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.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Bloodwraith - Album Two Demos Review

A couple weeks ago, I reviewed Bloodwraiths first album, As Above So Below.  The album sounded like it was recorded amongst the debuts of Emperor, Mayhem, and Burzum due to its raw and energetic feel of the birth of black metal.  Unfortunately, it suffered from a bit of identity crisis and struggled to settle in to one distinct sound.  Bloodwraith has been writing their second album for a while now and I have the privilege of hearing four demo tracks off of that album.  From what I can hear, they are starting to find their own sound and have even started experimenting a little bit with rock-infused riffs instead of the typical tremolo picked riffs of black metal.

I have only gotten four tracks to listen to and they are all extremely diverse from one another.  There are a couple mid tempo songs, while a few others are quite intense and fast paced.  The riffs that the songs are built around are also quite different from one another.  Out of the four tracks I heard, three songs had pretty straight forward black metal riffs in the veins of old Burzum and at points, Immortal.  On that last song, it starts out like a rock song.  It is so strange when you first hear it, but it eventually grows on you.  It eventually fuses into a gut-ripping black metal song that shreds like the rest of them, but the experimentation with the rock riff is something I applaud them for.
Drumming is a bit more rough this time around.  A click track is obviously not utilized and while it isn't always necessary in black metal, they would have benefited from it in some spots.  I will attribute the mix quality to these being demo tracks, but I would really like to see it cleaned up a bit for the album.  On a few songs, the drums are so overpowering and loud, you can barely hear the guitars.  The kick drum sounds extremely dead on another, kind of like a hit against a tin can but the next track, it roars with life and integrity, leaving me to wonder if they changed recording equipment in the middle of demoing these tracks?  The guitars are quite consistent in their tone, very raw and gritty.  It is a distorted, fuzzy wall of noise that decimates everything in its path.  Unfortunately, some songs lose the guitars in the mix and they are quite hard to hear.  There are also a few more solos here than on As Above So Below, something that makes these demos sound interesting.  Black metal isn't known for tremendous soloing and there are actually very few black metal bands I enjoy who solo in their music, but Bloodwraith makes it work.  The solos fit perfectly within the music and they are not a nuisance within the song.  The vocals are a part that have improved greatly.  On As Above So Below, they were the part of the album that I thought suffered the most.  I'm glad to say that on these four demo tracks, they have improved, but not fully.  The screams are still top notch and really make you want to bang your head but the weird King-Diamondish scream that is a one-off thing is so out of place.  It does not sound like it fits in the music at all and I would rather hear a brutal, menacing scream in its place.  The clean vocals were a bit less present and when they were there, they were a bit more tolerable this time around.  I believe that they just fit into the music a bit easier and made more sense with what was happening around them.

Bloodwraith is definitely on the right path with their sound but still have a bit of oddities within their music.  Oddities are definitely a good thing, though, as they really do show the experimentation and the freedom Bloodwraith is taking with their music.  Hopefully this album really dominates because after listening to these demos, I have very high expectations for it!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Temple of Katharsis - In The Beginning Review

In The Beginning cover art
Temple of Katharsis is a black metal band formed in 2011 in Greece.  While not much information is known on the band, their first and only demo as of now speaks for itself and really proves the band as a force to be reckoned with.  The demo, spanning only 9 minutes, is a mix of first wave black metal influences with the punishing sounds of well known second wave bands like Burzum and 1349.

There are only three tracks included with this first release and all are quite short.  Don't be discouraged by this, though, as every track is a flesh-ripping piece of sound that will leave you screaming for more.  The evil atmosphere that hangs over every track is one that cannot be ignored.  The music feels very dark and has a murky overtone to it, giving it that evil overtone.  The drums are well played and diverse.  I was never annoyed by anything the drum patterns did, which is quite rare from smaller releases.  Bands that just begin don't have their own defined sound, so they tend to copy their influences and the drumming, especially, starts to become repetitive.  With Temple of Katharsis, the drumming is exciting and really adds life to the music.  It is a shame that the drums are almost completely lost in the mix and can barely be heard at some points.  On the other hand, the vocals are so forward that they get in the way of everything.  This is not a bad thing at all, as they are quite good.  I immediately thought that they sounded a bit like Ravn's vocals from 1349.  The menacing shrieks and gut-wrenching growls shine through the music with ease.  Hidden in the middle of the mix is the guitar.  The riffs sound something close to 1349 and at points, mixed with the likes of early Venom.  It is a unique blend of two different forms of black metal and it works nicely.  All three songs sound quite varied and unique to one another.  In 'Dark Tormented Souls',  ToK shreds with a devastating tremolo picked riff until a slower, three chord progression chimes in and becomes a focal point for the rest of the song.  From the sounds of it, 'Dark Tormented Souls' is the high point of the album mainly due to the fresh and unique songwriting style.

Temple of Katharsis is off to an amazing start in terms of songwriting.  Unfortunately, all their songs end up being quite short and with only 3 songs released so far, who knows if they will be able to keep their diverse sound going for long.  As for 'In The Beginning', it is a work of pure black metal that Satan, himself would be proud to listen to and I cannot wait to hear what else these guys have in store for us!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Picture Ann - A Bone Case for Papery Skin Review

Picture Ann is a strange band compared to the normal music I review on Temple of Darkness.  It is a unique and strangely unsettling mix of dark ambient with doom metal and black metal influences.  Their latest album, A Bone Case for Papery Skin is an instrumental journey through one's mind, exploring the deepest and darkest thoughts within ones' self.

Like I said, the album is completely instrumental.  There are only instruments and melodies to tell a story.  Picture Ann has a natural knack for being able to do so, as the soul member utilizes his talent for creating dark and desolate melodies to weave into the music.  This creates a dull and solemn atmosphere which is unsettling and at times, a bit disturbing.  It almost makes you a bit squeamish while listening to it, at points.
The instrumentation is quite unique as it incorporates elements of metal but also jazz and classical as well.  Just imagine Pink Floyd mixed with the sound of Cathedral or Candlemass because at times, that is what it sounds like!  There is not very much percussion present within the release but when it is, it compliments the other instruments well.  It doesn't stand out, nor is it meant to.  The guitar work is incredible in the sense that it is used in so many different ways.  It is used as a droning noise in the background but also a lot for the melody in front as well.  Sound effects are also utilized to give the atmosphere a bit more kick instead of the music just sounding like an instrumental band.  The synth parts sound quite creepy and scary at times, which mixes amazing with the sound of the blues-oriented guitar in the background.  Another part of the release that I typically don't compliment in reviews is the artwork.  The dark and depressive nature of this massive church that is looming over you is the perfect visual representation of Picture Ann's music.  It is a terrifying picture but also quite beautiful.
Picture Ann is a band that some metal heads will like but others wont.  It isnt an album that I could play every day and love every second of it.  It is my background music when I am just hanging out around the house and not doing anything in particular and it works very well like that!


