the underground music magazine    

issue #13 May, 2003

 


Untitled Document

Dear Maelstrom readers,

We’re fucking insane. We just keep getting bigger and more unconventional. It’s out of control. This, our 13th issue, is our biggest yet, with more than 150 reviews and 17 interviews with all sorts of wacky and cool bands.

We’re off our rockers for sure. In how many zines can you find reviews of Malaysian goregrind next to American alt-country? Yeah, we’ve got all that. Why? Because we like it. Do we expect you to get it? No. The fact remains we’re as wholeheartedly into Woodtemple as we are into Sixteen Horsepower.

To help us out with our visions of appreciation of musical diversity, we’ve gone out and recruited four super writers who are pretty cool people, too. (Not to mention completely nuts.) Please welcome Dave McGonigle, who despite being a research scientist, seems to know everything about everything that’s not metal; and Jason Thornberry, a grizzled zine mercenary whose appreciation for Marduk and funk exemplifies what Maelstrom stands for. The testosterone levels around the Maelstrom camp were getting a little out of control, so we went out and found Larissa Parson, a living dictionary of indie rock; and Samaki Dorsey, whose thirst for live shows is frankly cause for concern; Look out for these certifiable individuals’ work in our pages.

Of course we’ve still got our core of writers bringing you the best the underground has to offer that we can get our hard-working hands on. We’re sad to announce the departure of ~Vargscarr~, who had been with us from the beginning. We’ll miss his poignant and entertaining commentary. However, we’re extremely excited to say that Steppenvvolf, Maelstrom’s co-founder, has returned to the fold! And Maelstrom without Steppenvvolf is just not Maelstrom.

Speaking of excitement, our man Abhishek Chatterjee, whose lust for musical brutality even worries us, is all worked up about his new “top three picks of the issue” idea. We’ve decided to let him run with it. So, here they are:

1. Alienation Mental - Ball Spouter
2. Disgorge - Necrholocaust
3. Scent of Death - Entangled in Hate

Despite undertaking the lunatic journey of backpacking through India for two months on a whim, Tom Orgad still managed to provide us with some stuff, as well as a hilarious travel diary. It seems that Tom is still recuperating.

And as pumped up as we are about issue #13, issue #14 will have even more goodies, like a chat with Helloween, Cradle of Filth, Oxbow, Solefald and so, so much more. We can hardly wait.

Before you go off to read, please take a look at two letters that our readers submitted, showing that both rational thought and tolerance, but also the opposites, exist in the metal world.

- Roberto Martinelli

from: Karen Kay (paganwish@hotmail.com)

I’m writing this article not knowing really where to start from as much as there is to tell the masses about metal music and Satanism. Actually, what really incites me to write this is the controversy around this issue that many talk-shows have been dealing with lately and sadly with a lot of prejudice. So basically, this is not going to be one of those objective articles that smoothes both edges and gets nowhere.

I am not a Satanist; I try to be as Christian as can be, but I don’t claim to be an authority on the matter of religions either. I’m just a person who has spent the past decade listening to metal music in all its kinds and styles and appreciating the extraordinary, not-so-common subjects dealt with far away from the so-cliché, superficial themes tackled by the other styles.

To claim that all metal heads are Satanists is far-fetched, but unfortunately most of the alleged authorities discussing this issue fall into the pit of generalization, forgetting that there is a whole lot of metal bands who have nothing to do with Satanism, and these are the ones - the only ones, mind you - that any real metal head in my place would try to vindicate. We also forget that music is a form of art, just like writing or sculpting or dancing. We have horror novels; we have horror movies, why is it forbidden to have horror music? How come we have never heard anyone banning the works of Edgar Alan Poe, the master of horror, death, blood and murder? Why should we complain about lyrics which express the feelings of sorrow, emptiness and doom? In reality metal music is just like poetry, and it only takes sensible and romantic characters to appreciate the beauty of, for horror and death and pain are a concrete part of life. To deny this and pretend that the world is only love and peace and happiness would only be a fettered illusion. Metal music just delves into the realms of the id, and dares to reveal the parts in ourselves that we keep buried. Its themes romanticize death and bereavement; that only the weaker minds might consider this messages from the so-called Devil. It is an outlet, a pipe of release to all those negative feelings of pain and grief one goes through, that only an artist can handle deftly.

And still people go on to believe that metal music leads to suicide, which is only close to ridicule. If this was true, then I would have been just a soul damned to hell by now. I can state hundreds of examples of cases of suicide, where the victims don’t even know what metal music is. That’s all to say that it’s the psychological state of the person, regardless of the kind of music he/she listens to, which brings them to the state of depression, which might eventually lead to suicide. It is not because some people have taken their own lives by listening to metal music that such music should be condemned, but we should be as far-sighted as to realize that these people should have been treated at psychologists and psychiatrists for misinterpreting reality. If millions of people die from car crashes every year, we don’t go and ban cars, but we just learn what driving is about and drive more slowly.

As to the matter of clothing, it really strikes me as being utterly absurd. How can we forget that music isn’t a matter of putting notes and tunes together but a matter of style as well? A metal head isn’t a person you meet every day or anytime or any place. It’s a person with an original, sensible and sensitive character. The dark look is just that of someone who tends to be different and not essentially negatively different. Besides most bands, whether metal or not, seek to find a certain commercial image and communicate it to their audience, why should we go and pick on superficial accessories pertaining only to a certain style of dress? I wear black most of the time, I wear dark make-up all the time, and I am really into spikes and tattoos. Does that make me a Satanist? Absolutely not, for I teach at a Catholic school, I pray to God Almighty every morning and night, and I lead a very peaceful life. And still this doesn’t stop me from having my proper style of dress and my own original look. Actually, the way this image is communicated by the media relating this style of dress to Satanism is being done very randomly. It just condemns innocent people to the stake and beholds them with a lot of unnecessary prejudice. It’s high time we got over some appearances.

It might seem to some that my article is in favor of Satanism, but it is only in favor of the art of metal music. I’m just trying to explain what most people either fail to see or just know nothing about: it’s not whenever we hear a growl or heavy guitars that some work of evil is being done, it is not whenever someone wears black and gets pierced that he/she follows the Church of Satan, and definitely it is not whenever someone commits suicide that he/she’s done it because of listening to loud music. Enough of narrow-mindedness and prejudice! It takes a lot of research and studying before tackling such a sensitive subject. Condemnations aren’t to be done so arbitrarily, or it would only make it another of those middle-ages witchcraft hunts redeemed only after hundreds of years.

Dear Karen,

Thank you for your eloquent and thoughtful letter. You certainly bring up some excellent points.
- Roberto Martinelli

from: “GBK Hordes” (sperm_of_the_antichrist@hotmail.com)

We find it interesting that of all of the Maelstrom’s experienced contributors (10 years listening to Metallica, wow!) an Israeli Jew is chosen to review Arghoslent’s Incorrigible Bigotry. We are guessing that the editors of the Maelstrom felt that an Israeli Jew who apparently has been overwhelmed by creations of bands as Lux Occulta (?) Yes (?) Gentle Giant (??) is the ideal candidate to provide unbiased and informative reviews of militant metal output?.

We are not quite sure what Orgad means by “old-fashioned harmonized two-note-chord based death metal phrases,” though that phrase sure contains a lot of hyphens. Most likely, the meaning of this phrase, like the validity of this review, exists solely in Orgad?s oriental mind. His criticisms of Arghoslent’s “output” are, in fact, lies. A side by side comparison with any similar (there are few) metal album would prove this to even the dullest listener. Since Arghoslent makes music for militant metal hordes and not Jewish philosophers (like Marx?) it simply must go over Orgad’s head. In an attempt to cover his utter unworthiness as a reviewer, Orgad resorts to defamation. He defames Arghoslent because he hates us, he hates us because he fears us. This is where the truth of the matter is revealed to him; he should fear and hate Arghoslent because Arghoslent is a complete rejection of him and what he stands for.

Where Orgad errs is in making his feelings public.

Orgad represents the epitome of Jewishness. He is a meddler, one who goes stirring trouble, judging what he can never create, a muckraker, a liar, vicious, defensive. He is the “clever weakling” hiding behind his computer screen and poisoned pen. His intellect, of which he is so obviously proud, is not exceptional by any means. A quick scan of Webster’s Dictionary indicates that “folky” and “contrapunct” are used in quite imaginative ways. In fact “contrapunct” doesn’t seem to be listed at all, perhaps Orgad
meant “contrapuntal.” It’s amazing that in this day and age, people still feel that by throwing together run-on sentences with multi-syllable words and referring to moderately obscure (yet absolutely overrated) supposed “cutting edge” music that they demonstrate intelligence. On the contrary, these palaverous (go ahead, look it up! It’s ok! Use it in your next review!) ejaculations only prove that Orgad is a little boy hiding behind his big words. This way, he never has to say anything. We suggest that Orgad read some Hemingway or Julius Caeser so he learns how to communicate eloquently without resorting to verbal diarrhea. Secondly, Arghoslent suggests that the Maelstrom convert their zine to an Israeli-Jewish, pseudo-intellectual, semi-progressive rock, self-indulgent music forum if they insist on keeping the likes of Orgad around. Finally, we suggest Orgad remain in Tel-Aviv. Though he may be under the constant threat of suicide bombers and scud missile attacks, he is far safer than if he ever dares to darken the grassy plains of Virginia.

The Maelstrom does its audience a grave disservice by having Israeli Jews review the likes of Arghoslent.

Dear GBK,

Thanks for your letter. I can agree with you when you say that Tom put way too much thought into that review, certainly much more thought than was necessary for something as re-hashed and unoriginal as (your band) Arghoslent’s Incorrigible Bigotry. The fact that Tom decides to not be offended by your rampant hate toward his people is something we find pretty remarkable, as a matter of fact. Too bad you can't put yours aside. But that’s fine, because Maelstrom isn’t for you. Goodbye. - Roberto Martinelli

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

The impact that Helloween had on melodic metal up until this very day is immeasurable. With a release of a mere two albums in the mid- to late-80s, Keeper of the Seven Keys I and II, the benchmark for the style that is commonly thought of as European power metal was set. At the forefront of this revolution was Helloween’s singer, Michael Kiske. Since his day in Germany’s most important metal band ever, Kiske has been the idol of many a high squealing metal singer.

However, Kiske has been hanging very low since his departure from Helloween nearly 10 years ago. He put out some solo records that no one really paid attention to or even heard of, partially because they were never available in the States. From the reverence of a fan base unable to let go of the identity of Kiske as Helloween frontman, to his much publicized, bitter quibbles with Helloween guitarist Micheal Weikath (a man Kiske still calls “Weiky”), Kiske’s musical persona became trapped in limbo, as talented as he is. And he is talented, now more than ever. Kiske’s new band, the rock group Supared, is proof that he can come back, reinvent himself, and make something great. I contacted Kiske to chat about his image and where he’ll be going.

Maelstrom: Hi, Michael! I was pleasantly surprised to be blown away by Supared's debut album. I find every song has something nice to offer. Your voice is in fine form and the melodies are superb. You chose not to do any of the high vocals that put you on the map, though. Was this a conscious decision or do such vocals just not fit your music? Will you sing high again?

Michael Kiske: It’s funny that you have that impression, because on a couple of songs I thought I sing very high. Or do you mean those very high, someone stepped on my foot, kind of squeaks? I don’t really like those ones anymore. Everyone sounds the same doing them.

Maelstrom: Certainly the record wouldn't be a success if you didn't have a great band to back you up. Please tell us about your band mates; how did you hook up with them?

Michael Kiske: A friend has a friend who knows someone sort of thing. I new the drummer from the previous recordings, and he knows everyone. Came together very natural.

Maelstrom: Fourteen songs! That's quite a lot. How long has this band been in the works?

Michael Kiske: It took a little with the drums, all the rest went very fast; just the vocals took forever, because of a stomach problem of mine. I had to wait almost a year to do them.

Maelstrom: I find that the chorus to "He Pretends" is the one that stays in my mind the most. I didn't have the luxury of getting a lyric sheet. What's this song about?

Michael Kiske: Don’t really know! It’s a mix of a few people I have had the pleasure to know, I’d say.

Maelstrom: I was reading up on your career since Helloween. It seems that you put out some records with groups named RTS (in 1999) and a self-titled band (in 1996). I'm sorry I had never heard of these before, but I've never seen them in stores in the US. Mainly for our US readers, what are these records like, how are they different from Supared? Will you release any more solo albums?

Michael Kiske: Hard to say what I will do in the future. If SupaRed doesn’t go anywhere, I might do solo things again. The music on those two solo records of mine is just me. Like always. The first one is the most metal-like. I worked with Kai Hansen and Adrian Smith from Iron Maiden on it. R.T.S. is pretty wild. Very poppy. No red line in it. Impossible to sell, but interesting from an artistic point of view. A lot of searching and defining myself anew was going on.

Maelstrom: You've had periods of quiet that have lasted years between albums. What have you been doing? Do you prefer to make an album every three years or so?

Michael Kiske: I was trying to find out what I wanted to do with my life. Did A LOT of book reading. Spent over 25.000 Deutsch-Marks just on books. The business sucks in many ways, you know! I am still sometimes not sure if that’s what I am supposed to do. But I love singing. I had a big hunger for some more depth in my life. And I have found what I was searching for. A record should come out every second year. But it always takes forever in my case. I hope I can change that in the future.

Maelstrom: What's your fondest memory and/ or your greatest accomplishment yet in your musical career?

Michael Kiske: The first three years with Helloween. Because everything was right. Since than I know what it feels like being in a real band that works. Being on tour felt like being invincible! But it was pretty much over when Kai Hansen left. The chemistry was gone. But it was also very great to be able to personally meat pretty much all of my idols. I made my teenager dream come true. Now my goals are more art oriented and moral.

Maelstrom: Both your fame as a musician and the press release that came with the Supared promo cannot go long at all without mentioning your career with Helloween (which ended 13 years ago). We can certainly understand why, but it seems almost like a (perhaps) unwanted crutch that I hope will diminish as you continue to make great albums. In the meantime, do you feel that you live in your own shadow, of Michale Kiske, Helloween frontman? What is that like?

Michael Kiske: For the metal press and in certain metal heads for sure. And it’s very understandable too! Until I have achieved something new on a similar level, the old image will probable not be replaced too soon. But as a person I don’t live in the shadow of my past at all. It was great, but it’s over. And I am still burning. As I said: I have had some great years with that band. I don’t wanna miss them. A lot of people will probably never get the chance to experience what I have. As I said above: I lived my dream. And that’s so cool. I have new ones now, and I will try to live them too.

Maelstrom: I was reading up on your career on the internet. There's a site, whose url is really long, that has a brief and not all that flattering summary of Helloween's career. It mentions the problems that Ingo Schwicthenberg had that led to his suicide, and it also mentions your split with Helloween due to your getting involved in some "obscure religion." Would you care to comment on such words?

Michael Kiske: These things get written by those typical smart-ass materialists. My ‘obscure religion` is simply Christianity. But I am not a member of any church. I think that the official Christian religion has to do with real Christianity by name only. I don’t need (nor like) institutions! I am looking for an over-religious way to truth. And I am not a materialist, so as a Christian I am dealing with spiritual-science… Christian occultism even! That’s what early Christians always called the Holy Spirit. No big deal to someone who is looking for some truth, and has some senses left for something more than the brutal matter. Someone who really lives some kind of a spiritual life will always be obscure or crazy or what ever for materialists. I honestly think this world is gone nuts in so many ways. Someone who is still at least in some way alive in his soul is crazy or obscure, and soul dead materialists are considered to be healthy. Well! To each his own. I certainly am religious! - I think Michael Weikath has spread those stupid things about me. I saw a statement like that from him years ago in a Magazine. Maybe that’s where the person had it from. The band simply split up because we didn’t understand each other anymore. Weiky was playing his false games behind backs, like he always does. That kills everything. It was simply over. And of course they didn’t understand me talking about true art or young spiritual Christianity or things like that. It just didn’t make sense anymore. All the rest is talk. Ingo slowly killed himself with alcohol and cocaine. It’s the saddest end you could have for a life and a band.

Maelstrom: My last Helloween question: Now 15 years after the final installment of the "Keeper" series, so many European bands (including Kai Hansen's Gamma Ray) continue to emulate what you did (and usually without much originality of their own). Looking back over this period of time and the current state of power metal, what are you thoughts on your impact?

Michael Kiske: It’s cool! I was very surprised to find out that those records still mean that much to young people, and musicians still get inspired by it. Especially considering being out of the scene for such a long time. I always thought Maiden's Number of the Beast, or Priest's Screaming for Vengeance were much more important as influences, but in certain areas it seems to be different. But I honestly think that the cool rock/metal scene of the eighties and early nineties died out so much because of a big lack of creativity that took over. The nowadays scene has no respect for the individual or creative freedom. I also think that has to do with all the silly love for evil and Satanism in it. That has to kill all life slowly! It only creates moral wimps. It truly has become a scene of the dead. And I believe in the GOD of the living. I know that the god of the dead exists also, but that’s not where I wanna go, or what I have anything to do with. I don’t feel at home there anymore. And a lot of circles there don’t seem to like me either, so it’s about time to tame new grounds. I really don’t care about a scene that kills all progress. It has no intelligence and absolutely no sense for honesty anymore. It used to be so different. But there’s more rock n roll in pop/rock today than there is in metal. It’s bitter, but a fact. And I know! Cause I try to stay real for number of years now, and the scene doesn’t want that. But I rather leave a stupid scene than lose my soul. In the good times of Helloween it was an exciting, rebellious scene, today it bores the hell out of me.

Maelstrom: Well, Michael, thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions. You're one of the best singers in rock or metal and Supared for sure will be one of my favorite albums of 2003. I hope you continue on this path and continue to make wonderful songs.

Michael Kiske: I will never stop making music, but if those destructive jerks I call pseudo-critics always kill everything already from the start, I can’t promise you that my records will always be available. And add to that all this copying CDs business, the future is very unclear. The future of honest rock music in general! I hope that there will be a mind revolution soon, because music the way I like it disappears more and more. Everyone who copies a CD of a cool band kills it slowly. The whole concept doesn’t work like that. Just all those gay-fake-boy-groups will survive, because they have millions behind them. The cool honest stuff dies first. It’s up to the people. They got it in their hands! I still believe that music from the heart will make its way somehow. I just hope there will be a platform for it left in five years.

It that sense!

All the best to you!

Michael Kiske www.supared.de

editor's note: finally, here is an excerpt from Supared's website. You may find it quite interesting:

"To all my friends and all my enemies

I finally decided not to try to give an objective moral justification for my creative doings and the way I understand true art here anymore. It will not be understood by certain people anyway, and others don't need to hear that, because they know. I am simply tired of justifying myself. I am tired of fighting against ignorance, stupidity and pseudo-ideals. It only eats up all energy. I want to make it fully personal here. Some people even told me that my ideals are shit. Well! The ideals I have, I have learned from my idols and (for me) the only true real masters in art like: Richard Wagner, Beethoven, Goethe or Schiller and many more. I am less than nothing compared to these giants, but at least I understood them. What we do today, in their eyes it is never art! They were able to create music and culture out of the centre of their strongest humanity, and It was GOD speaking through them. We are only little kids, but most of the time just pure barbarians compared to their humanity and ability. After thankfully learning from them the highest and most beautiful ideals of art and its mission for human culture, the only way for me to keep on making records was to reduce it all down to music's necessary bases like: honesty and freedom. But even that seems to be too much for modern music to be able to carry or handle in most areas. I don't want to talk anymore. It just waters out the words. But I want to get this out of my system:

A lot of people say that they are my fans (friends), but they are really not. They are just fans of certain records I was involved in. They want to make me a slave of my past and certain successful records and won't let me be what I am today. That in fact (wanted or not) makes them my enemies. Who ever rejects my music, rejects me. That's why every musician takes bad and unfair criticism very personal. Because it is very personal! I know that a lot of you guys don't mean bad by telling me what to do, or that I should do the music I got known with, but it is bad. The worst thing you can do to someone is to constantly rape his heart by telling him not to be himself, and to steel his freedom. A lot of people are even arrogant enough to really think that they know better than me what a good song is. Well! Write your own! I can only give you MY Song. If that won't do, just leave me be. If you guys can't follow me anymore today, please just don't! And don't write about my music unless you really want to destroy me as a musician. I won't sell my soul for anyone. Some of you guys will probably never get it, but I guess I am just not trained well enough in being a pleaser and an ass-kisser. I never thought that's the musicians job, but for far too many today unfortunately it is. In the end it's very simple: Either my music will sooner or later make its way to some real friends of mine that want and expect me to express myself as free and honest as I can through my music, or it simply won't.
I can't be what I'm not, and I don't want to be what I'm not.

That's all.

Michael Kiske

And for some who care, I put Richard Wagner here. He says it better than I ever can anyway. And I absolutely know how little his words fit together with our modern slavery-music and pseudo-ideals:

... denn die wahre Kunst ist höchste Freiheit,
und nur die höchste Freiheit
kann sie aus sich kundgeben,
kein Befehl, keine Verordnung,
kurz kein außerkünstlerischer Zweck
kann sie entstehen lassen.
... Und doch werden wir sehen, daß die Kunst,
statt sich von immerhin respektablen Herren,
wie die geistige Kirche und geistreiche Fürsten es waren,
zu befreien,
einer viel schlimmeren Herrin
mit Haut und Haar sich verkaufte:
der Industrie.
...Das ist die Kunst,
wie sie jetzt die ganze zivilisierte Welt erfüllt!
Ihr wirkliches Wesen ist die Industrie,
ihr moralischer Zweck der Gelderwerb,
ihr ästhetisches Vorgeben die Unterhaltung der Gelangweilten.
Aus dem Herzen unsrer modernen Gesellschaft,
aus dem Mittelpunkt ihrer kreisförmigen Bewegung,
der Geld Spekulation im Großen,
saugt unsre Kunst ihren Lebenssaft,
erborgt sich eine herzlose Anmut
aus den leblosen Überresten
mittelalterlich ritterlicher Konvention, und läßt sich von da
- mit scheinbarer Christlichkeit auch das Scherflein des Armen nicht verschmähend -
zu den Tiefen des Proletariats herab,
entnervend, entsittlichend, entmenschend überall,
wohin sich das Gift ihres Lebenssaftes ergießt.
...Zur Zeit ihrer Blüte
war die Kunst bei den Griechen konservativ,
weil sie dem öffentlichen Bewußtsein als ein gültiger
und entsprechender Ausdruck vorhanden war:
bei uns ist die echte Kunst revolutionär,
weil sie nur im Gegensatz
zur gültigen Allgemeinheit existiert.
...Aus dem entehrenden Sklavenjoch
des allgemeinen Handwerkertums
mit seiner bleichen Geldseele
wollen wir uns zum freien künstlerischen Menschentume
mit seiner strahlenden Weltseele aufschwingen;
aus mühselig beladenen Tagelöhnern der Industriewollen wir alle zu schönen, starken Menschen werden,
denen die Welt gehört als ein ewig unversiegbarer Quell höchsten künstlerischen Genusses.

(Richard Wagner. Die Kunst und die Revolution 1849)"

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

Red. The color of blood, of passion, of fire.

Death. The ultimate silence and stillness.

Norway’s Madder Mortem is about the marriage of these contrasts, according to the group’s singer and lyricist, Agnete Kirkevaag. Kirkevaag and her band have quietly been making record after record of the truest, most emotional doom for years now - quietly in the sense that Madder Mortem has not yet received the attention it so richly deserves. For to behold the sounds and energy found on the band’s latest album, Deadlands, is to experience the pinnacle of that particular flavor of monumental, despondent passion that metal has.

Soaring and crushing, Kirkevaag’s singing turned out to be in fairly sharp contrast to her actual speaking persona, which is nervous and bright. On this particular day, Kirkevaag was getting over a “huge party” following Madder Mortem’s acclaimed performance the day before at Oslo’s Inferno Festival. With her voice cracking from pushing harder on stage, lack of sleep and massive whiskey consumption, making her sound a bit like Katharine Hepburn, the Doom Queen talked about the requisite pain she must go through for her art and how she can’t watch “Twin Peaks” alone.

Maelstrom: So, how does a nice girl from Nord-Odal get into a doom metal band?

Agnete Kirkevaag: Hahaha. Well, it probably started with Metallica and Sepultura. Actually, my auntie bought me and BP (Birger Petter Kirkevaag, Agnete’s brother who plays guitar in the band - Roberto) And Justice for All. We’d been listening to stuff like W.A.S.P. and Guns ‘n’ Roses; the 80s metal, the big hair bands. She just went into some record store and asked for something that was a bit rough.

Maelstrom: Wow. Your aunt sounds pretty cool.

Agnete Kirkevaag: She’s very cool. So she started buying me more tapes, which was also very important.

Maelstrom: I was kind of surprised. I was looking at the list of bands that you like (on Madder Mortem’s website, www.maddermortem.com, which is unbelievably great - Roberto), and a lot of the bands are ones that don’t sing melodically. You have this tremendous melodic voice. When I heard you, the first thing I thought of was Candlemass, even though they’re a lot cheesier than you are. I mean, I love Candlemass, but your music sounds more solid.

Agnete Kirkevaag: I do like them.

Maelstrom: Ok. But it wasn’t on the front. You know what I’m saying? I mean, the bands that you just mentioned now aren’t anything like what you do, other than being metal, obviously.

Agnete Kirkevaag: We had a big discussion about that with Century Media (Madder Mortem’s former label). We were doing the text for the press releases of All Flesh is Grass (the album before Deadlands - Roberto). They wanted us to cite inspirations. And what they actually mean by that is not to cite inspirations, but to mention bands that we think are similar to us.

Maelstrom: For dummy journalists who don’t know what to write.

Agnete Kirkevaag: What we actually did was name influences and inspirations that we don’t sound like, like Faith No More, Darkthrone and Arvo Pärt.

Maelstrom: It’s funny how Pärt comes up a lot in Norwegian metal or metal-related bands. I interviewed Heidi Tveitan, who’s the wife of the guy from Emperor, and she’s all about Pärt.

Agnete Kirkevaag: Well, she’s married to a guy who’s very into classical music. I don’t know why Pärt has gotten so much attention in Norway, but he’s been floating around in the metal world. It really makes sense: it appeals to people who like music with a lot of atmosphere. I also find Pärt pretty scary. It’s unsettling. For people who are into stuff from Cold Meat Industry, it makes sense. What surprises me is that other composers that would fit in with Pärt haven’t had as much popularity. They’d be perfect for the soundtrack of black metal people.

Maelstrom: Do you like Górecki? He’s from Poland.

Agnete Kirkevaag: No, I don’t know him. The stuff I have heard from Poland that I liked is by a guy called Ligeti. He has this cello thing that’s very, very great. And Penderecki also.

Maelstrom: I’m trying to get into him, but it’s more difficult.

Agnete Kirkevaag: It is difficult. It’s the same kind of scary stuff. We also have a Norwegian composer called Arne Nordheim, who is also very weird. It’s more electronic, actually. It’s good for metal people to open their minds to other stuff.

Maelstrom: How did you train your voice? I imagine you must have done lots of practice throughout your life.

Agnete Kirkevaag: By singing in bands, mostly. I’ve had some classical training, but mostly like taking care of my voice. But then I go and...

Maelstrom: ...drink whiskey!

Agnete Kirkevaag: Yeah. I smoke a lot, too, which doesn’t really make sense.

Maelstrom: You smoke a lot, too?

Agnete Kirkevaag: Yeah, I smoke quite a lot, actually. The Opeth (whom Madder Mortem had just finished a six week tour with - Roberto) guys said they’d never seen a band that smokes and eats as much. It was really funny. Probably an important event in my development was when I started with this youth club band, we had a very (unintelligible), so you had to sing very loudly. That’s basically where it comes from. I’m pushing my voice instead of sliding up into this head register, as most girls do. It’s usually the easiest style for girls to do. Men generally sing with their chests. When you do classical stuff, you try to blend these as much as possible. When you sing in the traditional heavy metal style, you push the chest voice up. It’s actually a very big strain on your vocal chords, but you get a lot more power.

Maelstrom: If there’s anything your vocals have, it’s this huge power.

Agnete Kirkevaag: (laugh) It’s getting more and more like a fist.

Maelstrom: I listened to the All Flesh is Grass record recently. It’s totally great, but Deadlands is even better. All that is good about All Flesh is Grass is improved. The melodies are more well-crafted, and you’ve dropped almost all the gruff vocals, which I think don’t fit as well into what you’re doing. Obviously, you think so too.

Agnete Kirkevaag: We do it when it suits it. The development has been good. We’re learning a lot more with every record. Technically, we’re getting better at things like sound. We’re growing together more as a band. For All Flesh is Grass, we had three new members come in a month before we recorded the album. Since then we’ve had the same lineup. We put a lot of focus on the melodies. It’s very concentrated around the vocal melodies. I think we got a lot better at writing songs.

Maelstrom: Yes, I agree. I don’t want this to sound like I don’t think All Flesh is Grass is great, because I really love it, but Deadlands is in a class by itself, for sure.

Agnete Kirkevaag: I think it’s better, too! (Laugh) If I didn’t, then we’d be doing something wrong. That’s very important to me. If we do make an album, it’s supposed to mean that we can do something better than what we did before. If we can’t, then we’ve failed. At least, we have to think so.

Maelstrom: Your sound is SO huge. The production is perfect, and your vocals are so big and crushing. Generally, I don’t read lyrics in metal albums because either I think they’re dumb, or I don’t get it because they’re cryptic and don’t make any sense to me, but the lyrics that you write are just as crushing as your vocals. It seems that this theme that you’ve picked for this new record has really focused your writing. What got into you to write all this?

Agnete Kirkevaag: I think it’s just me being me, or at least a big part of me. One of the reasons the lyrics are better is because I put a lot more focus on it and worked on it quite a lot harder. It was something I really wanted to improve. Also, we have this conceptual idea for the album, which I think is also good for the lyrics because you can make the nine songs better together lyrically, but also musically. There is this idea of the dead lands, which is taking a state of mind that would be easiest described as “rock bottom”: Sitting very quietly in a chair and watching the world crumble around you, and you really don’t have the energy to react to it.

Maelstrom: That’s what comes through.

Agnete Kirkevaag: What I’ve tried to do is project this feeling into a physical landscape, and make a visual representation of this state of mind. That’s the dead lands. I imagine it as a stone desert: cold, very still and very stale - everything is covered with dust, but filthy, filthy dust. A place that is dessicated and crumbling and merging into a part of this dusty filth that covers everything.

Maelstrom: Mostly because of the artwork that you’ve chosen for the record, it makes me think of like a fantasy, Egyptian pyramid building hell.

Agnete Kirkevaag: The pyramid thing is a very, very good reference. The first lyric and first song we properly finished was “Necropol Lit,” the opener. It sort of pointed us in the right direction, and me lyrically very much. “Necropol” is the city of the dead, in Greek. I think of it as huge stone buildings with rough slabs. A city for dead people is a very cruel irony: putting all that effort into building a town that no one will ever live in. Waste. Doing so much for absolutely nothing.

Maelstrom: How does it make you feel when you’re making or performing this stuff?

Agnete Kirkevaag: It’s a pain. It’s most of all rightness, because it’s true. That’s the most important thing to me. I has to be true so I can sing honestly. It shines through in three seconds if you don’t really mean what you say. But it’s also pain. This theme of catharsis through your music, that’s not really working for me.

Maelstrom: Do you like to feel pain when you do this?

Agnete Kirkevaag: No. But it’s right. It’s necessary. It’s not really a matter of choice. It’s what I do, and the only way I can make it sound and be right. It has to be that intense for me. I want people to get it. It could go in the other direction at some point. If I’d been writing happy stuff, I’d have wanted it to be so. But, I’m not exactly... at least, that part of me is not a happy person. I’m not a sad miser, living depressively. Everybody has layers. I think my social persona is very cheery. I laugh and talk a lot. But that is one part, and it couldn’t exist without the other side. It might be that I’m more in touch with the darker and less pleasant aspects of my personality than most people are.

Maelstrom: If you could sing a duet with anyone, who would it be?

Agnete Kirkevaag: Mike Patton (Faith no More, Fantomas, et al). He’s a big idol for me. I really, really love his voice; and perhaps more, his way of using vocals.

Maelstrom: How would that turn out? If he did his thing and you did your thing, what would that be like?

Agnete Kirkevaag: I think it would be really cool. Some of the stuff he does is very intense. It’s really, really scary. Musically, it would turn out really cool. I don’t do as many strange things as he does. I’m expanding. I’ll probably do more and more strange stuff as the years go by, to keep myself occupied. But I think it would fit well. He does have a very large sort of voice, if you know what I mean, when he sings properly.

Maelstrom: I love that Fantomas The Director’s Cut album. The first track of the “Godfather” thing. That’s so entertaining, funny and cool.

Agnete Kirkevaag: At the same time, some of the record is really... not nice. I think it’s the theme from “Rosemary’s Baby,” the thing at the end really scared me. Do you like Tomahawk?

Maelstrom: You know, I was going to ask you about that. It seems that everyone in Madder Mortem loves that, but I don’t know what it is.

Agnete Kirkevaag: It’s another Mike Patton project. It’s on Ipecac, I think. It’s more straight forward music than Fantomas. It’s very Patton-esque.

Maelstrom: Speaking of side projects, you’re in a couple: Magma and Utburd. Obviously, Magma makes one think of the French prog band.

Agnete Kirkevaag: It’s me and Christian, our cover designer, who played guitar on our very first album - we’re kind of a very happy little family. It’s me and Christian doing very sweet, acoustic songs with Norwegian lyrics from Norwegian poetry. The other thing (and I didn’t know about the French band), Utburd, is a joke. It’s me and some girlfriends of mine who decided to make a girl black metal band. Utburd is the Norwegian word for, if you put a baby into the forest to die, the ghost would be called “utburd.”

Maelstrom: Oh, my god! What a culturally specific thing! (Laugh)

Agnete Kirkevaag: Yeah (laugh). So, just for fun we wanted to make this website and pretend like we’d recorded lots of demos and have really cool band photos with corpsepaint and lots of cleavage. (Laugh) That way we’d appeal to both Norwegians and Germans, obviously.

Maelstrom: Who are the other girls?

Agnete Kirkevaag: Just friends of mine.

Maelstrom: So, you have no actual recordings?

Agnete Kirkevaag: No, no, no. That would be totally wrong for the project.

Maelstrom: Yeah, totally wrong. Absolutely.

Agnete Kirkevaag: It’s supposed to be all hype. What we plan to do is write about an extremely underground and very rare demo that we did. It would be recorded out in the woods, so that you can really get the atmosphere and also hear, like, the power generator going in the background. (Chuckle) Then we want to try to get a live gig at like, the Inferno Festival, just for laughs. Black metal needs a good kick in the ass now and then to keep it serious, I think.

Maelstrom: I want to give you a couple bands, and I want you to give me your thoughts. The Gathering.

Agnete Kirkevaag: She’s a really good singer.

Maelstrom: Your softer parts remind me of her, but your range is much bigger than hers.

Agnete Kirkevaag: She also uses the pushing the chest voice upwards style. I think she has an amazingly good control. I haven’t really been following them. I like the Mandylion album a lot. I have years and years at a time when I don’t go out and check out new music because my head is so full of my own.

Maelstrom: The Third and the Mortal.

Agnete Kirkevaag: Oh, one of my favorites.

Maelstrom: You know, they’re one of my favorites, too. Painting on Glass is one of my favorites ever. I don’t know how you feel about their recent album, Memoirs, but I was so disappointed. I mean, it’s a good record, but it’s Portishead! They had an original sound and traded it in for somebody else’s.

Agnete Kirkevaag: I really love Memoirs. I haven’t connected with Portishead, but I can see what you mean. My opinion of that record is greatly colored by the fact that I first heard the songs live. I was totally surprised because the record has had zero publicity in Norway. But the concert totally blew me off my feet. So I went and bought the record. So my connection with the record is with the concert. But I’d say my favorite is also Painting on Glass. I love the singer.

Maelstrom: A lot of people seem to think that Kari Rueslåtten is the best. I think that record is nice, but Painting on Glass for sure is my favorite.

Agnete Kirkevaag: I think “nice” is a good word. The first records are good - and this is a very unpopular opinion to have in Norway, especially because there are many Kari fans around - she has a very nice voice and sings very well, but I think Ann-Mari Edvardsen (who sings on Painting on Glass) has a lot more personality. It’s much more my thing. I like that a lot better than this sort of pretty style.

Maelstrom: She’s a lot more mature sounding. Rueslåtten’s style is a lot like bubble gum.

Agnete Kirkevaag: Yeah!

Maelstrom: I saw that the photography on your Mercury album is by Runhild Grammelsæter!

Agnete Kirkevaag: Yeah.

Maelstrom: Who is like, the biggest cult figure if you like doom, since she was the vocalist on Thorr’s Hammer. (She’s also on the new Sunn. Read about it in the interview in this issue - Roberto).

Agnete Kirkevaag: Yeah, I’ve heard about it.

Maelstrom: You’ve never heard it?!?!?!

Agnete Kirkevaag: No, are you crazy?

Maelstrom: You have heard it, right?

Agnete Kirkevaag: No, no, no. I was looking through stuff about it on the web. Some interview with her somewhere popped up. She’s definitely not a part of any metal scene anymore.

Maelstrom: Do you know what her vocals are like?

Agnete Kirkevaag: No.

Maelstrom: They’re the most brutal, growled, guttural vocals ever. They totally kill just about every male vocalist of this style.

Agnete Kirkevaag: That’s cool. That’s very cool.

Maelstrom: It’s AMAZING.

Agnete Kirkevaag: She’s a nice girl.

Maelstrom: How did you get in contact with her?

Agnete Kirkevaag: Through Misanthropy (Records). She was hired to do photography for other bands.

Maelstrom: You’re an accountant. I know that’s totally not exciting, but I think it’s pretty cool you put that up there on your site, right out in the open, ‘cause it’s just about the least metal job you can think of.

Agnete Kirkevaag: Yeah, it is. That’s actually what kills me nowadays. Just imagine the feeling of getting back from six weeks of touring Europe with Opeth on Friday, and going back to accounting on Monday.

Maelstrom: Do your co-workers know about your musical career, and what do they think of it?

Agnete Kirkevaag: They find it extremely fascinating and they don’t get any of it. They either ask, “do you sacrifice children?” or, “do you do your own songs, then?” They either have this fantastic vision of something really grand, like total 80s rock ‘n’ roll luxury hotels and thousands of screaming fans, or ask me if we write our own songs. You should see their faces when I try to explain something like headbanging. “Yeah, you basically bob your head like this. It’s very correct for the style.” They go, “ohhh....ok.” I came back with my first tattoo, and it was like, “ooh-la-la. This is strange.”

Maelstrom: Naturally, “Twin Peaks” is amongst your favorite things.

Agnete Kirkevaag: Well, Lynch in total, basically. I love “Twin Peaks,” but I can’t watch it alone. It scares the hell out of me.

Maelstrom: There’s a part in episode - I can’t remember, like, 11 (?) - the part when we clearly find out that Leland Palmer is Killer Bob, and he kills Maddie.

Agnete Kirkevaag: Yeah,

Maelstrom: That part, when you see him laughing, and his face changes, that freaked me out for three months. (Laugh)

Agnete Kirkevaag: You remember that one scene where he comes climbing across the coffee table toward the couch, and it’s filmed really fast? (Chilled breathing) I nearly pee my pants every time. If I do see this alone, I have to crawl underneath a blanket and put my head under there and lie very still and hope nobody finds me. I have this fear remaining from childhood, a fear of the dark.

Maelstrom: Wow, the doom queen is afraid of this stuff. That’s a revelation.

Agnete Kirkevaag: Actually, it’s a very important factor. I think it might be the same kind of over-active imagination, intense thought processes, and being too impressionable that lead me to make music in the way I do. It’s not like I think things are there, but that I imagine things that <could> be there.

Maelstrom: That’s a great reason to be in a band and write songs.

Agnete Kirkevaag: (laugh)

Maelstrom: Although your English is perfect, you’re not a native English speaker. However, you write all your Madder Mortem lyrics in English. Is that ever a pain?

Agnete Kirkevaag: I think it in English. I am trying to do some Norwegian lyrics, because I’d like to do at least one song in Norwegian. It’s so much more difficult.

Maelstrom: Wow! Why?

Agnete Kirkevaag: English is the traditional language for any kind of rock music. The good thing is, people understand it. How many speak Norwegian? Four million and then some.

Maelstrom: And most of them don’t get headbanging.

Agnete Kirkevaag: No. (laugh) Exactly. English is a much bigger language, not in terms of how many people speak it, but in the amount of words. So many more words exist than in Norwegian.

Maelstrom: Yeah, but you guys have words like “utburd.” (Laugh)

Agnete Kirkevaag: Yeah, but this huge amount of words in English are words used to describe stuff, like adverbs. It’s much easier to find a very specific word that goes well with the feeling of the lyric. Norwegian is much harsher. But that means whatever you write is so much stronger. The thing about English is that it’s much easier to camouflage stuff. Norwegian feels very, very naked. It’s my mother tongue, and the way I write in Norwegian is very direct. I take a lot of inspiration from the way they wrote songs back in the Viking days. I do a lot of alliterations; Madder Mortem is a good example. Norwegian being a strict language with a lot of consonants, if you sing in it, it gives it a lot of rhythm.

Maelstrom: It worked for Darkthrone. What does the title “All Flesh is Grass” mean?

Agnete Kirkevaag: It’s a Bible quote. I put a lot of my own meaning into it. “All flesh is grass, and all goodliness is like a flower in the field.” I think it originally is talking about how good is uncommon. But what I put into it is a focus that it’s all irrelevant. If you know what you want and it’s important, all the rest is irrelevant. It’s also like the feeling of sitting on a mountaintop and looking down on everything, like a festival or something. From a very high altitude, it would look like grass - human grass. It’s also a bit about how we’re not important. We’re all little pieces of grass. We’re born; we die; we don’t leave our mark upon anything. Except that we fertilize the ground.

Maelstrom: And, in some cases, leave us with some really cool records.

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

Lykathea Aflame has shaken up quite a few of us in and around the Maelstrom camp. How could a band be so brutal and beautiful at the same time? How can one’s band be technical death metal yet have new wave elements and lyrics about love and acceptance and still be successful? How could no one else know about this? (Have you read our review of this band’s album, Elvenefris, yet?)

Well, we found out. Here’s an email chat with Petr of Lykathea Aflame, the best death metal band that's too underground for its own good.

Maelstrom: Hi, Lykathea Aflame! All I can say is, "wow!" Elvenefris is so monumentally brilliant, and so courageously adventurous, where can I begin? Well, I would imagine that describing your music by the sum of its parts would probably instantly turn off most death metal fans. I hear technical death, Middle Eastern influences, but then you have this new age music element in there, too. Could you comment on what on Earth lead you to mix all this stuff together?

Petr: Many greetings to all of you from the Czech land. What seems to be a difficult question has a very simple answer. Each element of the music on Elvenefris is a part of me. So the only thing I did was express some parts of me. I promise that by our next coming CD (that we are working on at the time) you will be surprised much, much more.

Maelstrom: Let's talk about another super remarkable thing about Elvenefris, the lyrics. They deal with spiritual enlightenment, giving to others, tolerance, loving birds…basically the polar opposite of what death metal is accepted to be. While I can't say I would like to see many other bands adapt your style to themselves, I love what you have done. Where many bands' lyrics seem to be really labored - either done at the last minute or being total nonsense disguised as something that was meant to be poetic - you seem to have a lot to say from your hearts. Could you please talk about your lyrical ideas, your personal philosophies, and how you even thought about putting this all together in a technical death metal album? Why have uplifting themes sung in a guttural style?

Petr: Lyrics are another form how to express what wants to be expressed. So as music speaks for its composer the same way lyrics (if written in a genuine and sincere way) say so much about the writer. And during the time when we spawned Elvenefris I felt it that way and chose this form of vocal expression. Our lucky fate is inevitable and the only hell is not knowing it. Each of us has his own path and the best leader on it is a voice from the heart. Listen to it and it will lead you home safely and straight. None of us is better than whoever else, we all are one so whatever you do to others you do to yourself. Ideas for my lyrics are : wisdom, will to grow, light, love, tenderness, sophisticated and sublime spirit, freedom, knowledge, Beauty of being…

Maelstrom: Speaking of which, what do you think about extreme metal?

Petr: A kind of expression in music. As long as there is someone who listens to it and someone who plays it….it has a sense.

Maelstrom: Speaking of music and lyrics, I hear a lot of influence from Cryptopsy and Orphaned Land (because of the ethnic influences; Lyrically you remind me of Orphaned Land a great deal as well). But wait, you guys are from the Czech Republic. What are Middle Eastern melodies doing on your record?

Petr: Yes, we´ve been influenced by Cryptopsy. Orphaned Land I´ve never heard of. Does it mean that by the fact that I´m from Czech Rep. I can´t use middle eastern melodies? :o) I like´em very much and will use them of course in the future. They simply sound in my heart.

Maelstrom: I can't believe how much of a dead ringer your drummer, Tom Corn, is for Cryptopsy's Flo Mounier. Tom must be a jazz drummer. How else could he play snare with one hand like that? I'm a drummer and I'm dumbfounded and energized every time I hear someone like him. Could you please talk about Tom's musical development?

Petr: Thanks from him, I´ll tell him. He´s not a jazz drummer, he´s self taught. His drum set changes very often and as far as I know he´s going to have a DW drums and he uses Istanbul cymbals.

Maelstrom: What kind of name is Tom Corn?

Petr: It is his official name. Tomas Corn.

Maelstrom: The last track is a 12-minute keyboard piece with a jungle full of trilling birds. It's so moving it makes me want to cry. Again, it's so out of place for this genre. Please talk about the idea behind this track and how it fits into the album.

Petr: This is a song my brother did. There is a lot from his and my heart and I wanted to share the beauty with everyone who could be touched. There is a certain kind of energy that flows through all the album and from a spiritual point of view this song has a clear place on Elvenefris. This song is for everyone who has a beautiful and tender heart.

Maelstrom: I was in the Czech Republic this past summer. Somehow I managed to stay about two days ahead of the floods. How did you fare? Were you hit hard?

Petr: None of us ( the band ) were hit but there were many sad people. The consequences can still be seen to these days.

Maelstrom: How long have you been a band? Any other albums?

Petr: Formerly we were known under the name Appalling Spawn from 1996 to 1999. Under this name we have demo and one CD.

Maelstrom: What's the cover art on the Elvenefris album? It's beautiful and reminds me somewhat of Egyptian art (especially the lapis lazuli-like stuff). I see that you do have ankhs on the album as well.

Petr: The cover on album is a multi-cultural synthesis and is meant to symbolize the connection with the past of all mankind as one. During the time I was creating Elvenefris, I was fascinated by Ancient Egypt, so that´s why there are certain fragments of that culture (the fascination of Ancient Egypt I got especially by the books of Christian Jacq - Ramses and many others). I gave the lyrics to our friend who is an artist (Jane Šouflová, whose work you can see at http://home.internet.cz/maffet) and quite spiritual woman and discussed with her the concept of the cover. Then she drew it…

Maelstrom: So, who are you guys? How did meet up and decide to play this kind of music? How did you personally get into this style?

Petr: From the line up that recorded Elvenefris, only two of us remain, me and Tom Corn. I always wanted to connect two different but basic elements in my music : tenderness and strength. I always did it and I´m doing it now and I´m improving the way I create the music.

Maelstrom: Why haven't we heard much about you?

Petr: I don´t know :o). Our gig activity is not big and that’s probably why you haven´t heard much about us. Also, we are focusing on our daily lives and try to make them beautiful. We are not into the underground scene and stuff around it.

Maelstrom: Please tell us about some bands (of course from any genre) that you have loved.

Petr: Wow, so many ….. Bal-Sagoth, Enya, Amorphis, latest Arcturus (The Sham Mirrors) - Garm ...wauu..don´t have words. He is the one that I´d love to have as a singer in Lykathea. Really. His voice really fascinates me that much - Secret Garden, Emperor, Anorexia Nervosa, Dead Can Dance, classical music, Septic Flesh, Adiemus, Vader, pop music (Sandra, Falco, A-HA….nowadays pop music as well), Opeth, Madder Mortem, latest Novembre ( I think they are from your country ), folk music …. And many, many others.

Maelstrom: What's the new record called and when is it coming out?

Petr: I do not know now what I will name the CD. We are working on it and we don´t know when it will be out, either. I wonder whether we will make it even this year....

Maelstrom: What's next for Lykathea Aflame?

Petr: The very next thing is to create a wonderful and amazing new CD. The most important thing for Lykathea aflame.

 

Maelstrom: Mockrát dekuji, Lykathea Aflame, You have provided us with an album to give us joy in our hearts. You have energized us with your music and spirit. We wish you all the best and hope to hear from you again.

Petr: If we really did as you write, I feel a big gratitude in my heart because that is beautiful appreciation that gives me power to go on. Thank you very much and to all of you I wish to succeed in creating such life as your hearts want to have it.

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

With the recent break up of Centurian, God Dethroned has become the clear cream of the crop in Dutch death metal. The band’s last album, Ravenous, showed a group that was just getting better and better with each release. This despite having to find a different drummer for each recording.

Strangely, though, God Dethroned ditched a lot of what was making it so successful on the new record, Into the Lungs of Hell. I spoke to Jens, God Dethroned’s lead guitarist, to pick his brain about the stylistic change and find out if he’d ever tried freedom fries.

Maelstrom: It seems that you change drummers quite often. You’ve had three different drummers on the last three records. How about the guy now? Is he going to stick around?

Jens: I’m pretty sure. Roel (the drummer that left after the Bloody Blasphemy album) was an integral part of the band. He held everything together, rhythm-wise. We would have worked with him for the rest of our careers if it hadn’t of been that he couldn’t tour with us as much as we wanted. It was at the end of the Bloody Blasphemy touring period that it was becoming too much for him, and us as well. We had a tough time then: tour after tour, and a very short time to acclimatize to the rhythm. So we were faced to find a replacement or work with session drummers for the rest of our careers. Tony (Laureano, of Angel Corpse and Nile) was the obvious solution.

Maelstrom: Yeah, that guy’s amazing.

Jens: Yeah, he is. He’s fantastic. We got to know him quite well when we were on tour with Angel Corpse, and as a drum tech for Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel. He was available since Angel Corpse had just split up and he had not joined Nile. We figured if anyone could do the trick of coming to the studio, recording the songs, and going home, it would be him. The songs turned out a little faster than previous material, which was perfect as Tony’s lightning fast. We pretty much were certain that we couldn’t find anyone who could do those paces. We toured with drummers we knew, like Janne (Saarenpäa from the Crown).

Maelstrom: So you’re saying that Janne isn’t as fast as Tony?

Jens: He is.

Maelstrom: Yeah, that guy’s amazing, too.

