the underground music magazine    

issue #10 October, 2002

 


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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

Negura Bunget had been a totally passable band on their first two records. Then, the muse came to them. With the release of their third album, Maiastru sfetenic, the band was transformed. Dark and weird, the atypically packaged album showed that this Romanian black metal band had found a direction and concept. I knew Negura Bunget was worth giving another try when Christophe Szpajdel, the mad logo designer of black metal (interview issue #7) cited Maiastru sfetenic as an album that literally scared him.

Maiastru sfetenic reminded me a good deal of Weakling, which you may know is one the all-time favorites of many of us at Maelstrom. (For the record, Weakling has not been outdone.) So I was curious: where did all this inspiration come from? Had Negura Bunget heard Weakling? If so, was it that band that threw a switch in the Romanians' heads? Read on and find out. You'll also get a free lesson in Romanian from band leader Negru, as well as his tips on what to do when traveling through the Eastern European country.

Maelstrom: Hello, Negru. I guess it would be best to start off by asking you to tell us about Negura Bunget. Firstly, what is the meaning of your band name? What do the names of your albums mean?

Negru: Negurã Bunget is a black fog coming from a deep dark dense forest. The name tries to picture somehow the kind of atmosphere, both musical and spiritual we'd want to create through our music. It has also a symbolical nature, standing for the inexpressible parts of our ideology. The two words are also from the Tracic substrate of the Romanian language (the oldest one, containing about 90 words) as the interest for our local history and spirituality is something of crucial importance and meanings for us as a band.

Zirnindu-sa is from Ancient Romanian meaning something like turning to black, dying... Sala molksa is even older than the Romanian language. Both words came from Indo-European language, the mother of all modern languages. Its semantic content is in close connection with our Dacic ancestors supreme spiritual value: the immortality.

Maiastru sfetnic is probably the hardest one to put in English. Although is in a more up to date Romanian language the two words are really close to a Romanian point of view. Would be something like a spiritual advisor, magic protector or majestuous counselor in English, though it's completely different in Romanian.

Maelstrom: Negura Bunget comes from Romania. While that may not be of much interest in terms of being a pop band, to a genre like black metal that thrives so much on the "cult" factor, it is very interesting. Could you talk to us a bit about what starting a black metal band in Romania was like and how it is continuing your musical careers in this fashion?

Negru: I'd first say it's quite a paradox situation here. While so many people both from inside and outside have a deep fascination for these lands and their inner spirituality, there are very few local bands dealing with such matters of their musical approach. But in the end I guess it's something like nobody should play with such powerful things...

For us starting a Black Metal band here was more like natural thing. We were only two members at the beginning, now we're three, so we see this Black Metal involvement as personal spiritual endeavor. It was like that from the very beginning and it will remain like this until the end. We first stared under the name of Wiccan Rede, and used more like a general approach towards Black Metal, and we passed to Negurã Bunget and to a more deep and spiritual thing when we felt we were ready for that.

Maelstrom: Your latest album, Maiastru sfetnic, marks a huge development in your band's sound. It is vastly superior to the two other albums that Negura Bunget has released. What do you think it was that caused this tremendous focusing of ideas and presentation?

Negru: I think it was more like a natural development. I mean we worked a lot on this album, more than two years, rehearsing all the time 4-5 times a week. We also worked as much on the spiritual background of the album, as well as on its graphical presentation (we even did all the digipaks by hand in the end).

Maelstrom: In fact, I am very much reminded of Weakling's Dead as Dreams when listening to Maiastru sfetnic (especially song #2). Am I correct that your improvement was inspired by this band?

Negru: I can't say I heard about Weakling... sorry! But now that you mentioned it, I'll try to get a hold on it if possible...

Maelstrom: Speaking of track 2, there is a very weird but totally interesting whistling noise present at the beginning and end of the song. What is the source of that whistle and what gave you the idea to include it?

Negru: Actually that sound is made on the guitar. It's quite a usual technique I think we invented there, but at the same time that's one of the best parts we composed so far... I can also say it sounds a lot more devastating listening to it live...

Maelstrom: And so now you will be releasing a new album. Will it be even more weird?

Negru: As for the new album... well I don't know what to say... Sometimes is seems to me it's pretty strange, sometimes it's quite a more normal one... You'll have to listen to in on your own I guess... If you'll do that, let me know what you think about it...

Maelstrom: What is the name of your new album? If it's a Romanian name, what does that mean? When is it coming out and what label is it on?

Negru: Well, hopefully with the new album Code666 will arrange a European tour for us... They work with Metalyse Agency, so it could be a really good one it the end. So I'm confident we'll do such a tour soon...

The new album's name is: N crugu bradului. Unfortunately I'm not yet prepared on how this goes in English, but would be something like "deep down the heights of the fir trees spirituality"... It will be out on Code666, probably on October (we already recorded it, but we still have to do the mastering, the cover... we'll have again an even stranger cover).

Maelstrom: Let's talk about the drumming in Negura Bunget. You sure like your china cymbal, don't you? How long did it take you to build up the stamina to play double bass that fast for that long?

Negru: Yeah, I'm quite a big fan of china, though I'm aware I exaggerated a bit with it, especially on Sala molksa. I've been playing drums for almost 10 years now... and I started with the very beginning with a double pedal, and I never stopped using it... I plan now to get a brand new Axxis double pedal, which is one of the fastest ones.

Maelstrom: Negru, you also put out a publication called Negura Magazine. Please tell us a bit about that. Maybe you could tell us about the various non-metal centered articles that are featured. Those in particular sound very interesting.

Negru: Yes, we released three issues of it so far, one per year, starting with 2000. The last issue came out in March this year, in 40 A4 pro-printed pages, featuring interviews with Emperor, Lux Occulta, Avenger, Malevolence, Thyrfing, Cruachan, Petra - The Goddess of Desire, Blood Red Throne, Avrigus... as well as some articles on Plato and the Initiation Unto Truth, The Dacians, Fractals and Religions, Traditional Civilization. We're working on a new issue to be out later this year this time hopefully in 70 A4 pages, and with a deeper artistic touch. As the name says it (Negura - Central European Ideological Magazine) we have a lot to do with ideology. I've tried from the very beginning to explore the spiritual content that might generate a meaningful musical act. So far we had different articles on topics such as Comparative Religion, Mythology, History, Traditional Mentality. On each issue there were some quite extensive such articles, and I'll try to develop constantly this dimension of the magazine. We also made a new website for the magazine at www.negura.ro both in Romanian and English, so in the future we'll try to work on both versions of the magazine, trying not to make them redundant, but each with its own identity.

Maelstrom: I once read that Romania isn't the ideal place for tourists to visit. There were stories of increased prices for foreigners and dilapidated hotels. Where in Romania do you live? Is it a big city? How do you like living there? Is there any truth to these reports that I read?

Negru: We live in Timisoara, which is quite a big city, also one of the most western ones Romania (both geographically and mentally). We enjoy living here, and I couldn't say there's such a big difference if compared with other European cities.

As for those reports, I'd say they are partially correct. Almost all the hotels here used to have different prices for locals and foreigners. But for a while I think this was forbidden by law! The quality of the hotels... well it depends. There are lots of poor quality cheap hotels the same way there are lost of big high class ones...

Anyway I'd encourage any metal fan interested is seeing some spectacular landscapes or imposing ruins to came here see for himself. There's always the option of using a more man to man kind of tourism here, to sleep in a small village in the mountains, eat some traditional menus... and see the real hospitality of the normal Romania inhabitants. This way you'll have better conditions at an incredibly lower price...

                  

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

Swedish bands always blow me away in terms of how tight they are. The Forsaken raise this high standard even farther. Their latest album, Arts of Desolation, may not be the most interesting record you'll hear in terms of the appeal of the actual songs, but you can't help but marvel at the amazing guitar solos and the jaw-dropping skills of the drummer. Lucky that The Forsaken's skinsman, Nicke Grabowski, was available for an interview...

photos taken from www.theforsaken.net

Maelstrom: What do you do for a job, Nicke?

Nicke Grabowski: I'm working passage control and security systems. Like, for example, hotel locking systems, with a smart card/ magnetic card. It's not so funny, but you have to do something for a living.

Maelstrom: Well, I'll tell you what: I'm mostly interested in talking to you about drums. I'm a drummer, and listen to guys like you play and I wanna learn about how you got to play like that; what you do in your routines. We'll talk about the new record a little bit, of course. We can get that out of the way.

Nicke Grabowski: Ok.

Maelstrom: What do you think of it? Are you satisfied with it?

Nicke Grabowski: Of course we all are very satisfied with it. I think it's always like that. All in all, I think the arrangements have become much better for the new album. It's more straight; more a punch to the face.

Maelstrom: The thing that I like most about the album are the solos. The solos are really melodic. The rest of the album is really, really brutal, but the solos come along, and it's kind of a break.

Nicke Grabowski: Yeah! I think both the guitarists are listening a lot to these guitar heroes like Steve Vai, Steve Morse and Joe Satriani, and that's maybe why they want to play these kind of solos. I like it, too. I think, like you said, it's a great break to have in the brutal music. It feels like some kind of relief when you can get your breath for when the next time the brutality comes in, you know? And it colors the music, instead of always sounding static.

Maelstrom: I always am amazed when I listen to bands from Sweden at how tight they are. I had heard some story once in an interview about why Swedish bands are so good is because the government pays for practice space for bands. Is that true?

Nicke Grabowski: It's true, in a way. The government makes lots of contributions to rehearsal rooms. For example, we pay $17 dollars a month each for a rehearsal room. That's pretty cheap, because we get 25 square meters.

Maelstrom: That's nothing, man.

Nicke Grabowski: I know. It's a big collective of rehearsal rooms. The guys who run it are getting money from the government to keep it up.

Maelstrom: Do they have instruments at these places, or do you have to bring your own?

Nicke Grabowski: No, we have our own instruments. There is the possibility to make coffee and food, and stuff like that. There's a studio as well; kind of like a cafeteria but without people selling food to you. You have to make it yourself if you want it. It's not like that at all places in Sweden. We have it like that; I like it.

Maelstrom: How did you discover metal?

Nicke Grabowski: One of my relatives took me to one of his parties when I was like, eight years old, or something. There was an Iron Maiden cover band playing at his party. The drummer, I wanted to get him to teach me. He taught me the standard beats, and then I was on my own.

Maelstrom: Iron Maiden is obviously a HUGE influence on Swedish metal. It seems that there are more bands from Sweden who were influenced by Iron Maiden that any other countries' bands.

Nicke Grabowski: I think so, too. I love them as well. I don't know how much money I've put into that band: buying DVDs, videos, CDs, LPs, whatever. (chuckle)

Maelstrom: What do you think of that band Nifleheim? Have you heard of them?

Nicke Grabowski: Yeah, I've heard of them.

Maelstrom: Apparently there's a story that they were going to record a new album but they had to delay it because they spent all the budget on Iron Maiden stuff.

Nicke Grabowski: Yeah. Did you know these guys used to be in a national commercial in Sweden? Hahaha. Yeah. I think it was some kind of insurance commercial, that you had to keep your stuff safe. It was about Iron Maiden stuff. They had so much Iron Maiden stuff they wanted to keep insured. It was crazy, you know? They're driving around in an old American Trans-Am, and stuff like that. "Hey guys, look what we have! Don't come and get it." Hahaha.

Maelstrom: What kind of drums do you have?

Nicke Grabowski: I changed my drums two years ago. I play on a Tama Star Classic set. I have a 22" bass drum, three toms and two floor toms. I use 10", 12", 13", and 14" and 16" hanging floor toms.

Maelstrom: What kind of cymbals do you like?

Nicke Grabowski: I like Sabian because they don't crack as easily as all the other cymbals I've tried out. You know, it's expensive to play drums! Especially metal music, it's like you're cracking cymbals like you're changing underwear. And that's hard for your expenses. But I like it. It depends, sometimes you want your right crash to be a little bit more bright. You want to have a big spectrum of sound. Sabian has lots of different kinds of cymbals. But my hi-hat and my ride are Paiste Signature series, 'cause I haven't found anything that I like to play as much.

Maelstrom: So you never like to play cracked cymbals? I know some drummers keep cracked cymbals and play with them. They like the fact they don't sustain as much.

Nicke Grabowski: I play cracked cymbals in my rehearsal room. I have cymbals that are too expensive to play in the rehearsal room. I only use those for recordings and live shows. I used to always play on non-cracked cymbals, but, hu-hu, I have to put my money in other things as well. Like, I want to buy a motorcycle soon.

Maelstrom: Oh, that's cool. What kind of motorcycle do you want?

Nicke Grabowski: Do you know anything about motorcycles?

Maelstrom: A little bit.

Nicke Grabowski: Honda has a new model out, called BTX. It's 1800ccs.

Maelstrom: Oh, my God...

Nicke Grabowski: Yeah...(laugh) It's like a Harley Davidson, but much bigger, so the Harley guys will be afraid of me when I come cruising down the town. Hehehe. But it's expensive. It's like a $16,000 motorcycle.

Maelstrom: So, you always have to be making noise. (laugh)

Nicke Grabowski: Yeah, exactly. Hehe. I like that. That's why I want to buy something like that. Not a Japanese race motorcycle. I used to have one of these because I like speed, as well. If I would have the money, I would buy both, but, hehehe, you can't have everything, as my girlfriend used to say to me when I get too excited buying things. I'm a tech freak: I like computers and hi-fi systems, and stuff like that. I don't know why I ended up like this. Huhu. Buying expensive stuff and I don't have money to do anything else.

Maelstrom: How old are you?

Nicke Grabowski: I'm 26.

Maelstrom: Oh, same as me.

Nicke Grabowski: Yeah? It's a great age. I hope it will stay like this. I don't have to get older right now. You get closer to 30, and that's horrible.

Maelstrom: Yeah...I'm trying not to think of it that way...

Nicke Grabowski: I always think that I am closer to 20 than 50. It's easier that way.

Maelstrom: How much do you practice a week?

Nicke Grabowski: It depends on how much I have to work. Usually, we have a running schedule for 3-4 times a week - the whole band. Between that I try to go down one or two rimes by myself for a few hours and try new stuff out. The guitars have some riffs that I want to put some cool stuff to. I go down with a tape and freestyle. I have looped the riffs and try over and over to come up with new beats. It always ends up with a thrash beat. It works with all riffs. I don't know why.

Maelstrom: You guys are, it seems to me, always playing in 4/4.

Nicke Grabowski: 4/4 mostly. Sometimes we play in 3. We try to mix those up, but it's always hard to arrange songs when you have to break the beat into another kind of beat.

Maelstrom: In terms of a drummer who wants to get better - to model after someone who's already really good - how much should you practice a week, or how much did you practice a week to be able to get as good as you are?

Nicke Grabowski: Before I practiced like three hours a day on the days we weren't rehearsing. On those days, we rehearsed for like four hours, or something.

Maelstrom: Even now?

Nicke Grabowski: Uh, yeah. We rehearse for four to five hours. It depends. We used to go down to our rehearsal room, play through all our songs from both albums. After that we'd sit down and write new material, and try riffs out. We also take pauses, of course. So we play for two hours, go out and drink some coffee, we'll take a beer - it depends on what day it is - and after that we try to rehearse for two or three hours more. You have to be like that.

Maelstrom: Then you get to a certain level and you maintain?

Nicke Grabowski: Yeah, of course. If you don't play, you drop the skills. Especially when it comes to not being exhausted so fast. Especially with this music: you're totally blown out after a show. But that has to do a lot with technique as well. If you learn a good technique, you don't have to be that exhausted. But most of the big drummers use triggers. I don't. I don't like to play like a sissy, not hitting the drums properly. I like to bash them. Also when I play blast beats. So, it's much harder to play blast beats for a longer time when you want to hit the drums properly.

Maelstrom: So the drums on the album aren't triggered?

Nicke Grabowski: Uh, yeah... I used triggers for my bass drum. It's easier to boost the bass drum sound when you record. That's why we use the triggers. We used triggers for the toms, but only the signals in order to put a high-pitched attack above the acoustic sound. We didn't have any sampled sound. Of course there are really good drummers that use triggers for the whole drum set, for example Nick Barker. He's really good, and you can see that when he plays live as well. I think it's a lot to your playing style and what you want to do when you play. I would like to try it out, especially when it comes to playing in the rehearsal room and we can mic that out to the PA system. Maybe we won't have to rehearse with such a volume that we have now. Maybe you'd be able to hear the bass drum.

Maelstrom: I think that can be kind of dangerous. A friend of mine doesn't have a choice: he plays those electric drums in his house and he records on them. He says when he goes back to regular drums, it's like he can't play them anymore.

Nicke Grabowski: I know what you mean. It's more that I want to hear my bass drums when I rehearse. The bass drum always drowns in the sound at the rehearsal room. I would not use electronic drums. It's kind of a different feel.

Maelstrom: I've played those things a couple of times and it feels weird.

Nicke Grabowski: Yeah, I agree. You don't get the whole feeling like you get on an acoustic set.

Maelstrom: So run me through your practice routine. You said three hours. What do you do?

Nicke Grabowski: When we rehearse as a band we go through the songs. That's the best way to practice. Even though you have played a song like 200 times, it's good practice. When we play the old songs, the ones that if someone would wake me up in the middle of the night, I can sing those songs for you.

Maelstrom: I don't think I'd like to hear you sing those songs in the middle of the night to me.

Nicke Grabowski: No. No, don't. (laugh) No, but, I always try to put new stuff in when we practice the old songs. Sometimes I go down and do snare practices, like rolls.

Maelstrom: So, who taught you to do stuff like that?

Nicke Grabowski: I figured it out myself. The most basic beats I learned from that guy I told you about before. Everything else I learned by myself.

Maelstrom: So you never took any lessons?

Nicke Grabowski: No. When I think back, I would have liked to have done different. I would like to have taken lessons. Maybe I would be even better. But the older you get, the lazier you get. The band is getting bigger, so that means we have to rehearse more. When I have some free time, I like to do different stuff so I don't get too fed up with music. But in a way I always listen to music. At work I listen to music. Then I go to rehearsal, and when I go home I listen to music again.

Maelstrom: What do you like to listen to most lately?

Nicke Grabowski: I got Corrosion's latest album. I bought the latest DVD of Iron Maiden... And now we're back to Iron Maiden again! (laugh). I listen a lot to Throneaon. They sound like Vader and Deicide... a much better Deicide. It's really too bad what [Deicide] has done on their two latest albums. They are boring live. When I saw them it was '92 or '93, In Denmark. I was really looking forward to seeing them. But they had bad sound and they didn't play well and they were totally boring on stage.

Maelstrom: I was reading your lyrics, and it seems that they were just thrown in at the end. Is that true?

Nicke Grabowski: Uh... yeah. Especially on the latest album. I like to write lyrics, but when we entered the studio on the latest album we had two songs' lyrics ready. I was stressed out to write lyrics and I will not do that again, I can promise you. For example, I want the lyrics to be better, and I want the vocal arrangements - even though they are pretty cool - I think they can be much, much better, more interesting, more varied. Let's see what happens on the next album. I have started writing lyrics already.

Maelstrom: I never listen to music - especially with extreme metal - for lyrics.

Nicke Grabowski: Most of the time I agree with you totally.

Maelstrom: It's really a contrast to hear people talk about other types of music and how they like it because of the lyrics.

Nicke Grabowski: This music is guitar-based music. The vocals are a fifth instrument. Of course, if you have really bad lyrics, it can destroy the overall feeling of the band. When I buy a CD and the layout is very professional, and the music is very good, and you go visit the website and it's also professional, you get this feeling of the band. It gets better with all the small details.

Maelstrom: Who's the best metal drummer in Sweden right now?

Nicke Grabowski: Peter Wildoer of Darkane. Also, I like Matte Modin of Defleshed.

Maelstrom: He's AWESOME.

Nicke Grabowski: He's crazy. I heard him making a sound check when he was playing with Defleshed. He was just toying around with his cymbals, and it was clear that this guy knows more about drumming than he's showing. He's kind of a jazz drummer. Also, the guy from The Crown (Janne Saarenpää.) He has a really cool style when he plays. He's kind of different from all the other death metal drummers.

Maelstrom: Can you describe your technique when you play blast beats?

Nicke Grabowski: I try to use my fingers. Also, I'm not a one-foot blaster. I use two bass drums. I try to figure out ways to play so you don't get so tired.

Maelstrom: Nicke, I think this is the end of my time. Any last words? It's been really cool talking to you about drums and stuff.

Nicke Grabowski: Yeah! It was cool! Actually, you were the first one that has interviewed me so much about drums! I have to say I really liked the interview.

Maelstrom: Oh, I'm glad.

Nicke Grabowski: Because, you know, most of the people always try to ask about really deeply about lyrics and a lot, lot, lot about guitar. They always try to find the most boring question in the world: "can you please tell me the history of the band?" That's the question I would like to erase from history. I HATE that question.

Maelstrom: Hahaha! I mean, I don't want to say I don't care, but, I dunno, I don't think it's that interesting.

Nicke Grabowski: No, it's not.

Maelstrom: You guys made a band.

Nicke Grabowski: You know what I mean. Most of the bands have similar story. "Ok, we're five guys. We met up in high school. We had fun together, we made a demo. We got a deal. And now we're recording albums." It is basically like that all the time. So, it was cool. For the fans: I hope that we are coming to the States, because you guys are always giving us very good support. About 10 fan mails a day from the States.

Maelstrom: You read your fan mail?

Nicke Grabowski: Always. You can write me at nicke@theforsaken.net.

       

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

Anaal Nathrakh's debut album, The Codex Necro, had been REALLY hard to get in the US. (Meanwhile, it was readily available at HMV in the UK. Go figure.) So there had been massive buildup around the Maelstrom camp concerning this band. I mean, it HAD been nominated as Terrorizer Magazine's album of the month.

Despite this prestigious award (or, at least, one would think is a prestigious award), distributors had never even heard of Anaal Nathrakh. It makes you wonder if people who sell metal actually keep up with the scene. It doesn't help that Anaal Nathrakh is on Mordgrimm, a label that probably has its shit the least together despite putting out some great stuff. (The Condor has made it a personal quest to obtain the new Old Forest, which has been granted highest priority cult status at Maelstrom due to a similar distinction of having received a "1" in Terrorizer). Regardless, all this rigmarole and mystery only increased the cult factor, thereby making us want it more (of course). Boy, did it ever deliver. The Codex Necro may very well be the angriest record ever. The turbo overdrive black metal attack fronted by the most depraved vocals knocked us all for a loop.

Who is Anaal Nathrakh? It seemed that that may have been a tough one to answer, based on the liner notes that contained misanthropic-to-the-max warnings and advance refusals to do interviews. However, it turns out that if you just dig a little, you'll be able to find the origins of Anaal Nathrakh's two members, Irrumator (who's involved in several other bands, like Mistress) and V.I.T.R.I.O.L. The latter turned out to be the current vocalist for Benediction. Irrumator's real name is Michael Kenney, which only has been revealed here because Kenney is also an aspiring artist, and you can find his art under his name on various sites on the internet (see below for links and samples of art). Anaal Nathrakh's story was getting more and more unexpectedly interesting.

Maelstrom: Your debut record, The Codex Necro, may be the angriest, most intense black metal record ever. What elements of you're real life inspired/drove you to begin this project?

Michael Kenney: Well, there is a sound in my head which I have had for a very long time - I always searched for this sound through various bands and genres but I never found it - eventually I because good enough on my instruments to be able to create this sound myself, and therefore Anaal Nathrakh was born.

Maelstrom: How many guitar and bass tracks did you lay down for The Codex Necro?

Michael Kenney: The is always two main rhythm tracks for the guitar and then I add another in the background playing some kind of chords and stuff - most people mistake this third guitar for a keyboard, but I can assure that there is never any keys on the Thrakh. There is only one bass track.

Maelstrom: Where did you get the artwork for The Codex Necro, which features various pictures of people with plastic bags on their heads and being strangled by bloody red tentacles? Have you seen the cover art for Deranged's Deranged? The two albums' look reminds me of each other.

Michael Kenney: I produce all the artwork for Anaal Nathrakh myself - the guy getting suffocated is actually my younger brother. I haven't seen the Deranged cover no - but maybe some of you out there should check out my art at www.geocities.com/micks_art

Maelstrom: Will interested fans ever know what the lyrics to your songs are? Do you find that the lyrics are secondary to the way they are delivered?

Michael Kenney: Well, I never really talk to the vocalist about his lyrics; I guess they are kinda personal so you would have to ask him really.

Maelstrom: You have just recorded an EP's worth of material that will feature guest appearances by Aborym's Sethlans Teitan (guitar) and Attila Csihar (vocals). Please tell us about the EP: When can we expect to get our hands on it? How did you hook up with the Aborym guys and how was it working with them?

Michael Kenney: The EP (pictured at left) is much more extreme and intense than the codex - and the production is also much better but equally as brutal, it contains 6 tracks which I wrote just after finishing <The Codex Necro> - so it is more or less in the same vein. I hooked up with Seth and Attila earlier in the year when they asked me to fly over to Rome to work on there new Aborym album with them - I laid down some programmed drum tracks and shit. I thought it would be a cool idea to have them appear on our record too

Maelstrom: Anaal Nathrakh seems to be a personal, secretive project. How well do you work with others? Do you see your project growing into a fully staffed band someday?

Michael Kenney: I guess I work with others ok - but if the creation is all mine then I don't like others to but in - as I have a very strong vision of what I want to create, I don't like others altering it - I like to keep it pure. For me Anaal Nathrakh is a studio project based on trying to create the most intense brutal music ever - this would not have the same effect if played live in a hall so therefore I don't feel the need to join with others to create a band, no.

Maelstrom: Speaking of which, do you have any interest in playing your material live?

Michael Kenney: No.

Maelstrom: Have you ever been involved in other bands?

Michael Kenney: Shit, man, I'm in loads of bands. First, there's a band called Mistress which I play drums for - kinda Iron Monkey style sludgy grind. Then there's:
Fukpig - I play drums - it's like proper true English grind core
Frost - old style Grimm black metal.
I have a solo band which I'm working with at the moment called Professor Fate - I think Attila will be joining me with this project - he laid down a couple of vocal tracks whilst he was over here. (You can check out the sound files at http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/276/professor_fate.html - Roberto )

Maelstrom: Your vocalist goes by the stage name V.I.T.R.I.O.L. Is this in tribute to Absu, whose first full-length album hs teh same name? What does V.I.T.R.I.O.L. mean to you?

Michael Kenney: I don't think it has anything to do with Absu, no. I'm not actually sure what this means, hehe.

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

I'm a Goth dilettante. I sort of stumble around the genre, trying to learn something about it and trying to like bands that people recommend to me. More often than not it doesn't take. However, when Maelstrom friend and former contributor Stevil lent me a copy of Black Tape for a Blue Girl's Remnants of a Deeper Purity, I was immediately converted. Further explorations into the band, led by Sam Rosenthal, the owner of the Projekt record label, led me to find some other pretty great albums by this ethereal Goth group.

I like foghorns. They've always had a deeply calming effect on me. The mist, the grounding, droning low sound... This same effect turns up pretty frequently in a lot of the music I like. Stars of the Lid has it, Noisegate has it, and Black Tape for a Blue Girl has it. Black Tape's sprawling, droning explorations that just keep going give me that feeling that make me think of the ocean. Ok, so the vocals can be pretty bad a lot of the time, but that's part of the package deal.

I contacted Sam Rosenthal about a year ago to interview him. He was cool enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions and cope with my woeful lack of knowledge about Goth music.

Maelstrom: What sparked your interest in the music that has become your profession?

Sam Rosenthal: When i was a kid, I was generally into weird music. Alice Cooper,
Jethro Tull, Kraftwerk... It was kind of a natural evolution....

Maelstrom: Tell us a bit about your new album, The Scavenger Bride. The album design is even better than your last works. It is the first concept album that you have released, is it not? What is the meaning of the album's title?

Sam Rosenthal: I feel that she is a "scavenger" because she is searching through the pieces and scraps of her life, in order to try to find the truth about herself. She is looking. It has to do with going through relationships, and their failure, in order to understand a little bit more about who we are. It also has to do with how we crush ourselves down with our own fears and desires, and how that can be a learning process towards whom we want to be.

Maelstrom: With the new album, you seem to be incorporating much more vocals in the music. Certainly this is necessary for a concept album. Do you find creating such a work to be more challenging?

Sam Rosenthal: Not at all. I enjoy writing the vocals as well as the melodies, because I think *that* is the most memorable part of the album. It requires more work and more effort, which pays off in the end with a much more personal and emotional album. (Black Tape for a Blue girl singers Elysabeht Grant (left) and Lisa Feuer (right)).

