Thursday, September 24, 2015

Human Bodies Interview, Ramlord Bonus Interview, and More

 9/16/15, live at Koto in Salem, Massachusetts.
Without getting into a misty-eyed rant about how dedicated and accommodating people can be, it's worth mentioning the context behind this interview. It was around 2:00am in morning, well after the intense Wednesday night show. The venue doors had opened five hours earlier. Everyone you'll hear speaking, other than myself, had a long drive ahead of them. Everyone still took the time to sit for quite an in depth interview without ever seeming impatient or rushing. Mike was even kind enough to return for a second round after the first awesome Ramlord Interview. With that in mind, the focus this time around is more on Human Bodies.

This was a great show and really interesting interview, especially the contrast between how Kveldulf and Mike got into metal and punk - pretty damn fascinating. You'll hear about how Human Bodies formed with a vivid name origin explanation, learn about the crossover in the metal and punk scenes, how the Human Bodies/Leather Chalice Split came about, the benefits of touring with a mechanic, and the usual "what's next" question for Ramlord, Leather Chalice and Human Bodies.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Saloth - Ruled By The Death God

 It's likely that everyone is getting tired of the Armon Nicholson projects but the catalog of work he has put out is one of the few examples I can think of where a single person has put out a substantial amount of material in a short span of time that are not demos, splits, or compilation appearances and in which the majority of the material is strong enough to warrant inquiry. Saloth's Ruled By The Death God skirts the fringes of both black metal and death metal - as Armon often does - in his uniquely produced manner. Saloth is likely the hybrid growth of his Yfel and Licrest projects but the death metal techniques from Tyrant's Hand and Murderbeast appear often. I can't tell, but Saloth may be the lowest tuned of all his projects as every chug in opening track "Proselytizer of Darkness" is a rumble of seismic proportions. We end up with a bizarre vibe of equal parts evil occult and doomy chillness.

Perhaps most important here is that I firmly feel this is the best sounding of his projects. I don't know how much impact Dustin Jeffries had in the engineering and mixing aspect of Ruled By the Death God but the clarity and space in this recording is just a step above Armon's other releases. Armon's vocals are a gritty low roar fighting with the lows of the bass. The guitar tone is chunky and stoic during palm muted portions of the release and exude a fizzy crisp distortion otherwise. Perhaps the drums could have been a bit louder, but doing so would draw attention to the what is the weakest element of the recording due to lack of natural tone and fullness. Armon's leads shine across the whole record - there are a handful of them - but particularly in opening track "Proselytizer of Darkness" and "Glory To Chaos."

Ruled By The Death God is mostly mid paced and at times crawls with a doom death urgency - once again indicative of the crossover from Licrest - but "Only In Darkness" offers an upbeat ride unlike the previous tracks. The opening tracks all being relatively slower might be a hindrance. Initial listens are unlikely to gain anyone's attention if there is an expectation of faster tracks existing. It takes half the album to reach the first "quicker" track. The fade out of "Ich Bin Das Ende" seems to prompt more than is offered by "To Avoid The Truth," which, to my ears, is bland. I almost would have plopped "Infinite" in the third spot on the album; this faster track would have broken up the six earlier slow tracks. "Infinite," with some tremolo picking and ringing notes is the most black metal track of the release. The album ends with "Glory To Chaos" which, because of it's catchy bass intro, killer solo section and persistent momentum is my pick for best track along with opener "Proselytizer of Darkness."

Presentation is your standard Nicholson. Once again we are missing lyrics - which I maintain would likely be very good if Armon put some thought into them (Those couple angsty Licrest tracks aside) - and a very basic jewel case insert lacks much additional artistic insight. The CD artwork is a cropped version of the cover artwork which cuts off the title of the album appearing a bit rushed. It would have been easy to adjust the artwork to fit the CD better. The actual cover artwork by Luciana Nedelea is visually appealing and representative - I guess - of the project.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

One Master, Spectral Wound, Tomb and Thirst, Nightwitches, Blood Temple @ Cherry Street Station, Sept. 19, 2015

An evening at Cherry Street Station organized and headlined by the immense and imposing One Master, undoubtedly focusing on this incarnation's compositions from Reclusive Blasphemy after they reshaped something old and something new into the incredible Live in the Castle of Quiet. Four bands with whom I was unfamiliar were scouted out: my good friend Antoine Richard had seen both Spectral Wound and Nightwitches and recommended the former. Tomb and Thirst was a pending submission on Metal Archives, related to Sea of Bones. One band was elusive, having never released anything nor any presence on the internet that I am aware of. It was worthy of the trip, of course.