Jens: Absolutely. We were quite content with working with session drummers, ‘cause we knew we wouldn’t find someone on the open market, so to speak, who was not yet taken by at least a dozen bands. But there were four guys who wanted to audition. Three of them could match Tony’s pace. We were really surprised. Ariën was by far the most hard-hitting and tight one of all. We decided to go with him, and he’s really been the main axel.

Maelstrom: On the last three records, at least, you’re blessed to have been able to find all these drummers that can play. Obviously, Tony isn’t Dutch, but do they grow on trees in Holland?

Jens: There’s a lot of good drummers and musicians here. But we were not in any way expecting to find someone who could even match Roel’s pace. We wanted to make this new record to show that we were alive and kicking. Ariën is, in my opinion, even tighter than Tony, but just a fraction slower. He’s like a human metronome. Only one or two times in all the shows we’ve played so far have I actually heard him play something wrong. He hits his grind and blast parts just as hard as his other parts.

Maelstrom: I wanted to share this story with you, because it’s too funny. It’s about how stupid my government is. They have cafeterias in the White House. The US is a little unhappy with France because France won’t help out in the war against Iraq, right?

Jens: Yes.

Maelstrom: Since they’re irritated with France, they’ve changed the name of french fries and french toast in the cafeterias to freedom fries and freedom toast.

Jens: ...I’m sorry, but can you get any more lame than that?

Maelstrom: Isn’t that amazing? (Laugh)

Jens: I’m really sorry, but your country’s political agenda is not mine.

Maelstrom: It’s funny. No one that I know thinks that any of this (war) is a good idea, but there must be someone who thinks it’s a good idea.

Jens: I’m sure that the weapons industry thinks it’s a good idea. But to change french to freedom...I suppose they’ll have freedom kissing, too. I mean, I’m not really fond of France’s politics. They have this specific position that’s more or less opposite to the Dutch view in drug policy and some other policies as well. They’re our sort of nemesis, so to speak, in a political sense. For once, I’d agree with Germany and France. The United Nations, in my opinion, is the most important body and it should not be ignored. If you go around it, you might as well disarm the whole organization.

Maelstrom: I don’t see there should be any obligation for France to help out by sending troops. But it’s a very, very frightening time.

Jens: I can imagine. I just hope that everyone has the sense to back down if they have to back down and not live up to their word or reputation. Iraq and Saddam Hussein has to be dealt with, but in what way is open to discussion. Of course, there are many sides to this political story, and I’m not one to comment on that. But I will comment on the fact that french fries is no longer french fries. That must be one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard.

Maelstrom: I think they actually voted on it. There’s a bit in the article that the French embassy pointed out that fries actually come from Belgium. It gets funnier and funnier.

Jens: This has got to be THE news of the day for tomorrow when I see the band. We can laugh at it around the coffee table. My god. Thank you for sharing this. You’ve made my day, actually.

Maelstrom: You mentioned a little bit about the differences in politic between France and Holland. I read this interview with that band Severe Torture, from your country. The guy being interviewed was asked if he would like to go live in the US. He said no, that the United States was nice to go tour through for two months, but he wouldn’t want to live there, because “Holland has so much more freedom.” What did he mean?

Jens: I do agree with him totally. I don’t know if I’d refer to it as “freedom” exactly, but it’s an atmosphere. Going to the States and comparing that to Holland, Holland is much more mellow. The freedom that he means is the freedom of speech. The influence you have as a civilian here on the system is more than there. In the States, the word “freedom” is used very often, but I think in the actual sense, I’m not sure if it’s actual freedom. I think that the stories that reach us are colored, but the way that the police handles in the States compared to how the Dutch police handles it is the difference between night and day. There’s a different approach to social and political issues. If you step out of the plane like I did here (after we came back from the New Jersey Metalfest), the atmosphere between the airport in Holland and Newark Airport is so immense. It’s a totally different mentality. It’s difficult to put a finger on it.

Maelstrom: I understand. I’m half European and have been to Europe many times. I think a big difference between the two places is that in Europe, there’s a lot more of a cultural awareness and knowing about the world.

Jens: That is true, especially in the sense that Europe has more of a culture anyway, as in an ancient culture. The US, Western lifestyle hasn’t been around for that long and in general lacks that backbone, that structure of culture. I think it may be lacking in the education of the people. Also, looking at the media in the States, they play a big, big role. At least the images we’ve been sent in Europe is that TVs in the States are on day and night. You get fed information day and night. This is information that is colored. It’s always a biased opinion. I think when a TV is on day and night, you see truths instead of opinions. That is also maybe what limits the sense of freedom. Europeans are maybe better at relating. In the US, it’s difficult, as all you really see is that TV screen. You get the same messages repeated over and over again. I think that may inhibit the sense of development and freedom.

Maelstrom: Isn’t it funny that, despite your comments, that this Western lifestyle that you’re describing seems to be taking over world culture more and more. Ironic, isn’t it?

Jens: It is ironic. Looking at Holland right now, media is beginning to play more and more of a role. That’s why our lyrics are more socially critical this time. In the media in Europe, these 24-hour news stations, as well as the half hour infomertials, they go on forever. That’s one of the many examples of American culture taking over the rest of the world. In part, that’s a good thing, ‘cause it enriches an already existing culture here. But it also means that the society becomes homogenized.

Maelstrom: You brought up the topic of having the lyrics in the booklet. I think it’s unusual and pretty remarkable, in a good way, that you have little explanations for each song. The ideas for the songs are pretty cool. I never listen to death metal for lyrics, but if I ever do look at them, I don’t know what the heck they’re all about. They don’t make any sense to me. You know? I wonder if there are any sense to them. But here, you’ve got songs about animal rights, and quite a few media-related songs. You’ve always had wacky lyrics: stuff about poison apples, 1562... but now there’s a focus on writing lyrics that are more socially relevant this time?

Jens: I think the reason for that and why our lyrics sometimes turn out a bit wacky is that we only take, like, 5-6 weeks to write our music. Usually, the lyrics are also born in this period, or right after we enter the studio. They come out in a really spontaneous way. Anything that we see that interests us at the time might show up in the lyrics. We have a lot of time during touring (touring is 90 percent waiting, 10 percent hurrying to get the hell on stage and off again). In that period you have a lot of time to discuss your views on the world; your fears and your concerns; as well as your disgusts for religion as well as other political issues. When we were in the studio, we had no government. It had fallen. There was the bombing in Bali, the hostage situation in Russia, the pressure with Iraq. That gets reflected. With the animal rights topic, we were talking about this with our Swedish producer, who said that the bio industry in Sweden was just about the worst one in Europe. We started talking about that and realized that it’s basically like a concentration camp, the way these animals get treated. It seemed like a logical topic to discuss, as it disgusts us. We’re all conscious meat eaters. It’s way too fine to leave it aside, but if we can get organically raised meat, we’ll definitely take that. When Henri wrote the lyrics and we read them, we thought, “if we print this, people are going to think we’re anti-Semitic.”

Maelstrom: Really?

Jens: It handles about gassing the masses.

Maelstrom: Yeah, but that’s a stretch. I think there are so many more things you can pick on other bands about that.

Jens: Yeah, true, but we don’t want to be associated with that, ‘cause we’re not like that. We’re strongly against racism in any form. This way we can consciously make liner notes saying what we’re doing to animals is exactly what Germans did to the Jews in World War II. It’s just other living beings with less of a soul or a mind, or whatever. It’s the same kind of careless behavior.

Maelstrom: How can you be anti-war but death metal?

Jens: hehehehe... Music is a form of expression. That really is the focus for us. The lyrics are something that get added in the end. The music is like a ball of frustration and anger. The lyrics have to reflect on that. You’re not going to sing about flowers, for example, in a brutal death metal song. So it’s sort of a tradition to use lyrics that are aggressive. It fits the picture. I see it as a reflection of a moment when you write this music. It takes away negative energy and creates positive energy. With the speed and intensity of that in itself is a good motivation to make this music, not necessarily the aggressive facet of it. It just turns out aggressive. If there’s any scene in the world that’s free of war and aggression, it’s this scene.

Maelstrom: What do you mean, “free of war”?

Jens: Free of conflict.

Maelstrom: I’ve found that metal people give the best interviews and are the nicest people and they have the most brutal music. It’s an interesting contrast.

Jens: Talk about a weird contrast, but it’s true. This sounds really cheesy and cliché, but you get rid of all this negative energy. It might make a more mellow person out of you. I’m not sure. It probably takes a certain personality, maybe a split personality, to be a nice guy and to make this sort of shit. Still, I think it makes you a healthier person. That is, talking in general: there are very unhealthy people in death metal. The prejudice against metal, as being destructive for our youth, that sort of stuff is not true.

Maelstrom: I know when I go to shows and see five totally brutal metal bands, at the end of the night I’m thinking, “wow, I’m so brutal-ed out.” This energy is fine for one night, but I can imagine if I had to be on this tour for 2+ months, and being every night in this total aggro atmosphere... doesn’t that wear you down?

Jens: It does, in a way, but it gives a lot of energy back as well, being on stage and expressing yourself and focusing on a product that comes from you as a band. Feeling the power when you get it right gives so much more energy than what you lose from the level of sound or the beats per minute. It is a fact that when you are touring for that long, you don’t watch the support acts that many times. You watch a couple of shows completely, and for the rest of the tour you see five or 10 minutes, and that’s all. You need to get away. For myself, when I’m in a night liner or a van, I’d rather hear very mellow music than death metal all the time. I remember when we were touring with Cannibal Corpse, for example, some of those guys would listen to Krisiun afterwards, and others would listen to very, very mellow music. When I’m on tour, I rarely listen to metal. What you said earlier gets to be too much, but playing every night is no problem. It wears you down in the sense that we play in a very physical way. It is heavy doing that every night. I have to stretch good my legs and my arms and my neck to make it through a tour like that. Mentally, it’s not demanding.

Maelstrom: It’s funny how you start the new record off with the slowest and most relaxed song of the album.

Jens: hehehe... Yeah, I don’t know. We had the lyrics written for that song first. We thought it might be a good title for the album. When we got into the studio, we thought it might be risky to make it the title track. Because it’s a very strong song, the melody sticks very well and it’s easy to sing along, we took the risk and put the slowest song on first.

Maelstrom: I have to say that I’m personally a much bigger fan of Ravenous and even Bloody Blasphemy. The reason is that I see you’ve gone away from the contrasts you had on those records with solos or piano pieces that would come in that were prettier in comparison to the riffs. You’ve gone away from that. Was that a conscious decision to make something more brutal or less soft in some parts?

Jens: Not really. It’s good that you said that. Most people think [Into the Lungs of Hell] is a more melodic album than the previous ones, which I disagree with. We worked for two weeks in a row for this recording, instead of working for a couple of days at a time. We had a lot less time to arrange the songs. What’s on here is a very spontaneous way of writing, one that wasn’t thought about that much.

Maelstrom: Yeah, it seems that way.

Jens: Aha... You’re the first one to remark this.

Maelstrom: It feels more rushed than the other records. I mean, I don’t mean to come into the interview and tell you I don’t like your record...

Jens: No, no! It’s fine that you say this. It’s true, in a way. Well, in a way, it’s not, ‘cause we weren’t rushed, but we didn’t have as much time for the arrangements of the songs. The melodies are strong in our opinion. It seems so as a lot of people think it’s more melodic. But there are less melodies and double melodies.

Maelstrom: You still have the cool harmonies that you have always been doing. There’s less stirring melody. It’s much more chuggy and pulsating.

Jens: Exactly. The brutal atmosphere isn’t in the speed anymore. In general it’s a slower album, and more heavy. Ravenous was definitely the most contrasting album, having completely over the top speed and very melodic parts. My best work is on that album. A lot of people seem to think otherwise. My recognition for my leads comes more now for Into the Lungs of Hell.

Maelstrom: No way, man. The leads on Ravenous are the best ones you’ve done.

Jens: Thanks. I agree with you on that one. It’s fun to hear different opinions.

Maelstrom: It’s a nice, tasty tidbit of contrast. You have these melodic parts that aren’t necessarily totally in character. You had mentioned once in an interview about injuring your arm.

Jens: Uh-huh. That’s still a factor, actually.

Maelstrom: So, what happened?

Jens: I just played too much. Right after the Bloody Blasphemy sessions, I had three days of intense drumming. I had already strained my arm during the recording of Bloody Blasphemy. Right after I started to pace my drumming with metronome, and I just went too fast. Within two hours, I wrecked my arm for three years. Mostly I play at half speed now because I can’t play at full speed anymore. Well, I can, but for short periods of time. For the <Ravenous>, I didn’t do any rhythm work at all. Now I have found my rhythm and know my boundaries. I did three and a half songs on the new record. That was quite an accomplishment because I never thought I could do that again. I recently recorded an album with another band of mine, which is much more thrash oriented. I’m doing quite well with that. I’ll never get rid of [my injury].

Maelstrom: You can’t get medical treatment for it?

Jens: I’ve tried physical therapy and all sorts of medicine, but it’s not working. It’s strained. It’s a chronic thing. But I can tour ok. The Metalfest in New Jersey went quite well.

Maelstrom: Did you have much hand in the production of the new record, Jens?

Jens: Least of all this time. Ravenous was produced by Henri and me.

Maelstrom: I have to say again, that the production on the Ravenous is the best one you’ve done. I don’t think it could get much better than that.

Jens: ...well, thank you again! I’m glad to hear it.

Maelstrom: What do you think about the production on the new one?

Jens: I’m part happy with it, though I haven’t really heard it that well yet. We laid down four open tracks on the guitar this time, which was good. It’s more heavy than ever. I think we will return to this studio for next time, but with a bit more influence on the production from ourselves.

Maelstrom: I think the production has lost a bit of its power. The drums on the Ravenous are a lot more full and kick more ass.

Jens: That’s probably because the last one is triggered and the new one is not.

Maelstrom: The last one isn’t triggered?

Jens: Nope. That’s just how he played.

Maelstrom: I’m really surprised. I was sure that the new one is triggered.

Jens: There are triggers on the kick drums that give that extra click, but they’re underneath. You hear the original signal with a little bit of the click.

Maelstrom: Wow. You learn something new every day.

Jens: This is the amazing thing about this drummer. He did this thing in six hours. It was perfect. The guys in the studio worked with guys like The Haunted, and they said, “whoa, we’ve never seen a drummer as amazing as this one.” Six hours is usually quick in itself, but usually you have to shift the signals with the computer a bit to make them in sync when you trigger them. But this is exactly what he played. When you put triggers on them, usually that makes the signals stick out so that you hear every beat that’s not tight. With Ariën, you could throw away the acoustic signal and it would still be dead tight. He’s the best drummer I’ve ever worked with.

Maelstrom: What’s the highlight of being in God Dethroned?

Jens: These last bunch of songs and the last shows we’ve played with Ariën on drums have created so much energy on stage, that it’s been the most fun to play in a band, ever. The new tours coming up will be the high point of our career.

Maelstrom: Thank you so much for your time.

Jens: Thank you, man, for the very interesting interview.

            

from left to right: Jens (guitar), Beef (bass), Henri (guitar and vocals), Ariën (drums).

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

As a band, Falconer's a grower. This is coming from the perspective of one who had been a staunch believer that power metal (especially coming from Europe) had to sound a certain way, with high vocals and a certain kind of riff style.

So it took me about a year and a half to realize Falconer's brilliance. The music may seem relatively generic at first, as may the relatively unassuming vocals, but upon shedding one's preconceptions and listening again, Falconer shows that it has a wealth of cool riffs and wonderful, atypical vocals and melodies.

So it was a shock to hear that Mathias Blad, the voice of Falconer, had left the band. The reason was that Falconer wanted to tour more and Blad had too much other stuff on his plate. Was this a huge mistake? Many would think so, but bands have pulled it off before. I contacted band leader Stefan Weinerhall to discuss his thoughts about the change. Weinerhall totally understands the importance that this decision could make, but brings up some good arguments as to why Falconer will have a new voice.

Maelstrom: Hello, Stefan! Thanks for accepting to take the time to do this interview. Certainly the first thing I have to ask you is about the departure of Mathias Blad. No doubt you are sick of answering questions about this, but such a move is really huge. Certainly everyone has his own opinion, but I question the reasoning behind this move. Your official statement concerning this said the move was made in order to permit Falconer to tour more, as Blad was unable to commit enough time year-round. However, Falconer's music is rather simple and the main anchor is Blad's voice. Assuming that the departure was based only on the official reason, is being able to play a few more shows really worth losing the defining voice of the band?

Stefan Weinerhall: Hello to you!! I do understand that this is a question of great importance so I'll give you a proper answer. After the festivals we did last summer we felt that YES, this was fun, we wanna do more of this. Since we don't get out any financial payment for what we - and especially I - put down in the band (aside from the joy of satisfying myself), we saw the chance to also get to experience the live thing and all that comes with it. Of course our label was not late to encourage us to do tours and so on. Then I realised that we couldn't do it anyway since Mathias did not have the time. After the release of this new album a tour would be suitable, but Mathias was booked for the whole fall with a musical and we had already cancelled an offer to support Saxon on a European small tour. Well, I felt like I ran into the wall with all great opportunities that came along, all this could be fixed if we got a new singer. So, I told him how things looked and he went with his musicals, which I totally understand. It's what he have lived for for so long, but since I have lived for my own music for so long I didn't want someone else to hold me back. So to sum it up, we will gain something of this personally, some fans will lose on it. But since Mathias' vocals seem to be more important to some fans than it is to us we can only win on this decision, especially since the amount of sold copies haven't given us anything so far, so we can't really lose anything there. We still have as fun as before but now we can gain something more on it.

Maelstrom: Well, on to the future. Please tell us about the new singer. The official statement you made says he doesn't sound like Blad at all. Can we expect more of a standard, high vocal power metal style?

Stefan Weinerhall: Kristoffer Gobel is more of a Dickinson than a Blad, yes. He can sing high, yes. But we will still have the vocals normally pitched mostly, with the possibility to go higher. For me variation is important, so to use low and high is perfect.

Maelstrom: You are credited with writing all the music in Falconer. Do you also write the vocal melodies, or was that Blad's job?

Stefan Weinerhall: I do that too, so there will be no change in the vocal melodies. I send you a groovy midi version of what would become “Decadence of Dignity.” This was what I showed the rest of the guys in the band. The music is what I had wrote, although I recorded it in a slightly different style………………he he!

Maelstrom: I was happy to have been able to see you play at Wacken 2002. Matthias Blad in particular was very unassuming in terms of being a metal frontman. I liked that a lot. It was a nice change to see a band that wasn't all about posing on stage.

Stefan Weinerhall: Well, most people don't agree you with you there. They thought he looked boring, that of course made us feel like we had to show but hey, we have enough to do with the instruments so you'll see a change there. Something's got to happen on stage too.

Maelstrom: I understand you're a butcher… That's a pretty metal job…

Stefan Weinerhall: Yes, isn't it! Not a suitable job for a guitarist though!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm not planning to stay there for too long, I just had to take the job since the people at the unemployment office started to feel more like leeches to me.

Maelstrom: The last track on the debut album is a traditional Swedish one. What does the title mean?

Stefan Weinerhall: Per Tyrssons daughters in Venge. It's a murder ballad that is told to have happened in a place not too far from where I live.

Maelstrom: The song "The Clarion Call" was the one that REALLY got me into your band. That may be my single favorite song of 2002. Since discovering that song, I found that gradually I came to love all Falconer songs. At first I honestly thought the music was too generic, but then I noticed that it was unique. I don't think there's any other band that sounds like you. I particularly like your approach to riff writing - sort of Celtic, sort of bluesy.

Stefan Weinerhall: Hmm, sounds like a good description. I like the folkish or Celtic feel and I also like bluesy riffs and solos. I think there are too many bands having these neoclassic styled riffs, and I'm bored with it. I grew up with Motley Crue, Kiss and Iron Maiden and then I came to love Bathory, Mike Oldfield, Jethro Tull. So I guess if you mix all those together you will get Falconer.

Maelstrom: The last song on "Chapters from a Vale Forlorn," "Busted to the Floor," has a sharply different mood to it. It's kind of this 70s rock feel to it. It's a cool transition on the record. What was the musical inspiration for this song?

Stefan Weinerhall: None in general. I listen some to the "old ones" too and happened to come up with the opening riff and it carried on from that. It didn´t feel like a very serious song for me to do but it was fun and turned out the way I wanted. Iguess the ones that
I thought of when doing it was: Deep Purple, Whitesnake.

Maelstrom: I also understand that you're into obscure Swedish prog bands from the 70s. Can you tell us about this passion (if it's true)?

Stefan Weinerhall: Kebnekajse rules!! Contact is cool too and so is Hedningarna. I don't know if I would call it a passion, but it's something I love to listen to as well as some of the more political kind of prog music we had here in Sweden during that time.

Maelstrom: The lyrics on "Chapters from a Vale Forlorn" deal a great deal with selling out one's country. In "Decadence of Dignity" you talk about stagnating economies and the shame of the negative results of capitalistic greed.

Stefan Weinerhall: Yes, I have written some songs that could be seen as political or even, environmental. Not only dragon and steel
bullshit here. I do also have an opinion of the today.

Maelstrom: The "Clarion Call" has perhaps the most interesting lyrics. Again, how much is this rooted in actual social commentary (and if so, what is it about)? What is the clarion call? "The nation's split by false hands... hell is what this our land will be...Who will win and who will fall?" Who, indeed?

Stefan Weinerhall: It's about war in all times. The people have to suffer for their leaders greed or need to play a game. Very up to date in these days with the Iraq issue: Saddam is an asshole who's torturing his people but has really no real capacity to be any threat to the west. Bush on the other hand wants to be in the big league of heroic presidents who've had their wars. To have some more control over the oilrich east also itches in his eyes, but every thing is justified by the "big threat" that Saddam is. The ones who will pay the price for their eager to show their muscles is the common man. Hmm, I guess you won't agree with me on that one. He he.

Maelstrom: Not at all. I agree with you completely. It's funny that although Bush is president and apparently Americans support him, I nor anyone I know has ever met such a person. Ok, Stefan, thanks again for the interview. I know I'm not alone in loving Falconer and keep my fingers crossed that you can pull off something like what Iron Maiden did between 1981-82. Cheers and good luck. Any plans to come to the US?

Stefan Weinerhall: Thanks a lot for the interview. Yup, I hope the same as you do. We will come to the BW & BK festival in Cleveland, OH in June. After that I don't know anything.

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

Peter Beste is an American photographer who became interested in the visuals of black metal. He went to Norway to take pictures of some of the genre's most famous musicians. His first exposition of this work will take place on May 26th, 2003 from 6Pm-1Am at the Notting Hill Arts Club in London. Beste’s work has appeared in publications such as Mass Appeal, Vice, GO (Spain), Hell Awaits (Spain) and Metal Hammer (UK). We contacted Beste to talk to him about his experiences. You can check out his entire body of work at www.peterbeste.com.

Maelstrom: Please start by telling us how you got involved in photography in the first place. What do you like most about what you do?

Peter Beste (at left): I started photographing in 1996 when I would borrow my mother’s camera and photograph at punk rock shows, so my photography has always been connected to music. I love many things about this trade, but most importantly, I love the feeling of going overseas and coming back with 100 rolls of film documenting a fascinating culture that the average American has never heard of, but is intrigued by.

 

Maelstrom: Tell us about your project to photograph Scandinavian black metal musicians. Where did you go to do this and how long did you stay?

Peter Beste: I started when I lived in Austin, Texas about two years ago. It originally started as a film idea but mutated into a photo project. I went to a few shows in Texas (Dimmu borgir, Marduk, etc) and then to the Milwaukee Metal fest, which is where I met Gorgoroth, who has been one of the strongest parts of my project. I decided to become serious about this project the following year. I moved my stuff into my parent’s house, saved money, and spent five weeks in Norway last spring. I’m returning again this month.

                      

Maelstrom: Did your idea to photograph black metal musicians come from a prior appreciation of the music? How did you first come across these people?

Peter Beste: I grew up on metal, but I was first introduced to Black Metal around 1997. I was instantly drawn to the overall aesthetic - the record art, the names and look of the band members, everything. Over the next couple years I read more about the genre and my interest grew. It’s an ideal project for me because the subject matter is visually interesting, but more importantly, there is substance behind it all. Most of it is very relevant culturally.

                      

Maelstrom: As you may realize, these black metal guys, especially the ones from Norway, exist as sort of mythical figures, deified by the cult fans from around the
world. What was your impression of the musicians you photographed? Could you please tell us about the most interesting of them, and maybe share a story or two?

Peter Beste: I wasn’t sure what to expect from these guys. Almost all of them turned out to be very friendly. I hate to disappoint, but most of them were very normal. I was
surprised by many of their education levels. Most of Gorgoroth has Masters degrees, and so do many other band members. A few of them are teachers, and Fenriz works for the postal service. Yep, he still has a day job. (below, Fenriz at left, members of Gorgoroth at right)

             

Maelstrom: I think I'm especially interested in hearing about Gaahl of Gorgoroth, mainly considering that he has been convicted of some heinous crime ("torture-like violence"). I've heard stories but don't know what to believe. Do you know anything about this?

Peter Beste: I’ve heard many stories about him, and even though I’ve become pretty friendly with the rest of the band, they are still vague in the specifics of the crime. What I have learned is that he has violent tendencies, and if he gets messed with, especially while drunk, he’s ruthless. A friend of mine over there told me that they were at the pub one night and some guy said something rude my friend’s girlfriend, not Gaahl’s. Gaahl (bottom left) chased the guy a mile through town and when he caught up to him, he picked him up by the throat, headbutted him, and knocked him out. They say he’s been certified insane by the government. I think there’s a level of truth to it, but hey, it makes great publicity!

                  

Maelstrom: What do you think these black metallers' impression of you was?

Peter Beste: I got along with most of them great. Fenriz was a bit out of his mind, but we got along partly because we’re into a lot of the same music outside of metal. He’s into a lot of hip-hop, some electronic and indie, which is rare for that scene. I got weird vibes from Frost of Satryicon, I’m not sure if he liked me, but overall, they were as friendly as my neighbors. (Carpathian Forest's sink, below)

                        

Maelstrom: Do you exist amongst a circle of artists with whom you share each others' work? If so, what are these people's impressions of your black metal work? Have you exhibited your work? What was the reaction?

Peter Beste: Yes, I have had good feedback, but I plan to get much more in depth with this project and eventually put out a book. The only thing that has been really public about this project is a 7 page feature in a NYC magazine called Mass Appeal. I am having a small
exhibition in London in May, and there are talks of one in Brooklyn this summer.

            

Maelstrom: I'd like to also talk about your photography work outside the black metal project. On your website, www.peterbeste.com, you've got a couple other series
of photographs.

Peter Beste: The other bodies of work are URBAN PORTRAITS, RURAL AMERICA, MUSIC, and COLOR. As for the first one, I like to take candid portraits of people on the streets in the cities I visit. I am a big fan of early- to mid- century photographers like Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand, Helen Leavitt, etc, who popularized this style. Basically my goal is to create a perfectly balanced, and interesting photograph in the midst of a chaotic urban environment with no preparation or staging.

The RURAL AMERICA work is actually a college project. I photographed people (mostly truckers) from truck stops and diners around America. I plan to continue this project. (A diner patron, below)

                             

The MUSIC section is made up of photos from concerts and a few proper bands shoots (Dougie Payne of Travis, below).

                               

COLOR is basically a miscellaneous section with everything from abstract color work to a couple landscapes. (The Blue Lagoon, Reykjavik, Iceland, below)

                                           

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

True heavy metal albums are few and far between. The ones that are any good are even more rare. Pharaoh’s debut, After the Fire, is one of those albums. I’d been anticipating this album for nearly a year since Chris Black, Pharaoh’s drummer, played it for me at Metal Haven in Chicago. You may also know the name Black from his days writing for Metal Maniacs as Professor Black. I contacted Chris to chat about his projects and his ever iconoclastic thoughts about the music he loves so much.

Maelstrom: How did you hook up with the guys in your band, and Tim Aymar in particular? Am I right he hadn't done anything since Control Denied?

Chris Black: He's been jamming with a few different bands and also doing some engineering work, so he's keeping his teeth sharp all the time. We found Tim through a mutual friend, actually a mutual friend of our guitarist Matt Johnsen. Tim and this guy Jim Dofka are playing in a band together called Psycho Scream. Matt came to the project as it was first forming. He and I had been in contact through the huge suburban Philadelphia metal scene. I'm being sarcastic there. It was basically me and Matt and a few other geezers that constituted the Philadelphia suburban metal scene. Not much action there! So it was good to run into a like-minded musician. Chris Kerns and I went to college together. As Pharaoh was coming together, there really wasn't anyone else in the running for the bass position. Kerns is a longtime friend and an even longer-time Iron Maiden maniac. He also had a small stash of material that was ready to go. Perfect!

Maelstrom: It sounds like Pharaoh sort of fell together.

Chris Black: In a way, yes. We had very clear ideas of how Pharaoh would sound, as far as what kinds of things would be acceptable and/or useful, and what kinds of things would not. The boundaries were discernable from the start. The lineup kind of fell together as well, if that's what you're refering to. Finding a singer posed the most difficulty. But it wasn't as if we had these great gigs waiting or anything, and in the end our patience paid off. We weren't going to settle for 99 percent when it came to the vocals.

Maelstrom: I remember once you telling me your favorite drummers are guitarists, or something like that. You can tell on the recording by your simple and solid style. How do you feel your performance came out?

Chris Black: Honestly, I'm not happy with it. I didn't rehearse to the extent that I should have. Next time around, I will be much more prepared, and you will be able to hear the difference. Some of the playing on After the Fire really comes through, but I hear a lot of room for improvement in some of it. This is partly due to the bizarre circumstances under which we had these sessions. There aren't any blatant fuck-ups, or anything like that, because I do have a good ear, and we did use a click track. But I could have really fine-tuned the stuff under better conditions. I would say it was 50 percent my own attitude and 50 percent the way we were going about making the album.

Maelstrom: When did you record this album?

Chris Black: We laid down the click tracks and rhythm guitars in May of 1999, and the finishing strokes were done in July of 2002. (By "finishing strokes" I mean some little guitar leads, the whisper vocals in "Flash of the Dark," things like this.) Everything else was done in between those dates. I believe the drums you hear were recorded in October of 2000,
although I recorded a set of takes in May of 1999 during the initial sessions as well.

Maelstrom: Can we talk about your zine, Metal? How's that going and what have you got in store for this issue? What made you start the zine and what does it have to offer other zines don't?

Chris Black: I finished the third issue of Metal in February of this year. It is a self-titled issue as just Metal. It features Bathory, Turbonegro, Agalloch, and Dark Tranquillity interviews, in addition to a lot of album reviews. It's a little more structured than the “Reborn through Hate” issue, and it differs from both of the previous issues in that I didn't have any help from other writers. At the moment I'm pretty certain that there won't be another issue. I haven't had much energy to promote or distribute this issue, so I'll have to rely on word of mouth (heheheh) to spread the word. I feel it is the best Metal issue yet. It's somewhat of a redemption after the swamp of negativity that is ”Reborn through Hate.” Plus, this Pharaoh album release has really taken up a lot of my time, just the promotional legwork, etc. So for these reasons, I'm not shoving the s/t Metal down people's throats. It's more of a personal project than anything else, and I'm very comfortable with that. To answer the other part of your question, I decided to start making Metal after 15 issues of my previous fanzine because, ironically, I wanted a more structured and professional platform. I envisioned Metal initially as a glossy, all-inclusive magazine that would ultimately become the leading metal periodical in the US. I had big ideas. But as it developed, I realized that what I actually had to say in this forum was by no means fit for the masses. Soon enough, I had arrived at exactly the opposite ideal for marketing the publication. I've still sold less than 200 copies of the first issue. What you can find in Metal that you can't find elsewhere is its unique combination of bias, enthusiasm, infatuation, depth, and hatred.

Maelstrom: You once wrote in Metal something like, "I'm able to enjoy metal only by ignoring certain aspects of it." Please tell us more about that.

Chris Black: That was an epigram from our beloved and distant colleague Gregory Whalen. I cannot speak for its origin in his mind, but it struck me as quite true, so I put it in the mag. Think of it this way. When you're listening to Manowar, you're not like, "Yeah! That's SO homoerotic! Fuck yeah!" Or are you?

Maelstrom: I dunno. I don't get Manowar. I mean, I get the fact that it's the most stereotypically metal band possible, but I am profoundly bored by their music. It seems like it's too big of a joke even for the fantasy metal world. It's like Spinal Tap, but in real life. It's funny, 'cause if it's totally ridiculous like Lost Horizon, which is maybe even more stupid, I can deal. In fact, it makes it cooler in Lost Horizon's case, as it seems like the most true thing in the face of being the most ridiculous thing; like the band is totally serious and not terribly aware of how preposterous they are.

Chris Black: My point is in reading that epigram, I think of all the albums that I have to take as a whole, rather than as a sum-of-parts. And there are a million examples. Joey DeMaio's underpants are one of them. Quorthon's vocals on Twilight of the Gods are another. If you dwell on these little less-than-perfect elements, you'll ruin it for yourself.

As for Manowar. I went through a little crisis after seeing them live in 1999. I didn't-- scratch that- I COULDN'T listen to them for several years after that, and I'm not over-dramatizing. I really didn't listen to a single note of Manowar for at least two years. From their albums, I always considered them a highly professional act from the old school. And I don't just mean the old school of metal. I mean the old school of music, where the vocals and lyrics are important, the song writing aims to entertain, there are dynamics and drama, etc. These guys are really serious about what they do, and they present themselves in a way that predates a lot of the crappy ideals that came to be in the 80s and 90s.

Anyway, then you see them live, and the whole machismo and crowd interaction totally obscures the amount of preparation that is in their music. I should add that the crowd positively eats up the antics, and that there sure is some degree of preparation in those antics, but I just wanted to hear them play. I was kind of heartbroken. It didn't help that we saw Motorhead the very next night, and they played for nearly two hours, including "Shine" and "Too Late Too Late." Now THAT'S a professional rock band, and with the letdown of Manowar fresh in my mind, it only turned me away further.

I haven't heard the new Lost Horizon, but as far as I know, they are aware of how silly it is.

Maelstrom: Speaking of Bathory, the Nordland II may have his worst singing ever. But it's part of being a Viking, I suppose. Viking males aren't supposed to be able to sing well, unless it's the o-o-o-o style, which they've mastered.

Chris Black: I love Nordland II. It's his strongest and most musical work since Twilight of the Gods. I think it got just the right amount of time in the studio, and the experimentation is finally healthy and relevant to the Bathory tradition. It was easy to argue that Nordland I was a throwback, but this is much more ambitious, forward music from Bathory. And I think the vocals are better than usual, as a matter of fact.

Maelstrom: I agree with everything you said except about the vocals. the vox on the last record, 'cept tracks 3-4, are way better. You know, I finally checked out Requiem. I think it's really good! I don't get what all the negative opinions are about. as soon as Octagon shows up used, I'll get that too. is there any point to getting the Jubileums?

Chris Black: I always thought Requiem was cool. The guitar sound is really thick, and the songwriting goes somewhere, whereas Octagon is just undirected savagery. The value of the Jubileum volumes depends on your need to have every Bathory track and/or CD release. A better bet is to pick up one of those bootleg South American LPs that's got all of the rare tracks compiled.

Maelstrom: You used to be half of the dynamic duo that worked at Metal Haven record store in Chicago. How did you work there and practice and record this album? Was it all on weekends?

Chris Black: There was no conflict between my job and Pharaoh. And there will never be a conflict between any job and any musical project. Any acceptable job for me includes the flexibility to prioritize my music. With Metal Haven, this was especially easy, since it was a laid-back job. It's also the same food chain, if you know what I mean, and I never had to ask twice for time off to work on music. With Pharaoh, it's almost a non-issue. We're a studio project. We write songs together through the mail. Actual rehearsals where we're in the room playing together are extremely rare.

Maelstrom: I always find this fascinating. I mean, it's one thing with drone ambient bands like Stars of the Lid (who live in Chicago and Brussels), but when everything has to be perfectly on time like that....

Chris Black: I don't see it as weird. It has been that way the whole time for Pharaoh. The only thing that really was recorded through the mail was the vocals. We got a CDR of only vocals, multitracked and even mixed with delays and reverbs, the whole mix. And pasting that into what we had was kind of a strange way to work. At first we were paranoid about whether there would be too much reverb or something like that, but it turned out pretty well. Everything else was done in the same studio, just at very different times and without having the whole band there at any given time. It's the writing process that happens over distance. For example, Chris Kerns had only these silly lyrics for "Heart of the Enemy," and he sent me a cassette of himself playing acoustic guitar and singing these lyrics, so that I could write the actual lyrics according to the melody he already was using. So I wrote the lyrics, then took an instrumental mix we had made of the song, played the melody on top of it with a keyboard, and sent that plus a lyric sheet to Tim. A few months later, the CDR comes back with the finished vocals, and we fly it into our mix. Next time around, the process will be much more organized and condensed.

Maelstrom: What's Cruz Del Sur Music (Pharaoh’s label)? What else have they put out?

Chris Black: It's a brand new Italian label. The Pharaoh album is CRUZ001. They released an album by Narcoze at the same time as ours, but I haven't heard it. They also have Asterius and Jezabel on the label, and it is probable that they will have the next Dawnbringer album, which is being cultivated at the moment.

Maelstrom: So, Dawnbringer is still together? Please take a little time to tell us about that band. You've released three albums, right?

Chris Black: Dawnbringer formed in 1995 and I was more of a creative guide than an actual contributor at that stage. The demo was a mini-CD called Sacrament in 1996, and then in 1997 we had a full-length called Unbleed. I played drums and produced for the full-length, and I still regard it as a personal favorite. The response was excellent, but things were fragmenting within the band as we prepared for the second full-length, which eventually came out in 2001 as Catharsis Instinct. But it was a struggle, a difficult album made only more difficult by our bad attitudes at the time. Well, my bad attitude. We had planned to record an album called Snake after that, which is a very ambitious and complex piece of music I wrote during 1998-1999. But there was no momentum either in the band or on the label side, so this went on hold indefinitely. Now there is some interest in a new Dawnbringer album, and I decided recently to scrap Snake for now in favor of a more up-to-date album. Snake is written down. It's not going to change. We can make that album whenever we have the energy and resources at our disposal.

So I'm finishing up the songs that will be this new Dawnbringer. The new material is along the lines of Unbleed, but with tidier songs, no growling, and a more developed lyrical component. We're preparing a demo right now in order to secure definite label support, and after that we'll start recording. The sessions will probably happen in August, and the current lineup is me (bass, drums, vocals) and guitarists Scott Hoffman and Bill Palko. Most likely the album will be called Fear No Reaper, and there are some songs like "Attack of the Spiders," "End of Earth," and "The Snitch." Expect to be surprised. Naturally, Dawnbringer is a studio project also. My only live band is Superchrist.

Maelstrom: Stand up and Shit!

Chris Black: Good advice.

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

Trying to comprehend Sunn’s music by approaching it from the more accepted perspective of music - song-based constructions with more or less apparent hooks or points of interest - can be baffling. The intent of Sunn’s sounds is so simple that it begins to become complicated. According to Stephen O’Malley, one of the two main players in this group, the guitar and bass drone of Sunn is a palate cleanser. It offers sounds and sound pressure to allow the listener to make his or her own deductions and impressions. In this, it is as primal as music and sound can be.

But Sunn has progressed quite a bit since its first albums. Please read about those progressions in our review of the latest Sunn record, White 1, in this issue. The latest big news in the Sunn camp was the performance at London’s All Tomorrow’s Parties, which featured guest vocals by Attila Csihar. We interviewed Stephen O’Malley (in the first of two parts concluded in the discussion about the Lotus Eaters, also in this issue), whose energy and voice turned out to be as laid back as some of the music he creates. Sounding a bit like the slow, distorted Jarboe spoken word parts on Swans records, O’Malley shed some light on what goes into a Sunn record, and what the listener can get out of it.

Maelstrom: Do you pronounce the band name “sun”?

Stephen O’Malley (below): Yes.

Maelstrom: The guitarist from Aborym calls you “sunno.”

Stephen O’Malley: That’s kinda common. The symbol and the name is supposed to represent sound pressure.

Maelstrom: Let’s talk about the progression of Sunn. The only other record of yours I’ve heard is the 00 Void one. I thought of you before as a better produced Earth, but Earth was better. Now, you’ve got all this cool stuff happening. I wanted to get what you think about how your band’s progressing,

Stephen O’Malley: Ok. 00 Void was recorded about two and a half years before White 1. There’s another record between the two, called Flight of the Behemoth. The main reason for the difference on White 1 is that Greg Anderson and I wanted to do an album of all acoustic instruments, actually - try to do a drone record using other instruments and other amps that we normally do. We ended up working with some people who brought a lot of other character to the table. What ended up happening was a lot different than what we were intending. It was pretty cool, nonetheless. I think there’s a lot of charisma on White 1 that’s coming directly from the other players.

Maelstrom: You’ve got so many great people on this record. You’ve got Runhild (Gramelsæter, the vocalist of Thorr’s Hammer) back!

Stephen O’Malley: Yeah.

Maelstrom: She was with Thorr’s Hammer, and then she went back to Norway. She disappeared for a while. How did you get her back and what’s she doing?

Stephen O’Malley: She and I remained friends since those earlier days. She was very young during the Thorr’s Hammer’s period - 17.

Maelstrom: What was she doing in Seattle?

Stephen O’Malley: She was living with her parents, who had moved to Seattle, and going to high school. She ended up going to university there for a while, but ended up transferring to a program in Oslo for a number of reasons. She didn’t really continue with music because she was studying. She was back in the United States last year on an internship program in Richmond, Virginia. We ended up meeting. She wanted to participate, so we invited her to.

Maelstrom: I was expecting her to do the brutal vocals, but she’s doing more of the Norwegian talking, mystical stuff. Now, she’s supposed to be track three, but I’m sorry if I tell you this, but I don’t really hear any vocals on that one.

Stephen O’Malley: heheh. Yeah, there’s two vocals on there. It’s her and Joe Preston (Earth, Melvins). It’s a duet of them doing a mantra type of chant. It’s very subdued. Her vocals are pretty identifiable in my opinion, but I mixed the record. Joe’s vocals on that track are pretty identifiable as vocals. They sound more like sub bass rumbles. The Norwegian folk song she does in there (on track two) was taken from a live show we did in Portland during the time of the recording. (Loud musical sounds are heard in the background)

Maelstrom: What’s going on in the background, Stephen?

Stephen O’Malley: Oh, I’m just playing a record. It’s a group called Growing, from Olympia, Washington. It’s sort of a melodic instrumental band. Their new record is going to be on Kranky.

Maelstrom: Speaking of Aborym and Attila, Seth, Aborym’s guitarist, said that Attila was all frisky because he played with you in London for Sunn, and that you played with Aphex Twin, and that it was a really good show. How did that come together and what was that show like?

Stephen O’Malley: The show was at a festival called All Tomorrow’s Parties (www.atpfestival.com) in south England. It’s a three day festival in which an artist or group is invited to curate the festival. So the artist chooses all the people who will be performing based on their own preference, whatever that is - there’s no pressure or expectation, they get full reign. In the past, it’s been bands like Mogwai and Shellac and Tortoise. This year the curator was Autechre, and they invited Sunn to play. We were one of three bands with guitars over three days. A lot of it was electroacoustic, lap tops, DJs...stuff like that. It was a pretty great experience for Sunn, breaking through to some open-minded, contemporary music fans.

Maelstrom: How did you get Attila to show up?

Stephen O’Malley: I’ve been in contact with him for years. I actually released a record of his in the mid-90s.

Maelstrom: A Tormentor one?

Stephen O’Malley: Yeah, a picture LP version of the <Anno Domini> record. I invited him to do vocals on a track on the <White 2> album. It came out great. Sunn was doing a European tour last month. He did two shows in Austria and the show in London. In Austria, we had a guy called Peter Rehberg (who runs Mego Records www.mego.at) doing laptop for us. He has a group called Pita. He does a label called Mago Records.

Maelstrom: When you say he does laptop, what does that mean?

Stephen O’Malley: In his case, it means making the speakers sound like they’re on fire (chuckle). It’s all improvised. He’s got filters on there. I think he was running the full mix of the PA through his lap top as his source material.

Maelstrom: When you write Sunn stuff, do you go about it writing a riff like other bands do and then playing it really slow later? I read this brilliant interview you gave with Marty of Wormgear, and you were talking a little about that; about Sunn being a lot of improvisation when you play, but that you go with stuff already written that you throw in.

Stephen O’Malley: When I write, I certainly don’t slow things down on purpose. That’s the tempo. If anything, we have to speed it up. There’s no tempo difference, unless it’s in the live setting. Sometimes it calls for an actual bending of the tempo depending on the feel and what’s going on physically with the sound pressure.

Maelstrom: Sound pressure...that’s an interesting idea.

Stephen O’Malley: It’s not an idea, it’s an actual presence when you have tons of speakers and amplifiers [around you]. That’s a huge part of Sunn. It’s like filling and pressurizing the room. At least for Greg and I playing in front of the amplifiers, it’s really a physical experience.

Maelstrom: So are you talking about actual pressure when it becomes uncomfortable and you have to back off?

Stephen O’Malley: No, I mean like the actual sound waves are hitting your body and vibrating the stage and room. That’s a huge part of the Sunn sound.

Maelstrom: Objectively, when you step back from this, you wonder what there is to get. What’s interesting about your music is that it’s really easy to understand on a surface level, but it’s kind of difficult to understand what you’re doing and why. On a surface level, as you were saying, there’s all this physical energy that affects you in a primal way...

Stephen O’Malley: Why is that surface, then?

Maelstrom: Well, I don’t know. It’s a very simple level. There’s nothing wrong with simplicity. In terms of music, do you ever get asked by people why you do this?

Stephen O’Malley: Yeah, occasionally, usually from journalists. Hahahaha. Sunn’s really non-verbal and non-linear in a lot of ways, even though there are certain progressions we’ll follow when playing live. It’s really about escaping linear thought process and regressing, which results in a certain time manipulation effect, at least when performing the music. It’s really about exiting normal thought processes of music, as far as I know it, and letting an open palate stand in front of you so you can get whatever you want out of the sound. It’s open to interpretation. I don’t necessarily agree of disagree with a lot of the interpretations of the music. They’re all pretty correct. There’s no vocal element - well, there are some on the new record; absence of vocals removes humanity from music, at least in Sunn’s case.

Maelstrom: Let’s talk about Julian Cope. That monologue he does on “My Wall” is pretty cool. It has an interesting rhythmic pace to it and I like how it’s structured like a song in itself. What was it like working with him.

Stephen O’Malley: It was great. I’m surprised he wanted to do it. As far as the composition of his piece, he’s a big fan of Lindsay, the American poet who wrote poems like “Johnny Appleseed,” especially some recordings Julian had heard of his in which he has a very direct, oratorial, preaching style. The style on “My Wall” is memorable in itself.

Maelstrom: Yeah, it sort of has this Edgar Allen Poe meets “The Ride of Paul Revere” mix. How much of it was totally prepared?

Stephen O’Malley: I don’t know. He recorded that in England.

Maelstrom: You guys never actually met?

Stephen O’Malley: No. It was discussed, but I wasn’t at the session. He’s really into Odinism. There’s many different levels to those lyrics. Again, they could be interpreted in a number of different ways. It depends on how deep you want to get into it, which I think is a compliment.

Maelstrom: When you play live, do you go up there with the plan to play a certain amount of tracks, or do you just play and fill up your time, or do you stop when you want to, or all of the above?

Stephen O’Malley: We don’t really do the first one, but we certainly have sections that we plan on doing. But there’s a lot of open parts as well.

Maelstrom: When’s White 2 coming out? Is there going to be a White 3 and White 4?

Stephen O’Malley: The plan is to do two sections. The main reason behind that is that we recorded enough material in our last session that’s of the same mind set. So we wanted to have a two part record. It’s coming out at the very end of the year, or early next year. There’s also a 12" coming out called Bales of Light. It’s sort of a prequel to White 1. It’s a remix by James Plotkin. That should be out in June. Khanate has a new 12" coming out in June, as well as a new album in September. Lotus Eaters is having a new record coming out in Autumn on Alien8 Records.

Maelstrom: Stephen, how hard is it to make a Sunn record? Like you were saying, it’s mostly about the sound. Would it be easy to put out a bunch of records, ala Merzbow?

Stephen O’Malley: No, because it’s not one person and it’s not direct to hard disk. You made a couple comments that it’s just noise, but there’s actually a lot going on. It takes good engineering work to capture the sound correctly because of the range of frequency.
Maelstrom: You are partially right. I wouldn’t be interviewing you if I didn’t enjoy the record, but I am trying to get more of a sense to understand what goes into this. I think it’s common to say, “they’re just playing their guitars and making it fuzzy and heavy. What else are they doing?” I think it’s interesting for people to read about so they can get a better appreciation of it. This is something I say about Khanate as well. The parts are so very long, and they take a longer time to digest before they get that familiar aspect to them. A hook in a song grabs you right away, but a hook in a Sunn or Khanate song is actually going to take quite a while to find. But they exist, there are parts there. There are patterns and they’re very dense, but it’s stretched out so far that maybe a metal listener won’t be able to find that as easy. But I think that’s part of the appeal with Sunn: it takes a lot more digging to unveil the core of it. Once you become familiar with it, you realize that there is a lot of charisma and difference between the parts. It’s deep music that has a lot of power and authenticity as well.

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

Vital Remains has released an impressive record in Dechristianize. You can hear how much work and time was put into the arrangements and writing. Equally remarkable is that the band is composed essentially of two men, founding member Tony Lazaro (rhythm guitar) and Dave Suzuki (who plays everything else). Rounding out the lineup is legendary death metal frontman Glen Benton, whose vocals are in top form. Take a listen to this record and you’ll see what a quality piece of work it is. I chatted with Tony Lazaro about his dedication and what the fans mean to him.

Maelstrom: I want to start by talking about Dave Suzuki. It’s really remarkable that this guy plays all these instruments with this degree of skill. It’s really funny, because on previous records he didn’t do all this stuff. I looked at the list and thought, “I don’t know if he can play all this stuff,” and I listened and was like, “holy shit!”

Tony Lazaro: (laugh) Well, he’s always done the leads and the drum work from the beginning, like on Forever Underground. With this album, there was so much more that needed to be done that he had to help out with lyrics. So I pretty much wrote the music to all the songs and then he put all his touches on it. He’s a prodigy.

Maelstrom: You don’t even need anybody else in the band.

Tony Lazaro: (laugh) He even sings. His style is black metal. So I said, “shit, between the two of us, we could make a record.” He stepped up and we really worked our asses off on this record. We wanted to blow Dawn of the Apocalypse (the previous record - Roberto) away. When we listened to it, we were like, “holy shit, we went to the extremes!” I wanted to have the dynamics and different things. I didn’t want it to be all [about] brutality straight through without the hooks and tempo changes.

Maelstrom: You can tell when you listen to the record how much time you put into arranging it. Like you were saying about the dynamics, you have these guitar leads that are really not that brutal, but that’s what’s good about them.

