the underground music magazine    

issue #8 April, 2002

 


Untitled Document

It took us a little while, but we finally got this one out. The delay was a combination of my moving back to San Francisco and Steppenvvolf's workload as he completed his master's thesis in physics. Congrats, man! Not only is this Maelstrom's biggest issue yet, with 97 album reviews, eight interviews and three live reviews, but it also marks this magazine's first anniversary. Yep, more than a year ago our stalwart, little group put out our first issue, which contained 16 reviews and one interview. Since then we've made huge improvements in our presentation. There is still much more work to be done in this department. Soon we will be updating our old issues by splitting up the content on different pages in order to cut down on load time and make the page more navigable.

Our staff size has nearly tripled since our inception. We'd like to welcome Abhishek Chatterjee from India to the crew. Abhi is going to be handling mostly the gory, grindy side of death metal, which has been a little undercovered until now.

In this issue we are very excited to present to you a chat with Abbath of Immortal. It has always been one of my personal goals to one day interview this band, and now I've done it. Also interviewed is Bolt Thrower, one of my favorite death metal bands; Necrophagist, a cult, one-man German death metal project; Root, the underappreciated but totally essential heavy metal band from the Czech Republic; Lamb of God, an American metal band that is rapidly growing in popularity; Kalmah, a melodic death metal band from Finland; Arch Enemy, the super talented melodic metal band from Sweden featuring the guitar wizard Amott brothers; and Brodequin, a brutal death metal band from the U.S.

Please enjoy issue #8 of Maelstrom. We already have some very cool interviews lined up for next issue, which we hope to get out a little quicker than it took us this time. - Roberto Martinelli (with Flo Mounier of Cryptopsy (l) and Alex Camargo of Krisiun (r)).

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

I never got black metal. I dabbled a little in Marduk, Cradle of Filth and Impaled Nazarene, but I could never understand where the appeal lay. That is, until I heard Immortal. Then everything clicked, and suddenly I was able to hear black metal. This was also the case for two other Maelstromers, Steppenvvolf and Liam. Since this time, Immortal has remained my favorite black metal band. Their newest album, 2002's Sons of Northern Darkness, is yet another in a line of masterpieces from this seminal Norwegian group.

When Steppenvvolf and I started our metal journalism careers, it has always been one of our underlying goals to one day interview Immortal. It was almost silly how giddy Steppenvvolf and I were when we found out Immortal were going to play Wacken 2000, and that we might be able to interview them. We couldn't wait to see what the band looked like underneath all the corny make up, leather and spikes that has been the trademark of their career, and to hear what the singer's real voice sounds like when he's not doing his demonic Popeye vocals. Try as we might, we couldn't find them anywhere.

At the risk of sounding absurdly dramatic, the quest is at an end, for I was presented with the chance to interview Abbath, the deep voiced, large jawed, abrupt and arrogant leader and sole remaining original member of the band, the man who consistently writes the best riffs in all of black metal. As is often the case, it turns out Abbath is himself a total metal nut, and that Immortal, being human after all, have their own quirky stories and idiosyncrasies, despite being demon warriors from the realm of Blashyrkh. That is indeed what ultimately makes them interesting: figureheads in the infamous Norwegian black metal scene of the early '90s, but who are also good friends with very real dreams and goals; friends whose lives are deeply interwoven, as evidenced by former bandmate Demonaz building his own company while living in Abbath's family's house. Immortal is the best black metal band ever. Here is my chat with Abbath.

MaelstroMaelstrom: Hi. How are you?

Abbath:....fine! It's cold before the storm.

MaelstroMaelstrom: Is it really, really cold in Norway now?

Abbath: Nah. It's actually raining here in Bergen. It's a rainy city.

Maelstrom: I've been there once, and it rained a lot.

Abbath: When was this?

Maelstrom: A couple of years ago, in the summer. I made a tour of Europe. I went to Wacken, and I've always wanted to see Norway, so I went up. I really liked it.

Abbath: You were in Wacken? Was this '99 or 2000?

Maelstrom: 2000. I saw you guys. (...) To start off, I want to talk about your new album, of course. Although I liked Damned in Black quite a lot, I felt it seemed a little bit rushed. Sons of Northern Darkness feels like the album Damned in Black was meant to be. How do you feel about this?

Abbath: .......hehehe....That was one hell of a good question...Well, maybe you have a point there; maybe you're right. Damned in Black was a little bit rushed, so to speak....There's a couple songs that we never got...right. You know what I mean?

Maelstrom: I have to say that the riffs themselves on Damned in Black are outstanding, but the album as a whole feels like it's over too fast. What were you thinking about when you said some of the songs weren't quite right? Give me an example.

Abbath: ....this is a very difficult question, you know? And I think I know what you mean, but how to explain it?

Maelstrom: I think it has something to do with coming off of your album that was At the Heart of Winter, that was so huge and so epic, personally, and for other Immortal fans who I know, were kind of hoping for something more like that. You sort of had that sound, but the songs were more compact.

Abbath: Well, we felt to intensify.....how the hell am I going to explain this?....

Maelstrom: What I'm getting at, Abbath, is that the new album sounds like the best stuff from Damned in Black mixed with the best stuff from At the Heart of Winter together in a really great album.

Abbath: I think with The Sons of Northern Darkness we are doing a lot of new stuff.

Maelstrom: What are you doing that's new?