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Bloodwraith - As Above So Below Review

Hailing from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Bloodwraith is an intense black metal band that sounds like it was recorded back with the big bands of the genre in the '90's.  With one full length and a small promo under their belt, Bloodwraith is onto a good start in terms of a unique sound.  Their admiration of old school black metal has a massive impact on their sound.  Mixing that with modern aspects black metal makes As Above So Below an interesting release.

As Above So Below starts off with a very strange piano/synth intro that seems a bit out of place.  The spacey, futuristic feel of the track doesn't fit with the rest of the album very well as it sounds very well produced.  With that being said, the musicianship on the piano melody is astounding.  A fast moving, blues-oriented lead that would better fit a power metal album, but impressive none the less.  In the midst of the album, there is another keyboard interlude.  While the melody fits the tone of the music a bit more, it still feels very out of place.  I do like the track though, as it has a gothic overtone, something I love when it comes to piano melodies.  The other hints of keys spread throughout the album are not as out of place as the two tracks.  The drumming on the album is quite solid but at times, a bit unorthodox for black metal.  Nevertheless, its impressive and keeps the songs going along at a steady tempo.  The guitars sound exactly like old Bathory, Emperor, or Mayhem recordings.  They have a raw and primitive overtone and sound like a buzz saw.  The riffs are not crystal clear but have enough definition that you can hear them.  The vocals are another part of this release that are quite strange.  The first hint of them that you hear is a replica of the easily recognizable King Diamond shriek.  From then on out, you don't hear anything close to that again.  The growls are intense and menacing.  The Bathory influences can be heard above anything else in the vocals.  Introduced a bit later in the album are vocals that sound a bit like chanted lyrics.  Like the King Diamond screech, they don't really fit in the music and sound a bit out of place.

Bloodwraith is off to a good start in defining their own sound.  The solid songwriting is there and the musicianship is quite good.  I do believe As Above So Below suffers from a bit of an identity crisis, though.  The keyboard tracks sound out of place, as do some of the vocals.  While they are not a major part of this release, they are still a hindrance to the listening experience too big to ignore.  Once Bloodwraith focuses more on what they do to sound like instead of all the influences they want to incorporate, I think their releases will be absolutely killer!


Monday, September 22, 2014

Dunnock - The Rainy Season EP Review

The Rainy Season cover art
About a month ago, I was introduced to a project called Dunnock through Acephale Winter Productions.  I was asked to review their promo tape and was extremely pleased with what I heard.  It is definitely not for everybody because of the sheer intensity of the music and the raw production but for those who did understand and enjoy it, the 4 track promo tape was an extremely rewarding listen that kept you wishing for more!  Well, those wishes have been granted with Dunnocks most recent EP, The Rainy Season.  Released through Sylvan Screams Analog, it is a terrifying release that is a bit easier to access than the promo tape, despite there being an even darker overtone on the music at hand.

The Rainy Season starts out hard and heavy, instantly drawing forth the sounds from their previous material.  Distorted and fuzzy guitars, menacing, reverb-laden screams and an overall dark atmosphere.  Melody was used a bit more here than it was in previous releases but is pushed aside for the most part to let the vocals shine and show off their power.  There are a few samples that are used sparingly to enhance the creepiness of the sound.  They sound like old radio transmissions that are forever lost in a tangle of static, giving the tracks that harness these samples to have an apocalyptic vibe to them.  The vocals are definitely the focal point here and while it is near impossible to distinguish what is actually being said, you can feel the emotions in them and within the track without knowing what the lyrics are.  The passion within the vocals is easily heard and if you sit down and focus on the music, you really understand the meaning behind them.  The guitar riffs are substantial and very big in The Rainy Season.  There is a lot more depth to the sound and you can distinguish from one note to another, which is a change from past works.  It is really nice because the sound has shifted a bit towards depressive black metal instead of drone.  A lot of the drumming and guitars were improvised and some of the recordings were first take recordings, so this is as raw as one can get.  That is very impressive considering all songs sound extremely well prepared and written!

Dunnock is a project that has impressed me in the past and has once again impressed me now.  I only look forward to what is coming next and hope that it is still this good!  Maybe the next release will be fully improvised, even down to the vocals?  Who knows, because with Dunnock, everything seems like a possibility!


A while back, I did a review and then an interview with the main man behind Sviatibor.  I was extremely impressed by his latest release and he hinted to me that he had another band starting up, a melodic black metal band that he would be working on with a friend.
Path To Suffocation (Demo Single) cover art
 Nervengeist, the band that he was talking about, has just released their debut demo single and I am extremely impressed!  When you download the music from Bandcamp (as a name your price download) you get three tracks, an intro, the main track and an orchestral remix of the main demo track.  The sound quality is incredible for a demo and the musicianship is astounding.  The orchestrations are rooted in the likes of old Cradle of Filth, while the instrumentation and vocals works are reminiscent of Emperor and their classic debut, In The Nightside Eclipse.  In the short 12 minutes that this demo has to offer, the atmosphere builds to an unprecedented high and leaves you begging on your knees for more!  This is an unbelievable debut that I am extremely proud to promote.  You will not regret heading over and downloading this demo, I can promise you that!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The End - you made the rain disappear Review

The End is an experimental raw-gaze project from India.  I have never had any exposure to raw-gaze music before listening to The End but I have become quite fond of some aspects of the genre.  The combination of black metal instrumentation and lulling, dark ambient sections is nothing new to black metal but The End does it in such a way that it feels like you are listing to separate movements of the music.  Delving in deeper to their demo, you made the rain disappear (No, the title is not capitalized, it drives my OCD nuts!), there were some elements that seemed strange and out of place, but the music is all based around being experimental, giving the strange aspects an excuse to rest upon.  