Maelstrom: I checked out your label's web site and it looks great. It says you started Projekt in 1983. In all the years since you started, what has been Projekt's greatest achievement? What is your fondest memory associated with Projekt?

Sam Rosenthal: Hmmm? I don't know if I really think about it in those terms. I would have to say that the "greatest achievement" is the fact that Projekt is still in existence, nearly 20 years later. Almost every other "little label" has gone out of business, so Projekt's ability to stay afloat is an achievement. That has as much to do with the business sense that I learned along the way, as what the music is. As far as fondest memory? I don't really know. While it is exceptional that Projekt lets me live my life without having a normal job, you have to remember that day-to-day it's a very time-consuming job. Meaning: how fond are you of the job that you have to do, in order to make money to eat!?! : P

Maelstrom: Looking back on Black Tape for a Blue Girl's history, it seems that your project went through a few distinct periods. During the '80s, Black Tape's material was of a more straight up Goth nature. Your first album in the '90s, 1991's A Chaos of Desire, saw you make a strong move into long, largely instrumental ambient material. This culminated into what I think is Black Tape's finest work, 1996's Remnants of a Deeper Purity. That album really solidified Black Tape's signature lush, misty, foghorn like ambience. It now seems that Black Tape for a Blue Girl is entering a new direction with As One Aflame Laid Bare by Desire, which largely retains the framework of Remnants and The First Pain to Linger, but sees a preference toward acoustic instrumentation such as flutes. Please comment on where you see Black Tape for a Blue Girl heading.

Sam Rosenthal: Hmmmm? While I also see black tape's music existing in certain periods, I would disagree with a number of your points. First off, I don't think there was anything "straight up Goth" about the early releases. There were hardly any guitars or drums on them. The first album was half instrumental.... To me, the first period was the first four albums (The Rope through A Chaos of Desire). That covered 1986-1990. It was an album a year.... the second period was 1993-1996 (This Lush Garden Within and Remnants of a Deeper Purity). As One Aflame Laid Bare by Desire and The Scavenger Bride are the next period (so far)...I think the first period was BLINDLY PERSONAL, lyrically. It was purely about me. The second period began to get a little bit more poetic, involving fictitious ideas. The third period is very much about "characters." While there are elements of me in all of them, the last period is the most about "creating stories..." As far as where the band is headed? I can only answer that question after I spend time in the studio and create a new album. I'm never really planning on the content or sound of the album. I need to go into the studio and begin that, to see where it goes. I hope to begin work on more music later this year....

Maelstrom: As stated before, the best way I can describe the sound on Remnants of a Deeper Purity is misty and oceanic. How did you achieve that sound? Am I correct that I hear Asian musical influences on that album? (Elysabeth Grant at left)

Sam Rosenthal: Not at all. For me, Remnants... is about "minimalism" in the same sense as Arvo Pärt or Gavin Bryars. It's about really simplifying what's in the sounds, and letting less be more. That's why I only used the five musicians, rather than bringing in a lot of different people.... "misty and oceanic" is a nice description, I just feel that it got there by different methods than you describe....

Maelstrom: Your album This Lush Garden Within is another one of your very atmospheric albums, and is by far the darkest in Black Tape's discography. At some points on the disk the music treads into a dark ambient (the genre) feel. What was going on at the time of the writing of this album? Also, do you have any opinions of the dark ambient genre?

Sam Rosenthal: Well, The Gulf War was going on at that time. My girlfriend was cheating on me. I think both of those things pointed towards that very dark sound. Kinda of like if you had a burlap sack thrown over your body, and you are thrashing around in a darkened room. Knocking over all the furniture and crashing into the walls. The song "Forbidden" on The First Pain to Linger wasn't used on This Lush Garden..., but it really has that dark ambient sound.... My opinion on dark Ambient? I think that Raison D'etre and Morthond used to do it really well.....

Maelstrom: Two of the most powerful tracks on As One Aflame Laid Bare by Desire are the album ending instrumental tracks. Have you ever considered doing an all-instrumental, ambient album?

Sam Rosenthal: In fact, I actually have. The album is called Terrace of Memories and it was recorded as a collaboration with Vidna Obmana. It was released on Projekt in 1992, I believe. You should check it out..... I also have some "out take" material from The Scavenger Bride. It's all instrumental. I have been thinking of pulling it out and giving it a listen, and see if it's worth finishing and making an instrumental album. It would probably be by "Sam Rosenthal" to keep it separate from Black Tape for a Blue Girl. One track will be appearing on a Projekt compilation -- The Arbitrary Width of Shadows -- which will be out in September.

Maelstrom: Please tell us about how you see the Goth scene and genre. First, are there any mainstream misconceptions of Goth music and its fans that you would like to address?

Sam Rosenthal: I think that the Goth genre is kind of like the tide. The tide comes in and the tide goes out.... at the moment, the tide has gone out and there's not as much interest in the genre. Some of the labels are drying up, and people might think the music is dead. But it will be back....

Maelstrom: Is there a trend to subcategorize the Goth musical genre? Such sub-categorizations abound in genres like metal. If the answer to the question is "yes," then objectively, are the subcategories warranted?

Sam Rosenthal: Sure, they are. It is useful to the fans to know if the music is "Goth Rock" or "Ethereal Goth" or "Goth Industrial." Just so people know what they are buying.... it helps them find the music they like, without wasting a lot of time and money.

Maelstrom: What inspires you to write music for Black Tape for a Blue Girl and support the goth/darkwave genre?

Sam Rosenthal: I write the songs I write because it's the music I wanna hear. I don't do it because I "want to make Goth Music." It's what is inside me.... as far as what inspires me to support the genre. If you mean via Projekt.... at one time it was some sort of naive altruistic idea about doing something good and putting out music that was worthy. These days, it's a business. I like the music, certainly, but I also like to pay the rent and put food on my plate. So by all means, please order a couple of CDs from www.projekt.com (laughs!).

Maelstrom: What is the greatest regret of your life?

Sam Rosenthal: I don't really think that way.... regrets don't really make any difference, and they'd certainly have nothing to do with music. The dumbest thing I did (or didn't do) was I didn't sign London After Midnight in 1992, when they wanted to be on Projekt. I had hoity toity ideas about "the genre." But later, I realized their music turned out a lot like The Cure, who I've always liked..........

Maelstrom: Do you have any other interests that you'd like to share with us?

Sam Rosenthal: Cooking.

Maelstrom: Thanks for taking the time out of your schedule to talk to us, Sam! Please finish off the interview with any final words you may have.

Sam Rosenthal: My apologies for taking SO LONG to finally get around to this..... it's 9:37pm, about six weeks (or six months?) after you sent the questions to me. Projekt keeps me so busy. Thanks for the interview.... I hope it gets printed somewhere...

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interview by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Soils of Fate is a Swedish brutal death metal band that was formed in 1995. They recorded a demo called Pain... Has a Face in 1997 that contained four songs of brutal and guttural death. Soon after that, in March 1998, these guys recorded a three-song promo called Blood Serology. The year 2001 saw the release of their first full length entitled Sandstorm. Here is the email interview I conducted with guitarist Mange about a month back.

Maelstrom: Hi Mange! Please update us on what's happening in the Soils of Fate camp these days? What are you guys up to?

Mange: We're in the final chapter of our songwriting and we hope to record and release it later this year.

Maelstrom: Can you let out some track names? Any name been fixed for the album as yet?

Mange: We don't have a name for the CD yet but some tracks: "Blood money," "I am the same," "Omerta."

Maelstrom: You have a unique name for a band. How did you come up with that name? Is there any concept behind it?

Mange: We sat and discussed a bunch of names but it seemed that all ideas were names that have been used over and over again, so I proposed Soils of Fate, which I took from a Carcass lyric. And we all agreed to use it. I don't know how to explain the concept but my idea of SOF was some type of burial ground.

Maelstrom: How is the support you receive in your country? Are there many brutal death metal fans in Sweden?

Mange: Yeah, there are plenty of brutal death metal fans here, if you call Dismember, Grave, Merciless and Macabre brutal death metal. We play a different style that incorporates a lot of slam parts and breakdowns and is not very hyped here yet. But sooner or later people will have to start opening their eyes and ears to other stuff.

Maelstrom: No, I wasn't really referring to those kinds of bands. Though I still love the old Dismember, Grave, Entombed etc...I always wondered why there weren't more bands like Deranged and Soils of Fate coming out from Sweden, where the tradition of death metal goes back such a long way.

Mange: I guess that people in general just like the old stuff for that reason, because it's old. Personally I don't like these types of bands because they're against everything my band stands for. For them it's all in the attitude and the clothes. For me it's all in the music and to improve my musicianship.

Maelstrom: Listening to your music, Dying Fetus seems to be a pretty big influence. What other bands would you say influence you to make more brutal music?

Mange: How can you not have Dying Fetus as an influence? They and Internal Bleeding started this whole thing. I don't say that because they were first, I say that because they are superior songwriters and musicians. Other bands we look up to are too many to mention.

Maelstrom: Speaking of Dying Fetus, which is your favorite album of theirs? They have gotten a lot more technical now, but quite a few people seem to prefer their older, rawer stuff.

Mange: Yeah, I would like to think that the best stuff with DF are Purification through Violence songs with the Killing on Adrenaline lineup. But to mention a favorite album I'd have to say Killing.

Maelstrom: Have you guys played in the US yet? I'm pretty sure people in the States will freak out over your NY style brutal death sound!

Mange: No, we haven't got to that yet. We'd love to play in the States, but it might take some time to arrange that. We went out on a five-week long European tour with Sanatorium and the response we got was totally amazing. So I can imagine going to the States would be even bigger.

Maelstrom: Which all countries did you tour? Which places would you say gave the most headripping response?

Mange: Czech Republic, Poland, Latvia, Finland, Italy, Belgium, France Germany, Croatia etc... You can find a full listing on our website. Latvia and Croatia were totally crazy gigs and
France was also a huge slamfest. Those people went berserk.

Maelstrom: How long have you been playing guitar? What influenced you to first pick up the guitar?

Mange: I´ve been playing seriously since '94. I guess Dave Mustaine of Megadeth influenced me because he's just an amazingly good guitar player and I wanted to be just as good so I chose to play the guitar.

Maelstrom: Yeah, Megadeth were pretty mandatory listening for any metal head around the early 90's, especially the classic Rust in Peace. So do you feel you have now reached his level?

Mange: In some aspects maybe, I can never reach his level of tightness but I know that I'm capable to play better than him. He's what? 16-17 years older than me? Besides, I've got bigger aims now. How about John Gallagher from Dying Fetus? He's without a doubt the best guitar player in our genre.

Maelstrom: I'm just curious to know, were any triggers were used on the bass drum in Sandstorm?

Mange: Yup, both bass drum and snare were triggered, which we kinda regret. Next time we will use the original snare sound. But then again, it's much easier to mix if you use triggers.

Maelstrom: For the benefit of our readers who would like to know more, could you explain how the triggering of the drum set is done and how it helps in making the mixing easier?

Mange: Well, for example, you put a little trig microphone on the bass drum, which is connected to a drum module that receives the signal from the mic. The module has a huge range of pre-set drum sounds, thus making it possible to have almost any sound you like. The purpose is to get a clear, distinct sound that makes it easy to mix since there is no unwanted noise coming from the triggering. There are other benefits too but I'll leave it at that.

Maelstrom: Name your top five death/grind albums of all times.

Mange:
1. Internal bleeding: Voracious Contempt
2. Dying Fetus: Killing on Adrenaline
3. Internal bleeding: Invocation of Evil
4. Deeds of flesh: Trading Pieces
5. Malevolent creation: In Cold Blood

Maelstrom: Do you like any black metal?

Mange: Not really, the only band I respect is Emperor because they are very skilled musicians, other than that I'm not into black metal at all.

Maelstrom: What do you all do for a living? Do you all have day jobs in addition to playing in the band?

Mange: Yeah, Soils of Fate are slaves as everybody else, the music has to come in second because you have to make a living first. You don't have to be a genius to understand that we'll never be able to live off our music.

Maelstrom: If you don't mind me asking, what is your field of work? What about the others in the band?

Mange: I work with tarpaulins, swimming pool covers and that sort of stuff. Henke´s a postal worker.

Maelstrom: Suppose you have received invitations for a show in four different countries and you can select only one of them. One country offers you an endless supply of booze, another an endless amount of weed, another a huge group of loose women, and the last offers you unlimited death metal CDs. Which one would you choose? Or is there anything else that Soils of Fate can be bribed with?

Mange: Yeah, how about some money? I guess I'd go for the loose women. It's always great with some piece of ass, haha!!

Maelstrom: How important is the internet for Soils of Fate? Are you more involved with the snail mail side of things or the net?

Mange: It would be very hard for us to exist without the internet. We handle all contacts with bands, fans, labels, organizers, zines through the net so we owe a lot to the internet. It would be too much work to sit and push pencils.

Maelstrom: Thanks for doing the interview, Mange. Please list out contact addresses /emails/websites for people to get in touch with you. Hails!

Mange: No, thank YOU for the excellent intie. Get ready for SOF album Nr:2 coming out in late 2002. It's gonna be a massacre. Anyone who wants to get a hold of our shit can either mail us at
strippedhumanity@hotmail.com or write to: Soils of fate c/o Henrik Crantz, Tingvallavägen 5E 19531 Märsta,Sweden. Also check out our website: www.soilsoffate.com

PEACE YA´LL!!!!

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli and Steppenvvolf

Steppenvvolf loves Borknagar. To be exact, he loves old Borknagar. Like, the first album. He keeps mentioning to me how much of a smile he gets when listening to the debut and imagining Viking ships attacking England. Anyway, it seemed that interviewing Borknagar at Wacken would be a good opportunity for him to discuss how much the band has changed since it's beginnings. Indeed, it seems that Borknagar changes in huge amounts from album to album.

It turned out that Steppenvvolf was in for a big shock when he found out what Borknagar had turned into on Empiricism, the band's latest album. So what was originally supposed to be an interview by Steppenvvolf with who we were expecting to be the only original member of the band left, guitarist Oystein Brun, turned into an interview in which I helped a bunch with new singer Vintersorg, who has only been in the band for one album, with questions made up on the spur of the moment.

In the end, it was the perfect situation. Vintersorg is a reasonably likeable guy, but he's the Swedish metal equivalent of a jive turkey. Without our prompting, we got him to say some pretty hilarious stuff, so the interview ended up being a success. Check it out.

Roberto: So, you're, like, the third vocalist in this band.

Vintersorg: Yyyyep!

Roberto: How is it? Do you think you're in it for the long haul?

Vintersorg: There's always going to be fans that say: "the first vocalist was best..." "The second vocalist was much better than you," so. I stated when I joined Borknagar that I'm totally going to do my own thing and not try to copy what Garm or ICS Vortex did. I'm going to do it (sings in super cheesy and slightly embarrassing voice) "Myyyyy...way!" (Steppenvvolf thought it was funny.) My vocal lines are a bit different from what Vortex did, so we're a bit different now, but still very much Borknagar.

Roberto: What's remarkable is that, in terms of singers in black metal, Borknagar has always had the best singers (that means: guys who could actually sing - Roberto ), Garm, ICS Vortex, and now you. In fact, I think that your clean vocals are a little bit better than Vortex's...

Vintersorg: I can't really make a comment on that...(laugh)

Roberto: ...We were listening to the new album and, Steppenvvolf really liked the first one a lot. The new one is such a complete departure from it. Even the press release doesn't bill you as black metal anymore. You're now called "epic metal."

Vintersorg: Wow! Haha.

Roberto: Right? So, we're listening to it and it seems less and less that the harsh vocals even fit. Do you think that one day you'll go to completely clean vocals?

Vintersorg: Ehh...nope! That's a very important element of Borknagar, to have the harsh vocals. I think the new album is quite diverse. You have the whole scale from really mellow to really harsh. I think that's the continuance in Borknagar: we're going to do very diverse albums. I think we're going to continue with this kind of diversity. I still really think that the harsh vocals really fit, because we have some fast and furious - "The Fast and the Furious" (more cheese as he makes a reference to that movie from 2001), hahaha - elements. From my perspective, it fits. It adds yet another dimension to the music. If we skip the harsh vocals for the clean ones, we're not thinking we'd lose some fans - not like that, because we're totally in it for the artistry - I think we would feel we would lose a little bit of the identity and concept of Borknagar. We are working on the upcoming album, the pre-production...

Roberto: Already?!

Vintersorg: Yeah...I'm doing vocals now on the pre-production. It's going to contain a lot of harsh vocals. There's some really fast songs on that one, like "The Genuine Pulse" (a song off the latest album) style.

Roberto: Vintersorg, your regular band, just put out a new album. How are you balancing in being in...is it fair to call them two main projects?

Vintersorg: Actually, I'm working right now on five albums. I'm working on a band called Havayoth. The new album is going to be much more ambient, like Enya meets metal.

Roberto: Havayoth is all clean singing, right?

Vintersorg. Yeah, totally. We're also going to hire a choir for that. I'm going to be working on something we call a metal opera, but it's not opera in this kind of Avantasia style; not at all. There's a theme running through the entire album lyric-wise. The music is connected, likewise. We have 30 people of the Norwegian "elite" of metal are going to be on it. I've written the lyrics and music to that one. But it's kind of a long-term project. Everybody has their bands going on tour, so...

Roberto: So when you say you have 30 people of elite metal, does that mean you'll have five different people on bass on different songs, or...

Vintersorg: Yeah! Different drummers, different bass players, it goes from the old heavy metal guys like T&T and Arch to the new guys like Dimmu Borgir. I can't say that everything is confirmed; I can't mention bands right now, but the guys that have been asked said yes. Me and Oystein (Brun, of Borknagar) are working on something on the side...

Roberto: Top secret?

Vintersorg: Real top secret! I see all my projects as my main band. I try to put 100 percent into every bands.

Roberto: Do you get off one tour and jump on another tour?

Vintersorg: I go on tour and then come home for a couple days, and then I go on the next one.

Roberto: Where's home?

Vintersorg: (pauses) I really don't know....I'm living in the north part of Sweden. I'm really comfortable living up there. It's really quiet and calm. I don't really fit in in a big city. It gets on my nerves. If you're born and raised in a big city, it's ok. It would be very boring to live out in the countryside. "Oh, fuck, nothing's going on." I have a bit of the reverse.

Roberto: Are you the only Swedish member in Borknagar?

Vintersorg: Yeah, the other guys are all Norwegian.

Roberto: So, what language do you guys talk in together? Norwegians are very proud to say that they understand Swedes, but that Swedes can't understand them.

Vintersorg: Allright! That starts off with the fact that Norwegians have Swedish television. Every Norwegian can adjust their TV set to get Swedish TV, but we can't get Norwegian TV. It's more like a dialect difference. They can't talk shit behind my back without me knowing! So they speak Norwegian and I speak Swedish. It's like Austrian (German) and German. It's not so [different].

Steppenvvolf: You said you write lyrics. Is it from some personal aim that you write lyrics? Some use lyrics to work on personal issues, or is it just about demons. DEMONS!

Vintersorg: I think we share the same vision about music and life in general. Everybody except Jens (Ryland, guitar - - Roberto ) has wrote lyrics on the album. It's like five different people have written lyrics. It's just wide as the frame can be for an album. We don't have any personal wars or demos we have to sort out. Our lyrics question man and the universe. It's kind of deep, philosophical, but not pretentious deep and philosophical.

Steppenvvolf: Is that what led you to the title, "Empiricism"?

Vintersorg: We work a lot about man versus cosmos. On the new album it's kind of based on the five senses of man, but we're also trying to extend it to the sixth and the seventh. I think the empirical side, every day of your life, every thought you have you're basing it upon your earlier experiences.

Steppenvvolf: You just said man versus universe.

Vintersorg: Not versus universe, but man and universe. Every guy or girl or whatever, feels that, when you are born, you are a servant to the universe. The universe is much older than you. We don't aim to come up to the level that we understand the universe in every angle or dimension. Our goal maybe like to let you and you (he points to the two of us) start to think about things that maybe you are not doing everyday. It's hard to explain. It's deep and philosophical, but, as I say, not this kind of pretentious deep and philosophical. We're not sitting back, lighting a candle and sipping red wine.

Steppenvvolf: Is it more about triggering a certain kind of emotion?

Vintersorg: Ah, ya! Triggering, but also questioning the triggering mechanism of your mind. To start thinking about it, and stuff. Evolution has come really far, but in many ways, we really haven't come that far. When you see people still fighting and killing each other for really minor things, that's fucking stone age thinking. We're not agitators, or anything, it's more like, use your common sense and start acting like, uh...

Roberto: Borknagar has always been that kind of band. It's never really been - even before you were in it - a band that was like, "we have a lot of angst or anger. We're not really black metal; we're just this band. We sort of progress and don't really fit in with the image of Norwegian black metal at all."

Vintersorg: The only thing that fits in in the narrow labeled Norwegian black metal is the first album, which is black metallish. There are also small acoustic parts here and there.

Roberto: It was like Ulver side project.

Vintersorg: Yeah! Our...now I say "our" aim, but I haven't been in the band so long. But I think I can speak for the band.

Roberto: But the band changes with every record, so I think it's fair.

Vintersorg: Yeah... That's a cool thing. People say, "ahh, it's too much change on your album." What did you expect? Did you expect us to record a new Quintessence? Why should we do that? Quintessence Part 2? That would be boring and dull. We want to explore ourselves and our abilities to write adventurous and good music.

Roberto: Can I ask you about the new Vintersorg?

Vintersorg: Yeah!

Roberto: Ok, now, I haven't heard it, but I have heard Cosmic Genesis (the previous album). Actually, before I even comment on that, I noticed that the new record has Steve DiGiorgio on bass.

Vintersorg: And Asker (Borknagar drummer) on drums.

Roberto: How did you get Steve DiGiorgio on a Swedish band?

Vintersorg: That's a little bit of a story.

Roberto: That guy goes around a lot.

Vintersorg: When we decided that Asker was going to play the drums for the album, I had written the material - this kind of progressive and very different kind of material - I wanted a great drummer, and Asker offered me his services. So I was supposed to play the bass, I noticed what I knew a little bit in my subconscious, that I would have a hard time to keep up with Asker's drumming, because I'm not a great bass player. I'm really a guitarist. And I wanted fretless bass [on the record]. Asker was in contact with Steve. Steve really likes Spiral Architect. He wanted to do something with Asker. So when I couldn't keep up with Asker, he suggested to call Steve. I was like, "who really cares about a small, shitty band from Sweden?" But Steve was really enthusiastic about it. So one day I took the pre-production tape with me and flied to San Francisco was there for a couple of days and rehearsed. We nailed it in one and a half days in the studio. He's THE bass player.

Roberto: Is he going to tour with you? He's pretty infamous for being on the record but not touring with the band.

Vintersorg: He's not going to tour with the band. We have Tyr, Borknagar's bassist.

Roberto: For me, it's a real duality. On record, you can really appreciate the musicianship. You've got the production: a lot of care has been put into it. Then you come play out here. Listen to that bass (as Destruction was playing their set with the bass sound bloated to incoherent extremes). It could be anybody on bass. You can't even tell. It's wasted. How do you feel about that?

Vintersorg: I think bass is a kind of lost instrument in metal. Everybody uses it just to mark things out. But it has a real possibility to create good licks and melodies. If you do it correctly; you shouldn't be doing Billy Sheen stuff in the middle of a blast beat, but, you know. That's kind of lost in harsher metal. But in progressive metal, they are using the bass as the instrument that it is. I'm really kind of, not pissed, but really regret that don't I play my bass in a more interesting way. I really love bass. I started off with a bass. The Wizard (laugh). I was like, 8 years old. It's top secret. Our hit song was called "Killing to the Midnight." I wrote the lyrics. That was 20 years ago. I really envy Steve and Tyr and what they are doing.

Roberto: Last question from me. About the Vintersorg album: I heard Cosmic Genesis, but I haven't heard much before that. Some people who knew your band were disappointed and said, "it's not as Viking anymore. It's more pop." From my point of view, yeah, it is a lot more pop. The melodies are a lot less the Viking thing. And going back to Borknagar, I don't know if these harsh vocals really fit that well now (in Vintersorg). You have this more accessible music that's more melodic, and I can't understand how someone who really likes hard metal would like it, and how someone who really likes melodic metal would like it, either. What do you think?

Vintersorg: I don't have a fucking clue! I just write the album. I see my music as really working with contrasts. If someone asks to put a label on the album, I can't do it. But if I really have to, I'd say "contrast metal." Everybody'll say, "what's that?" I don't have a fucking clue. I really like dynamics and contrast in music. You know, when I was young I was into grind metal albums, like (does his blast beat impression), through the whole album. I thought that was rally interesting and cool. But nowadays, I think that's fucking boring in many ways. It's cool when it's live when you see a band and they're totally blasting it out. It's nothing I want to sit at home and listen to. On the other hand, it's really not intentional. I can't say it's logical, 'cause I don't have the command over it myself. I'm a medium of something bigger. That sounds so fucking bizarre and pretentious, "yeah, I feel like the medium of the cosmos." It's not like that. I write music, I try to write a good album and it turns out as it turns out. If people like it, cool. If people don't like it, cool.

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interview by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Reprobation hails from the south suburbs of Chicago, IL USA. They have been around since 1993 and their current line up consists of Mike Crothers on vocals, Rob Whitworth on guitars, Shawn Connors on guitar and backing vocals, Chuck Herrholz on bass and Mike Rees on drums. I was hooked onto their music (The Colour of Gore MCD) from the word go, with its catchy riffing and cool dual vocal phrasings. Thinking that a interview with them might be a good idea, I managed to get hold of Shawn Connors for a email session. Scroll down to read that interview and go to this page for a more detailed BIO: http://www.geocities.com/reprobation/index2.html

Maelstrom: Reprobation seems to have been around for a long time, but not many releases to show for it. How come?

Shawn: Until me and Mike Crothers joined the band, they weren't taking things seriously. They didn't a basement demo, but that was only for their listening pleasure. Then when they started jamming with me, we tracked a four track demo for shows. We also put out a basement rehearsal tape for promo...that should have never existed. Mike came into the band and we took it to another step. Compact Disc. We put out the Colour of Gore, and Undoing Creation is on its way, both through Forever Underground. It's been ten years, but I think we're just getting started.

Maelstrom: When is Undoing Creation slated to be released?

Shawn: We're working to get it out for Milwaukee Metalfest at the end of this month (July.) The CD's been recorded since February. We're just sweating the layout.

Maelstrom: You have opened for some pretty big acts like Malevolent Creation and
Monstrosity. How well do big bands like those interact with the more local, underground acts? Are there any ego problems?

Shawn: Some are different than others. When we played with Monstrosity, they seemed pretty cool. We didn't really hang out with them, but they're drummer lent me a battery for my old distortion pedal. When we played with Malevolent, Dave insisted on setting his 900-piece drum set up, and having the other bands set up in front of him. However the club we were playing stage was not big enough, so we had to set up on the floor. Fleshgrind played after us, and watching their old drummer Allen fold his rack in the corner of the stage and play ultra condensed was quite funny. It led to a string of inside jokes.

Maelstrom: Which studio did you record The Colour of Gore at? I guess you all must be pretty happy with the way the recording turned out.

Shawn: Sheffield studio, in North West Indiana. Actually not so much. We just recorded a new CD there that puts the ...Gore CD to shame. We're considering re-recording it. Maybe. If so I will be recording it myself. So, if it doesn't meet my standards, then we have a remastered version from Sheffield that's louder and a little bassier. We'll see. Mike Sheffield, our producer, tore apart the Colour of Gore when we went back to record Undoing Creation.

Maelstrom: You're re-recording Colour of Gore?

Shawn: Maybe. I have been getting into engineering a lot lately. I figure I'll at least give it a shot. If nothing else for my listening enjoyment. If the band and the label agree of disagree with releasing it, I don't care.

Maelstrom: Who is the main songwriter in the band? I really liked the transitions into those slow and spaced out sections. Is there some green herbal medicine at work in these songs?

Shawn: Rob does the most of the music, I do most of the lyrics. Rob might be Cephalic Carnaging it a bit. I don't. I'm just that fucked up to begin with.

Maelstrom: Well, looking at your song names I have to agree with that! "Fuck the rotted meat"? hahaha...Has your mom ever read your lyrics?