Abbath: We have more heavy stuff, more old school metal, more like 80s influence on this album as well. But we never plan; we just follow our feeling when we make songs. I don't find the words. I never find the words. That's a reason I hate to do interviews.

Maelstrom: Well, you find the right music, so that's what matters.
It's so cool how Horgh's drumming contributes to the hooks and melody of the music. Who is Horgh, and where did he come from?

Abbath: He started to play with us the 1st of May '96. He had been a drummer for a long, long time. He played in bands that played more heavy metal stuff. His first band was called heavy duty, which played a lot of Judas Priest stuff. The band he played in before he came to Immortal was called Lost at Last. They played more progressive metal, or something. He quit that band before he started with Immortal. He didn't find any bands which gave him the right stimulants. He heard we needed a drummer and he gave us a call. When he started at the first rehearsal, he didn't really know how to play these blast speeds. I showed him the technique, because I knew how to play it. He took it real quickly; it didn't take him long before he was into it. Technically, he was a great drummer, and a very big fan of Brian Downey from Thin Lizzy. Dave Holland...

When we did Blizzard Beasts, I and Demonaz had all the songs ready, so I had to learn him the beats. So he had very little contribution on the Blizzard Beasts album. It was when I started to work on At the Heart of Winter, you can really hear that that's his drumming.

Maelstrom: Speaking of drumming - and you just mentioned that you taught him the beats - you had done the drums on a couple of Immortal albums, and you did that Det Hedenske Folk thing. Do you have any plans to do any more drumming?

Abbath: I'm not a good drummer at all, but I knew how to play this blast beats. We didn't have a drummer when we did Pure Holocaust. Eric (a.k.a. Grim, credited with playing drums on Pure Holocaust) came in during the mixing, and he joined the band and we decided to have him on the cover because we wanted to present it as a band. After two tours, he didn't get better, and we were ready to make Battles in the North. We wanted to intensify stuff, and he didn't follow that, so I decided to do the drums on Battles in the North as well. I'm just glad I don't have to do it anymore! It was always me behind the drum kit and Demonaz on guitar at the rehearsal place, in the early days. (laugh)

Maelstrom: Let's talk about Demonaz a little bit. I read an interview you gave to Imotep a few years ago in which you said your grand design at the time would be to one day have Demonaz return and to have Immortal have two guitarists - you would stay on guitar. Is this dream still even possible?

Abbath: Well, that won't happen. No.

Maelstrom: Is Demonaz not going to get better?

Abbath: Well, he's better, but he won't go back to the band. He feels it's too late. He just wants to write lyrics. He started this company a few years ago that's going real well.

Maelstrom: What's his company?

Abbath: It's something called The Media Profile. He's making some stuff for companies, I don't know exactly what it is; some commercial stuff.

Maelstrom: Is it music?

Abbath: No! No, no, no. It's just this idea he had, and he's doing real well, you know? He's very strong. If he wants to build something, he will. He's totally into Immortal, and I talk to him on a daily basis. He's already been starting working on lyrics for my new compositions. He's definitely back mentally. You won't see him on the stage anymore.

Maelstrom: So you have new compositions already, huh?

Abbath: Yeah! Huh-huh-huh.

Maelstrom: Are you really inspired being on a label that's really supporting you now, or does it come when it comes?

Abbath: It comes when it comes. I can go two weeks without touching the guitar, then all of a sudden "Ah! I feel inspired today." I can sit all day working.

Maelstrom: You've always called Demonaz your brother.

Abbath: My blood brother.

Maelstrom: Yeah. How did you guys meet originally?

Abbath: I met him in '88, and he played in this band called Amputation. I played in a band called Old Funeral. Our drummer in Old Funeral met Demonaz at a Slayer concert in Oslo. Then we got in contact with this guy and his environment. In '90 I was sick of Old Funeral, and he was sick of Amputation. I came over to him at this party, and said: "I really want to try to make this band with you. I'm sick of Old Funeral; these guys are not serious." I was thinking bigger. He totally agreed with me. He was: "Yeah. Fuck yeah. Fuck 'em all. Let's make this band." And he already had a name for this band. Haha.

Maelstrom: I have sort of a crazy fan question to ask you. It's a little bit obscure. In the Burzum album Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, Vikernes makes a dedication to Demonaz and Fenriz as being the keepers of the brown lamp. Do you know what I'm talking about? (the album reads "Hvis Lyset Tar Oss er dedikert til mine boedre, Fenriz og Demonaz. Nordens Skalder, foelg den brune lampe og dens Hofding!" - Roberto) What does that mean?

Abbath: I'm not sure right now.

Maelstrom: Is that some sort of meaning in Norwegian folklore, or something?

Abbath: I don't connect right now. It could be a joke, as well. I was the guy who actually got Varg (Vikernes) into this scene, you know.

Maelstrom: Oh, tell us about that.

Abbath: I got him into Old Funeral, did you know that? And through Old Funeral, he got into the scene. Also through Immortal. And then he got in touch with Euronymous and Mayhem. When I quit Old Funeral for starting this band with Demonaz, they were laughing at us: putting on outfits with makeup, start to play primitive black metal, everyone was laughing at us. Even Varg. It was very short! (laugh) Shortly after, Varg quit Old Funeral to start Burzum, and he started to put on makeup. And also the guys in Old Funeral started to play more primitive black metal after a while, after they saw that I and Demonaz had this thing going. I feel that we, Immortal, were before our time with a lot of stuff.

Maelstrom: You started that fast stuff.

