Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Return to Posting!

Hello all,
For a while now, I have considered returning to Temple of Darkness at my leisure to write about recent album purchases and general rambling about music in general and I am proud to say I think it is going to happen!  I have many thoughts about new and old albums that I like discussing and since the death of Into the Night Records, which I did run, it would be nice to re connect with the underground scene and be able to talk about different things that are happening within metal.

Reviews will happen eventually or when I have time to digest a release enough to actually give it a fair review.  They will mostly be based on albums I notice that are coming out, whether they be underground albums or more of a 'mainstream' release, for lack of a better term.  Submissions are welcome and I will try my best to get back to all inquiries, whether they be email or Facebook messages but its difficult while trying to balance all other things in life.

Interviews are a possibility, get in touch if you are interested in an interview for you band.  I would also be interested in interviewing the owners of labels or anyone else who has an impact on the underground scene.

I thank everyone who actually reads these random things I write up and hope that you enjoy whats to come!
Until next post,

Monday, April 13, 2015

Ashbringer Interview

Hello Nick, thanks for taking the time to do an interview for Temple of Darkness about Ashbringer!  First of all, for all the fans who might not be familiar with your work, introduce yourself!

My pleasure!  I'm Nick Stanger and I write and perform all of the music for Ashbringer.  I've been playing music since I was about 8 years old and I'm very excited to have finally launched this new project.

Ashbringer is an atmospheric black metal project you have started a few years back.  What pushed you to start such a project?

I've been playing in bands with other musicians for quite a while, and I've enjoyed it a lot, but I felt like I had ideas that I could only express by myself.  I needed a project where I had complete creative control over everything.  Obviously, I've never been able to find a musician that has the exact same mindset as I do, so once I realized this I figured it would be best to just have a project that is 100% my creative ideas.  I love making music with other people, but some ideas I just had to carry out alone.

Definitely understandable!  Being in control of every aspect can help your creativity shine through, making everything your own.  Where did you come up with the name Ashbringer?  Does the meaning play into the lyrical themes of your music at all?

I came up with it a long time ago, but it's also a song title from the band Fen which inspired the band name.  I like to leave most of my aesthetics's up to interpretation, but I really like the way my friend Chase from Deafest put it! "Ashbringer is a very apt name for this project.  They bring forth bleak atmospheres and spew vocals like ash from a volcano."

That is a very interesting way to put it!  Ashbringers music is very atmospheric and ethereal in a sense.  What themes did you have in mind when writing your songs?
It really depends.  I need to be in the right mindset to write for this properly, which makes finishing things in a timely manner a bit difficult, but it makes the end result much more emotional.  I think of most of my songs in a cinematic sense, each one of them is supposed to tell a story, even if th elyrics weren't there.  The lyrics and vocals are usually the very last things that happen in the writing process, and I usually know exactly what the song is about before I write the first word.  The lyrics often come out very vague, which isn't necessarily intentional, but I like the fact that they do.  I'd like to think that the listener imagines their own scenario when listening to my music.

I feel like that is a very popular thought throughout the atmospheric black metal scene.  Letting listeners follow their own thoughts and scenarios in their minds while listening to your music can be meditative and relaxing.  Your debut album, Vacant, was released on April 8th via your own label, Primal Relics Records.  Can you describe the writing and recording process of Vacant?


I started writing these songs towards the beginning of 2013.  I didn't put too much time into it at the time because I was busy playing shows and recording with my old band.  That band broke up during the summer of 2014 and we re-formed into a band I'm in now called No Heroes (though, I am the only member left of the previous band!)  We decided to do a new band at our own pace, instead of a constant schedule of shows.  This gave me a lot more time to focus on writing music for this project, so I went back to all the ideas I had recorded already and started turning them into full songs.  The first song I fully completed and released was called "As Ravens Black the Sky" (the album bersion is now known as 'Lucid') and put it out on two compilation albums.  I kept going from there.

I had lots of half completed songs, most of them I started over with and used riffs and ideas from their original versions into a full song.  Once I get started on writing a song, finishing the structure of the song usually doesn't take very long because I tend to stay focused in this phase.  Anywhere from a few hours to a week.  But I spend lots of time on the details, big and small.  It usually sounds like a brand new song when you compare the first version to the detailed version.