Shawn: Actually, I didn't write FTRM by myself. The majority of it was written by a preceding member of the band, Carl Paveich. We have songs that pre-date me being in the band. That's the only one on ...Gore, though. You'll see more Carl in the credits more on the new CD. Half the CD is actually older than The Colour of Gore. It's an odd mix, making a collision of blood and blasphemy. I suck at titles so, the sickest shit I write is soft around the edges, a little when the time comes to name songs. My family hates me being in a band, but I think they gave up on me and are praying I don't go to Hell for this shit. They've never read my lyrics to my knowledge, but I can't see them being too surprised.

Maelstrom: Does Rob like Autopsy a lot?

Shawn: I know he does. I think the whole band might actually. Cro' might not. Rob's main influence is the Dead Youth. If you've never heard them, that sucks. They're quite awesome.

Maelstrom: Whats your guitar set up like?

Shawn: My primary guitar is a BC Rich Mockingbird Seven String, with a Floyd Rose locking trem. I play a Line-6 head, with floorboard that I swear by. It has lots of balls for not being tubed. I primarily run it through a 4x12 Crate half stack. I also have White Washburn Chicago series six string with gold hardware and a locking trem and Duncan pick ups. It's so sweet. Also, a Ampeg 4x12 cab. If you catch us live, I play out with a Shure wireless system.

Maelstrom: That's a pretty interesting cover art you have there! That chick has a hot ass! Did you go through a lot of hot asses to select that pic?

Shawn: Actually, that ass inspired the cover. I stole the cover art concept from a movie called "The People versus Larry Flint." But I chopped it up pretty badly. It's also supposed to be satirical towards Carcass, Impaled and Exhumed. I love those bands, but in metal, I feel you shouldn't take yourself too seriously. So, it's kinda like a parody. I also polished the cover for the re-release no matter what recording gets sent out to press

Maelstrom: Umm... how exactly is the cover related to that movie?

Shawn: Larry Flint is the owner of Hustler magazine. In the movie, they glance a cover of an issue with a girl going into a meat grinder. I add a little magic to it, some blood, carnage and a massive amount of hamburger.

Maelstrom: But do you think Carcass really took themselves that seriously? Maybe if they did, they wouldn't have taken that trip down homoville...

Shawn: I don't know how serious they took themselves, but my friend Tony invented a drinking game called Ken Owen's balls. Watch the homevideo Wake Up and Smell the Carcass. Watch the live material. When Ken Owen's balls are dangling out of his filthy, homoerotic shorts then you take a shot.

Maelstrom: The last I heard about the underground scene in Chicago was that it's gutted with bands, but not much support in terms of places to play? Is that true, and what's the scene like now?

Shawn: That's it, in a nutshell. We have been alternating two clubs for years. Then one club will close or ban metal. We went through The Thirsty Whale, Jackhammers, Fireside Bowl, Smiler Coogans, Rubes (recently,) all we have is Rileys and Champs now. Champs isn't all too friendly with death metal, but they'll take it. Riley's is called Rockhouse USA now. That place sucks.

Maelstrom: So do you have bands there that start out as death metal but switch to commercial music just to get a chance to play?

Shawn: Soil is probably the greatest example of that. Broken Hope and Oppressor members joined together to become Rockstars. So did ex-members of Anal Blast who now make a living in Slipknot. More power to them. Maybe they'll bring the underground to the surface with their new found fame.

Maelstrom: Amongst all the bands you have played with, which bands have been the greatest fun to hang around with?

Shawn: Fleshgrind, CorpseVomit, Screaming Afterbirth and Dyscrasia. Those guys are all awesome.

Maelstrom: What music do you listen to personally? Do name some favorite bands of yours.

Shawn: Mainly underground death metal. Lately I've been jamming the new Origin and Disgorge, Clean Flesh, Dyscrasia, Screaming Afterbirth, Putrid Pile, Rellik, Dead Youth (RIP), Mortal Decay and Internal Bleeding. I also listen to lots of unmetal stuff, that I won't name off right now.

Maelstrom: The new Origin totally kills! aah...unmetal stuff...do you mean stuff that might make Reprobation fans raise an eyebrow or two?

Shawn: I guess if we want to pretend we have fans, they might. But, I guess if you were a fan, you might have stumble on this list, cause it's not really a secret, I just didn't think your readers give a shit. Rees is a huge Kiss freak. Rob is into Prince. I've been dabbling into emo over this last year. Crothers is a gansta rap fan. And Chuck doesn't listen to music. He's deaf.

Maelstrom: Is there any new band you've heard recently that not too many people are aware of? I mean like a band that you feel really kills and you'd like to tell people to look out for?

Shawn: I probably mentioned a couple before. Dyscrasia and Screaming Afterbirth. If you don't have their shit, buy it. Rellik is a local band that I think is gonna be huge someday. Eric from Bound and Gagged is pushing a band called Wormed on Me, but I haven't heard it yet. Sik Fuk. Putrid Pile. The underground is deeper than ever.

Maelstrom: Have you heard any Asian bands?

Shawn: I'm not sure. I don't have the memory to remember where most bands are from. Probably.

Maelstrom: Alright, thanks for taking the time, Shawn. Feel free to add your contact emails,website address etc. All the best!

Shawn: You can contact us through our website at www.geocities.com/reprobation or e-mail reprobatin@yahoo.com you can also reach us through our label at
www.foreverunderground.com

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interview by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Gorgasm are, in my opinion, one of the best death metal bands out there. Combining blasting brutality with great songwriting skills, this band was on the top of my "to be interviewed" list. Getting hold of them to do an interview though, was a totally different affair. You might have noticed, there aren't many Gorgasm interviews on the net. But perseverance pays, the questions were answered, my day was made, and you need not waste your time any further. Scroll down. (visit http://www.violatedrot.com/gorgasm/bio.html for a detailed bio)

Maelstrom: Please update us with what's happening in the Gorgasm camp. When can we expect a new offering of brutality?

Tom: Hello and greetings, the Gorgasm camp is up and running STRONG and days away from touring here in America.

Maelstrom: Any line-up changes since Bleeding Profusely?

Tom: One line up change has been made and that has been on drums by a person named Terrence Manaus.

Maelstrom: How was last week's show with Lividity? Which other bands played there?

Tom: The show in Ohio with Lividity was killer. Lividity once again tore the place a new asshole. Lust of Decay RULED, and Saprogenic with the new upcoming reputation of being future destroyers of the earth did it again and threw the place up for grabs in bestial anarchy.

Maelstrom: I'd say Gorgasm riffs are pretty unusual in the way melody is combined with brutality. Is that something you try and do consciously or is it just your own style?

Tom: The music elements and the heavy brutality is a definite chemistry between myself and my guitarist. We love the challenge of bridging both elements. There is two worlds of deathmetal, American and Euro-death. A band that can do that has the best of both worlds and something to offer everyone.

Maelstrom: Can you tell us about your guitar set up?

Tom: Our guitar rigs and set up is very simple. Bc Rich guitars. Emg 81-85 pickups. Marshal Valvestate heads, Marshal jcm900 cabs. Boss metal zone and Boss noise supressors. That's about it, We tune down to a B.

Maelstrom: How long have you been playing guitar? When did you buy your first guitar?

Tom: I have been playing guitar since I've been 18 years old, that's around when I purchased my first guitar (a red Kramer Strat).

Maelstrom: You had put up an ad on your site asking for drummers. How big a response did you get?

Tom: I'm glad to say that the response for our drummer search was intense. I thank all that applied personally. We found someone from that inquiry that had all that we asked to fit our needs as a band. It was a quite a bit of footwork to do, but the end result will be our 3rd album.

Maelstrom: You guys are really not internet people are you? I haven't been able to find too many Gorgasm interviews out there.

Tom: I wouldn't say we are all into the internet thing. Although we all have computers and are online we try just to stay pretty much out of light so to speak. We worry more about writing and playing. As far as interviews, you are correct. I don't really do a lot of them only because I'm not really that used to doing so. I guess it's something I chose not to get involved in. But I hope this one is suffice.

Maelstrom: Is your first demo still available?

Tom: I think our first demo is out of print now. Perhaps in the future we will re release that on CD to update things.

Maelstrom: Tell us about your vocals. How are the vocal lines structured? With three members doing the vocals, it must be a pain in the ass to figure out who is doing which part?

Tom: As far as the vocal structure. Our bassist usually writes the lyrics. I've been known to write a song here and there with lyrics also. When the songs are written we usually just dissect things and whatever anyone is drawn to sing, they get first dibs on it. Otherwise things usually just fall together.

Thank you for takin' the time for the cool questions and I hope I have answered some things that you'd like to know. Hail and Metal 4 ever.

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ABSCESS - Through the Cracks of Death - CD - Peaceville

review by: Matt Smith

This Californian band has been around since '94. The creation of Chris Reifert (drums, vocals, and bass) and Danny Coralles (guitars) from Autopsy, Abscess is a pretty crazy-sounding band.

This album's production is pretty dirty, which suits the band's style well. The musicianship is good, but it seems almost punkish in its flavor - intense, loud, fast, distorted, and they've got some, uh, unique-sounding vocals. The two voices blend together well, but one of them sounds almost like a monster from the Muppets trying to sound scary. This also fits well with the rest of it - I can imagine more than a few times I've heard voices like a file rubbing against a metal pipe in somebody's basement over some good but relatively sloppy instrumentation.

There's not much variation within this album, either - after a few songs, they all start to sound the same. Similar guitar chords coat the same punk-sounding drum rhythm with hardly a change in tempo. Not to say there aren't a few different-sounding sections, but not nearly enough. Abscess is pretty entertaining, but I don't see myself listening to this album too often in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

AGALLOCH - The Mantle - CD - The End Records

review by: Tom Orgad

Agalloch's debut album, Pale Folklore, had deservingly been one of the most acclaimed and appreciated releases of '99, presenting a highly impressive, complete piece of somber, wintry art, an impious raging creation of an exasperated, desperate cry at the face of our merciless world. Since then, the band released one MCD of covers/unreleased tracks (reviewed in Maelstrom issue #6 - Roberto), and here comes their highly expected second full-length album.

The most notable aspect about The Mantle is Agalloch's apparent spiritual and mental evolvement. As their debut release perfectly symbolized a grievous winter, their current release reveals a progression (not by the seasons' chronological order, though), now brilliantly reflecting the feeling of a ponderous autumn. Sadness and melancholy still maintain their existence in the world of Agalloch, but yet, something has clearly changed.

It seems that the bands members are in the midst of a certain maturing process; amongst the original youngling frustration and rather abstract, simplistic feeling of melancholic anger, appears a more compromised, settled approach, in a way forcedly accepting the unbearable situation of human existence, making an attempt of expanding the methods of thinking, adapting ways of dealing with the gloomy state of mind, trying to trace the longed matter of transferring their present being to a dimension beyond time, to capture the elusive ideas of immortality, of consistence, of God. As reflected in the lyrics, the band members appear to have a partial success in their quest, possibly finding the justification for existence in the sublime harmony and beauty of nature, in the, even if short and fragile, temporary, casual maintenance of life.

Incorporating their previous dark metal atmosphere, based on anguished shrieks and fast picked droning soundscapes of entrancing distorted phrases, elements which stand for the yet present agonized feelings, this creation involves incredibly produced, rather dominant acoustic guitars, clean (and quite charming vocals), adjoined in slower, calmer, thoughtful tempos; the tears have dried, the blind salty eyes slowly open up, seeking, and somehow finding, in the beautiful, surrounding environment, the utopian yearned-for meaning.

Just as on Agalloch's debut album, The Mantle's grandeur doesn't spring from the compositions, which are rather similar and slowly developing, not to say stagnant. This album won't appeal to those seeking bombastic melodies and grandiose polyphonic explosions. The greatness of this American trio stems from their ability to define a unique, powerful emotional state, and condense its vastness into the shape of a musical creation. On that matter, this effort is a great progressive continuation of its predecessor, leaving us all impatiently waiting to see which following moods are they yet to explore.

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Agalloch's two previous albums were really great, but the band seemed to have this knack for blowing an emotion or atmosphere that was carefully crafted with some atrocious vocal. Pale Folklore is a moody, beautiful piece of what people like to call "folk metal," which is a term to describe melodic metal that progresses really slowly and features primarily acoustic guitars.

Plainly, the vocals on Pale Folklore just suck, and they get really bad in a few cases. The raspy vocal thing that Agalloch was going for on this album was both limp and out of place, with the cheesy clean vocals being embarrassing. Fortunately, the wispy, calming majesty of the music is more than enough to save the album. Vocally, things were improved on on the MCD, Of Wind, Stone and Pillor, which features some excellent variety of moods. Check out the review in Maelstrom's previous issues.

So, would Agalloch commit the same error on their new album? Thankfully not. The vocals on The Mantle are much more sparse, which is in itself ideal for the kind of music that Agalloch plays, but the quality of the vocals has been improved on a hundred fold. The harsh vocals sit well. As harsh vocals, they are relaxed and not silly like before. The clean vocals are harmonious and pleasant, and somehow make me think of Brit pop every time I hear them.

The main thing that The Mantle has to offer Tom pretty much summarized in his review: spellbinding, slowly developing melody lines that are spread out from track to track to create songs that are 20+ minutes. The reflective, soothing breakdowns that the band explores in their work, and on The Mantle in particular, are some of my favorites ever in this style.

Around the middle tracks of the album, Agalloch lapses into a style that is obviously heavily influenced - sometimes perhaps too much so - by Ulver. The beginning of track four is of the same construction as the beginning of Ulver's Bergtatt. The acoustic change in the same track sounds like the lone acoustic break of Nattens Madrigal. Track five has the same approach as that track on Bergtatt with the minimal percussive element that sounds like a polished stone being hit against a piece of marble. You get the same sound used in the same way. You even get a different recording of somebody running through the snow, just like on Bergtatt.

So that's kind of ridiculous, and it gets annoying the more times you listen to the album, but it's really doesn't detract from the triumphant whole of the work. And even though when listening to the way the compositions around the clean vocals I often feel compelled to sing the chorus to "The Cross on the Wall" from the Agalloch's cover of Sol Invictus' song on the previous MCD, the style stands as a welcome signature of this band.

I've always liked Agalloch and was hoping that they'd be able to tie up some of their most glaring loose ends. With The Mantle the band has made its overall finest work, one that is certainly going to be on my list for albums of the year and will perhaps endure as one of my favorite albums ever.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Of Stone, Wind, and Pillor (issue No 5)  

 

 

 

ALCHEMIST - Organasm - CD - Relapse Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

There's so much cool stuff going on in this album by this Australian band. I guess Organasm would be most simply classified as a metal record that has hardcore-like elements. Then again, that wouldn't really be explaining it well at all. The biggest ingredient is definitely metal, but there's this strong tribal element that goes along with Enslaved and 70s prog. Then mix in vocals that sometimes are phrased like Root at its best and are delivered with eagle shrieks that would impress Dani Filth.

Overall, Organasm is a pretty laid back album relative to its genre. It isn't necessarily impressive as far as its individual parts are concerned. But as a whole, this record is a very interesting, creative work that is pretty highly recommended.

 

 

 

 

 

ALL THAT REMAINS - Behind Silence and Solitude - CD - Lifeforce Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

All that Remains' Behind Silence and Solitude is another quality metalcore record from the label that has brought us Caliban and Heaven Shall Burn.

Unlike these two bands, All that Remains concentrates less of choking you with intensity. The heavy, semi-crunchy riffs are punctuated with very tasty melodic solos that provide a refreshing contrast. The band shows it isn't afraid of easing off entirely from the aggressive metalcore attack by including excellent jazzy breakdowns.

By putting out a record that doesn't go for the same formula perfected by Heaven Shall Burn, and by giving us a metalcore record that is more groove-oriented and melodic, Lifeforece has given us a reason to have room for all three of these quality groups on our personal CD shelves.

 

 

 

 

 

...AND OCEANS - Cypher - CD - Century Media Records

review by: Matt Smith

Listening to this album, I was reminded greatly of Frontline Assembly. Though a bit more poppy and listenable than the group they seem to borrow a bit too much from, the influence is undeniable. Lots of snare and cymbals make up the drum line, with hardly any displays of real skill. Simple guitar parts don't add much, either, though I suppose they're just right for the industrial feel the group is going for. Even the distorted production harkens back to the Assembly.

The only redeeming feature of the sound is the electronic influence - there are some decent sounds used that guitars can't make, and some simplistic synth melodies. But repetitiveness and simplicity don't make a good combination; they just make me bored. Unoriginal chorus, verse, chorus, same-sounding verse but with some different words, chorus ... And the repetition of the mediocre synth loops just starts to grate away at me after they've been going on for awhile. I'm not a big fan of Frontline Assembly, but I'd much rather listen to Millennium than Cypher.

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Am I the only one that wishes ...And Oceans would go back to the style that they did so well on The Symmetry of I, the Circle of O? ...And Oceans' last album, A.M.G.O.D. (review in issue #1) was getting too pompous and wanky for its own good, and now this once wonderful Finnish group has fallen off the deep end. -

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Allotropic/ Metamorphic Genesis of Dimorphism (A.M.G.O.D.) (issue No 1)  

 

 

 

ANTARCTICA - Erasing Mankind - CD - http://home.no/antarctica

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This demo recording from this Norwegian quartet is one that shows excellent promise for this debuting band. The style found on Erasing Mankind fits best under the tag of death metal with melodic, guitar-based flourishes and a few elements that remind of black metal.

To the band's credit, the playing on this demo is very tight. The drumming of Morten Skogen in particular is very impressive, and I will go so far as to call him Frost's little brother. Skogen's skills are further accented by an excellent drum sound that provides the mix with its most fresh and immediately engaging audial aspect, again making one think of Frost, particularly on Satyricon's last two full length albums..

The previously mentioned melodies are aptly composed and arranged throughout the disk's five songs. In fact, the stirring melodies are good enough that I wish that the band would use them more liberally and not have waited so long in the album to introduce them. The vocals on this record are above average, presented in a reasonably fresh variety of lower and higher rasps.

There are a few things that the band needs to iron out, such as the production, which is too bass-heavy. It doesn't get in the way of appreciating the basic qualities of the music, but many more dimensions could be presented with an easing off of what Antarctica may feel is the heavy dial. Still, considering this is the band's first demo, it is a remarkable effort. I hope this group sticks to it. Look out for these guys!

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Unleash the Dogs of War (issue No 14)  

 

 

 

ANTIMATTER - Saviour - CD - The End Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Antimatter is the band of Duncan Patterson, who used to be a member of Anathema. Saviour is being promoted as being a "more haunting Anathema," but the weight of the material is too light and poppy for that comparison.

For the truest comparison, one must think of likening Antimatter to Portishead, for several tracks on Saviour go for that same lounge/dub sound that Portishead made famous. However, Unlike Tertium Non Data, whose Hers Is Blood album actually outdid the originators at their own formula, Antimatter is a watered-down version of Portishead.

Antimatter mainly employs two women to do the vocals. The first, Michelle Richfield (Sear), is a competent singer whose voice is an asset to the six songs on which she appears. The other vocalist, Hayley Windsor (Drug Free America), also has talent but sometimes sounds like a little girl. This immaturity of her voice detracts from the four songs on which she appears. On a couple of occasions, Michael Moss, the co-founder of the band, provides some vocals, which, for lack of a better word, are cheesy. There's just something about the dual vocals of Moss and whichever woman he's singing with that makes me think of Seal, but not as good, or even Michael Bolton. To try to put a finger on it, some of the songs ("Over Your Shoulder" comes to mind) have a sort of forced soulfulness to them that ends up not being present. Curiously, the simpler, acoustic version of "Over Your Shoulder" at the end of the disk works somehow better.

I'm afraid Saviour may be doomed from the start. Considering that the album has been released on a metal label and will probably be almost exclusively promoted in metal circles, I can't see many people buying it. It's not a bad record, but it is lightweight - not necessarily in terms of being metal but in terms of what it has to offer. It makes sense that metal fans could like soft, melodic, melancholic bands like The Gathering or Amber Asylum (or even Anathema), but metallers will definitely not go for Antimatter, even if they are fans of Anathema's (like me.)

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Lights Out (issue No 14)  

 

 

 

ARWEN - Memories of a Dream - CD - Arise Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

In terms of power metal, Arwen pushes all the right buttons. You've got the classical scales in place, the high vocals, and the double bass drumming. There's also a prog. element here (and not like Dream Theater, for once) too. Well, it could mostly be because the keyboard tones make me think of a Mini Moog. The singer sounds somewhere between Andre Matos (Angra) and Hansi Kursch (Blind Guardian), and he's not half bad. The musicianship of Arwen is up to par to perform the kind of noodling you've come to expect out of this genre.

At times Arwen ventures into some musical territory that really should have been left unexplored, like the times on Memories of a Dream when it sounds like you've been magically transported to a shopping mall. Also a big detriment on this album is the atrocious sound of the ride cymbal, which sounds like it's made out of aluminum or something.

Although you won't find any ground breaking stuff here, Memories of a Dream is an album that will appeal to enthusiastic supporters of European power metal. It's a good album for this genre, but don't expect anyone to lose his or her mind over it.

 

 

 

 

 

ASTROFAES - Dying Emotions Domain - CD - Chanteloup Créations

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This Ukranian band's black metal is good, but merely that. Dying Emotions Domain has nothing especially bad or good about it. As background black metal, it works very well. The music is fast and atmospheric, but in no way memorable or unique. You could do a lot worse with your black metal money, but you could also do a lot better, too.

 

 

 

 

AURORA BOREALIS - Time, Unveiled - CD - Nightsky Productions

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Although the bubblegum wrapper-colored album cover makes this record look like a computer game for children aged 3-6, you'll be motherfuckin' surprised if you press play on your stereo expecting some happy, sissy power metal.

Jesus Christ on a stick, this album kills! You get razor riffs made even more sharp by the crisp, biting production, and impossible drumming that somehow manages to keep perfect time with the jagged lightspeed of the guitars. Closer inspection of the album's packaging reveals the drummer for Aurora Borealis is Tim Yeung, the guy on the first Hate Eternal record. Ahhh... now it's starting to make sense how this band has seemingly come out of nowhere. Not only can Yeung blast at frightening speed, but he keeps it up for stretches of a minute on this record without wavering at all.

Not that bandleader Ron Vento is any slouch. Vento supplies all the vocals, guitars and basses, and I suspect wrote all the music as well. While I'm not sure Time, Unveiled will be an all time death metal classic, there certainly are more than a few riffs that will strike you as being pretty cool. You also get a couple demo tracks from 1994. These too, show that Aurora Borealis has always been a very tight band (I can't believe I've never even actually heard these guys!). However, you can really hear how much this group has progressed in eight years in terms of musical technique and production savvy. A very worthy death metal record for your money.

 

 

 

 

 

BEHEMOTH - Live Eschaton - DVD - Metal Mind

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This DVD is broken up into three main sections: a live concert, some music videos, and so-called "bonus" material.

The bulk of the DVD is made up of course by the live show. In terms of video and sound quality, Live Eschaton is excellent. The camera work is nice and allows you to see what the members of the band are doing. This is cool for people like me who are drummers and are often disappointed in these kinds of videos in which the singer gets almost all the attention and you can't watch the drummer's technique.

Watching Nergal, the leader of the band, can either be absurdly entertaining or a turn-off. Clad in a Bathory shirt with shiny letters, Nergal kind of looks like a cosmic, extreme metal samurai with a guitar. He acts like it, too. My personal favorite moment on the DVD is during the intro to the song "Lam" in which Nergal seems to suddenly be possessed by Kabuki demons as he over-exaggerates the song title in an effort to seem more metal.

But there's something fishy about this concert. It seems totally staged. First off, Behemoth is playing on this stage that seems so out of place for metal. For one, it's very deep. The band is on some sort of plastic grid with lights underneath. It looks like you could have a sort of fashion show or beauty pageant on the stage. But it's cool, because the lighting is good. What's really odd is the audience. Generally, when people go to see a show, there are a bunch of fans up front. Not for this concert. And it's not because there are terrific mosh areas that people want to give lots of room to. There are no moshers, and only about two or three people who are really getting into it. Come to think of it, it doesn't seem that there are a whole lot of spectators at all.

You get a strong feeling that this whole concert in this Hollywood-like set is staged, and that the spectators were all asked to be there. You can tell something weird is going on after songs when the camera lets you see the audience. The applause is very clear, but you don't see very many people actually clapping. It's a little hard to believe that anyone but those uninterested in Behemoth wouldn't have liked this show, because the band plays really well.

Nergal just tries too hard and come off being really dorky. Just like during the concert, this is also the case in the ridiculous music video of one of the songs. It's a rather amateur video that almost entirely is made up of shots of Nergal, painted up and wearing the get up he's got on for Satanica, looking into the camera while crouching and making unintentionally hilarious faces. There is no need for music videos in extreme metal to begin with, and certainly no need for these slipshod, embarrassing productions where the words don't even match Nergal's mouth.

The interview, which is in Polish, is reasonably interesting, and the subtitles are very well written. However, what's truly interesting is to see the real life Nergal on the live interview. He seems like a very well-spoken and calm individual, and a little uncomfortable at times in front of the camera. Some of the angles chosen for the interview are curious, like the one looking up at Nergal while he leans against the corner of a brick wall. The shot makes him look vulnerable and soft, which is exactly the opposite of what he's going for in his Behemoth persona.

Overall, this is a very good quality DVD release. Some of the touted selling points aren't really all that great, like the animated menu, which is pretty goofy. Still, it's well put together, and the concert is clear both visually and aurally.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Thelema.6 (issue No 1)  
Zos Kia Cultus (issue No 12)  

 

 

 

BENEATH THE LAKE - Inside Passage - CD - Glass Throat Recordings

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Nicolas Lampert, one of the members of the mesmerizing group Noisegate, has joined with a man by the name of Dave Caterbury to form Beneath the Lake, a noise/ambient project that is made up largely of field recordings, but also throws in instruments like guitars and cello, amongst others, to round out a very fine sound.

As far as noise records go, Inside Passage pushes some of the same buttons that you may hear on other groups' albums, but does so perfectly. Field recordings of sea lions, whales and water, fucked up and fuzzed out with thick drones on top make for a heavy and harsh, yet soothing experience. Things get a little scary toward the middle of the album when what sounds like rhythmic bursts of crackling electricity shoot through the speakers to break the lulling drone.

If you are familiar with Noisegates' material, Inside Passage is somewhere in-between Noisegate's two albums. If you don't know about Noisegate, then here's a little history: The band's most recent album, Suspended Animation: Ambient Vol.1, delivers a mellow yet not entirely comforting hypnotic ambience by manipulating bell tones in various ways. The debut record, The Towers are Burning, is a perfect album of fuzzy noise, guitars, bass and fierce yelling of chilling lyrics that is done in such a way as to be scathing yet lulling as it is numbing. Inside Passage may be closer in approach to Suspended..., but there's more than enough of The Towers... to say that it's the best of both worlds.

You'll also get interesting manipulations of field recordings of owls, wasps and wolves. Plus there's a track called "kootna hora," which is referring to the town Kútna Horá in the Czech Republic, a town famous for its little church that holds the artistically displayed bones of 40,000 plague victims. (Look for an article about that soon in Maelstrom.)

Most importantly with albums of this kind, which are the most subjective of any, is that Inside Passage maintains an excellent tone throughout. The tone changes from track to track but always keeps you in that gripping sweet spot that all good noise records should have, and in this case also features excellent packaging with ideal visuals. It even smells right, natural and woody, like cedar. Nice work.

 

 

 

 

 

BENÜMB/ PIG DESTROYER - Split - CD - Robotic Empire

review by: Roberto Martinelli

I love 3" CDs. There's something inexplicably appealing and collectible about them. Perhaps it's because they're rare. Anyway, the old adage about good things coming in small packages sure does apply to this disk.

Benümb starts off the disk with three decent grind songs. I've never been a huge fan of this group, even though Pete, the singer, is one of the nicest people you'll ever meet in the scene. Still, Benümb provides some good listening, although I'm told by a fan of the band that it's not their best material. Maybe I liked the material better in anticipation of what was going to follow it on the disk.

For up next is Pig Destroyer, the best grind band on the planet. The stuff on the split is unreleased stuff from the Prowler in the Yard sessions. "It's rough, but so's your mom," says the disclaimer. While Prowler... is clearly Pig Destroyer's best album, this is a close second. The intensity and infectious grind is just as present here as the band plays six of their own tracks to go along with the raucous, punky thrill ride of the Dwarves "Fuck You Up and Get High."

Ten tracks in seven and a half minutes. Perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

BLACKSHINE - Soulless and Proud - CD - SPV

review by: Roberto Martinelli

SPV is pushing Blackshine as being "Swedish Goth n' roll," but don't get the wrong idea. This isn't that kind of Goth whose influences you hear in Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth's music. Rather, this is the kind of Goth that originated the genre, back in the days when the style was an offshoot of punk.