Tony Lazaro: Thanks. Yeah, they’re more old school. Dave’s harmonies and stuff, you can almost hear Randy Rhoads stuff in there. He wanted to pay respects to all the great guitar players that he grew up on. Rhoads, Paul Gilbert, Yngwie Malmsteen - shredders. He wanted to go off in that area. There are so many and he can play their styles. I think it works. It’s not like playing all this fast stuff. It’s tastefully done. It took me over a year to write the record. I wouldn’t settle unless it was the best riff for the part, and I wasn’t done until it was done, and as you know, the songs are all long! Some people are like, “oh, man! They’re too long!” But I write for myself. It’s kind of a selfish thing. After, I present it to Dave in the practice room. When I write, I get the beats in my head, so I’ll tell Dave to put a blast beat or a real fast up beat, or some double bass 16ths. On this album we did a lot of pre-production, so he got to throw down a bunch of the harmonies. We were getting excited. We had yet to hear an album that sounded like this. We left a little room for some lead work. Telling the truth, watching Dave was amazing, ‘cause he would bust out 20 leads for each song, and he’d go, “ I can do better!” And I’m like, “no! It’s killer!”

Maelstrom: It’s amazing, Tony. I started playing drums a few years ago, and I can’t even imagine trying to start playing guitar, because it’d be so much to learn. How can somebody play all this stuff and get this good? What did he do, start when he was four?

Tony Lazaro: Yeah, he started playing around four years old. (Laugh) He’s actually a guitar player first. He comes from a musical background. His father was a trombone player that played with Sinatra. His stuff is incredible. His mom is a classical pianist.

Maelstrom: And he ended up in a death metal band.

Tony Lazaro: So what would happen is that over the years, Dave would stay in. He would lock himself in the room and learn everybody’s stuff. He was telling me that at 11, he was playing Yngwie Malmsteen. I’ve seen pictures of him doing almost 12 fret stretches with his fingers, and he’s just a little kid, man! It’s insane! He’s got a perfect ear. When we practice, he’ll be like, “oh, you’re a half step out of tune.” And I’m like, “how can you hear that?” And I’ll check my tuner and, that mother fucker, he’s dead right! (Laugh) Then he started playing drums eight or nine years ago with his band. He made a demo that Mitch Harris of Napalm Death produced. I got wind of it when we went on tour in ‘94 with Autopsy. That’s how he met us. Mitch told me that the guy laid out all his drum tracks first and then busted out the rhythm tracks afterward. He was telling me what an amazing musician he was.

Maelstrom: How did you hook up with Glen Benton?

Tony Lazaro: Well, I’ve known Glen for 12 years. When I was on tour, I let him listen to some pre-production and asked him if he would be cool to do some guest vocals on the record. He said sure. He was supposed to help us out with something like that in ‘94, when we recorded Into Cold Darkness, but at the time he was going through his divorce. So it wasn’t the right time. As we were doing more rehearsing and trying to get ready, and as the record company was putting more pressure on us, we realized that the singer we had at the time just wasn’t there. He didn’t have the experience to go into the studio. He wasn’t close to prepared. So we were like, “now what do we do?”

Maelstrom: Are you talking about the guy on the last record, the guy who called himself Thorns?

Tony Lazaro: Well, with him it was another thing.

Maelstrom: He was kind of a loose cannon, wasn’t he?

Tony Lazaro: Yeah, he was into partying and doin’ his thing. His work ethic was different than ours. He had a different outlook on what it was to front Vital Remains and be part of a death metal band, and to be true to the band and the fans. He had kind of a warped sense to the way he was approaching it, which he didn’t agree with. I corrected him. I told him that’s not how we go about things. We’re more professional than that. It’s all about the fans and people who support our music. He had more of the ego thing going on. It was getting in the way at shows. People were coming up to me and saying things about him that were negative. I told him, “you need to knock it off and be professional.” He almost wanted to be a Marilyn Manson, which has nothing to do with what this band is all about. I work too hard to let someone like him to disrespect us and the fans and the people in the underground. So I told him he had to change his ways and that we were going to do some shows. He ended up pulling out, so we just let him go. He hasn’t done anything since. Back to this, the singer who wasn’t working out was a friend. We had to make a decision to let him go. That’s when Glen stepped up and said, “I’ll do the whole record and help you guys out.” Otherwise, Dave was gonna do it. It would have been a totally different album. We weren’t going to pass that up. It’s Glen Benton. He’s the best.

Maelstrom: Yeah, of course. You’re going to sell some records just for that.

Tony Lazaro: He was totally into it, that was the thing. It was amazing to watch him singing our lyrics to our music. It was kind of surreal, like, “man, that’s Glen Benton in there!” We were totally blown away. He made sure every line was right. He’s totally pro. It was almost like we’d rehearsed for years together. He did an incredible job, and that’s why we’re forever grateful to him.

Maelstrom: I looked on the site a little bit, and it seems like he’s going to tour with you guys.

Tony Lazaro: He’s pretty much leaving it up to the fans in the underground. If the demand is there, he said by all means, he wants to do it. We’ll leave it up to Glen. Like I said, we’re grateful he did the record. If he wants to tour, that would be the sickest. From [the feedback] I’ve been getting back, it’s incredible. People are flippin’ out over this thing, which is great. It’s a good feeling, like a reward.

Maelstrom: I just saw Deicide play a few weeks ago with Behemoth and Amon Amarth. One of the things I like about Glen Benton is that between songs, he uses his regular voice. He bullshits with the audience, and it’s really cool.

Tony Lazaro: Right. He’s got a great personality. He knows how to talk to the audience. People love it when he interacts with the fans. I heard he did great on the tour. I just seen Behemoth on Sunday, and they blew me away. They were praising our record, and I was like, “no, we were listening to Satanica at Morrisound!” Their new one is brutal and awesome.

Maelstrom: It’s funny, Tony. You get all these bands, and they’re all so talented. These records are all so perfect and tight that you start to take it for granted. It’s amazing that all these bands can do this. Are there any tricks?

Tony Lazaro: I don’t think there are any tricks. Death metal, if you notice over the last couple years, has become way more extreme. Everyone is pushing the limits and really working hard, especially drumming. It’s refreshing. When Morbid Angel came out with Altars of Madness, it kicked everyone in the ass, like, “wow! This is brutal!” It was so new and refreshing to hear that type of death metal. It just set a new standard. And now, bands are pushing it again to where everyone is buckling down and trying to write heavier and put more into the music, which I think is great. It’s the years of playing and dedication to get to that level.

Maelstrom: Speaking of Morbid Angel, it seems that you life revolves so much around this sort of music. When Deicide toured with Morbid Angel in 2001 and I was in Chicago, I think I saw you. You were a roadie, or something. I was like, “isn’t that the Vital Remains guy shuffling around backstage?”

Tony Lazaro: Yeah. I was guitar tech.

Maelstrom: Do you do that a lot?

Tony Lazaro: I did it for three tours with Deicide.

Maelstrom: What’s it like being around this kind of music and this scene all the time?

Tony Lazaro: For me, metal is my life, so it’s normal. I’ve been in the scene in New England for 20 years now. It’s what I know. This is what I like to be around. It’s not that I listen to it and then go home. I sleep, eat, shit and breathe it. There are days when I may come home from practice and just sit there, but there’s other times when the music’s playin’ 6-8 hours a night.

Maelstrom: I read that you have a girlfriend. How does that work out with this kind of music, or is she into this kind of music?

Tony Lazaro: I met her at the Milwaukee Metalfest. I always had to meet girls that were into similar things.

Maelstrom: And how tough is that?

Tony Lazaro: Yeah! It’s been crazy. They’ve come and gone. Music for me is first. Sometimes girls don’t want to take a back seat to that. She’s very supportive and totally into it. She’s got a wider, more open-minded view of music. She listens to more than just death metal and black metal. She likes old school rock and southern rock and all the stuff in between. But she’s very supportive. She worked while I took off a year from any kind of work to do this record. So, I’m very thankful to her for puttin’ up with all my shit for all these years that I’ve known her. Havin’ that support is great. It’s hard havin’ to bang heads with someone, so that’s a plus with her. She’s behind me 100 percent; she knows that what I’m on this earth to do is lay music.

Maelstrom: That’s what good women do. I was looking at the site and it says that there are a whole bunch of other bands that you either are or were in.

Tony Lazaro: Those are bands that only people that knew me locally, like older guys who are pushin’ 40. Those are bands that I wanted to put on there to let people know that it wasn’t just like I started when I joined Vital Remains in ‘89. No, I was in death metal bands as early as ‘83, ‘84.

Maelstrom: How old are you?

Tony Lazaro: I’m 35. Me and Glen are the same age.

Maelstrom: Are you in any other bands now?

Tony Lazaro: No, ever since ‘89, it’s been Vital. Me and Dave have thought about puttin’ out a black metal album, ‘cause we like a lot of black metal, too. We didn’t want to do it under Vital and have people criticize us, “now they’re jumpin’ on this black metal thing.”

Maelstrom: I think the black metal thing is over, though.

Tony Lazaro: Yeah, I know! (Laugh) You know how people can be if you change your style completely. There has been black metal influences in our music. Sometimes we’ll jam a different style and have talked about it, but we’re bound by contract so we can’t do anything on the side, anyway. But maybe down the line. We even talked about doing a power metal record.

Maelstrom: Would Dave sing? (Laugh)

Tony Lazaro: Who knows? He probably could! He’s goofed around with it. But with his style of playing, we could really...

Maelstrom: Yeah, if he can play Malmsteen...

Tony Lazaro: Exactly. We’ll see what happens.

Maelstrom: Every time Vital Remains puts out a new record, there’s a totally different line up. It’s like a phoenix that burns up and comes back. Isn’t it tough to have a band under those conditions?

Tony Lazaro: It’s tough, but the fans know I’m not going anywhere. The way I look at it, whoever is with us at the time, is with us. You can find people who start out 100 percent into it, and as time goes by they start to get less and less, to the point where you’re carrying them. And I that point I don’t think you can be productive. When you have a bunch of people pushing 100 percent, you can accomplish things and progress. But shit happens with people. Sometimes it’s stressing, but the thing that’s kept me going is that I’m going to continue to write the music. If people are with me, then that’s the lineup. Me and Dave have decided to have hired guns [when we tour]. Who it’ll be will be unveiled soon and put up on the site. The way I look at it, bro, is that if they want the gig, they should work for it. In the past, we’ve taken people aboard too quickly, without letting them go on the road and see if they could hang and make it through. People have this perception that it’s easy and all glamorous. It’s far from it. They think it’s all kinds of money, which I think is funny. If you want to make money, this is not the way to go. No, you get in a van with a bunch of guys and go across country. You work your ass off, you barely get any sleep and you don’t get to take showers every day. It’s rough. You might come home with a little; you might not. But the love for the music has got to be in your blood.

Maelstrom: What’s your best experience or memory with Vital Remains?

Tony Lazaro: When we went over to Europe in 2000, that was really, really cool. We went and played countries that we had never played before. We didn’t know what kind of fan base we had, like Poland. We got to experience having that many people that embraced the band and had Polish flags with Vital Remains logos on them. It happened in Russia, too. They waited till 9 o’clock at night for us to show. It took us all day to get across the border, with all the paperwork. They didn’t have computers then. We literally waited there 10 hours. Finally, when we got to the gig, as they were starting to walk home, they saw the bus and came and started shaking it. Coming off the bus and having people shouting your name and, “Vital Remains, you made my life complete by playing here!” Shit like that is what charges me, the charge to say, “see, it’s things like that - the appreciation from people. It’s a whole different culture and language, but they appreciate what you’ve written.” The whole band was overwhelmed. Or, like playing in Mexico, and having those people embrace us as well. Knowing that there are people out there that love our music, we don’t ever want to let them down.

visit Vital Remains at www.vitalremains.cjb.net
         

from left to right: Dave Suzuki, Glen Benton, Tony Lazaro.

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interview by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Psychotogen are one of the more talented death metal outfits today. You only need one listen to their Perverse and Unnatural Practices CD to convince yourself of that. Below is an interview I conducted with the drummer, Chris....

Maelstrom: Your CD seems to be almost like two different bands. The first three or four songs are in a traditional death metal style while suddenly in the second half of the CD there is some crazy (and awesome) experimenting going on.

Chris: There's a reason it's that way. We originally started out as a two-guitar band, and the second guitarist really brought a lot of old school influence into the sound. In the Dust of Your Own Nothingness was written before Jeremy, Tony or Rob were even members of the group. That was written, with the exception of my input regarding arrangements, solely by the original second guitarist.

It wasn't until the 2nd guitar player left that we started to really gel as a unit. Then we started to broaden our horizons and write songs like "Death of the Old Ways" and "Follow Me." That's why the album sort of changes towards the midway point, the songs where roughly put on the album in the same order that they were written.

Maelstrom: So right now you guys are happy with one guitarist? Isn't there something that you feel having a second guitarist could help improve?

Chris: At the moment we're pretty satisfied being a one guitar band. That's not to say that we won't change our minds tomorrow though. It would be nice to have a second guitarist to play harmonies, counter point rhythms, etc... but it's also nice to have a nice clear sound in a live situation, something you don't always have with two guitarists. Tony's actually able to be heard because he doesn't have to compete with two distorted guitars blasting through the speakers.

Maelstrom: The sound is pretty fantastic with every instrument shining through in their clarity. Psychotogen must be pretty happy with the work done by Ron (Vento, producer)?

Chris: Oh yeah, it's killer working with Ron. It really helps that he's a metal musician as well (with Aurora Borealis, interview in issue #11 - Roberto), so he can really relate to what we're looking for in the way of a strong production.

It really is a challenge for Ron, as he's got to somehow squeeze Tony's bass lines in the mix somewhere. There's not many extreme metal acts that have bass players of Tony's caliber and it's really difficult to get the bass to come through the mix well when it has to compete with double bass, thick guitar tones and screaming vocals. Just knowing that Ron is willing to rise to that challenge is enough for us. I highly recommend him to any metal band out there looking to record.

Maelstrom: I agree with you there, Tony's bass-work is totally killer! So is the rest of the instrumentation! How long have you been playing your instruments?

Chris: All of us have been playing for some time now, we all started playing in our early teens if not sooner. Our ages range from 25 to 30 (with Tony being the youngest) so we've all had at least ten years of playing. I don't think that any of us have had any formal training, as far as I know we're all self-taught.

Maelstrom: Can you give us some insight into the recording process that you adopted. which tracks were laid down first?

Chris: We record pretty much the same way most bands do, we didn't record live or anything like that. I record 25 to 50% of my drum tracks without a scratch track, that's about the only thing that we may do that other bands usually wouldn't.

If I remember correctly, the album was recorded in the same order that the songs appear on the disc. The instrumental "Psychotogen" was recorded last, that one was actually created in the studio so we saved it for last.

Maelstrom: I remember getting a mail from Greg about some line-up change but don't quite remember the details. Can you give us some info about that?

Chris: Yeah, unfortunately things weren't working out between Rob and us, and although we both made an effort to make it work, a parting of the ways was inevitable. It's kind of odd for us as Tony and I have jammed with Rob, between Pessimist and Psychotogen, for almost nine years and we've all been friends with him for longer than that.

Fortunately, Mike Harrison (ex-Misery Index/Pessimist) is there to fill that void, and he's undoubtedly going to do one hell of a job at it. Mike's gonna be the one to take us to "the next level," and really add to the diversity of the next album.

Maelstrom: What happened? Was the split due to musical differences or personal reasons?

Chris: Basically, Rob had moved to Florida to complete his education, and unfortunately was having a difficult time finding work back here in Maryland once his education was complete. We waited for a year and a half for him at which point we were quite frustrated, so we came to the conclusion that Rob would have to leave the group. Although it was an extremely difficult call to make we feel that it was a necessary move if the band was to continue. There's no doubt in my mind that the band would have eventually disbanded if we had not made the decision to ask Rob to step down as vocalist for Psychotogen, as we definitely found ourselves spinning our wheels and not moving forward. Nothing sucks more than pointless idling.

Maelstrom: How many of you were in Pessimist? Why did the split happen?

Chris: All of us were in Pessimist for varying amounts of time. Both Jeremy and Mike were second guitarists for a couple of months. Mike did a video shoot with us in New York and a handful of shows.

I joined the band sometime in late '94 and Tony joined shortly after the release of the Absence of Light demo sometime in '95. Tony left shortly after the release of Blood for the Gods, and I left sometime around the end of '99.

As for why we split, I guess it was just the old cliché of "creative differences." I think that Kelly ultimately wanted to steer the band in more of a Krisiun/Hate Eternal direction (something that eventually did happen with the Slaughtering the Faithful CD) and Tony's style, as well as my own, just didn't fit into that style.

How we all ended up coming back together again as Psychotogen was really just dumb luck, it's not like we all left Pessimist with the intent of starting a new group. I actually jammed with the original guitarist for about six months before any one else agreed to jump on board.

Maelstrom: As of right now, what is Psychotogen up to?

Chris: Right now we doing pre-production for our next release, which is scheduled to be recorded in late April for a possible early/mid-summer release. It's called The Calculus of Evil, and it's gonna continue with the style we had on songs like "Follow Me," only much, much more diverse and intense. Once again we are going to work with Ron Vento/IQ studios. Fans of metal bands that are a bit left of center like Believer or Gorguts are going to dig this one! We're also preparing for our first post-Rob gig at the Maryland Death Fest -- www.supremebrutality.com/fest/ -- along with bands like Suffocation & Pyrexia. That is going to be one hell of a killer show!

Maelstrom: That surely is something to look forward to! The news about Suffocation being back in action is something that every death metal head is looking forward to, and I imagine it's going to be an awesome experience to get to share the stage with them! By the way, have you played with them before when you were in Pessimist?

Chris: I'm fucking psyched!! We played on the same day as Suffocation at the '98 Milwaukee fest (their last show) and we played with them in Baltimore along with Forbidden and Testament, both times they kicked ass.

Maelstrom: I've heard Necrophagist will be playing there too. Have you heard them before?

Chris: Nope, I must admit that I'm not really up on all the underground bands that are out there at the moment. When it comes to the Maryland Death Fest I'm familiar with Internal Bleeding, Pyrexia, Suffocation and Dying Fetus and that's about it. That's the one thing that I really dig about festivals such as this one, there's tons of opportunities to get turned on to new bands that you may not have heard otherwise.

[Ferg (of Bring Out Your Dead Prod.) says: I've heard of them and have their CD Onset of Putrefaction. I enjoyed it quite a bit. Not what I expected (given the title of the CD) they are acutally quite technical and not a Carcass or Cannibal Corpse "clone" band by any means! Excellent guitar work. (hell, yes! Check out Maelstrom's review of Onset of Putrefaction here, and read the interview with Necrophagist! - Roberto)]

Maelstrom: How would you describe the new material you have been writing? With respect to this Perverse... CD ?

Chris: I think we take the sound that we had started to develop with songs like "Follow Me" and "Death of the Old Ways" and run with it. This next album is gonna have some Spanish-styled flemenco playing and acoustic runs, and at the same time it's gonna have a ton of double bass and more blast beats than the first album.

We've tried to write without putting any limitations on us. I think the guys that are solely into Cannibal Corpse and Deicide are probably going to not like this album, but I guess you can't please everyone. Fans of Opeth, Dillinger Escape Plan, Death, Anacrusis, Gorguts, Cynic, Believer, Atheist and Nevermore - bands that attempt to color outside the lines - are really going to dig this album.

Maelstrom: Psychotogen is one of the few underground death metal bands to have a professional management agency (Bring Out Your Dead Productions). How is this helping out the band?

Chris: Bottom line is there probably wouldn't be a band without BOYD Productions. Surely we would have choked the living shit out of each other by now without them, as they handle the business end of things, freeing us up to create and thus alleviating a lot of stress. Tony and I had been a good bit dissatisfied with how things had worked out in our previous group, so it's fucking killer to be able to enjoy playing music again.

Maelstrom: How did you get in touch with them? Were they friends that you knew from before? Many bands might not feel comfortable with handing over the business aspect to someone else.

Chris: They've come out to some of our shows while we were part of Pessimist. They saw us play at the '98 Milwaukee fest, which is probably the best show Pessimist ever played. Rob was the one that was really instrumental in bringing the Fergs and the band together.

As for the issue of trust, the Ferg brothers are two of the coolest guys you'll ever meet; trusting them was never a concern for us. The Fergs help us out because they liked what Psychotogen was doing, as well as the entire scene in general. They do it because they enjoy supporting and being a part of the scene, death metal doesn't exactly bring in the bucks!

It's too bad that more bands couldn't enjoy the sort of support we have, I've seen a lot of really good bands dissolve because of that lack of support.

Maelstrom: What are the major musical influences of the band members?

Chris: There's a wiiiide variety of influences that go into the "Psychotogen sound." We all dig everything from the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Bella Fleck to Suffocation and Gorguts and a ton of shit in between. I think it's best to steal a little from a ton of influences, rather than steal a ton from just a few.

Maelstrom: Mahavishnu Orchestra?? wow! It's quite difficult for me to imagine you guys sitting around and listening to that!!

Chris: Yeah, we've all got diverse influences. In my CD player right now is Duke Ellington, Tower of Power, Into Eternity, Evanescence and Destruction's Live Without Sense - I dig all kinds of shit. I never understood why an artist would intentionally want to limit one's self by only using a small handful of influences.

Maelstrom: How often do you guys jam?

Chris: On Sundays - that's it. In Pessimist we jammed three times a week, and in hindsight that may have been a bit too much for us. Jamming once a week keeps it kind of fresh for us, we're not just dragging our asses in from work just to go through the motions and go home.

Maelstrom: And what is your own daily practice schedule like? Or do you have a daily practice schedule?

Chris: Now that we're so close to recording our next album, I've been running through the entire album at home almost on a daily basis. I don't have a kit at home, I just jam air drums to the rough demo we have. That's how I learned drums, I was too poor as a kid to actually buy drums so I learned through playing air drums to stuff. To this day that's still how I learn new material and rehearse old stuff.

Maelstrom: What do you think is the most important quality of a good death metal drummer? Concentration or stamina? I've tried playing the drums a few times and no matter how much I used to concentrate, the moment I tried to use my feet I used to forget what the hand was doing. Any tips on how to get about stumbling blocks like that?

Chris: I guess it really comes down to a matter of opinion. A lot of death metal fans seem to dig the real fast blasting stuff like Krisiun or Angel Corpse. That stuff is really impressive and definitely requires a shit load of stamina, but I tend to lean more towards the over-the-top technical drummers like Flo from Cryptopsy and Chris Pennie from Dillinger Escape Plan, stuff that makes ya say "how the fuck did he do that!!"

As for learning drums, I would suggest 1) playing very slooowly at first and 2) playing to as many CDs as you can. A lot of drummers in death metal tend to go straight to learning the blast beat first, in the process neglecting the very rudiments of playing such as maintaining a constant tempo and playing in the correct time signature.

Maelstrom: What are your professions? Do you have a hard time getting leave and stuff fro work when you go on tours or are the people there understanding?

Chris: Mike works with computers, Tony's an electrician, Jeremy repairs photocopiers and I do landscaping work. So far we haven't had any problems with our employers, but we also haven't toured for more than a week at a time yet due to our situation with Rob. Now that we have Mike in the group I'm sure we'll be playing out much more frequently.

Maelstrom: Can you tell us about the equipments which you guys use?

Chris: Well, I don't know much about Tony and Jeremy's gear other than Tony plays an Ibanez bass and Jeremy plays on Jacksons and Les Pauls. That's about the extent of my knowledge regarding their gear. As for my stuff, I've got a black nine piece Pearl export series kit, Sabian cymbals, Remo pinstripe heads, Axis pedals, Pro-mark sticks, DDrum triggers, an Alesis D5 and a full Tama power tower cage.

Maelstrom: Name five albums with the most fucked up over-the-top drumming

Chris: Atheist - Unquestionable Presence
Cynic - Focus
Dillinger Escape Plan - Calculating Infinity
Death - Individual Thought Patterns
Spastic Ink - Ink Complete - Ink Complete is enough to send a guy into full-blown seizures!

Maelstrom: Okay, Chris, thanks a lot for taking the time to do this interview. Wish you all the best with the band and please use the remaining space to type out your contact addresses and anything else that you might wan to say to our readers.

Chris: Thanks for the interview. Our new CD, The Calculus of Evil, featuring new vocalist Mike Harrison will be released this summer. Check out our web site at Psychotogen.com for updates, mp3s, photos, etc.

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

This is part two of two of our chat with Stephen O’Malley. This interview focuses on his ambient project Lotus Eaters, in which O’Malley joins Aaron Turner (Hydrahead Reacords, Isis, Old Man Gloom, et al) and James Plotkin (Atomsmasher, Khanate, et al). Please check out O'Malley's website at http://www.ideologic.org.

Maelstrom: I like to think of Mind Control for Infants as being the soundtrack to a ghost town. What do you think of that idea?

Stephen O’Malley: I like to think of Lotus Eaters sounds as old. Not ancient, but... old.

Maelstrom: I picture these dusty streets... there’s a part that sounds like a door clanging. It sounds heavy, but it fits in with the theme. The hinges are falling off, and it’s smacking with the wind. It conveys this image of past memories of people who used to live there. Now it’s desolate. It’s a cold feeling. There are a couple parts of warmth, but most of it’s very cold.

Stephen O’Malley: Yeah, that’s where it starts out. That’s great to hear that you got so much visual out of that music. It’s definitely something we’re trying to do. Evocative sounds inspire more visual things.

Maelstrom: You worked with Aaron Turner on this. I’m a big fan of his House of Low Culture (interview in issue #7) project. He was telling me how he was really inspired by his house. I don’t’ know if you’ve ever been there, but he said it’s really old, and how he gets sounds out of his radiator ‘cause it’s super old. It might have been perfect that you picked him to help you out.

Stephen O’Malley: Actually, the entire record was recorded at his house.

Maelstrom: Ok, well, there you go!

Stephen O’Malley: He has a room in back that’s painted orange. It’s the recording room. It was something we talked about doing for a few years. I ended up moving to New York and we finally got together in Boston. We brought James (Plotkin, of Phantomsmasher and Khanate) along, too. We started making stuff in late 2000. It turned out to be a great collaboration. I love working with James and Aaron. It’s inspiring and a lot of fun. As cold as the sound can be, there’s a lot of passion put into that. We’re friends who respect each other.

Maelstrom: The design of Mind Control for Infants sort of has a Hydrahead (Aaron Turner’s label) like design. I know you’re big into design and have done some important things. Who made this art?

Stephen O’Malley: I designed the logo and art directed the piece. The photos are pretty significant. They relate to the old aspect [of the record]. On the cover is a picture of my grandfather and his twin brother in the 20s. James’ great uncle is getting into the biplane and Aaron’s grandfather as a student are the other two main photos. I did some initial design, and Aaron worked on it, too. That’s another fun thing about Lotus Eaters, is the fact that I get to work with designers I respect and collaborate on the visual side of it.

Maelstrom: I understand that Lotus Eaters is improvised by using whatever is available in terms of instruments. Did you get together with Aaron and James in this orange room and say, “ok, let’s go with it!”?

Stephen O’Malley: Yeah. It’s not purely improvised. The actual recording is improvised, but we have a starting point in mind. Just going in blind doesn’t work as you end up spending a few hours figuring out just what you’re doing. That’s a similar way that Sunn works as well. We don’t have a completed structure, but there are some rough ideas.

Maelstrom: I was reading that you made that cover for that In the Woods record Omnio. First of all, I love that record, and the cover is really interesting. I’d like to take a guess on what that is.

Stephen O’Malley: Ok.

Maelstrom: It looks like pancake batter. That, or a membrane of some sort. It’s kind of gross, but it’s definitely the cover for that record.

Stephen O’Malley: It has humor. That band had a lot of humor.

Maelstrom: So what is that, Stephen?

Stephen O’Malley: It’s not pancake batter. I think it’s light through a blown glass vase.

Maelstrom: So what does that have to do with humor? What’s funny about that?

Stephen O’Malley: Well, it’s abstract. I thought it looked like foam on the sea, or molten something. But I think it’s humorous: you can see a food element in it. In the Woods was pretty light hearted, even though they’re music is pretty...

Maelstrom: ...right, pretty heavy! (Laugh)

Stephen O’Malley: But still, they had personality; very happy people. Plus they’re open about interpretation and don’t really want to be too straight and narrow about what they’re doing.

Maelstrom: Why did you stop putting out Descent?

Stephen O’Malley: It got boring. I got sick of writing about other people’s music and wanted to make my own. Dissecting hundreds of albums per issue belittles the music after a while, and it was burn out, for me, anyway. You have to translate all these non-verbal things into language and explain it in a relatively short period of time. It got to be too much.

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interview by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Scent of Death: You might not have heard of them, but beware...such a devastating force will not go unnoticed for long. Savage death metal with technical twists, this is a band you need to check out immediately. Bernardo (guitars / vocals) answers some questions for Maelstrom...

Maelstrom: Hi Bernardo. Your MCD is really stunning. How long has the band been playing? Is this the first recording that you have done?

Bernardo: Hi, Abhi. Thank you very much for contact us and for your support. I'm going to introduce you in the world of Scent of Death. You are going to smell the Scent of Death!!!!! Well, to answer your question, we started in September 1998. We have been playing since then with original members Nuno (drums), Jorge (guitars), Carlos (bass) and Bernardo (guitars), and only that we had for one year a vocalist called David, who after the first concert left the band. We began to record on September, 2001, at Taller de Música, Ourense, Spain. As a result, we released our first MCD, Entangled in Hate, which was produced and edited by ourselves. The MCD contains a total of six songs, four of brutal and fast death metal and two pure instrumental. We had thought to record this MCD a year before, but some problems with the studio delayed the recording. So, we can say we have been playing for three whole years before recording this MCD, and now we are four years old than when we started, hehehe…. I know it's time enough for having released at least another demo or MCD, but we have no hurry. We prefer to have things well done, than fast and done wrong.

Maelstrom: Any luck in finding a label yet?

Bernardo: Yes, we have signed a deal with Necromance Records from Spain, for the edition of our new full-length album. It will be at the end of 2003, I hope, hehehe… But we still have not worked together. Necromance Records is only one of our distributors here in Spain, and a big friend of the band. The manager of Necromance likes our music a lot, so I think this fact is very important for a good promotion of our new album later. I think he is going to give all for us in the promotion. So I have no more to ask him for. He is the editor of Necromance Magazine, which is devoted especially to death metal, which I think is good for us. Please check out his website for the latest news about Necromance Records at www.necromancemag.com.

Maelstrom: So what plans have been finalized for the next recording?

Bernardo: We are working very hard on the composition of the new songs, and I hope to be able to make a handful of good songs that destroy the ears of the listeners, hehehe... For this moment we have two songs finished and other two songs in progress. New songs are in the vein of the title song of our MCD Entangled in Hate, but perhaps much more technical and brutal, with a lot of tempo changes, and perhaps more dark too. On the other hand one of the other two songs is a mid-tempo song, no blast beats, no speed, only heavy and dark riffs, in the vein of Morbid Angel with that double bass drum very fast. This song will become in the point of contrast between the other songs of the album.

Maelstrom: So are you planning to record all new songs for the full length or will any of the songs on this MCD be repeated?

Bernardo: It’s too early to say anything about this, but it's possible that one of the songs of the MCD will be re-recorded for the new album. But what's for sure is that the song will have the same sound as the rest of the album… What we'll never do is to add the song as it's recorded now in the MCD, because we want Luis to put his own personality in the chosen song. We have thought to include a cover as an extra track, but nothing is still decided.

Maelstrom: Which bands would you say you are mainly influenced by?

Bernardo: The inspiration… Well, I think everything you listen to can become an influence for what you play, but I'd say that we prefer those bands that play brutal and technical music. But our influences come fundamentally from the American brutal death: Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel and Dying Fetus, but the reviews that we are receiving say that we have influences of Suffocation, Cryptopsy, Immolation, Incantation - and even Death. This may be, and from my point of view, and only hearing four songs, means that there is a lot of variety of rhythms in our music, but only in a brutal dimension. I think that we are doing very well for a band that is just in the beginning. But the listeners should judge for themselves. Each member of Scent of Death has a lot of bands between his favourites. For example, Carlos is a maniac of Slayer (the old stuff, of course, hehehe…), Jorge likes a lot the classic music and bands like Opeth and similar, Nuno likes some gothic and industrial bands and the most extreme black metal, Luis is a great fan of the old gods as Venom, Destruction, Possessed, and many more, and I like too some guitar players as Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and the classic heavy metal as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest,… But we have in common one point: our love for brutal death metal. This is really the kind of music we like to play, so bands as Cryptopsy, Gorgasm, Immolation, Morbid Angel, are constantly in our cd players, hehehe… Only brutality shall prevail!!!!!!!

Maelstrom: Now who is Luis?

Bernardo: Luis is our new vocalist. He entered in the band at the end of November 2002, and now is a fixed member of Scent of Death. He has a powerful voice and I think he's the vocalist we were looking for. Luis has a great quantity of vocal registers, appropriate for guttural voice and for the screams we use in some parts of the lyrics. I think he is an essential part of the band now and has a better voice than mine.... He has to travel each weekend about 100 kilometres to jam with us because he lives in other city, but he does it because he loves to be a member of Scent of Death. We wanted a five member line up… This way we could be dedicated to our respective instrument at the 100 percent of our possibilities. And what's more important, this line up makes us much more aggressive live, hehehe…

Maelstrom: The liner notes say that the instrumental song "Perpetual" was written by Daniel. Who is he, an old member of the band?

Bernardo: Yes this song was written and recorded by Daniel, but he's not an actual member nor an old member of the band. He is just a good friend of the band. We had thought about including some instrumental pieces in the MCD, and we want it was a melancholic and melodic piece. We could do it by ourselves, but we liked having more people going to the studio and taking part in the record. And he is a good friend, and came a lot of times to our rehearsal room to see us, although he doesn't like death metal at all; he comes from the classic music and likes some progressive metal bands. But, after requesting his collaboration he consented without any problem and there the result is, over the sea of sound you can find quite a melancholic and melodic piece. The same happens with the violin in "Epilogue." It was recorded by another friend. We wanted something different to close this MCD, something that makes the listener stay astonished for a while, hehehe… And I think the sound of a violin is not usual in a brutal death album.

Maelstrom: Have you been playing in any bands before Scent of Death? What about the other guys?

Bernardo: No, I never have been in any other band, at least serious ones, but all the other members come from other bands. Nuno has been in a band called Osmosis, a death metal band, but not brutal. They had released a demo with five songs, but after that they had to leave their rehearsal room with no luck to find another in a short period of time… Meanwhile Mingos (guitar and vocals) accepted the offer of Unnatural and left Osmosis, so the band disappeared… Carlos was the bassist of Osmosis too, and before that he had played in Mugre, a death-thrash metal band, in the earliest 90's… Jorge came from Suffer Age, a death metal band too, and they had recorded a demo tape that never was released. It was a pity because I think it was a very good demo at that time… And Luis is the vocalist in Immacula Mortem, a black metal he is still singing with.

Maelstrom: Which city are you from? Are there a lot of shows where you live?

Bernardo: We live in Ourense, which is part of a region called Galicia, in the northwest of Spain. This is a problem too for playing live, because we have to run a lot of kilometres to go to other cities in Spain… and for the other bands to come here!!!! In our city there is only one live club, and lately they do not want to do concerts, at least with extreme metal bands, because they say that they lose money. But in Galicia, in one city called Vigo, where I'm studying, there are a lot of concerts. Here some important bands as Obituary, Napalm Death, Vader, Behemoth, Marduk, Decapitated and Krisiun have come. Now tours with Deeds of Flesh, Dying Fetus, Hate Eternal and Severe Torture are planned. But the small bands usually play here, because people support the live shows. In this city there are a great underground scene, and the most important for our region, I think.

Maelstrom: Most of the bands I get to hear from Spain are grindcore or goregrind. Which are the other bands out there that play your style of brutal, technical death metal?

Bernardo: Well, good question, my friend, because I'm very anxious to tell everybody that I think we are in rebirth of Spanish underground. As you say perhaps the most known bands outside Spain are the grind ones, as Haemorrhaghe, Tu Carne, Forensick, or Machetazo (although now they are more in Brutal Death...), but now in Spain there are a lot of bands in the vein of brutal and technical death metal. A good example of it is Baalphegor, a very talented band which have just edited their CD debut. Totally recommended!!! Other bands are Chamber of Shred, Dyspraxia (ex-Impacto Fecal… then they played Grind and now changed into brutal and technical death…), Cerebral Effusion, Human Mincer, Rotten Minds, Velocidad Absurda, Holocaust, La Matanza, Nemesis Aeterna (dark death metal), Kevlar Skin, Imbrue (now in Necromance Records too…) and many others…. But the most important thing for me is that bands are starting to record their albums, MCD's, demos and other stuff in order to promote worldwide, and this is the first step to build a good underground scene here in Spain. Perhaps the second step, the support of people at shows, will be harder to reach. It is a pity that bands so incredible as Absorbed (ultra technical death metal and gods for me, hehehe…), Unnatural (Gods!!!!) or Uncreation have come undone with the musical level so high that they had reached.

Maelstrom: Have you ever had the opportunity to play outside Spain? Which country would you like to visit the most and for what particular reason?

Bernardo: Yeahh!!!! I received this question just in time, hehehe…. Because this past weekend we have played in Portugal for the first time, in a three days festival, with 25 bands …and some of them a very great and big bands as Enthroned, Sanatorium, Internal Suffering, Katatonia, Damnable,… It was great to play there and we had a lot of fun with the guys of the other bands we played with, hehehe… Two days drunken and with no time for sleep, hahaha… And it was a great fest of extreme metal, brutal and blasphemous!!!! Certainly we would love to play more times outside our country!!!!!! A European tour would be great in principle, and then to continue to the United States. Once there down through all of South America... it wouldn’t be bad, hey? Hahaha… But our desires are one thing, and reality another. In this world it is necessary to have your feet very well positioned in the ground. For that reason I think that it is necessary to proceed calmly but without falling asleep. But to answer your question, I'd say that an USA tour would be the most we liked, because the best bands we like come from USA. The underground market there is biggest than in other countries. In that way our music could be listening more easily by metal maniacs.

Maelstrom: How often do you guys jam?

Bernardo: Well, now we do it only a day per week, usually on Sunday. But one year before we jammed two times per week. This change was because our drummer is now doing collaboration for the recording of the new album of Fermento, which is near to be recorded. This way is impossible for us to jam the same days we did before, because he has to part his time between Fermento and Scent Of Death, and all along the rest of the week he is working very hard. Our bassist, Carlos works during the week and I'm studying out of my city, a hundred kilometres away, so it’s impossible too for me to stay continually rehearsal from Monday to Friday. In this situation we can't do more than we do now… This is the reason we don't compose songs so fast as we want to. You'd say: "yes, but you can compose a song at home and then finish it in the rehearsal room…", but this is not our style to do it, because we need to see how the song is looking like with all instruments before continuing the composition of the song.

Maelstrom: Who writes the music and lyrics?

Bernardo: Jorge is the main compositor in Scent of Death. He has done musical studies that no other member of Scent of Death has. He realizes the composition of the song at home, and come to the rehearsal room with the guitar riffs… If we like the riffs he brings, then the song continues, and if not this riff is forgotten forever, hehehe… So we can say that, although he is the main composer, all members in Scent of Death have a great participation in the composition of the song too. And sometimes when he is in a dead point, all members collaborate to continue the composition… The drum parts are composed by Nuno. He does that in his own way, but with the same condition for being accepted: all must like what he plays. The lyrics are written by Jorge and Carlos.

Maelstrom: Your music seems to have some elements of Gorguts Erosion of Sanity, to my ears at least. And especially your vocals...Have you heard that album, and what do you think about this comparison?

Bernardo: Yes, of course I know Erosion of Sanity… Gorguts was and still are a great band. I like a lot their first two albums and their last two, too. I suppose not many people likes Obscura and From Wisdom to Hate because it’s music difficult to assimilate at first. About my voice, I agree with you… I like this style of vocals because it’s much more whispered than the current death metal voices but very aggressive at the same time. Perhaps other examples to compare my voice could be the voice of Carcass in Heartwork and Necroticism... albums, not so whispered but in the same vein, you know what I mean… But I think you are wrong in terms of the music, at least it's not a deliberate influence… But thank you very much for this comparison. If our MCD really reminds you of Gorguts, we are proud of it!!!! Hehehe….

Maelstrom: Name some of the best albums ever, in your opinion...

Bernardo: Well, you can see this question in our website in the "US" section, hehehe… There we have indicated the best albums ever for each of us… But I'm going to name only five, although it is very hard to do, hehehe…
- Morbid Angel: Domination
- Suffocation: Pierced from Within
- Immolation: Dawn of Possession
- Disincarnate: Dreams of the Carrion Kind
- Cynic: Focus
But in no particular order, and as I said before, a lot more of them should be added, hehehe…

Maelstrom: Could you tell us a bit about the gear and instruments which you guys use?

Bernardo: Ok. Nuno uses Ludwig drums, with double bass drum, four toms and about seven cymbals. Carlos uses Ibanez five string bass and Fender 140 W amplifier. Jorge uses Marshall Valvestate amp and a second right hand guitar, but he is left handed. I use Marshall Valvestate amp and Assia Guitar which is fucking big, hehehe… Jorge and I use Boss Metal Zone pedal and an equalizer pedal, but of course we want to change all these fucking guitars when we have enough money, hehehe… And finally Luis uses a normal microphone and his powerful voice to destroy the ears of those who listen our music live, hahaha.

Maelstrom: What do you guys do to earn a living?

Bernardo: Nuno is working in a wood factory, a very hard physical work, which limit him to play his drum all days he is able to, because some days he is very tired after work. Carlos is working too with wood, but I think is not as hard as Nuno's work… Jorge is finishing his musical studies with the piano… Luis is in the university studying history. I too am in the university finishing my studies to become a full engineer, hehehe… For today I'm only a half engineer, hehehe.

Maelstrom: The cover is a bit too dark. Was this a problem with the printer or did you want it that way?

Bernardo: Well, when I did the artwork of the MCD, we wanted to use the photo you see in the cover, with the tank and the carbonized cadaver, because we think is very representative of the title… But we have not bought this photo and its rights for using it. This would be impossible for us, for monetary reasons, obviously… The photo is downloaded from the Internet. The best way avoid any problems was to make some changes in the photography and make it darker than original picture. In this way we got the second effect we wanted, which is to make that the name of the band more legible and the first thing you see. But I'm with you that the cover is a bit too dark in the final version, perhaps more than I see in my monitor.

Maelstrom: Okay Bernardo, thanks a lot for taking the time. Wish you all the best with the band, and please use the remaining space to write down any last words.

Bernardo: Thank you very much, Abhi and the Maelstrom Zine team, for this interesting interview. I hope this interview will introduce a little bit more to maniacs worldwide into the world of Scent of Death. And to you, metal head, if you want a copy of our stuff or ask us some other question, you can write to this e-mail address: info@scentofdeath.com

Check out our recently online website at www.scentofdeath.com and write some blasphemies in our Hatebook, hehehe… Or write to this postal address: Nuno Miguel Pérez; Ntra. Sra. Do Viso 4, 2º Izq.; 32005 Ourense; Spain. Sure response!!!!! Thanks.
SUPPORT THE TRUE UNDERGROUND!!!!!

                      

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

1349's music has been described as audible hellfire. That pretty much says it all. This Norwegian group’s first proper album (after their self-titled MCD from a few years ago) sees the quintet reaching levels of extremity and skill before unseen. As vocalist Ravn puts it, they like to play “on the edge.” Sounds like an apt assessment. (all photos taken from www.peterbeste.com by Peter Beste, whom we interview in this issue under "black metal photography.")

Maelstrom: The new record that you put out is certainly a lot different than the mini-CD that you did. It’s a huge step forward in terms of sonic art. The first thing I have to ask you is, it’s so fast to the point I wonder if it’s sped up at all.

Ravn: (laugh) I can assure you it’s not sped up.

Maelstrom: That’s impossible!

Ravn (left): Hu-hu. Well, I have to tell you that this was recorded in autumn 2001. Since then we have developed ourselves a lot musically. We are currently working on a lot of new material. I can also tell you that it will be faster.

Maelstrom: Oh, come on! How?

Ravn: Hahahaha. Well, the songs demand it and Frost is up to it.

Maelstrom: Wow. Most people can’t play with two hands what he plays with one hand.

Ravn: We’ll, we’re very delighted. That’s why I asked Frost to do the drums in the first place. Originally I played the drums, but it was too much for me. I had to make a decision to play drums full time or do the vocals. The early material didn’t affect him so much, but when he had the new material, he was very impressed and wanted to join us on a full time basis!

Maelstrom: I’ve heard that Frost is a rather strange guy, or, that he’s a true black metal guy - he embodies the sense of the word. What is he really like?

Ravn: Frost is a guy that does everything 110 percent. He can’t stand for less.

Maelstrom: You can tell by his playing style.

Ravn: He’s really a remarkable person and a great inspiration for us in the band to have his strength to push us to develop ourselves in extreme ways and to play on the edge.

Maelstrom: What’s it like with you and your role? What is challenging for you in terms of the vocals?

Ravn: I can focus more on how we build up the songs. I can sit there during the rehearsals and listen and figure out different ways to play it. That’s kind of hard to do when you’re playing drums, as you have to focus on what you’re playing.

Maelstrom: Let’s talk a bit of the sound of the record. Going back to my impression that it was sped up, the resonance of the drums is very short and clicky, not like a triggered sound. It sounds different than most other records. In terms of production, what did you go to the studio to do? How is it different from the album before?

Ravn: I produced the album. I chose an analog studio. We used a 2-inch tape recorder and 24 tracks. If you listen to just the drum track, you will hear that it’s not sped up as you can hear a depth to the drums. The resonance is short because, to make them sound as fast as they are, you have to compromise a bit by using gates.

Maelstrom: What does that mean?

Ravn: You use an effect that opens for some milliseconds every time you hit the drums. He’s playing so fast sometimes that it’s hard to adjust it.

Maelstrom: So you’re saying that if you didn’t gate them, it would sound like one big blur?

Ravn: It’s a bit give and take in the recording process. We didn’t trigger the drums. That’s why we have to use the gate thing. Most other bands use trigger sounds.

Maelstrom: I like your way better. It’s more organic sounding.

Ravn: Frost was a bit against triggering before. He didn’t do it on the Volcano album (of Satyricon - Roberto). Live, we trigger.

Maelstrom: Can you gate live?

Ravn: Yes, you can. It’s an ordinary effect. What you gain mostly by using triggers in live situations when you’re playing so fast on the drums - which you have to take a lot of time adjusting in the studio, because you’re always playing on the edge - is that all the sound is there at once. You just adjust the triggers. You can use microphones inside the bass drums to get the clicking sound and you can have the deep sound coming out of the triggers.

Maelstrom: But doesn’t that change your sound so totally? For me, listening to this Liberation album is so much about the experience is this sound, which is not very bassy. If I go to see you live and you have these triggers, I would imagine that would change the sonic experience.

Ravn: That’s kind of part of the challenge. We’re very focused on not having the drums sound like triggered drums.

Maelstrom: Like, you know when you go to see these death metal shows like Vader...

Ravn: Yes.

Maelstrom: Yeah, of course you know what I’m talking about.

Ravn: Yeah, of course. I don’t like this sound. You can hear the bass drums, of course, but you can’t feel them.

Maelstrom: The big fault I find with this sound is that, when it’s badly done, all you can hear is the bass drums. A funny thing about metal is that a lot of times they don’t make the snare loud enough on stage. I’d like to hear the snare. It’s sort of like ambient music otherwise.

Ravn: That’s normally no problem with Frost. He’s hitting so fucking hard. (Frost pictured at left)

Maelstrom: I’ve never seen the Satyricon DVD (or seen Frost play live). Can you describe how he plays? Is it all fingers?

Ravn: He uses his fingers, yes. He sits home, watching TV with a drumstick, hitting a pillow using his fingers. So he has worked up this incredible speed in his fingers.

Maelstrom: The record is called Liberation. Liberation from what?

Ravn: First of all, it’s a liberation for us to get this album out. I have to tell you that the mini-CD wasn’t supposed to be released.

Maelstrom: Why not?

Ravn: It was a demo, but Holycaust Records enjoyed it so much that unfortunately, we said yes.

Maelstrom: So you’re not happy with it at all.

Ravn: No. As you said at the beginning of the interview, the sound was very different. It was a demo, and it was unfortunately released, but we can’t complain about that now.

Maelstrom: What else is the album a liberation from?

Ravn: It’s meant to be a liberation from this synth style black metal. As you may have heard, we don’t use synthesizers.

Maelstrom: Right.

Ravn: We do, however, use a pump organ. Have you noticed?

Maelstrom: I have. It’s toward the end, isn’t it?

Ravn: Yes.

Maelstrom: What’s a pump organ?

Ravn: It’s an old organ on which you have to use your feet to pump the air for the organ.

Maelstrom: How cool. Where did you find that?

Ravn: We have a guy that has one at home. We went in a car and picked it up. First we wanted it on just one song, at the end of the song “Liberation.”

Maelstrom: So you thought about the pump organ before you knew the guy who had a pump organ?

Ravn: Yes. The bass player realized he knew this guy who had a pump organ. I said, “great, bring him in.”

Maelstrom: I think the big problem with the synths is that, essentially, synthesizers synthesize: you can generally tell that it’s not the real thing. If you had a synthesizer playing a pump organ, it wouldn’t sound as good. I don’t know if you’ve heard the new Solefald, but it has a loto fo non-synthesized instruments, like trumpets and saxophone. That’s really cool. Why synthesize a flute when you can get someone to play flute for you?

Ravn: I like to work with organic sound. That’s why I chose the analog machine for the recording. I did also record it digitally. You just don’t have the depth in the sound. I was struggling very hard to get this. I’d like call it the bottom of the picture. It isn’t there.

Maelstrom: You said the record was recorded in autumn of 2001. That’s quite a bit ago, or is it not?

Ravn: Yes.

Maelstrom: What’s been going on since then?

Ravn: We tried to sign a record deal.

Maelstrom: I’m surprised that is was that difficult. Were you very picky?

Ravn: Yes, we were. One thing led to another and I think things got a bit out of hand. Candlelight has been very patient with us. We tested them a bit, but it’s good to know they really wanted us. It was supposed to be released on Holycaust Records, but both me and him found out it was too big for him. He said, “the potential of this album, I can’t fully handle it for you. I don’t have the distribution.” Also, Candlelight were already interested. The lawyers took a lot of time. Our lawyer is in France, for some reason. He has a lot of other bands to do. As I said, one thing led to another. I have a lot of work, also.

Maelstrom: You mean, outside the band?

Ravn: Yeah, unfortunately.

Maelstrom: The non-black metal stuff.

Ravn: Well, I try to keep it a bit black metal.

Maelstrom: (laugh)

Ravn: I work with other bands. I do lights and pyros.

Maelstrom: I understand that 1349 is the year the Black Plague came to Norway.