Blood Temple are a long-acquainted, newly-debuted two-piece black metal band fronted by Valder's comrade in Lustrum and Fatalism. Coming out of Morgirion, who played with One Master the first time I saw them at Cherry Street, I was quite interested to see the band's first show. Expectations, expectations. I was able to follow some of what the band was doing by seeing it, but it was very difficult to hear. With a single guitarist using one cabinet and one amp, the same one OM's bassist used, it simply wasn't audible, there was too much noise even ten feet in front of the amp, and there was too much noise to mix in the PA. While they haven't recorded/released anything yet, I'll be interested to hear it when they do.

Nightwitches are a doom duo from Montreal who love to bask in the buzz of a Sunn O))) amp. Some people are into that, I'm not. What this band amounted to was a couple three-chord rock songs that took ten minutes each to play, interspersed by feedback and accompanied by soft vocals that were practically a non-factor over the booming drumming and rumbling guitar.

Tomb and Thirst were the first band of the night with a bassist, who promptly broke a string on the first song and took the remainder of it to replace it. The sound at Cherry Street is always great, but there really wasn't much to work with, considering the first two and a half bands didn't have a bassist. The sound translated well enough, though - suffocatingly heavy, droning, and tone-basking. Reminiscent of their counterparts in Sea of Bones, of a similar heavy and bearded persuasion, it simply didn't engage nor interest me.

The show had a great atmosphere. It was quite lively, and as with any show at Cherry Street and with the underground, there was no separation between the audience and the performers. It's a great thing, because you never know when the guy who happens to be wearing the same Bolt Thrower shirt as you is in a band that you're about to enjoy, and everyone there lamented the passing of drummer Martin "Kiddie" Kearns - sad news which traveled fast. May he rest in peace.

There was much good news to be heard. The 20th anniversary of Capharnaum will be celebrated with Ryan and Tony, joined by comrades, playing old and new songs. Capharnaum were a unique spectacle of 90s death metal, converging on both melodic and technical elements and forming one of the later unique visions that came out of the era. In modern news, the LPs of One Master's new album Reclusive Blasphemy are finally available, and the LP version was actually mastered separately than the CD, different from the common practice of simply cutting the digital master to vinyl. That's right, two masters of One Master. If I didn't understand the philosophy of self behind I Am One Master, I'd probably be arguing with an LP right now.

Spectral Wound are a newborn black metal band from Montreal who have fashioned an admirable effort in their Terra Nullius tape. There is an overt influence from Sargeist on the guitar work, with an echo of Baptism and Behexen as well as their Quebecoic comrades in the Sepulchral Productions stable. Mostly overwhelming Sargeist emulation, which is even more apparent on recording! The contrast, on stage, was frontman Jonah's hardcore-style mannerisms - very animated and intense, a contrast to their stoic and steadfast rhythm section. The bassist, as I heard, faced the drummer and didn't move. Very enjoyable, a band I'll keep both ears on.

One Master were, of course, the masters. While they were running the show and amidst friends, they are always remarkably focused. The band completes as an entity and transforms on stage, they are a commanding presence. Valder becomes vicious and intense - they embody the music, none more than him. They ripped through Reclusive Blasphemy with a concentration on their purpose. The band has found a lineup which creates and interacts very well, to the tune of black and blacker, fast and faster, sinister and....

...very intent on that which they create. A Cursed and Dismal Mind reflects that better than any of their other works, framing the song with a slow and moody lead reminiscent of Judas Iscariot's Of Great Eternity before leading into an intense blasting black metal duel between Nightbringer and Deathspell Omega influences. Valder cites Darkspace as an inspiration on that song - I say the only one wrong is one who hasn't heard it twice. Their live show has picked up from the fast black/thrash of the first album, the focused pace of the second, and taken the extremely fast, intense, and dissonant style of the third and pushed it to the extreme. Their ultra-fast rendition of the already fast Intolerance captures the spirit of vicious and intense metal like Merciless' debut or early Sepultura where the band played so fast that it sounded they were almost breaking loose of their technical limits and sanity itself.

One could not find a better band to rip through the witching hour at a pace sufficient to make up for monumentally boring doom metal bands. Their looming apathy was torn to shreds by the intensity of One Master.

The black-and-white-and-red carnage didn't end there. I hit a skunk at high speed on the way home, yet the splattered/exploded remnants of its corpse didn't leave as powerful and impression as One Master.

Friday, September 18, 2015

War Atrocities - Necromantical Legions

Croatia, land of... well... Croatians! We've all heard about how Croatia is refusing to accept refugees from Syria. I'm sure that this is to protect the solid metal that I've heard from the country. War Atrocities, a complete and total throwback band, sipping from the wellspring of Hellhammer, Celtic Frost and Bathory are indicative of the quality metal from this region of the world. There is a certain sense of modernity difficult to pinpoint on Necromantical Legions but when ninety-five percent of your material could appear on To Mega Therion or Apocalyptic Raids that other five percent of modern flourish is not worth worrying about. The project of sole perpetrator Wastelander, Necromantical Legions will stir up the feels in your heels and haunt your skull with metal-not-so-dull. 