So what you get is a rocking metal record that incorporates a good amount of punk beats and energy. But then you'll also get a good deal of Iron Maiden-like guitar work and melodies. Let's not forget how much Maiden was influenced by punk music, as can be heard on the band's first two records, and the first one especially.

Blackshine is fronted by vocals that often make you think of James Hetfield. This aspect solidifies the impression that Soulless and Proud isn't totally an original album. Despite this, it's a rockin', hard-hittin' good time.

 

 

 

 

 

BRAINSTORM - Metus Mortis - CD - Metal Blade Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Brainstorm is trying to lead the "true metal" charge. Even their website is www.truemetal.de. However, try as they might, there's just something that's largely missing about this band.

Call it a lack of riffs, catchiness or general rockin'ness, the songs on Metus Mortis do have some appeal, but you have to concentrate to appreciate it. This is because Brainstorm's music is neither fun nor gripping.

To the band's credit, the music is trying to branch away somewhat from the more common, happy sing-along power metal from Europe. And while there are a few things that stand out and grab your attention, like the near-inhuman double bass drumming that comes up every now and again, the singer's voice isn't especially remarkable enough to improve upon the merely above-average riffs.

Despite these criticisms, I have a feeling that Iced Earth fans may enjoy this band. I hear some similar patterns and signatures between these two groups, and since I feel largely the same about Iced Earth as I do about Brainstorm (with Brainstorm being much less cheesy), that may be reason enough for some of you to check this out.

 

 

 

 

 

CALLENISH CIRCLE - Flesh_Power_Dominion - CD - Metal Blade Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Callenish Circle, like so many of its Swedish countrymen, plays death metal that is derived from what bands like At the Gates have set before. Comparatively, Callenish Circle mostly sticks with a pace that is slower compared to its contemporary At the Gates wannabes, and the guitar solos are more Iron Maiden influenced. The album is good and sounds great, but it's very by-the-numbers, which makes it not one that you should necessarily rush out and buy.

 

 

 

 

 

CRADLE OF FILTH - Live Bait for the Dead - CD - AbraCadaver

review by: Jez Andrews

Yes, yes, I know. Most of you Maelstrom readers will have developed a hatred for Cradle of Filth, the biggest commercial success the black metal scene has ever witnessed. Indeed, there will doubtless be many among you who believe that they never had a real place in the black metal scene to begin with. But at the end of the day, they still played a very important role in the pages of extreme metal history. I mean, just imagine how many youngsters were drawn into the more abrasive elements of the scene after the relative accessibility of Dusk and Her Embrace and Cruelty and the Beast. Hey, you'll find them on MY CD shelves, along with De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, Pure Holocaust and Wrath of the Tyrant. Putting aside their decision to dabble in atrocious dance remixes, I still have a great respect for them as artists, and I haven't yet met a black metal fan who didn't at least appreciate their first two albums. So, ten years on from the demo days and with six full length studio albums under their belts, Cradle of Filth bring us their first official live effort...

Live Bait for the Dead is a 2CD set, the first of which being a live set from Nottingham Rock City. It comprises of a surprisingly good mix of old and new material, especially notable for giving the treble-heavy "Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids" the gutsy sound it so well deserved. Nice to see five out of the thirteen songs taken from the Cacophonous days. The stage banter from Dani Filth is cheeky as ever ('Disease ridden as it is, this is still fucking England...'). There's a very strong sound to be heard here, with even the new tracks being given some power and majesty. "Summer Dying Fast" is as great as ever, but the crowning glory is closing number "Queen of Winter, Throned," always my favourite.

CD #2 houses an impressive video of Cradle of Filth's cover of "No Time To Cry," as well as a selection of previously unreleased studio tracks. The Polished Coffin mix of "Born in a Burial Gown" sounds a lot stronger than the original album version, as does the remix of the re-worked "No Time to Cry" (nice chunky drums). Techno track "Deleted Scenes of a Snuff Princess" and yet another From The Cradle... mix represent the more tragic side to the story, and territory into which I refuse to venture. Once again, the closing track, a cover of Twisted Sister's "The Fire Still Burns" saves the day.

Well recommended for Cradle fans and closet ex-Cradle fans alike, but don't let the bastards rip you off...

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Damnation and a Day (issue No 13)  

 

 

 

CROWN, THE - Crowned in Terror - CD - Metal Blade Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

"Death and roll" has got to be one of the worst ideas to come from the metal underground. This death-metal-meets-hard-rock style sprung up in Sweden from the band Entombed, which made it their sound for a while, much to the dismay of all the fans who loved their first two records. Entombed's Wolverine Blues was good enough, (and the follow up To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth! was good for, like, a second) but this really was a concept that should not have come to light.

The Crown's last record, Deathrace King, was one of the few albums that used this death and roll style with success. Still, it was a little too close for comfort. Thankfully, The Crown has abandoned this direction and gone back to doing what it had been doing so well: good old, tried and true Swedish melodic death.

Well, maybe it's just a little TOO tried and true. Crowned in Terror is certainly a quality record. How could it not be? The Crown has one of the best drummers in metal in Janne Saarenpää. And now they have added the high-profile person of Tomas Lindberg (who unsurprisingly has left the band), the guy who helped make At the Gates' Slaughter of the Soul the timeless classic that it is. Well, anyone was better than the guy The Crown had before.

And so the result is an album that overall seems better than any Crown record that has come before. The production, presentation and vocals are better than ever, However, closer inspection shows that the guitar work isn't as remarkable, and the songs don't grab you as much as they did on Hell is Here, Eternal Death or even Deathrace King. In the end, Crowned in Terror will please fans of the band, and just about any other supporter of Swedish death metal. The quality expected from such bands is certainly present, but you may want for a more memorable piece of work.

 

 

 

 

 

CUTTHROATS 9, THE - The Cutthroats 9 - CD - Reptilian Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The Cutthroats 9 play sludgy, bluesy, punky, agro music that makes me think of Dazzling Killmen, but much more vanilla. Still, The Cutthroats 9 has some things to offer, but I'm not the biggest fan of the production, which is a little too murky. I guess if you like a more straightforward take on what Dazzling Killmen perfected, then you'll get some enjoyment out of this album.

 

 

 

 

 

DANZIG - 777: I Luciferi - CD - Spitfire Records

review by: Jez Andrews

Oh, my fucking god, how the mighty have fallen.

This, the seventh album of Glen Danzig's solo project, begins with a certain degree of promise. Nice chunky riffing on "Black Mass," and those vocals are still one of a kind. But alas, from "Wicked Pussycat" onwards, Danzig have fallen prey to the kind of sound that seems to have endeared them to the mainstream press. I honestly can't pick any holes in the production, which is truly three-dimensional, but there is something seriously lacking here. I'm sorry, but "God of Light" and "Liberskull" just scream baggy combats and long keychains. Danzig seem to be treading dangerously towards that six of one, half a dozen of the other territory. There are some elements, however, that drag them back from the edge, the stylish lead breaks and THAT voice that has served them so well in the past, to name but a couple. I could listen to Glen Danzig crooning his laments, both rocking and soulful, until the cows come home, but there are still no real moments of brilliance in I Luciferi to speak of.

Personally, I would have expanded a little more on the patches of bleak beauty in "Angel Blake" and "Without Light, I Am," which carry more than a passing suggestion of Pist.On stylings.

Despite its failings, this album is still worth at least one listen, and if it grows on you, there's no harm done.

 

 

 

 

 

DARK TRANQUILLITY - Damage Done - CD - Century Media Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

I've read and personally heard from a good deal of Dark Tranquility fans that this originator of the "Gothenburg sound" of Swedish death metal had wimped out. Well, the demise of this band has been greatly exaggerated.

I'd really love to say that Damage Done is a total return to form to the glory of Dark Tranquility, except I'm not all that familiar with this band. I know, I know. Somehow, I just missed them. Anyway, the repeated enjoyment I got from listening to the masterful melodies on Damage Done impressed me so much that I checked out Dark Tranquility's The Mind's I, which is also really good, but nowhere near as good as this new album.

I think fans were annoyed that Mikael Stanne was trying to sing. I think he heard you. All the vocals are harsh, but ironically they are given a melodic ring to them despite their scathing nature by the brilliant way they are laid over the melodic constructions. This is especially the case on track two, "Hours Passed in Exile," which features wonderful hooks through its use of Goth-influenced melodies on keyboard and enrapturing melodies.

Keyboards play a large part on this album; not so much in how much they are played, but rather in how well they are used to highlight the tracks. Damage Done has just the right balance of driving metal, beautiful melody, harshness and quiet to provide a perfect pacing for the listener to enjoy time and again. After at least eight listens of this album, Damage Done has proven to be in the same league of instant and enduring classics as At the Gates' Slaughter of the Soul.

 

 

 

 

 

DARKANE - Expanding Senses - CD - Nuclear Blast Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

A lot of people seem to be deeply enamored with this band, and I don't get it. When Nicke Grabowski, drummer of The Forsaken, was asked in his interview in Maelstrom who the best metal drummer in Sweden was, his first answer was "Peter Wildoer of Darkane"; Loana Valencia of Century Media is crazy for this band; I've read bunches of reviews and heard testimonials of people lauding this group as being terribly creative and interesting.

So why does it sound like the band is playing the same song over and over again? It's true that Darkane has achieved a signature sound with its use of vocals that are a mix of Slayer and hardcore, delivered with faux singing melody. Except, the vocals aren't really very good. Neither are the songs on this album, which invariably have no highlights to speak of.

And sure, Wildoer is a respectable drummer. But there's nothing on Expanding Senses that puts him at all apart from the legions of excellent drummers coming out of Sweden. The same goes for the guitarists.

Everyone has bands that for some reason, they just can't hear: even though you keep hearing that the band is all that, you can't empathize. In my case it's bands like Blind Guardian, Marduk and Darkane. But I know I'm not alone on this. The Condor will back me up and say that Expanding Senses sounds exactly like everything else Darkane has done. And although I personally think that the debut, Rusted Angel, is the band's best work, I can guarantee that if you liked Insanity, Darkane's previous album, you'll like this one, too.

 

 

 

 

 

DARKNESS REMAINS - To Touch the Depths of Sorrow - CD - Tribunal Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Darkness Remains is an American band that plays a unique style of technical death metal that can be called progressive at times. The group shows promise in that it can play really well, but it often seems to be too technical for its own good. The drummer totally overplays, which is fine (even though he seems to have a bit of trouble on some of the blast beat parts). It's like he grew up musically only listening to Neil Peart and decided to take that style and make it even more busy. The guitar parts, too, sometimes seem technical but not for any reason beyond being so.

So, none of the tracks on To Touch the Depths of Sorrow really stand out. The production is partially at fault for this, but the vocals, which are kind of buried, are pretty uninteresting. The end result is an album that impresses, but doesn't necessarily please all that much. Still, most bands would kill to have the kind of talent that is assembled here, so let's just give these guys a little time to really find themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

DEAD RAVEN CHOIR - The Blood of Two Wolves - CD - Maelstrom Zine

review by: Roberto Martinelli

We got a bunch of CDR albums by Dead Raven Choir, a largely one-man, dark folk project, and it's pretty weird. It's so almost inexplicably strange that I hesitate to call it bad outright.

Take The Blood of Two Wolves as an example. This record is performed by two guys, one who plays guitar and one who does vocals. The vocals are all spoken in what I suspect is at least an exaggerated (if not totally put on) Eastern European accent - the guy likes to roll his Rs. The music itself is totally improvised. It seems that most of the time the vocalist is leading the guitarist, but the response time is kind of staggered. This means you'll get lots of parts where the vocalist decides he wants to get dramatic or dark or quiet or sinister, and the guitarist will get the idea a few moments later and launch into something he feels suits the mood. The attempts at dynamics seem totally random, almost as if the two guys sat down and made a checklist for each song, that each track had to feature at least one anxious part, one sulking part, one indifferent part, one reflective part, etc... and the vocalist is going down the list crossing the requisites off.

I'm confused at to what the intention of this album is considering its baffling values. You would think that The Blood of Two Wolves was intended as a pedestal to present some dark poetry, but as that, it fails. This is because the vocals are so buried in the mix that you can only make out every 10th word or so. I had to put on headphones to be able to follow what was going on. Even if the vocals were properly audible, it seems that the lyrics were written in as improvised a manner as the music, or spouted out from some dark folk lyric generator machine that has for a vocabulary 150 dark words that it arranges randomly.

The improvised music itself follows in the same pattern as the variety of the vocals. It's all random plinks and warbles with little strums here and there. Is this the result of two guys who really have no idea what they're doing and have no talent whatsoever, or is it the result of two lunatics without that much musical talent to speak of, but whose music that could be called bafflingly bad will incite morbid curiosity in some listeners? I'll leave it up to you. On to the next Dead Raven Choir review...

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Grand Ravishing Extravaganza (issue No 10)  
...But Inside They Are Ravening Wolves (issue No 10)  
Sky of Rose and Wolves (issue No 10)  

 

 

 

DEAD RAVEN CHOIR - Grand Ravishing Extravaganza - CD - Death Aesthetics

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Well, now, this is much different. On this mini album, Dead Raven Choir explores some sort of black noise that toes the line between black metal and experimental. The sound is totally fucked and fuzzed out. I'm a big fan of fuzzy, so this is a big plus in my book. The music is primarily guitar fuzz and scathing vocals that are both LOUD.

Although there are sometimes some simple melodic elements that make their way into the seven tracks on this album, Grand Ravishing Extravaganza is more about the sound than the compositions. Ironically, the track that has the most distinction on the album, one that has folky guitar like on the acoustic Dead Raven Choir albums, is the least enjoyable. There are apparently some drums on this album (which were "donated by an anonymous source"), but I didn't hear any. This is how perverted the sound is.

This MCD may not be ravishing or extravagant, but it's an intense listening experience. For people like me, this kind of fucked up beyond all recognition production and caustic vocals provide for some kind of blissful experience. To make things cooler, the album comes in a package that you can't help but love: a little CD with a sunflower (?) printed on it that comes in a plastic slip case wrapped by a simple piece of high-quality paper featuring a wrap around picture of a mountain at dusk. The whole thing is hand tied by a piece of rope to hold it together. In my book that's pretty cool. Check it out.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
The Blood of Two Wolves (issue No 10)  
...But Inside They Are Ravening Wolves (issue No 10)  
Sky of Rose and Wolves (issue No 10)  

 

 

 

DEAD RAVEN CHOIR - ...But Inside They Are Ravening Wolves - CD - Brazos Valley Meat Authority http://lvd.4mg.com

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This album is very much in the same vein as The Blood of Two Wolves, except Smolken, the main lunatic behind this project, is performing everything. However, the pieces on this recording are not improvised. As a result, there is much more to listen to musically within each track. Added variety is supplied by including cello and electric guitars on top of the acoustic guitar, which provides the bulk of the music.

...But Inside They Are Ravening Wolves suffers inexplicably from the same problems that plague The Blood of Two Wolves, namely the vocals are way too low. The vocals themselves are more or less identical to the ones on The Blood...: goofily exaggerated Eastern European accented voice with random, roller coaster drama. Smolken is in fact a Polish national who came to the US in 1986, but I still can't help but think that the vocals are somehow put on.

And while moments of each song sound good in themselves, the redundancy and total lack of separation from song to song, added with the difficulty in hearing what Smolken is trying to say make things get old really fast. Come to think of it, this incarnation of Dead Raven Choir is in every conceivable way the poor man's version of Finnish folk/psychedelic group Kemialliset Ystävät (check out the reviews below). So if you either love Kemialliset even more than I do, then maybe spending a few bucks on the quiet version of Dead Raven Choir may give you some enjoyment as well, but tread carefully.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
The Blood of Two Wolves (issue No 10)  
Grand Ravishing Extravaganza (issue No 10)  
Sky of Rose and Wolves (issue No 10)  

 

 

 

DEAD RAVEN CHOIR - Sky of Rose and Wolves - CD - DarkBlack Musik Productions

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Here's another one of Smolken's folk incarnations of his Dead Raven Choir project. It may largely be more of the same, but the quality and interest of the material and execution has improved greatly.

This time around, Smolken got an actual band to help him. The richness of the instrumentation, featuring mandolin, banjo, tambourine, organ, piano and something called a pennywhistle to go along with the electric guitars and basses, plus a much less slipshod feeling concerning the musicianship and compositions make this album something that offers some things to enjoy.

Smolken loves Winnie the Pooh as much as he loves wolves. The liner notes even mention that Sky of Rose and Wolves was completed on the 75th anniversary of the children's classic. If Smolken were here I'm sure he'd say that he loves the A.A. Milne version of the honey-loving bear and not the version that Disney has been putting out since it bought the rights. Milne's writings are featured on several of the songs on Sky of Rose and Wolves, including the last five tracks on the album. These five stand as one piece and are narrated by a woman whose voice has something that really makes you take notice. Speaking of voice, Smolken seems to have gotten stuff right in terms of mixing his albums. The vocals have finally been brought up to a reasonable level, and the sound and interplay of the instruments is much better.

Dead Raven Choir culls its inspiration from various sources. In addition to Milne, there is also a quiet cover of an Averse Sefira song (yeah, the black metal band from Texas), to go along with covers of other bands that I've never even heard of (anyone know about Taint Meat or Deadskull?). Try not to snicker when Smolken drops his rolly "r" Eastern European accent for a twangy blues voice as he sings about his baby on "She Dances."

While Dead Raven Choir is still kind of goofy and remains in my mind the poor man's Kemialliset Ystävät, Sky of Rose and Wolves shows that Smolken is getting his creative steam going. I hope that the next Dead Raven Choir album is even better than this one.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
The Blood of Two Wolves (issue No 10)  
Grand Ravishing Extravaganza (issue No 10)  
...But Inside They Are Ravening Wolves (issue No 10)  

 

 

 

DECEMBER WOLVES - Blasterpiece Theatre - CD - Wicked World

review by: Roberto Martinelli

I'm not sure whether to think Blasterpiece Theater is the one of the greatest album names or one of the stupidest. Likewise, I'm on the fence as to whether the album itself is good or not.

Blasterpiece Theatre has got quite a few things that work in its favor, some that don't, and then some that do AND don't. It's very confusing. In terms of the do's, December Wolves' music is infused with a tremendous, visceral energy. Stylistically, Blasterpiece Theatre is pummeling death metal, but it's delivered in a way that makes me almost want to call it black metal in the same breath. When listening to this album, the music of Satyricon and particularly the new Thorns often came to mind. This probably has a lot to do with the similarities of vocal delivery between Satyr and December Wolves' vocalist, Smails.

But as much as that energy I talked about in the previous paragraph works, it equally doesn't. I initially listened to Blasterpiece Theatre in my car, where I generally like to listen to music. This record sounded so bad. It was like when the audio plug to your stereo or Walkman isn't all the way in and you're only getting half the signal. Everything sounded suffocated and lost under everything else. Later, I listened to the album on headphones and found more to like, but I think that the main problem still remains. However, while this particular choice in production value may seem alienating and cold, it could also be how December Wolves achieves the heartless drive that is more or less in the same league as Anaal Nathrakh, but far less accomplished.

It seems pretty likely that the drums are programmed. I mean, they certainly sound programmed, with really thin and mechanical tones that suggest a drum machine or triggers. The liner notes don't really clear things up much. It would seem reasonable to use a drum machine here, as the album is basically one speed all the way through and there isn't really much variety in what is thrown at you almost constantly.

It's important to accept that Blasterpiece Theatre isn't really an album of songs. In Maelstrom's pages, we've sometimes talked about music of this sort reaching a point where it's so fucked up and gone that it starts to become less and less like structured music and more like ambient. Looking at Blasterpiece Theatre in this light, it makes sense. If you want song separation and variety, then this album will bore you to tears, 'cause it's the same song the whole way through. This repeated song can offer the right listener quite a good time, though. The riffs and guitar work are blistering, and then there's that undeniable energy.

What clearly doesn't work is the over-use of sound samples before songs. Sound samples are a very tricky thing. Usually, they totally suck. For December Wolves, the sound samples are tedious and do nothing but break up the album's flow. Maybe you have to know the context, but a sample of some conversation in which two guys talk about a bunch of gold, and one guy thinks it's worth $500 and the other $5,000, is really, really lame.

So I'm still undecided whether I like this album. More listens may endear me more to it, but I feel pretty strongly that the unappealing production and repulsive samples will ultimately lose out. Battles in the North may be one of my favorite albums ever, and that's all more or less one speed, but that's Immortal, and Immortal, this isn't. Buy with caution.

 

 

 

 

 

DORNENREICH - Her Von Welken Nächten - CD - Prophecy Productions

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Prophecy Productions label is known for putting out quieter records that play up an artsy feel and yet still manage to remain somehow in the black metal universe. And although Dornenreich is the label's first proper black metal band, it fits in well.

You'll see Dornenreich often promoted with the phrase "avant-garde black metal." That is an apt title. Just like bands such as Solefald and Eikenskaden, Dornenreich is trying to go for an atypical angle while still remaining black metal, and achieves great success on this album.

The most readily apparent element of this so-called avant-gardeness are the vocals, which are largely done in a uniquely intense, paranoiac whisper. Comparisons of these vocals can be drawn to the manic, whispering-yet-screaming ones found on some parts of Solefald's The Linear Scaffold (which is a must have album, by the way). The record, which appears to be a concept album (all lyrics are in German), starts off solely with this low whisper that gradually builds before exploding into electric guitars that are accompanied by some violin. Later, cello is added as well. The inclusion of these two acoustic instruments reminds me of In the Woods' Omnio at times. At other times it seems as if Dornenreich may have drawn some influence from Dodheimsgard's Satanic Art in the way violins are included in the faster metal sections. Dornenreich appreciates dynamics and uses them well.

What else is cool about this record is how the first, fast and intense half is complemented with soft and largely acoustic songs. Here, of course, the whispering vocals fit in the best. The amount of this music may annoy some people, but I find the compositions excellent and the mood very well done.

So this record is certainly not for every black metal fan. As with many of the bands that Prophecy puts out, Dornenreich has that air that I can only describe as "art fag-ness." The singer makes little gay, exclaimed sighs and snorts. The booklet's lyrics are very elaborate and are filled with pictures of the band sometimes in rather effeminate poses hanging out in waterfalls and forests with their shirts off. These images and sounds makes you imagine the musicians as fitting that stereotype of the avant-garde, highfalutin, snobby, rich art fanatic who speaks in educated, clipped English and laughs in a high-pitched, absurd laugh - the kind of person that many would want to punch directly in the mouth. And although this may seem like a put-down, it is really, truly an element that makes this record so appealing. It's evil, but it's gay; it's soft, but it's black metal. It's just so weird and well-done, and that's great. Highest recommendations.

 

 

 

 

 

DUSK - Mourning... Resurrect - CD - Lost Disciple Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Lost Disciple Records has re-relased this, the debut record from 1994 of a very obscure doom/death band called Dusk. As doom/death, the music is par for the course: heavy tones and moods, alternating slow and crushing parts and then slow parts with fast double bass underneath, and a death growler.

The album delivers the targeted atmosphere perfectly. However, the songs themselves aren't very remarkable, all seemingly being from the same mold. After hearing the first couple of songs, you can generally tell what's going to happen next. This isn't bad, necessarily, but then add in the fact that the riffs start to sound very much alike. In the end, Mourning...Resurrect is a respectable album, and should be looked at as one long mood song rather than a collection of musical compositions. At the price of an EP, doom/death fans will want to look for this, especially considering this genre largely has died down since its heyday in the mid-90s.

 

 

 

 

 

END THIS DAY - Sleeping Beneath the Ashes of Creation - CD - Lifeforce Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This very solid metalcore album is largely in the same vein as label mates Heaven Shall Burn, albeit not done with quite as much conviction. While Heaven Shall Burn draws its power from Slayer's most angst filled vibes, End this Day is more death metal, particularly in the Swedish vein composition-wise, but with a guitar tone that is more common to US bands. The lower vocals that are used simultaneously with the higher, hardcore ones also give the band some of its death metal feel.

End this Day throw in an acoustic piece at the end that features some massive, unplugged bass sounds.

In the overall scope of what Lifeforce Records has to offer, Heaven Shall Burn is definitely the band to check out first. If you find that band's brutal, screaming aggression to your liking, then you'll almost certainly be happy with End this Day as well.

 

 

 

 

 

ETERNAL GRAY - Kindless - CD - Raven Music

review by: Tom Orgad

Eternal Gray, a newcomer band from Israel, plays death metal, obviously being a derivative of the Morbid Angel school. And they do it well. The band has all the required features to produce a professional technical death album: its playing is perfectly tight and accurate, shaping an organic system in which every individual part functions in complete synchronization with the other, all executing their pulverizing aggressive agenda in an accurate, flawless fashion.

Especially emphasized are the near-virtuoso abilities of the drummer, easily holding seemingly eternal outbursts of raging blast beats. The individual off-stream segments of guitar soloing are excellent, ascending the noodlings that are too-often apparent in the genre, revealing instead a creative original harmonic and rhythmical thinking, a bit similar to the less-classical moments of Marty Friedmann. The compositions, expectedly consisting of an endless flow of furious riffs, are very well constructed, including some of the better dual guitar riffing I have heard lately, cleverly incorporating some rhythm changes and clean guitar parts, raising the eeriness factor, making quite a significal contribution to the overall atmosphere.

Still, I feel that this album lacks a certain aspect: while delivering a technical death output that nears perfection on every articulated, measured attribute, this album lacks the conveyance of an essential message, a substantial say. As also reflected on the rather banal lyrics, it seems that the band chose to limit its efforts to mastering their favorite metal genre, successfully managing to fulfill its goal, yet completely giving up during this process on the insertion of a significant, original idea or concept to their creation.

This is a great showcase of powerful, aggressive death metal, and probably will supply fans of the genre with a real treat. Yet, for the casual listener not thoroughly acquainted with the specific, aforementioned realm, seeking the leading, innovative masterpieces of each class to appear on his collection, this won't be a conspicuously exceptional addition.

 

 

 

 

FALCONER - Chapters from a Vale Forlorn - CD - Metal Blade Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

As of not too long ago, I had thought of Falconer as this dorky, cheesy power metal group that had its own sound but was largely too plain and boring to warrant my attention. There were one or two songs off the first album that I liked, but I was used to the style that most power metal bands stick to nowadays: high vocals, flashy solos and happy riffs.

I used to think that Falconer's singer wasn't up to task to support songs that seemed pretty light in the riff department. Mathias Blad's clean, golden-throated voice may be profoundly annoying to some (read ~Vargscarr~'s hilarious review of the first album in issue #4), but in a genre that is made up primarily of copycats, he stands out.

And so I was going to tell you that the new Falconer is a lot like the first one: The first song is irresistibly likeable, and then the album goes downhill.

But then there's this song called "The Clarion Call," which is probably going to be my pick for the best song (that is, with singing) of the year. Not only are the vocal melodies very well chosen, but the song features some nice harmonies that seemed to have been absent from Falconer's music up till now. The song is arranged well, and it has riffs that give the listener something else to enjoy past the stirring vocals. Indeed, it seems that this song, which is the clear best on the record, sets the stage for a stronger second half. Of particular note is the last song, "Busted to the Floor," which strays the most from the Falconer persona with a large heaping of classic rock elements.

Hearing "The Clarion Call" and then seeing Falconer live made me start to see Falconer with different eyes. I found myself going back to Chapters from a Vale Forlorn and the debut album, and finding all sorts of stuff that I liked that I hadn't noticed before. Stuff like really cool melodies and vocal arrangements, and riffs that actually are individual to songs. Sure, Falconer is still totally gay, often infusing their music with "medieval" themes (think: Renaissance pleasure faire). The first album has this cheesy song, "Quest for the Crown," that always makes me think of that part in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" in which "Brave" Sir Robin is going through the woods as his minstrels sing about how "he's not afraid to die in nasty ways." The new album stays in form with a song about being a lonely minstrel and another about singing to children.

Isn't one of the main tenets of Buddhism something about expectation being the cause of disappointment? Well, if you expect Falconer to be like all the other power metal bands you like, you'll hate it. But if you go in with the intention of enjoying this band for its unique style, then you may grow to like it too. It only took me about a year and a half.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Falconer (issue No 4)  
The Sceptre of Deception (issue No 16)  

 

 

 

FREEDOM CALL - Eternity - CD - SPV/Steamhammer

review by: Roberto Martinelli

You know you'll get more totally wussy power metal with the release of a new record by Freedom Call. The band doesn't even try to hide the fact its music is totally gay. In case you think I'm exaggerating, consider the fact the first record is called Stairway to Fairyland. Even by German power metal standards, this band is pretty fruity. They give Edguy a run for its money.

