Sunday, April 19, 2015

Lamenations of the Ashen Interview

CT: Hey Bon, thanks for doing this interview. Tell me about the early stages of Lamentations of the Ashen. What inspired you to create the project? Where the name, Lamentations of the Ashen, arise from?

Bon Vincent Fry: Well, the idea goes all the way back to probably 2006, but I finally recorded the first material in February of 2008. I used to record everything in a bedroom into a radio shack mic from a tiny 8" Marshall practice amp. After I was done doing the guitars I'd use my friends drums and record those tracks into the mix. Everything was in mono, I had no clue what I was doing. Right around 2005, after spending a lot of years immersed in brutal death metal and grind, I finally found stuff like Burzum, Leviathan, and older Behemoth. That led to getting into stuff like Bethlehem, Sargeist, Xasthur, Nargaroth, etc. It had a huge impact on me and it changed a lot of things for me. I had been hugely into death metal since I was pretty young and after awhile it seemed to just be getting a little stale. Black metal was something that actually moved me. I was inspired and I wanted to make music like that. When I was thinking about a name I knew that I wanted it to kind of have this paranormal, funeral kind of vibe. I was thinking about nothingness, death and lost spirits from other planes of reality. This initially resulted in something like "Lamentations of the Departed" but one day I was in my car listening to Glorior Belli and there was this lyrical line I thought I heard that was, "The ash of Lamentation". Obviously when I heard it I identified with it and so right then and there I thought of the title Lamentations of the Ashen. Honestly though, that name kind of pisses me off. It's a mouthful and I make a conscious effort not to talk about my music with anyone because I don't want to have to say those words when they ask what my bands name is. It's no ones business anyway.

CT: You had a couple of earlier releases before your debut full length. Walk us through these releases. What were some of the early themes on these releases?

BVF: I don't really know if there was much of a contrived theme on those releases or some kind of concept. They were just dark, sad songs. Some of the lyrics were a little abstract but I'd say the songs names imply their meaning pretty closely. In the summer of 2008 I recorded 'A Memoir of Departure' shortly after Singularity Publishing hit me up about putting out a release. That song completed what would be the 2 song EP that they released that year and later re-released in 2010. It was s fucked up time in my life and I think those songs reflect that.

CT: How did the split with Desolation come about? Was that something that was set up by the label? Were you familiar with Desolation before the split?

BVF: Well, one night I was browsing pages on MySpace and I just had an idea that it would be cool to do a split with another band out there. I posted a bulletin and the guy from desolation was who wrote back. I had never heard of him before at all, but his music was dark and painful. We discussed everything and he was the one who came up with the title, 'Harrowing of Innocence'. At the time I was pretty bent on starting my own label so I took on releasing that tape myself. It was limited to 50 copies and totally DIY. I designed the cover in Photoshop and printed the  J-cards out at kinkos. I had to take one of the tape cases in and have the clerk resize it multiple times to get it small enough to fit in the case. It was quite the shit show.(laughs) I dubbed all the tapes myself going from the computer, through my audio interface and direct into the deck. It was annoying having to listen to that release 50 times over as I dubbed everything.

CT: How was writing and recording your full length, In the Burden of the Heart's Plaint, different, if at all, from the writing process of your earlier material?

BVF: Well, it was a lot different. When I started writing that album you could say that was when I started to really get 'serious' about things when it came to music and this project. I started approaching everything with an obsession that almost seemed monomaniacal. I sold my record collection and anything else I could and took huge risks for the sake of funneling whatever finances I could into buying gear and recording equipment.  I was still inexperienced to a great degree though. I was motivated by unrealistic ambition and I constantly made ridiculous, irresponsible decisions for the sake of actualizing this vision I had in my head of what this album would, or what I hoped it could be. It turned out to basically be a huge mistake in the end though.

I had this job at the time that involved lots of downtime between tasks so I'd just sit in the office and play my guitar for hours. I literally played constantly for 9 months straight, everyday writing that album. By September of 2009, I was ready to start recording. I set up my drums in a bedroom and spent 3 or 4 days recording the drum parts. Right after that, it was decided that I was moving to Maine. I suspended recording activities until I arrived and got settled in Portland which was in mid November of 2009. Throughout that winter, I recorded the rest of the album, finally finishing it sometime in February I believe. It was quite the experience and I think it differed greatly from the other musical endeavors, limited as they were, that I had previously taken. I don't like that album though, and I don't like that period in my life. I was basically addicted to idealism. I was naive, intellectually irresponsible and I traveled across the country looking for things I was never going to find. I guess that kind of stupidity is pretty becoming of most people in that stage of youth. Either way, I'm glad those days are behind me, where they belong.

CT: Has the context surrounding the creation of In the Burden of the Heart's Plaint affected your feelings towards the album more than the music itself?

