others. Fred took care of all guitars arrangements as usual.



CT: Looking back on the run-up to Slow Transcending Agony, how much did the experimentation you had sought in Funeralium at the time influence Ataraxie? In an interview last year with Doom-Metal.com, Frederic said that "Funeralium was like a free artistic field where we could experiment with those influences, with much freedom, while we felt we couldn't do such things with Ataraxie. Or so we thought!" You both go on to say that both bands are different and it's easy to pick what goes where, but I can't help but see a drastic change from the earlier Death Doom tracks to the more epic and slow material that followed the first few releases.

JMT: That’s true that Funeralium’s music has always been a wider playground for Fred and I when it deals with musical experimentation. I still think we don’t have marked musical barriers inside Funeralium’s music for example whereas we have real ones in Ataraxie. Yet, I don’t believe that Funeralium influenced Ataraxie’s music before ‘Anhédonie’ album. ‘Slow Transcending agony’ was shaped in a distinctive way than Funeralium’s first demo ‘ultra sick doom’ and first album.  When I founded Funeralium, my goal was really to play extreme doom in a sick way by making gangbang Thergothon, Bethlehem and early Cathedral.

Yet, I do admit that bands started cross-fertilizing each other from ‘Anhédonie’ release. At the end, I’m the main composer in both bands and Fred is behind most of the musical arrangements in both bands.

CT: You mention in an interview with darkview.be, that "Ataraxie owns a more epic/dramatic dimension" and allude to the same basic force in other interviews however personally, the lyrical content isn't what I usually consider epic or dramatic, as it's more focused inwards towards personal conflicts, depression, and nihilism than with external provocations and plots. This is particularly true on more recent releases, which you've said are concerned with the philosophical concept of 'the Being'. Is the epic/dramatic dimension specifically relating to the music only? Can you elaborate?

JMT: I was more talking about the atmosphere when pointing out the main differences between Ataraxie and Funeralium. Lyrics used to deal with different subjects at the beginning of Ataraxie and Funeralium (nihilism VS existentialism) but I think they’re pretty similar now.  Most of my current inspiration really comes both from my everyday life in Paris and from my favorite writers as well (Kafka, Beckett, Sade, Sartre, Camus, Céline…). I’m really into the grand writers who have been able to go deeply inside the absurdity of life and accept/describe the beast inside us. Paris is as well a never-ending source of inspiration for my lyrics as it’s a filthy town (dirty and polluted) and obviously overpopulated one. So writing lyrics has also always been a kind of catharsis to me. It enables me to clear out all my negative feelings and thoughts instead of letting them consuming me slowly.

CT: The lyrics to "Funeral Hymn" remind me of Opeth's "To Bid You Farewell" and "Nectar" from Morningrise. I am guessing there is no connection but what is it about songs of loss and longing that you feel suits your music lyrically? The other songs are similarly concerned with inner emotions but more as a pre-existing depressing state as opposed to one caused through the abandonment or death of a loved one.

JMT: Indeed, there is not connection at all with Opeth lyrics as I’ve never been into that band. As for the concept, that was exactly about that. We all have to overcome the death of relatives in our life and we know how hard it can be.

As for songs that could fit well our music, I would say ‘The skull’ by Trouble, ‘Let the end Begin’ or ‘Patra (Petra) by Saint Vitus, ‘Reaching happiness, touching pain’ by Cathedral, ‘Salus Deceived’ or ‘The Crimson Tides - Oceans of Soliloquy Pt. II” by Deinonychus. ‘Durch befleckte Berührung meiner Nemesis’ by Bethlehem, ‘Elemental’ by Thergothon, ‘Lords of the funerals’ or ‘Resurrecturis’ by Abysmal Grief, ‘Tears from a grieving heart’ or ‘The Epitome of Gods and Men Alike’ by Mournful congregation. That’s all the songs that come directly to my mind.

CT: Anhedonie was my first contact with Ataraxie and I immediately, at the time, compared the album to Antithesis of Light or Velnias' debut, Soverign Nocturnal. What was the band's sentiment at the time going in to record Anhedonie and was there a sense that it would be such a masterful and defining album for you?