Freedom Call's last record, Crystal Empire (review in issue #3), is one of my favorite anti-albums ever. Since then, I've grown to appreciate and even shamelessly like some of this brand of music that is really about as far away as what heavy metal was intended to be but at the same time defies classification as anything but metal. Eternity is cheesy and often embarrassing, yes, but there's something finely controlled and calculated about it that makes me think it's not such a bad album. (Objectively, the only thing that really falls flat on the record is when something like death metal vocals are attempted on a short part of one song.)

In fact, I think it's a pretty good album. Sure, it's total cheese pop mixed with metal; inane lyrics about hailing the metal invasion presented in a sing along way with beats and structures you've heard a million times. But Freedom Call can play and seem to know exactly what they're doing, and damn it, I enjoyed some of the songs. It's fun and it's light and it's mindless, and it's well done. Don't be afraid, embrace the gayness, you may find you like Freedom Call, too.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Crystal Empire (issue No 2)  

 

 

 

FRETERNIA - A Nightmare Story - CD - Arise Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Freternia gives you a good first impression of itself with a good, full production. The band's style of power metal is not so much in the Bach-meets-metal fiddlings of label mates Dark Moor (arguably the best power metal band on the planet) or Arwen, and more in a simpler, more heavy metal delivery. It's still clearly European, though. What especially makes or breaks a band like this is the singer. Regrettably, Pasi Humppi's strained, screaming register doesn't display any talent and gets irritating after a few songs. Even the not terribly remarkable group choruses sound good compared to the lead vocals. This Finnish group is a young one with some potential, but there's quite a bit of room to improve.

 

 

 

 

 

FUCK THE FACTS - promo - CD - mijd@hotmail.com

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

These songs have been taken from the FTF/Kastrat split and are very entertaining to say the least. Fuck the Facts are like what Circle of Dead Children might sound like if they ever decide to display a sense of humour in their music and lyrics.

Fourteen tracks in less than six minutes! Raging and blistering grind with amusing song names and liberal doses of noise and jazz stylings (again, played with a cool sense of humour). Song names include "Honey, please! Not in Front of the Children," "Math Rock Superstar" and "Yngwie vs. FtF."

There are a lot of good riffs in here, so it's a pity that none of them are repeated even once. But Fuck the Facts seems to be all about non-conformity so it might be foolish to expect such things. I look forward to hearing more from this band in the future, hopefully a full length.

 

 

 

 

 

FUCKING CHAMPS, THE - V - CD - Matador Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This San Francisco-based math rock band has kept with the same basic blueprints of their last two records, equally creatively titled III and IV. Math rock is an instrumental only (or, almost always) form of music that is close to rock but stresses technical skills. Also, math rock bands often don't have a bass guitarist. The Champs have added appeal to a wider audience as their characteristically heavy sound draws a great deal from heavy metal.

But The Champs don't like to be called metal, even though one of their members used to play in the godly Weakling (review in issue #1) and is a big metal fan himself. In fact, it seems as if The Champs are one of these bands that like to distance themselves from any genre. Considering this, it came as sort of a surprise that this band keeps making the same kind of record over and over; in fact, III has the most diversity with inclusion of several electronica tracks and ambient pieces.

Not that I'm complaining. When a band finds a formula as good as this one, you can't fault it for sticking with it. The Fucking Champs sound has this great blend of heaviness and clarity that makes it stand out. Then there are the signature riffs.

III is still the best and most diverse record I've ever heard of this band, and is one of my favorite albums ever. However, V is better than IV, which got a little slow and uninteresting for about 10 minutes after the first few, excellent tracks. V keeps things engaging throughout, but the stand out track for me is ironically one that is an adaptation of J.S. Bach's "Air." The theme of Andres Segovia (a classical guitarist) worship is represented here with a bouncy version of the theme that appears twice on III.

The Champs aren't trapped in a style that won't allow them to progress - yet. Artistic development ideals aside, this band can continue to release the same kind of record with the same packaging and presentation and still remain one of the favorites of people like me. Recommended.

 

 

 

 

 

GROTESQUEUPHORIA - Euphoric Discordance - CD - http://www.grotesqueuphoria.com

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

If you are the sort of person who is very picky about the sound quality, you might be a tad disappointed. The guitars are too muddy and the drums sound pretty bad too, but this album seems to be a self financed effort so in my opinion, these things can be overlooked. And the music? Not bad. Not bad at all.

Grotesqueuphoria pretty much follow the steps of brutal American death metal bands like Suffocation, but they seem to have a bit more to offer. Unfortunately this "bit more" is not much. What I am referring to are the totally discordant solos that are found in the first few songs. Think of Pyrexia mixed with the discordance of modern day Gorguts and that's what the first three tracks sound like.

But from song no. 4, things started to go downhill. Two very ponderous instrumentals did not help their cause either. The music was still brutal all right, but if you are already used to a overdose of brutal death, you might find it pretty tiresome to listen to this in its entirety. If this album had only three tracks (the first three) on it I probably would have been much more euphoric.

Grotesqueuphoria needs to master the first few songs again, put in some more kickass tunes and then unleash their next offering. They have the talent no doubt, as the technical guitar work in "Cursed To Live" amply demonstrates. I await their return.

 

 

 

 

 

HATE - Cain's Way - CD - WWIII Records

review by: Matt Smith

Well, I'm not sure if Cain's Way lives up to the press release I received, but albums rarely do. "...ferocious, precise work of genius" is a little strong, but what should I expect from PR? I don't mean to say this album wasn't good, though. Polish metal bands are notoriously good (most of the ones I've heard haven't disappointed me), and Hate continues this tradition in my mind. It's fast, it's dark, and I suppose it is pretty precise. Although many of the riffs go on too long and are reincorporated a bit too often, they are pretty strong and, well, ferocious. Maybe it was just the "work of genius" part I didn't like.

The production of Cain's Way is darker than most - the low range is really heavily emphasized, which suits their deep growl and low riffs. It's well-blended, too, though sometimes the lows dominate and wash over the mid-range. I don't think I'd change it, though. Cain's Way isn't revolutionary, but it's a superior addition to any death metal library.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Holy Dead Trinity (issue No 5)  

 

 

 

HELLA - Hold Your Horse Is - CD - 5rc

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This math rock group from Sacramento, California features godly musicianship and catchy riffs. Although there are only two members in this band, one on drums and the other on guitar, the level of musicianship is so mind-blowing that the duo more than make up the talents of most bands twice the size. As is the norm in math rock, there are no vocals.

The speedy, technical guitar riffs are a delectable feast that satisfy the listener with their precision and appeal. The tone is perfectly chosen to complement the guitarist's chops.

As far as the drums are concerned, drummers like me will feel as if they had died and gone to percussive heaven. The battery on Hold Your Horse Is is basically one extended drum solo, taking the most involved, super complex percussive work of Don Caballero and stretching it out over an entire album.

This hidden gem of an album is without question something to seek out, especially if you are into bands like Don Caballero and The Fucking Champs. The nature and appeal of Hold Your Horse Is will be equally enjoyed by fans of jazz, technical death and indie rock, without really falling into any of those categories. Highly recommended.

 

 

 

 

 

HIDDEN - Spectral Magnitude - CD - Red Stream Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The Hidden don't want you to know who they are. Now, this is probably just a publicity stunt to give an up-and-coming band some mystique. In fact, everything about this album is playing up a hidden theme: the mysterious identities, the themes of cosmic creation and destruction, the obscure sound of the music, and of course a hidden track. However, in the end what matters is the actual music, and Spectral Magnitude, the band's first album, is a quality piece of work.

With a cover that looks a great deal like Hades Almighty's latest record, Spectral Magnitude is a mix of the black, death and doom styles. The riffs and flavor of the album often times reminds me of Opthalamia's Via Dolorosa, but with way more relative angst and darkness. The vocal style is somewhere between black and death metal, and the riffs and arrangements are nice to listen to.

What Hidden ends up sounding like is a dark, sinister jam band that likes to have lightspeed drumming and infectious chugging one song and then throw in some slow and deliberate doom tunes. The jam band feel is greatly upheld by the albums sound, which is slightly lo-fi. The bass drums aren't very audible most of the time, but the overall bass sound is pretty up front. In all, Spectral Magnitude has a certain subdued and dark energy that is appealing. It's cool that Hidden aren't trying to out-extreme anybody, but rather have put together a good album. You won't find any pumped-up, triggered drums or over-the top production here, just good dark metal tunes and jams.

 

 

 

 

 

HOPE CONSPIRACY, THE - Endnote - CD - Equal Vision

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This punk/hardcore band delivers an album of hard hitting, heavy songs with excellent production and heart. The songs and riffs on Endnote are simple and to the point, but very entertaining and satisfying. There isn't much variety, either, but the killer vocals and infectious vibes from the kickass drums and guitars keep you in a nice sweet spot. Endnote may not be essential, but it's a damn good time.

 

 

 

 

HUMAN REMAINS - Where Were You When - CD - Relapse Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Relapse Records has taken everything that Human Remains ever recorded during the lifespan of this band (from 1989-1995) and has put it onto a 2CD set.

Human Remains was an interesting band that had showcased creative ideas on some of its releases. The most famous and noteworthy of these recordings is the Using Sickness as a Hero EP. This recording is the high point of Human Remains' development of this unique, technical guitar style. The tone sometimes sounds almost like a keyboard or some sort of plugged in accordion. The intermittent way the guitar is played make it sound like someone is pulling out the plug to the guitar amp and then plugging it back in, in time and at high speed. The result is a peculiar listening experience that sometimes would sound totally gay if it weren't so weird.

Much of the rest of Human Remains' music relies on more common deathgrind. At the helm of the percussive attack is Dave Witte, who went on to Discordance Axis fame. If you're familiar with that band, you'll know Witte is one of the sickest one-footed blasters in all of creation. (If you're not familiar with him, go get Discordance Axis' The Inalienable Dreamless!) Other Human Remains members went on to form the ground breaking Dillinger Escape Plan.

Vocally, Human Remains sounds a great deal like Ripping Corpse much of the time, particularly on disk 1.

The main, glaring problem that you notice come when you take a look at where these recordings come from. Human Remains never released a proper, full length album; all the songs are taken either from demos (four of them) or two 7"s (there is one CD EP section and an unreleased track as well). Even the Using Sickness as a Hero material is technically a demo. This means that you'll get a lot of really shitty sounding stuff.

Listening to disk 2 is almost a tedious experience due to the muddy sound and repetitive nature of the recordings. If it seems like you've heard some of these songs before, it's because you have - on disk 1. Another problem with only making demos is that songs are repeated - in some cases three versions of the same song are present on this compilation. Strangely, the best material on the disk, the Sickness... demo, is placed at the very end of the comp, making it relatively a pain to get to.

Disk 1 has some good stuff, namely the CDEP material, and overall is much better than disk 2. However, at least half the stuff on this comp is nothing that you'll ever want to listen to again.

You'd be best off getting the Sickness... EP and that Relapse CDEP (if you can find it) and being happy with that - there's just too much wading through slop to have to get to the good parts to make this recommendable.

 

 

 

 

 

HYPONIC - Black Sun - CD - hyponic@asiamail.com

After reading the bio of this band, I was a bit confused and not too optimistic about the music I was about to hear. The short write up didn't mention much about the music other than "this is
a fast song....this is a slow song." I also saw the word "doom" once or twice. Added to the fact that most Asian bands (these guys are from Hong Kong) don't really seem to know what doom is, somehow the impression got into my mind that Hyponic were one of the pseudo (gay) doom bands (read Tristania etc..) or something like that.

Thankfully, Hyponic steer clear of that path. I actually liked their music, though I am not yet a part of their diehard fan base. There are no crappy female vocals present, no acoustic doodlings, just bare and stripped down old school death metal that occasionally goes into the real-slow mode to give it that dooomy feeling.

Incantation was brought to my mind on more than a few occasions, mainly in the way the bleak atmosphere was maintained in the first few songs. This feeling was partially destroyed by the fourth song, "Third" (??), with it's melodic solos and rather dragging length.

There are some seven tracks on this, including a hidden one, and with a good sound overall. According to the write up, song 5, "Vile" is a "fast" one...huh? This is fast? They probably have been listening to too much Winter. Anyway, if you like old school death metal pick this up and give it a try. After all, not everyday do you get decent metal from a place like Hong Kong.

 

 

 

 

INFECTED FLESH - Anthropophagical Devourment - CD - American line Records

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Shit, I thought the new Kabak was good (see review below), but this blows it right out of the water. Rare is the occasion when I hear a death/grind band that makes me think "Hey! I haven't heard something like this before."

In this case the vocals totally stumped me! It's not the run of the mill guttural vokills that have become so commonplace, neither is it like anything else I have heard. Mid-ranged but it sounds like the guy is talking rather than growling. There are two vocalists though, with the other guy doing the standard high-pitched grindcore shrieking.

But wait, fuck the vocals. It's the music that will kick your ass so hard that you wont have to bother getting your hemorrhoids removed. High-speed palm muted riffs combine with frenetic drumming to give you the rush of your life while the incessant use of those little pinch harmonics start eating slowly into your brain.

A lot of parts, especially the ones with the harmonics remind me of the french goremasters, Morgue. And just like Morgue, I like this album more each and every time I listen to it. The drumming is insane. He is all over the place, blasting, sudden double bass runs, you name it. I tell you, Spain is THE hotbed for grind these days, and these guys are one of the fore runners. Get it any way you can!

 

 

 

 

INFERNAL - Ritual Humiliation - CD - Jethro Songs

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Infernal are one of those bands that have got the sound, but lack the content.

In terms of production, this Brazilian death metal band was nice to listen to. The instruments come across in a clear yet heavy way, and the way the low, scaly bass guitar manages to come through is a nice touch. In a similar fashion, Infernal play their largely mid-paced death metal well and by the book.

And this is largely the problem. Infernal is merely rehashing the standard that has come countless times before it. The drummer plays his three or four beats perfectly, but he never adds anything new. The songs are all structured the same. The riffs have no memorability. Outside of the initial thrill of aggression from the very metal production when the first song begins, none of Ritual Humiliation grabs the listener.

It could certainly be worse. Infernal are lucky enough to have the technical side of making a recommendable death metal record down. Now if they can find the inspiration or courage to try something unique, then we'd probably have something more than just a decent death metal record.

 

 

 

 

INIQUITY - Grime - CD - Candlelight Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

If this weren't Iniquity, I'd be telling you how Grime is an impressively played and brutal death metal album. And this album is all that, but considering that this IS Iniquity - the same Danish band that released Five Across the Eyes, one of the least talked about but best death metal records ever - Grime is a pretty strong disappointment.

It seems that the whole recipe for Iniquity's success has gone with Brian Eriksen, one of the guitarists on Five Across the Eyes and the only member from that record not to return on Grime. Gone are the amazing solos and riffs that married technicality, brutality and melody. The band had it exactly right: songs that upheld the conservative death metal ideals but whose arrangements and riffs were catchy and memorable, and enjoyable every time.

Now Iniquity is only writing riffs that chug and squeal. The music and vocals just barrel along. They barrel and barrel, but that's it. After about three songs things start to sound very much the same, and tediously so. It's like having a meal of a nice, zesty chicken sandwich with roasted peppers, pesto and crisp tomato on focaccia (or whatever you like) changed to a meal made up entirely of the best possible boiled potatoes. The production and conviction that uphold the music are coming from the right place, but the change in approach leaves me totally baffled.

 

 

 

 

 

IRRITATE/ UTTER BASTARD - Split - CD - Hostile Regression Records/ Broken Noise

review by: Roberto Martinelli

I have been anticipating the official release of this CD for so long that I had actually given up hope. I'm really referring to side Utter Bastard, which is the long-time band of former Maelstrom contributor Liam Deely! Liam and the Bursiago brothers, Rob and George, have been at this band for at least eight years now, releasing a 3"MCD and a handful of 7"s, and playing about as many shows as they have records. So Utter Bastard isn't the most ambitious band. Despite this fact, Utter Bastard has managed to make a surprising name for itself in the area.

To best understand the music of Utter Bastard, try to imagine what a stoner rock band playing grindcore would sound like. The songs are short, but don't blast all the time; in fact, some of the songs don't blast at all. You won't be hearing the typical grind riffs from this band, but rather some pretty great blues or punk ones.

But it's still grind, for lack of a better word. Actually, the 30 Utter Bastard tracks are actually two totally separate recordings that the band has been sitting on for five and three years, respectively. You can really hear how far the band has come even between the two recordings. The first half of these are fun (and I'm totally putting my non-objective opinion in here), and honestly there are some pretty great riffs. Also, the vocals of George Bursiago are hilarious, kind of like a higher pitched, goofy Tom Araya. But the second half is much tighter; Liam can blast and play much better, and the songs are more technical.

The CD gets better as it goes along. It might have been done the other way around, like totally reversing the track order and putting the five Irritate tracks last. It seems that this Finnish band is inextricably linked to Utter Bastard: the aforementioned 3"CD was in fact a split with what was then called Cause for Effect. (Funny how the underground works: a split featuring a Finnish and an American band on a Malaysian label. Go figure.) Irritate isn't shit, but it's nothing more than a jam band that takes one or two simple heavy rock riffs and beats them to death while covering it with Cookie Monster vocals. Still, Irritate only takes up about a third of the disk.

So is this the greatest album ever? Hell no. But that's my objective side talking. Now that my subjective side has beaten the objective side senseless, I'll tell you that I won't be as excited by any album this year, with the exception of the upcoming Leviathan double CD on tUMULt Records.

 

 

 

 

 

ISIS - Oceanic - CD - Ipecac Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Isis is has largely left its hardcore style found on their record Celestial behind in favor of a more amorphous, free-flowing approach. The result is one that gives the music a very meditative feel. If you've heard House of Low Culture, the side project of Aaron Turner, one of Isis' members, then imagine a midway point between that and Celestial to get an idea of what to expect on this disk. (For those who don't know, House of Low Culture is a one man experimental/drone project.) And despite the fact at least two riffs from House of Low Culture have been recycled on Oceanic, the new direction works very well.

When listening to the music on Oceanic, you often wonder how Isis' hardcore screaming style will fit in, but it does. While a good deal of the disk is without vocals, the ones that are present are still very much as they have always been, with the exception of one track that features pretty and quiet female singing in some parts.

People seem to think of Isis in terms of Celestial. For me, anyway, Oceanic has far more to offer the listener with its reflective passages, light parts, and sprawling tracks. Indeed, Oceanic is aptly named. The booklet, which is all about this theme of the ocean, is also really cool: the middle pages are of a different quality paper, a little like parchment. A pretty great disk.

 

 

 

 

JUDAS ISCARIOT - Moonlight Butchery - CD - No Colours Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Judas Iscariot has returned to the fine form present on the album Heaven in Flames, and not a moment too soon.

After a rather bland effort (To Embrace the Corpses Bleeding, review in issue #8) in which the band was going for speed and sacrificing atmosphere, and departing from the superior high rasp for a lower and crappier register, Judas Iscariot has once again embraced the slower and more meaningful feel of his superior works.

You'll get the kind of slow, atmospheric song that fans have come to hope from Judas Iscariot, but there is also a bit of experimentation with a more jaunty slow beat. Perhaps Akhenaten has been inspired by the recent inclusion of a disco beat used by raw black metal compatriot Kanwulf on Nargaroth's MCD Rasluka Pt.II.

The last song of this 4-track MCD is a blisteringly fast one, once again drums courtesy of Akhenaten's best buddy, Cryptic Winter. This song is also a quality effort, being generally of the same caliber of the excellent MCD Dethroned, Conquered and Forgotten.

With a fine return to form musically and vocally, made even better by competent drummers and a production that is once again suitable to Judas Iscariot's style, Moonlight Butchery is an album that black metal purists should definitely seek out.

 

Related reviews:
 
Dethroned, Conquered and Forgotten (issue No 1)  
To Embrace the Corpses Bleeding (issue No 8)  
Of Great Eternity (issue No 10)  

 

 

 

JUDAS ISCARIOT - Of Great Eternity - CD - Elegy Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Of Great Eternity is not a new Judas Iscariot record. However, I believe that this particular album was only available until now on vinyl. The material was recorded in 1997, back when Akhenaten was still playing all instruments, including the drums.

Relative to Akhenaten's infamously dubious drum skills, the drumming on this album is excellent. Sure he makes some pretty obvious mistakes here and again, but he manages to keep time well most of the time through slow and fast tempos.

In terms of the overall quality of the compositions, Of Great Eternity rivals Judas Iscariot's finest work, Heaven in Flames, and outdoes it in terms of the variety of moods and approaches to the basic Judas Iscariot formula. As mentioned before, some of the songs feature fast drumming and rock harder. Others exist in an ethereal limbo state, either with no drum accompaniment or with only high-hat and occasional, simple fills. To Embrace the Corpses Bleeding looks especially shoddy when compared with this.

Now there are two recommendable Judas Iscariot records in this issue of Maelstrom. If you haven't got the vinyl version of this, and whether or not you're a Judas Iscariot fan, you'd be advised to check this out if cult black metal is your bag. At some times I hesitate to call this album necro outright, as some of the guitars sound a bit full and warm to fit solidly in that category. However, Of Great Eternity is a true work of black metal minimalism. This last element is what stands between what could have been Judas Iscariot's best overall work. As the complete works stand, Dethroned, Conquered and Forgotten has the best sound, this one the most variety, and Heaven in Flames the best overall package.

 

Related reviews:
 
Dethroned, Conquered and Forgotten (issue No 1)  
To Embrace the Corpses Bleeding (issue No 8)  
Moonlight Butchery (issue No 10)  

 

 

 

KABAK - Cronicas Del Quirofano - CD - American line Records

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

The El-Salvadorean gorefiends are back! Umm well, not "back" really. This CD seems to be tailor made for promotional purposes. Their demo "Mala Praxis" is included in this, plus two songs from the same demo in a new and re-mastered format, and three songs to watch live on video.

If you have heard their debut fell-length, Decomposicion Cerebral, then you already know what to expect: Gorefuckingrind with a skull crushing heavy but raw sound. There's this one track I must point out, as I have been listening to it almost everyday ever since I got this disc. It's called "Several Necrosis." Brutal is not the word to describe it! Kabak are at their best in this song, and this song highlights the real flavour of Kabak: red, hot gore served with some melodic riffs and some technical (or quirky?) drum fills here and there.

No aspersions can be cast on their proficiency as musicians, not as long as they keep churning out songs like "Several Necrosis" and "Mala Praxis" (which seems to stand for Breast Cancer in Spanish, I think?). The demo has a very very raw sound, and after listening to the polished versions I somehow seemed to like the demo version more.

Oh yeah, here's something I noticed. At 1:09 minutes into the song "Cataplexia Ante Mortem" comes one of the most off time sections I've ever heard. Guess Kabak were just not at their best that day. The videos are pretty cool: The crowd is moshing and stage diving all over the place, and the sound is quite raw too. Perhaps you should start with their debut album first to really explore the Kabak sound, but this certainly is a good buy too. http://bloodsoaked.net/amerline.htm

 

 

 

 

KALMAH - They Will Return - CD - Century Media Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

And so we find ourselves in the swamps again. This Finnish quintet have returned, not even one year after putting out their debut album, to give us this fantastic piece of melodic metal.

I'm going to try my best to compare Kalmah with country mates Children of Bodom as little as I can. It's just so hard. Suffice to say that if melody from blazing, cascading notes, dizzying guitar solos and noodly keyboard fills are your thing, then you'll eat this album up.

Like that other band from Finland, Kalmah's style shares more than a few elements with power metal, but is less so overall than the boys' from Lake Bodom. It's also much faster overall. While the Children seem to have abandoned the blast beat after their second album, Kalmah embraces it and uses it to thrilling effect.

And while this style is really only being copied, Kalmah has outdone the latest output from the masters. The benchmark for this style will always be Children of Bodom's Hatebreeder, They Will Return is clearly the next best thing.

Maelstrom writer Steppenvvolf was all enthusiastic about this band when it released its first album. I can see why. Now I need to check out the first one for myself. You may be turned off by this band's lackluster packaging (both covers look practically identical), but the content will put a big smile on your face. Totally essential for Children of Bodom fans, and pretty highly recommended for everyone else, as well.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Swamplord (issue No 6)  
Swampsong (issue No 14)  

 

 

 

KARJALAN SISSIT - Karjalan Sissit - CD - Cold Spring

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Well, what do we have here? A pretty great dark ambient/ orchestral piece of work. Karjalan Sissit is a compilation of bombastic, thick, and stirring hymns of war. But interspersed throughout the grand, fuzzy, sinister ambiance are these period folk songs that are taken from some ancient LP, giving you that rustic, antique scratchy gramophone sound. The contrast between the tow types of tracks is pretty cool.

As it stands as an album, Karjalan Sissit is highly recommendable to people like me who enjoy thick, fuzzy heaviness that is orchestrated in a musical fashion. As this, a musical work, it is quite recommended.

Editor's note: Karjalan Sissit appears to be at least a work that worships an extremely right-wing, fascist doctrine. Maelstrom has covered works that were either overtly or covertly racist or Nazi in the past, and will continue to do so. As the editor of this zine, I feel that we have not properly and responsibly addressed our views on this topic, i.e. how to reconcile 1) promoting music whose creators' philosophies may be outrageous to us with 2) the fact that we enjoy such music. To read our opinions on this issue, please click here.

In a later development, Justin of Cold Spring writes this concerning Karjalan Sissit's political views:

"The Karjalan Ssissit CD is not neo-fascist, nor does it carry that message. The album is about the war between Finland and Russia, Karjalan Sissit were Finnish soldier units, and the composer's uncle died in that war, hence the pictures of the soldier are of him."

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Miserere (issue No 13)  

 

 

 

KATAKLYSM - Shadows and Dust - CD - Nuclear Blast Records

review by: Matt Smith

"Northern Hyperblast," eh? Can't say I don't like it. I'm not too familiar with Kataklysm's earlier stuff, but I've heard it was much less melodic than it is now, and a bit faster and more technical. However, I respect any band that keeps changing direction, searching for the perfect sound. And the melodic lines Kataklysm uses in Shadows and Dust aren't a bad direction to go.

I like their original mix of head-banging riffs and melodic sections. They use interesting harmonies and coordinate them with great accuracy. Kataklysm has a crisp sound, relying on the music's inherent goodness instead of distortion to mask its simplicity.

The only problem with Kataklysm that bothers me listening to Shadows and Dust is one of the vocal lines. There's this high-pitched, gargling voice that sounds like one of the characters from the Labyrinth or some such thing. It's just not very rich - two dimensional, if you will. But the remaining elements of Kataklysm's sound are very natural together, complimenting each other well. I definitely enjoyed Shadows and Dust. I'm just sorry I missed them when their tour came by.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Epic: The Poetry of War (issue No 6)  

 

 

 

KEMIALLISET YSTÄVÄT - Suurempi Pieni Palatsi - CD - Alice in Wonder Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The music that this Finnish group makes is some sort of deeply psychedelic folk, but if it were played by lethargic, evil, retarded people. And that's not a knock, because Kemialliset Ystävät is one of the most strange and thoroughly delightful bands to be reviewed in Maelstrom's pages.

Those three words - lethargic, evil and retarded - so sum up the sound of Kemialliset Ystävät that I want you to put it in front of everything that gets talked about in the reviews for this band.

Kemialliset Ystävät's music comes from instruments that sound like they were dug up from a lost antique store in a ghost town. You can picture old, musty, out-of tune guitars, piano and fiddles with strings and keys missing. The instruments are so ancient and worn by neglect that the music they produce is timeless. If music could carry with it rust, must and dust, and present it in a way that makes you feel dreamy and nostalgic, then this is what it would sound like. It's like the feeling of an old record playing on an ancient gramophone from the turn of the 20th century. There's something to discover each time you hear it play, and the very sound itself never gets old in spite of the decrepitude of the medium.

The sleepy notes from the all-acoustic instruments play as swaying vocals waft in and out. Also included is percussion on primitive instruments, forlorn samples of birds, and parts that feature what can best be described as lethargic, evil and retarded duck calls. Then there's the material that always makes me think of some demented, evil music box whose gears have been worn by time. You'd be doing yourself a favor by looking into this band.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Varisevien Tanssi / Silmujen Marssi (issue No 10)  
Kellari Juniversumi (issue No 10)  

 

 

 

KEMIALLISET YSTÄVÄT - Varisevien Tanssi / Silmujen Marssi - CD - Alice in Wonder Records - 2002

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This Kemialliset Ystävät album preceeds the other two reviewed in this issue, and I'll be damned if I know what the title of the CDR is. That's because it's so cult it defies identification. The disk comes in a paper sleeve adorned with artistically illegible writing that is all wrapped in a light brown velvet sleeve. (I finally found out what the title is after I contacted band leader Jan Anderzén.)