I finished writing and recording the album towards the end of 2014, where I spend the next few months mixing and mastering the album.  It took a lot of effort because I had never worked with something with so many layers before, but I'm very glad I took the time, I personally think it turned out almost exactly how I had hoped.  And yes the Primal Relics version was released on April 8th, which was also my 18th birthday!  I felt like that would be the most perfect release date for my first full length with this project.

That is awesome, happy birthday!  I am sure that was one busy day for you!  Speaking of your other band, No Heroes, you guys play a form of crust punk with metal influences.  That is a far stretch from anything Ashbringer has done!  What are some of your musical influences?

Thank you, it definitely was!  Oh boy, I have lots of influences that stretch very far from one another.  I think that pretty much anything that I am exposed to influences my music in one way or another, so I will just throw out the names of a few of my favorite artists.  Such as Agalloch, Wolves in the Throne Room, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Bon Iver, James Blake, Cynic, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Asgeir, Bjork, Deafheaven, Sol Invictus, Empyrium and way too many more to list!

I can definitely hear the WIITR and Agalloch influences in your music for sure!  What non-musical influences impact your musical or lyrical themes?

This one should be obvious, but definitely nature, everything about it.  Along with that I take influences from personal things that have taken place in my life, abstract art, and really whatever else interests me.  Although when I'm writing lyrics I don't always consciously think about these things, like I mentioned before the lyrics are very reactive to the vibe of the music.

That is an excellent way to write lyrics.  Just let them flow naturally!  Do you ever plan on adding other members to the band, even if they are live musicians, to play shows?
I'm glad you asked that, because I'm working on a big collaborative project with a few other musicians and an author.  I can't give away very many details right now, but it will be very cool.  I have a live drummer for it and a bassist, and there will be intermittent other guest musicians.  The music will be entirely composed by myself, but performed with the stylistic interpretation of the other musicians on it as well.  They will be considered session players, I don't know if I'll ever have any other official 'band members'.  Unfortunately, that's all I would like to give away at the moment for that project!  As far as playing live goes, it's definitely not on my agenda at the moment, but I could picture it happening eventually.

That sounds like a very exciting project to be working on!  I would love to see Ashbringer material performed in a live setting, possibly with incense burning and lit by candlelight to set the atmosphere, I think that would be quite a sight!  What are your future plans for Ashbringer?  What is your ultimate goal with the project?  

It would be indeed!  The future consists of much more music and releases.  I just accepted an offer from the Italian record label Avantgarde Music.  So I will be working between them and my own label.  They will be releasing a digipack version of Vacant with an 8 panel booklet art insert, which I am very excited about!  As far as an ultimate goal. for me it would be simply to get my art out there and satisfy my musical endeavors!

That is awesome, Avantgarde is a massive name in the underground scene and will definitely do Ashbringer a lot of good.  Now, to wrap up this interview, I always like to have a little fun!  If oyu could pick 5 albums, those albums being the only music you could listen to for the rest of your life, what would they be?

Oh my, this question is torture!  Here we go off the top of my head:

Agolloch - either Marrow of the Spirit or The Mantle
Bon Iver - S/T
Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy
Godspeed You Black Emperor - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
Converge - Jane Doe

Since I only get 5 albums for the rest of my life, they have to be contrasting styles!
Thank you very much for the interview, your support is greatly appreciated!

That is a good way to look at it!  Thank you so much for doing your first ever interview with us!  If there is anything else you'd like to say, feel free!

I would like to thank everyone who has been so supportive in the past few weeks.  So far in my eyes the album has been very successful and I am very appreciative of all the people who placed a pre order, sent me a message, shared it, listened or anything.  The support is overwhelming like nothing I've ever experienced before, so thank you all!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Writhe - The Shrouded Grove Review