The strange structure to the music really emphasizes the experimentation done within this demo.  At one point, you are listening to a section of music that sounds like post-black metal and before you know it, there is a droning synth line playing and it is quiet and relaxing.  The instrumentation is quite rough and the mix is not up to par with what most want it at.  The drums are extremely noisy and loud, while the guitars are somewhat lost in the background.  You can hear what the guitars are doing for the most part but they do become very quiet at points, leaving nothing much to listen to other than the same pattern blasted over and over on the drums.  The vocals are an extremely odd addition to this music.  At points, they are loud and in the way of letting the music do what it does best.   While the vocals do add a bit to the music, I think The End would have benefited without most of them.  The growls on 'ashes in the wind' are actually quite amazing and fit the style of music perfectly.

 The part that I really enjoy within you made the rain disappear are the ambient sections.  Ambient is something I am becoming quite fond of and I really do see the beauty within it.  The End transfers between metal and ambient quite smoothly and always is able to calm the mood of the music within these quiet sections.  Most of them have an uplifting aspect of them but there are some that sound quite scary, giving the music a good balance in emotions.

After giving this demo a shot, I definitely would listen to more of The End's material.  A band like this will grow and expand with every release, so I am curious as to where they end up going in terms of sound and atmosphere.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

September 18th Weekly Three!

Well, I wasn't too on time with this one but it kind of keeps up with the theme of these weekly threes, getting pushed back farther and farther!  Anyways, onto the music!

Immortal - At The Heart Of Winter
Immortal - At the Heart of Winter
When I first started getting into black metal, I was into all the big name bands that you originally think of when it comes to black metal; Burzum, Emperor, Mayhem etc.  Immortal was always a name that was floating around but I never really took the time to listen to them.  I then watched their live DVD of a performance at Wacken Open Air 2007 and was quite impressed.  Their style is so old school influenced, especially their sound.  Their riffs don't exactly stick to the stereotyped black metal styles of tremolo picking and fast chords.  They take a simple approach and use Venom inspired riffs with first-wave black metal influences, something very unique in the black metal world, especially at their time.  When I decided to pick up an album of theirs, the first one that I found was At The Heard of Winter.  I instantly recognized most of the songs off of it due to them playing them on the live DVD.  After delving into Immortal's discography a bit more, I realized that this is one, if not the staple album of their career, and with good reason.  Every song has a solid riff that the whole song works off of, a kickass drum line that just rattles the ears of the listener and a very unique and amazing story told within the lyrics.  While there are only 6 songs, they are still nonetheless all amazing!

Satyricon - Satyricon
Satyricon - Satyricon
Satyricon is yet another controversial act that I thoroughly enjoy.  Back at their beginning, they were a staple black metal band that really hit it home with their album The Shadowthrone.  Their unique blend of medieval themes and 2nd wave black metal style influenced many bands of that time and still does today.  After releasing one more album in the vein of black metal, Satyricon took a turn and went to a simpler style of music.  The drums were toned down a bit and took a different approach to the patterns those familiar with Frosts work are not used to hearing.  The guitars were moved away from the tremolo picked, reverb-laden riffs of the past and are now played with such clarity that you can hear every single note.  Melodies, typically dark ones, are utilized to keep that element of evil within their music, but their genre is more what I like to call 'black rock.'  The true 'kvlt' metal heads hated this and many have veered away from the modern Satyricon sound, but I for one love it!  Like I explained with Cradle of Filth in a previous weekly three, bands need to expand and change it up once in a while and Satyricon is definitely doing so, especially in their latest, self titled album.  The reason I selected this album to feature instead of Now, Diabolical is because of one reason, Phoenix.  That song is such a criticized one but I, for one, think it is unbelievably beautiful.  The chilling atmosphere that Sivert's voice creates while Frost and Satyr rock their classic style behind it creates a truly haunting atmosphere.  It is a gloomy song that has so much emotion welled up inside of it, something that wouldn't be possible on that level if Satyr did the vocal parts.  If you have not heard the song, or the album, go and listen to it with an open mind, I promise you won't be disappointed!

Nevermore - The Obsidian Conspiracy
Nevermore - The Obsidian Conspiracy
Nevermore is a band that has made a considerable impact on the world of dark, melodic metal.  Their first few albums are staple hits that most every metal head has heard of at least once.  When I first came across Nevermore, I was in 8th grade, I believe.  I just recently bought an Ipod and had very little music for it, so my friend offered to throw some of his music on it for me!  I was quite excited because I knew he had a lot of metal and I was just starting to get into heavier music.  When I first got my Ipod back, I didn't even know where to start.  There were hundreds of bands on there and I had no clue who any of them were.  I remember just randomly scrolling and then hitting play on bands to see if their music appealed to me and that is how I discovered Nevermore's The Obsidian Conspiracy.  To this day, that is one of my go to albums if I can't think of anything else I want to listen to because when I listen to it, I am never disappointed, nor bored.  The darkness of Warren's voice is unlike anything I have ever heard and he can utilize clean vocals instead of screams, making the haunting aspect stick out a bit more.  The instrumentation is simple in hindsight but when you really listen, you'll realize how complex the parts really are.  The guitars take use of technical scales and riffs while the drums compliment those riffs nicely.  Everything about this album is amazing for me and I cannot listen to any other Nevermore album without eventually coming back to The Obsidian Conspiracy.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Funeral Age - The Martyrdom Come Review

Funeral Age - Thy Martyrdom Come
So last week, I reviewed Funeral Ages' first album, Fistful of Christ.  It was an energetic, intensified death metal album that was impressive for debut material.  After a line up change that resulted in the addition of a new drummer, Funeral Age came back in 2010 to once again destroy their fans with another epic death metal opus, The Martyrdome Come.  Featuring a clean, refined sound and a technical feel, Funeral Age melts faces once again in what could be the best underground death metal album I have ever heard.  I am far from one for death metal.  I adore almost anything black metal, as well as doom, but something about the look and sound of death metal turned me off.  Bands like Obituary and Cannibal Corpse are good for one song, if that.  The different between those bands and Funeral Age is that I can consistently listen to Funeral Age and still get a pumped up, excited feeling when I hear that opening chord instead of being bored right away.  Their songs differentiate from one another in such a way that they remain interesting and don't blend together.  While all tracks have a unique feel to them, they never stray too far from what Funeral Age is so good at doing, writing extremely brutal, yet catchy riffs.

