Sunday, September 30, 2018

Monthly Blast: September 2018

Briton Rites - Demos 2009 / 2012 (2018)

I've been a big fan of Howie Bentley and pretty much everything he's created from his music in Cauldron Born and Briton Rites, to his fiction and novels. He's also entirely sincere and friendly all the time. I just love the guy. There - I said it. These demos are taken from several places. The two tracks that appeared on For Mircalla, "Carmilla" and "A Meeting In The Woods", are off the preceding demo from 2009. The opening track "In Hell I Will Rule" is from a compilation released by DMR, the label releasing the Swords and Steel short story compilations which have featured Bentley several times as well as other notable artists such as the late Mark Shelton, Bryon Roberts, and Scott Waldrop. There is also a previously unreleased track called "The Wizards Pipe." Compared to the album material, the quality here of the two newer tracks, is on par. The production is on point and the song writing and riff machine which Bentley is has not taken a step back. What I love about the Briton Rites material is how representative of the Doom moniker it holds itself to be. It's basically if you were to provide a random person on the street and tell them 'this is Doom Metal' they would nod their head in validation and say "I get it!." It's about as pure as refined gold. Once again all the tracks feature Phil Swanson on vocals. "The Wizard's Pipe" is a highlight for me and stands up to the best tracks on For Mircalla. Swanson's vocals on the outset are, for lack of a better description, hazy and smokey and revert to his unique crow by the middle of the track. The song also showcases the seemingly free-form genius of Bentley's student bassist John Leeson who fills in gaps with huge runs of bass notes on demand. I daresay the two demo versions of "Carmilla" and "A Meeting In The Woods" are better than the album versions. The guitar tone is more crisp and less muddied and simply gargantuan. I can't seem to turn up my stereo loud enough. When "A Meeting In The Woods" plays anywhere in the world, I intuitively clench my fists, wrench my face into a snarl, and bang my head. It has to be in my list of top ten Doom Metal songs of all time. This compilation is a free download from the Briton Rites bandcamp. Don't be a snot-nosed dweeb; there is no reason to not have this downloaded at least four times for no good reason. Buy For Mircalla. It demands ownership.

Countess - Ritual Of The 7 Priests (2018)

I know I have refrained from reviewing singles in the past but Countess gets a pass because it's Countess. This reworking of a much older track is a perfect addendum to what Orlok and Countess have been doing lately; reworking and re-composing older tracks from the band's extensive discography. Orlok told me there's no real reason as to why they have been re-recording them; "We just have been playing these songs live again and quite differently from the original versions, so we thought it would be cool to record them again and release them." He added also that it's "nice to have some new stuff every now and then between albums." So where does this version of "Ritual of the 7 Priests" compare to the original that appeared on The Return of the Horned One? For one, the song has been shortened and the spoken/yelled invocation section from the original replaced with a timely keyboard melody courtesy of Haxa. The trumpeted sections that drew out the original too long have been cut as well. What we are left with is a more mature, refined, and clean composition that remains true to the original version of the track. Orlok's vocals on the new recording are less frivolous and sharp. The rest of the track musically, is more driving. The details like the guitar solo at the end of the track which remind me heavily of Bathory, and the previously mentioned keyboard elements are utilized expertly to enhance the track. Mortuum's drumming is extremely tight and minimalist in a Phil Rudd manner. Ultimately, this is a single worth checking out whether you are already familiar with Countess or not; the clarity, composition, and execution are of a quality that puts the focus entirely on whether the listener enjoys Countess' absolutely unique take on Heavy Metal. In my opinion, this is an ideal track to begin a foray into the band.

Deep Energy Orchestra - Playing With Fire (2018)

A group of jazz and world musicians creating quite interesting soundscapes and textural combinations. Deep Energy Orchestra's main brain is jazz bassist Jason Everett, who plays fretless bass across Playing with Fire and shines throughout the four tracks on display. He often takes a back seat to allow for phenomenal tabla playing, or Selvaganesh's drumming, or Trey Gunn's guitar playing, or some of the most abnormal vocalizations I've heard on a record. Opening track "The Return" is evidence of these abnormal vocalizations which solidify this record as something totally new and unique in my listening experience - and one of the reasons I enjoy world and folk music. While the deeply spiritual sounding melodies and instrumental can easily be the focus, these vocal moments are truly what I enjoyed the most oddly. I wasn't sure if I was listening to something from a tiny obscure musical style never before witnessed in the west or a country auctioneer rattling off prices. The guitar playing and percussion is phenomenal here, and Radhika Iyer's violin playing is captivating. A great listen for those with an interest in world, fusion, and jazz instrumental music. Top track is the desert-like "Resolve Improv Caravan" but really all the tracks had a lot of interesting moments.

Exorcismo - Exorcise and Steal (2018)

After several listens, I found Exorcise and Steal, from the Brazilian thrashers Exorcismo, to culminate into a solid modern thrash album that should be on the radar of anyone into old school thrash. Exorcismo falls somewhere between a Bay Area thrash band and the German bands around the late 80's early 90's. Destruction specifically comes to mind, as I felt similarities between Exorcismo and an album like, Mad Butcher or Cracked Brain. Where Exorcismo offer some change is in the vocals of drummer Denis Violence. Violence's snarl is on the lower end of the spectrum, as opposed to the higher youthful rasp and pitchiness of Marcel Schirmer. He almost reminds me of Barney Greenway's more growling yell from the mid-90's Napalm Death material. It's a good sound though, as it portrays the band's material as more serious and in spirit with the original thrash movement compared to what we were seeing sprout from what was deemed the New Wave of American Thrash Metal a few years ago. Guitarists Anderson Razor and Carlos Ragner handle their duties adeptly. Some interesting moments surface on the album such as interesting clean breaks in "Disgrace and Terror" that have been composed into the solo section. "Ready To Violence" is my highlight for the record, with a frantic intro. The rest of the track is composed of twists and turns and a ton of riffs. Exorcismo do a great job utilizing interesting and unique transitions and once-and-done bridge riffs to get them through songs and into section written specifically for circle-pits or specifically for headbanging. The band seems very much aware of where to place what. They never repeat themselves too many times or allow songs to stagnate. Not a bad record worth some spins for the die-hard thrash fans out there but if I'm being honest, I could see the album boring those who are more difficult to please in terms of thrash.