Abbath: Even though we were influenced by other bands that came before us, Bathory and stuff like that, I feel that definitely we have our own thing, you know?

Maelstrom: I totally agree.

Abbath: A lot of bands and people are very jealous that we have these skills.

Maelstrom: Let's talk about something you mentioned, about the image that you have, with the paint and all the stuff you put on. In particular, after At the Heart of Winter came out, I read in a few interviews that you regretted the photo session that is inside the booklet.

Abbath: Yeah, but that was fucked up. That was the record label who fucked up.

Maelstrom: Ok, be that as it may, despite your regretting those pictures, why do you persist in looking like action figures?

Abbath: That's a part of the split personality thing. Immortal comes from the inner demons of ourselves. The war paint, the demon war paint, it's like a presentation of that. We are presenting ourselves as figures from the world we are writing about. As demons and warriors, guardians of the borders of chaos. I've always been into image: Venom, Bathory, with these swords and the boots...It's more magic, it's more atmosphere. Even Manowar: the first time I saw the Into Glory Ride album in '83, I thought: "Fuck, this is cool. I really have to check this out. These guys look like they're from Cimmeria."

Maelstrom: So that's what drew you to it, and that's what you figure will draw people to Immortal: the image.

Abbath: Yeah. We definitely have our own thing. And of course I was very fascinated by Kiss. I was seven years old when I first discovered Kiss. I'm still fascinated by that band. Gene Simmons was one of my heroes when I was a kid. My whole fucking room had Kiss posters, and Gene Simmons was like the coolest guy. And Cronos, and Quorthon, they have been role models for me. It's different reasons why we use paint. It was my idea. Mayhem started to use paint, but for them it's corpsepaint; for us it's war paint. (laugh)

Maelstrom: (laugh) You mentioned growing up and listening to Kiss. What was it like growing up in Norway? As you got involved in black metal at an early age, how did you fit in with kids your age? Were you viewed as weird, do you think?

Abbath: Yes. You know, we've always been outsiders. I came from the countryside.

Maelstrom: What's the name of your town?

Abbath: Os. It's a very little place. We were this little gang who started to listen to this music, and they have always looked at us as weird people up here.

Maelstrom: Even now? I've heard that that the records that have the most sales that are from Norway are black metal records. Do you think that's true?

Abbath: The biggest export, yeah.

Maelstrom: Do you think that's affected the way Norwegian people view black metal?

Abbath: You know, I think the people now are looking more into it. The other day, we got a whole page with a 5/6 for our new album, with a big picture in the largest newspaper in Norway. The guy who gave it this 5/6, this guy is a fuck up, you know? He's a poser. But he really looked into - he can write shit about anything - this time he really looked into our stuff. The thing he wrote about us was very fascinating. I didn't believe my own eyes when I saw who had written that.

I think the quality is different now. A lot of the bands who started same as us are much better now: better musicians, more professional. Like us, we're still the same band, but we're so much fucking better at what we do. And now, it's...I don't want to say it's more accepted, but it's more like they understand it much more; there's more respect to it, I think.

Maelstrom: That's good. But, do you like the fact that there's more respect to it? I mean, that may seem like a dumb question, but I think that some black metal fans would say that you wouldn't want that respect because it's coming from a non-underground place. How do you feel about that?

Abbath: We are still the same band. We are a brutal band and we play brutal music. But it's quality. And I would say that if we can make the scene stronger and bigger, that can have this contribution and make more people into this kind of music, that's just victory. I would say that we are definitely an underground band, but we look at ourselves as on the front.

Maelstrom: The days of "holocaust metal" are long past, yet there is still quite a demand for the material of these days. Why not write any more songs like "Grim and Frostbitten Kingdoms"?

Abbath: I haven't thought about it. Maybe we will. It's the time, you know? Also we are working differently. But you can hear a lot of Battles.... Sons of Northern Darkness has a lot of links to our old albums.

Maelstrom: Oh, sure, it still sounds like Immortal, but the approach is different.

Abbath: Well, we have a much better production, and we play better. Also Horgh has a different style than I had.

MaelstroMaelstrom: Bergen is an interesting place. It's a major hub of Norwegian black metal. Most of the bands there can be found hanging out a bar called Garage. Is this true?

Abbath: Yeah.

MaelstroMaelstrom: I would imaging you get a lot of fans who come to meet you, because it's easy to find you.

Abbath: You know, I always call first. "Are there any fans down there?" (laugh)

MaelstroMaelstrom: (laugh)

Abbath: "No, no, no. You can come! There's no one! No black metal tourists here today."

Maelstrom: Does this get to be kind of tiresome?

Abbath: No, it's no problem. Around summertime, a lot of tourists - we call 'em black metal tourists - they come over here. Most of them are real cool. Some of them settle down here. Some of them came here as tourists, and they've been living here a couple of years and talk Norwegian perfectly, and some people come back every year. There's a very few fuck ups. It's really cool.

Maelstrom: I think it's a unique thing to have. Because your band has made it quite big, and to be able, as a fan, to be able to meet you without too much effort, to meet you, is quite an unusual thing.

Abbath: Fenriz of Darkthrone, he sits at Elm Street, the rick pub in Oslo. Have you been there?

Maelstrom: Yeah.

Abbath: He's making these jokes with them. He comes in - he knows there are black metal tourists there, you know, who really wants to meet Fenriz - and he comes in with these pink pants.

Maelstrom: That's great.

Abbath: Just to see their expression. (laugh) They try to come in looking as evil as possible and then Mr. Evil himself has come in with pink pants.