As far as the music is concerned, it's very much like the Kemialliset Ystävät album reviewed in this issue but taken to further lethargic, evil and retarded extremes. If you've read H.P. Lovecraft, you may have come across his mentioning of the blind, idiot god at the middle of the universe, undulating mindlessly to a never-ending beat. Kemialliset Ystävät remind me very much of this god character. Their music is often retarded, but not in a stupid way: indeed, it's much like the fascinating, evil and inexplicable image that Lovecraft created.

The insidious music box is even more warped, pieces are falling off the ancient instruments, and the whole lot sounds like it was recorded in a musty, creepy and venerable wine cellar. Definitely worth the few dollars that it would cost you to obtain this. It's a great place to start your foray in to Kemialliset Ystävät. Trust me.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Suurempi Pieni Palatsi (issue No 10)  
Kellari Juniversumi (issue No 10)  

 

 

 

KEMIALLISET YSTÄVÄT - Kellari Juniversumi - CD - Fonal Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The latest record by this quintessential Finnish folk group is largely more of the same type of stuff on Suurempi Pieni Palatsi, but the sound is somehow warmer. You'll still be treated to the same style of acoustic instruments, wind chimes, bizarre music box-like sounds, LSD vocals and primitive percussion, except the sound overall is, for lack of a better term, much less retarded. It also seems as if electric instruments might be being used for the first time, which would certainly be contributing to the warm drone that permeates much of Kellari Juniversumi.

Indeed, it sounds as if Kemialliset Ystävät traded up the derelict instruments used on the last album for guitars that have all their strings and music boxes with new springs in them. The sound on this new album is noticeably less decrepit. The band seems to be moving farther and farther away from the bizarre, maniac sound of their first album.

The material itself, either due to the nature of the compositions or because of the production that carries it, tends to sit more in the background than on the band's previous works. But it also seems that the band is going for a less loose and lethargic playing style. All these subtle differences make for a feel that is less curiously evil and more dreamy. As with all the material from this band, Kellari Juniversumi comes highly recommended.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Suurempi Pieni Palatsi (issue No 10)  
Varisevien Tanssi / Silmujen Marssi (issue No 10)  

 

 

 

KING'S EVIL - Deletion of Humanoise - CD - Crash Music

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Now, taking a look at this album's poor cover and silly logo may lead you to believe that the content is some sloppy and useless crap from another scatterbrained Japanese band, but you'd be soooo wrong.

You can't be blamed for having such expectations. "King's Evil" sounds like a name that was put together after two random selections out of a heavy metal hat, and "Deletion of Humanoise" is not too much better, but this album is a really great piece of thrash metal.

King's Evil is hungry and inspired. You can hear it in the conviction that comes across in droves from their music. From the start you'll be treated to tight and focused songs that will make it impossible for you to sit still. The attack from the drums is full and infectious, as is the bass sound. The production is just right, with a guitar that has the right amount of crunch and vocals that fit in perfectly. Every song leaves you hungry for more.

Japan has put out bands that have duplicated other countries' groups' sound and improved on it in some respect. A perfect example is the amazing but also totally useless Shadow, which has taken the Gothenburg Sound and made it their reason to live. King's Evil truly distinguishes itself by not being a rip-off band. Sure, the music is clearly inspired by thrash greats like Kreator, but this is no copycat group. So you can put King's Evil next to Japanese outfits like Sigh and Vigilante, who are doing something unique. Just one aspect of this push to be different can be heard in the guitar solos, which have an identity of their own. The new Destruction looks ever so much more crappy next to fresh albums like Deletion of Humanoise. If you're any sort of a metal fan, you'll be well advised to pick this record up.

 

 

 

 

 

KOTIPELTO - Waiting for the Dawn - CD - Century Media Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Stratovarius won't let you forget that they're on hiatus until 2003 because they need some rest after years of constant touring. This is pretty odd, since every time you look, Stratovarius members are releasing some side-project album. And so it is the case with Timo Kotipelto, the singer of Finland's most important power metal band, who has made his first solo album.

This is soooo much better than that horrible mess that the other Timo in Stratovarius, Timo Tolkki, put out a few months ago. No, Waiting for the Dawn isn't an embarrassment. In fact, there are some genuinely good moments on this disk. The main asset here is Kotipelto's singing, which is the best he's ever done. Sounding a bit like Bruce Dickinson at times, Kotipelto uses a range that sounds more suited to his natural talents, thereby not sounding strained or yelping like he sometimes does in Stratovarius.

Backing Kotipelto up is a laundry list of big name metal musicians. Naturally he's got fellow Stratovarius member Jari Kainulainen (who also isn't resting) on bass, Roland Grapow of Helloween fame on guitar, Janne Wirman of Children of Bodom on keyboards, as five other guys from bands such as Sonata Arctica, H.I.M. and Symphony X. There are a lot of people in this lineup.

And while some of the moments - and even songs - are quite good, Waiting for the Dawn doesn't have enough strength to hold up as an album. There's just too much filler on this disk to recommend it. Sure, fans of Timo Kotipelto's will want to hear it, and probably will enjoy it to some extent, but save your money.

 

 

 

 

LIVING SACRIFICE - Conceived in Fire - CD - Solid State Records

review by: Matt Smith

I'm not at all familiar with this band, but I really enjoyed Conceived in Fire. It's really impressive death metal - it's very clean and structured, but not predictably so. Each song has at least a few good riffs in it, and a good sense of rhythm and timing makes some relatively simple grooves sound really good.

Living Sacrifice demonstrates its slower side with a couple of similar-sounding sections that must've been conceived on an acoustic guitar. Never have I heard such truly sweet-sounding music on a metal album. It adds a good mood to the CD as well as showing the versatility of the band. And the second slow section breaks into one heavy song, reminiscent of Meshuggah, actually, in the way the instrumentation is coordinated to start and stop simultaneously (though somewhat more conventionally).

Though somewhat uncomplicated, Living Sacrifice makes some good-sounding music. I bet their live performances are good for a crowd.

 

 

 

 

 

LORD WEIRD SLOUGH FEG, THE - The Lord Weird Slough Feg - CD - The Miskatonic Foundation

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The Miskatonic Foundation record label has re-packaged the first album by this overlooked and sorely underrated San Francisco heavy metal band. As a bonus, various demo recordings have been added, including some songs that have not yet been re-recorded onto studio albums.

Excuse me if I may be pushing things slightly, but the Lord Weird Slough Feg may be one of the best heavy metal bands ever. The group's terrific Celtically inspired songs fronted by unique vocals have always been a pleasure to listen to. The secret has been being a solid metal band (when it was all just "heavy metal") without being some sort of retro band, and yet infusing the genre with something unique and delectable. You get some of the best that the first half of the 80s had to offer but with more of a charging, highlands warrior feel. This means lots of rough, melodic solos and TONS of cool harmonies. Just check out 2000's Down Among the Deadmen (the best heavy metal record that year) to hear the band at its best. If you even like Manilla Road at all you have to hear this group.

While the repackaging of the debut album is certainly an improvement, it still looks a little crap - the cover, anyway. (That's supposed to be the Lord Weird Slough Feg himself - a person who lives underground and receives prophetic messages in his head that he writes on the walls and who is naked and in a permanently rotting state. I guess his dick must have rotted off.) However, the rest of the re-packaging - including notes about the band written by band leader Mike Scalzi - not to mention the excellent demo bonuses, make this a must have for Slough Feg fans and something those new to the band really should check out.

 

Related reviews:
 
Traveller (issue No 13)  

 

 

 

LOW - Trust - CD - Kranky

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Trust is an album's worth of soft songs. Some of the passages in the latter parts of Trust reminded me of Mogwai on their Rock Action album, while the first few songs kept making me think of Black Sabbath; "Solitude" in particular kept coming to mind.

There is nothing at all bad about Trust. I found listening to it a passively enjoyable experience while I walked though the city to and from work. However, I don't think I would ever spend any money on this. Why? Because Trust has what is perhaps the most dreaded characteristic of being great background music. Nothing really grabbed me, and I think that if I tried hard to find stuff I liked, it would backfire and I would end up hating the album. The last song was the most actively enjoyable of the bunch, but considering all the cool stuff you can find on the Kranky label (have you got all the Stars of the Lid records yet? What are you waiting for?), you needn't look out for this one.

 

 

 

 

 

LURKER OF CHALICE - Lurker of Chalice - Cassette - Wrest, 404 Ashbury St. #2, San Francisco, CA 94117

review by: Roberto Martinelli

What does Wrest of possessed one-man band Leviathan do when he's taking a rest from cranking out album after album of amazing black metal? Why, he's making albums under a different name, that's what! This latest side project of Leviathan is curiously entitled Lurker of Chalice. True to form, Wrest has already recorded four albums of material. This is the first one.

Lurker of Chalice further explores the favorite tones of dark brooding that can be found on like tracks in the Leviathan discography. Since Wrest is concentrating more on mood than technicality, he uses a drum machine. The vocals do have a bit of Leviathan in them, but there is more experimentation going on. Experimentation will always be the description when Wrest tries to incorporate singing in his records. As much as the man technically can't sing, he always uses what he's got physically and technologically to come through with some classic and enjoyable vocals. Other vocals are sort of woofed, and at one point Wrest starts shrieking like Varg Vikernes' little sister. It's pretty funny.

Like the vocals, the whole of the first Lurker of Chalice album ranges from mostly hit to mostly miss. There is no single excellent track, but there are a few really good ones, especially the ones at the end like "This Blood as Mortal Coil," where Wrest does the most exploration of the gloomy and ethereal. I'm not as exuberant about Lurker of Chalice as I am about Leviathan, but I still think it's got some worthy stuff on it. As is the case with all Leviathan stuff, for a couple bucks, you really can't go wrong.

 

 

 

 

 

MESHUGGAH - Nothing - CD - Nuclear Blast Records

review by: Matt Smith

I've been a big fan of Meshuggah since I first listened to Destroy, Erase, Improve - their mechanical, grinding style has always kept me interested enough to try to count the beats in every groove. That's why I like Nothing so much - it's more groove-oriented than their past albums, leaving out much of the whining guitar solo. Like past work, Nothing is full of time changes and confusing riffs that you have to listen to several times before you know when to expect a beat with any certainty.

Meshuggah's instrumentation is excellent, and the production highlights it well. Thick vocals sit on deep, rich guitars and a crisp but "thuddy" drum sound. They try to draw attention to certain aspects of the sound at certain times, but nothing really gets drowned out - you can follow any particular line all the way through the album.

Although they've changed their focus slightly to emphasize more of their unpredictable grooves, Meshuggah sounds like they always have, and they've got no reason to change. I've heard their riffs (or something strikingly similar) in the work of many others, but no one can do it quite as well. Nothing is another good set of songs from this great band.

 

 

 

 

 

MORBLAST - promo 2001 - CD - mijd@hotmail.com

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

This is a three-song promo from Dutch death metallers Morblast. "Coronation of James" starts with a beautiful yet melancholy guitar intro before erupting into a frenzy of blasting drums and searing riffs. They cite Death and Morbid Angel as their influences but I am distinctly reminded of Death rather than the latter.

The guitar work on this is really good. Mournful solos are interspersed with the more traditional death metal parts and make this is a pretty interesting listen. The drums add a little extra notch to the "technical" factor though they sound programmed. The third song, "Raise War," is a live song and sadly the guitar cannot be heard at all. However the drumming blew me away on this song: Flo Mounier-like hyperblasting and judicious use of the double bass pedal. This song is definitely more intense than the first two. Morblast are a band to watch out for and I am sure they are going to get signed soon.

 

 

 

 

 

MUDSLINGER - Cover the Sun - CD - Lord Slog Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Considering what Mudslinger seems to have set their goal on, it seems that success has been reached. Based on the band name, you can have a pretty good idea of what you'll get on Cover the Sun: heavy metal that's just that. In this sense, Mudslinger has accomplished its mission. Cover the Sun, from its chugging riffs to its professional production, is very, very heavy.

Looking at the packaging reveals even more about this band's approach. The five songs on this 30-minute CD are all made up of singular, simple words like "Dust," "Mask" and "Swamp." Likewise, the music is very simple. Very generic riffs that would not for an instant be mistaken as anything other than metal make up Mudslinger's style. For some, it will become tedious fast. But for others, particularly fans of heavy, simple bands like Skinlab (even though Mudslinger is superior), Mudslinger's straightforward, heavy before all else approach to metal may be appealing. Speaking of Skinlab, that band's Steev Esquivel provides some vocals on Cover the Sun. 'Nuff said.

 

 

 

 

 

MYSTIC FOREST - Welcome Back in the Forest - CD - Oaken Shield/ Adipocere

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Taking a look at the layout and font choices on the back of Mystic Forest's Welcome Back in the Forest, the first thing that jumped joyously to mind was "Eikenskaden!" If you're just joining us then please look back to issue #9 to see the review of Eikenskaden, as it will be totally relevant to reading about Mystic Forest. To read the review, click here.

That's because it not only looks like Eikenskaden, it is Eikenskaden. That never before heard of sound that is on The Black Lament's Symphony that's like a geode exploding into teeny shards every time anything happens on the record is exactly the same here. Not only that, having heard Eikenskaden, you can anticipate what is going to happen on Mystic Forest. "I feel a piano lull coming on..." and there it is. Same weird running water sounds, same presentation, everything.

Ok, musically it may be a little different. Mystic Forest is more rock and I daresay more Goth. It doesn't provide the irrepressible emotional stir that the Eikenskaden disk does. Still, if you like Eikenskaden, be sure to get this. Oh, yeah, there's another Mystic Forest out there called Green Hell, which is also exactly like Eikenskaden, down to the CD design, water themes and all. That one is actually better than this Mystic Forest, but less polished. Weird. We hope to bring you more about this increasingly fascinating band(s) in later issues of Maelstrom.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Waltz in the Midst of Trees (issue No 12)  

 

 

 

NECROFROST - In a misty Soar and on its swampy Floor - CD - Granskog/ No Colours

review by: Roberto Martinelli

I'm not sure who'll like this record. I know I love, no, treasure it, but the fact that it's both overtly retarded and black metal makes me think people who take black metal seriously won't be able to enjoy it on the same level that The Condor and I do, and non-black metal people just won't have nearly enough reference to even begin to enjoy it at all.

Necrofrost, who we suspect is German, wants to be Darkthrone soooo bad. We imagine some youths having that special something click inside them upon hearing Darkthrone for the first time (a rare occurrence, indeed) and begging their parents for instruments.

Necrofrost is the puppy dog love version of Darkthrone worship by people who barely have a grasp of the English language. How else can you explain a disclaimer on the back of the CD that proclaims "This release will only get along with the unhuman in man" (a takeoff of "Darkthrone is for all the evil in man" from the back of the Transilvanian Hunger album). Look, Necrofrost even made an idiot version of the Darkthrone logo.

As to what in blazes a misty soar is, and why we find ourselves on its swampy floor, only contributes to the cult charm. But it doesn't end there. You'll find inimitable song titles like "Grimm of decembers Mailune," "Wonders that on my rotten Cabin pounders," "Slaughtered in a misanthropic Intent" and "The Return of animalian Bloodlust," songs that contain lyrics like:

"She notices some careful Taps
on the wooden Floor
and on that rotten Slats
Fast her scared Heart pounders
As her Candleflame fades
The Plenifog chiseles her grimly Wonders."

and:

"Already few Months later without his Hello;
It was the Third of May,
She strangled herself on this forgotten Gallow,
Which never ever will go away."

You'll notice that I haven't even begun to talk about the actual music on this record. It would be fairly safe to say that there is something quite obviously awkward about Necrofrost's approach to playing their songs - not that excellent musicianship has ever been a major pre-requisite in making a classic album in the necro, minimalist school of black metal. Although the main appeal of this album is its very existence in your collection, listening to it will bring enjoyment - again, in some sort of idiot savant way.

I can only hope that the members of Necrofrost: Fimbulraven, Seirim, Baal Angmardyr and Kweldulf, are totally serious. If this group turned out to be a joke band, that would be a big disappointment. You better believe we'll try to track this band down and interview them. In the meantime, if you have as an unusual appreciation for black metal as some of us Maelstromers do, try to find this album!

 

 

 

 

 

NOCTURNAL RITES - Shadowland - CD - Century Media Records

review by: Jez Andrews

To be perfectly honest, it's the opening track, "Eyes of the Dead," that will sell this album. A nice pacey triplet-based power metal celebration, and let me go on record as saying that they don't come much catchier than this. Nocturnal Rites are churning out the kind of tunes that truly put the likes of Kamelot and Insania to shame. I can imagine Nocturnal Rites being an impressive live band, as well as playing a key role in the future of power metal.

There is a golden rule to be followed in any kind of true metal - and that is to play like you fucking mean it. No doubt about it, Nocturnal Rites have kept it solid all the way through their latest effort. The fact that I have been able to put Shadowland through repeated listens without skipping a single track is proof enough that it is not an album that simply fades into the scenery. And the cover art ain't half bad either.

Power metal is very much a genre of metaphors. The guitar is no longer simply the instrument that is played, it is the weapon that is wielded; the sword or the battle axe. The songs are not just slices of theatrical heavy metal, they are hymns of war, heard and sung by warriors and magicians. The thunder is of both double bass drums and horses' hooves. Songs such as "Vengeance" and "Shadowland" illustrate this beautifully, if not to such an extent as Lost Horizon or Rhapsody.

There is a nice mixture of tempo on this album, from the slow Stratovarius-but-chunkier plod of "Invincible" to the racier "Never Die." And the twiddling work of guitarist Nils Norberg is used to exceedingly good effect.

Not a groundbreaking release, but definitely one worth dwelling on.

 

 

 

 

NORMA JEAN - Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child - CD - Solid State Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Whoever said Christian bands couldn't totally kick ass never heard Norma Jean. Granted, "Norma Jean" is one of the worst band names imaginable, and the packaging and album name for Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child would never lead anyone not familiar with the group to guess it's a brutal hardcore band, but Norma Jean is in fact all that.

The album will provide fans of technical, brutal hardcore with a real treat. Sure, the songs get a little redundant, but even to the ears of someone like me who isn't a big hardcore fan, this album will impress. It sounds good, it hits hard, and it keeps the interest with its structures, musicianship and dynamics. Norma Jean is from the heart, and you have to respect that.

 

 

 

 

 

OVERKILL - Wrecking Everything - CD - Spitfire Records

review by: Jez Andrews

After hearing this splendid new live album, I began to wish that I had paid more attention to Overkill's Wacken set last year. They're not the greatest of thrash acts, but I've definitely seen worse. No one gets the short straw in this live sound, and the guitar work is most impressive.

"Necroshine" is a damn fine opener, and there isn't much I can say to slate the tracks that follow, other than I have been swayed far more by live recordings of Destruction and Testament. That said, there's no arguing the virtues of "Deny the Cross," "I Hate" and "Battle" in a live setting.

I've had a certain curiosity regarding Overkill ever since being greeted with the "Hello From the Gutter" video on MTV. A talented bunch, no mistake, and a band who are not afraid to stick with both the style and image with which they started.

It's the stuff that continues to be worshipped as it should be in Germany, and criminally under appreciated in this country. One of the grandest traditions of heavy music, and we've effectively brushed it under the carpet. But as long as the likes of Overkill and the other great thrash behemoths continue to wreak havoc, the leather, the patches, and the shaggy eighties manes will always have a place in this world.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Wrecking Everything (issue No 11)  
Killbox 13 (issue No 13)  

 

 

 

PENTAGRAM - Turned to Stone - CD - Peaceville

review by: Roberto Martinelli

It's hard to believe that Pentagram could have existed alongside Black Sabbath for 30 years and not have been huge. It's true that Pentagram is in the same style of music as Sabbath, but there's nothing that makes you scream "ripoff!" Unlike so many of the other bluesy/stoner doom bands out there, you can listen to Pentagram without pretending that you haven't heard a riff done somewhere before. Overall, Pentagram is heavier, darker and in a way more metal than Black Sabbath To be a great band, you need a frontman who is up to the task, and Pentagram has that. The talented singer has a style all his own and delivers it with pleasing conviction.

Turned to Stone is a compilation album of various records that Pentagram put out on Peaceville. Try to find a used copy of it to get an inexpensive taste of this excellent and sadly underappreciated band.

 

 

 

 

 

PUTRID REMNANTS - Demo - CD - mijd@hotmail.com

This is a demo made up of three rehearsal tracks and includes one Terrorizer cover ("Storm of Stress"). Since Terrorizer is one of my favorite bands ever, I was pretty hyped up to see this in the mail. Putrid Remnants play a crusty version of Cannibal Corpse-style death metal.

The sound isn't too good obviously, and had it been professionally done, I surely would have been jumping up and down and demolishing everything around me. But what this demo lacks in sound, it makes up for in sheer intensity and conviction. These guys blast through their own comps "4 Eyes Ejaculation" and "Erectal Bloodtransfusion" with some manic intensity. One more name has been added to the Dutch underground death metal scene. Get in touch with them now!

 

 

 

 

 

QUILL, THE - Voodoo Caravan - CD - SPV

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Although with a name like Voodoo Caravan, which makes us think "oh, this is gonna be another record of limp songs that take Black Sabbath riffs and change one note," this album rocks. The singer is great, the bass guitar kicks ass, the solos are cool, the drums are full and the riffs are enjoyable. The only thing keeping this from being stellar is that the songs themselves aren't really classics. However, with energy and presentation like this, The Quill should be near the top of any stoner rock fan's list.

 

 

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Hooray! It's a Deathtrip (issue No 16)  

 

 

 

RUNEMAGICK - Requiem of the Apocalypse - CD - Aftermath Music

review by: Roberto Martinelli

At first, Requiem of the Apocalypse seems like it'll be a run of the mill, decent but wholly rehashed slow, old school death metal album. But then, Runemagick throws some unexpected guitar solos that break from the mood set by the largely bluesy music. These instrumental parts many times remind me of Iron Maiden, and give a nice shift away from what would have been an album that would be completely predictable.

However, Runemagick doesn't have much more going for it than this enjoyable contrast. Soon enough, the songs on the album begin to sound formulaic and rehashed. The sound is good and the playing is fine, but there's something largely missing. Perhaps Runemagick is too old school for its own good. The band's delivery sounds flat; it makes you think that the greatest work in this style was done a long time ago. By sticking to this self-imposed formula, I can't help but think that Runemagick is limiting itself.

This may be a basic case of me not being the biggest fan of this genre. If you're an old school metal head and like heavy metal with death vox, rock drumming and blues scales, then you more than likely will enjoy this album.

 

 

 

 

 

SALEM - Collective Demise - CD - KMG

review by: Tom Orgad

Undoubtedly, the upcoming album by Israeli metal veterans Salem had raised many expectations, accompanied by some questions regarding its style and musical direction.

For those who aren't familiar with Salem's past, a short exposition: their previous album, A Moment of Silence, had been quite a musical breakthrough. After releasing earlier albums tending towards doom/death and grind at first (Creating Our Sins), later choosing to apply a more refined doom approach (Kaddish). On A Moment Of Silence, considered by many a true masterpiece, they hired famed Colin Richardson as a producer, to deliver a more commercial (not necessarily in the bad meaning of the word) effort, brilliantly produced and arranged, mixing Oriental doom and death influences with a well noticed Gothic touch, represented by very dominant clean vocals and more heavy metal oriented song structures and melodies.

And now, issuing a new album, the essential question is raised: will Salem proceed on their journey towards mainstream, or once again alter their musical direction?

The answer would definitely be the latter one.

As you hear the near-blastbeats of Collective Demise's opening track, one can clearly realize that Salem has abandoned the Gothic realms. No colin Richardson here: This album is self-produced by Salem, which apparently chose, instead of stretching out of their skin in order to appeal to the international market (surprisingly enough, considering the album being released on a German label), to turn their back to the world community and exclaim their protest regarding the degrading situation in their home country - vocalist Ze'ev Tananboim excruciatingly growls lyrics dealing with the horrible state of Israel: war, separation, decadence, the overall feeling of careless divine abandonment - while the loyal rhythm section powerfully issues death metal phrases.

Guitarist Lior Mizrahi presents his probably most-brutal work to date, at times even wielding the black metal fast-picked playing fashion. The commercial, Gothic-oriented clean vocals, besides some minor female ones, are gone.

Compositions, still soaked with an enchanting Oriental feel, are able to maintain interest (even if not very diverse) and fit the harsh lyrical messages well. Furthermore, it seems that the band members know a thing or two about the art of album production as well: a great separation between the instruments is achieved, enabling each part to be heard perfectly, yet maintaining the existence of the group as an integrated unit.
A stand out track would be "Al-Taser," the bands interpretation of a Bible verse, desperately begging God to stick with the Israeli people.

Overall, this is quite a good album, recommend for fans of Oriental, at times semi-brutal death metal. Still, if your acquaintance with Salem is mainly based on their last, relatively approachable album, I would suggest listening to Collective Demise before purchasing it.

 

 

 

 

 

SENTENCED - The Cold, White Light - CD - Century Media Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

My roommate walked by my room while I had The Cold, White Light playing and asked me what the name of the band was. When I said "Sentenced," he told me he thought it was Metallica. That's not too far off. Sure, for the connoisseur, the bands are worlds apart, but there are some fundamental similarities between the two groups.

The first is the singing style of Ville Laihiala, which often goes into a gravely, melodic register that sounds a lot like James Hetfield. However, Laihiala is far more talented and versatile than Hetfield, being able to actually sing, and do so well, when the need arises. Musically, Sentenced has some similarities with 90's Metallica; That is, is 90's Metallica were more metal and laced their music with Goth influences.

The first few tracks on The Cold, White Light are instantly memorable and enjoyable. Things start to get a little iffy around the middle of the album. Such is the case on "Excuse Me While I Kill Myself," which is a good enough tune, but the corny way in which lyrics about blowing one's brains against the wall to show the world are incorporated into the chorus is cringeworthy.

Even if Sentenced swears to you that their band isn't just a suicide themed band, don't believe it. I wish they would quit it with this stuff. Yes, Finns are very depressed as a people and they kill themselves a lot, but the way Sentenced makes this a theme in their pop/Goth metal only seems silly. Another dud on the album is the song "Guilt and Regret," which is again an attempt to seem suicidal and morbid, but is merely a tedious song that goes nowhere.

In fact, all the lyrics on The Cold, White Light are pretty bad, but sometimes the songs are so good that it doesn't matter. The suicide thing not only seems like some weak attempt at originality (besides, Bethlehem already did it, and did it infinitely better), but it's totally in bad taste. The promo package that came with the album included a "hand written" list of things to do that went something like "1. Buy new Sentenced, 2. Listen, 3. Kill myself." This would not have been worth mentioning except that the package also contained this letter about some major fan of Sentenced who had committed suicide. Even though the words of the message were about how much the band would miss him, the message came across as a shameless, hollow plug of the suicide angle. It was corporate flavored promotion at its worst.

I don't know how much the band itself has to do with these promotional angles. Regardless, The Cold, White Light is an album with a good deal to offer. Just to make sure you know, Sentenced is almost nothing like it was on Amok and nothing like the death metal days of North from Here. The mainstream, Goth flavor of the album may turn a number of people off, but the CD is certainly at least worth a try.

 

 

 

 

 

SHROUD OF DESPONDENCY - For Eternity Brings No Hope - CD - Bindrune

review by: Roberto Martinelli

I have tremendous respect for Marty Rytkonen, the driving force behind Wormgear Zine. Wormgear was and still is the model I look up to the most in terms of the quality and honesty of its coverage of the underground and the interest of its interviews. I know I can always read Wormgear and find stimulating interviews with artists that, despite maybe not being familiar with their work or maybe not even ultimately liking it, will always have something to say. So when I got word that Marty was starting his own label, Bindrune, I was thrilled.

The debut release on Bindrune is Shroud of Despondency, a one-man black metal project from Michigan. Bindrune promotes Shroud of Despondency as being like Ulver. Even as I read the promotional blurb for it now, I get excited. The only problem is that not only is it not like Ulver, it's honestly one of the worst black metal albums I've ever heard.

It's common for the black metal projects in this style to shoot for a sound that is usually described as "wintry." The sound is supposed to invoke images of snow-covered, forgotten woods where hardly any life dwells except maybe some trolls and the hallowed spirits of the truest black metal musicians. Shroud of Despondency is certainly shooting for this energy. However, something has gone horribly awry. It sounds like winter has begun its transition into spring. All the snow has begun to melt - it's not the warm and soothing energy of spring, which would be welcome, but rather this icky in-between period of slushy snow.