Funeral Age has greatly improved their skills as musicians in the 6 year gap between albums.  The guitarist (who is also the vocalist) has really improved in both aspects.  His vocals are crisp and clear this time, which I am sure is somewhat due to the better production quality.  He has also added in some clean, choir like vocals that sound very Nevermore-esque, something that I applaud.  It gives songs like 'Lives For An Eye' an epic feel during the chorus, where these clean vocals shine through.  The guitar playing is quite amazing because it sounds massive!  Obviously, more than one guitar track was laid down in the studio but the sound is so big and in your face, it still is quite impressive it was only done by one guy.  The tones between the two main guitar lines that are constantly present are quite different, leaving anyone to believe that two different guitar players are behind them because playing style does play a huge role in the tone of the players guitar.  The bass is present in the music where the guitars are shredding a solo or running a quick, tremolo picked riff but it doesn't really get much of a chance to stand out on its own and shine for a while like it did in the previous album.  When I break the music down and look at it as different sections of the band, the drumming has to be my favorite part.  It is perfectly in time and sounds very cleaned up compared to Fistful of Christ.  The technical ability of the drummer is stunning, as well.  His speed and stamina is quite impressive, even for a death metal drummer.  The actual sound of the kit is massive and booming.  Every piece of the kit was carefully mic'd and shines through clearly in the mix.

Between the blasting intensity of the drums, the screaming cry of the vocals or the shredding sound of the guitar, Funeral Age does not disappoint.  Energy is at the forefront of their music and while their musicianship is excellent, the brutality is something that really sticks out to me.  While it isn't gore-filled, smashing-faces brutal, it still has that kick to it that really hits you hard.  Honestly, death metal has never sounded so good!


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Paimonia Interview

Paimonia was one of my favorite bands to review in the last few weeks.  Their music is packed full of energy and the founding member, B.V. is an extremely nice guy to work with.  I had the extreme pleasure of working with him and then getting to interview him about Paimonia and their recent album, A Disease Named Humanity!  Check it out:

Where does the name Paimonia come from?

Term „Paimonia“ is a synonym for Paimon, one of the kings from Hell which is more obedient to Lucifer than any other, according to „Clavicula Salomonis Regis“ (1904), a 17th-century spell book. As a teacher of arts, science & philosophy, Paimon can reveal Earth’s, wind’s & water’s mysteries. In the previously mentioned spell book, he represents the 9th spirit who rules over 200 legions of spirits, a half of them are form angelic phylum, other half from phylum of potentates. „Pseudomonarchia Daemonum“ (1577), a spell book focused on demonic invocations written by a German occultist Johann Weyer, describes Paimon’s loyalty to Lucifer & the ways to invoke him.   

Is your music or lyrics in any way connected to your name?

Not at all. The name for the band was given by a previous member while we were searching Christian demonology for appropriate, sounding & powerful name. He was more into occult kind of stuff, so you can hear his influence in the lyrics on the first material we released. After we parted ways, I continued with a totally different concept of the band, both musically & lyrically, & only thing I kept was the name which I, from the very beginning, liked the most.

How did this project come to be?  What are some of the musical inspirations that influenced you to form Paimonia?

Idea for the project existed since 2009/2010 if I remember well. I was playing in a several local bands at that time, doing some local shows, nothing serious/special, so as time went by, I was more serious about creating something on my own. At the very beginning, it’s been really hard to find the right people that would be maximally devoted, there were also struggles with the line-up in the period of 2012 & 2013 until I decided to continue Paimonia as a one-man project without any live performances since then. Later on, N.P.V. (current drummer & producer of recently released „Disease Named Humanity“ full-length album) joined to help with the recording sessions & proved that he is probably a right person for Paimonia’s work, so he is, at this very moment, one & only full-time member, along with myself, of course. 
Music that mostly inspired when I officially formed Paimonia were bands from the Swedish Black/Death metal scene, such as Dissection, The Moaning, 
Mörk Gryning, Vinterland, Craft etc.
Today, I don’t really have a musical influence when I create new material. For example, one day I listen to Miles Davis, other to Vlado Georgijev, day after that to De Profundis, three totally different genres of music, so there’s no limits in music for me personally, I try to be open-minded as much as I can.   

Non-music inspirations?

Personal philosophy, thoughts, opinions, emotions etc.

Your debut full length, “Disease Named Humanity“ came out last year.  How has the response been?

Pretty much okay, I’m satisfied with the response so far, over 30 reviews for the album are written & I hope it will remain that way. There will be a live promotion of the album on 20th of September in our hometown Novi Sad & that’s the only show booked for now. I can’t guarantee will we perform live after this concert, but if we get a good opportunity, certainly we will not refuse it.     

Where was the album recorded?

It’s recorded in „Svarun“ Studios in Novi Sad, Serbia.

How long was the writing/recording process?

To tell you the truth, I’m not quite sure how long was the writing process. Some arrangements & lyrics are from 2011, when we were creating the first EP. There are some riffs from 2012 as well, but in general, most of the material is written during 2013, same year when we also recorded it.
Recording sessions lasted for 7 days, 6 for the recording & 7th for the mixing/mastering. Like I said above, it’s recorded in „Svarun“ Studios in Novi Sad, Serbia, during second half of November 2013.

The album artwork is very specific, who stands behind it?

Complete visual aspect of this release is done by MRŽNJA, under auspices of „Hostile Takeover“ Design Studio. I’m very satisfied with his work, although we’re really good friends in private as well, he really knows his work, a really professional, accountable & creative person I must admit. From the start he understood the whole visual concept I imagined for this release & that’s the most important thing I wanted to achieve with the designer, for him to „bring out“ my ideas, put some of his  as well & also, to make the relationship between lyrics and booklet, in this case, for drawings to describe both album title & lyrics. 

You have a very unique guitar tone, particularly on the higher register of the guitar.  What sort of equipment do you use and was the overtone intentional?

Nothing special & unique in my opinion, I play Jackson DKMGT with active EMG81 bridge & EMG85 neck pick-ups, sometimes I combine it with Digitech Metal Master distortion pedal, depends on the amp I’m playing on. As for studio work, I use M-Audio Audiophile 2496 external sound card, Nuendo 4 recording & post production software with various VST’s. All in all, I’m not really a "gear guy“ to tell you the truth.  

How is the black metal or metal scene in general in your area?

Pretty strong at the moment I must say. In my personal opinion, the most promising ones & my personal favorites are surely Zloslut, Iskon, Kolac, Ophidian Coil, Dead Shell Of Universe, Samrt, Kozeljnik...  

Where can people purchase your album from?