Maelstrom: He's a hilarious guy.

Abbath: He's awesome. He's a good friend.

Maelstrom: On the website of Nuclear Blast, they have some sort of metal box set of Sons of Northern Darkness. What is that?

Abbath: That's pure metal. It's 1.7 kilos heavy. Hehehe. You need to screw it up with tools.

Maelstrom: (laugh) Is it a CD?

Abbath: Yeah, it's a CD. It's only 10,000 copies of it. It's never been done before.

Maelstrom: Anything you want to mention about stuff that's coming up, or tours?

Abbath: We are touring Europe with Hypocrisy in April.

Maelstrom: How about the U.S.?

Abbath: We hope to come to America this year as well. They want us to come to Australia and New Zealand in August. Hopefully we will play some festivals as well in the summer.

Maelstrom: People in San Francisco really, really want to see you, especially after we didn't get to see you (in 2000). (Immortal was supposed to play the Cocodrie in April of 2000 but didn't show up.)

Abbath: Yeah, we really have to go back there. That was fucked up.

Maelstrom: Yeah. People's corpsepaint was running 'cause the tears were coming down their face.

Abbath: You live in San Francisco?

Maelstrom: Yeah. I was at the show. We missed ya.

Abbath: Yeah, it was this guy, the promoter of the American and Mexican tour. They didn't have this dialog. If we flew to San Francisco, we wouldn't have been able to come back to Mexico. I can't really remember how that situation was, but it was totally fucked up. There was no way we could come to San Francisco. That was fucking irritating. I really want to see the Bay Area scene. I really hope to meet Jeff Bescera (Possessed). He's one of my favorite singers.

Maelstrom: I'm sure he'll be thrilled to meet you too.

Abbath: He's definitely one of my favorite singers of all time. It's a real pity that he sits in a wheelchair. So, Roberto, I really hope...the tour isn't set for America, but we really have to come back to California to play.

Maelstrom: I hope so. Abbath, thanks a lot for doing this interview. When I started doing this metal journalism, one of my goals was to one day interview Immortal.

Abbath: Really?

Maelstrom: I'm absolutely serious. You're my favorite black metal band.

Abbath: Ha! I'm flattered.

Maelstrom: I got into black metal because of you...

Abbath: That's real nice to hear.

Maelstrom: When I went to Wacken, that was my first big metal journalism thing, and my colleague and I were like, "we have to get Immortal!" We looked everywhere for you. We didn't find you, but finally my chance is here.

Abbath: I was backstage, drinking with Cronos. (laugh) That was fucking awesome! Meeting Cronos at Wacken. I was standing behind the stage while they played. Mantas gave me the guitar neck of the guitar he had crushed. They were very cool guys, especially Cronos. He's fucking awesome. So we had a blast in Wacken. Wacken 2000 was one of the best. Those two days we were there were awesome. I met also Dee Snider. He was there. (laugh) It was funny.

Maelstrom: Thanks for all the years of good stuff. Your new album is so cool. It's already got a place on my list of best albums of 2002. So keep up the good work, man.

Abbath: It's Maelstrom Zine?

Maelstrom: Yeah. I don't know if you care to have a copy of the interview.

Abbath: That'd be cool.

Maelstrom: I'll send it to your email address on your website.

Abbath: I don't have email, but you can send it to my father's.

Maelstrom: Really? On the site there's an address, abbath@immortal.nu.

Abbath: No, not that one. I don't have email. That's a mistake. I never looked into that. I never answered any of that. They say it's packed with mail. I forget about it. I don't want to be on the internet. I am visiting my parents a couple times a week. Demonaz lives in the basement there.

Maelstrom: Is that true?

Abbath: Yeah, in my parent's basement there. Hehehehehe! Yeah.

Maelstrom: He's getting his buisiness started from the basement, like the guy from Apple Computers.

Abbath: He has his office downtown, but he's been living here ever since I moved out from my parents' apartment. He's been living here like six years, with girlfriend. Allright!

Maelstrom: Thanks again.

Abbath: See you soon!

 

 

 

interview by: Roberto Martinelli

Yet another thrill for me this issue: not only do I get to talk with my favorite black metal band, but I also get to chat with Bolt Thrower, the band that got me into extreme metal in the first place. Ever since hearing Realm of Chaos for the first time years ago, Bolt Thrower has never gotten old for me. It's curious, because you'd think it would certainly have by now.

Looking objectively at the band as individual members, Bolt Thrower have never really been anything special, aside perhaps from the excellent death vox of departed frontman Karl Willets. While the guitarists never really could solo, and the drummer basically played four beats and always did the same fill, Bolt Thrower always manages to be truly heavy and aggressive, while being catchy and surprisingly melodic at the same time. In light of this last assessment, the supreme irony is that no band has since managed to mimic the massiveness and flavor that Bolt Thrower presents again and again. See, because it's as a whole that Bolt Thrower is supreme.

Bolt Thrower is and always will be like a tank. You know what you're gonna get, and if you're enamored with tanks, you'll be disappointed with anything but. A few years ago the precious whole lost its drummer, and the band's work seemed to suffer because of it. Trouble loomed for fans as word that Karl Willets was also leaving, further weakening the Bolt Thrower tank crew. Again, it would seem, the departure of another one of the core has yielded an even less satisfying album. However, while I can't say I'm crazy about the latest disk, I can't deny it still sounds like Bolt Thrower, nor can I deny how much pure excitement I'll feel knowing that one of my all time favorite bands is still alive and playing, and how much it means to me to be able to speak with Gavin Ward (guitar).