The EP starts with what is probably a little bit too long of a moody devilish soundtrack-esque intro marking over two minutes on your time sheet. Destruktor Of Eternal is the first impression of War Atrocities and the impression is to check to make sure you're not listening to Celtic Frost b-sides you've never heard of. Fourth volley, "Cryptic Calls" once again summons Tom G. Warrior and crew. At four and a half minutes, it's the longest of the tracks here. "Storm of the Tyrants" is punkier than the previous tracks. It rummages around with myriad tremolo riffs and sputtered vocals, making it my least favorite track. "Ripper Lust" is a faster varied track with drums pumping out several different beats under the riffs, serving up some good listening - and headbanging - metal. Necromantical Legions closes out with a cover of Bathory's Armageddon. The songs are all in the three or four minute range which, is possibly the only pacing issue I see. One or two longer tracks with some additional dynamics would have broken up the record and highlighted the faster parts but it's a minor thought.

Production is overall very good here. Necromantical Legions sounds like 80's death metal / thrash. The saws have the iconic fuzz of yesteryear covered in cobwebs and grit but with a clear sound. They are the prevalent instrument in the EP's mix, positioned in front of all the other instruments. Bass is noticeable with several layers of tone throughout the mix ranging from a low booming rumble across the spectrum to some overdriven distortion appearing in some tracks such as "Cryptic Calls" and "Ripper Lust." Wastelander's vocals are a little low in the mix for my taste, simply because he puts on a good performance with tons of grunts peppered around as if seasoning a slab of steak for grilling. The drums sound totally natural but are programmed. In fact, they sound so natural I had to email Wastelander to ensure accurate reporting here. Go ahead and be concerned about programmed drums, but not in this case. Don't let that discourage from hearing an absolutely awesome release. War Atrocities is worth the investigation for fans of anything mentioned in this review.

Folkvang - Never Say Never

Folkvang’s Never Say Never is a forceful folky black metal album with the unusual distinction of having a traditional heavy metal riffing backbone. This album was created by multi-instrumentalist Wind, who is backed up only by Incarnatus of Pagan Hellfire fame on drums (except for track 4). Although that may essentially seem like a solo-black metal setup, the sound is completely professional and full enough to show that Wind actually understands every instrument he plays. Moreover, the even composition and unique style show the project’s maturity - a well defined identity forged in the years since the band’s creation. The best comparison I can come up with is Windir’s 1184, but that’s a fit only for the guitar tones. In fact, the tremolo picking is often relatively sparse. Wind’s coarse vocal approach is really the strongest connection the album has to the stereotypical black metal approach, and although the word “folk” is in the band name, the metal influences are always still in the forefront.

Despite the wide range of emotions that music can offer to its listeners, Never Say Never has quite an atypical feel - a kind of sober yet playful take on mortality. It’s a feeling conveyed through the lyrics, artwork, and music; obviously with increasing levels of abstraction. Musically, this comes across through how the mood carefully balances somber melodies with sweeter ones, all while maintaining a subdued sense of galloping triumph. The balance is most obvious in the absolutely unforgettable opener “Who Wants to Live Forever?” which also boasts a fair share of the album’s black metal riffing. The track works as a really nice summation of the album’s varying styles, especially because these influences become more stratified as the things move along. What really brings the album together as a great piece of music is how damn pleasant it is without devolving into gaudy kitsch.

Never Say Never is the kind of album that doesn’t knock you over the head with how well put together it is. It’s high quality music that reveals itself over time, and this isn’t a problem at all for Folkvang because this album is one that you’ll keep coming back to. From the clean guitar lines to the folky “From the Past to the Future,” to the Immortal-esque “Massacre,” the variety of sounds always seem to fit together perfectly. The major unifying force for it all are Wind’s vocals. Wind’s style isn’t quite as croaking as Abbath’s are; the vocals are quite coarse yet not terribly raspy. More laryngitis addled cigarette smoker than screeching demon. The addition of a light touch of echo helps flesh out the sound, and because the vocals are the most abrasive aspect of the music they also balance out some of the more sugary lead guitar melodies and tones.

It’s worth mentioning that aside from being an Eastern European band with a folk/black mix, Never Say Never doesn’t have a huge structural overlap with Drudkh’s output. From what I have heard from Folkvang’s prior releases, this makes Never Say Never a bit of a deviation from an earlier atmospheric black metal sound (Folkvang has even covered Burzum’s “Dunkelheit”.) This release just has such a heavy and rhythmic riffy feel to it that it sets it apart from scores of minimalist contemporaries. Of course, the project’s core identity isn’t compromised by the change. This is really good stuff, and has such a palatable mix that I’d even recommend it to people who aren’t normally into black metal.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Overlorde World Trade Center Picture Circa 1987

Patrick O'Donnell shared this picture this morning. I thought it was appropriate to share. 