Gutwrench - The Art of Mutilation (2018)

Back in college, I was playing "Necrosis" from the Wither Without You demo on my radio show. Now Gutwrench's phenomenal debut demo along with their second equally awesome demo Beneath Skin are finally getting a deserved re-release through Vic Records. The Art of Mutilation contains the two demos as well as several rehearsal tracks and another track specific to the compilation. Wither Without You is one of the best of the Dutch death metal demos from the early 1990's and tracks like "Necrosis" contain enough dreary melody to never go out of style. What really highlights Gutwrench's material is something which often gets misused in the Dutch scene in that the band knows when to get techy and when to maintain a more simplistic foundation. Counter to Phlebotomized or Iniquity, Gutwrench followed more in the Asphyx vein and threw splashes of technicality into their material by way of compositional flourishes such as the numerous riffs under the elongated solo section in "Beneath Skin." What is also interesting about the material, mostly that which is on the "Beneath Skin" material is the numerous non-Dutch elements. "Pest Controller" shows the creeping influence of the Gothenburg style into Gutwrench's toolbox and East Coast New York Death Metal gets thrown into the mix in "The God Complex." Even with these disparate stylistic tendencies, Gutwrench somehow manage to never lose the Dutchness in their sound. This is a desirable compilation for those that will never own the original demos. Gutwrench have absorbed the best qualities of their Dutch home scene while squirreling away small stylistic tendencies from abroad to cook up top tier death metal.

Into The Cave - Insulters of Jesus Christ (2018)

Into The Cave's Insulters of Jesus Christ is loaded with songs proposed to the listener with the deep South American death metal thrash background that shouldn't need much explanation. Think Headhunter D.C. and Hellhammer and you're not far off. I wasn't surprised to learn that Into The Cave were from Brazil after getting a few songs through the album. The production is very good and showcases Bitch Hunter's excellent lead guitar work which assaults each track with divebombs, squeals, and generally wild-style solos. The drumming of Erick Fryer is on point as well, while the occasional interesting rhythm shows up, such as that in "Pure Filth From The Grave," he more often than not bashes and smashes his way around the drum kit to drive the songs forward with basic thrash beats in a frantic manner. Vocalist Bestial Vomitor provides a sturdy presence throughout with low, deep growls throughout and grunts smartly placed in tracks. I wish that the bass playing of Dyd Bastard was more varied. He lingers way too close to the guitar lines all the time and doesn't offer much in the way of depth to the songs. While many of the songs are strong but standard South American death thrash, a few stand alone. "Scarlet Queen" is nearly pure speed metal, a death metal take on Midnight. "Heretic" starts off with a slow intro topped with some keyboards for kicks. "Massacre Bestial" is a bit convoluted stylistically after it's opening Heavy Metal-esque intro. My personal favorite from the record has to be the intense "Vomiting Blasphemies," which in a meager two-minutes simply pummels the listener. Overall a really good album that offers a lot with each listen.

Lucifer's Fall - Dungeon Demos 2013 (2013)

Three tracks heavily influenced by the progenitors of doom, Black Sabbath. Secondary influences seem to be mixtures of Pentagram, Pagan Altar, and Cirith Ungol. Of interest immediately is the nature of these Australians, Lucifer's Fall. On this particular demo release, Deceiver offers all the guitars, bass, and vocals with Unknown and Unnamed playing drums. Considering there are guitars and bass and sections of layered vocals, it's clear this demo isn't a true rehearsal demo since there must have been several takes done. Evident from the start is that though this demo is comprised of rehearsal material, the production quality is exceptional. Each instrument in clear and audible. Special attention was seemingly paid to ensure that vocal levels were done properly. This is likely only possible due to previously described situation of recording here. I find it rewarding that Deceiver cared enough about singular arrangement and composition details to go through the extra effort of incorporating everything into a rehearsal demo*. In all honestly, though this is a trio of rehearsals, the overall quality is better than I've heard on many full lengths and I actually like the rawness. Natural production aside, from a composition angle, the songs are all very well put together. "Mother Superior" which builds off an extremely memorable bass line and then runs through a section of layered vocals along with some killer doom riffs, is a standout. Closing track Unknown Unnamed starts with some shouted lyrics in a bizarrely satisfactory manner. Deceiver's vocals throughout the rest of the track are genuinely doom; he attempts to hit higher notes and somehow always seems to sound just barely reaching them. It lends the demo a feeling of authenticity, youthfulness, and confidence that works in this setting. Overall a rather impressive first release from this Lucifer's Fall.

Raw Raze - Thunderblade (2004)

Brazilian band that released two demos in 2004 and 2005 and whose members dispersed into numerous other bands and projects. This short demo, their first release is heavily influenced by Iron Maiden. The intro is a short minute long recording of... thunder. The songs are very simple derivatives of standard traditional metal. The performances of the musicians - Daniel Raze (Vocals), Linsandro Freire (Drums), Vinicius Amorim (Guitars), and Carlos Fintelman (Guitars and Bass) - are adequate but not ultimately impressive. The songs aren't bad in themselves, just don't stand out in anyway. "Fight For Metal" is evident of some amateur mistakes such as the hard transitions from section to section that are too abrupt. There are some noteworthy moments that shine, such as some of the guitar leads and melodies. Raze's vocals are a hair better than average but he does not go the distance. He strains to reach higher notes across the record and his melodies are tightly linked to the other instruments in a way that stymies deeper exploration of the vocals. You can download this for free from the band's website. Mostly what I get out of this demo is the formative importance of Iron Maiden for aspiring musicians within heavy metal.