Maelstrom: Hi, Gavin.

Gavin Ward: Hi, how's it goin'?

Maelstrom: Good. Nice to talk to you. I just wanted to tell you before I start off that Bolt Thrower is one of my favorite bands. You're basically the reason I got in to death metal. So it's really a thrill to be able to talk to you and interview you.

Gavin Ward: Well, thanks a lot. I appreciate it.

Maelstrom: Hey, you're welcome. I guess I wanted to start off by asking you to shed a little light on the numerous changes in vocalists over the past two or three years. It seemed that whenever I'd be talking with people about Bolt Thrower, someone would say that Karl Willets was back, that he left, Dave Ingram was in, Ingram was out...you had some Dutch guy... What was going on there?

Gavin Ward: Well, we basically had to shuffle through. Always lookin'. In '95, Karl and (Andy) Whale (drums) left - musical differences - we were trying to replace 'em. We replaced Whale with Martin Kearns. (Martin) Van Drunen [the Dutch guy] came in, but we used him as a stopgap. We knew we probably wouldn't record in the studio with him. He toured with us - probably on two tours. He was eventually removed, and Dave (Ingram) left Benediction and joined Bolt Thrower probably about three years ago.

Maelstrom: So what are Karl Willets and Andy Whale doing now?

Gavin Ward: Andy Whale is laying cables, and Karl Willets is selling insurance.

Maelstrom: Wow. Do you guys miss them at all in the band?

Gavin W: ...sometimes.

Maelstrom: What do you miss about them?

Gavin Ward: Well, Karl was a speed freak loose cannon, so we miss him sometimes. (chuckle) Whale...didn't really miss 'im.

Maelstrom: (subdued shock) Why not?

Gavin Ward: Whale was totally loyal in the old days, and that's why he was retained in the band. Probably getting near ...For Victory, his drumming wasn't that good, like. But he was kept in because he was loyal, and then basically as soon as he weren't, he was removed.

Maelstrom: I want to talk a bit about the idea of Bolt Thrower progressing. Some bands say they progress, or else they stagnate and fall apart. In Bolt Thrower's case, I think the total opposite is true. Bolt Thrower fans want that sound, those same drums; anything else is a letdown. How do you think about this?

Gavin Ward: It comes down to the fans and to the band, pretty simply. Most bands, when they talk about progression, they talk about getting bigger, more commercial, more cash. Generally. You know what I mean? They go "we progressed," but really they changed their style, don't they? They either change the way they look, or the style, or the vocal style to gain more accessible music; to become bigger, and in the end turn into pretty shitty bands. So with us, we're still just playing the music we're into. It came down to that in the end, probably the time when Karl and Whale left, they were getting into a lot of different styles and wanted to change the style of what it was.

Maelstrom: What did they want to change it to?

Gavin Ward: Karl was getting more into Soundgarten, and stuff like that. So they were still lookin' for some heavy-ish music, but with more commercial vocals. It wasn't something we were at all interested in. We knew years ago, when we started, that it would never be totally accessible music, do you know what I mean? It was always going to be in some way underground, in some way more of a cult band, like.

Maelstrom: It seems like you were always making efforts to stay underground. Like almost renounced making a big success commercially, don't you think?

Gavin Ward: Yeah, yeah! For us, it must be retained to be underground in some ways. By underground, I mean: we don't do anything chicken shit. It's not like we haven't got money; but we have got control of what we do, in every aspect. Obviously, we manage the band, we print the merchandise, we book the tours. You never really get any surprises, which I'm sure if we'd been in a band with management and everything else around us, we'd eventually ended up as puppets playing some half-ass shit, you know what I mean?

Maelstrom: Does this approach in terms of not progressing compromise you as an artist, and do you care?

Gavin Ward: Nah, I don't care. I've never considered myself an artist or a musician anyway. We're just a band, playing music we're into.

Maelstrom: Ok, Gavin. Let's talk about the new album a little bit. There are two obvious things I've noticed about it. The music is really slow! Also, there are few guitar solos, and the ones you do aren't the shrill ones that we've become accustomed to. Why did you choose these two directions?

Gavin Ward: It's not really even a conscious decision of choosing direction; you just play what you play. It comes out how it comes out; without parameters. There were less solos, but there was more harmonies, if you want to call it - or melodies. So as more melodies got put in, more solos got removed.

Maelstrom: How about the slowness of the music? It's very plodding, there's maybe a couple times where the pace picks up a little bit.

Gavin Ward: In the end, it comes down to the live set. We write albums as they come, but you're still looking for a live set, and knowing you'll be playing a lot of the older, faster ones amongst it. At the end of the day, we're a live band. So everything is sort of set for a purpose, but although we don't really look on speed, I think when you go: "allright, let's write some fast songs!" I don't think that works. We write what we write. But it also means we haven't sort of thought we were going to consciously go slower, 'cause the next album might be a lot faster. Do you know what I mean?

Maelstrom: How does it work with Bolt Thrower and Metal Blade? Do you have a timetable where you have to put out another album in a certain amount of time?

Gavin Ward: No. We release what we want to release, and it's done when it's done, and it's released when we say so.

Maelstrom: What's your favorite song on the new album?

Gavin Ward: "Contact - Wait Out."

Maelstrom: What do you like about that song?

Gavin Ward: It's really simple, and it just sounds like Bolt Thrower.