Writhe - The Shrouded Grove
Writhe is an atmospheric black metal band based out of England.  One man projects are a dime a dozen these days and you have to be extremely unique to stick out and cause any sort of ripple in what is a massive ocean of music.  When I gave Writhes demo a listen for the first time, all I heard was just another 'cookie cutter' atmospheric black metal project, but when I delved back into it and give it my full attention, what I discovered was truly beautiful.
Writhe is a band that you really need to listen to truly appreciate what is going on.  If you put The Shrouded Grove on as your 'background' music, you will never hear the true potential of the release.  Once fully devoted to listening, you hear the intensity, passion, sadness, and sorrow within the music.  The sole member behind the project, John, put his heart and soul into the music and has created something so dark that it is beautiful in a multitude of ways.
The drumming is intense and fast, never really letting up on the intense double kick or fast blast beats.  That being said, the drums are in no way overwhelming.  They are very much in the back of the mix and compliment the track well.  While I wouldn't be surprised that a drum machine was used, it was done so very well and its hard to tell unless you know what to listen for.  The guitars are the main focus of both tracks and while the vocals take the forefront at points, what really shines forth is the use of melody within the guitars.  The melancholic feel most melodies have give a very gloomy feel to the whole release, leaving a lasting impression on the listener.  The vocals are used sporadically and to mainly enhance an already encompassing song.  The vocals explore themes of isolation and loneliness, lending to the shadowy feel of The Shrouded Grove.  Clean vocals are also utilized to calm the listener into an almost sedated feel while the impending sense of sadness can be felt in the background.
Overall, this twenty minute demo is unbelievable.  The amount of emotion packed into such a short amount of time is quite astounding, leaving me wanting more from Writhe.  While this is a tough listen to fully appreciate and understand, once you do, the reward is certainly great.



Sunday, November 23, 2014

Dunnock/Intergalactic Holocaust Split

Dunnock - Dunnock/Intergalactic Holocaust

Previously on ToD, I have reviewed Dunnock and absolutely loved their music.  When I was contacted by Temptations if Resonance Records to review the Dunnock/Intergalactic Holocaust split album, I was extremely excited, this being the only Dunnock material I haven't heard before!  Before hearing the split, I never heard of Intergalactic Holocaust before but after listening, I see why these two projects paired together for a release.
Lets get to the music, shall we?  This split album is made up of 7 tracks, with Dunnock contributing 4 out of those 7.  The order of the tracks is quite weird (songs 1,2,3 are Dunnock, 4,5,6 are I.H. and then song 7 is back to Dunnock) but knowing Dunnocks music quite well, there is always a reason behind anything they do, this I am sure is no exception.  The album starts off with a dark, droning piece of ambient music that dulls your senses and creates a melancholic feeling within you.  With their other tracks, Dunnock provides you with exactly what you want to hear from the band.  A lo-fi, dark, despair-laden atmosphere that creates a bleak and desolate soundscape within the minds of the listener.  The drums are only present to keep the tempo and for the majority of the time, are hidden in the background.  The overdriven, distorted guitars are at the forefront of the music along with the bone-chilling shrieks that tell disturbing stories that will haunt for days.  There are a few instances, especially in Jan 28th, that a synthesizer is present.  It definitely seemed out of place at first but becomes an acquired taste after some time, leaving me to wonder what Dunnock will do next in terms of synth use in their next release.
Intergalactic Holocaust's portion of the split is quite intense, yet it does not have the same vibe as Dunnocks music carries.  The music is a bit more refined and not as raw and quite honestly, made me want to start the CD over and listen to the first half again.  The drums are a bit more prominent but once again, are used strictly to keep tempo and do not show off much at all.  The guitars are a bit dirty but every note and stroke of the strings are distinguishable, leaving that lo-fi vibe to be wanted even more.  The vocals are quite pronounced and are quite good for the style of music I.H. is playing.
While Intergalactic Holocaust's portion of the split album was not some of my favorite black metal, Dunnock once again kills it and I am starting to be convinced that this band can do nothing wrong.  The emotion within their music and lyrics stand apart from almost anything I have ever heard.  I look forward to hearing what both bands have in store for the future!