JMT: Thanks a lot for your praises! After releasing ‘slow transcending agony’, we wanted to dive a little bit deeper into extreme doom. That’s why composing longer/slower/faster songs came to us naturally. We also wanted to have back stronger death metal influences. Yet, we wanted them well balanced in the mix unlike our early work. So that’s how ‘anhédonie’ was composed.

CT: My favorite cut from Anhedonie would be "Silence of Death", but the vocal performances on "Walking Through The Land of Falsity," and the title track, "Anhedonie" are immense. My favorite lines of lyrics on the entire record are "Ready to liquidate any form of obsolete useless existence; and clean each soiled stone and parcel of fouled ground". The imagery is phenomenal. Can you comment on these two tracks regarding the writing process for the music and your thoughts regarding concepts in the lyrics?

JMT: Thanks again for your great words. When I wrote ‘Anhédonie’ lyrics (the song) I tried to narrate about the way this world would end. As a scientist, I’m not worried about the future about the earth but more worried about the fate of mankind as the more we know about consequences about human habits, the deeper it seems we’re already fucked to managed to go backward. So I’m sure that someday all the bad things we did to our great planet will come back as a karma penalty. It’s just too bad that our children will have to face these consequences…



CT: You put out a few releases between Anhedonie and L'Être et la Nausée. A split with Imindain, a track for a Bethlehem tribute, and a re-recording of The Other Path demo. Tell me about these release. Why did you decide to re-record The Other Path? What is the importance of Bethlehem to Ataraxie?

JMT: Actually, that’s the same cover ‘Aphel die schwarze Schlange” that you can find on Bethlehem’s tribute and on our split with Imindain. Early Bethlehem albums (from their first demo to S.U.I.Z.I.D) have been a great source of inspiration for us. Bethlehem was among the first bands that managed to focus on sick vocals and propose a unique mix of black/doom/death metal. As Bethlehem was also a big influence for Imindain’s music, we just decided to pay a tribute together to these early days. As for the Project X (reedition of the other path’ demo), as we wanted to release again these demo tracks with a proper sound, we decided to re-record everything. I’m not really sure that was the best decision ever made in Ataraxie career to be honest…Such a waste of time at the end! Yet, at least it enabled people to get that long time sold out demo without paying a DISCOGS price.

CT: Quickly - so we can get to the new album - explain the circumstances surrounding the writing and recording of L'Etre et la Nausée. Did Sylvain leave Ataraxie as a result of something that occured during this recording? Were there any signs he would leave the band?

JMT: Nothing bad happened with Sylvain and us during the record. Sylvain only left the band just because of new family commitments linked to the birth of his daughter. Even his wife was also surprised about that radical decision. So that was obviously big surprise for all of us when he informed us about his departure. Yet, we truly respected this decision and focused quickly a way to fall on our feet by recruiting Hugo and Julien.



CT: 2019 is here and Resignés is now your new album. It's been six long years since L'Etre et la Nausée. Tell me about this gap. What has transpired over this gap in time? How long did it take to get back into a writing mood? Why did you decide it was important to add two more guitarists, Hugo Gaspar and Julien Payan, to Ataraxie during this period?

JMT: When Sylvain left the band, first we needed to recruit a replacement to promote live ‘L’être Et La Nausée’ as live activity as always been important to us. We were searching for just one guitar player at the beginning but we were truly unable to choose just one after their auditions. Indeed, we thought Julien and Hugo could bring both something strong and complementary and it turned out to be true. That may explain ‘L’être Et La Nausée’ and ‘Résignés’ sound different at the end.  Once recruited, we took the time re-arranged together all the songs that we wanted to play live. Shortly after, we decided to enter the studio to record a diSEMBOWELMENT cover that has to appear ‘slow transcending agony’ digipack version. That was actually our first song ever recorded together with the new line up. Then we decided to do a European tour together with Ophis and Majestic Downfall shortly. We started composing new songs a little bit before touring and it ended at the end of 2017 to finalize all arrangements.

CT: Hugo, tell me about the recording of Resignes, the new album with Ataraxie. Did the recording go smoothly? How involved were you with composing the material for the album?

HG: Yes, we took our time to record this new album in order to change some arrangements in case we needed to. That’s a facility you have when you record in a home studio. But also because we all have jobs and family to manage (Jo and I are both father); so it was not so easy to organize and take time to record.