Maelstrom: I think I like "K-Machine" the most.

Gavin Ward: Yeah, yeah...yeah! With the bass start. Yeah. It come out good, as far as production wise; one of the first ones we mixed.

Maelstrom: Oh, really?

Gavin Ward: It was one of them ones where you were looking for the sound of getting it all right. "K-Machine" came out with more drums than some of the other ones, probably.

Maelstrom: It seems that the cover of the new album is a return to the Games Workshop art. I like the art. Is it indeed a Games Workshop piece?

Gavin Ward: No, not at all. Nor was Warmaster. The only Games Workshop piece was Realm of Chaos. There was such tight restrictions on copyright control, you couldn't do anything. Do you know what I mean? It's hard to use the imagery afterward: if it was licensed or released in other countries, you had to pay for every issue.

Maelstrom: Games Workshop has a little empire going on there.

Gavin Ward: Well, yeah, no shit. In them days, it was probably a lot bigger. We were contracted to Earache (records), and Earache was contracted to Games Workshop. They went to four printers just for the cover, like. But they just kept refusin'. Earache would go get the cover printed and go, "nah, it's not good enough. Bring us another." In the end, on Warmaster, we just approached a freelance artist that worked for them (Games Workshop). This was a young German kid who did the chaos eye on Mercenary and the new chaos eye. Over the three years - probably between Mercenary and now, he got really good. I'd say right now he's probably better than their artists. The new Games Workshop stuff isn't very good, like. We basically have the best they had.

Maelstrom: It's interesting. The time I went to Britain and went to a Games Workshop store, I asked about Bolt Thrower, to see if anyone who worked there knew about it. And hardly anyone knew who you were. They listen to the lamest shit in there, Gavin. It's like they surround themselves with all the Bolt Thrower visuals, all the aggressive war stuff, but they listen to all this ridiculous pop stuff. It's hilarious.

Gavin Ward: Yeah, yeah, yeah. No shit. In England, they had it in the shops, but it was still the same there. They'd be playing lame shit! Do you know what I mean? Really, at the end of the day, with Games Workshop, the boss was into the band. He was into John Peel. He had heard the band do the first radio (Peel) session. He had contacted us through that. And at that point Earache weren't even involved. Games Workshop were going to finance everything, and then Earache tried to basically join into the new game.

Maelstrom: And how did all that stuff sit with you? In terms of this connection with Games Workshop, how was that like?

Gavin Ward: Games Workshop was good, because it prodded Earache more; where Earache was probably slightly interested in the band, but when they knew someone else was interested and was going to finance everything... Obviously, when Games Workshop had the first interview with Earache, they just walked all over them, do you know that I mean? They were a multi-million dollar company at that point, so they were saying anything that they wanted to. Pretty good shit for our band, 'cause things were looking well positive on our side. As far as the album went, we sort of skipped around some of the stuff that we liked of theirs that didn't go full concept they way they wanted. I think they wanted to put in all the song titles and none of the lyrics, originally, which wasn't going to happen. I think that had been done it in the past with Sabbat, where really you've got a bunch of puppets. So we weren't into that idea at all, like.

Maelstrom: Your albums have all been about war, and your music has changed little over your career. What makes you keep on going? Do you ever envision a day when you'll want to not do this anymore?

Gavin Ward: Mmmm..... Good question.... Not that I can think of.

Maelstrom: Why not?

Gavin Ward: You mean, to not do it?

Maelstrom: Yeah, what drives you to keep making these albums over and over again?

Gavin Ward: Probably fans and gigs, at the end of the day, like. They're obviously the main priorities: the fans and the band. Everything else is quite secondary to that.

Maelstrom: So that's what you love the most: to be able to play for people.

Gavin Ward: Well, yeah. Yeah. Of course. The gigs are the best. Studio can be a pleasure or it can be hard, like. Obviously Honour, Valour, Pride was a right pleasure recordin', but that was because we were producin' as well and had a lot more control of what was happenin'. We were havin' a good time, do you know what I mean?

Maelstrom: Who writes the music and the lyrics?

Gavin Ward: In the past, myself and Baz (Thompson, guitar) wrote most of the music, and myself and Karl wrote the lyrics. Since Karl left, Baz writes all the music. Myself, Baz and Jo (Bench, bass) structure it, and then myself and Dave write the lyrics.

Maelstrom: How did you all meet originally?

Gavin Ward: In a toilet.

Maelstrom: Really?

Gavin Ward: Basically, we were at a show. There were three of us: Alan West (original vocalist), Baz and myself. What I had heard was they didn't have a name yet, but had jammed a bit. I heard that they were going to have this real dickhead in on bass at the time. So I went up to Baz in the toilet and said: "Don't have that dickhead. Have me, like." And then from that point it was us three, we started writing songs. About a month after that, we got the name, and after probably another month and a half we got about five or six songs, and then we got a drummer. The drummer was the hardest at that point, to find drummers that were playing double bass.

Maelstrom: How did you find Jo Bench?

Gavin Ward: Jo had been my girlfriend for a long time. I moved on guitar and she replaced me on bass.

Maelstrom: Andy Whale had the biggest drum kit ever. His bass drum must've been at least 36 inches, or something. Are you still using his kit for live shows?

Gavin Ward: (chuckles) Not at all. Martin Kearns has his own kit. He's got really deep 22 inch, whereas Whale had very thin but wide bass drums.

Maelstrom: Yeah, like, his little tom was the size of my big tom.