Friday, October 24, 2014

Musk Ox - Woodfall Review

Woodfall cover art
For a lot of metal heads, especially ones like me who love atmospheric black metal, melody is ever so important as it really brings the music to a whole new level in terms of atmosphere and depth.  Within a song, a melody can tell a story, express emotions, and lead the listener on a journey though the music.  When you have vocals in your music, they typically take the forefront and the instrumental melody takes a backseat, letting the actual words do the story telling.  When a band can ditch vocals altogether and still express what they want to be felt solely though instrumentation, that is when you know you are doing something right.  Musk Ox is a Canadian Neofolk group was formed back in 2005 by founding member Nathanael Larochette.  After experimenting for a while, the debut, self titled album was released with a warm reception in 2009.  This grew their fan base rapidly, even drawing attention from bigger names in the music industry in, giving them the exposure they deserved.  Now, after a 5 year wait, the 2nd full length, Woodfall, is finally released and while in the same vein as the first album, the exquisite piece of pure beauty is leaps and bounds ahead of anything they have ever done in the past.

While the first album featured instruments like the piano and a flute, all centering around a classical guitar, Woodfall changes gears a bit to a more 'wooden' tone.  Utilizing only three instruments, Cello, Violin, and guitar, Woodfall features stunning, introspective music that blends nature's surroundings with folk-influenced music, performed entirely by acoustic instruments.  The music has a many different 'moods' that occur throughout.  At points, you are overwhelmed by happiness and joy while at others, you feel very calm and tranquil.  Never do you experience feelings of fear or sadness, as Musk Ox creates relaxing music.  When listening to this album, you never get the full effect with just one playthrough.  Every time I listened to it, I noticed a little melody, a new harmony, or a different pattern that I missed the last time.  I love the feeling of knowing that when I play this album, I will be able to find something completely new somewhere in it!
The guitar playing is impeccable.  After 5 years of work, every melody, chord, and harmony was expertly crafted and carefully written.  The overall tone of the guitar is warm and inviting, never do you have a time where the guitar sounds aggressive.  While the main focus of the songs are based around the guitar, what makes the music come to life and sound amazing is the addition to the string parts.  The cello brings a full, low sound to the music, supporting everything happening around it.  The violin takes the lead quite a bit and leads the songs on with beautiful melodies, often times harmonizing with the guitar.  All instruments sound extremely organic and natural, and as far as I can tell, not one digital effect is used to tamper with the music in any way.

Musk Ox creates music that is beyond words.  Expressing such emotion without words is a feat in itself, but doing it in such a way that you can paint a picture in the listeners mind through the music is another.  The release of Woodfall only leaves me wanting more from Musk Ox but after seeing what they can do in a 5 year break between albums, I will be glad to wait and see what they have up their sleeves for next time!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Vihaan - Invicta Review

Invicta cover art
Prog metal is a sub-genre that has been brewing in the background of the metal scene but has never been given the light of day to really shine.  Bands like Dream Theater and Opeth have brought prog-infused music to the mainstream, but past that, most bands struggle to draw a big audience due to the complexity of their music.  You need to find the perfect blend between progressive elements and metal, which is exactly what Vihaan did in their debut album, Invicta.  Since their inception in 2012, nothing major happened until the announcement of their album and the band quickly grew their fanbase.  Now, after taking almost 2 years to develop their album, their sound has already developed into something completely unique, fusing elements of jazz, progressive music, and metal together to create one wicked and powerful album.

Invicta starts out on a high note that features brutal metal vocals and distorted, heavy guitars played in a strange time signature.  There are also sections throughout the album where the heavy is completely turned off and in its place are beautiful acoustic sections extremely reminiscent of Opeth.  This creates an epic masterpiece that equally combines both sides of the genre perfectly and appeals to all sorts of metal fans.  The drumming is unbelievably good.  Their patterns are complex but not so much to where it takes over the music and draws you away from the main focus.  It keeps the beat and adds a bit of spice here and there, but never overpowers.  The sound is clean and well-recorded, every hit, cymbal crash and stick click is heard clearly.  The guitars are the most diverse and beautiful instrument on the whole album.  The heavy, crunchy guitars sound absolutely amazing and drive the music with intensity.  On the other hand, the soft acoustic guitars bring the talent of the members to life and show off the extraordinary skills the guitar player has.  The bass playing is well heard and stands out on its own in every single track.  There are very few points where it is hidden in the background.  The fills are well-written and complex.   The vocals are intense and downright brutal at times, really bringing a strange intensity to music that is comparable to The Ocean's latest album.