Directly from the band by writing on bojan.vukoman@hotmail.com or via label’s Discogs page: http://www.discogs.com/label/382874-Humanitys-Plague-Productions 

Finally, what are the future plans for Paimonia?

Currently we are preparing for the previously mentioned live performance, writing new material as well, so we will probably try to promote this release live as well, that’s our goal at the moment.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Funeral Age - Fistful of Christ

Funeral Age - Fistful of Christ
Back in 1997, a band called Suicide Culture formed.  Under that name, the members of Suicide Culture melted the faces of Seattle metal heads until they decided it was time for a change.  Thus, Funeral Age was born!  Officially changing its name in 2003, Funeral Age began a reign of destruction over their home city.  Featuring only 3 members with only one still in the band today, Fistful of Christ is a testament to the older work of Suicide Culture while adding more black metal infused riffs.  Starting the madness off with a solid, running bass intro, the men of Funeral Age waste no time jumping into the metal.  Within seconds, a crushing guitar riff kicks off and they tear into the first track (that isn't a small instrumental,) Fistful of Christ.  From then on, Funeral Age delivers an absolutely devastating mix of death metal drumming and blackened death metal riffs throughout the whole album.
In every song, the guitar work is what sticks out the most.  From impressive shredding solos to dominating and powerful riffs, Funeral Age really sticks out in terms of technicality.  There is not a track on this album that lacks in impressive guitar work which is hard to say for a lot of albums.  The guitar work seems to sound like later-age Dissection when they turned a bit away from black metal and added some death metal elements into their music.  The bassist also gets quite a few chances to shine through and really show off his talent as well.  The intro to the album features the bass, something quite rare for death metal.  Towards the end of the album, there is an instrumental section that is only guitar and bass.  While somewhat out of place, the instrumental work on it is quite good.  The drumming is very good for this type of music.  Too often do you hear death metal bands revolving mainly around blast beats and after a while, the music starts to sound bland and uninteresting.  Here, the kick drum is utilized to really drive the music forward more than the snare and cymbals.  The fills are extremely impressive and precise.  The drummer is extremely talented with his hands and has incredible dexterity when it comes to creating extremely fast and technical patterns.  The vocals are an interesting piece of this album.  There is a hint of Pantera-esque vocals in the first few tracks, but also some hints towards Insahn's style in the later parts of the album.  This might just be me, but there seem to be a lot of black metal influences at play here.
Honestly, I am not one to like death metal very often.  Fistful of Christ is an album I have found myself constantly coming back to for more because of its sheer energy.  It is pure testosterone-fueled metal, giving the listener a great rush of adrenaline.  The instrumental track, Requiem of the Condemned seems a little out of place and doesn't keep the high intensity feeling of the other tracks going.  That being said, this is definitely an album to check out for anyone looking to bang their head and pump their fist!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

September 7th Weekly Three

Well, here is another one!  A lot more people are starting to view these, something that I never expected to happen.  I am glad that through this silly little thing I do, people are learning about new music and actually enjoy my writing!  Now, without further ado, the three featured albums this week!

The 69 Eyes - X

The 69 Eyes are a gothic rock band that calls themselves 'goth n' roll'.  I got into them a few years back through the band HIM and was quite weary at first.  I loved the image of the band but the music I originally heard was not the greatest material they have ever written, so it was very much an acquired taste for me.  Their more recent albums appealed to me a little better, so when X came out, I was very excited.  I was a fan of the single 'Red', released a month or so before the album came out, so I was waiting at the door of the record store to pick up a copy on the release day.  I was instantly obsessed with the album, so much that I went and imported a copy of the vinyl from Europe (it is extremely hard to get a copy nowadays.)  Songs like the opener, Love Runs Away and slower ballads like Borderline really stuck out to me because of their groove.  The 69 Eyes found a good rhythm, dug in, and rode it out for the duration of the song, something that I love.  Sometimes, bands fall into a songwriting structure and soon enough, all their songs sound just about the same.  During the early to mid 2000's, The 69 Eyes became one of these bands and all their material sounded bland and uninteresting.  Fortunately, X broke that pattern and through in songs like Borderline, which infuses modern acoustic rock with a western vibe to it.  The solo is one of my favorites that the band has to date.  It is simple but the chords blend so well in the song.  This is one of the best 69 Eyes records that they've released and I am more than excited for their new material!

Emperor - In The Nightside Eclipse

Being an avid lover of black metal in all forms, this is the staple album for the genre.  While my first exposure to black metal was through Cradle of Filth, this is the first album that really hit it home for me.  I was more into things like doom metal and such when a friend let me borrow his copy of In the Nightside Eclipse.  In a few of these weekly three's, I have said that I have become obsessed with some albums.  In fact, I even said it above in the 69 Eyes one, but let me tell you, obsessed is an understatement when it comes to talking about how into In The Nightside Eclipse I was.  Each and every track was beautifully crafted.  All instruments were performed with such grace that the riffs stuck out over everything.  The haunting keyboards, while very thin and underutilized, were arguably the most important part of the album, building that creepy and cold atmosphere up to its highest potential.  I could go on and on about how much I idolize this album because it is one of my favorite albums of all time.  After getting into an album like In The Nightside Eclipse, the rest of Emperor's discography was sort of a disappointment to me.  I have grown to appreciate the rest of their work, but ItNE will always be at the top of my list!

Ghost - Opus Eponymous

Ghost is quite a controversial act in the metal world.  While the release of their debut album, Opus Eponymous was well received and loved all around, their 2nd album sparked the topic of them just being pop metal rip offs.  In late 2010, I was on a family vacation and while flipping through the pages of a Decibel magazine, I noticed an article about Ghost playing at Roadburn Festival (I think, I don't remember exactly.)  Anyways, he described their music and at that time, it sounded like every other simple review out there, but the way he described their get up and their stage presence memorized me.  I instantly went and searched up their music on Youtube and fell in love.  When I arrived home from vacation, I ran down to the record store in hopes that they had a copy of the album, but I had to order one.  I was in every day for a week, hoping that my CD came and when I finally got it, I listened to that thing non stop.  It is a super short listen, only about 35 minutes, but when lies within that 35 minutes is pure genius.  The riffs are solid and diverse, keeping every song interesting.  The lyrics delve into deep topics but always revolve around one central topic, Satan.  While the music was not overly complicated or difficult to play, the simplicity and relaxed nature of the songs were exactly what was such a turn on.  Overall, Ghost is an act that I follow like clockwork  and will always support them no matter what, but no other release that the future holds for them will ever surmount to the level that Opus Eponymous is on.