Ravn: ...yes! Correct. You’ve done your part. (Almost dead laugh)

Maelstrom: Yeah. I did a little research. Can you give us a little bit more of a history lesson on that?

Ravn: It came to Norway and wiped out one third of the population. Norway was the country in all of Europe that got struck hardest by the Black Plague.

Maelstrom: What’s next for 1349? I imagine you’ll have another record within a year.

Ravn: We’re going to record it hopefully during the summer, and it’ll be released early next year, if we keep with the schedule. It’ll be a bigger album in every way. The sound will be a bit different.

Maelstrom: When are you coming to the States?

Ravn: As soon as possible! I have a feeling Liberation is an album that will suit Americans more than Europeans.

Maelstrom: Yeah, like it real hard here.

Ravn: Yes. It’s real intense and aggressive. If they like death metal bands that are aggressive, this will blow them away.

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interview by: Tom Orgad

Even when viewed and referred to within the context of their local avant-garde and experimentation-infused Czech Metal scene, Forgotten Silence still notably stand out as a remarkable phenomenon. While aesthetically adhering to the traditional attributes of extreme metal, including dominant segments of vocal growls, blast-beating drums, heavy guitar riffing etc... this assembly of musicians hardly deserves to be counted as a part of the flourishing underground Eastern European current. During the years of their existence, the varying line-ups of Forgotten Silence (fronted by the core of Krusty on bass/vocals and Medved on guitars) gave birth to manifold conceptual pieces, dealing with unusual themes as The House of Spirits novel, and Senyaanâ - an aphoristic wintry myth, and lately mostly focusing on oriental tales.

When reviewing the multitudinous aspects of their creation, noticing the lengthy, epic compositions, atypical of the metal world, delicate melodic movements and rhythmical nuances, featuring hints of jazz and classical music, and the aforementioned leading concepts, one may reach the conclusion that Forgotten Silence is actually a progressive rock band wearing a superficial outwards robe of extreme metal imagery. I was thrilled when I had the chance to approach Krusty with some questions regarding the works and views of the band, trying to learn more of the origins and motives of their ideas and creative urges, which lead to their unique form of musical expression.

Maelstrom: Could you state any common denominator, a guiding motive present in all of your active musical creation? do you consider your art moralistic, aesthetic, religious?...

Krusty: Hmm, this is a very interesting question. I’ve never though about it this way, honestly said. But I think there’s no higher philosophy or religion behind our music and lyrical concepts. We are no philosophers or preachers! Look, we are normal people who want to live our lives. We want to be good and honest...and we want to meet and cooperate with good and honest people, too. That’s it. Of course, I could say we are inspired by higher magic, kaballah, djinnism, necromancy and gore activities, but that’s bullshit. Our main inspiration (and topics of our texts) is and forever will be (probably) life itself. Dreams, love, desires, sadness, hate... I know very well it´s like the usual cliché answer, but it´s true .

Maelstrom: Your conceptual works don't seem to imperatively fit the Nihilistic, rebellious metal principles (growls, ultra-heavy riffing etc.) Why do you choose to keep embedding such elements in your works? do you find yourself compelled to match the definition of a "metal band," thus obliged to the typical aesthetics?

Krusty: We were and still we are fans of metal music. That´s the answer. A lots of zine editors think metal riffing and guttural voice are too simple and almost stupid. Maybe, but I still like energy and intensity jetting from metal music. On the other hand, we really like progressive music and art rock. We´ve fallen in love with such music about eight years ago, and it still lasts. If you ask me about 100 percent ideal music, I’ll answer, “fusion of energy, atmosphere and musicianship.” Isn´t that a definition of art rock ?? Good news for opponents of metal attributes: we plan to use clear vocals only on our new release. We also want to use more acoustic guitars than distorted ones. We will see.

Maelstrom: Let us talk about some of your releases. I find the idea of Thots intriguing. What led you to beget a creation derivative of "The House of Spirits"? Why did you choose to convey it using such aggressive, stout sonic foundations?

Krusty: Thanx for your nice words. Thots was very successful release for us and for our then record label, Obscene Productions. Something like breakthrough for Forgotten Silence. Some people still think it was our best release ever. The theme of “The House of Spirits” (or novel La Casa De Los Espiritos, which the movie itself was based on) simply amazed me. What an overwhelming and simple theme at the same time !! It is story about life; Nothing more, nothing less. Just read my last answer again. Ha, ha. Do you know this book or movie? It is too dull to say: it is a story of one Chilean family. It might sound like “The Simpsons” or “Married with Children”..ha, ha, ha!! But the novel /book is more serious and much better (although I´m a big fan of the family from Springfield!). I can recommend it to all your readers. All the song material was composed by me and guitarist Medved only. We were a two piece band at that time. It was so funny to rehearse in our rehearsal room with bass and guitar only. Then keyboardist Marty joined us [and since left]. We still miss him. He was very skilled and very creative. Unfortunately, he joined a stupid religious group and quit his musical activities. Drummer Milon wasn´t bad at all, either! Good line-up, good song material, a piece of luck?

Maelstrom: Could you shed some light about the idea of Senyaan? is it a fairy tale, does it convey a certain message? What does the title mean (The story leaves it quite ambiguous)?

Krusty: Surely it is a quite ambiguous. We want people to use their own fantasy and imagination. Senyaan is simply something we´ve lost a time ago. And it might be anything: independence, mental freedom, connection with nature, dead human feelings and emotions, love, tolerance, or an ancient realm/promised land - just like in the story of “Senyaanâ.” Senyaan is like a symbol for me: you can find this word even in The Nameless Forever...the Last Remembrance (MCD from ´94) and our Thots (MCD from´95 + CD from ´96). I remember I was in a strange mood while writing these lyrics. I was really negative and pessimistic about our lives and Senyaan’s lyrics follow this path. Total hopelessness. For me it is the darkest and most hopeless album of all times. Freezing, cold, and white/blue coloured. The story tells about a bunch of people marching through the snow covered plains, dark forests and high mountains and searching for their promised land: the forgotten empire of Senyaan. Only one of them survives. Any message? Huhu, maybe: create your own life and enjoy each day. Don´t let others rule your life. We will keep our fingers crossed, because it is a futile fight.

Maelstrom: On Ka Ba Ach (and earlier on Hathor's Place) you feature a strong influence of oriental, mostly Egyptian themes. How were you inspired to take this direction? Does it have anything to do with your travels around the world?

Krusty: Oh, friend, don´t tell anything about Egyptian themes. A lot of journalists write about Egyptian music, but it is a big mistake. What the hell is it, anyway? I bet NOBODY has ever heard true ancient Egyptian music. There are no dots or sheets of music, played or composed 2000 years B.C. So let´s speak about Arabic or oriental music. Sure it is connected with my traveling. I visited Egypt twice, and it was probably the best time of my life. I´m interested in ancient Egyptian history, architecture, religion and culture. I read a lot of books about this part of history, but I don´t dare to say I understand it. The more you read, the less you know, ha, ha, ha! It will surely sound a bit cocky (just like, “look, I´m an experienced traveller,” but it is BULLSHIT!!), but I visited Al-Uqsur, Abu Simbel, Al-Qahir, Valley of the Kings, pyramids in Saqqara and Al-Jiza, temples of Kawm-Umbu, Idfu, and I was just like in a dream. Wow, I can not write about it. I wrote everything in the <Ka Ba Ach> lyrics. I love this country. That´s all I can say about it. Arabic music attracts me also a lot, so percussive and filled with (for us) strange melodies. We all know about oriental metal bands like Orphaned Land, Pentagram/Mezarkabul, and Vintage Solemnity, I´ve got also artists like Raksha Mancham, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Ahmed Abdul Malik and a lot of folk music from Turkey and they are more true, if you know what I´m talking about. And I can not forget my private goddess Natacha Atlas. I have a lot of friends in Turkey. And I´ve discovered very interesting music thanks to them. Our new 7"EP, <Yarim Ay>, is also inspired by oriental music (and it is dedicated to all my friends in Anatolia). Lyrics are also inspired by my traveling through the Anatolian countryside. Unfortunately, we, the Czechs, aren´t able to compose authentic oriental music, simply because we aren´t from the orient. Look, I love Nile (I mean death band from USA) and I respect them. All their albums are magnificent. But their “oriental” metal is so superficial and imperfect in comparison with the original from orient.

Maelstrom: It seems that you have been focusing on the aforementioned
middle-eastern elements for quite a while now. Should we conclude that Forgotten Silence has finally reached its constant conceptual destination? Or is it just another temporary, slightly longer phase?

Krusty: Ha, ha, I really don´t know, man. Maybe it is our final destination, maybe not! Never say never. As I said, such music inspired me a lot and I will always try to compose such sounding music. Maybe I will form something like a side-project one day. Maybe. I don´t know. Anyway, oriental music is closer to my heart than Irish, French or Czech folklore. More exciting.

Maelstrom: Let us know some more about your process of composition. What comes first, the lyrics or music? How do you match the texts with the accompanying musical background? is there any specific main composer and lyricist in the band?

Krusty: Lyrics or music? Hmm, maybe lyrics are completed sooner. But I wrote lyrics for six songs. Then we made six compositions and finally we matched song and lyrics and put them together. Sad lyrics to sad music. Texts full of energy to intense music, etc. But we have about 10 minutes of new material and no lyrics now. So it differs from time to time. Definitely lyrics are very important and some lyrics are more important than music for me. Music is a result of all band members, but the main composers are guitarist Medved and me. The majority of musical ideas always come from our heads. And I´m the only lyricist.

Maelstrom: I imagine a Forgotten Silence gig to be an outworldly occurrence. Do you manage to arrange such complex compositions to be performed on stage? How does the crowd handle such a challenging experience?

Krusty: I was always totally against us playing live. It was something unthinkable and unimaginable for me. But the rest of the band forced me into it, ha, ha. Our first gig was organized 3.4. 1999 (three days before my travel to Egypt). We played with our friends Sad Harmony as a support band. And this evening was excellent. People from the whole Czech Republic came. Really nice!! And it was not the end of our live performances at all, because we played at Dynamo North Power Jam fest (three days festival with really big names!!) and as a support of mighty Testament the same year. It was in 1999. Then we did one gig in 2000 and three in 2001. I was really afraid of the audience´s responses, but people know our music and they know it is not something extremely catchy and groovy. Our fans are open minded and they don’t expect a straightforward musical holocaust. And if they do, they should visit an death/grind festival, ha, ha! I like death or even grind, but I don´t like to play it.

Maelstrom: I'm very interested in your artistic influences. Please don't only specify the obvious favorite bands and musicians, but also external fields, as visual arts, literature, philosophy...

Krusty: Obvious fave artists firstly: Yes, King Diamond, Asia, Emerson/Lake/Palmer, Vader, Nile, Natacha Atlas, Madonna, Uriah Heep, Rush, Porcupine Tree, King Crimson, Spock’s Beard, Pentagram/Mezarkabul, Orphaned Land, U.K., Sade, Mercyful Fate, Sodom, OSI, Testament, Sebnem Ferah, Mayhem, Bathory... Visual arts? Do you mean graphic designers or painters? Maybe Yes/Asia/Uriah Heep designer Roger Dean. His landscapes are extremely fantastic and almost drug influenced, ha, ha! I know, that guitarist Medved really adores Giger´s artworks. Also, Bosch´s pictures drive us crazy. Literature? Frankly said, I’ve been reading non-fiction literature last four years. Everything about Egypt. But as I remember, I read De Sade´s 120 days of Sodom two months ago, and now Flaubert´s Bouvard + Pecuchet. My big problem is that I bought another book about Egypt again, so another non-fiction literature awaits me again, ha, ha! Philosophy? No, no, nothing. I believe in myself and in nature. I don´t find it interesting to read about another one´s philosophy. I know it is not a very intelligent opinion, but I haven´t needed it this far.

Maelstrom: I believe one may locate two notable characteristics of the Czech metal scene: first, it features much avantgarde experimentation, including a relatively large amount of bands not sticking to the "standard" metal routine. Second, there doesn't seem to be much fascism and racism apparent in it (a situation which is not similar in some of your neighbouring East European countries). What do you think is the reason for these attributes? please, correct me if I'm wrong about any.

Krusty: Hmm, what to say? About fascism and similar shits: you are right, there are more such bullshit in Poland or ex-USSR countries. I absolutely don´t understand it. But I can list you some very dull black metal bands, flirting with nazi/rasism from Czech. Their music isn´t
bad at all, but their image is so strange and I´m very sorry for that. I mention one band only, because I think their music is good: Inferno. Unfortunately, I don´t agree with their philosophy. And avant-garde/experimental bands? Maybe in the past, because for example
Demimonde split up. And they were probably one of the most experimental bands. Most people say we are experimental band and some of them say we are the best Czech experimental crew. But I´m not the one to say we are the best one. It is not my business. The truth is there are some more or less experimental doom bands like Let Od Raje or Dying Passion, but are they really avantgarde/experimental bands?? And what does that mean, anyway?? There is a lot of REALLY experimental artists, especially in our area near Brno. Bands like Boo, Rale, female singer and violin player Iva Bittova, Dunaj, Tara Fukiâ, but there is no connection between them and metal music.

Maelstrom: What is your opinion regarding the creations of racist and fascist artist? Do you find the artistic output to be necessarily connected with their extreme opinion? do you oppose listening to it?

Krusty: Yes, I oppose to listen to it. Lyrics and artist´s image are important for me. It is good to know what your fave singer sings about. That´s why I hate Benton´s Deicide and bands like Graveland. Maybe it is not so good to connect texts and music together. Maybe music itself is the most important and the rest is just like needless ballast. Maybe. On the other hand, I have to admit I listen to artist which lyrics are more or less unknown for me.

Maelstrom: Any new promising rising forces in your local scene you would like to inform us about?

Krusty: I recommend Insania, Sas Harmony, Cerebral Turbulency, Kaviar Kavalier, Hypnos, Anime (band of our ex-guitarist Biggles), Dying Passion.... there are also promising combos like Dissolving Of Prodigy, Endless, Hermafrodit, Ingrowing, Silent Stream Of Goddless Elegy, Avenger, Isacaarum, Dark Gamballe, Vuvrâ, and all the avantgarde musicians from the Brno area I mentioned.

Maelstrom: What are the future plans of Forgotten Silence - albums, gigs, sideprojects...

Krusty: Our last release is still quite actual, because it was released in the end of 2002. It is our fourth 7"EP, called Yar Äim Ay. You can get it both in normal black and picture edition. Our first plan is to form a brand new line-up. The core of Krusty + Medved and new members. Very skilled guitarist Paia joined us a few weeks ago and it is a pleasure to rehearse with him. Everything reminds me our Thots period a lot. Two or three guitarists in the middle of empty rehearsal room trying to make some noise, ha, ha! It´d be great to compose a new album during the next three months and to record/release it in the end of this year. Keep your fingers crossed !!!!!! And then: a few concerts!

Maelstrom: Thank you very much for the time and effort.

Krusty: It was my pleasure to answer your nice questions. Thanx for all and hail to all your readers. Thanx for the support!

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

Everyone’s got ‘em. Those songs that bring you back to a certain experience you had that was marked by a strong emotional state. Students of a technique called neuro linguistic programming call these things anchors. That’s kind of a cold way to think about it. It’s more like flavors. The Gathering’s latest album, Souvenirs, is about such connections.

It’s certainly been a huge transformation since the group’s first record in 1992, when they were a doom metal band with pinch harmonic riffs, weedy keyboards and growly vocals. From the release of the first Anneke van Giersbergen-fronted record, The Gathering slowly eschewed their metal leanings, but never lost the emotionally heavy yet exquisite melody.

Since their last triumph, 2000's if_then_else, Holland’s favorite melancholic rock band has embraced the jazz/ trip elements from that record and devoted an entire work to them. It’s been a metamorphosis of somewhat Ulverian proportions, which is quite fitting as Kris Rygg, Ulver’s main man, guest sings on Souvenirs. I spoke to drummer Hans Rutten about how things were going.

Maelstrom: Tell me about the new record.

Hans Rutten: This time we worked a lot on the rhythm section. We wanted more drums and bass oriented songs.

Maelstrom: You have a lot more of this jazz-type drumming. It’s more laid back and a lot of interesting use of the high hat. They’re not odd times, but they feel sort of odd. It’s a huge contrast with your first record with Anneke, Mandylion. Just in terms of the drums, it’s a lot more interesting now.

Hans Rutten: Thanks very much. I think so, too.

Maelstrom: What was the impetus that made you start to go in this direction?

Hans Rutten: We never said to each other, “let’s not make a metal record this time.” It just sort of happens. We listen to a lot of music. We let our compositions run freely. There are a lot of exciting bands right now that affect us. We’re not trying to copy them, but we’re trying to rebuild the Gathering sound every album. We had some feedback on if_then_else; we discussed what we liked and what we didn’t like. Things we liked a lot were songs like “Amity” and “Analog Park.” We flirted with a bit of stoner rock things with “Colorado Incident” and “Shot to Pieces,” but it’s not our strongest point. There are better stoner rock bands.

Maelstrom: I don’t think there are enough of them.

Hans Rutten: That also!... We at really at our best at songs like “Amity.” That was the starting point of Souvenirs. Hugo (Geerligs, bass) and I also wanted to achieve something more organic, and as you said, laid back. We wanted to have a groove in it.

Maelstrom: You don’t play with your hi-hat open on the new record. The result is that it’s a lot quieter.

Hans Rutten: It is. It’s all to achieve a crystal clear sound. The bombast is gone. At first we had massive guitars. Those are gone. With an open hi-hat, you fill the entire high spectrum. I come from a doom metal band: Always, our first record, has doom oriented drums. There’s more in life than doom metal. I still love doom metal, but you want to grow and do new things.

Maelstrom: Kris Rygg does a duet with Anneke on the new album. Have you met Kris Rygg?

Hans Rutten: No.

Maelstrom: How did The Gathering hook up with him?

Hans Rutten: I bought the Ulver Perdition City album, and I really loved it. The development of Ulver touched me a lot. It’s more or less the same story as The Gathering. I really love Perdition City very, very much. I think it’s a masterpiece. I sent him an email and wanted to give him a CD. He was very enthusiastic. We sent him a demo, and he sang on it and made some piano lines in his own studio. He promised us that he’d sing this song with us when we play in Oslo, though he hates to play live. It’ll be a very cultish kind of thing.

Maelstrom: You mentioned briefly about things you didn’t like about if_then_else. Like what?

Hans Rutten: Production-wise, it was a total mess. We did some stupid things. Going from analog to digital, some things went wrong. We didn’t have enough time or enough money, so we had to finish the album not totally satisfied, though we were satisfied about a lot of songs. This time, we said to each other that we would finish it first and then make an announcement, which is obviously quite difficult to do. We had already written a good bit of it in 2001. It’s like a good bottle of wine. “Kill your darlings” is a good term for it. We killed a lot of darlings, because we had the time.

Maelstrom: I have to say that in spite of your comments, if_then_else is my favorite Gathering album. I like the songs a lot. Speaking of this record, I wanted to ask you about the last track, “Pathfinder.” It’s a wonderful end to this record. Is there any sort of theme about this? You’ve got this sort of bee-like, humming sound. It’s really wonderful.

Hans Rutten: Well, it’s just a nice title. It was a sort of imaginary film title track. At that time, we wrote the theme from “The Cyclist.” We love to create movies in our head - maybe it’s a stupid hobby - and then write the music to it. That’s what happened with “Pathfinder.”

Maelstrom: One of the big contrasts I find between Souvenirs and the last records is that Souvenirs is a lot more cut and dried. What I mean is, the last two records seemed to have a theme or a lot of parts like on “Pathfinder” or “Analog Park” that have this ambient wandering in it. It gave a lot more fullness to the record, whereas this one sounds like 10 separate songs that start and end.

Hans Rutten: Exactly. We wanted to have a more homogeneous idea. The diversity on the last record was maybe a strong point, yet also a weak point. “Pathfinder” is totally different from “Shot to Pieces.” It’s a bit too much diversity. So we decided to create an atmosphere to stay in for Souvenirs. We wanted too much on if_then_else. It was too much a playground.

Maelstrom: I really discovered if_then_else when I took the promo of it on my trip to Norway in 2000. I went to Bergen and was checking out the famous Fantoft church. It rains in Bergen like, 265 days out of the year. It was pouring down rain, and I’m standing there, listening to my walkman, listening to “Amity.” Whenever I hear that...

Hans Rutten: ...you’re back.

Maelstrom: I’m back there, wandering through these little patches of forest, visiting this church, and it makes me so happy.

Hans Rutten: Exactly. So “Amity” is a musical souvenir for you.

Maelstrom: Yup.

Hans Rutten: Well, that explains a bit the title of Souvenirs. I think that’s the best compliment we can get. “Amity” is connected with some image you have. That’s really great to hear. I have a lot of songs myself - not Gathering songs, of course - that draw me back into time to very good moments; sometimes bad moments. Most of the time good moments: holidays, ex-girlfriends, whatever.

Maelstrom: Can you think of a song that brings you back like that?

Hans Rutten: Well, I’m a big Police fan. If I hear Ghost in the Machine, which was the first album I ever bought, I go back in time to my youth. I’m with my mother and she’s making sandwiches for me. I smell the air, I smell the house, I smell the old cat walking around. When I put on that album, no matter how depressed I am, I’m there again. It’s a sort of catharsis.

Maelstrom: Where do you live in Holland?

Hans Rutten: In live in a small city near the German border, called Nijmegen. It’s a very old city, built by the Romans 2,000 years ago. In fact, I live in a house that dates from the 15th Century, or something. One of the first stone houses in Nijmegen. That’s interesting, and sometimes a bit spooky, because it’s really alive. It’s an organic building. That’s what I really like a lot. I had two American friends from Chicago stay with me, and they didn’t sleep at all. They heard a lot of noises. Not animals or mice...the house is very old and you hear everything.

Maelstrom: What are you most fanatical about?

Hans Rutten: I’m quite fanatical about defending things. It could be my girlfriend, the band, whatever. If somebody comes to the band and says something negative, I’m in flames, really. I’ve got a bad temper. Not killing somebody, but flaming. I know it’s not that good, but it’s there.

Maelstrom: You you’re the aggressive, passionate one in the band?

Hans Rutten: (laugh) Yeah. My brother (René Rutten, guitar) also.

Maelstrom: So it runs in the family.

Hans Rutten: Our name is Rutten. We originally come from Norway. It means “rotten” in Norwegian. I think our ancestors were a bunch of Vikings - really harsh and loud and drinking beer. Roaming and plundering the little Dutch rivers. I think there’s still a bit of that left.

Maelstrom: If you guys are the fierce ones, what about the other people in the band?

Hans Rutten: They’re the more relaxed ones. René and I are by far the most hot-blooded ones. The other ones are always telling us to take it easy. So there’s a balance.

Maelstrom: If you look for Gathering records, you can still find them in the metal section, at least in the United States.

Hans Rutten: In Holland also. It’s a stigma we can’t get rid of.

Maelstrom: You’re not on Century Media anymore, right?

Hans Rutten: No.

Maelstrom: Why not?

Hans Rutten: The contract was fulfilled.

Maelstrom: They gave you pretty good promotion, didn’t they?

Hans Rutten: Maybe in America... We wanted to go on and continue and do something else.

Maelstrom: So you’re on your own label now?

Hans Rutten: Yes, Psychonaut is our own. It’s very good to start our own thing.

Maelstrom: Are you going to have other bands?

Hans Rutten: Not this year. We are a very big band on a very small label, so we have a lot of work. In the end, we will sign bands.

Maelstrom: On your upcoming tours, whom are you playing with?

Hans Rutten: In our tour in Norway, we’ll play with Pale Forest, a very interesting Norwegian band.

Maelstrom: They’re also considered a metal band, though.

Hans Rutten: Yeah, but they’re not metal at all.

Maelstrom: I know, but...

Hans Rutten: ...but they’re still in the metal section, yeah. But, what is metal? Maybe we have to redefine metal, then.

Maelstrom: I’m not arguing with you about that.

Hans Rutten: No, I know.

Maelstrom: It’s kind of funny that you’re going out with bands that are...

Hans Rutten: ...post metal...

Maelstrom: ...considered metal, but there’s nothing really metal about them.

Hans Rutten: There’s a post metal scene going on... Art rock. Of course we still feel connected because we’re still in the metal scene, but we make more friendly music. Strange. I think maybe we have to redefine metal. For me, metal is not only distorted guitars and loud drums and making strange, satanic poses. It’s maybe a bit more broad than everybody thinks.

Maelstrom: For example, we were talking about Kris Rygg before. Kris Rygg sells most of his Jester Records albums through metal channels, even though Jester has nothing to do with metal at all.

Hans Rutten: It’s the darkness. There’s still a sort of doomy darkness that’s present in his material. You have to get connected to something, or else you don’t have an audience at all. You need a starting point, even if you’re a pioneer. With metal, you can experiment a lot. It’s a very healthy, experimental playground.

Maelstrom: Will you see yourself ever playing the Wacken Open Air festival again?

Hans Rutten: Uhh...we’d have to consider it.

Maelstrom: What was your experience like?

Hans Rutten: We played in ‘99, after our American tour. We had enormous jet lag. I don’t even remember anymore. I was half awake. It was a good response. We played quite a lot of How to Measure a Planet songs, so the reaction was quite mellow, which is normal. There was sun, a lot of drunken Germans sitting in the grass.

Maelstrom: Do you think your fan base is mostly male or mostly female?

Hans Rutten: It think it’s around 50/50. It’s good. Metal and rock and alternative kind of people come. It’s really great. We’re really crossing over, and it feels good.

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9/10 Roberto
 

1349 - Liberation - CD - Candlelight Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Extreme music is like drugs. Something comes along and a dose of it totally overwhelms the listener through its qualities of being fast or weirdly angular or deteriorated or bizarre or just fucked up. Then, if the listener likes it and keeps returning to it, the sounds eventually seem to slow down in his or her head, making the surrounding sound planes easier to comprehend. Then it's time for a new, more intense fix. The process repeats itself again and again.

1349 is the latest fix. This Norwegian black metal band has released an MCD (reviewed in issue #7) a few years ago that was adequate, but nowhere near as impacting as this. Liberation is a full-length album's worth of unbelievable speed and intensity.

The Norwegians still can write some of the best black metal riffs in the world; ruggedly melodic and fierce and proud, with that signature way of sustained, high-pitched picking. It's remarkable that as a group, the Norwegians have a very different, and arguably superior style to that of their neighbors, the Swedes, who prefer a more flowery signature whose delivery carries less weight but perhaps more grace. Seems like there's some parallels between the two countries' languages. But I digress. 1349 unleash track after track of hard-hitting Norwegian riff through fuzzed out, fucked up black metal guitars and bass, fronted by perfectly scathing vocals by a man whose vocal delivery can only be a result of him being on fire.

But the best of all is the impossible drumming of Satyricon's Frost. I say "impossible" as the drums have got to be sped up. There's just no human way anyone could play like this (and the resonance of the drums do sound unnaturally shorter and faster). But then again, maybe there is a way, and knowing what Frost has been capable of in Satyricon, the notion seems more and more plausible. But sped up or not, it really doesn't matter, as the resulting sonic experience is what is most important.

You listen to bands like Anaal Nathrakh or Octinomos, who use drum machines as their percussive intent is beyond any mortal's capabilities, but then that perception is put into question when you hear this. Near omnipresent inhuman speed and precision take a rest only a few times to let you breathe before choking you again with sustained strikes that most capable drummers couldn't play with two hands. The drums are mixed in with the all the rage of the other elements and delivered in an atypical sounding production that brings up images of listening to an album while you record it at 2X speed during a sandstorm.

Liberation may just do that, and free you, for a while at least, from whatever angst you may be carrying. Forget Marduk, you want this. At least until the next fix. (9/10) 

 

 

 

 
5.6/10 Abhi
 

ABYSS LORD - Rising From the Depths - CD - grutter-grutze@web.de

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Abyss Lord hail from Germany and are the fifth such band that I am reviewing in this issue (No don’t ask me which are the other ones, just keep reading all the reviews till you find out..heh). This four-song MCD is not as disappointing as some of their comrades’, but still not much worth getting all excited about.

Their intentions are pretty clear right from the start: to write classic death metal songs in the style of Bolt Thrower. Well, the compositions do not attain classic status in this recording but they are pretty solid nevertheless. Solid, except for the third song, “Abyss Lord.” Here they suddenly decided to give the Bolt Thrower worship some rest and record something that sounds like a cross between Diabolus in Musica-era Slayer and Six Feet Under (I don’t have to mention which era of Six Feet Under; everything they’ve ever released sounds the same and is crap).

As far as the other songs are concerned, “F.F. Terror” is the best of the lot, filled with all those hauntingly melodic and creepy crawly moments that make The IVth Crusade (Bolt Thrower) such a pleasure to listen to. “Loathsome Dreaming” is so classic Bolt Thrower that they might even be covering them! This song also has the only experimental part in the whole CD, a nice transition from distorted heavy guitars to acoustic, spoken word section. Abyss Lord should perhaps focus on adding more parts like this to their sound so that next time around they sound less like a Bolt Thrower cover band. I have said the B-word too many times already, but if you like that style of death metal, keep your eye on this band. (5.6/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

AEONS CONFER - The Soul of the Universe - CD - www.aeonsconfer.com

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Aeons Confer, a six-piece band from Hamburg, Germany, certainly impresses on this six-song, 17-minute demo MCDR. The music is largely in the vein of fast Dimmu Borgir, but not as in your face. The melodies are aptly chosen to accompany the speedy constructions, and the material benefits by the way all the instruments are in harmony with each other.

The digital production, too, sounds great, although the choice of drum trigger sound could be better and less alien. If you like your metal to suggest to you sidereal images of comets streaking in an aggressive fashion, then contact this band. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Laurent
7.5/10 Larissa P.
 

AEREOGRAMME - Sleep and Release - CD - Matador Records

review by: Laurent Martini

Imagine that you took the best of the Pixies and mixed it with what you loved best about Smashing Pumpkins. Would you like that? Then you’ll love Aerogramme, or should I say you’ll love the first two songs off of Sleep and Release. Afterwards, it’s a different story.

“Indiscretion #243" and “Black Path” are the best opening songs I’ve heard to an album since James’ Please to Meet You. They are incredible musical gems sounding like the offshoot of the Pixies’ “Debaser” and Pumpkins’ “Disharm.” How could such a great beginning go so wrong? And what’s up with the label Matador? This is the exact same thing that happened with Interpol’s album.

The rest of Sleep and Release is so disappointing it hurts. “A Simple Process” is slow and lacks originality. “Older” and “Not Really” are indiscernible from a thousand other angsty anthems, and “Yes” is just plain bad. The only worthwhile song near the end is “In Gratitude,” and that’s mostly because one’s been listening to crap for the past 20 minutes.

This inconsistency would usually make me give the band a bad review but here I feel cheated and frustrated because of the absolute greatness of the opening tracks. It seems that Aerogramme might be trying to do too much, mixing in too many influences thus causing the output to greatly suffer. The band needs to choose which road it wants to travel; the Pixies (yes, yes, yes) or the “I am a very deep and angry white male” (no, no, no!!!!!) (5.5/10)

review by: Larissa Parson

While perhaps some of the tracks on Aereogramme’s latest are unoriginal, there is something to be said for the beauty of a formula. Take, for example, “A Simple Process of Elimination,” which fits nicely into the niche recently popularized by such current luminaries as Sigur Rós, with a bit of Mogwai thrown in for good measure. There’s nothing wrong with slowing down every now and then to savor the sounds you can make with a guitar. At full volume in a two-ton metal box on the road, this album is transcendent.

For what it’s worth, “Older” does start out like any old angst-ridden tune, but quickly puts brakes on the tempo, leading into another soundscape. Lyrically, perhaps, it is lacking, but we all have those “emo” days. I will admit that “No Really Everything’s Fine” and “Wood” are fairly pedestrian. That’s what the skip button is made for. The last three tracks on the album, however, are worth waiting for. “A Winter’s Dischord,” an acoustic piece, and “—“ end the album as peacefully as it began loud, but not without making a brief foray into loudness. (7.5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
A Story in White (issue No 7)  

 

 

 
8/10 Roberto
 

AETERNUS - A Darker Monument - CD - Candlelight Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

A Darker Monument marks a return to form of Aeturnus' former glory. Well, sort of. While fans of Aeturnus' initial style - the one with the endless, droning riffs and proud, medieval acoustic interludes - may find some of that past splendour to savor here, A Darker Monument is rather more like Shadows of Old, the record that marked Aeturnus' move into slicker, more death metal territory.

Perhaps A Darker Monument is in comparison to the edifice that Aeturnus erected in their previous record, Ascension of Terror (review in issue #7), as the new record is slower and lower. And it's really great.

The criticisms made in the review of Ascension… were too harsh overall, as that record is quite good, but undoubtedly mediocre by Aeturnus' standards. (As of fall, 2004, we're utterly reversing our review of Ascension to proclaim it a triumph -- Roberto) What's been improved on so much on A Darker… is the production, which really gives the heavier compositions more weight. Ares' vocals are fuller and richer, the signature riffs have more depth, and the trademark drumming sounds more organic, which all contribute to a strange sense of thunderous calm.

Like on Shadows of Old Aeturnus still has its share of death metal riffs, which are concentrated mainly in the first half of the album. However, the rampant, obnoxious instances when these elements got out of control on Ascension of Terror have been tempered; so, no more horrendously out of place pinch harmonics here. The only iffy moments here come in song two, where some rather strange, half clean and half harsh, multi-tracked vocal experimentation is going on. Hopefully this will go in the same bin as Ares' clean singing forays on Shadows of Old.

The second half is more like the old band people like me fell in love with due to the relatively relaxed feeling from the absence of such death metal leanings and a mid-paced plod that allows the trademark Aeturnus signatures to come out more, signatures that ironically have been becoming more pronounced since the bands stylistic change when Shadows… was released.

Are Aeturnus' best albums their first two full-lengths? Yes. Will Aeturnus go back to its old style? No. Should we lament this? Not really, for despite a bit of concern after the last record, it turns out that Aeturnus has not lost its character after all. In fact, it's gotten stronger, although the band could still stand to be a bit less brutal. Fans and newcomers alike will definitely like this record from this exciting and original band. (8/10) 

 

Related reviews:
 
Burning the Shroud (issue No 3)  
Ascension of Terror (issue No 7)  

 

 

 
10/10 Abhi
 

ALIENATION MENTAL - Ball Spouter - CD - Khaaranus Productions

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Ladies and Gentlemen, please get ready to shed all notions of what technical, extreme and bizarre death/grind is. Forget your Cryptopsies, forget your Cephalic Carnages, you have now entered the world of Alienation Mental.

Ball Spouter is a very vague title for an album, and it brought to my mind images of a machine gone out of control, spinning at terminal velocity and spewing out smouldering ball bearings. Which, as it turned out to be, is quite an apt description of Alienation Mental’s style, if not for the fact that they hardly sound out of control at all. Never before have I heard such insanely fast and complicated riff structures being churned out with such an absolute sniper-rifle precision.

How this band manages to stay in time is beyond me. From finger ripping fast riffs to the chunky style grind of Intense Hammer Rage, they never lose a beat in between. On top of that they even add bizarre electronic elements, DJ disc scratching and other weird assortments into their music. This firmly consolidates my belief that the Czech Republic has the best talent as far as grind is concerned. Woe to the man who thinks grind is boring, conventional, dogmatic and simple to play, for I am going to play him Alienation Mental and watch him go numb with absolute shock.

They have two guitarists, Pavel and Michal, who are responsible for most of the carnage, which Jarda the drum terrorist shares in. He works on two speed levels: fast blastbeats and even faster blastbeats. Milan has been credited with the screams but there seems to be some backing vocals as I hear low pitched growls, insane shrieking and frog croaks in the due course of the album. I cannot even begin to imagine what the bassist, Mirek, must be going through in trying to keep up with these maniacs. He does an admirable job.

Only Origin’s recent album gives this some competition in terms of technicality, but ultimately Alienation Mental has the upper edge because they have also written some amazing riffs that you remember after the album’s finished. Even the experimental parts like the song “Children of South” with its rap like disc scratching and hip hop beats just exude an aura of total coolness. The bottom line, obviously is that this is one album you JUST NEED TO HAVE. This is my Pick of the Issue #1.

Band Contact: alienation.mental@centrum.cz Label Contact: lolokar@mybox.cz (10/10) 

 

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

ALL IS SUFFERING - Execution by Flamethrower - CD - aismob@hotmail.com

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Not one, not two, but three All is Suffering recordings have made their way to the Maelstrom review desk, which is good news for all as this band should be taken notice of. On the six-track Execution by Flamethrower, All is Suffering continue to provide some good ass-kicking with their hybrid style of extreme metal genres and punk. Compared to the quintessential The Past: Vindictive Sadisms of Petty Bureaucrats (reviewed in issue #12 and Roberto's top ten albums of 2002), Execution by Flamethrower is much more punk, and as a result, actually sounds kind of happy in comparison, as impossible as that seems.

And while Execution by Flamethrower is good, it pales in comparison to the crushing splendor of The Past…, which we can certainly excuse All is Suffering for not ever managing to duplicate. The vocals aren't as insane and the seething, furious riffs and stunning drumming are largely absent. If you haven't heard The Past…, stop reading now, contact Crucial Blast Industries and get that record. Like me, you'll want all this other stuff too. (7/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
The Past: Vindictive Sadisms of Petty Bureaucrats (issue No 12)  
Surge of Medical Power (issue No 13)  
Mauthausen (issue No 13)  

 

 

 
8/10 Roberto
 

ALL IS SUFFERING - Surge of Medical Power - CD - Scenester Credentials

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Funny how mediums and locales make a difference on a listener’s impressions. The two tracks on this 7" that are also found on the latest CD (reviewed above) by this essential band sounded good the four times I listened to them on my headphones and in my car, but here they sound awesome. I dunno why. Give my roommate’s shitty record player and halfway decent stereo, and the medium of vinyl the credit. A nice 7" to pick up if you’re a vinyl maniac. (8/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
The Past: Vindictive Sadisms of Petty Bureaucrats (issue No 12)  
Execution by Flamethrower (issue No 13)  
Mauthausen (issue No 13)  

 

 

 
8/10 Roberto
 

ALL IS SUFFERING - Mauthausen - CD - Renaissance Recordings

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Like the other 7" reviewed in this issue, Mauthausen also sounds killer, but I’m tacking on a disclaimer that you may have to listen to it on my roommate’s stereo to get the full effect.

Seriously, though, the three songs that are on display here that are taken from the full length The Past: Vindictive Sadisms of Petty Bureaucrats (reviewed in last issue and in my top 10 of 2002!) are superb. Thankfully, the track “Mauthausen” and its soul crushing choral interlude made the cut. The emotion conveyed by this track is the perfect aural counterbalance to the hauntingly provocative artwork of a Nazi in the process of hanging a man while a girl dangles on the end of her own rope. All three people in the picture have the same expression. It hits you right there in your gut, just like this crushing band. (8/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
The Past: Vindictive Sadisms of Petty Bureaucrats (issue No 12)  
Execution by Flamethrower (issue No 13)  
Surge of Medical Power (issue No 13)  

 

 

 
8.5/10 Matt
 

ALLEGIANCE - Hymns of Blod - CD - WWIII Records

review by: Matt Smith

I enjoyed this CD more than most everything else I reviewed this time around. “Blistering” is a good adjective to describe it. Allegiance is like a mixture of Marduk (which is appropriate, since Allegiance now has Fredrick Andersson and his crazy-fast extremities) and Amon Amarth, soaking their Viking-themed black metal in blast beats and fast-picked guitars.

The drum fills are insanely fast and accurate, though accuracy never seems to be a problem with the Swedes. A few slower parts featuring synthesizers or acoustic guitars are thrown in for variety, and prove that Allegiance can do a little down-tempo stuff. But the best parts are blazing fast and raw as hell. I’ll definitely be listening to Hymns of Blod for as long as I can stand its intensity. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Roberto
 

AMBER ASYLUM - Frozen in Amber (reissue) - CD - Neurot Recordings

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The debut album of Amber Asylum, the brainchild of the prolific violinist Kris Force, has been re-mastered and reissued with three bonus tracks. These aren't the tacked on kind of bonus thingies that are so often on reissues; you know, like demo tape stuff or live stuff whose sound quality is entirely different and who ultimately break the flow of the album. Not at all; these bonus tracks are as integral to Frozen in Amber as track one, "Volcano Suite."

Frozen in Amber is a collection of mostly acoustic instruments such as cello, piano, clarinet, guitar and violin that are reinforced by some plugged in instruments like samplers and keyboards. Vocals surface occasionally, invoking images of the shades of beautiful women's souls. The whole is an eclectic and cohesive collection of pieces that range from the 10-minute "Volcano Suite" and its melodic themes, to much shorter pieces of rich, droning ambiance.

Force and company deliver taste, style and clarity on every melancholic note. On Frozen in Amber, Amber Asylum has a knack for being able to bend notes in and out of key ever so slightly, often giving the music a feeling of decaying decadence, like a luxurious tea parlor that's falling apart. By the time the interpretation of Bach's "Cello Suite in G Major," with scratchy record ambience and minimal vocals, comes to a close, you can actually see the ghosts float across the room.

Frozen in Amber weaves a classy tapestry of warmth and melancholy to soothe the hearts of savage beasts of all musical tastes. Where so many classical music albums fail, Frozen in Amber succeeds as its music is precisely composed with the intention to be presented on a recorded medium and enjoyed as such. We definitely recommend you getting this, especially if you own and loved the original issue. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Roberto
 

ANAAL NATHRAKH - When Fire Rains Down from the Sky, Mankind Will Reap As It Has Sown - CD - Mordgrimm Records

review by: Roberto Martinellli

Wow, ANOTHER Anaal Nathrakh record! I can’t get enough. This latest recording from these most hate filled British high-tech metallers is largely in the same vein as their debut album, The Codex Necro (review in issue #7), but with a less heavy production.

So you’ll get more of the insanely precise, blistering riffs with fucked to shit vocals and drum machine on overdrive, but with less of the fluff, as When Fire Rains Down... is plainly six songs with no intros or outros or samples. It’s not all choking speed this time, as the album slows down quite a bit, especially around the end of the record. Also making a debut are clean vocals, which are a success.

Guest starring on this EP are Attila Csihar and Seth Teitan of Aborym fame, who both bring something to the table with their trademark vocals and excellent solos, respectively. Csihar does all the vocals on one track, so no duets with the regular Anaal Nathrakh vocalist.

Providing perhaps a bit less of an impact than The Codex Necro, When Fire Rains Down from the Sky, Mankind Will Reap As It Has Sown is a necessary purchase for anyone who liked the debut, as well as those who are fans of Aborym or Octinomos, or just lovers of fast and fucked music. (8/10) 

 

Related reviews:
 
The Codex Necro (issue No 7)  
Total Fucking Necro (issue No 12)  

 

 

 
7.5/10 Jez
 

ANDROMEDA - II=I - CD - Century Media Records

review by: Jez Andrews

I admit that it was NOT the best of ideas to listen to a lot of Rush and Dream Theater before taking my first taste of Andromeda. There are quite a few bands whose music is both complex and diverse, yet effective and accessible at the same time. The true greats are those who create such music without any signs of strain or imitation. Before going any further, it should be pointed out that this, the second album from these rising Swedish metallers, is steeped in Dream Theater influence The shifting time signatures and moods, the jazzy keyboard solos, the soulful vocals, virtuoso basslines, it's all there. Do not, however, imagine that I'm trying to rip into them. The tracks have been recorded fantastically.

The title track sounds like the work of Mike Patton, but despite this and the aforementioned prog metal inspiration, Andromeda have put a great deal of themselves into this album. The song structures have been very well designed, and the very ambience of II=I allows the listener to feel treated to the finer, more cultured side of metal. Yup, Andromenda are among the Frasier Cranes of their art.

After a while, the track listing became more and more meaningless, as I preferred to think of the album as one continuous stream of flashy musicianship and thrilling uncertainty. The band would probably hate me for saying so, but I really don't see this as the kind of stuff you could headbang to, much less play accurate air guitar (though my respect goes out to those who could). The moments of chugging thrash seemed to compliment the background nicely, yet with one snap of the fingers, the guitars could become part of the background themselves. There is something most elegant, and at the same time annoying ly boy band-ish about “Castaway,” but this being the most straight-forward' track, I was willing to overlook any flaws. The one real criticism I have of Andromeda is that they seem to get off on their use of odd time and syncopation. When applied in moderation, it can have most effective results, but these guys are just going overboard, especially on “Parasite” and “One in My Head.”

Rhythmn-wise, one for the Meshuggah fans, and anybody who finds themselves drawn to this album, it would also be worth checking out Planet X's Moon Babies. (7.5/10) 

 

Related reviews:
 
Extension of the Wish (issue No 6)  

 

 

 
Antigama 7/10 Jan Ag 3.8/10 Roberto
 

ANTIGAMA/ JAN AG - Siekiera/ Destination Death - CD - http://antigama.cjb.net

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Antigama’s five covers of grind/punk band Siekiera are heavy and crushing and tough. With a bass guitar sound as big as a house and simple, infectious riffs that explode regularly into blast beat craziness, it’s a really good time. The vocals are gruff and muscular, and the combination of the huge guitar tone and the grindcore like snare that cuts through with its pinging is a nice contrast.

Jan Ag’s act is a cool contrast in itself, but only for a while, and only in relation to the Antigama side. This one man side project of famed grind band Agathocles features a lot of warped vocals and instrumentation propelled by a dancy drum machine. The vox and tones are thick and work well for the first track or maybe two, but dummy, rhythmic lyrics about swinging an axe in my back get old fast. Jan Ag’s work could be better if the overall sound were thicker and heavier. (Antigama 7/10, Jan Ag 3.8/10) 

 

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

ANTIGAMA - promo rehearsal 2003 - CD - www.antigama.cjb.net

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Calling this a promo rehearsal is doing Antigama a disservice. You might expect this to have been recorded in some shitty basment, and the result to be rough and muddy, but it’s quite the opposite. The four tracks of grindy/punky, freak out music presented here are heavy without being bloated, and vary in speed without varying in intensity.

It’s cool to see that Antigama’s own, proper style has more depth than the material that was displayed on the split with Jan Ag (see below). Here, tasty elements like epileptic saxophone that is mixed just right complements the killer bass work to create engaging songs. The final track is a Godflesh cover “Anything is Mine,” and its slow, crushing delivery is an excellent way to round out this all-too short, nine-minute MCD. Great demo. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
1/10 Roberto
 

AUSTERITY PROGRAM, THE - Terra Nova EP - CD - Hydrahead Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Just as we recommend albums to you, there are others that we feel it is our duty to steer you clear of. The Austerity Program’s Terra Nova EP is one of the latter. I haven’t heard every record that Hydrahead has put out, but I feel secure in saying that this is by far the worst thing to come out from that generally reliable label.

The Austerity Program is billed as being the music of two dorky, middle-class white guys trying to be hard. Don’t expect a twist. Sure, there are elements that this duo does that speak of some interesting experimentation, but much of the time you get the impression that the Terra Nova EP is like an inside joke that you’re a third party to.

It’s kind of good for the first two and a half minutes. The guitar and bass have a nice ambiance to them. The sound of the instruments and the drum machine may be flat and too clinical, but it could be promising. However, whatever high hopes are dashed immediately once the first vocals are uttered. Out of control, cracking and limp, the feeble attempts at both extremity and something approaching melody doom this project. The way the lyrics come across as bad Beatnik poetry cements the notion of an album that’s attempting to be arty. Plainly avoid. (1/10)

 

 

 

 

BATHORY - Nordland II - CD - Black Mark Productions

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Part two of two of this latest, Viking inspired chapter from this metal institution features more of the same vibe found on part one, and even more bad yet epic singing. But we love it because it’s Bathory.

Truly, now, the singing is very, very bad - like the worst stuff in Nordland I, but throughout the entire record, and much worse even than the landmark Twilight of the Gods album. The sort of melodic, kind of screamed and very strained vocals work if you try hard throughout to keep in mind that the singer is a Viking warrior. I mean, beyond the mastery of the patented “o-o-o-o” style, Vikings aren’t supposed to be able to sing well, are they? (Well, not the men, anyway.)

This aside, the music on Nordland II is perhaps the most epic yet from this seminal metal band. Things get more aggressive at times, like on the thrashy parts of “Death and Resurrection of a Northern Son,” but mostly the music speaks of how fucking great it is to be a Scandinavian warrior. The sound has a definite old school feel to it, and those who have loved Bathory for a long time will surely not be disappointed.

And that’s really it in a nutshell. Bathory fans will love this, but Johnny-come-latelys might not get what the big whoop is all about. Being into Bathory is as much about being interested in the music as it is in the mystique and history, and if you get that, then buy this record.


 

Related reviews:
 
Nordland I (issue No 11)  

 

 

 
0.5/10 Roberto
 

BIG BABY SATAN - Big Baby Satan - CD - www.bigbabysatan.com

review by: Roberto Martinelli

There’s no doubt that the trio that make up Big Baby Satan had a great time making this CD and really enjoy being in this band. Maelstrom supports them in this. However, the issue at hand is whether you, the reader, should spend money or effort on this or any recording we review. Sadly, in this case the answer is no.

Big Baby Satan play heavy, simplistic metal with rock beats, and thus are able to play the style with no problem. And although the guitar and bass tones are right, the biggest strike against them is in the restrained production that really does the band a disservice.

Big Baby Satan’s song ideas don’t go much farther beyond two and a half minutes of generic riffing that does nothing to impress the listener with any notion that thought or care was put into arrangements. The last track is a total goof-off cover of a Dio song with sloppy vocals. While this was no doubt really fun for the three Big Baby Satan dudes to do, it doesn’t make any connection to anyone approaching it from a stranger’s point of view. Indeed, that sums up the entire record. I hate writing reviews like this. (0.5/10)

 

 

 

 
3/10 Matt
 

BIOHAZARD - Kill or Be Killed - CD - Sanctuary Records

review by: Matt Smith

Biohazard, eh? Sophistication still doesn’t play a big role in their music, and I think they’re trying to do something that’s a little to foreign to them. They’re attempting to be harder than they’re physically able. Song titles like “Heads Kicked In” and “Beaten Senseless” don’t even make for amusing content, let alone innovation.

The “new” Biohazard appears to be inspired by Sepultura more than anyone, but they don’t pull it off. The vocals, for example, sometimes sound like Max Cavalera on a bad day. However, occasional deep growls layered on top of crunchy guitars sound good with a tribal-sounding beat in the background.

Kill or be Killed is not entirely disagreeable, but much of it is unoriginal and unimpressive. Stoner-metal fans might enjoy some of the slow, drudging sections. Their consistent 4/4 pattern makes Biohazard easy to follow, but essentially there’s not enough going on to keep the music interesting. (3/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Laurent
 

BIRDTREE - Orchards and Caravans - CD - Last Visible Dog

review by: Laurent Martini

Orchards and Caravans is a mix of sound collages and of mood and musical experiments. Overall, the album is fairly good with an interesting mix of instruments (“Mary Ann”) and ghostly vocals (“Animals of the Summit”) that create a wonderful, ethereal sound.