Vihaan sounds a lot like what prog music is supposed to sound like and while I don't necessarily like prog-influenced anything, this album really has made me question that.  Appreciators of the great prog bands will be drawn in immediately and while it might take some time warming up to, I think a few death metal fans might start to find this interesting after a bit, as it does have some heavier sections.  All in all, I think Vihaan is off to an extremely good start with their music and will definitely establish themselves as one of the best underground prog bands around.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Dalla Nebbia - The Cusp of the Void Review

Dalla Nebbia - The Cusp of the Void
Every so often while writing for Temple of Darkness, I run across a band that takes my breath away.  While this sounds quite cliche', it is nonetheless true.  This is exactly what happened when I first heard Dalla Nebbia.  Hailing from all over the Western Hemisphere, most of the members have never met each other in person, yet have created some of the most awe-inspiring, jaw dropping atmospheric black metal I have ever heard.  I have heard countless online-based bands and never have I heard such a solid debut full-length from one like The Cusp of the Void.  Most bands that get together in person regularly, practice like mad, gig every weekend, and do everything they possibly can to get their songwriting as good as it can be usually do not produce such a stellar debut as Dalla Nebbia has and they have never had a physical practice!!  This is mind-blowing to me, because it truly sounds like these guys have been going at it for years.
The Cusp of the Void is an album with twisting, beautiful melodies intertwined with folk-influenced acoustic parts and vocals that will blow you away.  The music is truly encapsulating, leaving you in a lulled-state of mind and taking you on a journey through the soundscape they produced.  Each song features new and interesting ideas while remaining around core sound of the band, one that is reminiscent of Wolves in the Throne Room or Vallendusk.   The verse-chorus-verse setup is not found anywhere within the tracks due to a non-linear, progressive attack to songwriting being utilized.  It gives the music new life around every corner and you are never hearing repeated sections over and over again.  When you do hear the same melody repeated, which happens a few times, it is always well received and never annoying.
Now, to delve into the actual music.  The drums are a huge part of this album and while they are hidden under the beautiful guitar melodies and the roar of the vocals, they are easily heard and when you actually concentrate on them, you hear how complex some of the patterns really are.  Through reviewing Dalla Nebbia and his other band, Funeral Age (those reviews can be read here and here), I have become friends with the drummer and have really started to enjoy and praise his style.  His other work is quite different than this and the amount of adaptation he is able to harness truly shows his skills as a drummer.  His technical ability is utilized a lot more in Dalla Nebbia, showing that he can not only play really fast, he can be precise and technical as well.  The bass is not an instrument you often hear in black metal, mainly because it follows the guitar riffs and hides in the background.  This time around, the bass is easily picked out and has its own rhythms a lot of the time, adding another layer to the bands sound.  While there is never a ton of bass work that is showcased over everything else, the skill is still shown nicely.  The guitarist is a talent powerhouse within Dalla Nebbia.  His riffs are mesmerizing.  He is able to write beautiful melodies that float above the rest of the music but also pull off some brutal, palm muted riffs that pack a punch.  The fact that he can do this, along with bringing an acoustic guitar into the mix that sounds like something out of an Agalloch release is astounding.  He also does the clean vocals, which should be featured more because when they are being heard, they sound absolutely amazing!  The harsh screams are powerful but don't cover up any other part of the music.  They keep their distance but shine when they need to, giving the music a nice balance.
I would love to mention that my favorite track off of the album has to be Shade of Memory.  The song starts out quiet and laid back, letting the clean, dream-like guitar line pluck away while a chorus of clean vocals sings over.  The song grows and grows, eventually leading into a super groovy riff that sounds like nothing else on the album.  All of the sudden, out of nowhere, the first melody you hear on the album makes a re-occurrence and leads the rest of the song home.  This really brings the whole album full circle and connects the beginning and end of the original material and that is something that blew me away.  Coming from a band who has never had a physical practice, doing something so complex when it comes to songwriting and coordination of the group is a feat that should be praised.
Needless to say, Dalla Nebbia absolutely stunned me.  Their music truly captures beauty, darkness, death, and life all in one.  The interwoven melodies and at times, downright groovy-ness is unlike anything I have ever heard.  These guys have some extreme talent and the praise they are getting over this album is definitely well deserved.  Their new album is currently being recorded and I cannot wait to hear what is in store for that.  If it is anything like The Cusp of the Void, I don't think anybody will be disappointed.