I’ve recorded my guitar parts during two days and it went very well. For me, the most difficult part to record was also the slower part from the album. The last riff from “Coronation of the leeches” with its slowdown was a hell to record. The final riff of this track is so slow that we had to quadruple the beat during the recording.

And now, concerning the song-writing, most of time Jo send us some riffs that could make a song, and then we all aggregate our ideas to it during the rehearsals. It could be some new riffs or arrangements; so that’s how I was involved. An important thing for me was to propose ideas that could bring some new stuff in Ataraxie’s music but also not to denature what Ataraxie has always been.

CT: How did the addition of Hugo and Julien affect the songwriting process for Resignés, if at all?

JMT: Both guitar players brought some fresh air as their own ideas in terms of composition and arrangements to enrich Ataraxie’s music. Both of them have solid musical knowledge and are truly inspired musicians. We couldn’t dream of better replacements as everything happened so naturally and quickly. So we’re really glad to have this new line up as I’m convinced that we’re now stronger than ever and it can be heard on ‘Résignés’.

CT: Hugo, as one of the newer members of Ataraxie, having only joined the band in 2014, Resignes is your first recording involvement with the band. Tell me how working with Ataraxie has been different than recording for Fatum Elisum; both bands seemingly have similar song-writing and overall styles. Maybe it's not different?

HG: Yes, you’re right. It wasn’t so different than recording with Fatum Elisum because all the records I did, were made in a home studio. As we recorded all guitars in Fred’s home studio, I was in fact in a cosy atmosphere. Besides, for the ten years of “Slow Transcending Agony”, we recorded a cover of diSEMBOWELMENT in the same conditions than “Résignés”, so I was on familiar ground.

Regarding the song-writing and the involvement, to be honest, it was not so easy for me at the beginning. I’ve many reasons to explain that: I’m the youngest one in the band (I saw Ataraxie live for the first time when I was 18!) and also the less experimented. Even if I knew the other guys in the band, because we shared the stage with Fatum Elisum for some gigs, when I’ve joined the band, I think I needed some time to be really comfortable and share some ideas for the new songs.

CT: What does having three guitarists allow Ataraxie to accomplish from a song-writing and arrangement position?

HG: With three guitarists, you have a lot of possibility, but also a lot of work for the arrangements because you have to listen to each other carefully and not play in your corner. Otherwise it could be a cacophony very fast. So when we wrote the songs from “Résignés” we ‘ve listened a lot of rehearsals in order to decide and coordinate all the ideas we had. But finally it’s very formative.
In fact, I think the thing I like the most in having three guitarists, is when we play some parts in unison; it’s so powerful!

CT: Have you taken a different approach to the lyrics than in the past or is the content similar to what you've written about previously? Have you had changes in your philosophical outlook through the process of writing lyrics for Ataraxie or has the writing process reinforced how you've previously felt?

JMT: In general, I only write about subjects that make me cry out. I started Ataraxie when I was 19 and I’m now 38 so my concerns in life have obviously evolved. At least, the good news is that all Ataraxie albums are different in terms of lyrics as it’s not the same version of me that has written all these lyrics.  I think my writing process has not evolved a lot through years. Once the music is completely written, I start writing the lyrics by taking into account what music inspires me and what bothers me in life at that precise moment. I usually write a complete frame and then adapt it to the music by changing/adding/erasing many times words to make lyrics fit perfectly at the end. At the end, that’s a really long process as I’m really meticulous.

CT: I have not seen any of the lyrics for Resignés. Can you give some insight as to some of your favorite lyrics on the record and why they stand out to you? Where did you seek inspiration for the subject matter on these songs?

JMT: My lyrics on ‘Résignés’ deal with many different subjects that still pop up my mind.  My views about power/politics in this world (‘coronation of the leeches’), religious meaningless concepts like death (‘les affres du trépas’), the end of mankind (‘résignés’) and the evil side of human mass (‘people swarming, evil ruling’). As told earlier, my sole source of inspiration is my life in this world. I don’t need to narrate other things. I think my favorite lyrics are the ones from ‘People Swarming, Evil Ruling’ as it has a direct link with my daily journey inside Paris subway. The density of people inside Paris metro can definitely reveal the worst instincts.