Xalpen - Wowk Otrr (2018)

This Chilean horde is following up their 2016 debut EP, Black Rites, with a new EP entitled Wowk Otrr which is once again firmly in the second-wave Norwegian style though the rawer production encountered on Black Rites has given way to a more balanced, yet no-less-aggressive production. Vocalist and bassist Alvaro Lillo, who has also offered his services to Watain and others as well as guitarist Juan Pablo Nunez who also supports on vocals are the driving force behind the project. I was Impressed with the overall record. Every song is well paced and stirring, particularly "Ten Hashpen (In Darkness Remains)" and the sublime "Xosh Kassek (Chant To Hosh)," both the highlights of the album for me. With "In Darkness Remains," Xalpen drag the listener through myriad fast and slower movements and subtle melodic shifts. The repetitive nature of "Chant To Hosh" proves the band is capable of working with different compositional structures, both exploratory, threaded and linear, as well as the timeless black metal structural motif of repetitive and minimalist. This minimalism is also worth noting in terms of the melodic usage on the record with several songs hinging on two-note melodic structures which interestingly produce a primitive memorability via simplicity. Also worth noting is "K'terrnenqar Shwaken (The Vengeance of K´térnen)" which is the most urgent and pressing aided by multiple huge short-lived driving bass bridges. Lillo's bass tone is a key presence on the record, taking up a large amount of mix-space with a gravely and booming strength. I did feel that the overall album could have been paced slightly differently, with "In Darkness Remains" later on the EP, as the final two tracks don't do much overall for the record - a track of growls and rasps for two minutes followed by a piano-only outro. I also thought that there were too many vocals at times that didn't give enough leeway for the music to tell it's story as equally. Xalpen is putting out a three song EP shortly. I'd be vigilant for that.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Live!: Vicious Rumors, Eyes of the Living, Infernal Opera

Last night, Baal Zebubstein, Slick Dick Nick and myself traveled down to Bar XIII in Wilmington Delaware to catch the classic US Power Metal band Vicious Rumors touring on the 30th anniversary of the seminal Digital Dictator album. We got there in time to catch some food at the Mexican restaurant, El Tapatio, next door. Waiter was very nice, food was acceptable. I liked that I got served two burritos for the price of one. I thought the food could have had a more flavor, however for the purpose of a quick bite, it sufficed. I also noticed that my beer counter on Untapped was sitting at nine-hundred and ninety seven beers so I intended to hit the one-thousand mark tonight. One Modelo Negra later, and I was at Nine-hundred and ninety eight.

We returned to catch the last three bands of the night. I apologize to all those that played earlier for not being there to catch your sets. We first spent some time talking with Geoff Thorpe at the Vicious Rumors merch booth. He had original old stock of the Digitial Dictator album, which all three of us took advantage of as well as some acceptable shirts and other oddities. Digital Dictator was a missing piece in my collection and to have an original press still in the wrapping is pretty much unmatchable. We asked about the reason for no NY date. He said that after they travel to Europe for the second leg of the tour, they intend to fly back to the US, land on the East Coast and tour the cities they didn't play on this current US tour leg. He said expect that around April. You heard it here first! At this point, I managed to grab beer Nine-hundred and Ninety Nine, a Dogfish Head SeaQuench Ale.

Infernal Opera we caught the tail end of their set. No real opinion formed but from what I saw, they could potentially be an interesting band on album. I was friends with drummer Michael Alberque on Facebook but had never caught them live before. They sounded tight and, with the exception of some more modern breakdowns and chugging sections, a potentially rewarding listen. The band afterwards was called Eyes of the Living. I described them to Slick Dick Nick as Soilwork with James Hetfield singing. They were very tight, good musicians, just not my style. I grabbed beer One Thousand,  I spent the time during Eyes of the Living's set to talk to other friends that had shown up by this point. Bar XIII (previously Mojo 13) is set up with a central bar area and separate room with stage making it easy to talk even if a band is playing.

Infernal Opera

Eyes of the Living

Vicious Rumors were absolutely awesome. Their set was the entirety of Digital Dictator, with an extended instrumental section during "Lady Took A Chance" allowing for the entire band to showcase. Geoff Thorpe and Gunnar DüGrey are a formidable guitar duo. Not only are they both capable of shredding with the best guitarists out there, but they both also were fun to watch on stage; Thorpe still seems as excited to perform on stage as he must've been back in 1988 and '89 when these songs were new. Nick Courtney handled Carl Alber's vocals without a mote of issue or strain, powerfully conveying every memorable chorus. Bassist Tilen Hudrap also got a chance to show he can move around the frets on a bass like a spider moves on it's web. Larry Howe crushed on drums. The band overall, even only having been together in this incarnation for approximately two weeks according to Geoff, sounded like they had been playing this material for ages. After Digital Dictator they pulled out some additional songs from their self titles album including "Down To The Temple", "Hellraiser", and "Don't Wait For Me."

Geoff Thorpe
Gunnar DüGrey
Overall, highlights included what were my favorites from the album: "Digital Dictator", "R.L.H.", "Out Of The Shadows", and "Minute To Kill".  "Towns on Fire" absolutely ruled live, even though it's never stood out to me when spinning the album. It was also awesome to hear "Don't Wait For Me." I would have loved to have heard "Medusa" or "Ship of Fools" also but I'm really not complaining. Maybe they'll pull those out when they return in April / May.

After the Vicious Rumors set, Larry Howe spent some time talking with my friends and I and recanted some wild stories from concerts in Germany and elsewhere including the US. Without going into too much detail, I will leave off with the warning to potential clubs, venues, and promoters from Larry Howe himself: "Don't skimp out on paying Vicious Rumors!"
Nick Courtney

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Gorycz - Piach

Poland seems to be a hotbed these days for new and untouched musical experiments from within the underbelly of their black metal scene. While the more well known Polish black metal bands have maintained the stylistic connection to the Second Wave bands, and a large portion have taken the deeper underground road towards the decidedly Eastern European black metal subset such as Arkona and Graveland, there now seems to be a wellspring of renewed vigor towards creating something unique and definable. Gorycz are in this grouping of bands, easily labelled post-black, but that classification ignores the subject matter on a deeper level. Additionally, I don't think anyone that is currently involved with this movement would care to have any labels attached their music. When Przemek Grabowski, Tomek Kukliński, Wojtek Błaszkowski, and Krysiek Górski managed to coalesce into Gorcyz, their aim was in fact nothing defined other than "writing and playing music without a set concept or goal other than to enjoy themselves." This lack of a concept or goal would, it seems, get thrown out the window.