Unfortunately, at times the band drags on as they seem lost in their experimentation with no clear way to go and no end in sight. This makes for what seems interminable songs (though most clock in at under three minutes) and a few letdowns. “The Repetitive Pillar of Clouds” is a disappointing follow up to the imaginative “White Sundials Faced the Sun.” Overall a good buy but not as good as Glenn Donaldson's primary band, Thuja. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
4.5/10 Abhi
 

BLOOD - Dysangelium - CD - Morbid Records

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

The only other Blood album I have heard is the debut, Impulse to Destroy, and not much seems to have changed with their song structures since then. They still can’t handle any more than two riffs per song. Okay, sure, credit is due to the band that they haven’t betrayed their roots, but after seven albums you would expect any band to significantly improve their song writing skills. I also agree they have come up with some nice catchy riffs but why do they have to kill each and every good riff they write by repeating it five times in a song?

The sound is pretty good and the guitars get a heavy treatment. The emphasis on grindcore is much less pronounced on this album and instead there are a lot of old school death metal influences. But these influences sound drunk and retarded rather than dark and evil. And evidently after using two riffs per song, sometimes even less, they still ran out of riffs and had to re-use some riffs with some modifications. For instance, “Garbage Can Biotope” starts off with a very similar riff found in album opener “Blood Pulsation.”

The best moments on this album are the aggressive blasts on “Jesus Descent,” the catchy riffs on “Penalty” and “Wormbody,” and the cool song “Breaking Bounds.” I might enjoy this album when I’m drunk, but as long as I’m sober and in my senses, I can live without it. (4.5/10) 

 

 

 

 
6.2/10 Abhi
 

BLOOD RED THRONE - Affiliated with the Suffering - CD - Hammerheart Records

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

The cover art reminded me of Dismember’s Like an Ever Flowing Stream album, which featured a picture of the band members dripping blood from head to toe. All suspicions of this being old school styled death metal were confirmed as soon as the first song, “Unleashing Hell,” started.

I had missed out on their debut offering, Monument of Death, but I remember reading in a lot of places that it was really not an album worth getting. On first listen of this new record, I did not find too much to freak out on, but this has been slowly growing on me. Imagine Cannibal Corpse riffs from The Bleeding-era mixed with the rhythmic sense of modern day Vader and liberal dosages of thrash riffs, and you have Blood Red Throne.

Sometimes they carry the Cannibal Corpse admiration a bit too far, like on “Razor Jack,” where there is a blatant rip-off of a riff from Cannibal’s “Pulverized.” Anyhow the music is pretty tight and I like the way the thrash riffs bleed into this death metal carnage, sometimes giving rise to the impression I’m listening to Vomitory at half their speed.

“Bleeders Lament” has a damn good solo and it’s a pity that none of the other songs show much in the way of good leads. There are no major standout parts other than this solo and it’s the complete album that works as a whole: creating a sound of old school death metal that everyone who grew up listening to Cannibal Corpse and Slayer is going to enjoy.

There is not one, but two hidden songs. Both are pretty much in the same style as the rest of the material, but the first one might just be the most brutal track on the CD. A negative point is that there is no double bass on this album (no, I refuse to call that metallic clickety clack thing as a double bass), and a humorous point about the album is the way the band members like to identify themselves in the booklet. No, not by their faces, but by their feet… (6.2/10)

 

 

 

 
5.7/10 Abhi
 

BLOODY GORE - Blood Driven Vehemence - CD - Uxicon Records Label Contact: Brenda.b@skynet.be

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

This is the band from which the offshoot Funeral Inception (reviewed in issue 12) was formed. I was expecting some Suffocation influenced brutal death metal and I wasn’t off the mark by much. Musically, there isn’t much difference between Bloody Gore and Funeral Inception other than the fact that the latter are a little bit more dynamic and complex.

The sound on this album is decent. It could have been a lot heavier. The first song, “Slices of Flesh Are Being Devoured,” reminds me of Pyaemia during the chugging palm muted riffs. Throughout the album, repetitions are kept to a minimum level and the number of riffs are greater. “Eaten By Worms” is a decent track but there are no standout riffs in it. “Bathing Your Soul with Gore Tears” and “Shrivel and Rot” are both good songs with constant variations.

As soon as “Unrecognizable Mutilations” started, I recognized a riff on it that I had heard before. On checking the song list of Funeral Inception’s “Anthems of Disenchantment” album I found out that they had used the song as well. This song is one of the most complex songs on this album along with “Drowned in Impurity.” Overall, this is a pretty good album, though the sameness of the material is going to put off all but the most die hard of brutal death metal die-hards. (5.7/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Roberto
 

BORIS - Amplifier Worship (reissue) - CD - Southern Lord

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Previously only available as a Japanese import, Boris' Amplifier Worship is just that: the reverence of the actual, physical weight that can emanate from an amp when a guitar is tuned as low as it can go and then fiddled with. But Amplifier Worship isn't only guitar drones. There are some atypical aspects for this genre that pepper the album, like a bongo section and some faster, punk parts with vocals in Japanese. It's a good disk, but people new to this band are definitely encouraged to check out Flood first. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Jason
 

BREAKING PANGAEA - Phoenix - CD - Maelstrom Zine

review by: Jason Thornberry

Phoenix commences with a coarse, almost emo-core disposition (“Worst Part”), and shifts into stringent, militaristic riffing by track three (“Closer”). The mantra-like ending of “Closer” recalls Garrison, and the mini album ends with phrasing that makes you think of Cave In on its Tides of Tomorrow EP.

Some of the chords on “Closer” can induce dizziness, but knowledge that the geezer playing them has a degree in jazz guitar will help bring things into focus. I can count on exactly one finger the number of antecedents he’s got, and if you guessed Page Hamilton (Helmet) you’ve won a free toaster oven.

It isn’t at all fair to them though to jump straight to an “emo” classification whilst summing up their newest, just because the man on the mic (Fred Mascherino, the same guy who plays guitar) doesn’t growl, shout, or act like someone's stapled his sac. They’re the logical progression/conclusion to what everyone else is (literally) shouting about. This, their second EP release, and third recording overall, touches post hardcore like the sunset after a storm. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
3.7/10 Abhi
 

BUNUH - The Torso Killers - CD - http://www.geocities.com/bunuh2000

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

These guys seem to be a very confused bunch. Looking at their artwork and song titles you would expect some gory brutal death metal, yet when you look at the picture of these five masked guys, you’ll see one guy sporting a Dimmu Borgir tee and also attired in spike belts. Then you listen to the music itself, and it turns out to melodic death/thrash.

But what the fuck were they ever thinking when they named one of their songs “Raining Blood”? Bunuh’s music does not hold up half a candle in front of the legendary Slayer song, and such impertinence deserves a tight slap in the face. The music mostly consists of tried and tested and rehashed thrash riffs and lackluster drumming. The growling vocals give the whole thing a death metal feel, but lack any kind of power to make them sound captivating.

There are two bonus songs that were supposedly recorded by the previous band that these guys were part of, and the second one, “Psychiatric Disorder,” is the only song on this MCD that crosses the barely-decent mark. Now there is an asterisk next to the song title and I don’t know what that is supposed to mean. Maybe it’s a cover and not their own song. Whatever. I’ll stay away from Bunuh until they get some fresh ideas for their music and songtitles, coz right now they bore the shit out of me. (3.7/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Jez
 

BYFIST - Adrenalin - CD - www.byfist.com

review by: Jez Andrews

Far be it from me to discourage a band who are willing to go out there and give it their all, but the phrase that most readily comes to mind right now is "let the past be the past." Byfist are practically a tribute to the trades of Anthrax, Mercyful Fate and Judas Priest.

Now don't get me wrong, I have the deepest respect and admiration for all the giants of the 80's thrash scene, but Byfist seem intent on re-inventing the whole thing for the new millennium. Giving credit where it's due, were this released in 1983, they would most likely have been hailed as heavy metal heroes (believe me, there is a great deal of musical talent among them), but in the present day, the old school sound is best left in the hands of those who first made it. Not that I would say no to seeing them live in a metal club if the opportunity was there... (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.3/10 Roberto
 

CANAAN - A Calling to Weakness - CD - Eibon Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Mauro Berchi, the driving force behind Canaan, Italy's premier Goth band, runs his band a lot like an overview of his record label, Eibon, which focuses greatly on ambient, experimental and noise acts. For Canaan does the Goth thing superbly, lush and sensual and melancholic, but with a faint glimmer of hope that shines through in the exquisite melodies; but there are also the dark, lulling ambient mood pieces that are spread out between the songs.

A Canaan record is a relaxing, soothing and delectable experience. The songs are well composed and sound great from the clever drumming to the almost always great vocals. The latter are sometimes in Italian, which gives an even stronger flavor to this band, kind of like the more melancholy moments to the Morricone soundtrack of "Cinema Paradiso."

You can certainly pick out the Goth influences in Canaan, but it's made original with the seamless incorporation of the ambient elements. And like all Canaan records, the music is as high a priority as the packaging, which reflects the attention to detail and true artistic ideals of Berchi and co. Heartily recommended. (8.3/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Abhi
 

CAPTAIN CLEANOFF - Captain Cleanoff - CD - No Escape Records

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Boy, you’d better hold on tight to your trousers. When the thick guitar sound generated by these guys hits you head-on, ripping everything around you into shreds, the last thing you want to do is stand bare-assed with your privates exposed to this slaughter.

This is some great crusty grindcore brought to you by this four-piece Aussie band. I like to think of them as a more rocking version of early Brutal Truth. They groove and grind their way through 11 tracks in about 13 minutes, keeping all pretense of technicality at bay. There are some really stupid intros on offer here, which I guess might be pretty funny when you’re stoned, but since the total play time is just 13 minutes I really wish they had done away with these and given me more grind!

There are two guitarists in the band but they seem to be just doubling each other. Probably that explains the mammoth sound they have achieved here. The songs are of optimum length, with enough punch to make me hit the repeat button continuously, and I can listen to this MCD four or five times in a row without any problem. The best songs are probably the first (“Chemical Imbalance”) and the last (“A.O.D”). Totally enjoyable. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
Carcass Grinder: 6.5/10 Demisor: 7/10 Abhi
 

CARCASS GRINDER/ DEMISOR - Do You Love Grind Pt III - CD - Maelstrom Zine

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Carcass Grinder from Japan plays some intense and catchy grindcore. The sound is very raw and is definitely a very lo-fi recording. The vocals make the music sound more chaotic than it actually is with a lot of drawn out snarls and screams. According to the cd inlay, there are five members contributing to the vocal onslaught: two vocalists and the guitarist, bassist and drummer all providing backing vocals. With a better sound this could be as devastating as Captain Cleanoff, but ultimately falls short of making an effective impact. My favorite songs on this are the extremely catchy “Rapebyeyes” and “CDY.”

Demisor (from Singapore) on the other hand boast a much better sound. They start off with a rocking instrumental (intriguingly entitled “Forever!!! Fuck Yeah!!! Let’s Get Trendy!!!”) replete with melodic solos and the like.. Apparently they decided being trendy wasn’t such a great idea after all, since after this song all melody is thrown out of the window and in come the furious blast beats. The riffs are a high speed blur and constantly change tempos, driving the songs forward. They do not forget the need to inject some good headbanging moments either, and “As the Whisper in the Morning Dawn” is a good example of this. They blast through nine songs in no time and put up an impressive performance overall. (Carcass Grinder: 6.5/10 Demisor: 7/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Roberto
 

CARPATHIAN FOREST - Defending the Throne of Evil - CD - Season of Mist

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Hmmm….scratching the surface, this seems like another triumph by one of our favorite dirty, filthy, nasty and totally reprehensible but oh-so-great bands, Carpathian Forest. The unmistakable vocals of Nattefrost, the trademark bass sound, and that particular way the drums are played and mixed. Uh-huh, Carpathian Forest can do no wrong.

Whoops. While Defending the Throne of Evil does sound like the Carpathian Forest that we know and love, some stylistic changes that can be at best qualified as curious have done a number on this band. We’re talking mostly about the keyboards that are on nearly every track of the disk. These keys are of the cheesy, blatantly synthesized "ooh" and "aah" sort, the kind very at home in campy goth rock or third rate Dimmu Borgir type bands. Sometimes the keys have a circus flair to them, which should definitely cause concern amongst fans of this band. Sure, Carpathian Forest has used keys before, and well (like on Strange Old Brew's "The Return of the Freezing Wind"), but this is an entirely different matter.

The punk influence in the riffs is also mostly gone, which is a major, major shame. It does pop up here and again, like on "One with the Earth," but that element that made albums like Strange Old Brew a masterpiece has been removed to a result that's almost eerie. Like, it sounds like Carpathian Forest, but… that's not Carpathian Forest... And in this band's case, with the punk influences go the energy and attitude.

In terms of the sound, it's almost too much of a good thing. Nattefrost's vocals are produced to sound bigger and even more Nattefrost-like, and the trademark instrumental sound is similarly bloated. Why, considering the previously mentioned points and looking at the booklet photographs and art, which are even more sideshow than ever before, you can't help but think that Defending the Throne of Evil is the cartoon version of Carpathian Forest - the sort of Japanese super deformed, bobble head doll version of this Norwegian great.

It's not all disappointing, although in the same breath we have to say that the album picks up at the second to last track, which features saxophone, and the last track, which is a sort of trip-hoppy with a scratchy record sound on top. It's a lot like the end to Morbid Fascination of Death.

So it's hard to swallow. There is something undoubtedly funny about this record. It sort of showed up in the stores one day, unexpected - a nice surprise, not on the usual Avantgarde Music label, but on Season of Mist. But there's just something not right. Honestly, if it turned out that this was some sort of doppleganger band, that would sit better than trying to figure out what's up with this record. As awful as the notion is, it seems that Carpathian Forest have become caricatures of themselves. The message on the inside sleeve says, "Carpathian Forest must be destroyed." Please let it not be true. (4/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Morbid Fascination of Death (issue No 7)  
We're Going to Hell for This...Over Ten Years of Perversions (issue No 11)  

 

 

 
7.5/10 Larissa P.
 

CAT POWER - You Are Free - CD - Matador Records

review by: Larissa Parson

Cat Power (Chan Marshall) is notorious in some circles for the live show she puts on. Unlike some artists whose live shows far outstrip the impressions one gets from in-studio work, Marshall’s live act is more like someone struggling with very real and very terrifying neuroses, trying desperately to remain present in the space she’s occupying. It’s like watching a car crash in progress, not being able to do anything but watch and hope that no one ends up broken.

Her March show at the 9:30 club in Washington DC was one such show, and I had the great honor to be there. When Chan stepped onstage with a band to back her, everyone in the audience was clearly delighted, calling out, "we love you, Chan." And for ten minutes, we were all enraptured, as Chan sat down and played guitar with her band, and sang to us with her eerie, wonderful voice. And then the band left her to play the piano. That’s where the show began to go wrong. For Marshall had a problem, and she wanted us to know: she had to pee. This became the rest of the show; by the time she’d finally managed to get through “Names,” one of the most powerful songs on her most recent release, You Are Free, which she started and stopped three times, half of the audience was gone. And she still had to pee.

For me, that show ruined Cat Power’s music for all of ten minutes. You Are Free is a tremendous return to songwriting for Marshall, who hasn’t released an album of originals since 1998’s stunning Moon Pix. The same qualities that make Chan Marshall awkward and shy on stage come across as authentic and tortured (in a good way) on her studio efforts, and You Are Free is the best she’s sounded. Her voice, as rawly tender as always, is put to excellent use here. And while the album seems to veer schizophrenically from piano-and-voice narratives like the opener, “I Don’t’ Blame You” to the considerably more upbeat “Free,” to spend a whole album on the desolate melodies of the slower songs would be too much for most people to handle uninterrupted. “Free,” “Speak for Me,” “He War,” break up the tone and almost trick us into thinking Chan is a rock star, not a singer-songwriter.

Tracks like “Fool” and “Maybe Not” bring us back to the old familiar Chan we knew and loved on Moon Pix, showcasing her voice and twisting our hearts. “Names” is certainly the most tear-jerking song on the album, in fact painful to listen to, but so good - a list of children abused, what they suffered, how old they were, what they did to each other, where they are now (mostly dead). The album fades by the end - “Evolution,” the closer, is a disappointment, with Eddie Vedder whispering backup, instead of being the spooky tune it sets out to be. Track 11-13 are just fine on their own, but by the time you’ve made it through “Names” it’s time for something noisier, which these just don’t deliver. Nevertheless, if you haven’t yet discovered Cat Power and want something slow and sad and lovely, this is a good album to start with, and won’t disappoint. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Abhi
 

CEREBRAL TURBULENCY - Impenetrable - CD - Khaaranus Productions

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

From the same label that brought us Alienation Mental comes another grind act, Cerebral Turbulency. These guys lean more towards straightforward and catchy grindcore. This album seems to carry on right from where their previous effort, Forces Closing Down, left off. Of course, there are a few differences: the thicker and clearer production, the countless vocal styles used and sharper and more focused songwriting. Also they seem to have experimented with some weird time changes and stuff like on “Yes! Legitimate” and “Different World.” But for the most part of the album they are still the same band I had heard before: a grindcore band with a penchant for writing great catchy tunes as well the propensity to launch into some blisteringly intense sessions.

Trust me, when they catch you in the middle of one of their groovy parts, you’re going to drop whatever you are doing and end up headbanging to this stuff like a maniac, either voluntarily or involuntarily. The biggest selling point of this album is definitely the variety on offer, and as I write this very sentence I am treated to a melodic solo on “Adios a las corridas,” followed soon after by the punkish “Don’t Let Her Consume!”

The vocal styles cover almost the entire gamut of the extreme metal range, from hardcore to deep death metal growling, to grindcore screaming, to guttural goregrind gurgling - and also some frog croaks. Like Alienation Mental, they have also experimented with some electronica on “Development,” though the results are less than spectacular.

It’s hard to pinpoint any particular favorites here, especially as they cover 26 songs in under 35 minutes and so many different things happen in each song. Obviously these guys have taken pains to ensure that this does not turn out to be a boring or standard grindcore album, and they have been entirely successful. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
1.5/10 Jez
 

CHEMIKILLER - Demo 2: Hell's Rock n' Roll - CD - www.chemikiller.cjb.net

review by: Jez Andrews

Hmmmm....song titles like “Devil's Reign” and “Guardian of the Gates”....the printed sentiment, "Stay Evil...Eternal Hails!"... Sounds pretty metal to me.

The sound is described as “classic black thrash.” What it is, in reality, is half punk and half sub-standard Venom imitation. What kind of material Chemikiller are set to release in the future, I know not. I only hope for their sake that Hell's Rock N Roll was just a fucking terrible example of their work. So there it is: sixteen minutes and eleven seconds of my life wasted. (1.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Roberto
 

CONVERGE - Unloved and Weeded Out - CD - Deathwish Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

To be clear, this is NOT a new Converge record. Rather, it’s a collection of the band’s earliest studio releases, some demo stuff, and a couple live tracks. As such, there is absolutely no reason to get this before acquiring the band’s finest hour, Jane Doe, which may be the greatest metalcore record ever.

Now, if you have either gone out and gotten Jane Doe and liked it, or are a long time fan of this band, Unloved and Weeded Out will not disappoint. It’s even better than you might think for an album of early stuff, as every track on this disk has great sound. The insane, scythe-like vocals that sum up teenage angst in a sound are just as extreme. While the band wasn’t as technical or innovative back then as they are now, there’s plenty to check out, especially on the song “Jacob’s Ladder.” The digipak packaging and art is also excellent.

However, being early material from a budding metalcore band’s career, the songs have that interchangeable aspect to them. But, like we said, it’s not the album to get first. (6/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Jane Doe (issue No 9)  

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

CRADLE OF FILTH - Damnation and a Day - CD - Sony/Epic

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Should we congratulate Cradle of Filth in being the first band to be considered black metal to be signed to a gargantuan, corporate label? I think so. Hasn't that been Cradle's objective all along? The problem with the animosity that conservative black metal fans feel  is precisely about regarding Cradle as a black metal band, which it of course isn't. Let that go and you might be able to actually come to the conclusion that Cradle of Filth actually makes good records, and Damnation and a Day is a good record.

The album is a lot to chew on, though, what at 17 tracks and 77 minutes, with 72 extra musicians in the form of a Hungarian choir and orchestra. The result certainly has a good deal of grandiose, soundtrack-like feel to it. The orchestral and choir parts are tasteful and great, as are the few narrative bits.

The actual parts where Cradle of Filth, the proper band, plays are also very good. Damnation and a Day is a stockpile of good riffs and engaging songs, although there doesn't seem to be any one tune that stands out above the rest. The transitions between the metal and non-metal parts isn't entirely seamless, though, mainly due to a sense that the classical musicians are there not necessarily because of a concrete need for them. Dani's vocals are also a bit of a surprise (this coming from one who is only casually familiar with Cradle's discography), as they're held back quite a bit considering he's the main focus of the band. Those preposterous, eagle shriek signatures are really, really toned down here.

It may take a few listens to really get your mind around all that's going on here. Despite its extreme length, Damnation and a Day's music is well crafted. Sure, some may never be able to come to grips with Dani Filth's vocals, but there's a great deal to appreciate otherwise. Fans will undoubtedly love this disk, as will those who can let go of the limiting notions of what Cradle of Filth should be. (7/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Live Bait for the Dead (issue No 10)  

 

 

 
5.5/10 Abhi
 

CRANIAL INCISORED - The Experimental Minds of Instability to Shock Your Therapy System - CD - http://www10.brinkster.com/incisored/

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Cranial Incisored (Indonesia) are aiming to be a mixture of Cenotaph (Turkey) like grind with the technical eccentricity of Cephalic Carnage. Ambitious as that may sound, the guitarist does a great job of coming up with some complicated riff structures and weird time signatures. In fact, some of this stuff is so convoluted I initially thought they were playing total crap! It took quite a few devoted listens to the opener “Felo De Se” before things started to make sense.

But it is the drumming that needs to be stepped up a notch. The bad drum sound doesn’t help: the snare can hardly be heard. The music is so blatantly influenced by Cenotaph with the all the split second acceleration and deceleration going on, I have a feeling the drummer is having a tough a time just keeping up with the pace of changes.

The guttural vocals fit in nicely with the music and the bassist seems to be having a whale of a time; check out the slapping abound on “Popped off the Hook.” Most of the songs are quite short and I hope they rectify that next time around. Cranial Incisored seem to be on the same evolution level as Cenotaph’s “Voluptuously Minced” and they can become big names soon, provided they practice enough! (5.5/10) 

 

 

 

 
6.1/10 Jez
 

CROSSOVER - Debauchery - CD - www.thecrossover.com

review by: Jez Andrews

Crossover are a thrashy death metal band from Greece. A lyrical excerpt from the Book of Leviathan (courtesy of Chruch of Satan) is used for this album's intro (“Debaucher by the Pilgrimage”), giving way to a satisfying dish of old school death metal with a slight Strapping Young Lad feeling to the vocals.

Crossover have a very honest and straight forward style that has remained potent and relevant for fifteen years or more, adding their own ingredients to the cooking pot along the way. The lyrical theme is loosely based on that of Deicide, with lashings of social outrage and nightmares of the apocalypse. I like the subtle use of keyboards - subtle but effective.

My favourite track (following a cover of Rotting Christ's “In the Sign of Evil Existence”) is “God Possessed,” a chunky and crushing one-fingered salute to the man upstairs. And oh, yes, nicely hidden track 66.

Okay, I like what I hear so far, but like a porn enthusiast stuck between Amsterdam and Hamburg, it could go either way from here. (6.1/10)

 

 

 

 
6.6/10 Roberto
 

CRYPTOPSY - None So Live - CD - Century Media Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Whether live or in studio, there is no better example of performance and efficiency than Cryptopsy. This French Canadian front runner’s first official live album does a pretty good job of translating the experience of seeing this juggernaut on stage, but does come up short in a couple areas.

Cryptopsy’s musical performance is awesome. The 10 songs played in this set, captured in 2002 in Montreal, are true to their studio form. If nothing they prove that Cryptopsy plays even faster live.

I think I can speak for any fan of technical death that the anticipation of being able to hear one of Flo Mounier’s drum solos immortalized on plastic is reason enough to buy this record. As expected, the solo is impressive, but Mounier is very hard on himself and you know that he must be unhappy with it.

While the sound of the show is clear, it’s a little flat and choked. The songs don’t jump out of the speakers to ensnare you in the music’s whirlwind brutality. There is also something lacking in terms of atmosphere. Certainly the intro of ambient music and crowd noise leads the listener into mounting anticipation, but from there, there’s not a whole lot to draw you into the “I’m there” feeling. Cryptopsy are very cut-and-dried and mechanical on this recording. They go from song to song like on a checklist. The set ends and there is no encore.

New frontman Martin Lacroix is perhaps the reason for this. His in between song interactions with the audience are samey and he doesn’t exude much charisma. We may have been spoiled by the sheer intensity that previous frontman Mike DiSalvo radiated by merely standing in place. Seeing Lacroix live shows that he puts his all into his performance and then some, but he’s got shoes to fill that are perhaps too large for him.

Lacroix was hired as he is sort of a Jack of All Trades, and as such, he handles the material written during the tenures of his two predecessors well, but at 3/4 strength. We’ll have to wait and see how he does with material written expressly for him as Cryptopsy’s frontman to be able to make a better decision. (6.6/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
And then You'll Beg (issue No 2)  

 

 

 
9/10 Dave
 

CUL DE SAC - Death of the Sun - CD - Strange Attractors Audio House

review by: Dave McGonigle

The picture of Cul De Sac that accompanies their latest album is slightly blurred in some places, giving the photograph an out-of focus, woozy feel to it. It’s an ambiance that carries over to the majority of tracks on their stunning new album, Death of the Sun, where traditional instruments vie for foreground space with drifting clouds of electronics, “found sounds” and distant percussion.

Make no mistake about it, though: these boys are seasoned veterans of the 90s instrumental rock scene, pre-(post-rock), even, so you’re in safe hands. From the opening track “Dust of Butterflies” to the final “I remember nothing more,” you’re treated to some fantastically well-realized and recorded music: every beat of Jon Proudman’s monolithic percussion in “Turok, Son of Stone” echoes through your skull, complementing the eerie female vocal; and rarely have found sounds been used so well as on “Bellvue Bridge,” band leader Glenn Jones’ homage to a childhood playground.

My one complaint, if I’m allowed one, is that I don’t really get a feeling for the involvement of the band’s new member, Jake Trussel, who is credited with various sampling and sequencing duties throughout the record and is supposed to ensure that the band doesn’t sound like “a band jamming along to pre-recorded tapes,” as Robin Amos puts it. Perhaps the problem is that Cul De Sac are already so far beyond such a trivial description (their last albums have all used various amounts of studio trickery and samples) that the new album is merely another step along a path that they began some time ago. And it’s really all the better for it: few bands can sound quite so, well, organic and elemental as Cul de Sac…if the Meters ever played post-rock, here’s what it would sound like. Pretty damn good. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Roberto
4.5/10 Dave
 

CULPER RING - 355 - CD - Neurot Recordings

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Culper Ring is a side project of Kris Force (Amber Asylum), Mason Jones (Subarachnoid Space) and Steve Von Till (Neurosis) that was recorded in three individual days over the course of five years from 1997-2001, and then shelved until now.

You can hear the similarities to the three members’ primary bands, and Force’s Amber Asylum’s soft, decaying violin and acoustic instrument-driven sound in particular. However, Amber Asylum is a raging rock concert in comparison to Culper Ring.

355 is lovely, as lovely as the transition from the last moments of life to the land of the dead. Extremely languid notes from the strings and guitars shift as ethereally as the ambient, ghost-like vocals. It’s calming, yet in an unsettling way. At the end of the day, as all three compositions on 355 were improvised, the listener is left with a mood piece that, although well done, is basically just that. (5/10)

review by: Dave McGonigle

The late, great Andy Warhol is perhaps best remembered for his belief that one day we would all be famous for 15 minutes. Sadly, Andy spun his quarter-hour out a little more than necessary: for example, you try sitting through some of his strange 10 hour films without shouting ‘pretentious art-wank’ at the top of your voice. This trifling matter aside, I think we all know what he was getting at.

Cheap and easily accessible media means that we can all have our 15 minutes, should we want them. The seamy underbelly of all this technology, however, is that many projects that probably should have been kept amongst friends are now offered to us as valid releases. Take the one-off disc 355 by Culper Ring, for example. Three mates from different bands get together in 1997, decide to jam and produce some heavy, dark, foreboding tracks. Flip to some time later. Mates get together again, but this time it looks like the happy pills are working, as their music comes out of the spin cycle clean and fresh. Fast forward to 2001. Same again. Instead, however, of sticking the masters in a drawer marked “wedding videos,” the three decide to combine the two sessions.

Does it work? Well, no, for the most part. The most surprising thing is how well the two different sessions fit together - the least surprising thing is that there’s really no tension between the background menace and the instrumentation played on top. Track 5 points to the direction that the record could have taken - sparse guitar notes echo over backwards loops while a whispered voiceover says disturbing, half-perceived phrases. For the most part, though, it’s just not essential enough to distinguish itself from the crowd. Culper Ring may have got their 15 minutes here, but I reckon you’re better off watching that video your mate did of his sister giving birth. (4.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Condor
 

CURSED - One - CD - Deathwish Records

review by: The Condor

I should say right up front that I have some “issues” with Deathwish Records, the label that released this Cursed One record. I'm sure they weren't doing it to me on purpose, but I had been consistently suckered in the past after picking up any one of their amazingly designed, and VERY METAL looking CDs only to discover the band was in fact not metal, or even heavy, but some boring, rehashed, tepid punk rock cookie cutter hardcore band. Not that it has to be metal to be good, but it does have to be good. So I didn't have high hopes for this one to be quite honest.

But boy, was I pleasantly surprised. Don't know much about the Cursed One, but they are HEAVY, and they are METAL, in a sort of metal core, used-to-be-punk-rock but discovered Slayer and black metal and traded my studded wrist band in for a spiked gauntlet sort of way.

Huge, thick guitars spit out chunky, downtuned riffs with furiously howled vocals, pounding and chaotic drumming, fucked up tempos, drony instrumental breakdowns and all sorts of stops and starts. Noisy and heavy and just weird enough to pull slightly ahead of their metal core brethren. Think some weird mix of Converge, Coalesce, Pantera, and the Melvins, with lots of cool minor key melodies, almost-industrial rhythms, found sound samples, some old school punk rock-ness, and some very heavy metal. (7/10) 

 

 

 

 
6/10 Roberto
 

DARK FORTRESS - Profane Genocidal Creations - CD - Red Stream Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Dark Fortress’ debut album (review here) was a tepid success as it borrowed largely from the established formula of Dissection. On the sophomore album, this German black metal band has relaxed its delivery and gone in a more original direction.

The stylistic changes aren’t necessarily better, though. Some are, like memorable riffs and constructions in “In Morte Aeternitas,” and a mid-paced energy throughout the record that works reasonably well. Others, like the goofy keyboards or glaringly out of place, mediocre female vocals on “Passage to Extinction,” do not. Overall, Profane Genocidal Creations feels quite long-winded, and not necessarily because the album is 70+ minutes. Getting through the whole thing more than once is unlikely.

So originality loses the battle on this day. Profane Genocidal Creations is a decent record. Dark Fortress is clearly in the second tier of German black metal, which of course isn’t too shabby. (6/10) 

 

Related reviews:
 
Tales from Eternal Dusk (issue No 6)  

 

 

 
10/10 Jez
 

DARKENED NOCTURN SLAUGHTERCULT - Follow the Calls for Battle - CD - www.slaughtercult.de

review by: Jez Andrews

The second offering, and first full-length album, from German black metallers Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult is something I have been itching to get hold of for quite some time. Living in the UK, this task proved mighty difficult, as can often be the case with underground black metal releases from across the sea. But finally, patience prevailed and was richly rewarded.

Follow the Calls for Battle was recorded back in 2001 and is one of the true highlights in today's black metal scene. DNS do not follow trends and are the epitome of true black metal; cold, powerful, violent music, devoid of compromise. No weak tracks to be found here and some of the most impressive vocals I have heard in quite some time, paricularly on haunting dark ambient interlude “The Resentful Wanderer.”

The thundering reverb of Horrn's drums and cymbals is one of the key focus points of this album, and the riffing is everything I could have hoped for (“Pestilential Deathride” being an especially magnificent and hateful blast of defiance).

Whilst listening to the more intense moments of this album, my thoughts were jumping about in a perculiar manner. First and foemost, the thought that this is what Mayhem should have become, and also the sound of Prince Vigo from “Ghostbusters 2" declaring "What was will be, what is will be no more..."

It's a scorching cocktail of Bathory, early Emperor (minus the keyboards), and their own hellraising style. Comparisons could also be made with the likes of Nargaroth and perhaps the glory days of Satyricon, but there is something to be said for leaving comparisons aside and recognising Follow the Calls for Battle for what it is: Essential listening if you take your black metal seriously. (10/10) 

 

 

 

 
DNS: 10/10, Pyre: 8/10 Jez
 

DARKENED NOCTURN SLAUGHTERCULT/ PYRE - Pest Called Humanity/ Luciferian Dark Age - CD - Black Blood Productions

review by: Jez Andrews

Once upon a time, I was flicking through the pages of eBay, in the hope that I would stumble across an undiscovered treasure. I searched through the auctions of black metal items, perusing those that were utterly unknown to me. My interest was held by a German black metal band called Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult. After securing the LP they had split with Texan black metallers Pyre and awaiting its arrival, I realised I had found more than I had bargained for.

I would describe DNS as one of the most perfect black metal bands I have ever heard. Cold, raw, brutal, and full of violent emotional atmosphere. All this is acheived without the use of keyboards or orchestras, just four musicians who are dedicated to black metal's roots and the downfall of humanity. I cannot pick a single hole in any of the five tracks of the Pest Called Humanity demo, except that it has made me impatient to hear more. From “Ars Moriendi” to “Centuries of Mine,” it's a true blackhearted roar from the underground, accompanied by seething anti-Christian principles. What can I say? They MUST be heard.

Pyre are a slightly different kettle of fish. They seem to have adopted a simplistic production, and a style similar to early Marduk. Their four-track demo “Luciferian Dark Age” is a blistering taster for the upcoming full-length album to be released hopefully in the near future. This band have made it perfectly clear that their sound will never be compromised, and if the like of “Baleful Living Shadow” is anything to go by, they mean it. (Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult: 10/10, Pyre 8/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

DARKTHRONE - Hate Them - CD - Moonfog Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

While it’s clear that this seminal Norwegian black metal band is past its artistic and creative peak, there’s something reassuring about every time a new Darkthrone album comes out. As long as this group is alive and making records, there’s a secure feeling that black metal is going to be ok.

So while the new Darkthrone’s music isn’t really extremely exciting in itself, its objective is reached. Darkthrone is no longer employing the necro sound it popularized, but the energy is still raw and black and true to form, much like the sound on Plaguewielder, the last album. Where once Darkthrone albums had the same, freezing, danceless beat all the way through, Hate Them has quite a few groovy parts that are, of course, respectfully within the stringent realms of black metal.

The extremely short time it took to record and mix this album - 26 hours - is a point that isn’t downplayed. It’s fitting, really, as the mystique of the minimalism of the simple riffs and rhythms makes this group’s brand of black metal all the more effective. And there’s something fundamentally wrong with a primitive sounding band taking weeks to produce an album, isn’t there?

But the coolest part of the album is one that can’t be recognized merely by listening to it. More now than ever, Fenriz’s lyrics are deeply stimulating in their syntax and through his penchant for poetic, semi-invented words. Transcending the typical black metal gibberish, reading the lyrics on Hate Them are almost better than listening to the album itself.

While Hate Them isn’t as good as Plaguewielder, it’ll appeal to those who liked it in the same way. For me, even if I hated this record, I’d still buy it. (7/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Preparing for War (issue No 2)  
Evil Past (issue No 5)  
Plague Wielder (issue No 6)  

 

 

 
8.5/10 Jez
 

DEFLESHED - Royal Straight Flesh - CD - Regain Records

review by: Jez Andrews

Defleshed are one of the most accomplished death metal acts to be heard these days, and are a most welcome part of the scene (especially now that we have been so cruelly deprived of Angelcorpse).

Royal Straight Flesh has all you could want in a death metal album. Vicious, rasping vocals, smoothly crafted riffs, blastbeats, crisp production, the whole nine yards. The superb structure and focused attitude of the songs has become a trademark for Defleshed. They have not the complexity of Nile, nor the classic value of early Deicide, but Royal Straight Flesh is still one hell of a punch in the face.

My attention was first drawn to the band by 1997's Under the Blade, and from what I've heard of their material, Defleshed haven't really put a foot wrong.

Though each track on this album is as great as the last, the title track would have to be my favourite, if only for the hook of the chorus. “Dangerous When Dead” was another track that gave me a rush, and at three minutes thirty five seconds is the longest track on the album. Can't help feeling that the main riff to closing track “Brakefailure” is ripped straight from vintage Slayer.....

Death metal fans, it's good. It's all good... (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
0/10 Roberto
 

DEMURE - Demo - CD - www.demure999.com

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Whenever the fledgling band that I'm in gets together to practice, we invariably record our session on a shitty hand tape recorder. We do it primarily to record what we often do spontaneously so that way we can have a record later to go back to and try to remember what we did, often being puzzled at how the hell we pulled it off and at a loss on how to do it again.

So why am I bringing up this seemingly unrelated information in the review of Demure's demo? It's because the sound quality is exactly the same as my band's practices. I'm willing to bet $10 that this is how they recorded it. I'm pretty sure I'd be ten bucks richer as the press release states the demo was recorded in one of the member's living room. Each song is preceded by a minor intro stating the song title, and then Demure launch into some sort of noisy grind death punk. This formula is repeated six times.

It's unclear what Demure's intention is in circulating this demo. We can all sympathize if they lack the funds to afford to record a proper one to circulate, but this is ridiculous. Abstain from booze for a month and go into a studio, guys.

I'm not even going to begin to pass judgement on the quality of Demure's playing or material. Frankly, although they sound like they can hold it together as a band, that's neither here nor there at this point. The fact is that this zine is here to tell you what to check out and ultimately what to spend your money on, and there is no reason to look into this band until they make a proper recording. If one day this group becomes cult, then this demo might have some value, but we're putting the horse in front of the cart on that one. (0/10) 

 

 

 

 
2/10 Abhi
 

DESMAAD - Desmaad - CD - www.desmaad.de

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

It really is too bad that the production on this CD totally sucks. Desmaad (from Germany) plays a style of grind / old school death metal mixture with pretty basic riffs and songwriting. Which means if the sound is shit, then the whole thing sounds like shit. And as I said it really is a pity, as I think this stuff would have sounded pretty good with a nice heavy sound. As of now, the songs are awash in static and white noise and the guitars sound like sand paper being scraped across the strings. These guys are obviously very fond of early Napalm Death as is evident on songs like grinding “Ardath Bay.”

There are two live songs that I approached with much trepidation, but surprisingly the live tracks were less vexing. The first one is called “Phoenix” and started off quite aggressively, but lost it somewhere along the way with too many slowdowns. The second one is called “Utopia” and this is a crusty little piece and by far the most enjoyable song on the whole disc. I hope to hell the next Desmaad release gets a better sound, coz frankly this is pretty trying. (2/10) 

 

 

 

 
5/10 Matt
 

DESTROYER 666 - Cold Steel...for an Iron Age - CD - Season of Mist

review by: Matt Smith

There’s nothing mind-blowing here. Cold Steel... is what I would describe as “not bad.” Destroyer 666 hasn’t done anything new in this album, but they still sound pretty good. The drums aren’t noteworthy, but they’re accurate. The guitars are similarly unimpressive, and the vocals aren’t anything special. The production stays out of the way.

Each instrument is clearly audible and nothing seems to dominate, which allows the music to be heard for what it is. In light of this, maybe they could have used some distortion. Destroyer 666’s latest, run of the mill release makes it pretty clear that they need some more practice before they make another album, lest they flood the market with more of the same-old. (5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Phoenix Rising (issue No 6)  

 

 

 
8.5/10 Roberto
 

DIRTY POWER - Dirty Power - CD - Dead Teenager Records

review by: Jason Thornberry

Axl Rose is more interested in Rogaine now that his mojo has been given to Dirty Power singer Patrick Goodwin. The same goes for the energy, spit and sweat of the rock from recent decades past. Dirty Power has it, and the idea of a band going back to basics is almost genius.

It’s simple: Lose the concepts, the charades associated with the Rock Star Pose, and you have an album that would sound great coming out of the stereo in a Trans Am. Goodwin also plays guitar in Pansy Division, and here adds his Gibson SG and raw voice to the low end of Nick Ulman, the drums of Jeff Potts (from Planet Seven), and Steve Perron (Les Paul).

A quartet with OG ferocity and meteaul from the days of Bon Scott. Just as I predict the return of long ‘ol hair on guys, bands will start sounding more like Dirty Power than Dashboard or Radiohead, finally. With Jack Endino (Nirvana) producing, Dirty Power’s got eleven tracks of ”turn it up, maaan” motivation. The tracks go by in a blur, and I’m gonna play it until my neighbors know the words. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
9.5/10 Abhi
 

DISGORGE - Necrholochaust - CD - Xtreem Music

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Speechless, utterly speechless, was the state I was in after listening to the third album from the band that put Mexico on the goregrind map after the release of their classic Chronic Corpora Infest debut. The shock on hearing one of the sickest bands ever change their style to something more resembling death metal than their ultra-gore approach of the past, the ecstasy on hearing one of my favourite bands release such a marvelous album, the rage which the searing riffs instilled in me, the sadomasochistic sense of satisfaction at receiving such a pummeling from these guys were just some of the emotions running through my head.

The first signs of change were noticeable after a cursory look at the songtitles. Gone were the titles that read like “Urethrive Decortico Xanthomatose Mucogested Scaffolds” and in their place were actual English words! Their previous album, Forensick had a very dirty production while this has a crystal clear sound. Forensick sounded good and gory back then, but as I listen to this, I wonder how it might sound with a production like this.

Disgorge’s previous albums conjured up frightful images of bodies exploding and gore being splattered everywhere, but this album, right from the intro leading upto “Raise the Pestilence” has a very dark and dare I say, “necro” feel to it. The cover is a near perfect representation of this feeling, as it shows a dark prison cell littered with dead bodies. The music is arranged in a stunning manner, with intense, brutal passages and maniacal, thrashing sections meshing together seamlessly. Antimo sounds like a ravenous beast on the prowl and Edgar churns out riffs as if he is possessed by the gods of killer death metal. Willy provides the grind feel to this album with his ever-chaotic drum devastation. He attains blinding speed on the double bass and on the blastbeats with seemingly effortless ease.

A word of caution: it is advisable to wear a neck brace while listening to this. You will headbang like crazy. Involuntarily. Don’t tell me later that I didn’t warn you. For instance, listen to the riffs that come in at 4:08 during “Raise The Pestilence” or the riff that comes in at exactly three minutes into “Ravenous Funeral Carnage.” God help the man who comes within my striking range during this part as I totally fly off the wall whenever I listen to it.

Disgorge could not have chosen a more fitting title for this album. Each and every song is a total fucking holocaust of the most devastating proportions. I could never have imagined Disgorge would come up with such tight and from-the-guts death metal, but they have and I salute them for it. It took another ultra killer album (Alienation Mental - Ball Spouter) to displace this from the top spot, and thus “Necrholocaust” takes honours as Pick of the Month #2. If this doesn’t make your eyes burn red with death metal rage then nothing ever will. (9.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Abhi
 

DIVINE NOISE ATTACK - promo - CD - Maelstrom Zine

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

There is no fooling around on this promo CD of German grinders Divine Noise Attack. Simplistic but highly effective grindcore in the vein of Obliterate, which is another way of saying they are highly influenced by Napalm Death. I don’t have the tracklist with me as I write this review so I’ll have to refer to songs by their numbers only.

After listening to the first few songs, I am sure of one thing: you don’t want to get into the moshpit without protective gear when these guys are playing. This is just ideal fodder material for violent moshing, not too fast, enough slow passages mixed with the faster blast beat sections and plenty of riffs that make you want to headbang and punch the guy standing next to you at the same time.

The start to the sixth song is so dead on Napalm Death that I was sure it was a cover song, until the screaming black metallish vocals made an appearance. The seventh song has some great riffs, but I wish they hadn’t put in the “fuck offs” at the end. That made it sound really amateurish. The aggressiveness seems to dip gradually after this song though the quality doesn’t. The riff that comes in at 0:58 into the eighth song is identical to a riff that Blood have used on their new album, but Divine Noise Attack is so much more interesting and adventurous. All of you who are unfamiliar with this band I would advise you to check them out. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

DÖDFÖDD - Besjärjelse för Omvänd Rekreation - Cassette - www.orderlessevil.cjb.net

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Dödfödd, a three-man black metal band from Sweden, have made a fine effort on this album. The sound is naturally lo-fi and the music is in that Swedish black metal style that is loaded with heart-rending, blurry melodies backed by monotonous, fast drums and anguished vocals. Dödfödd is also proud to say that no keyboards were used on this album, which is commendable as the band has done excellent atmospheric parts with guitars and bass what most bands of this type would have done with synths.

Sure, you've heard it a lot before, but Dödfödd has an edge that many of the bigger names in Swedish black metal today lack. Call it a true morbid black metal spirit, but there's something weightier that more polished and musically talented bands like Naglfar can't deliver. And while Dödfödd isn't going to be hailed as the latest avatars of the true black metal style, this is an album worth getting.

Being a DIY release, the only thing really annoying about this album is the inconvenience of having a 40-minute album all on one side of a 90-minute tape. Don't they make 40-minute tapes? (7/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Roberto
 

EDENBRIDGE - Aphelion - CD - 6 Tulliallan place, East Kilbride, Lanarkshire, G74 2EG, Scotland, UK

review by: Roberto Martinelli

addendum 12/27/04:

I gave Aphelion a tepid review in 2003. Since then, I've come to find that it is in fact an excellent record filled with memorable melodies, gorgeous vocals, and well crafted songs. Sure, it's metal "popera," but the band knows what it's doing. As this band's style has grown on me (this writing is at the time of the release of their fourth album), Aphelion has shown itself to be as good as anything this remarkable group of Austrians has produced. (8.5/10)

original review, 05/2003:  

In the candy-coated, flowery world of European power metal, Edenbridge is the wimpiest of the wimpy. This band is so wussy that it makes Stratovarius seem like Slayer in comparison. But that's all good, for in its embracing of the anti-image of metal while being a metal band, Edenbridge made a pretty enjoyable album in last year's Arcana (review here).

Aphelion, the new record, not too surprisingly sounds a lot like its predecessor. However, it's nowhere near as good. Over a career that now spans three records, Edenbridge's music has always been very low on calories, but this is ridiculous. The melodies and structures are similar, but Lanvall, the Edenbridge guitarist who writes and produces everything the band does, has gone even softer this time.

It really all comes down to the melodies and hooks not being so present here. To pinpoint even further, while the vocals of Sabine Edelsbacher are as lovely as always, there's a definite lack of passion that is especially noticeable this time around. Edelsbacher's trained, talented, sort of operatic voice is generally nonplussed; or perhaps the melodies that are given to her to sing aren't really all that challenging or interesting for her. By the time the last track, featuring guest vocals by DC Cooper, finally rolls around, the injection of some grit and force is a very welcome change.

So we recommend you start with the band's best work, Arcana. If you like that, you'll probably want to get this. Also, if they haven't already, fans of Nightwish are certainly encouraged to check Edenbridge out. (6/10) 

 

Related reviews:
 
Arcana (issue No 8)  

 

 

 
9/10 Roberto
 

EIKENSKADEN - The Last Dance - CD - Sacral Productions

review by: Roberto Martinelli

We were totally bowled over by the brilliance of the first album by Eikenskaden (reviewed in issue #9), the so-called side project of Mystic Forest's Stéfan Kozak. Arty and weird and stunningly original, we looked forward to more, and more we have received.

The Last Dance is creativity within what is accepted in the black metal spectrum. Uniquely caustic and impassionate, the blistering fuzz of the fucked production is sliced through by clean piano melodies. As ever, the feeling of angst and sadness are the main players, be it during the manic, melodic, wall-of-noise riffs backed by relentless drumming to the more relaxed, piano segments with spoken parts that remind us of a scene in a French movie where the main character is depressed and reflecting on his life and loves.

Some relatively minor but important stylistic changes have been made, the most prominent of which are the vocals. For one, it seems that someone has really been enjoying De Misteriis Dom Sathanas lately. The Last Dance's vocals have also been greatly turned down in a way that make them stick to the melodies from the guitars and bass, making them more of a layer in the maelstrom of sound rather than an element to ride above it all. The constant explosions caused by the mere playing of a guitar string or the hitting of any part of the drum kit found on the first record have also been turned down, which could be considered as a good or bad thing.

While it's tough to say that The Last Dance is better than The Black Laments Symphony (the first record), it is certainly on par. The Black Laments… is more experimental and bizarre, but in a way that turns out is all too similar to the first two works of Mystic Forest's. As promised in the interview with Kozak in issue #12, Eikenskaden is beginning to move in a separate direction from Mystic Forest (I'll give you an advance tip to tell you that the next, yet unreleased Eikenskaden's style is even more removed from the main band). Be sure to get this and anything else by this one-of-a-kind French genius. (9/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
The Black Laments Symphony (issue No 9)  

 

 

 

ESTROGENOCIDE - Estrogenocide - CD - mrhymson@aol.com

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

When Maelstrom's own Tom Orgad was visiting India, I played this CD for him. He found it interesting in the sense that it was quite obvious musically that no one was going to take this seriously. Obviously the band members surely didn’t expect anyone to take it seriously either. However, the extreme misogynist tendencies of the lyrics didn’t really indicate this was some kind of silly joke project.

I was rather ecstatic that Tom found this CD even remotely interesting and tried my best to dump it on him, but alas, he shrewdly circumvented all my efforts at getting rid of this piece of plastic crap. As a result, I am now stuck with having to listen to this musical atrocity and try to form coherent words out of the mixture of anger and amusement running through my head.

Looking back, things were amiss right from the start, what from the omnipresent, gay pink colour to the little description scrawled in big letters on a piece of paper stating that “we are influenced by Depeche Mode and Napalm Death.” Depeche Mode and Napalm Death? Interesting, I thought. Hah.

When it comes to music, patience is not a virtue. It is a pain in the ass. And Estrogenocide had me reaching for painkillers faster than you can say, “we suck.” Kindergarten level synth pop that has no semblance with anything to do with Napalm Death or even metal. There is a reason why metal bands do not use synths in place of guitar, and that is to avoid ending up sounding like eunuchs. The lyrics of the last song, “Balls,” quite perfectly summed up my feelings about Estrogenocide: “I wish you had balls so I could kick you in them.”