To put it more simply, For Eternity Brings No Hope is a huge, sloppy mess. The atrocious tone is probably the main culprit for this, but the compositions are pretty bad. I'm not alone in this. To illustrate, I'll tell you this little story. I lent the CD to Wrest of the brilliant black metal project Leviathan - another man whom I have tremendous respect for - in hopes that I could find some angle of appreciation. A few days later I got a phone message whose content was verbatim: "I've laid more interesting fecal patterns in the commode than Shroud of Despondency." It's important to also know that Wrest is the biggest black metal and music junkie I know.

And so this is the problem of trying to have a responsible, honest zine. I hate to burn my friends, but I can't in good conscience recommend Shroud of Despondency. With this said, please note that I also hate Krieg because of the absurd, unpleasant, chaotic and haphazard nature of its music. Wrest also dislikes Krieg, although not as intensely as I. Shroud of Despondency struck me somewhat in the same way that Krieg has in the past, especially on The Plague, so maybe you may find something worthwhile in this recording, yet.

 

 

 

 

 

SKEPTICISM - The Process of Farmakon - CD - Red Stream Records

review by: The Condor

Skepticism represent everything doom should be to me. Since the first time I heard Stormcrowfleet, their debut album and only non-EP release, they immediately moved into the ranks of Thergothon, Winter, Mordor, you know...the doom immortals. And every release since then showed them making definite progress, while somehow maintaining their glacial pace and funereal dirge.

So I have to admit to being a little disappointed at first by this new release. First off, it's another goddamn EP!! What is it with Skepticism and EPs? I mean don't they realize how suited a 74 minute CD is to lengthy doom explorations? Five 15-minute songs, three 24-minute songs, hell, ONE 74-MINUTE SONG!!! Seems ideal. But whatever, an EP it is.

My real problem was with the sound. Part of the Skepticism appeal to me was the impossible production. Murky but not muddy. Heavy, but not HEAVY. Dark but not dreary. I likened listening to the first album to sitting in a cathedral during mass, while a metal band practices in the basement, so you can barely hear them over the liturgical hymns and droning organ. On this new EP, the production sounded more 'crappy' than 'impossible' - closer to the shitty metal demo production. And the vocals were much higher in the mix, again taking away from the whole mystique of their original sound, where the vocals were a rumbling thrum alongside the bass.

But as I listened to The Process of Farmakon again and again, its secrets were slowly revealed to me. And now I find myself liking this record more and more, precisely because it doesn't sound like the same old Skepticism. There's the much riffier guitar, making them a little more metallic and significantly 'heavier,' and what I heard as crappy production now seems deliberate, a sort of reverby ambience adding to their peculiar sound. The melodies, sorrowful and mournful, are now much more present and make the whole sound even more dismal. The whole thing just seems more intense and driving, but still D O O M. And the weird bubbling cauldron sounds all over track two just add to the overall weirdness and convince me even more that Skepticism are the only living masters of doom!!!! Now when are they going to put out another goddamn full length?!?!

 

 

 

 

 

SOILS OF FATE - Sandstorm - CD - www.soilsoffate.com

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

I couldn't believe this was an album by a Swedish band. It's so hard to come across Swedish bands that are totally influenced by Dying Fetus. There are tons of American bands playing this kind of music, but what sets Soils of Fate apart is the fact that the songs flow together as a whole and the riffs don't sound like a cut and paste job.

The guitars sound thick and heavy enough to crush elephant testicles and the vocals are low enough to make death metal fans happy and female pigs horny. However, I must say I wasn't really impressed by the solos, which were pretty short and nothing spectacular.

Other than that fact I really enjoyed this slab of Swedish brutality. The playing is pretty tight and the drums are really fast when it comes to the blasting sections (the bass drum sounds triggered. If it were a natural bass drum sound I feel it would have been much better). "Half My Blood" is one of my favorites of this album with its really neat changes and grooves. "Assasins" also impressed with its pinch harmonic riffs and it even has a short wild solo that sounded pretty good.

Soils of Fate may bring nothing new to the scene, but there is no doubt that these musicians are good at what they do and there can be a lot to expect from them in the future. They are to release a new album this year and until that comes out, Sandstorm should well serve to maintain your diet of uncompromising brutality.

 

 

 

 

 

SOURVEIN - Will to Mangle - CD - Southern Lord

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This is one of those albums in which what's important isn't the songs themselves but rather the sound of the songs. In this way Sourvein does a marvelous job with its album of evil Southern rock with intense, anguished vocals.

Sure, it's basically bluesy stoner rock, but it's intense, thick delivery makes you think of anything but drugged out hippies. Think more of groups like Khanate than Spirit Caravan. Every track on Will to Mangle brings the satisfying, heavy, agro goods. Just the shrieking vocals alone are enough to give this album a listen. The thick guitar tone churning out simple and tasty riffs seals the deal. Southern Lord specializes in this type of thing, and they've released another album to make stoner doom fans flip.

 

 

 

 

 

STEEL PROPHET - Unseen - CD - Nuclear Blast Records

review by: Jez Andrews

Flat production, desperate lyrics, weak riffs. Ah, Steel Prophet have returned. I try my best to find redeeming qualities in the music of any band who truly give it their all, but to my mind, Steel Prophet are simply a lost cause. Painful to express as it may be, Unseen is a sooty wank stain of an album. Not memorable enough to even be considered cheesy and (let's be honest) so lacking in testicular goods that it makes for some pretty pitiful listening.

Not in the soulful sludge of "Killer's Confession" nor in the crunchy riffing of "One Way Out" can one seek sanctuary from the tired drag that persists throughout. I would have thought that a band that somehow earned so much attention from the metal press would've had the tunes to back up their reputation, but alas, 'twas not to be.

I will however give them credit for the solid grind of "Shattered Apart," but even this is ruined by those fucking whiny vocals.

In summary: A very, VERY bad idea.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Book of the Dead (issue No 2)  

 

 

 

STRANGULATION - Carnage In Heaven - CD - http://hem.passagen.se/strangu/home.htm

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Strangulation have arrived on the scene. Hailing from Sweden, they bring with them a demo comprised of three solid brutal death metal tracks. The basics are right, the sound is good (the guitar is raw but fucking HEAVY) and they should be pretty happy with this for a first effort.

Their major source of influence seems to be Cannibal Corpse, but rather than going for the same blast-till-death approach they mix up some old school elements in the music. No technical flourishes are to be found here, nor any cheesy, mainstream gayness. Grinding and churning their way through the CD, these guys show us that true death metal isn't dead yet.

Dennis from Spawn of Possession/Visceral Bleeding has done session vocals on this CD, and has done a pretty good job of it too. I look forward to hearing their next release, and if they continue in the same vein and also maybe increase the speed factor a bit, it would be a most satisfying product, I'm sure.

 

 

 

 

 

TERATISM - Ex Infernus - CD - Root of All Evil Records

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

God, I hate crappy intros like this! Probably meant to be grandiose and what not, this is the epitome of gay intros. And I can't even skip it. So, -1 point for Teratism already.

Then, the music starts. In true black metal fashion, I guess, the vocals drown out everything else. Other than the rather horrible sound quality (the drums sound like upturned plastic dustbins) and the totally stupid intros to each song, I didn't find much else to complain about. The music (when you can hear it) is good, though rather straightforward most of the time.

This CD is supposed to be an appetizer for their forthcoming E.P. The most appetizing song on this has to be "Hate." There are some constantly fluid dynamics going on in this song to add to the general black metal extremity on show and some of the riffs are pretty good. The last track is a live version of the first track and it sounds even worse, of course. However not a bad release, with a good production (take note people, by "good production," I don't mean super polished studio recordings, but rather a product in which you can make out which noises are the drums and which are the guitars), this band can impress more in the future hopefully.

 

 

 

 

TERROR 2000 - Faster Disaster - CD - Century Media Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

It seems that the lamer the album covers and band names that thrash metal bands put out these days, the better the album turns out to be. King's Evil turned out to be awesome, and so is Terror 2000.

Based on this formula, you'd probably even expect Terror 2000 to be the best album this year, so bad is that band name. Terror 2000? At least the name doesn't detract from the pretty junky CG album cover and back.

Faster Disaster is a collection of fast and pummeling thrash songs with ripping leads that are played to the high standard that we have come to expect from Swedish bands. There isn't that much more to say about it than that. The songs rip; it's killer thrash metal. And while Faster Disaster is more flashy and initially impressive, it isn't quite as fresh and ultimately worthwhile as King's Evil. Could this be because Terror 2000 is more or less a Soilwork side-project? Perhaps, but as side-projects go, it's way better than the norm. Definitely put this on your thrash want list in the #2 position behind King's Evil.

 

 

 

 

 

THINE - In Therapy - CD - Peaceville

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Thine sounds a lot like present day Anathema, most particularly the kind of sound on Judgement. The music is less melancholy and perhaps a bit heavier, but the signatures are pretty similar. The quality of the singing isn't as good, which is the main characteristic that makes Thine pale in comparison. However, the poor man's Anathema is still fairly good, especially for those who are big fans.

 

 

 

 

 

THUNDERSTONE - Thunderstone - CD - Nuclear Blast Records

review by: Jez Andrews

Ooooh....Can we say "Stratovarius"? Thunderstone are not without promise, but bands are needing so much more in the way of fresh ideas to make an impact on the power metal scene of today. The Maiden influence is there, but quite frankly, it's not enough. Too relaxed, too laid back, and the "power" should be a lot more in the foreground.

I suppose it's down to the musical boundaries being ever pushed forward. It's competitive out there, survival of the heaviest and most original. Don't get me wrong, this album does have its moments, such as the chugging race of "Like Father, Like Son" and the keyboard/guitar duel of "Me, My Enemy," but when placed next to the majestic vocal assaults of Blind Guardian and the rich symphonic metal of Rhapsody, it doesn't quite make the grade. Decent enough songwriting, but something needs to be developed here. I couldn't help the longing I felt for some double bass drum chops to occur a lot more often and the album seemed to be far too merciful on the ears for my liking.

Buy it if you must, but don't say I didn't warn you.

 

 

 

 

 

TOROIDH - Europe is Dead - CD - Cold Spring

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Toroidh is the side project of Nordvargr, the guy who does Folkstorm and MZ.412. Well, now that Folkstorm has "broken up," perhaps Toroidh will become this guy's main thing.

There's something odd about Europe is Dead that makes it sound like a compilation album of different projects. The tracks in themselves are decent enough: you get a nice waltz; some dark ambient passages; a track of acoustic guitar that reminds me of Agalloch; and creepy militaristic monologues. All the tracks convey some sort of war fetish, but they don't seem to be related well at all within this same theme. Still, Wrest of Leviathan, who is a major Folkstorm fan, is really into this, and considering I think Folkstorm isn't too interesting, maybe you'll like Europe is Dead if Nordvargr's other stuff is your thing.

 

 

 

 

 

TROLLHEIM'S GROTT - Bizarre Troll Technology - CD - Woodcut Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Allright, I freely admit that the main reason I bought this CD was because of the band name. (What I didn't realize until about a month after I bought the disk was that I had mistaken the album name for the band name). I mean, c'mon, the thing is called BIZARRE TROLL TECHNOLOGY. With a name like that the CD has the potential to be the weirdest, stupidest, coolest black metal album ever. Taking a look at the back of the CD and seeing song names like "Chased by Trolls" and a picture of the band looking like the evil twins of Kiss taking a break from work at the slaughterhouse made the album even more alluring.

Alas, the record did not deliver the goods. Unfortunately, the formula is too much technology and not enough troll. The music is largely in the vein of Dimmu Borgir, but the songs never have any hooks. It's certainly not a bad album, but it's very uninteresting. This is the kind of slick black metal record that you could listen to and largely forget that you were listening to something in the first place. The record just disappears and only begins to get annoying toward the end when the lack of anything to catch onto gets to you. The band had the name and a pretty off-the-wall and cool concept going with their whole Troll Syndicate theme, but concepts alone can't carry an album. What a shame.

 

 

 

 

 

TSJUDER - Demonic Possession - CD - Drakkar Records

review by: ~Vargscarr~

This is a disappointment. Tsjuder's debut album, Kill for Satan, was captivating and original - full of excellent riffs and showcasing some of the best drumming I've heard in long while, yet maintaining the credibility that many bands who play this style of Black Metal (namely the less Necro sounding, more instrumentally technical variety) so often lack.

The band had said that their next release would be written with fewer elements from Death Metal, and would exude more of a Thrash influence. Unfortunately, this translates to a loss of the occasional palm muted riff that was thrown into Kill for Satan and which was responsible for much of the stand-out greatness of the tracks therein; and a more dogmatic desire to keep to the same pace throughout. This has had the knock on effect of removing many of the more technical aspects of the songwriting - there are far fewer changes in tempo and rhythm in these new tracks, and this makes the new album a much more standard listen than its predecessor; and it lessens the extremity of the music because the ear becomes accustomed to this pace after only a short while. Speed is so much more effective when juxtaposed against some slower riffs, as the band exemplified on songs like the last album's title track.

When I listen to Demonic Possession I hear standard fast Black Metal of the Marduk/Dark Funeral school. When I listen to Kill for Satan I hear Tsjuder. This doesn't mean the album has no value - it's far from bad when one feels like listening to a generic style of music rather than a specific band performing that style; and as far as my taste is concerned it slays anything Dark Funeral ever recorded as fast as lightening rape. It also has a few really good riffs. But it just doesn't have the character of the band's former incarnation, or better bands playing in this style; such as Graven (who perform an excellent blend of the fuzzy, raw, gritty music of the better mid-paced, Darkthrone-worshipping BM bands with the speed and extremity of old Gorgoroth and their ilk).

It's worth noting that Tsjuder's lineup has changed very slightly since the recording of the last record, but since Nag and Draugliun are the songwriters the loss of their second guitar player shouldn't cause such a drastic stylistic change. Perhaps the missing factor is Anti-Christian, the band's former drummer who made Kill for Satan an instant classic for me. However, he does play on the last two tracks of this release ("I-10" and "Primeval Fear"), presumable recorded before he contracted the tendonitis which kept him from continued work with the band; but even these tracks don't feel like old Tsjuder, nor do they seem to have Anti-Christian's distinctive drumming style. Who knows, perhaps 'play' doesn't necessarily mean 'drums'. New drummer Jontho, formerly of Ragnarok, is undoubtedly talented, but lacks that spark and flair that gave such emphasis to the songs on Kill for Satan.

To sum up, if you're a fan of the generic style of Speed Black Metal bands then you could do a lot worse than give Demonic Possession a listen, but I believe fans of the band will have expected better. These songs would be far improved by hearing the band live, but on CD we've heard it all before.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Kill for Satan (issue No 4)  

 

 

 

VADER - More Visions and the Voice - DVD - Metal Mind

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Like the Behemoth DVD reviewed in this issue, More Visions and the Voice is released by Metal Mind, and the similarities are many. For one, the Vader set was recorded at the exact same place as the Behemoth one, Studio Leg in Kraków, Poland, although in Vader's case it looks a whole lot more like a real metal gig: a full house of rabid fans who jump around and headbang (sometimes even when the music is no longer playing) and less than excellent lighting. (Look for one shot of a fan who sees that the camera has noticed him and takes off his glasses to headbang.)

The show is pretty old (it's from 1998), but More Visions and the Voice had been previously released as Visions and Voice on VHS four years ago. The DVD release features that show (whose material only goes up to Black to the Blind) plus some eight bootleg video songs, biographies, a photo gallery, three music videos and an interview with Vader's frontman, Peter. All this material is much newer compared with the concert footage.

The sound of the concert is excellent. Everything that is in place on the CD albums is present here. The camera work leaves something to be desired, however. Peter and then Doc (drums) get the lion's share of the camera's attention. The camera angle for the drums is not very good as you generally only get to see Doc from the front and miss out on what he is doing technically. There is only one shot of his footwork, and that one time happens to be during a very quiet bass drum part. So that's wasted. It doesn't help that the lighting makes it hard to see.

The bootleg videos are really bad and basically unwatchable. The same goes for the music videos. One ("Kingdom") is merely footage from the show on the DVD. "Cold Demons" is a tacky collage of old, black and white footage of tanks driving around and shooting, and black and white footage of Peter dressed up as a tank commander mouthing the intro words to the song. Naturally, his lips don't match the words.

The bios and photo gallery (with a picture of Vader at Wacken Open Air 2000 featuring yours truly in it) are cool, and so is the interview. In it, Peter talks about the bands origins and a lot of other stuff pretty common to interviews. It turns out that the name Vader IS inspired from Star Wars, and that Vader's demo Morbid Reich is the #1 selling death metal demo tape of all time. Peter provides some amusing stories and insight to the band that makes the interview worth watching for fans.

And so basically that's what More Visions and the Voice is: a great acquisition for Vader fans. Although it's a quality release those who have a casual interest in this group won't get that much out of it.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Reign Forever World (issue No 3)  
Revelations (issue No 10)  
Blood (issue No 16)  

 

 

 

VADER - Revelations - CD - Metal Blade Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Revelations will not disappoint any Vader fans. This Polish band is one of those groups that have made a career out of playing the same song over and over again. You know, just as groups like AC/DC, Motorhead, Bolt Thrower and Marduk. But somehow these songs that seem identical to the non-devotee are entirely different to the fanatic of the band; and straying from the tried-and-true formula would result in feelings approaching sadness.

For the first few minutes of Revelations, however, things look a little worrisome. The first two songs on this disk sound like Vader, but there is a total absence of blast beats. Based on the songs from the group's previous recording, the MCD Reign Forever World, it seemed that Vader may be headed toward a more mid-paced approach, which isn't so bad in itself, but as far as Vader is concerned, it's definitely something to be avoided.

Come song three, things are back to normal. Drummer Doc has the best blast beat in all of death metal, and denying him the possibility to blast to a maximum is a crying shame. As usual, Vader constructs its songs in the same basic fashion, and using the same three or four recycled beats. But who fucking cares? Citing this as a negative aspect is completely missing the point.

Just like every proper Vader album that has come before (with the possible exception of the debut, The Ultimate Incantation), this album rocks hell. And while it isn't as good overall as the previous full-length, Litany, it's in the same league. In fact, the production has been improved in that the balance of the drums, and particular the bass drum, is much more fitting for a death metal record. Where the kick drums sounded sometimes a bit too huge and almost techno-like on Litany, they're just right here. The guitar solos also are getting better in that it's not always the same erratic noise bursts followed by frantic whinnying. This time around there's actually some foraying into melodic territory.

If there's one thing that Vader can't do well, it's play slow. Something weird happens when they do. It's like the one trick that they pull off that sounds so satisfying when played fast is exposed as nothing that special after all. Just take the band playing "Black Sabbath" as an extreme but perfect example. On Revelations, Vader tries to explore new ground by writing an entirely mid-paced to slow song to round off the album. Not only is this song not fast, but it's also like seven minutes long. Sure, it's not bad, but there is no real need for it.

So, yeah, Vader is trying new things. Of course, this progressing is to be taken into perspective considering the objective one-dimensionality of this band. I think this is about as far as this experimentation should go. And while the fairly regular band member revolving door continues to go around, seeing Shambo - the bass player who was on the previous three recordings - replaced, Vader will always be right as long as the core (the godly drumming of Doc and the defining riff-writing and vocals of Peter) remains intact.

Vader is one of the best death metal bands ever. Any word of a new album or a chance to see this great band live again will always bring tremendous joy to this writer. The release of Revelations is no exception. De Profundis may be Vader's best record, and Black to the Blind may be it's fastest, but damn it, there's room for this new album and every one that will follow. Hail for ever and ever.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Reign Forever World (issue No 3)  
More Visions and the Voice (issue No 10)  
Blood (issue No 16)  

 

 

 

VOMIT REMNANTS - Indefensible Vehemence - CD - Maelstrom Zine

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

There is absolutely nothing on this six track MCD that makes me even think about playing it again. Whatever promise Vomit Remnants showed on the Supreme Entity album has just gone down the drain. The drums sound horrible, the riffs are pointless, the samples are lame, the structures are boring: the list is endless.

The bass drum has absolutely no bassy sound at all...the triggers give it a sharp, metallic feel. If you thought the bass drum sound on Krisiun's Ageless Venomous was bad, wait till you hear this.

As for the music, these Japanese showed us last time that they are highly enamored of the NY slam style death metal. They still show the fascination with that style, but with a far less varied range as compared to Dying Fetus or Internal Bleeding.

What Vomit Remnants needs to do is get rid of those useless triggers, sit down with their guitars, think up some interesting and at least slightly technical riffs instead of those slow/ mid paced boring to the core groove along rhythms, and spend lots of time to come up with an albums worth of material instead of releasing utterly pointless MCDs like this.

 

 

 

 

 

WASP - Dying for the World - CD - Sanctuary Records

review by: Jez Andrews

"After all these years, WASP are a band that still know how to rock." Pass me a bucket, I think I need to wretch. The words "still know how to" suggest "despite rapidly approaching senility." Hear this, in the case of WASP, age has simply meant experience and growth. They have kept their old-school edge, while at the same time adding a heavier modern flavour to the music. Dying for the World is fantastic, regardless of mood, atmosphere, and whether or not you are supping on fake blood.

One thing that has always stuck out as a trademark of WASP is the vocals, which have always had body and strength to them. Blackie Lawless has painted many a picture of sadism and theatrical vulgarity in the past, but musically, I would have to say that this is their finest work yet. It is becoming a rare quality for bands these days to record an album that retains their sure-footed roots, and this band has done just that. WASP's particular brand of 'shock' heavy metal has not always been my cup of tea, but songs like "Shadow Man" and "My Wicked Heart" had me up on my feet, hair flying and air guitar pose struck. The sound may have a 2002 clarity, but the spirit is still planted firmly in the eighties. The "One two fuck you!" intro to the upbeat "Hell for Eternity" is just one of the little touches that makes this album so fucking cool. The whole thing is just so easy to enjoy on any level that in reminded me in a sense why I got into metal in the first place.

"Hallowed Ground" has to rank as one of the best token ballads of recent years, without straying into the realms of the corny. WASP have given Dying for the World a very full sound that grabs the listener by the throat and bombards them with a greatness that will live on forever.

 

 

 

 

 

ZAO - Parade of Chaos - CD - Solid State Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Zao has got all the initial ingredients that make Parade of Chaos seem like a good record. The guitars sound good, the production is clear, and the vocals are so intense they border on monstrous. Through the first couple of songs of Parade of Chaos, I was sure I'd be writing a favorable write-up to this three-piece.

However, Zao gets in big trouble by trying to mix in some styles that are different from hardcore while refusing to let go of the values that make it up. I'm thinking in particular about the times when Zao goes for more soft songs, but still keep the same production and vocals. These all sound totally out of place on songs that should be sung or played in a less muscular side. And while the intense sound mentioned earlier is still very much there, hearing it on songs that are clearly softer actually weakens the overall delivery by making it sound goofy. There are a few times when clean vocals are used, but they don't work.

I can only assume that when a band that is often cited as a major influence in contemporary hardcore groups makes an album that's as tepid as this, it means that the band is trying new things. If Zao is going to go for dynamics, then they should really go for them. Keeping the same tone throughout an album that is, um, screaming for variety will sound nothing but odd.

 

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All Else Failed (issue No 13)  

 

 

 

DESTRUCTION - The Antichrist - CD - Nuclear Blast Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

I think the same aliens that have possessed the bodies of Metallica since 1990 - making them merely look like Metallica - have gotten a hold of Destruction. What the hell happened? Everything that made the band appealing and unique is gone. In its place is a totally generic and boring band that sounds like a clone of bands that originally ripped off Destruction in the first place.

Ok, technically, Destruction has come a long way since some of the objectively pathetic (but oh, so loveable) records of the 80s. Records like Sentence of Death and Infernal Overkill, where the drummer was terrible and the drum sound was one of the most laughable ever; with fuck ups that were left in the final product, making you think that either the band didn't give a shit or that the final product was the absolute best take out of all the takes that had to be done in the studio. And of course there were the totally ridiculous but completely awesome vocals.

A Destruction record now has great production and a drummer that can play. But, what happened to the killer riffs and solos? Destruction's guitarist, Mike, would come up with great stuff. Listen to Eternal Devastation and the aforementioned Infernal Overkill for proof. Now there are just wholly useless songs that go even further by being also entirely asinine with stupid rehashed lyrics and choruses.

But the biggest stake to the heart of Destruction fans is what has happened to the vocals. Originally fans were angry when Schmier, the singer/bassist, was kicked out ten years ago. How could you have Destruction without Schmier, possibly the worst singer on the planet, but who would do these priceless falsetto accents within his hilarious gruff style in which he would totally butcher the pronunciation of the English language? You couldn't, that's what. And so it was a big deal when Schmier came back a few years ago and Destruction supposedly got back on track after releasing albums that no one cared about or even knew about such as The Least Successful Human Cannonball.

Well, that priceless and unique vocal style is nowhere to be found. So what if Schmier is the frontman again? That could be anybody on the record. The trademark Destruction vocals have been replaced by totally generic trash. Oh, and you can also avoid the band's "comeback" album of two years ago. It's a sad day.

 

 

 

 

 

ARKADIA/ NIGRESCENT - Another Dying Slowly - CD - Blackthrone Productions

review by: ~Eternus~

A split CDR release by the relatively unknown UK-based label, Blackthrone Productions, this is an interesting release. We have two bands: Arkadia, hailing from Canada, and Nigrescent, who are from the U.K. Rather than put all of one band's tracks on the first half and the other band's tracks on the second, the two groups songs are alternated, which kind of annoys me as it destroys any kind of continuity. That gripe aside, we have some quality material here.

Arkadia are the better band. They create Burzum-inspired, mid-paced black metal full of atmosphere, depression and utter hatred, and with some excellent dark ambient passages. All the tracks are pretty long songs too, giving that excellent contemplative and torturous feeling- just listen to Sol's vocals - complete hate and misery and scorn for humanity.

Nigrescent are suitably raw - noticeably rawer than Arkadia - and more aggressive, with faster, shorter songs, but I find the riffs somewhat boring and way too simplistic. The vocals are competent, though, and overall there's nothing much to complain about.

If you were a fan of earlier Burzum material, I urge you to get this release just for Arkadia, who along with the excellent and sadly defunct Weakling, and more recently German one man project Wigrid, recreate that Burzum vision, torturous and depressive.

 

 

 

 

GRAVEN - Perished and Forgotten - CD - Undercover Records

review by: ~Eternus~

After hearing Graven's excellent demo CDR Of Misanthropic Spirit (reviewed in issue #9), I was surprised to see a full length released so quickly. I later realized that the demo was from 2000 and had obviously just taken a while to get released.

So this is Graven`s first full length album… It has a much fuller sound - but still suitably raw and grim. The songs are all quality and reminiscent of Pentagram-era Gorgoroth, with maybe a slight hint of earlier Marduk thrown in, but obviously way more underground.

The vocals are much louder than the demo and although the lyrics aren't printed in the booklet one can clearly hear what the vocalist, Vargsang, is growling, and they lyrics sound damn good.

This gets my vote for one of the best German black metal bands, along with Moonblood and Morrigan.

 

Related reviews:
 
Perished and Forgotten (issue No 3)  

 

 

 

IUVENES - When Heroes Will Rise - CD - No Colours Records

review by: ~Eternus~

Sometimes spelt Juvenes by stupid people with very broken eyes, Iuvenes are a band I was introduced to after hearing their previous album, Riddle of Steel, which blew me away with its blend of Conan the Barbarian-esque proud, heroic intros and some great riffs, sounding not unlike more present day Graveland.

I had great expectations for this next effort. When it finally arrived through the door and was placed into my CD player, I was greeted with a shock. The album begins with a suitably proud intro that ends all too soon and reveals a fast thrash Bathory rip off (or should I say, "inspired" track). Skipping through the rest of the 7-track album, I notice many of these boring thrash songs and only two "epic" tracks of the kind I'm used to- and even these tracks which should by all rights be excellent, have boring simplistic riffs and little to no atmosphere.

This is the biggest disappointment of the year, I suggest if you haven't already got Riddle of Steel- that you buy that instead.

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

CASPAR BRÖTZMANN MASSAKER - Koksofen - CD - Dutch East Trading Company - 1993

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This isn't a metal album, but it might as well be. Caspar Brötzmann is the son of Peter Brötzmann, a noted German free jazz saxophonist whose work in the 1960s put him on the map. Caspar's instrument of choice is the guitar, and his three-piece Massaker project focuses on mostly instrumental, experimental music that's dark and heavy, sort of jazzy, sometimes with a fair amount of punk attitude, and with lots of guitar feedback manipulation.