I Will Never Forget that day...

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Show Me Wolves - Between Man, God and False Idols

It would be hard to argue that Show Me Wolves’ debut album Between Man, God And False Idols is anything other than well performed, professionally produced, and thoughtfully composed. Still, this album just doesn’t do it for me. Hörður Lúðvíksson’s solo project mixes elements of hardcore with metal, and adds in a progressive flair that makes the project sound somewhat in the vein of bands like Ludicra. Naturally, the vocals follow along with this and are rather intelligible, pushing a lot of air, and relatively light on the rasp. It’s a vocal style that I generally hate, and this album unfortunately isn’t an exception. On the other hand, if you are really into the vocals, I imagine that their execution is about as enjoyable as the rest of the album.

Unlike a lot of the post-”xyz”styled band’s out there, Show Me Wolves has an interestingly dynamic flair. This also ties into the album’s strong and intricate composition. For example, you’ll see how the closing track “From Ice to Fire” balances out a bouncy melody with furious tremolo picking. Similarly, in the intro track, the wandering bass line is balanced out by the triplet motif. It all works together nice and orderly, and is also well polished. But, you could also say it’s polite and sterile because of the hyper modern solid-state guitar tone; and how the album manages to be proggy without having any musical surprises. Sometimes, a call and response interplay leaves you thinking once again “that’s nice, I guess.” Overall, the album is a mixed bag.

Despite not being a fan of the main vocal style, the cleans on “Sea of Trees” and even the pitchy vocals on “Unknown Reflection” work much better and are sprinkled in just enough to be interesting without becoming overbearing. The groovier sections are also decent enough, never overindulging in chugging (or other pitfalls you might expect in this kind of a mix). One highlight that really could have used more emphasis are the impressive guitar solos. Rather than just harmonizing the entire way through, the leads sometimes end up playing diverging lines. This makes the leads a lot more interesting. He’s definitely got the chops for some additional shredding, and the music lends itself to lead sections, so hopefully this will be a focal point in the future.

I’d recommend this to anyone who is into “post” stuff that is looking for something more dynamic and aggressive. (Hörður Lúðvíksson also plays guitar in Offerings, where he shares guitar duty with Benedikt of Azoic, whom CT interviewed here )

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

One Master - Live In The Castle Of Quiet

One Master's Live In The Castle Of Quiet is a fascinating artifact providing evidence of two very select groups in the northeast. The first, and most obvious, is the close-knit Massachusetts black metal scene which is quite expansive with much incestuation. The second is a much less known, yet very important, WFMU audience which is North Jersey and New York specific (other than those that stream online, of course). Since college I have tuned in to listen to William Berger's My Castle Of Quiet radio show - some may have seen the name appear on this blog at times as well every often - and One Master's live set from his April, 25th 2013 show offers insight to the interests and musical direction of Mr. Bergers show.

The tape starts with Berger's coaxing voice. One Master initiate the live set with "The Destroyer Pts. I and II," which engage the listener with pretty clear Eastern European black metal styling.  After the miasma that is the opening track, "A Cursed and Dismal Mind" offers a slower discordant doomy intro with evil guitar fragments tacked on before cutting it's life line and falling into chaos. "Intolerance" crusts right on along like a barnacled speed boat sitting low in the water churning onward fastidiously, an expected malevolence drifting across the sound plane, which we've been accustomed to and expect even by this short point along. The highlight of the tape itself is the memorable marching series of riffs which flanks the introductory cannonade. This section is decidedly Norwegian in extrapolation. A comfortable muddiness and satinesque production culminates with "Infernal Silence," an initially fast and then slower moody piece.

Live In The Castle Of Quiet is a good starting point, honestly, with regards to One Master. The material here will surely entice me to explore the band's three full lengths. With one track being from their sophomore effort, The Quiet Eye Of Eternity, and the other three having been recently released on this year's Reclusive Blasphemy, both portions of the band's earlier and more recent material is present, and the consistency supports the proposition. Both albums - and the debut, Forsaking A Dead World, are available through Eternal Death. More simply than being a good gateway to the band, One Master present to us once more a gem of black metal which emphasizes the importance that atypical recordings such as live material, radio spots, demos, and whatever other sorts of clever imagined concoctions have as fan-base building devices. A great band is able to utilize multiple canvases for their creations. For One Master, this live tape is not a canvas wasted. Get it from No Visible Scars.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Slutlust - Spread Angel / Interview

Slutlust recently released their killer demo tape, Spread Angel, full of boozed up raucous speed metal mayhem. It's possible this is an entity which we my find has absquatulated from existence in a short while like many demo-bands do, and so, I felt it necessary to get the word from the horse's mouth on what the story is with these brawlers. Haven't heard about any upcoming demos from them since this interview was done.