CT: You put out a video for "People Swarming, Evil Ruling." What is the concept behind the video? What story are you trying to tell and how does it connect with the song? The imagery in the video is memorable, with the Executioner, the condemned watching each other be executed. The people in the video are the same that appear on the cover of the album. How did all this imagery come about and get put together?

JMT: Before doing the promo shots for the artwork, we did a real brainstorming with the photographer to find out the rightest concept for this whole artwork. We tried to gather the main themes of the lyrics to sum them up into a brutal imagery. The executioner came to our mind as that character has religious connotations and has always been praised by the mass from the age of the time to now. Remember about public executions that still take place in some parts of the world. We also wanted to draw the portrait of the wicked world in which we live where voyeurism is strong (remember about the recent mass murder that happened in New Zealand that was displayed in facebook live?). So we wanted to have a group of people doing crazy things intentionally as our modern world is also about that. Whatever crazy concept can now be considered as long as a certain number of people believe it’s true (flat earthers, antivax movements and all religions at the end).

CT: Hugo, what is going on with Forsaken Peddlers? Is there ever going to be a release to follow up Songs of Fate and Freedom? What is Malemort?

HG: With Forsaken Peddlers it’s quite complicated. We have all the material for a new album but actually the band is on pause; or maybe dead. I can’t tell anything more for the moment...

The TrueMalemort (that’s the real name) is a raw doom metal band I have with also death, black and sludge influences. We started in 2015 with Nemri on drums (Monarch, Sordide) and Derelictus on bass guitar (Mhönos; ex Fatum Elisum). In 2017 we release our first album “Individualism, Narcissism, Hedonism” with the label “Prison Tatt Records” (https://malemort-doom.bandcamp.com/releases). The same year, our bassist Derelictus decided to quit the band and was replaced by Frater Erwan from Mhönos.

We recorded last year a new song for a split with the french band “Endless Floods”. I hope we will release that soon. And we are actually working on our 2nd album.
So with this band, we all take our time because we all have other bands, but it’s a band that I am very proud of.

CT: Looking forward, what do you think Ataraxie will be able to accomplish now that was not possible before the inclusion of Julian and yourself on guitars? Will there be any shows here in the United States to promote the new album?

HG: The only thing I hope is that we will keep on playing the kind of doom metal we like; but also to find original material in order to always surprise the auditor.

Concerning the possibility of doing some gigs in the US, I truly hope we will  do this shortly. But it is not easy to find the good opportunities in order to do this, because we have a lot of things to manage: family, job, finance, visa, etc… So it’s a big step but I think in the band we are all motivated to do this one day.

CT: Jonathan, what kind of touring plans or shows do you have lined up to promote Resignés?

JMT: We already played some gigs in May/June to promote Résignés:
- Paris(FR), May 18th
- Lyon(FR), May 25th
- Tillburg(NL), June 8th
- Melechen(BL), June 9th
We will surely have other gigs at the end of the year but nothing is confirmed yet. Keep an eye on our facebook page as we will keep on updating it regularly.

CT: Hugo, reviews and feedback have been good so far. What have you seen being the sentiment regarding Resignes so far and is there anything which reviews have said that you felt was not accurate or that you disagreed with?

HG: I was very pleasantly surprised about all the reviews I read and all the feedbacks we’ve  had. It’s not that I was insecure about the quality of the album, but for me “Résignés” is so dense and to be honest, I was a bit afraid that a lot a people would have the feeling that the album is too long and too extreme in a way. As I said before, for me Ataraxie doesn’t play a mainstream doom metal, that’s why it’s so pleasant to read the good reviews we had.

CT: Jonathan, are there any other thoughts or comments you'd like to make regarding Ataraxie, the new album, or your music?

JMT: Once more, I think that’s a sinister album that is not easy to digest. So you must give it a few spins to plunge into its darkness and notice all single details.  Yet, I think that an album that should appeal to all our fans (early and latest ones) as it definitely contains all Ataraxie ingredients. There are currently not so many bands that play doom/death in our vein so I guess this kind of release is kind or rare nowadays. So give it a chance even if you only loved our first album or first demo haha Yet, if you’re real doom/death fan as well it should appeal to you as well as I think not many albums in this genre are currently released.

CT: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. It's been a pleasure exploring your discography these past years!

JMT: Thanks for your support and interesting interview! Maybe see you soon on the road!