Tomek Kuklinksi, lyricist and vocalist explained to me a bit more about the foundation of the band. "The origin is substantially typical. Przemek, Wojtek and Krzysiek were involved in Non Opus Dei. After the release of “Diabeł” album they decided that they need a break from the band's formula, and to play something different. Without any plans, really." Tomek also told me that releasing Gorycz under the Pagan Records banner was not a difficult prolonged decision. "Pagan Records seemed to be the obvious choice for us. They have released a tremendous number of albums we were fond of over the years proving to be fearless of risk and artistic challenges. They've been around the Polish underground metal scene for a very long time and their publishing always seemed to be honest." With Piach, the band is a perfect fit for Pagan Records eclectic roster of forward thinking bands.

Their album, Piach, it's name translating to 'heavy sand', circumnavigates a concept best described by Tomek himself. "It is more a heavy sand than just a sand. The same they'll cover us up with at the end. The ultimate purpose. The very meaning of life itself is to become the food and the fertilizer. Senility, illness and death are being effectively displaced by the narcissistic cult of youth. It is a denial regarding the truth about human. Human is just a sack of meat, a cancer which takes us prettily, it is a fertility being pushed off the margins of the culture of love. We are alone, clunky really, without any justification. That is why we are far from all the philosophy of life. We call in a vacuum, death is a fact. One of the few in absurd life." The lyrics came rather naturally apparently. "The words emerged from observation. There is no message in them, nor sublime ensure, nor statements. We are just a living matter and there is nothing to marvel about it, nothing miraculous. We are an accident, a quirk of fate if you like. Very often we don't realize how peculiarly and suddenly our mortality can reveal itself to us. I think that immortality is our ultimate desire, therefore we've created the culture itself along with absurdity of the art, gods and dreams. It seems to me that awareness of death is our only goal we should post sincerely. To tame our coffin, to love the heavy sand they'll put on you at the end, to incorporate the presence of the grave into our life. This is our connection to the earth in a physical sense."

Their efforts with Piach have resulted in a powerful twist on what Furia and Licho have done recently. Gorycz retain the black metal elements on the release however there is a heightened amount of myriad influences added. "We are not a generic band. Nyia, Burzum, Portishead, Rope Sect inspire us equally." Rhythmically Gorycz showcase these numerous influences. Mechanical rhythmic sensibilities courtesy of drummer Błaszkowski are often found as a backdrop to a trudging and patient pace. Tomek agreed with that this patience is integral. "It's nice you've noticed this patience. Piach is the presence. We try to mark that we are. With all the signs of the absurd, though. Perhaps thence the pulse you've mentioned. Life is a pulse, a rhythm. I think life fertilized Gorycz." I also felt there was influence from another band that showed heavily through - Deathspell Omega. Tomek once again validated my belief that the French visionaries were on their radar: "Deathspell Omega has answered all the black metal questions in my opinion."

This combination yields an intentness and strangely indifferent urgency that is hard to put a finger on. While Gorycz' do occasionally roar by with faster elements such as at the end of "Czarna Ciecz" or during the band's eponymous closing track, the majority of Piach is the equivalent of sitting in a funeral home. This is set against Gorycz' own unique style of atmospheric minimalism. Grabowski's guitar tone is mostly thin and tinny that rings long on chosen tail end notes, offering the majority of the album's melodic space to bassist Górski, who reigns supreme over the album with a nearly perfect chunky and rich bass tone. Piach is at once sonically lush and emotionally wilted, a dynamic that required multiple listens for me to understand how this auditory contradiction can be reflective of the album's deeper concept. For Tomek, our individual human existence is that of an empty purposeless creature which lives in a vibrant and vast earth we have become unable to connect to.

I've enjoyed exploring the experimentation emanating from the Polish scene lately but Tomek doesn't see these changes as a localized event but rather a global movement to seek outside of the box. "Black metal, death metal etc. are outdated categories. It is archaic thinking in today's world. You rightly call them stereotypical, which, however people need to define music, to categorize and to rationalize it. Nobody, including us is free from these. This is due to our natural predispositions and needs. It is hard for the author to break free from these forms. The movement you mentioned is noticeable in all of the music genres. I think this is the effect of globalization. The internet caused the enormous accessibility of every art form. Anyone can be a poet, a musician and an artist with its small, yet devoted audience. Suddenly, it turned out that artistic sincerity can thrive on its own in pursuit of the originality."

Gorycz is then yet another example of what to me seems to be the next direction for black metal. Piach doesn't quite leave me as emotionally invested, potentially due to the more mechanical sounding rhythmic direction, as some other albums from this Polish grouping but it's nevertheless impossible to simply not appreciate the material here. Perhaps that is the best compliment one could boast. In the current climate of living in the niches we choose and want to live in and with the ability to totally ignore entire swaths of artistic perspective, that a band's album can be good enough that even someone that wouldn't normally enjoy aspects of it can see the whole as something big and cohesive is merit well levied. Gorycz have masterfully blended many unique textures, mature themes, and perplexing instrumental arrangements on Piach to match an equally unique and individualized conceptual vision.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Sacrificial Blood / Traitor 7" Split Preorder

Sacrificial Blood, which features Mike Keller, Geoff Searles, Kevin "Arnie" Maull, and myself, have just put out a 7" split with our good friends from Philly thrashers, Traitor. Right now I am taking preorders for the record which is officially released on the 28th of this month. They are $5. You can order them off the Storenvy page.

I am also adding a separate option for $2 extra with which you can get both the Sacrificial Blood / Traitor 7", as well as the Maximum Oversatan / Cain split 7" which I still have copies of. This package will also come with a random pin and will be signed as well.

We have some shows lined up in the Tri-state area as well for October:

Satan / Natur / Sacrificial Blood @ St. Vitus - Brooklyn October 12th.
Sapremia / Blasphemous / Veiled / Sacrificial Blood / Gross @ The Fire - Philadelphia October 26th

I am also adding some copies of Slowly We Rot zine as well. These just arrived from Romania and are top-tier underground fanzines with excellent coverage of the extreme metal scenes. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Lords of the Trident - Shadows From The Past

Though well-produced and competently executed, Lords of the Trident's most recently released album, Shadows From The Past, is awash in too-cheesy-even-for-cheesy moments and a lack of aggressiveness and power that steer me away from ever listening to the record or band again. Without pinpointing individual details in nearly every song, there are standout issues that I can't wrap my ears around. This ultra-polished style of modern heavy metal simply squashes any potential raw aggression and energy that can be generated via the production. Lords of the Trident sound not far from many European flower metal bands. Picture Hammerfall or Edguy or whoever but remove all the balls (Hammerfall had some on Legacy of Kings and slowly lost theirs also) and all the hooks.