Veldes - To Drown In Bleeding Hope Review

Veldes - To Drown in Bleeding Hope
This is a particularly hard review for me to write.  I listened to Veldes' EP, Skyward and also reviewed it here previously to reviewing To Drown In Bleeding Hope, leaving me a bit biased on the album.  However, I will attempt to deliver a solid review of the material at hand!

Veldes is is an atmospheric black metal band started back in 2012 by Tilen Simon.  Within a year of inception, a full length album was released, that being To Drown in Bleeding Hearts.  While TDIBH plays it safe and lacks the unique sound that many other atmospheric black metal bands have, there are some amazing high points within the album.  Atmosphere is highly emphasized throughout and tracks like 'Earth as a Nest of Bones and Debris' display this perfectly.  The use of sampling is one of the best I have ever heard and while listening, a sense of gloom and sadness emerges when hearing a diary entry from the 2009 film The Road.  Unfortunately, the atmosphere that the sample builds up is let down by the music that follows, although I do commend Tilen because he has the right idea of how to use sampling effectively.  

The playing is quite simplistic and uses a mix of distorted, fuzzy guitar tones and painful, eerie screams to build an atmosphere.  There are never any shredding guitar solos or extremely fast riffs, instead there is an emphasis on melody, something that seems to fit very well within Veldes' music.  These melodies are usually dark and depressing, bringing out sadness within the listener.  The riffs that make up all five tracks are drawn out and very memorable.  Drumming is most likely done by a drum machine but sounds incredible.  A lot of time was spend making sure that the fills fit the music and the patterns were exactly how they should sound.  The bass drum does stick out a lot and gets to be rather annoying after a while.  It sounds very empty and dull and that sometimes distracts from the other aspects of the music.  The vocals are heavily emphasized throughout TDIBH.  They are very melancholic and depressing.  They deal with many topics that provoke sadness and while reading the lyrics along with the music, you truly understand what Tilen is aiming for in terms of atmosphere and the feeling he wants his listeners to have while hearing his work.

Veldes is definitely on the right track in terms of songwriting and structuring a beautiful release.  The incorporation of elements of doom metal and a heavy emphasis on melody creates a haunting atmosphere that is recognizable the instant you press play.  While there are a few minor flaws, To Drown In Bleeding Hope is a good stepping stone to what Veldes is truly capable of producing.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Auriel - Demo 2014 Review

Demo 2014 cover art
Back in 2011, Isaac Arcturian formed Auriel, a one man atmospheric black metal band.  After 3 years, they have released their debut demo.  Featuring only two tracks, Auriel delivers black metal that is packed full of haunting atmospheres, tortured screams and beautiful melodies, all within 16 minutes.

Atmosphere is a big part of the demo and is presented in many different ways.  The use of cold and haunting guitar riffs, howling winds and booming double kick forms an unforgettable feel to the songs.  The mood of the tracks constantly shift around.  At one point you could be enveloped in a sense of loneliness and despair while the next moment you feel like a light has shown over the landscape and you are surrounded with the beauty of the forest.  The drumming on the demo is powerful but in the background enough so it does not cover up anything that is going on.  While most likely programmed, time was put into the tracks to make sure they do not get repetitive and boring.  The patterns change quite frequently to avoid this and there are some fills thrown in to help transition from one part of the song to another.  The guitar riffs are very diverse and help to set the mood of both tracks.  From clean, finger picked melodies to distorted, hard-hitting chords, Auriel does it all.  There are also some odd riffs thrown in that break free of the black metal structure and bent the rules a bit.  One particular example is in the intro track, Syysmyrsky.   The rhythm and lead tracks play an upwards scale and suddenly pause for a beat, then repeat.  It is a strange riff to hear in a song like this, but oddly enough it fits with what else is happening in the song at that point.  The vocals are not present for much of the demo, giving the music room to fill up the space and speak for itself.  When they are present, they sound tortured and scary, adding to the haunting atmosphere.  At points, they are very reminiscent of the vocal work done on Darkthrones' Transylvanian Hunger.  They are very far down in the mix, making it extremely difficult to understand what he is actually saying.

After lying dormant for three years, Auriel has finally shown its true potential through a mere 16 minutes of music.  While always keeping a dark atmosphere at its forefront, Auriel delivers truly powerful riffs and beautiful melodies, sometimes at the same time.  After this impressive debut, I am quite excited for what Isaac has up his sleeve for his next release. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Avitas Interview

I reviewed Avitas' latest record, Northern Ghosts a few weeks back and was presently surprised.  I have heard of the project before but never listened to them, but I am very glad I finally did!  I was given the chance to interview the man behind Avitas and it turned out to be the lengthiest interview I have ever given!  Check out what he has to say below, there is certainly a lot of detail you wouldn't find anywhere else!

Where does the name Avitas come from?

The name Avitas has two meanings in relation to the band name, one being sativa spelled backwards, and the other being related to aviation and the cosmos.  There is not much more really to say on that one, I just felt it would make a good black metal name that reflected my inspiration from space and the the vast cosmos as well as having an ancient sound to it.

Why did you choose that name for your project?

Being from northern British Columbia there were very dark nights and the stars and space were clearly visible, along with many frozen nights with skies full of aurora borealis to enhance certain states of mind. These aspects all tied in to the inspiration for the name that was adopted in 1997 out of the ashes of the doom/stoner metal band Alien Tab.  The new song "Boreal Nebulae" was inspired by the Northern Lights as well.

Avitas has been around for quite a few years now, tell me about the journey you have come on with Avitas?