 

 

 

 

 
9/10 Roberto
 

EWIGES REICH - Zeit des Erwachens - CD - Perverted Taste

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The more I listen to Ewiges Reich's Zeit des Erwachens, the more it becomes apparent how essential this black metal album is. It should come as no surprise that the band is from Germany, who, time and again, is proving that it is the most reliable source for totally relevant and masterful black metal, joining the ranks of such greats as Nargaroth, Nagelfar, Bethlehem, Silencer and Lunar Aurora.

In summary of what Ewiges Reich does, it doesn't seem that they would be all that special, for basically the song parts consist primarily of a black metal characteristic triplet blast beat (largely inspired by Fredrik Andersson of Marduk, but elaborated on quite a bit) and fittingly raging guitar riffs and maniac vocals. Ok, so this describes about 60 percent of all black metal ever. Yes, but this isn't accounting for the sound and delivery. Zeit des Erwachens has that sound that's dead on, true to the core black metal: it's rough but powerful without being thin and necro; drawing its strength not from fancy triggered drums and slick production but from the very ancient energy of a medieval church's torch lit crypts and the piled up bones of generations. To spice things up, Ewiges Reich throw in three very effective, calm but creepy ambient pieces that set the stage before the main music kicks you in the stomach in the most welcome way one could hope to experience such a thing.

So you might think that this would get old, but think again. It actually gets better each time. If you love good, real black metal, then rush out and get this. Pick up Forest while you're at it, too (see below), and you'll be thanking me later. Trust me. (9/10) 

 

Related reviews:
 
Thron aus Eis (issue No 14)  

 

 

 
8/10 Abhi
 

EXCOMMUNION - Superion - CD - WWIII Records

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

This is impressive! Hate and darkness drips like coagulating blood from this release. Blackened death metal is how Excommunion describe their music, and I have to agree with them.

This album has six of the most lengthy songs you will hear in this genre. There is a whole lot of concept building going on behind this band involving demons and other nice creatures of the night. The vocals really do sound like a demon’s. I’m telling you the snarls are downright scary, and just check out the vocals at the start of the title track.

Excommunion have managed to create a sound that is pure stark evil personified. If you liked Immolation’s Here in After, you are going to love this album. Those same kind of bone jarring harmonics accompany the distorted notes that seemingly float along in a cloud of hate ridden blasphemy. All the songs are pretty long winded and can be appreciated only when you have the time to sit down and soak them in properly. The double bass has a good sound even though it sounds triggered. The guitars sound pretty raw and not particularly heavy and that is instrumental in giving these guys a different sound.

The best songs are the aggressive “The Rites of the Excommunion” and “Rendering the Demon Gate.” If you like death metal that oozes class and feel, you shouldn’t miss this. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Abhi
 

FALLEN WORLD - Overpowered By Objection - CD - fallen_world@hotmail.com

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Fallen World are from Singapore and they start off with the tight groove of “Let Me Speak” and show the promise of delivering some good grind. Unfortunately it did not turn out be so. Apart from this song and the cool Terrorizer-like whirlwind riffs of “Abuse Of Authority” and “Stand Against Child Prostitution,” this is pretty much a punkish and upbeat kind of grindcore that really does not inspire me to do much other than sit in my chair and tap my foot to the occasional riff. The fact that most of the riffs are pretty basic does not help their cause much either. I am sure they can and will improve in the future and guys, if you are reading this, do get rid of those gay GWAR like vocals in “Where’s My Money?” (5/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Roberto
 

FOREST - Forest - CD - ISO 666

review by: Roberto Martinelli

For the first four tracks on this Russian black metal duo's self titled album, curiously released seven years after it was recorded, the going is good - very good - albeit in a tried and true style. Forest is heavily influenced by Darkthrone, and that shines (or, rather, wilts) through in the simple, repetitive style and the total Nocturno Culto worship on the vocals, circa the type of stuff that he and his mates were doing around A Blaze in the Northern Sky and Under a Funeral Moon.

Around the end of song two, more and more clean vocals of the o-o-o-o, vaguely Viking (read: "I really can't sing my way out of a paper bag so I do it this way") genre surface, and they so add to the songs' total cult value. Yeah, these vocals are totally great.

See, this is what you would call honest to goodness black metal if the genre didn't stand for all that's unholy. This is true black metal: it's boring, but that's the point, and it excels in this; it sounds decayed and dark like the art on the album cover, but without being over-the-top and in your face about it. You realize more and more that some of these black metal bands in the past years that have been going for the necro sound are doing so by means that are way more complex and involved than the Scandinavian bands of yore achieved with simply shitty equipment. There's no way you can get something to sound as bad as some Krieg records unless you take steps to make it so. And necro black metal that smacks of effort is really lame.

So Forest would be a totally recommendable for the first four tracks whose style is described above, but then you get to track five, which wipes the slate clean. This monolithic, nearly 20-minute track was recorded in 1994, two years prior to the other stuff on Forest, and aside from the bassless sound, is entirely different. Imagine some sort of cryptic folk music the likes made by our favorite whacked out band Kemialliset Ystävät plays, with creepy acoustic instruments that sound like they're falling apart, and clean, wailing, far off vocals. It's kind of like the black metal version of sitar music, and it's worth the price of admission all in itself. You SO need this album. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Jez
 

FORLORN - Hybernation - CD - Napalm Records

review by: Jez Andrews

Well, I can't deny that I like this. Keyboard-driven black metal is not always my thing, but Hybernation has been so meticulously constructed that I can't help but have a high appreciation for the music.

This is the third full-length album from the Norwegian four-piece (featuring former Gehenna axeman Dolgar) and from numerous accounts, it appears that Forlorn have made radical changes in their sound since making their recording debut in 1996. From majestic Viking black metal to the futuristic theme of their current release. There are points of this album that merge more with goth/industrial, most notably “Abuse” and various track intros.

Hybernation isn't what I would call an inspiring black metal work, but it most definitely has its charms. I notice that the speed gear doesn't kick in until closing track “Silent Demise,” which is well worth the wait. The double bass drum blasts of S.Winter help to give the music a sense of domination, in the vein of Dimmu Borgir and Eclipse.

I would recommend this to all who enjoy their black metal with plenty of frills. For those of you who prefer it cold and brutal, I would point you in the direction of Forlorn's earlier works. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
6.8/10 Roberto
 

FORNICATION - Sectanik Neocide - CD - Battlesk'rs Productions

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This 14-track, 24-minute album of black metal by this French four-piece may not be at all original, but it succeeds in its sound. I really like the way the guitars and bass buzz while the pummeling drums scuttle along in their own wonderfully morbid way. The sound of the vocals are great: raw, and as if the vocalist had been skinned alive. The result is that special kind of dark bliss that this lo-fi music can achieve when done well. Even though the album isn't very long, it's just enough of an engaging time for the medium that this band pulls off well.

The 24 minutes include a not very interesting, 2-minute "creepy" intro and three tracks at the end that are totally tedious, possibly rehearsal tracks recorded on a tape recorder, played back and recorded on another tape recorder - that's how bad it is. Still, people like the Vlad Tepes rehearsals, so what do I know? (6.8/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Roberto
 

FORSAKEN - Iconoclast - CD - http://forsaken_malta.tripod.com

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Malta is a tiny island nation in the Mediterranean Sea, between Sardinia and Tunisia. The official language is Maltese, which is a unique mix of Italian and Arabic. It’s also the home of Forsaken, a doom band in the vein of Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus.

It seems that the members of Forsaken have been milling about in bands in the Maltese scene for at least ten years now. The Maltese scene... such mentions of underground movements in microscopic countries will never cease to amaze and charm us.

Iconoclast has some good things going for it, most notably an excellent rhythm guitar tone and some very impressive guitar solos. The feel for this kind of doom is there, but that’s largely the problem, for Forsaken takes the cheesy elements of Candlemass and magnifies them without adding any originality of its own. So while there are pockets of brilliance, the keyboards are goofy, and the songs drag on too long.

The vocals of Leo Stivala are passable, but unfortunately are not up to the task to make the average songs on this album more engaging. In the vein of Solitude Aeturnus, yes, but sadly not recommendable. Check out the new Madder Mortem or While Heaven Wept (both reviewed in this issue) for your heavy metal doom fix. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

GATHERING, THE - Souvenirs - CD - Psychonaut Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The Gathering has been steadily developing this style that their fledgling label, Psychonaut, is pushing as trip rock. This style is kind of like trip hop, but with “trip” being the being the main ingredient and “hop” being nigh nonexistent; something that’s vaguely in the sme category as Portishead, but much less electronic and scratchy. You know, the kind of stuff that was found in songs like “Amity,” songs that blend the melancholic feel that the beautiful vocals of Anneke Van Giersbergen does with music that is sort of jazzy, sort of loungey, and totally great. Sure, this once cheesy doom metal band has been becoming less and less metal since their first Van Giersbergen-fronted record, but so what? People who will have a problem with that will have long since abandoned this band.

Souvenirs is a much less adventurous affair than the previous record, if_then_else. That is to say, The Gathering aren’t throwing in so many different types of songs and feels this time. Rather, Souvenirs is very much a cut and dried album made up of 10 songs. The record is much quieter, something that is greatly made so by elements as obvious as an even less rock approach to the songs, or less obvious elements like the drummer playing with a closed hi-hat this time.

Fans of this often copied, never replicated group will not be disappointed with Souvenirs. There are a few really superb songs, like “Broken Glass” and “You Learn about It,” which have the record’s most exquisite vocal melodies and choruses. The rest of the songs all have something nice to offer, but the last two tracks are pretty ho-hum. There is some hype about the last track, on which Kris Rygg (of Ulver and Jester Records) sings a duet with Van Giersbergen. You might be hoping for a vocal performance along the line of his last, excellent work on Arcturus’ The Sham Mirrors, but it’s turns out to be nondescript and passable.

Although Hans Rutten, The Gathering’s drummer, seems to think if_then_else was largely a hurried mess (read more about that in the interview with Rutten in this issue), this Gathering fan would heartily disagree. While Souvenirs is a welcome addition to this wonderful band’s discography, if_then_else clearly remains the album to beat. (7/10)

 

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Monsters EP (issue No 16)  

 

 

 
5.6/10 Roberto
 

GOD DETHRONED - Into the Lungs of Hell - CD - Metal Blade Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Although it is by no means a bad album, the latest record by this front-running band in the Dutch death metal scene is a disappointment. God Dethroned seemed to have been getting better and better since the release of Bloody Blasphemy (two albums ago). The band was starting to move away from the sloppy, raw sound of their first albums and really started to get a hold of how to incorporate melody and contrasts into their music. The production and musicianship also were improving.

With Ravenous (review in issue #8), the band had really made something great. The mix and compositions were coming together superbly, and we could all hope for more of the same in the future. So where does Into the Lungs of Hell go wrong? Well, the main culprit is the production. This time around, it seems as if some effort to make the music more clear and technical was made. (Mind you, the sound on the previous records was beyond reproach in terms of this.) However, there has been quite a bit sacrificed in the way of fullness, aggression and heaviness in favor of sterile sounding drums and flatter guitars.

Secondly, there has been an important stylistic change as God Dethroned seem to have all but abandoned the softer, prettier parts that would surface mainly during guitar solos and the odd interlude-like parts, like a piano bit. While the cool guitar harmonies are still there, the contrasts that made the last two records so good have been junked for stuff that's more "brutal." The only problem is that it's more boring, especially when applied to the less-than crushing production. It's also curious why the band chose to open the album with the slowest and most mundane song on the disk.

Vocally, this may be God Dethroned's best performance in terms of marrying clarity and aggression. You can practically hear everything that is being said. However, herein lies another problem, for God Dethroned has never been super at writing lyrics, whose clarity of conveyance has hurt the band as well - but to a lesser extent - on previous records. However, in terms of poor lyrics, God Dethroned seems to have degraded from goofy to inane and tired, like on the song "Soul Sweeper": "God is dead, your god is dead/ God is dead…I am the devil!/ Soul reaper…soul sweeper!" It's a bit of a pity, really, as God Dethroned was good enough to explain the ideas of each of their songs in the booklet, but aren't able to convert these good ideas into good lyrics.

So, you get the idea. This is the biggest disappointment since Iniquity's Grime, which, like God Dethroned, sacrificed the tasty for the brutal and came up short (albeit in different ways.) Note that this record normally comes as a 2CD set, with the second, 10-track CD featuring live cuts, re-recorded old songs and video clips. However, since the promo only features the first CD, I cannot comment on the bonus disk, although one can only imagine it would sweeten the package. (5.6/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Ravenous (issue No 8)  

 

 

 
7.2/10 Jez
 

GOLDEN DAWN - The Art of Dreaming (reissue) - CD - Napalm Records

review by: Jez Andrews

Atmospheric black metal can always be a bit of a gamble. If the balance is tipped further towards the keyboards, it can be even more of a gamble. When is it no longer black metal? The debate has lasted for quite a while now. Austria's Golden Dawn have managed somehow to sit on the fence and do a pretty damn good job of it.

The re-mastered debut album The Art of Dreaming is an impressive black metal album, though not without fault. Whoever gave the go-ahead for the futuristic dance groove on the intro to “Sub Specie Aeternitatis” should be hung, drawn and quartered. Having said that, the guitars have a nice strong presence, and the keyboard instrumentals are well crafted.

The almost calypso-type section of “Per aspera ad astra” certainly requires further explanation - indeed much of this CD is quite out of the ordinary. The highest quality tracks of actual black metal are “Ideosynchronicity,” “The Art of Dreaming” and closing track “Beyond the Mortal Shell,” though even the latter has the occasional oddball moment.

I'm sure there are those who would argue that the “atmosphere” only manages to weaken the music, but I think that if anything, it adds a certain spice to set Golden Dawn apart from the rest of the herd. (7.2/10)

 

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Masquerade (issue No 13)  

 

 

 
7.3/10 Jez
 

GOLDEN DAWN - Masquerade - CD - Napalm Records

review by: Jez Andrews

Atmospheric black metal can always be a bit of a gamble. If the balance is tipped further towards the keyboards, it can be even more of a gamble. When is it no longer black metal? The debate has lasted for quite a while now. Austria's Golden Dawn have managed somehow to sit on the fence and do a pretty damn good job of it.

Masquerade, the much anticipated second Golden Dawn album has far more ultra modern layers to it, not least displayed by the shapely video game sprite on the cover. There is a lot more musical variation this time around, both good change and bad. The tracks, particularly “Doomsday Celebration” and “Unborn Again,” seem to be more upbeat and ear-friendly. Clean vocals play a very prominent part in this album, and I confess to being quite a fan of Masquerade's diversity, though I would hardly refer to it as black metal. The entire album is beautifully executed and manages to be catchy without being cheesey. I can imagine that this would be ideal to nurse a broken heart for some reason, but I recommend it to the masses who just want something new and fresh. (7.3/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
The Art of Dreaming (reissue) (issue No 13)  

 

 

 
5/10 Abhi
 

GRAVE - Back From The Grave - CD - Century Media Records

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Grave are back after six long years. The world surely hasn’t been waiting with baited breath to hear from them again, not after the disgrace Hating Life was. And even though it starts off in fine fashion with the skull pounding “Rise” and hauntingly beautiful chorus part to “Behold the Flames,” this album should be renamed to Still Trying to Crawl out of the Grave We Dug for Ourselves. That’s because apart from the two above mentioned songs, this is insipid material that brings one thought to my mind over and over again: “hey, I’ve heard this riff before!”

Staying in the slow to medium slow range most of the time does not help their cause, either. “Dead is Better” hovers just under the “decent” mark. The rest of the songs bore me. Maybe I am being too harsh but let’s face it, this does not come near previous classics like Into the Grave and You’ll Never See. Those are the two albums any Grave material is going to be compared with. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Abhi
 

GROSSMEMBER - Leave Us Alone - CD - Bizarre Leprous Productions

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

I was unsure what to expect from this quartet. On opening the cover sleeve I was greeted with the sight of one of the band members wearing a Pantera t-shirt. The fact that the guy next to him was wearing a Impetigo shirt and that this CD was out on Bizarre Leprous Productions saved it from being relegated to an abysmally low position in my next-CD-to-hear list.

On paying closer attention to the song list, I realized that I had no reason to worry at all: there were covers of Impetigo, Ulcerous Phlegm and Shitlickers songs. Grossmember play gore grind with a powerful sound. No doubt, Impetigo are one of their main influences, as they seem to mainly rely on nailing down tight and heavy grooves, sometimes followed by classic grindcore style blasting. They seem to have been around for a long time as their list of releases is quite extensive (two tapes, one split tape, five split EPs and one full length previous to this). Both Wojtek and Daniel have been credited for guitar as well as bass, so I guess the guitarist/bassist position is interchangeable in this band.

I found that I could listen to the whole album in one stretch quite easily and there isn’t much variation in quality throughout. This is good solid grind workmanship, with more emphasis on catchy riffs and grooves than on speed. “War Time” and “Money it’s Your Fucking Religion” have some great, catchy riffs and “Life Like A Nightmare” is one of the few tracks where they really let rip. The drums have a very clear sound and drummer Radek is at his best on “False Unity.” The vocal approach sometimes reminded me of Blood’s Impulse to Destroy debut, and the overall vibe is kind of similar too, but this album is much more technically proficient.

The Impetigo (“Boneyard”) and Ulcerous Phlegm cover songs are well performed, but I really can’t understand the purpose behind the Shitlickers cover. Just one riff is played a few times and then the song ends.

One complaint I have with this release is that it’s fucking tough to make out which song is playing due to the absence of a track list numbering on the back of the CD. With 24 songs on offer here, it is a pain in the ass to count the song number every time you are curious to know which song is actually going on. Apart from this minor omission, this is a damn fine album. As an added incentive, there are four bonus tracks, all of which are taken from their split EP with Cock and Ball Torture. (7/10) 

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Abhi
 

GRUESOME MALADY - Infected With Virulent Seed - CD - Bizarre Leprous Productions

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

If you are a gore/grind fan, the chances are high that you would like to know more about this band. Rightly so, because this is a demented gore holocaust coming right out from the southern most depths of India. And I’m especially happy that they have managed to put out one of the sickest releases on one of the sickest labels ever, Bizarre Leprous Productions.

This full length debut of Gruesome Malady contains 10 tracks that will rot your brains dry! The album opener is the track “Maladorous Ejaculation,” which was present on the promo CD (review here). This track sets the tone for the rest of the album with putrid vocal effects and an absolutely murderous harmonic riff. From here on, these two sick freaks (Vikram and Jimmy) churn out stuff that ranges from merely disgusting to utterly vile. Take for example the disgusting intro to “Foul Gases Emanating from a Ruptured Anal Tract,” which befits the song title pretty well, or the delectably titled “Ingest the Excrement.”

But it is the sound generated by these guys, rather than just the songtitles, which actually give you the feeling of being trapped in a rotten quagmire. The vocals are so completely over the top that one cannot help but try to imagine the process that can lead to such inhuman sounds being put on tape, and to me it sounds like some one splashing around in a tub filled with blood and gore and gargling with it at the same time.

The icing on the cake, without any doubt, has to be Jimmy’s riffing. High pitched squeals, harmonics, crazy leads, all of these pop up when you least expect it, and I don’t even want to try to calculate what time signatures he’s been using here. It is next to impossible to describe the kind of riffs he comes up with, but let me just say that this is the most unorthodox and bizarre axework you will ever get to hear in this genre. Vikram seems to be having a blast here, and gives us plenty of blasts (beats) too. He doesn’t experiment much on the drums and that helps to keep the focus on the grind part of the music.

The drum sound is the only thing I can complain about, as it does not pack in the total punch that this music requires. It sure would have helped if the snare especially had sounded a bit more hard hitting. But in front of an effort like this, there are but just minor details. This stuff is sicker than a Ebola patient in terminal stage, get in touch with Gruesome Malady now! (8.5/10)

 

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Advance Promo (issue No 11)  

 

 

 
5/10 Abhi
 

HELL DORMANT - Mass Grave - CD - www.helldormant.cjb.net

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

If you ask me, leaving aside the music totally, Hell Dormant has to be appreciated for even having the guts to release a CD like this. They are the first death/gore band I have heard from Pakistan and for a band to exist in such a society where any deviation from society’s norms meets the strictest punishment (just yesterday a man charged with breaking a neon sign with verses of the Koran written on it, was given life imprisonment there!) is remarkable.

Their lyrics are really gory and brutal and I hope for their sake that this does not fall into the hands of any Islamic clergyman. As far as the music goes, the production could have been a bit better. This was recorded somewhere called Outcry Studios, and the mixing just hasn’t been done too well. The guitar can be heard, but it has too much of low end in it, with the mids missing and thus, lacking punch. Mind you, I don’t want a crystal clear sound, but at least something that sounds sick and heavy.

The riffing has a raw death metal edge to it, and some cool thrashy parts add extra flavour to it. The drums haven’t been mixed too well either. I can only hear the hi-hats prominently and the double bass can be heard whenever the music quiets down a bit. And as for the snare, I have no idea where the heck it is.

Album opener “Necro Obsession” has some nice grind riffs too that would have sounded great with blastbeats, but there are no blasts in this song (I cant hear any, at least!), just very fast double bass. Kamran provides some deathish growling, but rather than being a full throated growl, his voice sounds mostly like he’s breathing heavily into the mic.

The next song, “Twisted,” is undoubtedly the best song on the album, with some really catchy riffs. “Mass Grave” is a seven minute song that remains in low gear for the most part, and considering the amount of repetitions going on, gets a bit boring near the end. “Dissected” is a good song with a lot of thrashy riffs, and the vocals are also a bit more effective. “Skinned Alive” is a dragging song with some very basic riffs. Last song “Belly Open Wide” also has very basic and commonplace riffing bit it still sounds cool to my ears thanks to the extremely fast double bass work.

All the songs have simple structures with a lot of repetitions, but in the case of the first two songs, the great riffs offset any feeling of boredom caused by the rigid formats of the songs. Overall, this CD is a nice piece of old school styled death metal. I hope to hear more material from this Pakistani band soon! (and hopefully with a better production). (5/10)

 

 

 

 
3.2/10 Roberto
9/10 Condor
 

HEX - The Credit of Not Caring - CD - www.mrw44.freeserve.co.uk

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This Edinburgh, Scotland duo's take on the guitar-driven noise genre has a few things going for it. For one, despite being recorded in various bed and living rooms, the sound is very good. Some of the driving riffs and wall-of-noise passages are fairly good in themselves and serve their intended purpose.

Hex's glaring problem is that it is very unclear as to what the band's artistic or even sonic intention is. The six tracks, which range from a few minutes to a 40-minute sprawler, feel like they were improvised on the spot. Many of the riffs are repetitive and tedious and seemingly slapped together randomly, which can also be applied to looped sound sample of human voice in which one person sounds like a turkey. This could be all good, but it's not joined together in a way that instills any confidence in the listener that Hex really knows what it's doing yet. Please keep at it. Bring a pencil and paper. (3.2/10)

review by: The Condor

Don't know much about Hex, but I do know I like it. This was passed on to me by Maelstrom head honcho Roberto after listening to it and not knowing what to make of it. Which makes sense, ‘cause this is pretty abstract stuff, but it is way up my alley.

Simple, extended instrumental epics. Huge, grinding, fuzzed out bass riffs, played forever, hypnotic and repetitive, amidst a thick cloud of squealing feedback and howling guitars. The whole thing framed by simple, static rhythms. Squirrely guitar parts, fuzz and buzz, slowly coalescing into pulsing, throbbing walls of rooooaaaaarrrrr. Sometimes breaking down into, loose rhythmic workouts, with ethereal guitar figures floating above and around.

There are even moments where the feedback and walls of sound are foregone completely and Hex spit out angular, minimal guitar and drums workouts.

But it's not long before the hammer falls and things are cranked back up. I mean, c'mon, two of the three band members are credited with feedback, and rightfully so, the whole record is bathed in it. The final track is forty minutes long and is a massive psych-space-rock freakout, thirty minutes of which is a musical black hole of white-hot white noise, sputtering Casio beats, and throbbing fuzz and screech that would make Merzbow proud. This may very well be one of my favorite records this year.

Think the rhythmic, minimal metal of Gore, the extended, slowly shifting Riech-or-Riley-gone-Krautrock of Circle, and the fuzzy druggy haze of Loop or Spacemen Three and how could yo go wrong? You couldn't. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
3.5/10 Roberto
 

HSSH - HssH - CD - www.666diables.fr.st

review by: Roberto Martinelli

HssH is a French one-man band that makes some kind of industrial/ noise/ black metal hybrid. The tracks on this three-song demo are rather long, each approaching the 10-minute mark. Rather than building a steady atmosphere, within these tracks are frequent changes from plodding noise that explodes into fits of firecracker drum machine and then even into some dancy electronica.

Unfortunately, what doesn't work with all these changes is that they aren't very cohesive. The parts arbitrarily follow one another, and the end result is counterproductive to the mood. By the time the 30-minute recording is over, the listener is left realizing, "I guess it's over."

It's not all a wasted effort, however. There are some pockets that weave a nice, DIY black atmosphere, and the heaviness of the fuzz makes up for the lack of bass. Keep in mind also that I haven't been able to quite comprehend what makes black industrial projects like the stuff by K. Nordvargr the darlings of the genre that they are, but I can say that MZ 412's Burning the Church of God is where you should start if you're looking into getting into this kind of thing. May I also steer you towards the Norwegian industrial black metal project Gloom (reviewed in issue #8). (3.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

HUMAN MINCER - Embryonized - CD - Xtreem Music

review by: Roberto Martinelli

I don't know where it happened, but somewhere along the line pigs became icons of true metal warrior-dom. How this came about is a mystery, but its evidence can be seen time and again in the vocal approaches in the realm of brutal death metal. So now we can place Porky and his kin right alongside goats and ravens as worthy animal emissaries to the world of metal. Human Mincer is the latest in the sick, pummeling procession of these bands that revel in downtuned guitars, energetic drumming and those absurd, guttural vocals.

Human Mincer's press release has them compared to bands like Pyaemia and Insision, both bands that have received Maelstrom's seal of approval for being fine technical brutal death metal. Embryonized is up to par with the best of this genre with its sharp musicianship and well-suited, pounding production. Maybe not as good as Disgorge (see above), but fans of the style will like it. (7/10)

 

 

 

 

HWYL NOFIO - The Singers and Harp Players are Dumb - CD - hwylnofio.com

review by: Dave McGonigle

Wales. No, not the big things that float around in the sea, slurping plankton and singing inscrutable songs. The country. Go to London, turn right, and you’re there. Nothing to it. But, please, if you do go to Wales, don’t disturb Hwyl Nofio. He’s the one on the hillside with the prepared piano, composing tracks that manage to be both soothing and unsettling in equal measures. Every so often he runs down to a recording studio, dragging his piano with him, bangs out a few tracks, and then disappears without a trace. This latest offering has little to no singing, and absolutely no harp playing, but its easily the best thing to come out of Wales since John Cale. Track it down.

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Abhi
 

IMPERIAL FOETICIDE - Promo 2001 - CD - imperial_foeticide@centrum.cz

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

This promo contains four songs and an intro and outro. The bio says that they play “virtual” death grind so I was a bit skeptical at first, but this is pretty good stuff, I have to say. The “virtual” element is borne out of the small industrial samples they use here and there and the drums, which sound very artificial.

The bio claims that they have a live drummer now, but listening to the speed of the double bass pedals and the blast beats, I have a strong feeling they have either used triggers or have programmed the drums. But whatever they have done, they seem to have taken pains to ensure that it has been done well.

There are a lot of tempo changes throughout. The ease with which they make the transitions from the blazingly fast to the solid groove sections highlight the fact that they have plenty of experience under their belts. I see no mention of this band being signed by a label, and I find that hard to believe. These guys have been going at it for the last 10 years and judging by the quality of this demo, they definitely are technically proficient. So what seems to be keeping the labels at bay? Weird.

Anyway, back to the music. Jaroslav’s riffs are very dynamic, mixing in plenty of speedy picking and slower, palm muted heavy-as-hell riffs. “Two Different Ways” has an absolute skull crusher of a riff starting and ending the song. There are some chaotic solos lurking in the depths, too. The bass can be heard in only a few places and on a whole Tomas does a good job of keeping up with the many changes.

Michal is the only one credited with the vocals, and if I hadn’t read that I’m sure I would have said that there are at least three different vocalists. Gutteral grind vokills, death metal growls and some higher pitched snarling - there sure is a lot of vocal variety in this.

Clocking in at just under 12 minutes, this CD gets over before you have even had chance to react to the death grind spewed out by these Czechs, which leaves only one solution: a constant abuse of the "repeat" button. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Laurent
 

INTERPOL - Turn on the Bright Lights - CD - Matador Records

review by: Laurent Martini

With a great band name and great album cover I just couldn’t wait to dive into this album. Interpol delivers with the first two songs on the album, “Untitled” and “Obstacle 1.” The band’s feel is similar to brit-pop influenced Kent and Rialto but with a more guitar driven sound.

Unfortunately, after the second song, the rest of the album fades off and misses the mark. The rest of the songs don’t explore any new territory and come off as cheap knockoffs of “Untitled” and “Obstacle 1.” The album almost becomes boring and repetitive and with much less intensity. Having a later song named “Obstacle 2," which is slightly similar to “Obstacle 1" reinforces the feeling that Interpol either gave up or ran of ideas. To recycle songs from previous albums is ok but to recycle a song that appears five songs before is pretty terrible.  (6/10)

 

 

 

 
6.8/10 Jez
 

INTO ETERNITY - Dead or Dreaming - CD - Century Media Records

review by: Jez Andrews

This was infuriating to listen to. A band who obviously have a wealth of talent at their disposal and favour a solid mid-paced thrash approach, being dragged through by passages of nu metal and terrible, whiney vocals.

There are some genuinely great ideas on Dead or Dreaming. A sound use of melody and guitar virtuosity, and the riffing can be of truly stunning quality, sometimes akin to that of Arch Enemy or Testament. With a little re-working, each and every track on this album could be a blinder. The would-be tracks of distinction are, to my mind, “Unholy (Fields of the Dead)” and “Selling God” (the latter of which gladly sees one or both of the band's death metal vocalists on duty).

If you can stomache its shortcomings, I strongly advise the purchase of this CD. I myself can see a short and simple solution: Lose the sections of kiddy metal and the WHINEY FUCKING VOCALS! Write some more meaningful lyrics, and recruit Chuck Billy or Tom Angelripper for crooning detail, and you will have yourself a band to be worshipped. (6.8/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Roberto
 

JESTERS MOON - Jesters Moon - CD - www.jestersmoon.iuma.com

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Jesters Moon is a four piece that plays a strong variety of hard rock/ metal. The band has a lot going for it in terms of the conviction and quality of its musicianship and delivery. The songs all come across very full and there are some wonderfully tasty drum chops (especially on the instrumental track "Amnesia") and guitar licks and solos. In terms of their style, there's a little bit of the old Rush and a little bit of the new, which is mixed in with more standard hard rock hooks and metal flourishes that catch you.

The big minus, unfortunately, are the vocals, which, truth be told, are terrible. At first it seems that they have to grow on you, as the opening song, "The Battle," makes the heaviest use of the vocal effect that comes and goes throughout the record. But then it becomes plain that the effect is there probably to try to give the vocals a dimension that they're lacking. Again, to the band's detriment, the vocals often sound like a bad version of Ozzy Osbourne multitracked with Lee Dorrian's little brother, which is bad enough, except that some effort to be tuneful is attempted here, and it often becomes hard to cope with.

It's really a shame that the vocals are in the state they are. I totally sympathize with Jesters Moon's plight, as finding a proper vocalist in this day and age for this kind of music in this country is the most difficult piece of the puzzle; and in Jesters Moon's case it's not so simple as to just kick out the singer as he also brings excellent guitar playing to the band and writes most of the music. Keep at it, Jesters Moon! You're so close! Write up an ad like, "Totally kick ass band seeks equally talented singer." I hope you find each other. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Laurent
 

JUDAS PRIEST - Live in London - CD - Steamhammer

review by: Laurent Martini

If you don’t like Judas Priest, you suck. Having established that one truth, let’s move on to the review. Live albums are like best of albums in that the band will only play their big hits. If you like the band then you’ll like the album.

Live in London is filled with old favorites like “Breaking the Law” and “Hell Bent for Leather” and mixes in all the rest from “A Touch of Evil” to “Desert Plains.” The band is as bad ass as always, even sounding heavier and meaner live, and new singer Ripper (a great first name) Owens does a good job as lead.

But this is not like your grandmother’s Judas Priest. As a fan of the band for more than 15 years, I just can’t get used to Ripper’s voice. Sure the high, piercing staccato screams are there but his voice is much deeper than Halford’s. The songs are great but they sound like something’s just not right. I mean, the Spice Girls were not the same after Ginger left, right? (We swear he’s trying to be funny, we hope - Roberto) So if you’re a Priest fan you’ll of course love this album. If you’re looking for an introduction to this seminal band then I suggest British Steel; and if you want your Priest live then Unleashed in the East (Live in Japan) is a great buy. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Roberto
 

KARJALAN SISSIT - Miserere - CD - Cold Meat Industry

review by: Roberto Martinelli

After releasing one of the best dark ambient albums of 2002 (review and interview here) Karjalan Sissit has returned with another triumph.

And it would have been acceptable if Karjalan Sissit’s sole member, the Finn Markus Pesonen, had made another album like his fuzzy, bombastic debut, but Miserere is not a repeat.

Blending frightening industrial sounds with stunning string arrangements, Pesonen achieves a effect that is nothing short of incapacitating on the listener. When one of the many giant plates of orchestral beauty is played, your very soul drops in awe of this towering thing. We must congratulate Pesonen for splicing in actual string pieces, rather than going the more common way and using synthesizers, which is almost invariably a doomed idea from the start.

The industrial elements are largely in the form of steamy, thundering percussion, which gets quite relentless and deliciously unsettling in some parts. Same goes for the morbidly fascinating clips of a man screaming, a speech, and an engagingly strange talking section. All the previous parts are in what we assume to be Finnish.

As ever, Pesonen’s work is focused on militaristic themes. His penchant for inserting military-related music or songs of the period he is writing about (as seen on the last album, which had polka songs his soldier grandfather loved) again surfaces here in the inclusion of “Over There,” the famous American song written to stir up enthusiasm for WWI.

The only downside to Miserere is the opening track, which is very banal dark ambient fare with a looped, spoken bit in English about how the speaker is a hunter who kills the weak so the strong survive, blablabla. It’s third-rate science fiction fare that is to be skipped. But when Miserere comes to a close with its most melodic and haunting orchestral theme, you too will be reaching for the play button once again. (8.5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Karjalan Sissit (issue No 10)  

 

 

 
9/10 Roberto
 

KATATONIA - Viva Emptiness - CD - Peaceville

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This could be it. This could be the album that Katatonia will never be able to top. A lot of people (including myself) were converted to the “new” Katatonia through the previous record, Last Fair Deal Gone Down. That album has a lot of great moments, but you could feel that there was definitely room for improvement.

Thus, the approach to Viva Emptiness is much like Last Fair Deal..., but that room has been filled. Jonas Renske’s vocals are even more melodious, clean and despondent than before - conveying a unique edge to contrast the melancholic yet rocking edge of the music.

The heavy songs rock hard, while the softer ones, like the brilliant “Omerta,” have excellent touch. The solid riffs and permanently memorable choruses mean that every song on Viva Emptiness has something to offer.

The only criticism that can be pointed to the band is their rather careless use of curse words. Over the last two albums at least, Katatonia has been into jabbing the listener by including the word “fuck” into songs. It does provide some edge, yes, but seems equally a device to make all the conservative mommies cover their mouths and elicit a “parental advisory” sticker. So I guess there is an every so slight sliver of room for improvement. One of the best albums this year for sure. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
3/10 Jez
 

KOVENANT, THE - Seti - CD - Nuclear Blast Records

review by: Jez Andrews

Alright, for the Goths among you, there are some pretty catchy numbers a la Star Industry to be found on Seti, and a great deal of effort has obviously been made to make this a polished and precise release.

Now, for the metallers among you, grab your guns and follow me. It is damn near impossible to stomache that certain members of this band ever had black metal credentials. They can give themselves all the artsy fartsy aliases they want, but they can't hide from the torrent of disappointment and abuse left in their wake.

The progress of The Koveneant (formerly Covenant) can be easily charted: In Times before the Light - sans nads, but still true to the frozen North, Nexus Polaris - chunky, commercial, and it began to pay the bills, Animatronic - pass the PVC, and Seti - "Oh, look at that, smudged eyeliner, broken nail, and we're on in two minutes!"

I have no doubt that this album will sell very well, but it will be difficult for many not to resent the changes in style, image, and attitude. I mean to say, if it had been made clear from the beginning that industrial rock had been their agenda, then I would have had more appreciation for their efforts, even if the music was still not to my liking. But this band was spawned from a scene that thrived on a sound of extremity and brutal honesty, uncontaminated by decorative electronic samples and loops, and in that sense, Seti makes for some troubled listening. On the other hand, within the genre to which The Kovenant now seem to belong, you could do a lot worse. (3/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Laurent
 

LEGACY - Legacy - CD - www.legacylive.com

review by: Laurent Martini

Many bands continue to make a certain genre of music well after that genre is dead, gone and most likely hated. Most of those bands suck anyways, but then there are those that just shine. And thus we have Legacy.

You’ve got to feel sorry for Legacy because 16 years ago they would have been huge: ruling the airwaves and MTV and snorting so much coke in the hot tub attached to the back of their limo that they would have felt as if nothing could take them down. But times change, hair is less teased and Britney Fox is no more. Legacy’s self titled album is filled with guitarist’s Hansson heavy lead guitar and cool riffs, especially on the outro to “Leave it Alone.” Roseberry’s deep voice is a perfect contrast to the soaring solos. Think Skid Row at around the time of Slave to the Grind and that’s where Legacy lies. If you liked that sound then you’ll love this band. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Roberto
 

LIGHTNING BOLT - Wonderful Rainbow - CD - Load Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Not to be confused with Thunderbolt (also reviewed in this issue), Lightning Bolt is a math rock duo from Rhode Island whose instruments apparently are only bass and drums.

If correct, that’s pretty impressive, considering what the two members get out of these instruments. Lightning Bolt has quite a few similarities to Hella, one of our favorite math rock bands, (read the review of Hella in issue #10) in that much of their music is so whacked out and technical and fast. Imagine 100 modems dialing up and connecting in time with each other, and then speed that up times four, and you’re starting to get the picture.

But unlike Hella, it’s not all showoff technicality all the time. Lightning Bolt has a good bit of slower, crushing sludge parts. You could sort of argue that it’s all pretty sludgy, as Lightning Bolt is very noisy and feedback-ridden and distorted and screechy, but in a way that’s technically impressive. There are vocals too, but they’re thin and warped, like if you were trying to hear someone through an electric sandstorm. Certainly for math rock people, or for anyone who appreciates totally masterful, off the cuff drumming. (7/10) 

 

 

 

 
8/10 Abhi
 

LIVIDITY - …’til Only The Sick Remain - CD - Morbid Records

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Porno death metallers Lividity are back with their third full length, and what a pleasure it is! I popped this in after throwing out the Mucupurulent CD (see below) and was almost ecstatic to hear the classic Lividity sound beefed up and heavier than ever before!

All the factors that have helped Lividity develop a distinct sound are present: Matt’s trademark high pitched snarls, the funny porno intros and catchy as hell riffs. Some new elements have been added like little melodic sections such as on songs like “Anal Autopsy” or the intro to “Unrelenting Homicidal Obsession.”

As with the previous Lividity albums, there is nothing groundbreaking about this. In fact this is just the type of band that you either love at first listen or become totally indifferent towards. Most of the songs consist of moderate paced double bass providing the background for rumbling old school death metal and mosh parts.

It was great to listen to the sequel of the “Pussy Lover” song from their debut album “Fetish For The Sick,” entitled as “Second Cumming (Pussy Lover Pt II).” I may be wrong but the blast beats sound just a little bit slower than the early version. I liked all the songs, and my favorite will probably have to be “Fetal Scabs” as it is the most aggressive song on the record. This will appease fans of both old school and brutal death metal, and if you can tolerate blatantly sexist song titles like “A Woman’s Place Is on My Face,” then this is for you. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
cult/10 Roberto
 

LORD OF THE RINGS - The Fellowship of the Ring (retarded version) - CD - Empercor Enteranment Limted by Len Deighyton

review by: Roberto Martinelli

There's no doubt that the film adaptation of Tolkien's classic trilogy is one of the finest works in all of movie history, so this review has nothing to do with critiquing the film. So why are we featuring this article? Because this is the retarded version of "The Fellowship of the Ring," a version in which the ring wraiths are called "ravers," the Throne of Gondor is "the second condo," and everyone is the son of Aragorn.

As you may have caught on, some of us at Maelstrom are big fans of inadvertent retardation: Benighted Leams, the first Esoteric record, Andras… shit, the majority of black metal; there's something about a result that is unintentionally bizarre - probably part of the charm is that it's unique. Since the outcome was most likely the result of an amateur mistake, and the artist probably doesn't know how he or she did it in the first place, it means it can probably never be produced again.

Such is the case with this DVD, which is a bootleg from what we suspect is Taiwan. It came out before the official DVDs did, and it's obvious where the pirates got it from when you see the message on the screen about the movie being an advance Academy screener, not to be copied. Being a copy, the quality is inferior, but that's not the point.

As anyone who has ever come in contact with East Asian entertainment or pop culture knows, Asians have a…err…unique grasp of the English language. Due to the vast difference in language structure, the English that comes out of these countries is often inimitably hilarious and random to the extreme. For people like me who have lived in these cultures for extended periods of time, a sense of what is truly wonder and appreciation arises from this awesome ability to shape my native language into ways that I could never do. The feeling from such encounters is some sort of idiot epiphany.

Everything that's English, anywhere on the box or in the movie's English subtitles, is a scream. It's impossible to watch this DVD for more than 20 minutes at a time, as you get exhausted. You know that a corker is right around the corner, and when it hits, it's devastating. There are two synopses of the movie on the back of the box, both of which have nothing to do with "The Lord of the Rings," or anything else, it seems. Here's one of them, and keep in mind that everything typed within quotes is AS IS on the box or in the movie:

"Snowboarding through life, David Aames appears to lead life. Handsome, wealthy and charismatic, the young New York publishing executive's The gorst prevents her from being hired by R.T.T.R.S., a major corporate security company, she becomes exceeding frustrated. Determined to prove a point. SAM infiltrates the security system and breaks into their. In this fast paced action thriller, a CIA agent is forced to retire from service who's the bane of every high school senior's life. In a bid to win the Student Body President election."

As if the synopses and credits (that list the main actors as "Elijah Wood, Billy Boyd and Bill Boyd") aren't enough, there are the captions, which are so inept that sometimes when captions are put under the subtitled parts when people are speaking Elvish, the words aren't copied correctly. Here are but some samples, which have been coded as regular for the actual, spoken lines and bold for the retarded ones:

Frodo (upon Gandalf's arrival): Half the Shire's been invited!

Frodo: Office Strider has been invited!

Gandalf (to Aragorn): There is one who could unite them; one who could reclaim the throne of Gondor.

Gandalf: There is one who could unite them; one who could recleanse the throne of god.

Gandalf (to Frodo before his departure from the Shire): My dear Frodo… hobbits really are amazing creatures: you can learn all that there is to know about them in a month, and yet after 100 years, they can still surprise you.

Gandalf: My dear Frodo… Hope you see some amazing creatures. You can learn all that out there in a month.

Frodo (when first seeing Gandalf): Gandalf, I'm glad you're back.

Gandalf: So am I, dear boy.

Frodo: Gandalf, I'm glad you're back.

Gandalf: I am, you boy.

Boromir (about Aragorn): This is Isildur's heir?

Boromir: This is the Dutch heir?

The list goes on and on and on, but you get the idea. It's astounding that the people responsible for this work couldn't find any old native English speaker to check what they were doing. Thank you so much for not doing so! I have only the purest of motives when I say I hope for nothing more than for the next episode of this epic saga to be put in these good hands. (by the way, if you want a complete transcript of the back of the box, please write me and I'll give it to you.) (cult/10)

 

 

 

 
10/10 Roberto
 

LORD WEIRD SLOUGH FEG, THE - Traveller - CD - Dragonheart

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Heavy metal, and power metal in particular, has caused many a scoff through its male fixations on dragons and fantasy themes. I can’t blame people for laughing. It is totally absurd (but is it more absurd than singing about your baby?).

Perhaps the debate about what is more or less silly will wait for another day. The bigger problem is that you can totally tell that said metal bands generally have no connection to their lyrics about knights in armor and slaying dragons. Power metal music demands power metal cliché lyrics, and that’s what we’ll do, the bands think.

So when a band comes along and writes an entirely empassioned concept album about an obscure 70s science-fiction role playing game, people will snicker. But this has happened before with the albums of The Lord Weird Slough Feg. And, like before, just listening to the record makes you realize that as geeky as such an album seems on paper, you won’t hear lyrics delivered with as much conviction as the ones on Traveller.

When guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Mike Scalzi sings “release the spores,” you know he means it. Scalzi and co. are in their tenth year and on their fourth record now, having battled tepid interest from the majority of the metal world, and still are making the most original and BEST possible heavy metal available.

We’ve written about Slough Feg in the past (see the review of their reissued first album here), saying how it’s mind boggling that the metal faithful hasn’t embraced this band more. But it is how it is.

If you’re a returning Slough Feg lunatic, Traveller may seem inferior to the previous triumph, Down Among the Deadmen. While Down... does have more immediately catchy and memorable individual riffs, repeated listens to Traveller will reveal that it’s a grower. After eight spins of this quintessential disk, it becomes clear that this is Slough Feg’s best work to date.

Energetic, Celtically-inspired melodies and true metal harmonies and solos in the vein of Iron Maiden abound, fronted by the unmistakable lyrics of Scalzi, who is in his own right a grower. No note is wasted, and no passage is frivolous. It all fits in a glorious tribute to the power of originality and imagination, and is as truly and triumphantly metal as they come. Slough Feg and Lost Horizon (see next page) are in a bitter struggle for the best metal record of the year. There should be enough room on the podium for both of these totally original bands. (10/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
The Lord Weird Slough Feg (issue No 10)  

 

 

 
10/10 and beyond Roberto
 

LOST HORIZON - A Flame to the Ground Beneath - CD - Music for Nations/Koch

review by: Roberto Martinelli

It seemed improbable, but Lost Horizon has managed to outdo the genius that was Awakening the World, their first record (which, by the way, was my record of the year in 2001. See the review here).

Lost Horizon continues to excel in being the ideal of what heavy metal should be while at the same time not being a copycat. No, the spirit of Lost Horizon is as honest and stirring to the connoisseur as it is goofy and ridiculous to the uninitiated. The band continues to maintain the Braveheart in space look, and still thanks their favorite video games and movies in the liner notes. The members still use the most preposterously wonderful stage names, and have now added two more to the fold. One of them is named Perspicacious Protector (the full-time keyboardist). There’s something inexplicably brilliant about that.

But to those that this band has touched, what is cheesy and silly is really nothing short of glorious. As on Awakening the World, the sound of Lost Horizon, from the mega-talented vocals of Ethereal Magnanimus (Daniel Heiman, who is singing much higher on this record) to the synth tones, is perfect. Once again, the mere ride cymbal sound of Preternatural Transmogrifier (Daniel Nyquist, whom we interviewed in issue #4) alone is worth getting this album. This energy is as always reflected in the empowering lyrics, which are about being strong and proud and metal. Again, ideal.

Musically, what was already masterful has been made even better by more complex and interesting arrangements and solos, and an even ampler supply of sublime vocal melodies and transitions in each song.

This time around, Lost Horizon has gone softer. No, not in a stupid metal ballad way. Rest assured, there is no shortage of energy and intense drums, fills, and guitar and synth acrobatics. Trust me, even if you don’t like power metal, this band is something that transcends the genre. If you do like power metal, you’re a total fool not to get this before anything else. Lost Horizon is so purely metal you’re going to feel sick if you hear it. A lock for my pick of the issue, which is obvious, as A Flame to the Ground Beneath is the best power metal record EVER. You read it here. (10/10 and beyond)

 

Related reviews:
 
Awakening the World (issue No 4)  

 

 

 
5/10 Roberto
 

LOTUS EATERS, THE - Mind Control for Infants - CD - Neurot Recordings

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This side project of Aaron Turner (Isis, Old Man Gloom, et al), Stephen O’Malley (Sunn, Khanate, et al), and James Plotkin (Phantomsmasher, et al) is like the soundtrack to a ghost town.

Mind Control for Infants is an album of extreme lethargy, whose notes seem to take the listener along through the dusty alleys of long uninhabited streets and past creaking doors on their last legs. The mood is primarily of cold, solitary reflection, but there are sustained passages of warm, comforting remembrance, primarily concentrated at the beginning of the record. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
9.5/10 Roberto
 

LUGUBRUM - De Totem - CD - Blood, Fire, Death

review by: Roberto Martinelli

I’d like to publicly acknowledge that I’m a total dork for having given the Lugubrum/Finsternis split a bad review (in issue #9). The write up basically says that Lugubrum is a Darkthrone clone and that the compositions are of little if any interest.

Whatever. If by any chance I turned you off to this band, go back and change everything that I said, for Lugubrum is the best thing since...well, Darkthrone, and maybe even better.

Yes, Lugubrum is very much in the Darkthrone style in terms of sound and cult feel, but it’s got many unique dimensions, of which musically are killer doom riffs and slow songs that space out the fast ones brilliantly.

But the surface is still merely being scratched, for there is so much more to enjoy about this band. Lugubrum plays “Boersk black metal,” which translates to “total goofballs from Flemish Belgium who dress up like Hillbillies and worship beer, carrots and shit. Oh, yeah, and they also play necro black metal.”

It’s impossible for Lugubrum to be a Darkthrone clone, not with personality like that. Only a unique band could yield such song titles as “Beard of Disease” and “Midgets of Evil,” and could give such hilarious interviews (read up on them at http://www.fmp666.com/lugubrum/lugubrum.html).

Certainly we at Maelstrom would not recommend a band simply because it amuses us (well, maybe we would, but we’d tell you so), for Lugubrum goes beyond a wacky theme; cult spills from this band’s work like beer from an overflowing stein. The sound, the riffs, the delivery... all is perfect. Stuff like a logo with two arms crossed and hands doing the sign of the horns while holding a carrot and a beer bottle, and with the caption “beer us or die!!!” is just icing.

Speaking of icing, this reissue of De Totem comes with two bonus tracks, which are great. Ok, enough reading for you. All true black metal fans as well as those with a unique appreciation for the bizarre are obliged to get everything this band has ever recorded. (9.5/10)

 

 

 

 
2/10 Larissa P.
 