The single from the album, opening track "Death Dealer" is an example of this. Regardless of the lack of interesting riffs which are barren across the entire release, the pitter-patter of Master Hercule Schlagzeuger's drums, though technically accurate, has as much substance as air, a general production fault that bothers throughout the album. This when paired with a generally thin guitar tone from Asian Metal and Baron Taurean Helleshaar just falls flat. Often, guitar solos are found without any solid backing riffs to drive the songs through as evidenced by the solos in, once again, "Death Dealer", as well as "Burn It Down" - another pushed single for the album. Fang VonWrathenstein's vocals are wispy and only shine when he manages to fall into a catchy melody. At times he shows he has great range, but the lyrical content is childish, even for power metal.

In terms of stand out tracks, I have to point out the absolutely horrid "Brothers of Cain" which is the most obnoxious of the songs on the album as Fang does his best impression of Beauty and the Beast's Gaston. The majority of the track's vocals are sung like the Irish Drinking Song on Whose Line Is It Anyway. The only worthwhile tracks here for me are "Zero Hour" and "Chasing Shadows," mainly because they contain strong vocal melodies. "Chasing Shadows" is my personal choice for noteworthy track. The melodic foundation is compelling here, even if all the other weaknesses in power show through. This is a prime example of too much attention to perfection and too little attention given to simply rocking out in full force.There are far superior heavy metal albums to explore. Also the band looks fucking asinine. Don't waste your time on this.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Sulgogar Interview

Sulgogar are a Venezuelan thrash / death metal band whose newest album, Science of Beyond, crosses the boundaries of what the style can offer with unique vocals, original tone, and passionate lyrics. I interviewed main-man Sting to find out more about the band. 

Contaminated Tones: Can you give me a brief history of your band, Sulgogar?

Sting Weiss: Sulgogar is a metal band of Venezuelan / Russian origin that was founded at the end of 2016 in the town of Duaca, located in the municipality Crespo, north of Barquisimeto, Lara State, Venezuela. It is considered as the first and only extreme metal band existing in that area to date. His musical style is very close to the Old School Death Metal, despite having some very typical elements of Thrash and Black Metal, all of them appreciable in each of his songs. The band is currently composed of Sting Weiss (vocals and bass), Steve Kaiba (guitars) and Svetlana Sevostianova (drums).

The lyrics of Sulgogar are inspired by sinister themes, such as urban legends and unsolved mysteries, as well as a bit of social criticism.

CT: What is a Sulgogar? Where does this band name come from?

SW: Sulgogar was the name of a fictitious race of aliens first appeared in the game Urban Assault belonging to the genre of action and strategy for PC. It is supposed to be the most powerful enemy faction in the game. We chose that name because it is very cool and because no other band in the world is using it.

CT: What bands are the main influence to Sulgogar's sound?

SW: The main source of inspiration for our band is Impaled Nazarene, from whom we took some musical ideas from their latest albums. Although we also have much influence from other groups of different subgenres within the metal such as Violator, Havok, Municipal Waste, Fueled by Fire, Thrash or Die, Death, Svartsyn, Mayhem, Burzum, Behexen, Dark Funeral among others.

CT: Your new album is called Science of Beyond and you have some excellent artwork. Who did the artwork for the cover? What does the artwork depict in relation to the album?

SW: The cover art was in charge of the great Venezuelan illustrator BJ Manchester who, besides dedicating himself to drawing comics, also designs covers by hand and in black and white style for death metal bands, brutal death metal and other extreme subgenres.

The art of Science of Beyond represents an extraterrestrial abduction with a slight touch of gore, as several gray extraterrestrials dissect the corpse of a human being inside their spaceship. This work of art fits very well with the central idea of Science of Beyond, since it deals with the theme of gray extraterrestrials and their obscure intentions with respect to humanity.

CT: I think the album has a very modern tone but an early 90's or late 80's crossover style riff-wise. Is this the sound you were going for? How do you usually describe your music to others?

SW: Well, we really wanted to do death thrash but without including the guitar riffs that are normally used nowadays in death metal that sometimes are a bit indigestible and boring. But it seems that our music effectively approaches the crossover style of those years that you comment. I hope that's a good thing for the band's reputation, because I liked it a lot. I can describe the music of Sulgogar as a crazy fusion of several extreme subgenres, whose purpose is that the songs are very sticky and digestible for most people.

CT: What is Sulgogar's writing process? Do you have a specific way in which you compose your songs?

SW: Well, at the time of writing the lyrics I always like to listen to the whole instrumental theme and compose the vocal part following almost the same rhythm of the riffs. That's great, since this method contributes to the songs being more moving and less monotonous as in many of the modern extreme metal productions. The central idea of ​​each lyric always arises spontaneously and based on the sensation that each instrumental track transmits.

As for the instruments, we usually make a simple base on the guitar and then we assemble the drums. The bass I leave almost always for the end and sometimes I like to leave a few pauses for this instrument between the changes of the structure of each song. For example, in Socialista-Satanista it is noted that the bass is present and also has an important role giving more power to the song.

In the case of the drums, we like everything to sound as brutal as possible and with interesting fillings. Svetlana is very good at that, too much I would say. It is a pleasure to watch her play and record. Practically she is a sexy demon of the rums embodied in the body of a woman.

CT: The vocal style on Science of Beyond is very unique. Was this a natural vocal style for you or was it something that specific for this band? To me, it falls somewhere between a grunt and yell with gang vocals on top.

SW: For me it is very easy to make such guttural voices. Before I used a very different technique that was not very good because I got too tired, but now I feel much more comfortable. I managed to learn how to do it properly shortly before recording the voices of the Acechadores Intergalácticos (Intergalactic Stalkers) song. That voice is just what we were looking for from the beginning: a very powerful guttural voice capable of generating a great impact on the listeners.

The clean voice is something closer to the thrash metal style, a little street if you like. This is usually used to give that "vintage" touch to the whole thing.

CT: What has the feedback been on Science of Beyond so far?