BVF: It's probably a combination of both. I just don't like the way some of the music flows I guess. I hate to be 'that guy' that has some shitty, flippant Attitude towards past recordings but I guess I feel like things have progressed and improved a lot since then so sometimes it's hard to take that stuff seriously. It's weird though, because I don't have that same attitude towards the even earlier stuff so maybe context plays a pretty big role. Maybe a big part of it too is my general disdain for DSBM and what it became over the years. I got to a point where where I was just over it. It was a skin that I wanted to shed and I guess I outgrew it. The ones that did it first were the ones that did it best and just about everything else  is basically complete garbage.

CT: While living in Maine, is this how you became in contact with Patrick Hasson? I know he contributed on your following album, EKIMMV.

BVF: I originally came in contact with Patrick before I moved to Maine. I had been planning on going up there for awhile so I put out some feelers and looked up artists in the area and came upon him. When I got there we met and formed something of a friendship which has lasted long beyond my short stay there. He's done an excellent job with vocals on these last two records and it's been a pleasure having him. I look forward to working with him again.

CT: Continuing with EKIMMV, what are your memories in the creation of your second full length?

BVF: The first pieces of what would become the second album started showing up during my last days in Maine. In the spring of 2010 I came back to New Mexico and spent the summer working on things here and there at a pretty easy pace. At the end of the summer of 2010 I fell into a bout of major clinical depression combined with severe OCD. I got this obsessive idea in my head that I was going crazy and I just couldn't shake it, no matter what degree of understanding or rational faculties I had in me to discredit such an obsession. I was just constantly afraid of not being in control, of doing something terrible or experiencing something terrible in the midst of some burgeoning psychosis. I remember being afraid to look at my own reflection for fear of what I might see. I just constantly thought about death, I wanted the peace that came with it. Music was the only thing that kept me going. I was on a mission. Music was the only thing I had, it was the only thing I was and I felt like it was the only way out. EKIMMV was the product of all this. I recorded it in the summer of 2011 here at my studio in New Mexico.

CT: There's been a significant gap in time between EKIMMV and Libertine Cyst, your new record. What were you focused on between the two records? Did you experience a sense of nostalgia - especially considering some of the events and memories surrounding the previous albums - in recording another album after such a long gap?

BVF: If the new album is any kind of a complete effort, it's definitely by virtue of the longer than usual interval within which it was created. I don't think there was any kind of nostalgia that had to do with the last 2 records. I just wrote it because it's what I do. Music is a path I chose a long time ago and I have to live with it for better or worse. There's something in me that needs to do this everyday so making another record was a pretty natural and logical move.

CT: Walk us through Libertine Cyst's origin through it's completion. With how powerful Libertine Cyst is, did that span of time help in crafting such a complete effort? I feel musically, there is more black metal material present than on the past two records.

BVF: The first riff I wrote that I was to use on the record is the opening riff of the third song, 'torpor of the persiflage', so you could say that the writing process went back to summer of 2011 when I was still recording EKIMMV. After I was done recording that album that summer I moved back home to Ohio for a year and continued writing material during that winter. This is when stuff like 'Dissentient cyclic echelons' started showing up. After my stay in Ohio i headed back west originally to move to L.A. To join up in a new band with Scott Conner of Xasthur. Some unfortunate events led to me ending up back in New Mexico in the autumn of 2012. Throughout that winter and a good chunk of 2013 the final 2 songs took shape and after a brief stay in northern Maine that year I returned to NM once again, reassembled my studio and began recording in September of 2013. I've always said that each album I did was the hardest thing I've ever had to do but this third album proved to be a much more tremendous undertaking. It took 3 months just to get the drums finished and by the time that was over it was getting too cold to record guitar since my studio is in an old train car with little insulation. At times I was just burnt out, felt overwhelmed and potentially defeated by the whole thing. I resorted to heavy drinking and generally dallied around wasting time and embracing every distraction i could. My focus was waning and I was just kind of running from myself. I think maybe I was just scared that something was going to go wrong and everything was going to flop. Then I'd have to endure the neurosis that comes with that. With wasted time, wasted life. I had so much of myself invested at that point. Years of my life. Still I continued to push myself to record whenever I could, piece by piece things continued to come together and after a year since I had originally started this journey, I was done. I didn't rush anything, I did it at my own pace and insisted on being comfortable. It had never been like that before and I honestly think that in the end, it made for a better record. I've always worked slow but in the past I had this really neurotic, stressed out energy moving me. I just can't do that anymore and I think I'm at a stage in all this now where I don't have to.

CT: Lyrically, what is Libertine Cyst cover? Are there any specific lyrics that stand out in your mind and why?

BVF: Id say that the main underlying theme lyrically is one of awakening and rebirth and anything that doesn't explicitly imply that are basically still by-products of that main theme of renewal or the pursuit of it. It's really important to know that this isn't negative music. I really can't stress that enough. I'd hope that underneath the case-hardened nature of what this and other metal music is, people can find something uplifting. I suppose that's always been a goal of mine with this music.

It's hard to abstract a section out of the whole of the lyrical content and have it seem consistent with the statement just made but I do plan on publishing the lyrics soon for anyone interested. The music really does all the talking though.