Gavin Ward: Yeah. (chuckles)

Maelstrom: It was really funny, I have to tell you: How Andy Whale's fills were always the same, but that's what I sort of liked about him.

Gavin Ward: Yeah, he was no frills drummin'! (laughs) He had his moments. Probably around Warmaster, he was probably playing the best shit he'd ever played. But he was quite limited. Whale was coming out of a punk scene. When we [first] had him, he didn't even play double bass, like.

Maelstrom: Wow! That's hilarious, considering [Bolt Thrower] is all about double bass drumming.

Gavin Ward: Well, the next practice, that's what he was on! Do you know what I mean? Haha. He come in as a single, and the next practice he got another bass drum. It took him a few months to really start getting it together, and a few years to try to sort of get it. But coming from the punk scene means he could play pretty fast, and he could fill pretty fast, but it was quite limited what he was doing as well, like. The kit is quite simple. Really, at the end of the day, we didn't see Whale as an impact drummer, either. He had his moments live, but Kearns is a lot more dynamic in that he hits a lot harder - his velocity is a lot better on everything. It means he breaks more shit, but... Every time we move, he costs us.

Maelstrom: When are you coming to the US to your?

Gavin Ward: Hopefully soon. We're meant to be talking to Metal Blade about it now, like. We're looking for a support tour, really. We've had a couple of gos at headlining, and they weren't really happening.

Maelstrom: What has your experience been in coming to the US?

Gavin Ward: The first time, in '91, two months top to bottom and end to end. And then '95, just through New York and New Jersey. Probably saw the most in '91. We had a bus. We had a killer time. It was a straight adventure. Got the tour support, got the bus, bought arcade games on it, brought a brand new backline over there. We worked it out: it was the same to hire one as it was to buy a bus. Good mood. Good weather. You really couldn't ask for more. We had good gigs, and obviously some crap ones.

Maelstrom: What were good gigs? Can you give us some good Bolt Thrower road stories? You've been around so long. I'm sure you've had a great amount of adventures.

Gavin Ward: Yeah, yeah, plenty. Some are obviously classified! Nobody knows them, you know what I mean?

Maelstrom: Hahaha!

Gavin Ward: We like to keep secrets as well. Weird ones, probably Australia was a mad one: someone broke his back stage divin', another one broke his neck. Both drummers of our support bands. Five ambulances and the police pulled the show. There was a big PA, and it was high. It was a high dive, and basically over in Australia, no one catches you. So the ones that dive off the top, a gap just appears and "pfff!". Nasty.

Maelstrom: You put out that limited edition live CD with ...For Victory when it first came out. That live CD is really great. It's not the best sound quality, but it captures such great energy.

Gavin Ward: I'll tell you what's funny about it: there's no one there! There must have been about 15 people!

Maelstrom: Hahaha!

Gavin Ward: You can hear the people that shout out! It's probably the same voices! Cradle of Filth were on that gig, supporting us.

Maelstrom: Really!?

Gavin Ward: When they were 17, with their dad road managing them. It was when they were first wearing make up. Pretty funny. I don't think any of them are left in the band now. Not even the singer.

Maelstrom: Any plans on re-releasing that live CD?

Gavin Ward: Not at all. Part of it was we really liked the idea of the double CD pack. Plus the fans basically get a live album for free. Usually, if you let the label release it, it would have been full-priced. Also, it got to wipe out the live album off the contract. So it means we stopped the record label from releasing one by releasing one with the new [studio album]. It was quite a smart move.

Maelstrom: I've heard rumors about another Bolt Thrower coming out. A live one.

Gavin Ward: Uh, no...ummmm...we've talked about it. We don't want it to come out full price. Maybe if we could sort of guarantee the pricing on it we'd be interested. It's one of them things. Live albums are weird, like. People usually release them if they haven't got new material, or it's a stopgap to an album coming later. We'd like to release one, but we might not. Also, we might release one with the next album.

Maelstrom: That sounds like the best thing to me!

Gavin Ward: Well, it sounds like the best thing to us, too. It would be a nice double CD again.

Maelstrom: I wanted to get some opinions from you, since you're such a grizzled veteran, about what's going on today in the scene of the music that you play.

Gavin Ward: A lot of it went black metal. Now a lot are coming back. A lot of the black metal bands are shitty live. The album's ok; they may be able to trick shit in the studio, but live a lot of them are pretty fucking awful. For us, it's sort of: it goes up, it goes down, but our shows are always really good. There was supposed to be a decline of death metal a few years ago, but all the shows we played were sold out, so we can't really judge how it is. Also, we try not to take too much notice of it. I don't think we're dickheads, or arrogant, but we are elitist.

Maelstrom: Ok, Gavin. It's been really, really cool to talk to Bolt Thrower. How fantastic is that for me?

Gavin Ward: When did you get into us, out of curiosity?

Maelstrom: Realm of Chaos.

Gavin Ward: Why did you pick it? Did you hear it in the shop first? Did a friend have it?

Maelstrom: I heard about this band Bolt Thrower, and they were supposed to be really great. The cover was really cool (one of the best ever.) All the way through the booklet, the art is great.

Gavin Ward: Was it a CD?

Maelstrom: Yeah. I liked "World Eater." I especially liked Karl Willets voice. And as I got more into Bolt Thrower with The IVth Crusade...by the way, I don't understand why it seems to be a common thing that people don't like The IVth Crusade. Have you noticed that?