LULLACRY - Crucify My Heart - CD - Century Media Records

review by: Larissa Parson

The press release accompanying this album boasts that Finnish group Lullacry “is indeed up to the task of not only outdoing the musical quality of their earlier releases, but also opening new doors towards a more crossover and alternative audience.” As a member of the more alternative target audience, I have to say, I seriously doubt the truth of this statement.

This album is so bad, it’s almost addictive: the worst of 80s rock combined with the most angst-ridden lyrics you can imagine. If only one could say that the lyrics are the worst part. But it goes deeper than that. The few tracks that could be good, as far as their instrumentation goes, have such magnificently bad lyrics that you can’t listen. An example is “Heart of Darkness,” which appears well into the second half of the album, features a great bass line, a few crunchy multi-guitar binges, and lyrics like: “Please save me from the heart of darkness/ Please save me from my darkest hour/ I gave everything I had to give /Please save me from the heart of darkness,” all sung in perfect saccharine harmony, which makes it hard to take these pleas seriously. Please save me.

If the tunes were catchier, this might be as much fun as T.a.T.u. Instead, I was left thinking that if this band could stick with rockin’ hard, and get rid of a little bit of melodrama, this could almost be listenable. (2/10)

 

 

 

 
9.5/10 Roberto
 

MADDER MORTEM - Deadlands - CD - The End Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Norwegian Madder Mortem seems to have come out of nowhere to make such a fine product inside and out, for everything about Deadlands, from the lyrics to the packaging, contributes to a monumental doom metal record.

Of the schools of doom, Madder Mortem is in that Candlemass branch - the kind that's not excruciatingly slow or sludgy or retro sounding; nor is it Gothy or symphonic. It's just heavy metal doom; crushing material driven by guitars and bass and drums, and with massive, lilting melodies. To draw some quick comparisons, the vocal delivery and multi-tracked harmonies often sound a great deal like the stuff on Solitude Aeturnus' most recent record, Adagio. At other times, mainly during the single track, solo vocal parts, the vocals are much like The Gathering's Anneke Von Giersbergen on her doomier songs. Categorizing this band by using Candlemass as an example is a bit misleading, as Madder Mortem doesn't share the absurd, cheesy facets of the first incarnations of the Swedish greats.

So, everything is just right. A pace that is despondent and totally crushing, yet immediately approachable - massive and churning without falling into the trap of the material suffering because of its slowness. From this wasteland of soul rending compositions and arrangements arise the vocals of Agnete Kirkevaag, whose delivery is colossal while simultaneously conveying delicacy and grace. Since all the vocals are clean, poor lyrics would be very vulnerable, but thankfully the lyrics are as good as everything else. They are well written as prose and do nothing but add more and more layers to the sublime sense of beautiful, powerful misery.

Although Deadlands doesn't appear to be a concept album, the artwork and lyrics convey strong themes of a wasteland where people are in a perpetual, inescapable state of bondage and forced labor - kind of like the industrial version of a fantasy Egyptian pyramid building hell. In "Silverspine," Kirkevaag sings: "This is all yours if you want it/ My sick landscape, dry and fevered/ My survival and the hunger/ Growing older in a heartbeat." In "Deadlands," the listener is faced with such words as: "All I wanted was a little discipline/ A master's touch to give me some serenity within/ Now I know there's no one there to save me from myself."

Of course the record would be nowhere without riffs, and Deadlands has got those in droves. Look especially for the stunning main riff to the song "Rust Cleansing" and the brilliant instrumental arrangements that are presented with the best possible production. Where so many metal records, even good ones, have obvious creative holes in them, (more often than not in the quality of the lyrics) Deadlands has none. It's a carefully and tastefully crafted work. Look for this to be the best doom record of the year, and certainly the surprise pick of this issue. (9.5/10) 

 

 

 

 
9/10 Jez
 

MAPLE CROSS - Promo 1/02 - CD - maplecross@surfeu.fi

review by: Jez Andrews

Until this three-track promo arrived at my house, I had never heard the name Maple Cross. What I heard through my stereo speakers was nothing short of miraculous. In the space of three short tracks, this band have managed what many bands fail to achieve in their whole careers. They have created both pain and strength within straight-up heavy metal, slightly reminiscent of In Flames and Entombed. What moved me most about this recording (other than the simple urge to headbang) was how much the vocals of Marco reminded me of the late Chuck Schuldiner on Death's Live In L.A. album. The songs are both heavy and melodic, with pretty nice production.

If this is just a taste of things to come, i'll be keeping my eyes wide open. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Matt
8.5/10 Jason
 

MARDUK - World Funeral - CD - Regain Records

review by: Jason Thornberry

Metal evolves, and we’re left with the consequences. I write this review with a mouth full of salt water (seriously) so I can accurately convey the mood of the album. If I swallow the water I’ll puke, and these songs make me feel similar -- in a good way. The darkest riffs lie beneath posthaste blast beats and words like “cloak the earth with a thousand nights and billion dead.” Sounds like this Swedish band is talking about George W. Bush again. World Funeral is poisoned - impregnated with venom, which could make it more than you can handle - and it goes well with the news on, the sound on the telly down, and this in its place. (8.5/10)

review by: Matt Smith

Marduk has been one of my favorites since I began listening to metal, and World Funeral is no disappointment. Blistering drums and guitars let up only occasionally. The vocals are as rich and evil as ever. The Satan-praising glorification of death and descriptions of necrophilia leave a listener feeling more unholy than ever. They even bring in a touch of “ultraviolence,” replacing synthesizers with guitars on their rendition of the “Clockwork Orange” title music.

Every second of the album is as it should be. Each beat or riff hits with perfect accuracy. Although some songs are slower than Marduk often attempts, everything stays interesting and it only helps to show off their skills. World Funeral is a great album, 12 years in the making. (9/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
La Grande Danse Macabre (issue No 2)  
Infernal Eternal (issue No 2)  

 

 

 
6/10 Roberto
 

MERENDINE ATOMICHE - Walk Across Fire - CD - www.merendineatomiche.3000.it/ Deadsun Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This five-piece Italian band, whose name loosely translates to something like "atomic snack," has decided to make a career of taking the style of Metallica during its glory years and making it live into the 21st century. In this, Merendine Atomiche does a good job. You can hear the Metallica signatures, but the riffs aren't ripped off. In fact, Merendine Atomiche has quite a few good, original riffs and constructions.

The high points of this CD, which was recorded at the renowned Sulight Studios in Sweden (I thought that place closed down…?) are the rhythm guitars and bass, which are punchy and heavy in true Hetfield and Burton fashion. The guest solo by Jeff Waters (Annihilator) on "Game Over" is particularly tasty as well. So while it still may sting to contemplate how much Metallica has sucked for so long, Merendine Atomiche may provide a nice balm for the pain. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Jez
 

MISTELTEIN - Divine Desecrate Complete - CD - WWIII Records

review by: Jez Andrews

On first inspection, I was expecting nothing more than second rate Cradle of Filth clones. There is a certain hint of Cradle to the keyboards, true, but the Dark Duneral style blast of the overlay puts paid to any suspicion of gothic weakness. Not the most vicious of black metal, and the sound is admittedly a little clean cut, but its pretty seething stuff regardless.

Now that Cradle and Hecate Enthroned have ironed out the creases of street cred in their sound, it's refreshing to hear bands like Misteltein who have roughly stuck to the black metal side of the law. My only misgivings are the subtle signs that they too shall one day stray from the path. But enough of the future, enjoy the present while it lasts.

Tremendous riffing throughout, and none of the techno drum machine antics that let down Tidfall. Misteltein have laid down some great ideas on Divine Desecrate Complete, ones that could become something very special if used in the right way, always remembering that attempts at stirring atmosphere have gone pear-shaped in the cases of Abyssos and Evenfall. The talents they possess must be constantly nurtured to safeguard and develop the tight styling of their efforts thus far. And those efforts are pretty remarkable. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
7.8/10 Roberto
 

MORBOSIDAD - Morbosidad - CD - Quadrivium Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

We've written some articles about this Hispanic four piece in our live review section, and now we've gotten the chance to tell you about one of their records. Morbosidad has triumphed in the live setting due to the incessant, almost droning vibe of their old school, rough and fast as hell music. One would hope that this same energy could be ported over in the recording studio, and luckily it has.

Morbosidad is total war cult metal. Don't ask me how any of their songs go; I haven't got a clue. It's not about that, though. It's about the darkness and barbarity of their relentless attack. Morbosidad wears their adoration for Bathory on their sleeves, (or, rather on their chests) and so much of the vibe in their music is influenced by old, OLD Bathory, but sped up and more rumbling. The sound of the music is right on, and the possessed, morbid vocals are the perfect match. The only thing that totally doesn't fit about this album is the cover art, which frontman Tomas Stench will be the first to tell you is totally wrong, not so much because it's complete shit, but it's complete shit that doesn't reflect the content of the CD at all. Colors and computer graphics be gone!

Listening to this band is all about the vibe. It's a lot like putting on an ambient record. It rumbles and satisfies in it being so monotonous in its speed and incoherence. Cool stuff. Hail. (7.8/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Morbosidad (reissue) (issue No 14)  

 

 

 
1.8/10 Abhi
 

MUCUPURULENT - Soul Reaver - CD - Morbid Records

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

The only time I have heard any music related to Mucupurulent was when Cock and Ball Torture covered one of their songs for the “Where Girls Learn To Piss On Command” MCD. That song was pretty much the standard porno grind affair that CBT specialize in, so I was expecting something similar to that out here, even though the cover did give me some premonition that things were not what they seemed to be.

Death n’ roll is what the music sounds like now, and frankly this style is just not my cup of tea. I didn’t enjoy any of Entombed’s material after Wolverine Blues and neither did I like any of Unleashed’s later death n’ roll style albums. However, the more I listen to Soul Reaver, the more sure I become that I will prefer any of those aforementioned to this.

Soul Reaver is a mid-paced, plodding album infested with numerous nondescript “groovy” riffs, and comes off sounding like a limp Pro Pain (i.e. without the aggression) in most places. They sure seem to be intent on attaining commercial success, now that it is within their reach due to a signing with the big label, Morbid Records, but if that means they are going to produce dance-able death metal albums, sorry guys: find someone else to support your album. The only things I liked about this record were the solos on “Back to the Bones” and “Vermin.” (1.8/10)

 

 

 

 
7.7/10 Roberto
 

NEBEL - Hyms of Destruction (?) - CD - Oaken Shield/ Adipocere

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Don’t know why some metal CDs can be boring and lame while others are boring but totally great, but it’s true. Nebel’s record (which I believe is called Hymns of Destruction) is definitely in the latter category. All the songs are the same, feature fast-picked yet drone-y riffs with melodic elements paced by blistering yet monotonous drums. Meanwhile, deep, raspy vocals ramble on in an equally plodding fashion.

It works primarily because of the sound, which conveys the impressively played material in just the right heavy and brutal fashion. Marrying this with the ambient nature of the music results in that unique type of bliss that blurry, extreme metal of this nature can offer. Check it out. (7.7/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Roberto
 

NAGLFAR - Sheol - CD - Century Media Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

I can barely write this review without bursting into tears. It's not fair to Naglfar, who I'm sure mean well, but it's that the other Nagelfar - the one with the extra "e," the one from Germany - is now an ex-band, having broken up last year. And every mention of this alive and well Swedish group makes me lament what could have been. For you see, not only is Nagelfar clearly Naglfar's superior, but superior to just about any black metal band out there.

But enough of that. The issue at hand is Sheol, Naglfar's latest record. And it's a good record; clearly better than the also good MCD we reviewed in issue #7. Naglfar's music is fast and, in true Swedish fashion, crammed with as much musical fuzz and amorphousness as possible while still remaining totally tight and orchestrated, supplying plenty of little melodies to pick at. If you need a comparison, think Dissection but faster and slicker.

However, the commentary in the review in issue #7 still remains true about this band now as it ever has: there's just something missing. For all the fancy shmancy production and effort in playing as extremely and as well as possible, there's an issue of a lack of clear identity or, dare I say it, soul. Sheol blasts along, but there's nothing about it that says, "this is Naglfar." ("the Swedish band," at that.)

Please excuse my inability to leave out Nagelfar in all this. Imagine if there were a band called Iron Meiden from Holland that somehow became very popular, but to you were just a shell compared to the band that totally owns your soul every time you put on one of its albums. Could you ever listen to the other guys entirely impartially?

Do I expect Naglfar to be more like Nagelfar? Of course not, in a stylistic sense; that would be absurd. But what I do wish is that Naglfar could somehow soothe the hurt of one of my favorite bands breaking up too soon by putting out something that really brings something more than just another excellently put together and played Swedish extreme metal album that doesn't have much to it beyond that. In my perfect world, Naglfar would be the ones who broke up. Snif. (6/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Ex Inferis (issue No 7)  

 

 

 
7/10 ~Eternus~
 

NEHEMAH - Shadows from the Past - CD - Oaken Shield/ Adipocere

review by: ~Eternus~

This French band completely surprised me. Having never been a major fan of the French black metal scene in general, save for a few quality bands, I didn’t expect much. Their first album, Light of a Dead Star with its simplistic, fuzzy sounding riffs of earlier Darkthrone, and slightly surreal atmosphere akin to Manes and had more than enough variation to keep me interested.

Now this follow up album has all of these elements yet I can`t help but feel it lacks something. When I play the first album over again it just seems to work better. However, Shadows from the Past is still a quality raw black metal release, there are still some great riffs, gravel-throated vocals and that eerie atmosphere that I think will definitely appeal to the fans of the likes of Armagedda, Mutiilation, Gorgoroth, Craft, and of course worshippers of Under a Funeral Moon-era Darkthrone. If you get this and appreciate it I highly recommend you track down Light of a Dead Star and compare the two for yourself. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
9.3/10 Abhi
 

NEURAXIS - Truth Beyond… - CD - Morbid Records

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

It is no big secret that Canada has some of the finest metal musicians, and now it is time to add Neuraxis to the list. Melody bleeds into brutality with such seamless precision that you are marveling at stunningly beautiful guitar riffs one moment while violently headbanging and playing air blast beats the next moment. Perhaps the songs “Impulse” and “Fractionized” are the best examples of this.

This album has been recorded at Z-Sound Studio, which has been used by bands like Gorguts and Cryptopsy before. The sound attained on this will only serve to heighten the prestige of that studio. Everything can be heard perfectly clearly except perhaps the bass guitar which seems to be buried in the mix. Some of the songs have absolutely breathtakingly technical axework. Fuck that, make that all the songs.

I am reminded of Aphasia, another Canadian band, quite a few times through the course of this album, invariably when the vocalist starts screaming over a melodic riff going on in the background. The drummer puts up a highly impressive show, too. Take a listen to “Essence” and try not to imagine him with an extra pair of arms. You wont be able to. There is not a single bone of contention I have in regards to this album and this has turned out to be everything that I was hoping the Vehemence album would or could be. No filler riffs, no plodding moments, this almost qualified in my top three list. Oh, and I think this is only available in Europe at the moment. Please check the Morbid Records site for further information. (all info in our links page - Roberto) (9.3/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Abhi
 

NEURO VISCERAL EXHUMATION - Mass Murder Festival - CD - No Escape Records

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

The other two No Escape Records releases I have reviewed in this issue (Captain Cleanoff and Vaginal Carnage) sound like ear candy when compared to this. This is the real gore grind deal folks, no kidding.

For those people who missed out on the N.V.E / Bradyphagia split that came out last year (like me) this is a chance to check out these Brazilian sickos again. What makes it even better is that this is a full length (30 minute) album. The first thing I noticed about their sound is that the drumming is very varied and interesting, and absolutely brutal too. The riffing gets very undiscernible sometimes and Fred (drums) takes control of the groove with a lot of cool patterns and fills, thereby turning what might have been chaotic sections into gory structured carnage.

Gore grind lovers have nothing to worry about, nothing on this release is anything other than sick splattering gore! The guitars are tuned very low and they sound really heavy when they get into one of those Cock and Ball Torture-like grooves, and the rest of the time they rumble along with John’s insane wild hog snorting vocals. Fred has been credited with most of the songwriting and thus it’s no wonder that the drums play a major role in this.

“Subcutaneous Defleshment (Part II)” and “How to Hide a Ravaged Body…Bathtub with Sulfuric Acid” features some awesome drumming. There are two cover songs, one by Dead Infection and the other by Doom. Both are pretty well done, especially the Dead Infection cover of “After Accident.” Some of the intros just spoil the feeling of continuity between songs, which work best as an uninterrupted flow of vileness, and silly intros of screaming girls put me off. Anyway, this is very sick and brutal goregrind, something that should be in your collection today! (8/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Jason
 

NOFX - Regaining Unconsciousness - CD - Fat Wreck Chords

review by: Jason Thornberry

A band who shuns the media, with insularity and a fixed opposition to suck-sess is more “punk” by that idea alone; so they could be playing toe-tappin’ countrified tunes about sowing your oats, but NOFX would still be the real ‘ting to me.

And with this short release, a justifiably cynical appetizer to their impending The War on Errorism album, you get Fat Mike, El Hefe, Melvin, and drummer Smelly fiddling with clichés while laughing at the “scene” on “Medio-core” (“how was the band, they were okay -- not great, but pretty good -- they played the songs I knew they would, some old some new, same formula stays true we can concur”).

Yet when it all ends the whiff of creative disgust stays in the room with you until their Rock Against Bush tour visits your college campus, and you’ll get to see the most spot-on-tight, and seriocomic speed-rock (new genre) laid to wax since, well, their last album. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Roberto
 

OMNIUM GATHERUM - Steal the Light - CD - Rage of Achilles Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This Finnish sextet is yet another in a seemingly endless stream of bands that come from Scandinavia that can play to a very high standard. Omnium Gatherum in particular sounds like a mix of the best of what Children of Bodom and Dark Tranquillity's latest album, Damage Done, has to offer.

Omnium Gatherum's melodic death metal stylings aren't as cotton candy or over the top as Children of Bodom, nor is it as heavy as Dark Tranquility. Rather, Omnium goes for a more reserved, quiet approach while developing a uniqueness to these already established styles. If you like this kind of music, then this is sure to be a hit with you. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Roberto
 

OPUS ATLANTICA - Opus Atlantica - CD - Regain Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Fusing Euro power metal with a little prog, Opus Atlantica's metal is certainly of the pretty, wanky variety. Right, from the singer's voice to the drum production to the airy guitar tones, it's very, very wussy, but it's so good.

So while this Swedish group's stuff is hardly heavy, their flair for song writing and arrangement makes for an enjoyable listen. The instrumental flashiness never forsakes song quality, and the instruments all come together in a pleasant mix of proficiency and clarity. I really liked the Bach cover of "Cello Suite in G Major" on track 5. It so exemplifies everything that's subjectively fabulous and objectively absurd about power metal. If this style of music is your thing, try to get a hold of this. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
3/10 Jason
 

OVERKILL - Killbox 13 - CD - Spitfire Records

review by: Jason Thornberry

Colin Richardson is at the knobs today, and he knows how to make Overkill sound just like the New York thrash band I loved in the late eighties -- most of the time. But singer Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth is blessed (?) with a considerably irritating voice usually, and sometimes he takes it too far (which is defined here as the 5:24 duration of the first track). Still, the presence of the bottom end is one of Richardson’s specialties; just ask Napalm Death, Bolt Thrower, Carcass, Brutal Truth, Anathema, Sepultura, or Godflesh.

The bass guitar in particular is the star of Killbox 13, with D.D. Verni’s sound having grown beyond proportion to any of their material recorded “backintheday.” Ellsworth’s voice got on my fucking tits terminally this time round, unfortunately, and I had to switch it off and go outside. I returned hoping to steady my nerves by tuning him out, but by “Unholy” (#9) it was clear that Killbox 13 wouldn’t get repeat spins from me, especially with Blitz-boy attempting to scat sing his way to perdition with loud overdubs leading to the choruses. If this album were available instrumentally I’d probably set up the beginning of “Crystal Clear” as my alarm clock, but otherwise it’s a coaster or my garbage collector can give it a listen. (3/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Wrecking Everything (issue No 10)  
Wrecking Everything (issue No 11)  

 

 

 
5/10 Jason
 

OZMA - Spending Time on the Borderline - CD - Kung Fu Records

review by: Jason Thornberry

A nameless combo is serving little purpose other than to inspire Ozma, etcetera, etcetera, to try bettering the self-effacing, arena-ready heavy pop they’ve by now reduced to a formula.

Spending Time on the Borderline begins with a few space age barre chords, but the budget for experimentation runs dry rapidly. If only someone qualified thickened the sound overall it would seem less like a garage band practicing on an expensive ghetto blaster - the vocals in particular.

Will Ozma rise above the imputation of a tribute band with a record deal? They’ve already been around long enough to learn fresh moves, and a newfound Ukranian balalaika supports their protocol as purveyors of “Russian Coldfusion,” but it’s actually an indirect way of saying the bright red car now has a single coat of white paint. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Abhi
 

PARRICIDE - Ill Treat - CD - WWIII Records

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Parricide is a brutal death metal band from Poland. This album was recorded way back in 2000 but it seems to have been made available only recently. I’m not too sure if I have heard of this four piece band before, but the adage “better late than never” sure holds good in this case.

Reading the liner notes it’s evident that this band has been in action for quite a long time (more than 13 years) and thus there’s little surprise that this is a good, tight exhibition of death metal musicianship. The music is like a combination of brutal death metal (Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse) and dark, brooding death metal that bring bands like Incantation to mind.

Actually, stylistically speaking, the core of Parricide’s music is on the same platform as Excommunion (review in this issue): the intent to create death metal “songs” rather than trying to be the fastest or sickest sounding. The songs have been recorded in chronological order, and things start to get really interesting only from about the third or fourth song onwards. The first few songs are solid and well written, but ultimately very standard death metal fare.

Starting with the track “Watched (by Shades),” the level of complexity starts to increase gradually. And in “One Step to Deviation” they start exploring the regions of desolation by employing those artificial harmonics ala Incantation. By the time the seventh song is reached, Parricide sound much more brutal and complex than at the start. “Nothing Consider Aeons” and “Step of Evolution” have some pretty good riffs, though a few of these riffs I’m sure I have heard before.

“Coming Dawn” is a good song, too, with some tight riffing but the song right after it, “Burnt Offerings” is one of the big low points of the album. This is a totally pointless and boring song.

These guys end their show with a cover of Cannibal Corpse’s “Hammer Smashed Face.” It sounds like they didn’t want to slow down where they were supposed to, and this ends up sounding much faster than the original. But I really feel that the chorus riff with the hammer-ons and pull-offs sounds best when played slow, like Cannibal corpse do. In any case, it’s good that these guys tried something different and it ends the album on a good note.

I cannot recommend this album wholeheartedly to everyone, even though I like it quite a bit, mostly due to the fact that in order to appreciate it one really has to concentrate hard. As I have said before, the musicianship is good, but perhaps the next time around they might want to write some riffs that really stand out from the rest of the crowd. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
6.3/10 Roberto
 

PELICAN - Pelican - CD - Hydrahead Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Pelican’s instrumental music fits in well on the roster of quality releases by Hydrahead Records: it’s heavy, it’s soothing, it’s got a sense of artistry to it, it’s clearly influenced by Isis.

The CD starts off kind of slowly, but by the end of it, you find yourself humming the rhythmic riffs to the building intensity of the music. It’s over too soon, so you press play again. Could use some vocals, though.

By the way, Pelican is billed as an EP and therefore is available for around $8, which is a damn good price for a quality half hour record. (6.3/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Roberto
 

PHARAOH - After the Fire - CD - Cruz Del Sur Music

review by: Roberto Martinelli

A few years after the death of Chuck Shuldiner put an end to the Control Denied project, that band’s singer, Tim Aymar, has resurfaced in the metal world with this new band, Pharaoh.

I know I’m not alone in thinking that Control Denied seemed like the best thing ever on paper, but the results really fell very short. Fortunately, this is not the case with Pharaoh, which plays an invigorating, galloping style of old school heavy metal with strong nods to Iron Maiden.

After the Fire is loaded with super riffs and harmonies. Aymar’s vocals are rough and melodic, and fit the style very well. So it’s a pretty simple album review. Pharaoh is great and nostalgic without being the least tired or rehashed. Too bad for Pharaoh that it’s in the same issue as the new Lost Horizon and The Lord Weird Slough Feg. Our recommendation to those seeking classic heavy metal is to get those other two records and, if you have money left, pick this up. It’s well worth it. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
8.4/10 Abhi
 

PSYCHOTOGEN - Perverse and Unnatural Practices - CD - Crash Music

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Even a cursory listen to this 33-minute album will leave the listener in no doubt marveling at the capabilities of these musicians. Featuring ex-members of Pessimist, this four-piece band starts off in a very humble fashion with the song “Chaingod.” This is a mid paced death metal song with nice riffs but pretty straightforward compared to the rest of the album.

“Cathexis” sees them stepping on the gas a bit. One interesting thing about this song is how Rob varies his vocal delivery according to the speed of the music. The music suddenly flies off the handle from the 2nd minute onwards with some really technical and cool interplay amongst the various instruments. “In the Dust of Your Nothingness” starts off with a driving riff and is definitely the most catchy song on this CD.

“Tear at the Flesh” has some black metallish screaming vocals and from this song onwards the experimental side of Psychotogen comes to the fore. Tony’s bass work is at its best in this song with shitloads of slapping and awesome fills. There’s even a very cool jazz break in this song. This is very technical stuff that these guys are pulling off here, and pulling off well.

“Follow Me (into Hell)” starts off with an acoustic intro before reverting back to the technical madness. There are some blistering fast riffs in this song and some pretty fast double bass work as well. The time changes are even faster and more complicated than the previous songs.

Next up is the instrumental song “Psychotogen”. This is a complete experimental freak-out. Discordant solos combine with bloody awesome bass work and tribal like drum beats. When the acoustic guitar kicked in, I was immediately reminded of that instrumental Sepultura song from Chaos A.D., but this is way more crazy shit.

The last song, “Death of the Old Ways,” is the longest song, running almost to seven minutes. Not the best way to end the album, as I thought the song was an anticlimax considering the merits of the songs that came before this. Anyway, there are two things you need to do after reading this review: read my interview with drummer Chris (in this issue) and buy the album. As simple as that. (8.4/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
The Calculus of Evil (issue No 16)  

 

 

 
7/10 Abhi
 

PUTRID PILE - Collection of Butchery - CD - United Guttural Records

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Putrid Pile is a one man effort whose culprit’s name is Shaun Lacanne that brings to the table an enjoyable hybrid of old school brutal death metal like Cannibal Corpse’s early material and some elements from the modern school of brutal death like Dying Fetus. The latter consists of a lot of the mosh riffs that are found in every nook and cranny of the death metal world nowadays, and a lot of people might get sick to their stomachs due to the generic nature of this, but then I’m also sure that was one of the main intentions of Lacanne’s: to make people feel sick to their stomachs (the ultra demented lyrics are sure to work!).

In my opinion, the fact that he has not overused the blastbeat at all, and has come up with so many instantly headbangeable riffs, has saved this album from total oblivion. The guitar sound is beyond heavy. It is literally gonad crushing. And the great drum sound helps in crushing the gonads even better. Shaun’s vocals alternate between deep grunts and higher pitched snarls. As far as the bass goes, as in most of the one man projects, the bass guitar does not get much importance and is recorded with the sole purpose of backing up the guitar to get the thumping low end into the mix.

Two of my favorite songs on this are “Remnants of Insanity” and “Severed Head Memento.” Both have really good riffs and the former sounds deeply influenced by Cannibal Corpse. Some of the songs, like the title song and “Covered in Excrement” have those slow parts where the old school influences really shine through in some basic but highly enjoyable riffing. The last three or four songs get a bit dragging, but on the whole this is a impressive release. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
9.5/10 Laurent
 

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE - Songs for the Deaf - CD - Interscope

review by: Laurent Martini

First off, nice album title. Second, imaginative and great album intro. It’s pretty clever and I will not ruin it with a lame explanation. Thirdly, WICKED AWESOME BAND!!!! I am now a Queens of the Stone Age fan, even if all the rest of their albums are polkas, Songs for the Deaf is amazing.

This band does it all from the thrash sound of “You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire” to the jive of “No One Knows” and to the 60s-ish “Another Love Song.” This band does it all and does it well, weaving influences into their heavy sound without having it come off lame. Standout tracks are “You Think...”, the great base line becoming a mind blowing riff of "Hanging Tree" and the heavy metal “Yellow Submarine”- like “God is in the Radio.” (9.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6.2/10 Roberto
 

RECLUSION - Shell of Pain - CD - Listenable Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

I imagine this group's time must be divided equally between playing their instruments and pumping iron; Reclusion's take on metal is a very muscular one.

Within seconds of the opening track, connoisseurs will immediately identify this band as being Swedish, what with the super tight playing and trademark riffing. Reclusion is very nearly a metalcore band, blending a healthy dose if its country's patented approach to metal that At the Gates popularized and fusing in gruff, hardcore-like vocals and stop-start rhythms ala Fear Factory.

The faster stuff is excellently played and benefits from the record's wonderful, polished production. All the instruments sound right, and the odd song features solos that display some very tasty chops. However, the slower songs, while still played to the same high standard, are a little iffy. Songs such as the one where the singer says he's "what you would call a flesh and blood time bomb," and where he asks if he'll back down, being answered by his band mates, "no!" is a little macho and goofy. You can imagine the singer running around the stage in a wife-beater and long shorts with a long key chain (again, bringing up the hardcore imagery).

However, when Reclusion keep things fast, there are fewer things to pick at. This band is on the verge of releasing a great album. The next one is apparently in the works. The musicianship and production are firmly in place, all we can ask for now is maybe a little more originality and perhaps some thought into writing songs with more depth. (6.2/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Jason
 

ROCK KILLS KID - Rock Kills Kid - CD - Fearless Records

review by: Jason Thornberry

Lately when a band employs somebody who actually knows their way around a microphone, and mixes in a few guitars that aren’t just reaching for The Big Riff, they’re mistaken for being ‘pro-emo,’ or prone to jumping around in matching outfits. The Jam did it, and those stylish suits looked purty good on them, but isn’t it hard to tell some of these new bands apart today?

Rock Kills Kid doesn’t seem to give two shits if what they wear to the photo session will correspond. They’re stubborn guys, and still refer to themselves an “alternative” band. Do you remember that little genre? Alternative rock is revived with this EP -- a substitute to The Hives the way bands like Nirvana helped provide the alternative to Poison. (6/10)

 

 

 

 

 
4.2/10 Roberto
 

ROSSOMAHAAR - Quaerite Lux in Tenebris - CD - Xtreem Music

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Rossomahaar's Quaerite Lux in Tenebris is an odd mélange of death and black metal. The riffs are kind of speedy and melodic in a black metal sense, sometimes more chuggy, but the use of the bass and drums that go along with the growly vocals are more of a death metal thing. The compositions aren't terrible; rather, there are some good, if generic, riffs. Then Rossomahaar throws in weedy keyboards too.

This Russian band has always been rather awkward. Their previous record, Imperium Tenebrarum, if memory serves me correctly, had a much rawer production that was muddled and detracted from the compositions, which were so-so. And then there was the cover of a classic Metallica instrumental (I can't remember which), except it was called something different and with Rossomahaar's lyrics added in. Yeah, pretty random.

Quaerite… is much more clean and the sound separated, but unfortunately in a way that also hurts the band's chances. The drums sound like they're made of plastic, and the guitars sound hollow and diluted. This does allow the bass to shine through with some nice little flourishes, but the whole is just weedy. To be clear, necro is necro and it can be done very well (see next paragraph), but this is not necro, it's limp.

All this brings us to this conclusion: Rossomahaar may be the most well known Russian black metal band outside their country, as the promo proclaims. I don't claim to be an expert on Russian black metal, as most of the bands from that country have been mediocre, but I can say for certain that no one should buy any album from a Russian black metal band before they buy Forest's Forest (the review is in this issue). The style is very different, but Forest succeeds on a sonic and emotional level in every way that Rossomahaar fails. (4.2/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Abhi
 

SCENT OF DEATH - Entangled in Hate - CD - scentdeath@yahoo.es

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

One of the biggest pleasures in life is to pop a CD a of a band you have never heard of in your player and then spend the next few minutes of your life being pummeled to death by it. This is exactly the case with Scent of Death. This Spanish band came out of nowhere and caught me by surprise, unleashing the kind of furious death metal frenzy that one usually gets only from the seasoned veterans.

Album opener “Living Structures” starts innocuously with some female choir vocals, and then…BAM!!! Into damnation we descend! Totally savage death metal with a good deal of technical prowess is their obvious strength. There are some pretty complex rhythm pattern shifts near the end of the song and a good solo, too. “Tortured Mind” continues in the same vein, with ultra fast riffing and blast beats blending into slower sections consisting of fleeting, artificial harmonics.

Scent of Death sounds like elements of Gorguts, Suffocation and Gorgasm all combined into one. I am particularly reminded of Gorguts’ Erosion of Sanity album by Bernardo’s vocals and the pinch harmonic riffs on “Feeling The Fear” and “Entangled In Hate.” Gorgasm again comes to mind when they launch into those frenetic, palm muted chugging sections, along with Nuno’s inhuman blast beat devastation. I can literally feel my heart rate shoot up while listening to “Feeling the Fear.”

There are two instrumentals on this MCD, the first being “Perpetual,” which was written by a friend of the bands’ (read the interview in this issue). This is a beautiful song with some nice solos and it reminds me of the old days when bands like Gorguts, Brutality, Disincarnate etc. used to have those wonderful instrumentals in their albums. The other one is “Epilogue,” with another guest musician, the violinist Leonardo. A beautiful way to end such a savage recording.

It is a pity that there are only four proper songs as I’m sure that were this a full length, it would have destroyed everything else in this issue. As it is now, “Entangled In Hate” comes in behind Alienation Mental and Disgorge as my Pick of the Month #3. (8.5/10) 

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Roberto
 

SEVEN WITCHES - Passage to the Other Side - CD - Noise Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Passage to the Other Side is good American style power metal featuring Joey Vera (Armored Saint) and Jack Frost (Metalium). There are more than a few similarities in the bass riffs and drum patterns to Judas Priest's Painkiller. The vocals of James Rivera are very well done, and when he sings high he sounds like Bruce Dickinson.

Passage to the Other Side is one of those rare power metal albums from the States that is just good in all aspects. All the members can play very well and the singer is great. This has been a rarity in this country for a long time, whereas good power metal with good vocals is much more commonplace in Europe. Of course, being an American band, Seven Witches doesn't have a keyboardist, nor are its songs candy coated, happy tunes. A good outing that hungry fans of this particular style will like. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

SEVERE TORTURE - Misanthropic Carnage - CD - Hammerheart Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This is an easy one. If you like death metal that incessantly smashes you with brutality and sickness, add this to your list.

Severe Torture has been compared to Cannibal Corpse since day one, and the similarities are certainly present here in the spastic riff style, arrangements and changes. However, Severe Torture are superior to what Cannibal has been doing since 1996's Vile. While Misanthropic Carnage is an album of the same song slightly tweaked in nine different ways, it exemplifies death metal with its savagery and excellent production. Good fun. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Abhi
 

SIKSAKUBUR - The Carnage - CD - Extreme Souls Production

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Siksakubur is a brutal death metal band from Indonesia, and I think this is a re-release of their demo from 2000. The most immediate frame of reference I could think of while listening to this was Canada’s Hidden Pride. But I doubt that many of you would have heard of them, so let me say that Siksakubur’s music is very much Suffocation influenced, has a perfectly unpolished sound. It is interesting enough to have kept a position reserved for it on my play list ever since it arrived.

The musicianship is good, the synchronization between guitar string and drum skin of a high order and amateurishness kept to a minimum. This is kind of surprising if you look at the band photo at the back of the CD cover. I’ll be surprised if any of those guys (at least when the photos were taken) are above 18 or 20. The vocals sound very matured, though they seem to have some effects added like a bit of echo and reverb making it sound more drawn out. I think they have used a pitchshifter, too.

The music isn’t as brutal as some of the other bands out there, mostly for the reason that the drummer doesn’t rely too much on the blastbeats and neither is the riffing ultra-fast. But as I said before, all the songs are interesting and that in itself is no small feat. The first two songs have some good melodic riffs while the rest of the songs concentrate on the brutality. The bass work is pretty good, you can hear the bassist doing little runs in almost all the songs. The nice, clear sound he has helps too. My favorite songs on this would be “Into Your Sickening Intestines” and “Decayed Flesh.” (7/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Jason
 

SINCE BY MAN - We Sing the Body Electric - CD - Revelation

review by: Jason Thornberry

This band should be popular by now, with a Le Shok mind-set, including contempt for the rule makers, loyalty to rule breakers, and bottles of black hair dye. If Since By Man existed in 1986 you’d see them with bleached locks to the middle of their backs, leather pants, and come hither looks for the big-titted girls in the front row. They’re just products of their era, and that time is nearly over.

The track “Death of Decadence” got numerous spins, but there wasn’t a sequel. Their label even included it, and only it, on the website. Come hither. Other songs seemed held together by the saliva from chewing a wad of bubblegum, and little else. Their music’s not poorly played at all; but it’s predictable enough you’ll guess what’s coming next, and usually be right.

There are eleven dissonant anti-songs about giving up: “Don’t save me from the noose, don’t save me from the sinking ships.“ Blah-blah-blah. Plus the concert photos of this Milwaukee quintet show them being cra-zay, and holding their instruments aloft, as if in contribution to the same Gods of Rock & Roll they should be against by punk-cred default. 

They likely consider this album a step away from the norm (a more arithmetical take on punk than usual), and I might too, if I had been in a sealed chamber this past four years. But don’t be fooled thinking Since By Man wouldn’t sign a major label contract in as long as it’d take you to fall asleep with this on “Fucking loud,” as the print on the disk tells you to play it. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Larissa P.
 

SIXTEEN HORSEPOWER - Folklore - CD - Jetset Records

review by: Larissa Parson

The first album I thought of when I heard this disc was Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ The Firstborn is Dead. Hardly surprising, as Cave is one the of the artists frontman David Eugene Edwards lists as an influence. Edwards shares Cave’s love of the hidden backroads of America, where strange things happen, usually involving Jesus, death, and love. For Edwards, the grandson of a traveling Nazarene preacher, this is genetic. It is clear that Edwards is coming at many of the same traditions as Cave from an angle slightly skewed.

Much like one of Edwards’ other named influences, Johnny Cash, Sixteen Horsepower seem to be favoring reinterpreting the music of others to writing new music these days, hence the title Folklore. Four of the ten tracks are original, the rest are covers - among the many threads woven the fabric of the album are Hank Williams, the Carter Family, Nina Simone and traditional Hungarian and Tuvan songs. And yet the album as a whole is nearly seamless, a continuous mourning for something lost among the twisted roots of aging trees in the godless wilderness.

What makes this album great is not the vitriolic intensity of the band’s earlier work (but this may be due to the many changes in line-up the band has seen over the years), but the threat of violence lying just under the surface of an otherwise fairly quiet, dark album. “Hutterite Mile,” the opening track, makes clear from the start that this is not going to be a loud album, building from a simple guitar line to interventions by violins against the plaintive declarations of Edwards’ voice. The refrain, “it is no mystery I know my way from here,” suggests that Edwards is well aware that he’s deviating from his former path.

There are two exceptions to the biblical gloom - a version of the Carter Family’s “Single Girl,” which might almost be thought of as cheerful, if it were not just a bit off center, and the album’s closer, “La Roche Parasol,” which resembles the sound of a nightmare taking place at a street festival in Paris, where accordions mock passers-by.

I would rank “Horse-Head Fiddle,” based on Tuvan throat-singing, as one of the eeriest, most beautiful tracks on the album - Edwards’ vocals are a bracing contrast to the harmonium, flute and miscellaneous moans backing him. “Sinnerman” follows this track, and while I must admit I prefer Nina Simone’s version, what Edwards does with it is worth a listen. Put on this album when you’re in a melancholy mood, open a bottle of whisky, and bask in the southern Goth feel of the album. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
4/10 Matt
 

SODA ASH - Box of Gods - CD - www.scifilullaby.com

review by: Matt Smith

Besides the use of guitars and the occasional dark atmosphere, Soda Ash is metal’s polar opposite. Slow, cynical pop is what I’d call it. There are some good synthesizers and atmospheric sounds, though most of the time these sections don’t really progress. That’s one of my main gripes about this album: the songs don’t really go anywhere once they’ve begun.

The problem here is that Soda Ash relies too much on Erin Knowles-Krapf, their lead singer, to carry the listener’s interest until the end, but she just isn’t good for it. The lyrics are too cryptic to be very meaningful and her voice is weak and wavering. Most of the time her singing lines are layered on top of one another incompatibly, and it gets to be a pretty big distraction thinking the whole time about how tuneless the vocal lines are. Soda Ash creates an interesting mood with their slow, understated sound, but it’s just not my cup of tea. My interest wanes until I finally find myself getting pissed off about how bad Knowles-Krapf sounds. It’s possible Soda Ash intends the discord as part of their unique sound, but my inability to get past it makes it hard for me to enjoy the entire package. (4/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Matt
 

SOILWORK - Figure Number Five - CD - Nuclear Blast Records

review by: Matt Smith

Soilwork is steadily heading toward a good balance between a clean, tight sound and a thrashy edge. Figure Number Five picks up where Natural Born Chaos (the previous album) left off - they’ve taken out some of the harmonized choruses in favor of a harsher, single vocal line and have again added a few good-sounding synths. Thankfully, the synthesized stuff is pretty minimal, so as to avoid cheesiness.

In the true Soilwork style, Figure Number Five is excellently produced (too well, some might say), each track is a song in the structural sense (verse, chorus, verse, etc.), and they’re not afraid to write slow parts in. Bjorn “Speed” Strid’s vocals have progressed noticeably since the band’s debut, Steelbath Suicide, and he sounds fuller and richer in ...Five than he did even in Natural Born Chaos. As usual, there are some good grooves and the album as a whole is very listenable. Soilwork is definitely on its way - Figure Number Five is their best one yet. (7.5/10) 

 

Related reviews:
 
Natural Born Chaos (issue No 8)  

 

 

 
8/10 Condor
 

SOLEFALD - In Harmonia Universali - CD - Century Media Records

review by: The Condor

Not sure what it is that turned Solefald from their grim blackness into a goofy electronic/metal hybrid, then into a super technical genre hopping "modern" black metal band, and finally into a melancholic dark metal prog band. But whatever it is, I love it.

Very few bands have been so interesting to watch and remained so totally unpredictable. While this unpredictability has not always served them well (the musical mis-step that was the sort of appalling Neonism), it has managed to keep them sonically original and served to alienate their core fan base with every new release. And c'mon, you gotta love a band with that sort of single mindedness.

This time around their overt weirdness is blunted a bit and it serves them well. The songs are still weird, but subtlely, in structure and melody, rather than the brick-in-the-face, over the top weirdness of their past efforts. The sound here is melancholic and mournful, with lots of acoustic guitars and piano, chantlike clean vocals and really catchy hooks. The first band I thought of when I threw this on was definitely Katatonia.

Midtempo minor key epics with gorgeously sorrowful melodies and amazing production. The occasional circusy/ prog rock keyboards or Gerry Rafferty (remember “Baker Street”?) saxophones won't let you forget that you're still listening to Solefald, and the once-in-a-while bursts of furious blast beats and growled guttural vocals help remind us that the band we're listening to was actually once a real black metal band. Not their best record by a long shot (that would be the amazing and fucked up Pills Against the Ancient Ills - review here) nor the heaviest (that would be their debut, The Linear Scaffold) just a gorgeous chunk of sad heaviness, and the next perfectly illogical step in Solefald's musical evolution. (8/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Pills against the Ageless Ills (issue No 7)  

 

 

 
5.5/10 Matt
 

SOUL EMBRACED - Immune - CD - Solid State Records

review by: Matt Smith

Immune is a good listen, but not too impressive. Lance Garvin’s drumming style is generally more rock-y than I’d prefer, Rocky Gray’s guitar lines occasionally get too repetitive, and I’m not crazy about most of Chad Moore’s scratchy growl, which has a breathy, strained quality to it.

The harmonized choruses incorporate an emotional ballad quality that gets kind of corny and is sometimes slightly out of tune. The songs are not as technical as I’d like, either.

But amid all these mediocrities are hidden gems - times when it all comes together: a good blast beat and a guitar line to make your head nod with a more subtle vocal line nestled in. The intros are especially good in this respect; it’s just that the songs are pretty predictable and don’t seem to get any better after the first minute. Garvin and Gray are also in Living Sacrifice, whose album, Conceived in Fire, was one of my favorites last year. I prefer Living Sacrifice in just about every conceivable way, but that doesn’t mean Soul Embraced is bad. They’ve just got a way to go before they’re very good. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Larissa P.
 

SOULED AMERICAN - Framed (Fe/Flubber and Around the Horn/Sonny) - CD - tUMULt

review by: Larissa Parson

If you are at all fond of music that moves more slowly than most people think it should; If you like the sound of a good twisted slide guitar; If you want to hear music that is too country for alt-country and too alt for blues, this is the band for you. Chicago band Souled American is what Godspeed! You Black Emperor would sound like if Godspeed were a band with banjos and acoustic guitars and twangy-voiced vocalists instead of drums and cellos. While this band has languished too long unheard, there have been many ardent fans in the past: for proof, simply head on over to http://www.ragandboneshop.com/fifty.html and see what all the buzz is about. Then pick up these albums and enjoy.

Framed is actually a compendium of the band’s four releases between 1988 and 1991, which were until relatively recently banished to record-store used bins due to the bankruptcy of Souled American’s label, Rough Trade. The four albums were re-released in November 1998 by San Francisco’s tUMULt label (post-1991, the band recorded two albums, Frozen and Notes Campfire for the Moll label in Europe; these were reissued in 1999). Taken as whole, the collection shows the band’s progression from country-based rock to the slower, more experimental style showcased on Sonny, a collection of covers that contorts the originals to meet Souled American’s standards. Around the Horn too shares this strange meandering style. The overall effect is not unpleasant, perhaps best suited for a hot afternoon, where a speeded-up tune would be an offense to the motionless air. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
5.8/10 Matt
 

STEEL ATTACK - Predator of the Empire - CD - Arise Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Overall, this is a decent to good power metal CD. The really great aspects about it come from its production, which is beyond reproach: full and meaty and clear and aptly chosen for an album such as this. The band is also quite good, with some fairly good riffs, and the singer isn't one you can complain about. Stylistically, think of a Euro power metal band that has more than a few similarities to Judas Priest.

So power metal fans will probably dig this record. More critical fans may have a bone or two to pick, though, as Predator of the Empire, from its structures to lyrics, is very generic. The lyrics in particular are in true D&D style, mindlessly talking about slaying dragons and other such topics. Well, in these cases it's really about the vocals, and those are fine, so it's less of a problem. The songs, while being cut from the proper metal cloth, get a little redundant sometimes as the chorus is repeated far too many times, especially on "Heavy Metal God," a song about some non-descript musical deity. But as generic and formulaic as it is, Predator of the Empire is as metal as they come, so I guess it's a success. (5.8/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Roberto
 

SUMMONING - Lost Tales - CD - Napalm Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Summoning, the Austrian duo that's WAY into Tolkien, has released this two song MCD of unreleased stuff from four to six years past that was never committed to any of their albums. If you're a fan and hear this MCD, you may understand why, as the material, while still recognizable as Summoning, has quite a different feel.

Well, I'm mostly thinking of the first track, "Arkenstone," a beautiful piece. While Summoning's music nearly always has this element of bombast to go along with sweeping tunes that are as goofy as they are great, this track is far more relaxed. Slowly developing melody lines come and go, and the listener is soothed by the well-chosen keyboard tones and trademark tom-heavy drums. Like both the tracks on Lost Tales, "Arkenstone" features no vocals aside from clips taken from "different Tolkien broadcasts."

But while track one is a huge hit, track two, "Saruman," is a big flop. From the outset, with a silly sounding spoken intro, the track launches into a primary theme that can best be described as the medieval version of the kind of music that you'd hear on self-help audio tapes between the parts where the guy tells you how to take control of your life. Summoning can use obscure Tolkien-related sound bytes well, and sometimes they fail. Such is the case here with a repetitive bit about someone proclaiming himself to be Saruman, and the rest of the line trails off from there.

So is a 16-minute album that is half some of the best stuff by Summoning ever and half the worst worth your $10? For me, it turned out to be. (6/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame (issue No 8)  

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

SUNN 0))) - White 1 - CD - Southern Lord

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Sunn has come a long way since the last record of theirs I heard, 00 Void (review in issue #6). On that they were basically doing what Earth pioneered, namely guitar and bass drone, but even slower and with a fatter production. But they couldn't top Earth.

A couple albums later is White 1, which is still of course a drone record, but it's got some distinct and successful flavors to it. Certainly Sunn and Earth and their ilk don't make the kind of records in which there are tracks that are necessarily better than others, as they are basically have the same intent. I'd be surprised to hear someone say, "Dude! Earth 2 is all about track three!" No.

But on White 1, the three tracks are different. My Wall is a sprawling, wandering narrative that is backed by ambient drones. The mantra-like narrative, which is structured like a song, is a bit like Dead Raven Choir, but more audible and focused, a bit like Edgar Allan Poe and "The Ride of Paul Revere" all mixed up. It works, as the narrator (guest vocals by Julian Cope) has an engaging if a bit silly delivery as he talks about meddlesome bells and the wail of Johnny Guitar.

But we're just getting to the good bits. The new Sunn has got the talents of Runhild Gammelsæter, whom you may remember as the gorgeous Scandinavian babe who did the shockingly brutal vocals on the only recording of Thorr's Hammer, which was an old project of Sunn's Stephen O'Malley. This time around, the vocals are in an ominous, spoken Norwegian, and the dronescapes are suitably more frantic and engaging, largely in part to a heavy drum machine plod. The third track, the most ambient, drifting piece, is also supposed to contain Gammelsæter's vocals, but they're hard to perceive.

So will people not familiar with this kind of thing suddenly get it if they hear White 1? Don't count on it. I'm not even sure I get what guitar drone is necessarily all about, but I enjoyed this album. (7/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
00 Void (issue No 6)  

 

 

 

TARANTULA HAWK - Tarantula Hawk - CD - Neurot Recordings

review by: Dave McGonigle

Neurot, neurot, neurot. It’s not really the name of a record label in San Francisco, oh no, monsieur. Say it three times into the mirror at midnight and the ambie-man comes, bringing his hordes of dark ambient minions to scare you when you’d really rather settle down with a nice cup of camomile and Music for Airports. It’s probably Eno’s idea of hell, and it’s certainly not far off from mine, either. If you want to get on my bad side, make a record that uses the pitch shift on your keyboard a lot. A lot. Then have lots of low frequency, “scary” noises in the background. Then call yourself something that combines two animal names, oh, I don’t know, how about “Tarantula Hawk”? No? Ok, how about “MouseCobra”?….Yeah, I prefer "Tarantula Hawk," too.