I can't really believe how long it has been going, I guess I am getting old!  Avitas has been labelled as black metal, death metal, war metal, psychedelic metal, black/thrash metal and probably a few more I don't remember, but the sound and guitar style has always remained Avitas.  Avitas was formed in the first year after high school in 1997 and the first E.P. entitled "Piece of Mind" (I didn't realize Iron Maiden had that title already, didn't really listen to them at the time) came out in the winter of 1997.  It was recorded at the community college on an 8-track reel-to-reel recorder and was pretty heavy and experimentally psychedelic.  I was in a music production program and we didn't have digital recording until the second year of my program. The 1999 album which was really more of a collection of demo tracks entitled "july" which was all recorded during the program and contains some wildly experimental forms of metal, but was really more for school purposes and not a commercially "released" album.  I moved to Vancouver, British Columbia in 1999 and attempted forming a black metal band there but in the end I couldn't afford living in the crazy expensive Vancity so we relocated to Kelowna, BC and I formed a live version of Avitas from 2000 to 2005 or so, releasing the Trends in Terrorism (2001, in March well before the events of 9/11) full-length and the Smoke E.P. (2002)  during those years, and the Politics of Nordic Terror live album captures some of those performances from 2003.  A couple years later the Politics of Global Mind Control album came out and it was one of the most political and musically technical albums Avitas ever released, but I was unhappy with my vocal performance as it was not very practiced or rehearsed.  Conrad Cormier handled the vocals for the previous few years before returning to his home province of Quebec to form the band Tomahawk Carriers, he also differed with the war metal views of the lyrical content, but remains a true comrade to this day.  I went deep into researching the Nationalist Socialist philosophies and the Third Reich, a subject I have been studying for many years now, and recorded the Saga of the Nationalist album in 2009. I employed a very old-school approach to the riffs (early Speed Metal and Black Metal were on the record player quite a bit in those days).  For various legal and health reasons, Avitas' former drummer was unavailable for the album recordings so a drum machine was used up until Northern Ghosts.  I vowed after the Saga of the Nationalist album never to record another album with drum machine again, and I kept my word until I finally acquired drums and practiced enough (barely!) to perform the drums on the release Northern Ghosts in 2014.

What first inspired you to start your own project?

In high school I was in a very raw stoner/doom/thrash metal band named Alien Tab with my cousin on bass and a friend on drums that lasted until sometime in 1997 and I simultaneously started Avitas, mainly because I wanted to play a heavier, darker style of metal than was being played in the scene at the time.  I have always been very vocal with my anti-religious, anti-Abrahamic views, and no one in the scene seemed to keen on using my lyrics or Scandinavian style guitar compositions (the political/misanthropic views of Avitas would also alienate a few members over the years).  My cousin understood the black metal ideals before he converted to Christianity, he was into black metal in late '97 along a couple other guys, but that was about it for black metallers.   There was a pretty good speed/thrash metal scene in Northern BC and Alberta at the time (the Smalls come to mind) so that influenced the early years of Avitas in the riff style and the lyrical content has always had a political slant, but the core message and production have always been in the black metal ethic.  

What are some of your musical influences?  (Artists/bands)

Musically, there have been a couple albums in particular that have had a lasting impression on me, the first being "Shout at the Devil" by Motley Crue, my first true taste of the Devil's Music and followed with Metallica's "Justice," Sepultura's "Arise," and Megadeth's "Countdown" albums.  I still remember the cold winter night in 1997 when I first heard Mayhem's "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" on my CD player.  I was blown away and at the same time emboldened because I knew I had finally heard some kindred spirits and I had even more pride in my Norwegian heritage for producing such righteously true music as evidenced with the second wave black metal bands.  The first Burzum album and it's remote frozen atmosphere tripped me out to an equal level as my personal desert/space metal favourites Monster Magnet and Kyuss, and I have always drawn a connection between isolationist Stoner Metal and individualist Black Metal (even the guitar tone is eerily similar, just compare early Darkthrone with early Kyuss).  I remember Gorgoroth's "Pentagram" album really had the riff styles I enjoyed to hear and play and I listened to that album countless times.  Lately I have been almost exclusively listening to underground black metal such as Torgeist, Mystifier, Blasphemy, the Pagan War Rex artists like Iron Woods and Warforged, and classic war metal from Archgoat and Beherit, all of whom have probably influenced the recent sound of Northern Ghosts and will influence the Avitas sound going into the future.  In the end I just write the music I want to hear and that I feel in myself, and I don't really try to be orthodox in the writing style for any specific genre, it is just the Avitas sound, but subconsciously everyone is influenced by the previous musical output of other artists they listen to.

Has your region influenced your music at all?

Immensely, British Columbia is the most visually inspiring place I know, and being in the presence of so many mountain ranges is quite humbling.  The wildlife and untouched nature has inspired the environmentalist ideals of Avitas lyrics and concepts, and hiking through the northern wild (unarmed besides a knife) under the influence of certain fungal edibles will put your life in perspective in the grand scheme of nature like nothing else. You listen for the cougars and bears, they are a legitimate threat when you are tenting in the woods, especially in Canada's wonderful National Parks!   I think the term "Cascadian Black Metal" actually encompasses the entire Northwest region of North America, from northern California to Alaska, the feeling seems to be the same, don't fuck with our forests, our freedom, or our water!   Avitas also promotes the many "agricultural benefits" of British Columbia, Oregon, Alaska, California and Washington state including the sacred cannabis herb.  I would guess a fairly high percentage of so-called Cascadian Black Metal musicians are familiar with the herb and the psilocybin mushroom.  I think it is also a very powerful feeling to be raised in such a grand natural environment, city-dwellers who never leave the city limits will never really have that connection to the vast wilderness, and for the black metal scene protecting nature and the forests this has always been a foremost subject. Just look at Hate Forest/Drudkh, Negura Bunget, Burzum and the rest of the Nationalistic "forest" black metal bands who have a firm "Blood and Soil" connection with their homelands and a real sense of duty to protect the raw wilderness of their countries, this has been a recurring theme for black metal and definitely a result of the influence of the land on the artists. 

Your latest album, Northern Ghosts, just came out.  Tell me about the writing and recording process?

For the new album I made a conscious decision to reincorporate the psychedelic elements of Avitas that I had abandoned for the last few years and albums, and at the same time put forward a more stripped down recording process. The album was recorded in Dec 2013 through Jan 2014 so it was a relatively quick recording process.  I love analog stompboxes and every effect you hear is generated from the arsenal of pedals in the pedalboards.  Many experimental sessions were undertaken to find the tone on the "Intro to the Heathen," and I love the Rush inspired results. The songwriting just kind of starts with a riff, and I build a song around it, then I let the ideas settle for a while before committing them to posterity as most times I scrap half of the songs before the final edit.  For every Avitas album, the performances are all played complete from start to finish, no editing or looping or studio magic.  If I screw up a riff on a 13 minute song, I stop and begin playing at the start again, it is just the way I feel comfortable with the artistic results.  Most of the time there is only one guitar track per speaker (both different takes instead of just doubling the riff on the other channel) to get a more raw sound and maintain the two guitar effect.  Cutting, looping and pasting the vocal, drum or guitar parts is not part of my production morals, and it shows in the unkempt time signatures on Northern Ghosts, so you be the judge!  Some people did not appreciate the lo-fi black metal production values, but it is the sound I was looking for.  Anyways, I used my vintage '70s M&M mixing board made in Winnepeg for the recording of the album,  with one SM57 mic and a cheap knock-off for a bass-drum mic, resulting in the desired murky effect.  My original studio computer and ancient recording program self-destructed after the final mixes of the Northern Ghosts album (I attempted a remix before the album was released and the program and all of the audio files had disappeared from the corrupted hard drive, luckily I had the final mixes saved on the other computer), so I am currently putting together the new studio for the next E.P., hopefully out next year.  I plan on cleaning up the drum sound a touch on the next album, but no major shifts in recording philosophy on the horizon.