SW: The responsiveness of this first release of Sulgogar has exceeded all our expectations. Really, we are very happy with the work done by Machine Man Records, because our music is reaching many people all over the world. A lot of people have told us that they love our sick sound and that they want to see us play live someday. Others are begging us to release a CD version soon. Right now we are considering that possibility.

CT: I could not find lyrics for any of the tracks but I'd like some expansion on a few of them. "Socialist-Satanist," for instance. What are you trying to say in the lyrics to this song? Is this something dangerous to say in Venezuela?

SW: Well, in the particular case of "Socialist-Satanist" this is clearly a song of mockery and protest towards what they call "Socialism of the 21st century". The name of the song makes reference to the rumors that many people of the Venezuelan government practice or have practiced horrible black African magic rituals at some point of their lives, especially the deceased former president of the republic.

The lyrics of this song are very short. Here the English translation:

Corruption excites them,
Sorcerers, false and Marxists,
Controlling the currencies,
Sorcerers, false and Marxists.

I composed it by taking some phrases I have heard from people in the street when they feel helpless in the face of all the stupidities that the current Venezuelan government does and that are constantly applauded by their brainless followers. The lyrics were going to be longer, but it was too controversial and could bring us many problems with the government later on. So we decided on something much simpler and that reflected the anger of the people who suffer every day under this corrupt government.

CT: Also, "Femi-Nazis." Are you guys anti-feminism? Are you saying that feminism is becoming too authoritative as a political ideology? Is it about a specific person or incident?

SW: I am in favor of the ideals of feminism of the old waves. But I do not agree with the ideals of the modern radical feminists and even less so-called "Femi-Nazis". In this song I make a joke of them, but before doing it I admit that they have all the chance to win because it has been scientifically proven that the masculine gender will gradually disappear from our species.

In this song I also talk a little about the theories of Richard Dawkins and about the radical feminists going against the interests of our genes. In short, the Femi-Nazis movement is a threat to our species. I also say that they only want power and that they will not be able to reproduce just by relating to each other.

CT: The title track is "Science of Beyond." Do you believe in extraterrestial beings? Are there real life extraterrestrial experiences which you've had? I know that South America in general is considered a hotspot for UFO and Paranormal activity.

SW: I do believe in aliens. In fact, I really like to read about it and investigate the most well-known cases of abduction in South America and the rest of the world. One of the cases that struck me the most was Betty and Barney Hill’s abduction and that's why I wanted to propose it as the central idea of ​​this first album and cover art.

CT: There's a sample that is used as the current title track. What is this sample from and why did you make the whole title track a sample?

SW: That audio sample is an excerpt from the hypnosis session held with Betty and Barney Hill. There they relate how they were kidnapped by the aliens and then subjected to very strange medical tests. Apparently, the interests of grey extraterrestrials go far beyond our three-dimensional logic. That's why the album is called Science of Beyond.

CT: Sting, you've been in a few other bands. What other bands have you been involved with and how do they differ from Sulgogar? Have Steve or Svetlana been in any other projects or bands as well?

SW: Apart from stay as the vocalist and bassist of Sulgogar, I am also the keyboardist and leader of Anfítrite, a female fronted symphonic metal band inspired by Greek mythology. In the same way I play the keyboard in Dragón Blanco, a band of symphonic power metal led by my brother Steve Kaiba. In both bands we are also recording new material with a more clean and delicate sound.

The sexy bomb Svetlana Sevostianova was part of a band in her native town in  Russia but she soon abandoned it because her work and studies consumed a lot of her time. So she devoted himself to perfecting her technique on the drums. She and I met some time ago on the internet and we became good friends. When I showed him some of the material that I was recording with Sulgogar Svetlana asked me to let her record the drums of all the songs. Since then she is collaborating with us on drums.

CT: Have you played or will you be playing any concerts or live shows?

SW: For now we have not been able to play live with Sulgogar because it is very difficult to move from where we live to the city and other states. We practically live in a very remote area comparable to Hobbiton, Fangorn or Narnia. We have received many proposals and invitations for concerts here in Venezuela but it is very complicated for now with the crisis. We hope in the near future to start playing live both nationally and other countries.

CT: What are long term plans for Sulgogar?

SW: Our plans are to record a lot more material and find a way to play live anywhere. As I write this, we are already fine-tuning the details of our next album, which we hope will also be liked by our fans. We also plan to release a version of Science of Beyond in CD format and another cool video clip that we have already uploaded to Youtube several months ago.

CT: What are your thoughts on the impact of the internet, and particularly social media, on music in general, and then more specifically on metal?

SW: The internet is a very important medium for today's musicians. Thanks to tools such as the internet, I was able to contact my friend Svetlana Sevostianova and we were also able to sign with the people of Machine Man Records, in addition to making our music known in all corners of the planet.

Social networks are important because through them you can meet people with your same musical tastes and many fans eager to listen and follow the new groups.

Every musician and modern metalhead should take advantage of the virtues of the internet, otherwise we will be stuck and we will not be able to continue growing and expanding our influence.

CT: What is it like playing metal, particularly metal which has some politically motivated songs, in Venezuela right now? Your country is going through what the west views as a fairly several economic crisis with your money ever inflating.

SW: Well, believe it or not in Venezuela there is a government regime quite deceptive and repressive that we could consider a mix between the ideals of the Italian mafia of the movies, the most absurd things of communism, a lot of what happens in the novel 1984 George Orwell and some of that fanatical ardor of the golden days of Nazism in Germany.

Saying something, (be it serious or not) against the Venezuelan government can immediately put you in a very compromising situation where your life and that of your family may be at risk. Therefore, it is very likely that you will be imprisoned and tortured in secret places or that you will be accused of something false as an excuse to damage your credibility before the public.

In the case of the songs, I know that we are not the only band within the metal and other musical genres with songs criticizing the actual government such as Socialist-Satanist, but I am not in a position to tell you exactly what other bands or artist are in this same position.

There was a golden age for the Venezuelan metal scene just a few years ago, when important bands came to the country as part of their tours and many brutal concerts were held here. Regrettably, government obstacles and other problems prevented that golden age from evolving into something more interesting and lasting. Now we are only few fighters in the metal ranks trying to make us know in the way that best suits our situation.