Shame about the record, though. Derivative riffs and a cartoon-like scent of impending apocalypse do not a good record make. However, it’s not all bad….when the band want to rock, they rock like bastards. Sadly, the only time the band wants to really rock is on the last track. Shame, really. Oh, and please, if you do repeat “Neurot” three times in front of a mirror at midnight, don’t write to us telling us about it. We don’t want to know.


 

 

 

 

THERE WERE WIRES - There Were Wires - CD - Iodine Records

review by: Jason Thornberry

That drummer has to be sweating a ton! Rehearsal spaces, clubs, and studios can be so poorly ventilated. The singer’s volcano pissed about something or other as well. An imaginative emotion--fury. No one’s angry these days, rebel. I wonder if he wears a studded belt while he screams: “I find comfort in this because there’s none in you,” he cries, remaining in character.

When you look like your briefs are soaked with a flesh-eating amalgam (examining the inner artwork) you’ve got to display physical/psychic anguish to keep it real, aight? His brand of apathy isn’t about smiling; it’s about being perma-bummed. With him “singing” I’ve managed to reach track eight, and it sounded like the same song with binary gaps, plus someone’s ready to give the drummer CPR. Their take on math-core, like other pillaged genres, is a fascinating concept initially, yet you can only squeeze so much blood out of a turnip.

 

 

 

 

 

THUNDERBOLT - Sons of the Darkness - CD - Resistance Records

review by: Matt Smith

Thunderbolt is black metal right down to the pictures of axe-wielding guys in the woods wearing lots of makeup and large, upside-down crucifixes. Melodic guitars wash over blast beats. A scratchy vocal line is impossible to understand even you try to follow along in the lyric booklet. Paimon seems to be using romantic-sounding broken English mainly to denounce Judo-Christianity and tout the Aryan race while describing scenes of “funeral mist” and wandering north through mystic forests “in the embrace of winter.” Of course, there’s a track that starts with the sound of rain and the crack of thunder.

The musicianship is pretty tight, but there’s nothing mind-blowing here. Sons of the Darkness is a middle-of-the-road Polish black metal album. There’s not much to fault it on besides the apparent lack of originality - a good one to add to your ever-growing collection of obscure black metal with national socialist themes.

Editor's note: to read Maelstrom's stance on covering music by neo-fascist/ NS artists, click here.

 

Related reviews:
 
The Burning Deed of Deceit (issue No 14)  

 

 

 

TIME REQUIEM - Time Requiem - CD - Regain Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Time Requiem's music is a blend of power metal and prog. So you'll get plenty of double bass (courtesy of Darkane's Peter Wildoer) mixed in with lots of classical influences and that keyboard sound that is so prevalent in both prog and Swedish happy metal bands, a sound that sounds plastic. Like Tupperware.

If you're an aficionado of the above-mentioned genres, the songs on Time Requiem sound most like the stuff on Yngwie Malmsteen's Alchemy, except the wanky guitar solos have been replaced with wanky keyboard ones, and the other members of the band play a bigger role. Keyboards are definitely the main instrument featured here, which is no surprise as the band leader and writer of all the music is keyboardist Richard Andersson, who previously played in the band Majestic.

Being prog metal, there is also a fair amount of similarities to Dream Theater, but they're not blatant or excessive. These comparisons surface mostly through the synth tones, but also through a few of the melody lines sung by Apollo Papathanasio (also of Majestic), whose voice in itself sounds nothing like Dream Theater's singer.

Time Requiem tries hard to be an exciting and engaging band. It does succeed to a good extent, being almost breathtakingly technical at times. However, these attempts at wowing the listener are a bit too forced and without much purpose other than for musical masturbation, as on track 8, which is a fairly short instrumental piece made up entirely of start/stop riffs and tricky note placements. As cool as it may be while listening to this particular track, the listener is left perplexed as to what the point of it all was once the track is over. This same feeling exists to a much lesser effect to varying but noticeable degrees throughout this album.

The clear, professional, but less than "killer" metal production may be a negative aspect for some, but the way this album comes up just short lies largely in the songs being more flashy, speedy showcases than tunes. Not a bad album by any stretch of the imagination, and certainly staffed by musicians that can really play well, there is little doubt that fans of the cut-and-dried version of the prog side of metal will enjoy this, but for other, more standard power metal fans, I'd recommend checking out Opus Atlantica (see above) first, as the latter is largely in the same style, but with better songs and a more solid presence.

 

 

 

 

 

TOADLIQUOR - The Hortator's Lament - CD - Southern Lord

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The Hortator's Lament is another successful semi-discography of an annihilating doom band by the master purveyors, Southern Lord. This label recently put out the Grief comp (review here), so if you liked that, then stop reading now and put Toadliquor on your list.

When we say that Toadliquor is a doom band, we're not talking about bluesy, stoner doom, we're talking about apocalyptic, crushing doom. Maelstrom's The Condor is fond of calling this type of thing D O O M, and I think he would approve of using this tag here. Black Sabbath is like a nursery rhyme compared to this; Electric Wizard is a jaunty ditty. The pace is slow and massive and every note is a deliberate smashing in of the listener's skull. The vocals make you think of a man in a straightjacket being recorded while being stuck at the bottom of a deep crevasse. Despite their slowness, the songs have this tremendous energy to them that engages you like a faster record would.

However, being a compilation (of the band's first LP, from 1994, and some unreleased tracks), the record is quite long (71 minutes). So it can get exhausting, especially since Toadliquor don't vary much from their formula, which, effective as it is, gets repetitive after a while. So while this crushes Black Sabbath sonically, there is no comparison song wise. But that isn't the point, is it?

 

 

 

 

TOURNIQUET - Where Moth and Rust Destroy - CD - Metal Blade Records

review by: Jez Andrews

I now find myself in unfamiliar territory. Christian metal. As most of my music collection comprises of bands who have taken a neutral or anti-Christian stance, this is quite a tough bastard to review.

The music itself is pretty much akin to modern thrash, with only nu-metal style vocals that really let it down. There are some very enjoyable moments in the instrumental sections, enhanced by the lead guitar tracks of (ex-)Megadeth's Marty Friedman.

Tourniquet have put together quite an imaginative album that shows them to have great potential, but it has to be said that Christianity, when combined with metal, is just plain embarassing. For fuck's sake, you wouldn't hear Cliff Richard singing “In League with Satan,” would you? Heavy metal has been described enough times as the music of the devil, and since when have we been ashamed of that? Metallers were once the rebels of society, shunned by the moral majority and so proud of their music's evil nature that they plastered it all over their walls and t-shirts, and even had their own salute. I must say that “Christian metal” is a contadiction in terms.

Okay, now that i've got that off my chest, back to the music. Putting aside the religeous elements of the lyrics and sleevenotes, I would recommend Where Moth and Rust Destroy to any fans of Anthrax, Sacred Reich, and strangely enough, Rhapsody. The use of melody and speed metal is most entertaining and I would not call Tourniquet run-of-the-mill by any standard. An album of quality, but it could do with a few “Hail Satan”s.

 

 

 

 

 

TRIBES OF NEUROT - Adaptation and Survival - CD - Neurot Recordings

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Adaptation and Survival is a beautifully packaged noise concept piece based on the lives and ecosystems of insects. All the sounds found on the two CDs are thus derived from actual recordings of insects, and then warped and fucked in studio. It’s a fascinating idea, and I can say that I was very keen on hearing this.

Ultimately, the most interesting things about this album turns out to be the concept and execution. The tracks are pretty interchangeable, consisting mostly of whirrs and swelling buzzes that make your heart race. It’s a dynamic record, but certainly not a musical one.

As they have done in the past, Tribes of Neurot are recommending that you play more than one CD at once. Remember that Grace record that was meant to be played simultaneously with Neurosis’ Times of Grace? Well, this is a bit of the same deal, although this time you don’t have to be so anal as to pause both records and then press “play” on two remote controls at e-x-a-c-t-l-y the same time.

Adaptation and Survival is one of those records that’s all about turning the stereo up to frightening levels of sound, to the point where what’s coming out is an actual, physical presence. You then peer into the shifting, concrete form and see where your mind goes. For most, it won’t go so far, but for the noise freaks, this is a kick ass product. Definitely worth a dabble.

 

 

 

 

TWELFTH GATE - Summoning - CD - Crash Music

review by: Steppenvvolf

The name made me curious. Having seen the movie “The Ninth Gate” by Roman Polanski some time ago I wondered what three more gates might have to offer… And indeed the number of gates does make a difference. Whereas the movie lacks in keeping up the atmosphere of the presence of subtle evil, Twelfth Gate`s first full-length album does not fail in this respect at all.

The songs are at their core deeply influenced by 80`s metal, namely Iron Maiden, as it seems. Often the slower parts reminded me of where metal once came from. But more than being just a plain remake of the old stuff Twelfth Gate has managed to incorporate new elements in a way that makes a very genuine distinguishable sound. Let`s just say at times I heard Iced Earth from afar. Then ,there was another part in the song “Wheel of Life” that might as well have jumped out of Peter Steele`s sick soul.

The vocals are superb as you expect for a decent powermetal combo. The guitar sound and riffs are pretty trashmetal, not as you would expect would match the vocals, but it does.

Something very notable is the solid overall production of this album. While unfortunately the mass of metal bands have their bass lines just as an afterthought, Twelfth Gate`s bass line is mumbling its somber spells of evocation all way through. If you find yourself looking wistfully at your old Maiden records, wondering why metal had to spawn so many subgenres, Twelfth Gate might be your band. Check out some samples at http://www.twelfthgate.net


 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Roberto
 

USER NE - Tarantos - CD - Xtreem Music

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Argh… User Ne is sooo close to having made a superb record. This Spanish metal band certainly gets top marks for adventurousness, mixing in a wealth of cultural music from its country's history. So you'll have more typical, dark and heavy metal with double bass and growly vocals that will shift into gorgeous female signing in Andaluz, flamenco guitar and passages that praise the Muslim influence on Spain's culture during medieval times.

And the sections can be as weird and cool as they are varied and tasteful. Retarded high pitched accents and just plain off-the-wall vocals make User Ne sound like the Spanish, Moorish version of Brazil's Tuatha De Danaan or even Chile's Bewitched, who are both in their own rights entrancingly weird.

The parts that just don't make it come in the form of awkward transitions from rough to calm, and the entirety of the track "An Mis Theimous," which is a terrible, terrible choral track, whose elements pop up ever so often in bits of the rest of the album.

So that's how close User Ne is. We still think you should check out this record, though, as the contrasts of styles that nearly fit together seamlessly speak of some visionary album to come. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Abhi
 

VAGINAL CARNAGE - Dildo Detention - CD - No Escape Records

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Dirty, filthy, gore grind from the sewers of Australia, this is what we have here. Musically, Vaginal Carnage are like a mixture of the speedy grind played by Malignant Tumor and the ultra heavy groove style of Cock and Ball Torture. The guitar sound is quite fuzzy but still packs in plenty of punch and Benny (guitar/bass) has put in some killer riffs on songs like “Chaps With Flaps” and the title song.

For most of the total run time (not a lot mind you, this clocks in at just under 15 minutes), the music hovers around the more-than-decent level, though things start getting just a little bit nondescript at the end. The drumming is pretty impressive with the strangely named Max Wheel giving us plenty of blasts, rolls and double pedal kicks. The bass drum sound sucks though, sounding like a soggy piece of cardboard, but Max Wheel makes up for it with his relentless blasting in songs like “On the Brasko” and “Shit In My Mouth.”

As far as the vocals go, they sound surprisingly unprocessed for this style of music. There are a lot of intros too, with the title song having the funniest of them all. I enjoyed this release and don’t have much to complain about, except for the annoying intro to “Mad Mullet Cunts,” which drags on for ever and ever.


 

 

 

 
7/10 Matt
 

VASSAGO - Knights from Hell - CD - WWIII Records

review by: Matt Smith

Vassago is a confident, no bullshit band. Formed in 1997 by Sin and Pepa from Lord Belial (Does anyone else think the names of these two make a humorous combination?), their promotional flyer says they’re an “Extreme Aggressive Black Speed Metal War from Sweden.” I don’t think I could put it better myself, but I’ll try.

Satanic bloodlust carries these “knights” on an auditory spree of destruction. Each song starts as fast as it finishes; Vassago doesn’t know the meaning of the word “slow.” The CD is a constant barrage of fast drumming and high-pitched screams about Satan and rectal bleeding blanketed by heavily distorted guitar lines. There’s the occasional short, furious guitar solo, but not much else serves to break Vassago’s unrelenting formula of “hit it as hard as you can and say scary stuff.” It works for them, really.

Knights from Hell is an interesting listen, especially when I keep flipping through the insert and thinking, “Did he just say what I think he did?” The lyrical content is harsher than the English is choppy. Much of it reminds me of Amon Amarth in its imagery and fiery mood, but the best lines are the ones that are just trying to be as mean and sick as possible.

“Kill in Satans name [sic] / Fight for Satan / You will die / Kill in Satans name / A massive dose of bullets / straight in your face … ” from “Thou Shalt Kill” is one of my favorites. But this one, from “Anal Fistfuck,” takes the cake: “Impossible bowel-movements / through analy [sic] intruded objects / disturbing my sleep.” Boy, if there’s one thing I have trouble sleeping through, it’s objects intruding my anus.

These down-to-earth themes to which nearly everyone can relate are sure to capture the hearts and minds of conscientious music listeners everywhere. Knights from Hell is an intense, entertaining listen that is fun in spite of itself (you know, how the cover of Butchered at Birth is "fun"), and 15 tracks crammed into 30 minutes rarely makes for a boring album. Not to mention the chuckle out of the fact that the founding members are named Sin and Pepa. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Roberto
5/10 Jason
 

VITAL REMAINS - Dechristianize - CD - Olympic Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Death metal heads take note. If you're into pummeling material that's well constructed and played to a high degree of skill, you'll be very pleased with Vital Remains' latest album.

This band seems to fall apart and then reconstruct itself with each passing record. As always, founding member Tony Lazaro can be found on guitars. Handling all the other instrumental duties is Dave Suzuki, who, if memory serves me correctly, just played drums and sometimes bass on past albums. Not only is Suzuki's drumming super, but his leads are as well. Taking over vocal duties from the guy who was on the last record is none other than Glen Benton of Deicide fame. His vocals sound excellent here, but might have been a little better if he had more variety to his delivery.

The songs are on the long side for the style, being at least six minutes and as long as 10, but have quite a few good riffs per track. As can be expected, the pace is fast and brutal, but Vital Remains eases off on the kill switch to present some tasty melodies and interesting solos that are atypical to this kind of music. There appears to have been a good deal of effort into structuring the songs, and the title track, the best on the disk, is the best example.

The production is very clear, almost to a fault. The drums, which provide an almost constant double bass foundation for various overlying hand patters, are the main culprits in making the material often numbing. A more organic sounding production and some more variety of kick drum patterns might have helped here. The guitars and bass sound good. Still, if you don't mind near constant pummeling that has depth to it, you'll definitely like this record.

Some points may be deducted in your personal case if the rehashing of anti-Christian lyrics and vocals, which Benton and co. have been repeating for almost 15 years, are becoming tiresome. Focusing on the lyrics and themes of Dechristianize reveals a band that is totally running through the death metal lyric image motions, and this unfortunately does detract some from the end product.

I hesitate to call this the best Vital Remains yet. I seem to think Into Cold Darkness is better, only because of the darker, more organic and evil atmosphere of the record. Dechristianize's material is certainly better than the overrated Dawn of the Apocalypse, and far more interesting than Forever Underground. It's a close call. It's good to hear some modern US death metal whose purpose has a bit more to it than constant speed and technicality. (7.5/10)

review by: Jason Thornberry

Dechristianize begins innocently enough. Chanting monks set up the first tune just after a rainstorm, and you’ve already got the feeling things are going to get creepy. I can’t recall the name of the tune their humming, but it’s in every other horror film made in the past twenty-five years. Not only that, but the cover shows Jesus H. Christ being nudged by centurions whilst trying to mind his own business, and get on with being crucified to a pentagram in hell, or at least San Bernardino.

Glen Benton is the singer of Vital Remains, so without being a total dickhead, I’m guessing there’ll be blastbeats galore with his vocals slightly up in the mix, growling up a storm about beheaded prophets and all that jazz. I’m not cheating either, I’ve actually turned this off, and am just guessing, so if Dechristianize ends up sounding like Teenage Fanclub, my apologies to Glen and his son Master Satan Spawn, the Caco-Daemon.

Fuuuck! I was right. Apparently I’m the only one who likes a little variation in metal. This album gets its point across, but only if you’ve never ever heard Deicide, Bathory, or Venom, although Venom at least had a sense of humor. Dechristianize is like being chased by the same nasal-sounding hornet for a decade. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Matt
 

VOID - Posthuman - CD - Candlelight Records

review by: Matt Smith

Rich environments of sound - a general, piercing ambience - characterize Void’s first full-length album. OCD and Ionman, two musical engineers, have made an extremely production-oriented, digital-sounding metal(?) album. At least the promotional material says it’s metal. Shrill, trebly guitars and a scathing vocal line are the only things that would suggest it. The guitars pierce the eardrums while a drum machine ticks away in the background.

There is a general abstractness to Posthuman: Abrupt starts and stops, time changes, and layers of altered samples all serve to keep the listener’s attention. I checked more than twice to see if the CD was skipping. Void has undeniably found their own unique sound somewhere in between industrial and grindcore after taking a pit stop near drum and bass. I really enjoyed Posthuman and hope to hear more from Void, but I’m not sure if OCD and Ionman could do a live show up-to-par. They certainly make the evilest electronic music I’ve ever heard. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
3.7/10 Abhi
 

VRYKOLAKAS - 2000 - CD - www.geocities.com/vrykobrutaldeath

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Vrykolakas start off with the title song, which quite frankly is two minutes longer than it should have been. Muddy distortion combines with not-very-tight-playing, and proceeds to play the same godforsaken riff over and over again. “Buried With Munkar Nakir” has an even muddier guitar sound that is almost drowned out by the loud drums and growls. These first two songs sound influenced by early Deicide.

The third song, “In Filthy Vomits,” continues with the dirty guitar sound but is much more brutal than the previous two songs. In fact, the transition from the second to the third song reminds me of the difference between Deicide self titled album and Legion; the latter was much more brutal. This song has some brutal riffs but there are still a lot of repetitions.

“Dark Descends” is a good song with interesting riffs and sounds eerily like early Entombed in the latter stages of the track. Now it’s time for the last song on this cd, “Nuthfah.” I don’t know what the hell that means, but it is without doubt the best song on the CD. The production is markedly better, and now that everything can be heard clearly, the music sounds a whole lot more interesting. There are some brutal blast beats here mixed with some early era death metal style riffing, and a nice solo too. Also the number of repetitions is minimized in this song, thus ending this demo CD on a good note. (3.7/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Roberto
 

WALKEN/ SENNEVAL - Split - CD - Maelstrom Zine

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Both of these young bands fit well into the exciting movement within the metal/ hardcore style that can best be described as “kitchen sink metal”; that is to say, so many influences are thrown in that you’re head begins to spin.

In Walken’s case, it sometimes gets a little too bewildering. The music on this one rather lengthy song recklessly careens through manic, bluesy passages to frantic drumming to technical metal riffing, all the while being fronted by hardcore screaming madness. Walken is still figuring itself out, but this 7" gives every indication that one of these days the band is going to record a real gem.

Senneval is a bit more reserved and controlled in comparison. Their music complements the Walken side well, and, while being a cut or two below, will appeal to fans of bands such as Hopesfall and The Postman Syndrome. (5.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Jason
 

WATERDOWN - The Files You Have on Me - CD - Victory Records

review by: Jason Thornberry

“We recorded everything live,” Waterdown bassist Christian Kruse reveals. Being able to “feed off each other’s energy” gives these thirteen songs a momentum the Big Studio and Bob Rock couldn’t touch. It’s impossible to imagine hardcore as complex - not being wrung from hundreds of takes and overdubs of ping-pong guitars (“A Fortress”), stop/start drums (“Bulletproof”), or the give and take of the two vocalists on “Going Back,” but this German band keeps it as uncluttered as the magnetic tape on which it was eternalised. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Roberto
 

WHILE HEAVEN WEPT - Of Empires Forlorn - CD - Eibon Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Just when the proverbial ink of the review of Madder Mortem (in this issue) was drying, proclaiming Deadlands to be the year’s clear champion of doom, along comes another quintessential album to cast that prediction into doubt. While Heaven Wept’s Of Empires Forlorn is so great that, while previewing it in the car, I nearly had to pull over to deal with it.

If you’re familiar with Eibon Records’ back catalog you’ll know that the eclectic label likes to dabble in doom records, generally of the crushing, subterranean kind. So you might expect this record to be seething like Esoteric or chthonic like Thergothon.

But it’s not what you might expect. Rather, Of Empires Forlorn is about as beautiful as the genre can get while still being a proper heavy metal doom album. Undoubtedly, the main player in this equation is the singing. Although atypical for the genre, the vocals convey tremendous melody and such purity as to instantly grip any listener regardless of musical preferences; melodies that convey weight but instill a sense of uplifting, idealistic hope at the same time. The clean vocals are so essential that when gruff ones are introduced on two verses in one song, it sounds like a violation.

While very doomy, it’s clear that While Heaven Wept succeed in being unique by the extremely wide variety of influences on the band, as evidenced in the liner notes in which both Heart and Mayhem are thanked! With this insight on where the band is coming from, it’s easy to see that Of Empires Forlorn thrives on diversity as it marries the truest of metal hearts with the softness and accessibility of pop music.

Perhaps we should look at While Heaven Wept’s example as something to respect, for their refreshing mix of influences eschews the standard practice of metal bands to limit themselves (publicly, anyway) to the reverence of like bands, resulting in something that isn’t contrived in the least. Yes, it may not be sonically crushing, but the soul is undoubtedly intact.

Make no mistake; this is heavy metal doom, it’s just delivered in a way that no other band does. The heavy riffs and classically influenced bass guitar meld with mood keyboards and epic movements to make something really great. The album is made up of four proper songs (written from as long ago as 1994), one reworked classical piece called “Epistle 81" (that Candlemass also did on its Ancient Dreams record), and two instrumentals, the most important of which is the album-ending keyboard piece that features some excellent string tones.

So the final judgement is that although While Empires Forlorn may not be able to unseat Madder Mortem’s Deadlands for the year’s best doom metal record, it does come awfully close. And a little healthy competition is a good thing, isn’t it? (9/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Roberto
 

WOODTEMPLE - Feel the Anger of the Wind - CD - No Colours Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The first track of this album sounds like Aramath, Woodtemple's sole member, borrowed all of the keyboards and hardware that Rob Darken uses on his Lord Wind and Graveland projects and produced a similar, metal's-answer-to-the-"Conan the Barbarian"-movie-soundtrack music, a synthesized sound that rather cheesily evokes images of virile exploits amongst untouched wilderness. And that's totally great, as it's good fun to get lost in the atmosphere of this bombastic, dramatic music. But that's just the intro.

The rest of the CD is remarkably well-done black metal that has a strong, early Burzum-meets-Lord Wind style to it in terms of the warbling guitars, but with lower, rougher vocals, more slowly developing structures, and super cool, authentic-sounding medieval drums. Feel the Anger of the Wind conjures images of the awe and power of barbarians marching to war; a sort of primordial, Dark Age hymn of savage glory. All the right feeling and delivery is there: the trudging through forests mystic with simple, gloomy splendor; the images of spiked implements of war; and the ancient, timeless monolith of black metal as it was intended. You so need this album. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Roberto
 

ZA FRÛMI - Legends Act 1 - CD - Waerloga Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Maelstrom loves Za Frûmi. The mere fact that this dark ambient project is all about orcs and in Orc (the language. Yeah, it exists) makes it a lock to appeal to our bizarre curiosities, whether the albums are good or bad. And the last album, Tach, was bad (see our three reviews here). Regardless, we still awaited more from this wacky, D&D nerd duo from Sweden.

Legends Act 1 is an instrumental album, and it’s much better than Tach, but doesn’t approach the cult appeal of the first album, Za Shum Ushatar Uglakh (read our review and interview here). Certainly Legends Act 1 is in the same style as its two predecessors, being goofy, unique dark ambient with “medieval” sounding percussion that would be at home on Summoning albums, and synthesized silliness that inspires images of traipsing through fantasy, moss covered landscapes replete with sprites and nymphs. Watch out for the orc with the spiked club waiting for you behind the big weeping willow tree.

This image of wandering through swamps and encountering shamans with bone necklaces is especially present on Legends Act 1. Also making a welcome comeback are the choral arrangements that were so great in the first album. There should be more of them on this record and in the future. There are a few passages with brutish grunting, but sadly, no lyric sheet to broaden our steadily growing Orc vocabulary.

As one who has been following Za Frûmi’s tale of a band of orcs, I have to say I’m a little disappointed in there being no dialogue or explicit continuation of the story that came to an abrupt, “tune in next time” end on the last story. Don’t leave me hanging! (7/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Za Shum Ushatar Uglakh (issue No 3)  
Tach (issue No 8)  

 

 

 
7/10 Matt
 

ZAO - All Else Failed - CD - Solid State Records

review by: Matt Smith

This is some intense hardcore. Zao’s re-release of All Else Failed surely did not follow the path of “all else.” The vocals aren’t as rich as they could be, but that’s part of the punk-inspired hardcore tradition. Everything stays accurate, though the drumming, guitars and vocals alike could stand to be more complex. Seeing as only Jesse Smith, the drummer, was involved with the original making of this album, the other members of Zao make the re-release sound natural.

The emotion is there; one wouldn’t even know the songs were originally someone else’s. It’s certainly not a bad album, but it’s a test for any re-release to be groundbreaking. All Else Failed doesn’t really rise to the challenge. Not enough innovative ideas went into the making of it, but it’s better than a lot of the other stuff floating around. It’s worth a listen, if hardcore is your cup of tea. (7/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Parade of Chaos (issue No 10)  

 

 

 
5/10 ~Eternus~
 

KHISANTH - Forseen Storms of the Apocalypse - CD - Baphomet Records

review by: ~Eternus~

This three piece who hail from the Gulf Coast of Mississippi have just released this, their first full length album, having been signed by Killjoy`s label, Baphomet. I`d say this is pretty typical of quite a number of black metal bands nowadays - reasonably well played and technical in the guitar department with some interesting riffs and decent drumming, but it lacks the spirit, conviction and uniqueness necessary for it to be of any interest. In many ways this band remind me of fellow Americans Kult ov Azazel and like them I can listen to Khisanth over and over and I just don`t get any feeling whatsoever.

However, unlike Kult ov Azazel, who play a pretty brutal, fast blend of black metal, Khisanth vary the pace a bit and they are way more atmospheric due to the occasional keyboard section. America does have some quality bands, so far I have been captivated by the works of Xasthur, Weakling, Azrael, Demoncy, Krieg, and quite a few others - compared with those bands, Khisanth falls short. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 ~Eternus~
 

PANTHEON - Vargrstrike - CD - Resistance Records

review by: ~Eternus~

Having being blown away by the first Pantheon release I ever heard, Pflichterfullung, and various other releases on a multitude of labels, I was looking forward to hearing this one and had quite high expectations -- well, I wasn`t disappointed. This album is really excellent and shows improvements not only in song writing, drumming and memorable riffs, but also in a huge improvement in the production, which seems quite fitting overall.

It`s quite hard to say what I like about this band and equally hard to describe what Pantheon sound like as they are unique in every way; most of the tracks on this album are quite lengthy and for the most part they are quite fast, but still very atmospheric, accentuated by the occasional use of keyboards and certain folk like riffs. The drumming is quite impressive and the vocals have a very commanding bark to them.

The final track, "Vautrin`s Sang pt. 1," is an acoustic version of a song from a previous release and it’s a perfect way to end an already stunning album. This track has quite simplistic acoustic guitar and some clean vocals, but it works really well and it’s a welcome inclusion and departure from the solely rough vocals I’d heard on other Pantheon releases.

One last thing to add is that Pantheon have now disbanded -- which is a great shame. However, they have left a huge amount of albums and demo tapes behind them so certainly they won`t be forgotten. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
5.5/10 Roberto
 

CARNAL FORGE - The More You Suffer - CD - Century Media Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

You almost don't need to even listen to the new album by Carnal Forge to know what it sounds like. I remember that when this band's second album, Firedemon (review here), came out, I was really into it. I had just discovered Defleshed and the similarity between that Swedish group and this one, plus the passionate screaming of the singer, had my enthusiasm. Since then, Carnal Forge put out another record, Please…Die! (review here), and it sounded exactly like the previous one.

Not surprisingly, Carnal Forge isn't breaking any new ground. Well, I guess you could make a guess that there are some different aspects to The More You Suffer, like some more melodic guitar solos and cleaner vocals that are slightly different from Please…Die!'s. However, all these newer elements actually detract from the record in that The More You Suffer is less fast and furious and hungry than the previous album, which is even less so than the album before that.

Sure, Carnal Forge can play as tightly as any in Sweden, but there isn't much about this album beyond the façade of good musicianship and slick production. It seems that Carnal Forge is a band that has locked itself into doing one thing. In terms of what they do, this album is their last gasp, if it's not already too late. (5.5/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Firedemon (issue No 2)  
Please...Die! (issue No 11)  

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

LIEGE LORD - Master Control - CD - Metal Blade Records - 1988

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Liege Lord was a sadly under-appreciated thrash US thrash band whose main mark was made with Master Control – and it's apparent why, for this album is everything that was good about the 80s thrash movement: great, full 80s style production; cool, hard hitting songs; fantastic vocals; 80s style hairdos and clothes… well, it can't all be good.

To put it in a nutshell, Liege Lord sounds like the perfect hybrid between Iron Maiden and US thrash. This is primarily due to the sound of frontman Joseph Comeau's voice as he wails like Bruce Dickinson, but perhaps with more aggression. However, the melodic guitar work and solos in themselves also give a strong nod to Maiden.

Every song on Master Control, from the nine originals to the Rainbow cover of "Kill the King," is something to get your teeth and head into. Track down this record and relive the 80s like they were brand new again.

 

 

 

 

YES - Close to the Edge - CD - Atlantic Records - 1972

review by: Tom Orgad

Every person considering himself dedicated to the Nihilistic view of the world must remain aware of a certain hazard luring him amidst the shades of his own ideology: while zealously practicing his own method of collective negation and devaluation, ruthlessly depriving each tangible guiding notion, idea or concept of any objective, non-opportunistic value, one may distractedly reach the stagnant state of being nothing more than a representative of yet another static and blasphemously prejudiced philosophy. By learning to experience the joy of his own disparagement, the cheerfulness of his own cynicism, the all-negating devout just might find himself in a position similar to this of every dependant, mindless religious follower.

Therefore, I warmly recommend every contemplating extremist of the pessimistic, post-modern schools to maintain his alert search for positive value, thus incessantly challenging his own ideology; even if its failure is probably predetermined, than merely for the sake of a dynamic, self-referring, assuring constant redefinition of his own beliefs. For that purpose, on the musical aspect, Close to the Edge, the classic progressive rock album by the mythological band Yes, will surely provide an interesting lever of re-evaluation for every extreme metal fan whatsoever.

UK band Yes was one of the pioneers of the late 60's-early 70's progressive rock movement, mostly characterized by intermingling within the popular music context varying conceptual and epic elements (usually featuring notable influences of classical music). In my opinion, their aforementioned fifth album stands as the peak of the genre's creation, featuring an assembly of masterful musicians on a level nearly unprecedented in popular music, performing three ripe, magnificent pieces of emanating, heavenly inspired creativity. However, I would like to refer the underground extremist reader to one specific composition: the grandiose, 20-minute title track.

"Close To The Edge" describes the journey of a spiritual search for wholesome individual completeness. By applying a classical compositional approach, Yes takes the listener on an aesthetically-versatile trip within the realms of his own consciousness, confronting him with chaotic dissonant eruptions contradicted by divine, traditionally-harmonized melodies, sequentially bombarding him with images of aggressive struggle of instrumental entities, eventually being resolved by the utopia of enrapturing symbiosis. All of the above are intertwined and imbedded with brilliantly arranged and placed recurring musical motives, subtly and varyingly appearing and vanishing, giving the listener a clear sense of gradual development, leading him up the emotional scales towards the overwhelming climax.

Thus, By depicting an image of such a dynamic, unregretful flowing stream of events, yet still being ever infused with constant repeating revelations of positive essence, Yes fulfill the vision of the inspirational German author Herman Hesse: they offer a view of a world in which in spite of the inconsistency, uncertainty, subjectivity and unbearable lightness of nullification, one still, when adjusting his mind properly to the required state, may note the optimistic, reassuring odour of eternity within each of his deeds. Be it a loving embrace, a determined strife, a peaceful interlude or an enrapturing explosion, each action or its resulting state of mind are imparted with the inner core of infinity, its eternal droplets percolating, reaching us past the tragic, delusive filter of the excruciating everyday routine existence. All that one has to do in order to reach the legendary state of ultimate wholesomeness is to realize this notion and acknowledge it.

Surely, this view is very easy to contradict on the intellectual level, not having to use too much of complex arguments: like every other approach, this one is subjective and unstable, can by no means be proven, and may be easily ignored and negated. However, as Yes have managed to implement this singular view in a manner awesomely nearing perfection, I offer each of you to observe it, absorb it, consider it; If not in order to accept it and revive your faith in a positive cosmic existence, than simply to strengthen you in your own opposite stand while beholding an exquisite form of musical expression.

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

SEPULTURA/ VOIVOD/ FULL BLOWN CHAOS
April 19th, 2003 - Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, California, USA

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The Avalon Ballroom is a historic venue that was a movie theater for a long while before it resumed its original purpose of hosting shows. Checking out photos of it on the web makes you double check the listing in the paper, but sure enough, this was the venue for a heavy metal concert.

Various merch was on sale outside the main room. One table was run by a young white guy who was dressed up like a cross of a New York tough guy and a hip-hop star. It was a strange experience going over to his table full of CDs and not recognizing a single band in two boxfuls of stuff for sale. Full Blown Chaos was one of these bands. They were heavy and almost death, but as simplistic as the genre can get. The large vocalist dared the audience to “check this out!” before resuming his vocal attacks.

A good deal of the movie theater lobby feel is still intact. It’s mostly because of the carpet, which is quite a welcome aspect of the Avalon when you get tired of standing. But there weren’t too many fans on their ass when Voivod took the stage. A lot of people were really jazzed about this show, none explicitly more than a tall, awkward man with a Voivod t-shirt at least two sizes too small. The guy provided his fair share of entertainment during Voivod’s set as he danced in a way best described as aggressive swaying, hitting poses of mock worship and cosmic connectedness with the band.

                  

But Voivod were really good. The new album seems very weak and commercial on CD, but even those songs came across very well on this night. Chalk it all up to the band’s gusto. Ex-Maelstromer Liam Deely, a once big fan who accompanied me on this night, had seen Voivod a few years back in Berlin (where they played with Neurosis), and said they were terrible. It was clear that Voivod got its second wind on this part.

                           

Liam seemed to enjoy the performance even more than I. In his words, all the songs sounded different. This is more than I can say, but I can speak for the immense charisma and likebility of Snake, the singer. He was clearly having a lot of fun up there, choreographing the guitarist and bass player’s back-up vocal parts and interacting well with the audience between songs.

 

Of course most will know by now that Voivod’s bass player is Jason Newsted (below), who on this night was nothing more and nothing less than a good bass player. Newsted got into the music as much as he could, adopting that “something smells bad” face that has become his trademark.

                                 

Piggy, Voivod’s guitarist, was also very into the music, but in a much more introverted way, although you wouldn’t have been able to tell just by looking at his guitar. The latter was a sort of sci-fi custom made job, very skeletal in nature. Take a look at the picture below to get an idea.

           

It was day one of Voivod’s return tour. You could feel the emotions of eagerness and adventure in Snake’s voice. It couldn’t have been a finer way to kick things off.

Sepultura has been maligned for being a shadow of what is was with Max Cavalera as frontman. This may be true in a sense, as Sepultura will always miss Max’s superb rhythm guitar, but Derek Greene is a more than apt replacement. This was the second time I had seen Sepultura with Greene fronting the band, the first being on the support tour for his first album with the band. He was very good then, but clearly is feeling very comfortable as a permanent member now.

                             

Sepultura set the table in fine fashion with their oldest crowd favorite, “Troops of Doom,” one of the couple of tracks Greene played some guitar for. But Greene is a much better performer with his hands free, allowing him to flay his impressive dredlocks around and to go manic to the music.

        

Greene’s expressions of psychotic intensity were aptly reflected by the fervor his band mates put out through the set. Every song, from much of the crowd favorite, older material, to the new songs, hit hard with tribal intensity. The face of Sepultura may have changed, but the live machine is still in top shape.

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MESHUGGAH/ STRAPPING YOUNG LAD
April 29th, 2003 - Slim’s, San Francisco, California, USA

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This was a pleasantly curious bill: two well-established metal bands with no opening acts, meaning the show would be over at an early time. Insane metallers need their beauty sleep, too.

Strapping Young Lad were very entertaining. Gene Hoglan’s drumming alone was worth it. Seeing Hoglan’s mix of enviable, totally ambidextrous skills and the way he would shake his head side to side during his sections of intricate cymbal work, causing his hair to form a shambling, shifting entity of its own will, were entertaining. The band’s set was heavy and professional, fronted by Devin Townsend’s (below) usual uniquely off-the-wall banter.

There can’t be another guy with a shtick like Townsend. It’s well calculated. With hair that’s just about nonexistent on top but long every where else, he looks like the metal Terry Bradshaw, and like that famous football player turned TV commentator, his goofiness make it all work.

                         

In Meshuggah’s world, there is no such thing as a six-string guitar. Even seven-string axes are a rarity. No, both guitarists in this wildly popular, spastically technical band use eight-string instruments, leaving the bass player and his very normal looking four-stringed guitar quite out of place.

                   

Ever since I can remember, people have been describing this Swedish group’s music as being “played by androids.” It does have that inhuman, choppy but precise feel to it. Thus, I’ve always associated Meshuggah’s music with the instantaneous, sudden and random movements of small birds, or the zombies from “Night of the Living Dead.” Watching vocalist Jens Kidman’s performance on stage, it turns out I was right on both counts.

Kidman would strike this pose with eyes rolled back and chin jutting out, looking kind of like a thin, bald, Swedish monster of the Godzilla pantheon. He would stick his angular arms out and turn his head side to side in a robotic fashion.

                       

Meshuggah was of course totally impressive. Their technicality is amazing, but there’s something about their chuggy music that never satiates the listener. It just doesn’t break free of its chugging restraints to rip into something unbridled. So it’s kind of frustrating. The songs also sound quite alike. Still, the biggest crowd response seemed to come from the playing of older material, particularly from Destroy, Erase, Improve, which coincidentally was before they started to get chug-happy. Having had enough robotic technicality for one evening, I slipped away to go work on my own musical skills.

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DELGADOS, THE/ AEREOGRAMME
April 13th, 2003 - Bimbo's, San Francisco, California, USA

review by: Roberto Martinelli

What a weird scene Bimbo’s was. Being a part of Maelstrom, you get so used to seeing shows at shitty clubs, the kind that you would never, ever, in a million years step foot in if it weren’t for the fact that some band that you really dig was playing the venue. The decor at said clubs is, as you probably know, largely made up of band stickers on walls. And seating? Forget it.

Bimbo’s is classy. Incongruously classy. You walk (past an almost distastefully large faux-marble statue of some horny mermaid riding a whale or something) into a large room with tables with not only chairs but *tablecloths*. Ok, this is a rock concert? There was ample room in front of the stage, but standing there waiting for Aereogramme to begin would have felt the same as doing so naked, so we sat down. A waitress showed up. It just kept getting weirder and weirder.

Anyway, once Aereogramme kicked things off, the show got a little more normal, ‘cept that there were a bunch of patrons who sat at tables way in the back of the room. You had to wonder what on earth they were doing there in the first place. You also couldn’t help but wonder if the kind of clientele that you would expect to show up at a joint like this would be disturbed by the heavy sounds emanating from the stage.

The crowd at the front half of the room clearly loved the show. Aereogramme’s brand of heavy, melodic alt rock touched many an emotive chord. They only played two or three songs off of the debut album, A Story in White, which is clearly their best work. Come to think of it, they only played two or three songs off of their newest record. That’s because they only played for 40 minutes, which is beyond retarded considering there were only two bands on this bill, and they both came all the way from Scotland. Weird, weird.

review by: Samaki Dorsey

Over the last few years I’ve heard various friends and acquaintances sing praises to the Delgados. I'd only heard a song or two of theirs, so by now my curiosity was piqued to experience their live show. On this tour, the Scottish quartet was supporting their latest release, Hate. I got there mid-set during Aereogramme to find a scattering of fervent fans amid confused onlookers that were not sure whether to shoegaze or bang their heads. However, by the time the Delgados took the stage, the main floor was packed and most of the seated tables were full.

From the first note, the audience in San Francisco was engaged and very encouraging, which is not to say that SF crowds are cold...but anyone from my city by the bay has to agree that at times, we can be a rough town. In light of this, I was pleased that the crowd was behaving like a good audience should.

With a total of nine people sprawled across the stage and on risers, the Delgados set up reminded me of lavish television performances I’ve seen on Later with Jools Holland. It was impressive. The live accompaniment of strings, flute and keyboards gave their sound a depth and grandeur, which went beyond that of the few recordings I've heard. Emma Pollock's voice sounded sweet and powerful in comparison to the feathery tenor of bandmate Alun Woodward. In its uniqueness and imperfection, his voice provided a compelling contrast. During duets his voice complimented hers suitably. I thought his solo efforts were more engaging due to a vulnerability that was reflected in his lyrics and delivery. For me, this added an emotionally dynamic feel to the concert that offset the happier, faster songs in the set.

In between playing there was plenty of alcohol consumption, joke telling, dedications and random storytelling from the band. They seemed impressed by the swanky venue of Bimbos 365, commenting that it "reminded them of the bar from the movie "The Shining" and to that end, played a song for one of the bartenders. My favorite song of the night, "Thirteen Gliding Principles" was the most buoyant performance in the set, showcasing the added instrumentation. It sat apart from the other songs with the driving and melodic string arrangement. It reminded me of Pulp. I half expected Jarvis Cocker to come strutting out on stage and have a go at a verse or two.

The most amusing part of the evening was watching the cellist who laughed during every song. I really thought he wasn’t going to make it through the show. After talking to him post-show, I discovered his fits and giggles stemmed from the antics of their comical guitar technician as well as the corral of dancing fans in the audience that pooled around the front row. Apparently they weren't used to seeing that and as I mentioned before, Dancing Audience Syndrome (DAS) is a rarity in the Bay Area. Yet, all of these elements added a great deal of fun and enthusiasm to what could have been very a low-key affair. I'm glad it wasn't. That night, there was definitely no Hate for the Delgados. Just love, San Francisco style.

 

 

 

 

CAST THE STONE
April 19th, 2003 - East Side Tavern, Columbia, Missouri, USA

review by: Matt Smith

Cast the Stone is Missouri’s latest metal success. The players are young and the band just formed, but they’re already making a name for themselves in the St. Louis and Columbia areas. I saw their show at a small, smoky bar in Columbia a few weeks ago, and I was blown away. Technical, crunchy guitars, fast drums, and deep growling; it’s hard to go wrong with that combination, especially when it’s clear that each member of the trio is an accomplished musician (and they’re especially energetic live).

Metal is nothing new to any of them, as they are former members of Atmos, Shadow Faction, and the short-lived Figurehead. These names don’t mean much to those outside of Missouri, but hopefully Cast the Stone will soon make its way into the international metal community. Their sound is a synthesis of all the good death metal I’ve ever heard. They list Autumn Leaves as a major influence, and they’ve done covers of Meshuggah and Lamb of God. Their taste is exceptional, and it shows in their music. They’re working on an album now, so hopefully there will be more to say about this promising group in the near future.

 

 

 

 

DEICIDE/ AMON AMARTH/ BEHEMOTH
March 23rd, 2003 - The Pound, San Francisco, CA USA

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Behemoth's first trip as a band into the United States was a bit like freshman hazing. A good part of the audience at The Pound in San Francisco was appreciative, with the faithful naturally being concentrated at the centermost front part of the stage. Some didn't seem to care all that much, while calls of "fuck you! And…Deicide!" made it clear that for some this was the only band that could possibly take the stage this night.

                   

Of course it wasn't fair. Behemoth (above) played very well. The sound wasn't half bad, and the material from the new record, Zos Kia Kultus, in a way was better live. Surprisingly, much of the lead vocals that one would expect frontman/bassist Nergal to do were performed by one of the guitarists. Still, Behemoth may have sensed that is could never really win the hearts of this crowd over, and their dispassionate stage presence in comparison to the succeeding bands was noticeable.

Amon Amarth (below) was next. They put on a good show. Their sound was better than Behemoth’s. Amon Amarth played a very solid set that seemed to surprisingly impress a lot of people. Amon Amarth clearly made some new fans on this night.

       

With total professionalism exuding throughout their set, Deicide proved that it was the best band this night. It wasn’t solely because of the energy and conviction. Glen Benton really knows how to work a crowd, and interacted with the faithful much to their delight, chatting with them and even pouring Jack Daniel’s into their mouths from a bottle he had on stage. Benton’s on stage personality shines through by his use of his regular voice, which comes along nonchalantly between songs, a huge contrast to his bellowing death metal attack when the music kicks in. He sounded great, and so did his band.

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OXBOW/ SUBARACHNOID SPACE
April 27th, 2003 - Hemlock Tavern, San Francisco, California, USA

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The Hemlock Tavern is a small, run-of-the-mill bar in the area of Polk Street famous for its male and transgender prostitution. It turns out I’ve walked past the Hemlock many times, but have never noticed it. More remarkable still was that a show would be held here, but up a few stairs is an area with a small stage. The whole place may be able to hold at most 50 people.

I was keen on checking out Subarachnoid Space, as one of the band’s members, Mason Jones, is in the band 355, which we reviewed this issue.

I don’t know if Subarachnoid Space is on the Neurot Recordings label, but it would fit in well. Instrumentally, the four-piece seems like it would be a rock or metal band, with two guitarists, a bassist and a drummer with two bass pedals. But Subarachnoid Space is much more about instrumental ambient sleepiness, but one that just happens to have double bass in it sometimes. As warm displays of sun-like projections were reflected on the wall behind them, the quartet lulled the audience into a pleasant state of lethargy. I for one fell asleep in my front row chair a number of times. I couldn’t shake the cobwebs even after the set was over, and only the arrival of The Lord Weird Slough Feg’s Mike Scalzi prevented me from sleeping all the way through the intermission.

Those were all the winks anyone would get this evening. What was to follow would be the most intense display I had ever seen at a musical event. Oxbow is a Bay Area band that has been around a surprisingly long time. Since 1989, the group has only had one lineup change and has released several albums, the latest of which is An Evil Heat, which was one of the best albums last year.

Perhaps what has made Oxbow so loved by so few and largely disregarded by so many is the inability to classify it. We’ve called it voodoo possessed technical rock, but the official description of the music being like "stumbling into the midst of a sex crime against humanity" is an apt description.

So there was a good deal of nervous anticipation leading into my first Oxbow experience. Feral tales of nude performances and on-stage choking of witless audience members by front man Eugene Robinson made me anxious and scared - and impatient. Suffice to say I was very, very awake from the moment Oxbow started its set.

There are four men in this group, and they all contribute to the torrent of energy. At the forefront of this is Robinson, the erudite-cum-shoot fighter front man who’s as famous for his gradual removal of clothing on stage as he is for his trademark duct-taped ears and Bacchanal performances. (Why does he do all this stuff? Find out next issue in our interview with Oxbow.)

Robinson is like an actor who loses himself in a part. It’s very clear that while on stage, something has snapped within him. Reaching deep inside some fearsome well, he displayed such looks of desperate psychosis as he humped the mic stand and howled his vicious prose. When the clothes gradually came off, displaying Robinson’s impressive physique and myriad of tattoos, it occurred to us that he was a whole lot like the black version of Robert DeNiro’s character in "Cape Fear." Robinson would slowly seethe, only to break out in violent fits of thrashing about to the dynamic music.

Meanwhile, drummer Greg Davis was going mad behind the kit. The stocky, powerful man was smashing his equipment, which made the level of precision with which he played all the more impressive. There was an unscheduled intermission as Davis actually tore a hole into the head of his bass drum; luckily Subarachnoid Space’s drummer was good enough to lend his. Maybe a better term would be "smart enough."

Niko Wenner, the most unassuming member of Oxbow off stage, was in his own private freak out zone as well. Alternating between three gorgeous guitars, Wenner became one with the flow of the musical torrent, culminating in a total loss of sanity to end the set as he turned his back to the audience and ravaged the strings of one of his prizes in a way that would even frighten Caspar Brötzmann.

In any other band, bassist Dan Adams would be something to watch. But in Oxbow, it’s easy to overlook his presence on stage, which is a mistake. Adams’ fine performance was as integral to the show as any other.

Oxbow will be playing again next month, to a much bigger crowd. Who knows what might happen.

 

 

 

 

WALKEN
March 18th, 2003 - Lucifer's Hammer, San Francisco, California, USA

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REAL, THE/ LAST SEASON, THE
March 21st, 2003 - Red Devil Lounge, San Francisco, California, USA

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Seeing these two bands play back to back was an entertaining spectacle as much for the individual groups' personalities as for the contrasts between them.

The Last Season is a Bay Area hard rock band that rocks, and hard. A lot of energy is expended on stage as they jump around and make faces while the drummer keeps up a hurried tattoo, and their material is anything but boring. And despite the superfluous motion, the four-piece holds together really well and is certainly at least of semi-pro caliber. Reflecting the band's persona were its fans, who seemed to be the most vocal and demonstrative of the evening. The Last Season appreciated this and exchanged good-natured exchanges with its following. It was good, honest, fun rock 'n roll.

The Real is a power trio based in San Francisco, but whose members are originally from New England. The band plays a kind of technical rock music that is unique and immediately impressive. The group is very tight and each member's instrument shines through and has a very integral and tasty role.

The Real has managed to make technical compositions that aren't so for the sake of it and making them catchy. Each song stuck out clearly from one another and was played flawlessly. Personally, I couldn't take my eyes of the playing of drummer Alex Bowman, who, clearly a fan of Neil Peart's, elevates his job from timekeeper to one that contributes as much to the signature of the band as the guitarist. Bowman plays the drums melodically and tastefully, creatively using the entire kit, including the rims of the toms, in a way that is never the same way twice.

This is of course not to say that the other two members had nothing to offer. The talented five-string bassist, who did most of the vocals, had a charming and engaging, relaxed stage persona. His little anecdotes, entertaining interaction with the also talented guitarist and introduction to the cover of Black Sabbath's "Fairies Wear Boots" (which was spot on) were a good way for the audience to connect with the group. It was kind of funny and slightly awkward to see that the in-between song banter get cut short time and again as the businesslike drummer began playing the next song, forcing the two front men to shut up and get with the program.

It was a surprisingly excellent night. The two bands' styles were a good contrast to each other in making them stand out. I hope to see more of these two groups in the future.