Was it recorded at a home studio?

Yes, all of the Avitas albums with the exception of the "Piece of Mind" E.P. and the "july" album were recorded in the home studio (aka Odin's Den) in Kelowna, BC.  Having a home studio just allows for the recording process to be without time or money constraints so I can focus on the music, sure it might not be the top of the line equipment but that is not the point of black metal.  The best black metal in my view sounds best on vinyl or cassette, but I have yet to release a cassette of Avitas, perhaps the next EP will appear on plastic and magnetic tape.

How do you feel about this material compared to your older material?  

I think it is the most true to my beliefs, and I actually wrote a few personal lyrics on this album as opposed to all the previous albums, which shied away from personal thoughts in favour of broad political ideas.  Musically, the minimalistic style of the songs and the rock and roll attitude of the psychedelic elements of Northern Ghosts truly capture the feel and the message of living free from all Gods and emperors, representing the Satanic ideal of the God within each man.  I went through the shred/technical competition aspects of guitar playing in the past and quickly separated Avitas from that mindset (no solos on most songs) and simplified the songwriting to reach a more primal base.  I also have been moving away from the blatantly political messages and trying to convey more of an esoteric view of the world only to be understood by the knowledgeable, and less about trying to educate the sheeple.  Basically the earlier Avitas work still held some hope for society and humanity and was a bit preachy at times, but the misanthropy in my heart has taken over in light of the negative way society has evolved since the "terrorist" attacks of 9/11 and the technologization of human communications.  The NWO/Bildeberg group and the Military/Prison/Industrial Complex are alive and well and people are just going along with it, not even being outraged when they find out such things like the NSA spying/data farming situation.  But enough politics for now, in short I am comfortable with the current sound and direction of Avitas, as I have grown more steadfast in my views and lost most of the naive ideals of my youth shown on the early albums.

Do you like it better or worse?

I prefer the sound presented on the newer albums, I feel the Avitas sound has matured into what it should sound like with the addition of live drums, and I am truly satisfied with the new album and Saga of the Nationalist.  The gradual phasing out of the occasional thrash/ heavy metal riffs in favour of the pure black metal ethic has been an evolution for Avitas, and some people definitely prefer the earlier albums with the war/black/death mix as heard on "Politics of Nordic Hate" live album, but in the future I would expect the sound to continue on the path shown on the Northern Ghosts album, with a black/war/psychedelic sound.

How do you feel about the black metal scene as a whole right now?

I think black metal is where it belongs, thriving in the underground with hordes of great bands continuing to show the world that our movement is gaining strength and it didn't just stop with the second wave.  I personally listen and support all of the many subgenres of black metal, as long as the anti-Abrahamic message rings loud and clear!  This especially goes for the new Canadian wave of anti-Islamic black metal, truly a sub-section worth checking out (see Panzerfaust, Kafirun and Svolder, amongst others).  The old guard Norwegian bands have been releasing some great stuff lately as well, I really enjoyed the new Mayhem album and the last couple Immortal and post-prison Burzum releases before he quit metal.  I even liked the new Watain, a wild hunt which some of the kult hordes did not appreciate.  If black metal ever becomes popular, then our mission to destroy these feeble desert faiths has truly succeeded, so I welcome a Watain/Mayhem stadium tour of America!  Sadly I don't see it happening soon, however.

Are there any underground bands that you think are worth checking out?

I mentioned a couple of these bands earlier, but they are worth noting again.  I just saw the Ontario black metal band Panzerfaust in Vancouver, and they were quite good with evil atmosphere, highly recommended.  Iron Woods, Warforged, Kafirun, Holocaust Lord (from Victoria, BC), Sanguinary Misanthropia (black/war metal), Qassam (crazy anti-Islamic black metal), Satan's Satyrs, and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats have all been on heavy rotation on the stereo lately.  The new Uncle Acid album "Mind Control" is creepy and heavy, great album if you want a break from the black metal.

If you could only listen to 3 albums for the rest of your life and nothing else, which three albums would you choose and why?

Darkthrone - Transylvanian Hunger - atmosphere and riffs
Alice in Chains - Dirt - atmosphere and riffs
Mayhem - De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas - atmosphere and riffs

It really is all about the atmosphere for me, that is why I listen to music.  I don't care how many 32nd note triplets someone plays a second or any of that math metal technical wankery, music has to make you feel something.  I know Alice in Chains is not very "true" for black metal but the morose aura of that album is as eerie and sinister of a listen you can have, and they were local heroes for the Northwest metal scene (they were more metal than grunge in my opinion, especially the early stuff).  The other two picks are pretty self-explanatory classics and I can't possibly add anything to the existing praises of these masterpieces!

Finally, what is in store for the future of Avitas?

There will be an upcoming compilation highlighting the early Avitas recordings on Bud Metal Records, the music is more of a black/thrash/death mix in the early war metal vein as opposed to the more recent paganized black metal Saga of the Nationalist and the current Northern Ghosts album.  I have been throwing some ideas around in my head for the new songs so I plan to start writing in the winter and get an E.P. out later next year.  There is some talk of forming the live unit of Avitas again, so that is on the radar as well, but I will need to recruit a new drummer and that is sometimes difficult in this genre of metal.  Avitas and Bud Metal Records have recently teamed up with PHD in the UK for exclusive European physical and worldwide digital distribution, so the recent releases are available through Plastichead.  Avitas CDs/downloads are also available through avitas.bandcamp.com or order from your local record store through Plastichead.com (PHD) distribution, North and South American customers through Pagan War Distribution,  and on most digital music services.  There will be more new music and blasphemy coming from Avitas for the foreseeable future!

September 2014