It is difficult for people from other countries to understand what is going on here, which is really very serious and a threat to the entire world, such as the USSR or Nazi Germany. It's like telling someone in Dubai to understand the situation of oppressed people by terrorists and psychopathic religious fanatics deep in the Amazon...

In short, you have to live it in your own flesh to understand it. The words are not enough to describe something so absurd and dangerous. Many foreigners have come to the country and have cried or scared enough to see what happens. At the moment, as I write this, in my house we only have one package of beans to eat in the next few days, and worse, I'll have to find another job because the money is not enough to support my family.

Playing metal in Venezuela, besides being a great passion like love your sexy girlfriend, has become a way of escape from the harsh reality we live. So, expect to hear more songs like Socialista-Satanista from Sulgogar in the near future mocking us and complaining about the worst political ideology that has existed in the world after communism and Nazism: the socialism of the 21st century.

CT: Your President was almost assassinated this week in a drone strike during what looked like a military parade. He blames Colombian far-right interests for the attack. What are people saying about this attack? What is the state of the government currently in Venezeula from the perspective of someone who lives there?

SW: It is true. Everything seems to indicate that it was a real attack but it is not clear who the real culprits were. Although, the majority of the population suspects that within the ranks of the government there are people who do not agree with the president and want to take it out of the way as it may. This is a consequence of having chosen the worst possible path, represented in the figure of socialism in the 21st century.

After the attack, the government has suspiciously issued arrest warrants for several people. It is likely that many of these people do not even have anything to do with the attack. It is now common for the government to discover a supposed conspiracy with extravagant names and take advantage of that to jail and brutally torture those who think differently.

If the government continues with its terror policy, it is very likely that in the future immediate terrorist groups will arise in the style of ISIS or ETA formed by disgruntled civilians and military.

CT: Are there any specific forces which are currently preventing bands and artists from freely performing, writing and speaking, and making music? In the US Anti-fa is currently very active closing shows, especially in the northwest and California, according to friends there.

SW: Well, if you have songs that speak against the government, it is likely that the same people who support that government look for ways to damage your reputation and credibility or prevent that you can play in concerts. In Venezuela there is a kind of "Gestapo" called SEBIN, which can appear one day in your house and take you handcuffed and move you to secret torture chambers. This may sound like something taken from the argument of any cheap movie but unfortunately it is true.

In short, we must be very careful with what one does and says here in front of a large number of people.

Recently, a Venezuelan extreme metal band revealed the art that adorns the cover of their next album where you can see many important figures of the government and the opposition in a sexual orgy too explicit. Having done this can cause many problems. Only time will tell what will happen to these daring guys. Although I must admit that the cover has become a viral image on social networks and is great.

On the other hand, in Venezuela and elsewhere in Latin America most people listen to that musical nonsense called "Reggaetón". Many of those people constantly complain about the metal and try to discredit the bands. Another thing is religious fanatics. In Venezuela there are many of them and believe that metal is a musical genre created by the devil.

CT: Is there a split within the metal community on political and social beliefs in Venezuela, as there is in the USA?

SW: Okay, yes. There are bands and artist that support the government through their music and some of them enjoy certain privileges (as in the case of Paul Gillman) while other bands do not or simply play metal music without including any political messages in their lyrics. I imagine that in the United States it is the same with liberals and democrats.

I just wait for this government to fall so we can play music freely as before and return to the golden age of Venezuelan metal scene.

CT: What thoughts come to mind when you hear the word, "individual?" Is the concept of individualism important in your life?

SW: Well, by thinking of the word "individual" I imagine someone free in almost every way, always within the limits allowed by law. For me it is important that one recognizes oneself, but one must also do it with other people. I believe that if you become aware of your own existence and that the world does not revolve around your head, you can easily put yourself in someone else's shoes and understand what is happening in his mind.

In Venezuela, the government is currently looking for a collective mind, but in a quite wrong way. If I as an individual need to have a stable job and give my family the best, that cannot be done, simply because having tried to keep everyone in balance (through laughable and absurd methods) prevents me. I mean, I cannot go to a supermarket and take a cart while I see what to buy to feed my family. I have to stand in big line with a lot of people and when entering the store there are only a few products and at exorbitant prices.

Here individualism is a privilege for the leadership of power, consisting of a purulent cancer that we must extirpate immediately. No one can negotiate a peace agreement with gangrene or with an incurable and chronic terminal illness. But despite all that, many of us are trying to change the things peacefully. Although it seems somewhat useless, in reality it is the only thing we can do within a legal framework.

We are playing a game of dungeons and dragons created by a corrupted master of the game that violates the rules continuously, sends wave after wave of beasts almost impossible to beat, denies the experience points of the players and strips them of their special abilities when he wants. This is not fun or legal at all.

CT: What final thoughts do you have for our online readers?

SW: Well, first of all I would like to ask you to support the emerging metal bands of the world more. It's okay to like old and legendary bands, but new bands also need an opportunity because they help the metal scene grow and evolve. The bands that today are great legends also went through this process of being little known and having to break through the community.
Sulgogar - The Science Behind Each Song


The controversy surrounding the radical feminists of today and the proposal to legalize free abortion in countries like Argentina led us to compose this song. In reality it is a mockery of the "Femi-Nazis", a mass movement that takes part of the feminist ideals so defended in the old times by the past waves twisting them to make a very mediocre media circus.

At the musical level, the song is quite simple. A repetitive but at the same time addictive structure serves as the basis for firing constant explosive bullets of common sense, sarcasm and some macho pride relaxed through the voice. A joker guitar solo helps a lot to the song.

Misión: Sobrepoblación (Mission: Overpopulation)

The lyrics of this song were written after Sting Weiss was a shopping day in town. While he lined up to buy some miserable vegetables to feed his family and to visit several places in search of better prices, he noticed the huge number of pregnant women there were (many more compared to days or weeks before).

Unlike other countries where the adult population is more numerous than the young, in Venezuela and other places in South America there are cases of true "baby booms" or a large number of births in a short period of time with any good reason behind it. This could lead to serious overcrowding problems in the immediate future as well as further compromising the reserves of available resources.

For this reason, Sting Weiss imagined a fictitious country where an unscrupulous government makes the decision to promote free and indiscriminate sex with the aim of purging the population. At the same time, this hypothetical government would seek to get rid of the adult population by sending it to war in the future.