One of the things that makes Brötzmann the younger remarkable is his ability to take this feedback and somehow transform it into something grounding and meditative. Brötzmann's lyrics are chillingly delivered in a naturally low and brooding, spoken voice that is an ideal complement to the dynamics of the music. Being in German, I have no idea what Brötzmann is talking about, but for me that makes the album all the more cool. I generally prefer appreciating vocals for their sound rather than their content.

The vocals play the biggest role on the second track, "Wiege." This track starts with a beat played on some sort of bongos that sounds like the headhunter tribe is about to close in on you. Then the vocals begin, soft and sinister. Brötzmann incorporates the word "come" - very softly at first but growing ever louder and more intense - as a rhythmic element. Gradually Brötzmann's guitar kicks in, followed by the bass guitar. By now the track has become a swirling storm of the-natives-are-restless beats, dark bass lines, intense vocals and rhythmic utterings of the word "come" so intense you wish you could run away if you weren't so hypnotized by the track. Then the music cuts out, except for the bongos, the element that began the track.

The songs on Koksofen are long, with "Wiege" being the shortest at eight minutes. Three of the other four songs are jazzy, experimental explorations on guitar/bass/drums. Each track has its own unique flavor within the album. The opening "Hymne" begins with dark and fascinating guitar manipulations that set the tone for the remaining album. After some minutes of gripping spinning around in circles, the music takes a direction with a driving beat, only to start spinning again and again.

"Kerkersong" is the most melodic and song-like of the bunch. In it Brötzmann sings an almost playful, melodic, would-be chorus. "Schlaf" has the most guitar experimentation and features a cool, extended drum solo.

The album closes with the industrial, dark ambient track "Koksofen." I believe this word means "furnace" in German. If you can't imagine the sound and terror of being in a furnace, then listening to this track will give you a pretty good image. Massive machinery operates with a cavernous sound, letting off steam at every motion. Heavy, reverberating clangs on metal echo throughout the iron confines. You can almost picture volcanic eruptions within the gargantuan soundscape. "Koksofen" has an entirely different tone and approach than the rest of the album, but still manages to fit in.

Koksofen is heavy and brooding, but doesn't feature the kinds of over-the-top musical elements or production values that extreme metal tends to have. This gives the album its simultaneously relaxing and meditative feel. Caspar Brötzmann has made at least four other albums under his Massaker moniker, all of them great, but Koksofen is the best, and for sure one of my favorite albums ever.

 

 

 

 

 

SCULPTURED - Apollo Ends - CD - The End Records - 1999

reviwe by: Tom Orgad

Once in a while, one encounters an album that carries qualities way beyond conventional measurement, an album that hovers much above the usual sub-genre labeling and aesthetical definitions. An album that fulfills the true purpose of art, as phrased in the Romantic era: perfectly capturing a certain tumultuous state of mind, creating an absolute catharsis, allowing both artist and viewer to have an abrupt, sublime reflective glance at a hatch towards eternity.

I may relate to very few albums the merit of achieving this godly goal. One of them would be Sculptured's Apollo Ends. Apollo Ends is a concept album, expressing the frustrated, excruciated, bewildered feeling of a person who can't deal with the rising of the Sun, the dawn of a new morning, the beginning of a new day. He admires the night, not as a model of absolute beauty and love, but as a splendorous, binding riddle, urging him to explore it, delve into it. As the Earth ever continues its never ending journey around the sun, unavoidably putting an abrupt end to his passing nocturnal existence, he is overtaken by an ineffable feeling of helplessness, sadness, loneliness. This whole matrix of emotions, impossible to thoroughly express verbally, is artistically reached on Apollo Ends. In my opinion, it is done in a manner that may only be termed "divine."

In what way is it done? How is this miracle achieved? As you probably figure, this method cannot be fully defined in an article. As every transcendental idea and spiritual insight, it may only be acquired by personal experience. To temporarily resolve the curiosity of those not familiar with the band, I'll mention that Sculptured would probably be labeled a melodic death metal band. It incorporates great multi guitar work (all parts done by band leader Don Anderson), subtly shifting between harmonic and dissonant moves, surprisingly changing rhythms and moods, brilliantly emphasizing the feelings of eerie melancholy described above.

Vocals apply both clean, melodic singing and death metal screams; yet, even in the latter case, brutality is never apparent. The production work is excellent, allowing a very clean and crunchy sound, surprisingly featuring an occasional perfectly combined woodwind part or jazz interlude, in cooperation with the tight rhythm section and good coordinated band play rendering this album palatable even to those who sadly can't apprehend the possible spiritual ascendance it treasures.

But, again: please ignore these vainly described aesthetic elements. It doesn't matter which musical genre appeals to you, may it be brutal death, symphonic death, sludge doom or commercial pop. Just listen to the album once, absorb the musical greatness. Than, listen to it once again, while reading the lyrics. That's all you need to do in order to alter your entire musical perception. And hopefully, if you are sufficiently ripe and mentally prepared, it just might change much more than that.

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

WACKEN OPEN AIR 2002
Thursday-Saturday, August 1-3, 2002 - Wacken, Germany

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Things were initially not boding well for the 13th annual Wacken Open Air metal festival. My co-producer Steppenvvolf picked me up at Frankfurt Airport to begin a 7-hour drive through traffic jams and almost constant rain up to this little town 45 minutes northwest of Hamburg that no German who isn't a metal fan has ever heard of.

The possibility of rain was about the worst thing that could happen. Wacken is pretty much the metal equivalent of Woodstock: a rinky-dinky town with a big ol' open field on which they set up some stages and hold this festival of heavy metal excess. This means there are practically no hotels to speak of, so everyone sets up tents and roughs it for three nights, something that is made all the more "interesting" when you factor in the amounts of alcohol consumed by the ever hilarious cast of characters that show up yearly.

There are the dorky, balding Swedish twins from the band Nifleheim who are only differentiated by what Iron Maiden tattoos they have on their arms, the guy dressed up as a monk, the guy in leather with a massive, demonic bull's head mask, the guy in the Santa Claus robe, and the Neanderthal with the spiked collar with black mud smeared all over his face. Then there were the more common ones, like the young couples with matching Cannibal Corpse t-shirts, and the married couples who were there with their young children; the burnt-out, middle aged metalheads and the young, wide-eyed metal fans who revel in their concept of extremity, and the young ones who would fit in very well in mainstream society.

There are something like 40,000 of these people that swarm down from all parts of the world like a pestilent tide of black onto this quiet village, and there was a very real possibility that the whole thing would be ruined because of storms. Luckily the rain subsided after half of Friday, but not before much of the area not held together by grass had become very muddy or downright soup-like. Thankfully, the Wacken organizers managed to procure a bunch of bails of hay that were forklifted in and spread about over the mud (above).

The greatest fear associated with the rain and mud would be the very real possibility that heading into the dark woods to answer the call of nature would be problematic and that one would have to turn to the already dire sanitary facilities (which are horrendous enough in the VIP/press area, which is far and away superior to the general campground) would be even worse, as inconceivable as that may seem. But this year the organizers managed to improve things markedly by hiring an older couple to keep things as clean as could be reasonably expected. The only downside to this was that every trip to the toilet would cost you 50 cents, and showers were $2.50. So while it hurt to have to pay half a buck just to be able to wash your hands, it was more than made up for the fact that no one would wander into the showers and mistake them for urinals.

While Friday is practically day one of this fest, it is technically the second day as it follows an evening of acts that are generally of less interest to the majority of people. These acts had improved since Wacken 2000, in which the headlining bands that day were Krokus and Molly Hatchet. This time around acts like Doro and Kotipelto played. We unfortunately were not in time for those, but we were in plenty of time to hear Rose Tattoo, the emergency backup AC/DC, play an hour's worth of the same song. The Wacken organizers love this type of band, which seem to show up every year. This is ironically despite the fact that everyone who attends the festival seems to not actually want to see these bands.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 02.

This year's fest, whose entry ticket had increased to 60 dollars (hereby referred to in euros), was sold out. The amount of bands seemed to be the same, but they were more spread out in the schedule, with no two bands playing simultaneously on adjoining stages. As it was last year, the smallest of the four stages (the so called WET Stage) was in a large rectangular tent, but this time one had to actually enter the concert grounds to access it.

There were some logistical problems initially as Stormwarrior and Avalanch, who were scheduled to start at 10 am, had to wait a good 15 minutes as the not-quite-but-almost skinhead, militaristic security team that is brought in every year wasn't letting anyone in until the same time that the bands were to start. It didn't really matter much as Avalanch is very forgettable Spanish power metal and Stormwarrior is about as cliched and re-hashed as you can imagine. The German-ness of this festival shone through again as things were right back on schedule after the first band. This will never cease to impress me, especially when you compare the notoriously haphazard Milwaukee Metalfest (and other Jack Koshick Presents events), which is infamous for having to cut short the sets of headlining acts due to time constraints resulting from poor time management and basic planning.

I had foolishly chosen to wander outside the festival grounds and into the soupy general campground area, where a human bottleneck had formed by the staunch security guards who were checking the rush of tens of thousands of people for glass and alcohol through eight turnstiles. So I took the long walk around a cornfield and back to the quiet journalist entrance area. Vomitory began its set of uninteresting and samey death metal as I made my way back. This band offered such little interest that even a fan with a Vomitory t-shirt was milling around far from the stage while the band was playing.

Speaking of death metal, there were very few such bands to speak of at Wacken 2002. Even fewer were proper black metal bands - an argument could be made that there were in fact no bands that played (or no longer played) black metal despite there being a "Black Metal Stage." There were even fewer such bands than there were at Wacken 2000. This is in stark contrast to American metalfests in which the majority of the bands are death metal bands. Rather, power metal and more traditional metal acts made up the majority of the Wacken list. Any personal tastes aside, the Wacken way tends to be the better of the two extremes, as death metal bands below the elite level all sound like a bassy mess with blastbeat accompaniment, and most black metal bands can't actually play live.

But when you have power metal acts like Italy's Domine, the other extreme starts to seem more attractive. Domine takes power metal cheese to the next level with uninteresting rhythmic arrangements, thoughtless lyrics and mediocre singing.

Next up on the stage adjoining the True Metal Stage was Necrophobic. Some think that this band is black metal, but all I could hear was very banal and simplistic death metal.

Dornenreich (above), which ironically could be argued being the most black metal band of Wacken 2002, played its set on the Party Stage, the third biggest venue. The Austrian band played most of its set from its third and latest album, Her Von Welken Nächten, and did so extremely well considering the band had only had two rehearsals with a new drummer and keyboarder. The bizarre, paranoia-inducing, whispered vocals were pulled off excellently. The only thing that could be criticized was the bass player's cringeworthy attempts at singing. Even his ambient "aahhs" were very poor. Also, the band may be well-advised to concentrate on its faster material and avoid slower songs from its previous albums.

Wolf (above) was one of the bands that I was looking forward to the most coming in to the festival, and the Swedish group did not disappoint, although I would have personally liked to have heard more than three songs from their marvellous first album. Wolf is a breath of fresh air on a metal scene whose melodic, clean singing bands tend to be of the happy, power metal variety. This quartet is a return to the kind of rough yet soaring heavy metal songs of the first half of the 1980s, the kind of music that is most suited to be played in a live setting. While the vocalist couldn't quite pull off live the higher register that predominates the first album, Wolf's set was a rip-roaring and fun ride that put smiles on the fans' faces.

Brazilian power metal act Angra was also pretty high on my list of bands to see. The band's first album, Angels Cry, is one of my top five picks for best power metal album ever, and even though the singer that was on that particular album had since left the band, taking half the members with him to form Shaman, I was still keen on hearing this group of fantastic musicians live. The new singer, Eduardo Falaschi, may not be stylistically as much to my tastes, but he is nonetheless excellent, something that he proved live. In fact, Falaschi sounded better live than he does on record, and he is a very good presence onstage. However, Angra's set was all but ruined by a problem that seemed to plague almost all the bands that played on Wacken's two main stages.

While Angra was preparing to take the stage, the intro track to Rebirth, the latest album, was played. This was eventually accompanied by what sounded like an airplane taking off: a sort of solid wall of unchanging bass drone. Objectively, it was sort of cool, but any notion that this was the intended effect was dashed as soon as the band began to play its actual songs. For some outrageous reason, the bass guitar and bass drums were turned up to such extreme and distorted levels that they nearly completely drowned out the other instruments and threatened to make the vocals inaudible. And especially since Angra's music is less about the drums and more about the melodies and arrangements of the other instruments, hearing the sonic equivalent of Angra playing on the runway of an airport was too horrible to bear. I was happy to hear one of the band's greatest songs, "Carry On," played as I perused the stalls at the metal market, some 200 yards away. Although this prevented Angra's presence at WOA 2002 from being a total waste, it was still regrettable that the talents of these stellar musicians were wasted by appalling sound choices.

I now have a love-hate relationship with Dying Fetus. I love 'em because of albums like Destroy the Opposition, which is one of the greatest technical death metal albums ever, but I hate 'em because of how band leader John Gallagher has either kicked out or driven out all the other members who played on that record. This is especially unforgivable considering that Dying Fetus had Kevin Talley, one of the most impressive drummers I've ever seen live. The new drummer is of course up to speed to play the challenging material, but he's a far cry from Talley. So, out of allegiance to one of my musical role models, and since I had already seen this band twice, knowing full well that no performance of theirs would ever top what I had seen the first time, when Talley and the other Destroy... guitarist were still in the band, I opted to take some time to dig deeper into the metal market. Also, the new, diminutive man whose job is to do the high vocals (that the bass player used to do) is the kind of crass annoyance that embarrasses Americans when they are abroad. I wasn't too surprised considering the tumultuous nature of this group to discover that there was no longer a second guitarist. Despite that, the opening track to Destroy the Opposition sounded up to par to the elite musicianship of this band.

The Wet Stage (tent) may not have seemed the place where one of the greatest performances of this year's WOA would take place, but Heavenly proved that it was possible. I had especially taken notice of the irresistible talents of this happy French power metal band when I first heard their debut album, Coming from the Sky: Excellent, high power metal vocals that are complemented by wonderful back-up singing, scrumptious soloing and infectious songs.

It was lucky for the audience that Heavenly isn't a band that has reached a high level of fame, because if it had the band might have been put on the horrible main stage. As it was, the tent suffered no problems of massive over-bass like the larger venues. When will the metal world ever learn? Metal doesn't need to be pumped up any more than other kinds of music. Being loud often leads to being incoherent. Death metal is a perfect example of this: how many death metal performances have you been to where all the instruments came through clearly like on the record?

Heavenly engaged the enthusiastic audience with an equal balance of songs from their two records. The handsome, clean-cut singer was an excellent frontman, and the black haired guitarist was very entertaining and likeable with his playful, nonchalant facial expressions and solo wizardry (above). You can tell these guys are serious about their music without getting all caught up in it, and that's really cool. Check this band out if the chance arises.

I was hesitantly excited to see Destruction: this pioneering German thrash band that had put out essential records in the 1980s had become stale and generic. And while I can't say from experience that things have changed live since the old days, but what I saw from the muddy field told me something wasn't right. A harbinger of things to come was the opening song, which I didn't recognize as "Curse the Gods" until the lyrics began. Then I remembered that Destruction had redone their classic on their latest album. The new version just pales in comparison. Bands should really stop making "updated versions" of their career defining songs. Fans fall in love with the band because of these originals; when the newer, generally inferior songs are performed, it feels like you're in an unpleasant dream, or that your ears aren't working properly. And of course there were the horrible sound problems that added to a tepid set made so by the inclusion of so many newer, uninteresting songs.

The crowd for Bruce Dickinson was the first massive one of the festival, with what had to be at least 20,000 people. All who attended got to see the most engaging and professional set of Wacken 2002.

It was curious to see that not one member (aside from Dickinson himself) from the band's last record, 1998's Chemical Wedding, was in the lineup. No Roy Z, no Adrian Smith. In Smith's place was a woman who apparently contributed to Dickinson's Skunkworks album.

Speaking of the Chemical Wedding, it was almost equally remarkable that only one song was played from that record ("The Tower") despite the album being Dickinson's most acclaimed and successful solo effort. Three songs in the set came from Accident of Birth, and the others from his earlier, more obscure solo works. Amongst these was "Tears of the Dragon," which caused near tears and hair ripping from some enthusiastic fans who were standing around me.

Four Iron Maiden songs were also interspersed in the set: the rarely played "Revelations" and "The Prisoner," the dreadful yet inexplicably successful "Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter," and the glorious "Powerslave." All were pulled off marvelously, with the exception of "Powerslave," whose solos were interpreted in a way that were inferior to the original Dave Murray/Adrian Smith version.

The Bruce Dickinson of WOA 2002, from the flashy showmanship of the musicians to the over the top drum solo, was more of a rock band. This would probably explain why "Powerslave" sounded a little odd and why the set concentrated more on Dickinson's more rock albums. Regardless of personal set wish lists, the band was astounding. Dickinson himself sounded better live than I've ever heard him on record and, man, does he know how to work a crowd. Despite his announcement that he would be 42 in a week from then, Dickinson sprinted and jumped urgently about the stage, prompting different parts of the audience to sing along and generally making the live experience worthwhile.

Sometimes the bass overkill problem seemed not to be a problem. Luckily, one of these rare instances was for Children of Bodom, whose set expectedly was as precise and faithful to the studio recordings. It was interesting to see that most of the keyboard parts, and especially the flashy solos, were done with the keyboarder's right hand.

And while the set was dead on, it definitely had its peaks and valleys. Hatebreeder is clearly the band's best work, and the four or so songs from that record had the crowd going the most. The songs from the other two records, the less focused Something Wild and the slightly ho-hum Follow the Reaper, elicited less of a response.

Children of Bodom also played a song from their upcoming album. The song was titled something rather awkward involving the term "24/7." It sounded a good deal like the songs on Follow the Reaper, but perhaps less jaunty.

JBO is some sort of German phenomenon. It must be. No non-German metal fan whom I spoke to had even heard of JBO, even though JBO played on the main stage at a prime time. According to Steppenvvolf, JBO is a joke band that parodies famous metal songs. Great, the metal Weird Al Yankovic. It also turns out that JBO stands for "James Blast Orchestra," which is in itself a parody on a Dutch pop singer called James Last. One Dutch fan said James Last was the cheesiest music ever, and "therefore it's a big hit in Germany." Oh, sort of like the David Hasselhoff thing.

Anyway, JBO was terrible, but that's probably 'cause I don't get it. I could make out their parodied version of "Enter Sandman" to include lyrics about Metallica selling out. Somehow I don't think I would have made enjoyed it better even if it had been in a language I understand.

I had been jazzed about seeing Candlemass live since I first saw the Wacken line up. The Candlemass set was billed as a reunion, which meant Messiah Marcolin on vocals and the classic, cheesy but glorious doom metal songs that made this band famous in the 80s. But as I was waiting for the band to come out on the Party Stage, instead out strolled a man in his 50s, all dressed in denim. He casually approached the mic and dragged off a cigarette while addressing the cheering crowd in German. Who the hell was this? It turned out that another Germany-only hit, Torfrock, had switched places with Candlemass and that I had entirely missed the latter's set. It was really a stupid move, as Candlemass ended up playing at the same time as Bruce Dickinson. I heard that Candlemass were great. What a disappointment.

Rounding out the night (which finished at 3AM) were two bands. The first was Warlord (above), a group that released a cult record 18 years before and who hadn't done anything since (not even play live, according to the singer). The group had reformed, sort of, with two original members (guitar and drums, I think) hiring four new musicians and putting out a new record. All of the material was in the same vein: quality, old school epic metal with classic melody constructions. The singer was quite good, too. I'd like to check out this band's albums.

The other band was an abhorrent cock rock metal group called Red Aim. Just the sight of the cheesy, greasy singer and the way he strutted about the stage with his shirt open, revealing his disgusting, pasty white guy-ness made me retreat to see Warlord some more.

DAY 2

Up bright and early at 9AM. Not for any real, compelling reason, mind you, but nonetheless the brightness of the morning, my out of whack internal clock and the excitement of covering the festival made it that I was at least totally conscious to hear the first two thirds of Rottweiler's set from inside my tent. The band, which played a relatively macho, above average version of European power metal, was a pleasant surprise.

Meanwhile, Stormwitch was playing the True Metal Stage. This band had some decent, if not generic, rock/power metal tunes to offer.

The Chilean band Criminal also had something of interest to present with a set of death metal with uncommon keyboard accompaniment. The material wasn't strong enough to be interesting for the entire 30-minute set, but what I did see was worthwhile.

It wouldn't be for some hours until Macabre hit the stage, so I went into town to go to the bank. There are only two banks in the village, and each has one ATM. So the lines were long, very long - about an hour and a half. Some nice metal fans from Holland and England made the time go by a lot faster.

It was also very difficult to find non-carbonated bottled water in Germany. Even the stuff billed as not having gas has a low level of it and tastes like Perrier gone flat.

I got back in plenty of time to see Macabre put on a fine show. As you may know, this US band's songs are all about various serial killers. The main vocalist/guitarist introduced each song with some graphic and yet amusing background about the killer in question and what he did to his victims. The set was well played, and it was cool to see the awesome drum skills of Dennis in a live setting.

Another dilemma as Falconer was playing at the same time as Hollenthon. The internal debate was settled in that seeing Hollenthon in the tent would make it difficult to be in time for Immortal, whose set started 10 minutes after Hollenthon's.

Falconer (above) played well in front of an adoring audience despite some initial technical problems with one of the guitars. The singer sounded good and the songs came across as harder overall due to the live setting.

Immortal's (above) turn came up and the band opened with "Wrath from Above" and "Damned in Black." The set was basically an abridged version of what they played on their US tour, but played "Unsilent Storms in the North Abyss" and by not playing their mainstay "Blashyrkh." The sound on the black metal stage was again horrible. I sadly made my way out of the crowd in front of the stage to go hand out Maelstrom flyers. It was at this point that I made the interesting discovery that the bad sound problems were overcome if you stood at least 200 yards from the stage where the sound became clear. The downside was that the people on stage were very small.

Admittedly I had never seen Cannibal Corpse live, so I was curious to see what the fuss was about. It was true that the live show is energized and tight, but Cannibal Corpse's formula got tired about five years ago. The band is unfortunately trapped in a situation where it can't progress or it will lose its fan base, which will not be replaced as long as the band continues to be called Cannibal Corpse. So the band is condemned to rehash the same stuff over and over, giving us beyond meaningless songs like "Compelled to Lacerate."

I try to like Blind Guardian. Really, I wish I did like them. Then I could have been part of the massive club that watched the band's two hour set. The music was certainly well done and the vocals unique, but there's generally been something largely missing for me about this band.

Even if Wacken tries to bring in some musicians that depart from the standard loud metal format, the gods of true metal will crush them. Such was the case with Haggard, a group made up of 15 or so musicians that blend doom metal with acoustic, medieval music and operatic singing. It seemed like Haggard's formula might work, but it also seemed like the juxtaposition of doom vocals with Renaissance faire music could be silly. Of course, I would have no way of actually determining this as Onkel Tom (which is Sodom's Tom Angelripper's project of German drinking songs put to thrash metal) was playing at the same time on the next stage over.

Haggard was nearly completely drowned out. Everyone in the Haggard camp, from the audience to the musicians, was annoyed. Tensions were high on stage, where you could feel the rays of frustration shooting from the conservatively dressed musicians holding violins, over to the stage to their left, where Angelripper was fronting his agro, beer themed songs while a group of revelers and hob-nobbers from the VIP area danced as one of the attractive women from the group took her top off. Ironically, it was a perfect finale for the world's most over-the-top music festival.

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BLOODSTOCK 02
Saturday, Aug 31st, 2002 - Derby Assembly Rooms, England

Make no mistake, nothing short of crippling injury was going to make me miss this event. The chances of this bill being put together for a BRITISH festival were so remote, that I could scarce believe my eyes or ears. Not since the days of the great Castle Donnington festivals had such a collection of quality bands been put together in one place. Germany and Holland have had all the glory in the past decade of metal gatherings, and I believe it was only fair to provide compensation for the country where it all began.

After a tiring journey down from Newcastle, the sight of the Assembly Rooms surrounded by a good thousand metalheads was something of a comfort (though a little surprising to see so many black metal fans flocking to what was a predominantly power metal festival). Your Marduk-clad investigative reporter made his way inside...

The metal market was very impressive. There was an undeniable frustration that took over whilst perusing the display of raritities (early Mayhem picture discs limited to 100 copies anyone?) and the 'we've got it...you can't afford it' expressions of the stall owners. Grrr!

After sampling the delights of the Bloodstock tradespeople, my fiancé and I ventured forth into the main hall, where Biomechanical were well into their set. A nice blend of bass driven rock and power metal assailed our ears, accompanied by that all-important stage presence. Not necessarily something to rush out and buy, but it made for some nice live entertainment.

An hour later, power metallers Freedom Call effortlessly pulled a far larger crowd before them and played the first really fiery set of the day. Without a doubt the calling card of such bands is the almost constant smile on the face of each and every member. Hey, it's power metal, proud and uplifting, brave and inspiring, they can get away with a lot more than their extreme metal counterparts. Currently touring for their new album, Eternity, and making their first UK appearance since supporting Hammerfall in London, the Germans were in fine form (with a fair number of their fellow countrymen there to cheer them on). A nice mix of material, my personal favorite being the slow but triumphant "Hymn to the Brave." Our spirits lifted, we pressed on...

Balance of Power seemed top have the odd dash of power metal mixed with modern thrash. I couldn't help but gaze at them with a large degree of pity during the first two songs of the set. The guitarist stood there, riffing away for all he was worth, and yet all that could be heard was the rumble of the bass. The sound never quite got sorted to an extent that did the band justice, and by the third song, I was on my way out of there. What can I say? Some day, but not today.

Sidetracked once again by the mouthwatering deals on offer, I missed Elvenking, but arrived, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the second stage for a worthy show by Celtic black metal titans
Primordial. Corpse-painted vocalist Alan A Nemtheanga did a nice job of drawing in the crowd and it has to be said that they triumphed in the face of a weak drum sound with their oddly Bathory-esque folk-driven metallic assault. I remember seeing them in support of Immortal a couple of years ago, but today their art was far better appreciated.

Diamond Head are one of those bands that really prompted the question 'Why do you still bother?' Harsh words maybe, but the material sounded too weak for words when stood next to the rest of the Bloodstock bill. Don't get me wrong, I am an avid fan of the old school's finer elements, but the fact is that Diamond Head don't appear to be among them. And let's be honest, the majority present were just waiting for "Am I Evil"...

Judging by the t-shirts parading around, there were two bands that the masses were there to see - and we all piled into the main hall to witness the first of them. German power metal veterans Gamma Ray aren't too much to shout about when they're on your stereo, but somehow they're just an irresistible live act. With the exception of a few new tracks in the set, it pretty much read as a Best Of... performance, which was no bad thing, as I could be sure to be familiar with most of it. One of the real treats of the day was the vivacious blast through Helloween's "Ride the Sky." Kai Hansen was quite obviously over the moon with rapture at this, the band's second UK appearance being so well received. I was particularly impressed with Daniel Zimmermann's studio-perfect drumming as the band soared through "Land of the Free," "Fire Below," "Beyond the Black Hole," "Valley of the Kings" and the glorious sing-a-long rendition of "Somewhere out in Space." The smiles on the faces of the fans were almost as wide as those of the band. And that's saying something.

The band that I had been anticipating with quivering excitement for the past few months were another group of Germans, this time an act that were appearing on these shores for the first time in their existence. The gear of the previous bands was hastily shifted offstage, and a huge black cover was hoisted off one of the most gorgeous drum kits I have ever seen. We were at the front, and we weren't about to shift, for Blind Guardian were about to take the stage. And goddamn, they were good! The new album, A Night at the Opera, was their first to be granted a UK release (unless you count shelling out £18 for imports), but the only tracks taken form it were "Soulforged" (utterly magnificent) and "Punishment Divine" (storming).

On the lighter, swaying front, the crowd was delighted with "Nightfall" and the semi-acoustic "Bard's Song," as well as being assaulted with the likes of "Vallhalla" and "Welcome to Dying." I was amazed at the large numbers of German fans who had made it over for the occasion. Evidently the band has built itself one hell of a following over on the continent, one that looked to belittle the British fans on their own island. As the set drew to a close, I reflected on one of the greatest live acts I've ever witnessed.

Making our way from the hall, legs barely able to carry us, necks burning, and backs aching, there was a sense of triumph in the air that at last an event like this had taken place on our native soil. See you next year!

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