CT: It's interesting that you specify that your music and metal music overall are positive and not negative.  That's something I've always felt was true about the genre. Philosophically the genre has always been a strengthening force for myself mentally as well as intellectually. Speaking about the genre overall, what do you find uplifting and positive about your music as Lamentations of the Ashen, as well as with Metal overall? Predictablly those that have discovered a deeper meaning to the music that they love are the most stalwart supporters and artists in the metal world. I know for me now, talking to metal fans in far reaching oppressive countries about their diehard love for the genre, they consistently mention how metal's themes of freedom of thought, lack of boundries, and communal feeling have provided them with an outlet from a world around them they fear/hate/are trapped in.

BVF: Well, I didn't necessarily mean all metal music. I guess I was primarily referring to the music of this project and perhaps I worded it the wrong way. I understand what you mean though. I do suppose what music means for each person is highly subjective. Some people like the music they enjoy to be negative and I think that sometimes can affect the trajectory of their life and eventually lead to destructive tendencies. Some bands try to be 'negative' as some sort of gimmick. Those are the bands I usually hate. Metal music has a huge counter-culture aspect to it though which can give it a huge appeal to those with a non-standardized orientation. There's so much imagery, philosophy and general content on top of the purely sonic aspect within the subculture to latch onto and Its no suprise that it can get its hooks into people and be a driving force of their personality and entire existence. I suppose this can be affirming to some and I suppose that's a positive thing in the end but with everything, balance is essential.

I always wanted there to be a transcendent quality to LOTA. I always wanted each record to end with a finality, a resolution. For me, there's always been a beauty in sad music. It lights a fire inside of me and it always has. As a young kid I loved metal because it sounded the way I felt. I really don't think much has changed. Now I just take part in the actual creation and overall, I don't regret it. It's been an interesting journey for me. Bittersweet. It's taken a huge toll on my life, but I've gotten to express myself exactly the way I want to, made music that will never disappear or be taken away from me, music that matters to people all over the world and even finally been able to feel something I'd call satisfaction after almost a decade of work. I'd say that's pretty positive. It all means a lot to me.

CT: You've released your three albums both digitally as well as on tape format. Tape format is how I was originally introduced to the band. What are your thoughts on the increased interest in cassette tapes lately? Are you involved with tape trading at all?

BVF: No, I've never really gotten involved in tape trading. I think it's a cool tradition that goes all the way back to the earliest days of metal culture but I've never gotten around to it. I have a small collection of tapes but I honestly don't pay much attention to them. I've always been more into vinyl so that's what I focus on in my efforts to embrace the physical aspect of music releases. I understand why people like them and why labels like to release them. They're easy to ship and produce as well as not sounding too bad either.

CT: What are your future plans for Lamentations of the Ashen, as well as, yourself musically? Are there any plans for live performances of the material or will you keep Lamentations of the Ashen strictly a studio effort?

BVF: Well, I'm slowly getting back into things and have a growing collection of riffs and ideas that I've been building on. I've also got 2 pieces that I wrote that haven't made their way into an album yet so I definitely plan on making another record. I might do an EP first though. I guess we'll just see. I'm not rushing anything though. Things happen when they happen, the world keeps turning either way. Playing live is another thing that started to come up and looked promising but just fizzled out. I've got lots of mixed feeling about doing the live thing anyway. I'm just going with the flow. I never had aspirations to play live when I started doing this anyway so if it just stays how it is then that's that. It really doesn't matter anyway. I'm not important and neither is my music. The world keeps turning...

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Woudloper - Woudloper

Woudloper’s 2014 self-titled demo is a damn fine cut of top-sirloin murky black metal, and it’s marinated with both doom and death metal. Following in the footsteps of bands like Negative Plane and Hellige; you have the usual fuzzy guitars, cavernous reverb, and wide-vibrato for that unhinged quasi-psychedelic flavor. With only 17 minutes and two songs titled “I” and “II” (go figure) the project displays a wide range of sounds while keeping the atmosphere consistently oppressive. This is something that can often go awry, a kind of atmospheric decompression as songs become more dynamic, but Woudloper slithers from one tempo or riff to another without even the slightest hiccup.

Woudloper’s particular breed of murk concentrates on sinuous diminished melodies without delving into more the exotic dissonances that sometimes characterize more technical bands. This, along with an ample serving of slower riffs, gives the demo a doomy feel punctuated by accented note-bends. Doominess aside, the demo has an energetic feel to it, due in large part to the smart mixing decisions. Guitars stand at the forefront to keep the atmosphere in focus while the vibrant drums, fuzzy bass, and amorphous vocals sit back in the mix a bit to garnish the uroboric riffs.

Woudloper is flush with ideas, and even the slightly melodramatic four-minute outro in “II” never quite feels like the project is chewing the cud. Each of the four separate moments of feedback worship feel necessary to divide the album. Quick breaths of air to prolong a particularly cruel drowning. This excellent demo has is just the right marbling of heaviness, atmosphere, languor, and discomforting weirdness - bon app├ętit.

Woudloper's Bandcamp Page

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. 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!

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.