At the musical level, Misión Sobrepoblación has a very interesting structure: it starts as a black metal song through the solitary guitar and ends in a crushing rhythm when the rest of the elements appear. From there it becomes a song of thrash very moved. This feeling is reinforced by the interpretative style of the clean voice as well as having a touch of death metal thanks to the gutturals. On the other hand, a narration recorded in the style "police radio equipment" imitates the implementation of a black special forces operation called "Mission: Overpopulation."

However, the best thing about this song is the guitar solo: it's just great and very emotional. It’s possibly the best guitar solo of the whole album.

Chupacabras (Goatsucker)

Chupacabras is a theme clearly inspired by the urban legend of a supernatural and unknown blood-loving being that had its most notorious appearance in Puerto Rico during the beloved decade of the nineties. At that time, the adventures of this supposed vampire demon caused a panic among the population of almost all the countries of South America.

The lyrics cover everything that is known and presumed about this horrible nightmarish creature.

At a musical level, it could be said that the song begins as a thrash metal song and then becomes one of black metal. The most plausible comparison is with some songs of Behexen in his album My Soul for His Glory and Svartsyn in Bloodline. Although, a part of the beginning sounds very similar to a Helloween song included in the Wall of Jericho album where one guitar enters first, then the other, later the bass and finally the drums. I think that theme is Murderer.

Svetlana Sevostianava did an excellent job on drums creating rhythms that approach those of a black metal song in the style of the old school (Mayhem, Burzum, and others). The guitar solo is a total madness. This was to be changed but Sting Weiss said it was perfect for the song "it's as strange and great as the Chupacabra vampire himself" he said once.

Finally, the spoken introduction is an extract taken from a very popular television program in the 90s called “Ocurrió Así” (It Happened So), specifically the special where they address the topic of Chupacabras and intend to explain their origin based on different interesting and weird theories. One of these theories is that the Chupacabra can actually be a demon created or invoked by witches with the objective of collecting blood and other elements for their macabre spells. That is the argument what can be heard in the opening narrative.

Socialista-Satanista (Socialist-Satanist)

In this song we make a joke of the absurd political ideology called "Socialism of the 21st century" established in Venezuela by the late former president Hugo Rafael Chavez Frías. This led to a country as rich as Venezuela becoming a dark paradise for common criminals, great leaders of the underground Mafia, assassins for hire and other unscrupulous people of all kinds. Something like what Port Royal was for the pirates of the Caribbean.

The lyrics were composed based on some of the phrases that people dissatisfied with the government have come to say in public to drain their anger while traveling by bus or subway. Curiously, the lyrics were going to be longer but it was too controversial and that could bring us big problems with the government. Therefore, we decided to condense everything in some of the most interesting phrases.

Here the translation of the lyrics:

Corruption excites themselves,
Sorcerers, false and Marxists,
Controlling the currencies,
Satanist Socialist,
Sorcerers, false and Marxists,
In addition to talking about the taste of Venezuelan socialist leaders for the corruption, cynicism, easy life and poor ideas of Carl Marx, the lyrics speak of the special preference of these infamous individuals for Cuban Santeria (a variant of black magic of the Congo). Although, we also talk a little about the currency control.

At a musical level, the song start as one of black metal something similar to the songs of Dark Funeral and then takes an unexpected turn. From then on it becomes a thrash song in the style of the old school to enter the choir with a clear voice reciting the name of the song and the gutturals reciting some phrases used by people to express their discontent towards the infamous Venezuelan government.

The theme is very simple. A few punk-style chords along with a firm and violent drum beat set the tone for unleashing all the contained fury of the vocals. After repeating the chorus a couple of times, the subject changes a bit and gives way to a guitar solo very raw and desperate as the desire of each Venezuelan to destroy a government led by a group of corrupt Neanderthals.

El Comegente (Enviado de Satanás) (The Man-eater (Envoy of Satan))

This song is inspired by a Venezuelan serial killer named Dorangel Vargas (currently in prison) who during the 90s killed many people to eat their meat. This allowed him to survive in misery until he was captured and baptized by the media as "The Man-eater". An urban legend tells that when this infamous murderer was to be put behind bars, the inmate prison population trembled with fear and began a hunger strike to prevent the entry of an unstoppable monster psychopath devouring of human flesh.

The lyrics tell all that this bloody character did, which is considered by many Venezuelans as "a being sent to this earth by Satan himself".

At the musical level, it could be said that we are dealing with a death metal song in the style of the old school and you can even notice a bit of influence from Cannibal Corpse or other brutal death metal bands at the guttural level. The guitar solo is very refreshing and equally unexpected, perfect to give a little twist on the dark theme of the song and reflect the metal status of the killer Dorangel Vargas.

For its part, the spoken introduction heard during the introduction was taken from the news program of a television channel currently closed by the Venezuelan government. There you see the serial killer Dorangel Vargas calmly answering the questions of a reporter while being stopped by the police. When this was broadcast on television the whole country felt a great relief, because people were very afraid to go out and be trapped and devoured by this cannibal killer.

Acechadores Intergalácticos (Intergalactic Stalkers)

The lyric of intergalactic stalkers was inspired by the abduction of Betty and Barney Hill, considered the first recorded case in the modern world of this type of phenomena. It deals with everything related to this rare incident, from the sighting of the UFO by Barney Hill to the conversation between Betty Hill and one of the aliens in the control room of the object.

At the musical level, this song also starts with a part of black metal and then ends in a thrash. In the chorus of the song the guttural voice stands out quite demonstrating all its dark power. The twin guitar solo contributes to give a strange alien touch or maybe from another world.

Science of Beyond

The song that gives name to this first album of Sulgogar is called Science of Beyond. Basically it is an audio extract taken from a hypnosis recording made to the Hill couple, the first pair of humans abducted by aliens. Here you can hear the story of the terrifying experience on the part of both witnesses.

Although, the most interesting are the nervous reactions of Barney Hill who relives terrified every minute of the kidnapping, in addition to the shocking revelations made to Betty Hill by one of the aliens. While the extract is being played, a nightmare soundtrack helps to give it an even more sinister and enigmatic touch.