Gavin Ward: Uh...yeah. IVth Crusade's a weird one, production-wise. Some of the songs are really good, the space; some of the epic riffs, like. The production was down on that one. We class it as flatlined - no real dynamics. Quite samey, song to song. I think it was a good basic production generally, which can really turn people off as well. It's weird, 'cause it'd be one that would go: "oh, the fans probably really don't like that one," but the songs go down <killer>. I think some music, you're meant to hear it live with all the shit and all the bum notes.

Maelstrom: I've read criticism of The IVth Crusade that "they re-use a lot of riffs" and stuff. I'm thinking "what are you talking about?" Bolt Thrower re-uses riffs on purpose. I have a friend who doesn't like the ...For Victory album because it doesn't have that intro that you have on "Cenotaph."

Gavin Ward: It was missed on ...For Victory on purpose. Obviously it came back on Mercenary. So it's forgotten on this one, and comes back on the next one. It's basically [going to be] six (songs) that interconnect, from "In Battle there is No Law," to "World Eater," to "Cenotaph," to "Embers" to "Powder Burns."

Maelstrom: Why do you do that?

Gavin Ward: Just a nice idea. Live, we lock them. On this tour we'll lock "World Eater," "Cenotaph" and "Powder Burns" all together. No gaps. Eventually we'll lock 'em all.

Maelstrom: Just one big, fucking song? Hahaha!

Gavin Ward: I'm sure people will be asleep by the end!

      

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interview by: Roberto Martinelli

Necrophagist is a one-man death metal band from Germany. Well, that label doesn't exactly tell the whole story. In fact, this project's only available CD release, Onset of Putrefaction, is the sole product of Muhammed Suiçmez, the son of one of the many Turks who went to Germany in the 1960s, looking for work and a better life for their families. Suiçmez grew up in a traditional Turkish household, in a culture that was not his to begin with. Despite the restrictions placed on him from this environment, Suiçmez not only took a rabid interest in death metal, but also miraculously became a guitar virtuoso. What's especially remarkable is that he did so not only without benefit of a single lesson, but entirely in secrecy from the attention of his strict parents.

So, Suiçmez is certainly used to doing things on his own. In the early 90s, the enthusiastic youth had a dream to make a band and started Necrophagist. Along the way, Necrophagist experienced the same kind of internal problems that affects just about every band, but Suiçmez, a mechanical engineering student at the University of Karlsruhe, was determined to put out an album anyway. Armed solely with his determination and talent, along with some guitars, a PC and a drum machine, the outspoken Suiçmez worked manically until every detail, rhythm and harmony was perfect. The result is the insanely precise and technical, 8-song Onset of Putrefaction, which sounds more like what would happen if someone like Trey Azagthoth decided to make a solo record and just played guitar for 40 minutes.

Necrophagist is mind-blowing. Necrophagist is cult. Necrophagist is crazed lunatic alone in his apartment metal. I don't know how you can beat that.

Maelstrom: What got you into playing guitar, Muhammed?

Muhammed Suiçmez: Good question. Hahahaha! I started when I was 15 years old. That was 1990. I think I had the wish to play the guitar since I was 10 because I liked metal music. I wanted to play the guitar and make a band on my own.

Maelstrom: What metal music were you really into when you were 15?

Muhammed Suiçmez: Oh, purely death metal. The first era of death metal. It started with Leprosy of Death, and going forward to Entombed Left Hand Path. My favorite bands have been from around that time. I don't like that much...uh, first I would like to excuse myself for my bad English.

Maelstrom: What are you talking about? Whatever. Whatever!

Muhammed Suiçmez: Yeah, ok. The beginning: Altars of Madness, you know, the old stuff. Death, Entombed, Carcass and Morbid Angel.

Maelstrom: Were you going to say that you like the old stuff but not the new stuff?

Muhammed Suiçmez: Not exactly, I'd say most of the new stuff isn't that interesting like the old stuff. What I experience by listening to the new stuff is there aren't enough bands with completely new styles. See what I mean? The difference between the new bands and the old bands is, in the beginning death metal wasn't, let's say, established, and each of these band's members' came from different directions, see what I mean? (This is Muhammed's conversational filler of choice. The way he says it makes it sound like a statement or a command, rather than a question. It's unusual and endearing.) Take any musician from these bands: they were influenced by other music. Most of the new death metal bands are typically influenced by older death metal stuff. See what I mean. I don't think that's a bad thing, or something, but it's a fact that if death metal wasn't that established back then, and you have other influences: like music from other metal styles or even rock or punk, like Carcass had, it's sure that every band will sound different. It was always a pleasure to buy a CD of Entombed and have something completely different than Morbid Angel. See what I mean. I'm speaking of these bands because there was only these bands when I was listening to death metal when I was 15 years old. I'm not just focused on these bands.

Maelstrom: I think I may have been projecting what you said into what I think, that most of the current death metal I don't really like. To me, it's just really, really fast. It's not interesting for me, 'cause it's all fast. Like Krisiun. I wanted to know if you felt the same way or not.

Muhammed Suiçmez: It's like me not listening to death metal anymore on a regular basis. I think I have the same problem as you.

Maelstrom: Have you heard Hate Eternal, for example?

Muhammed Suiçmez: Yeah, I've heard that.

Maelstrom: It's not very musical. It's very fast and brutal, but there's not much music for me to listen to. I'm mostly coming from a drum perspective on this one.

Muhammed Suiçmez: The problem with Hate Eternal is that you have to have a very good audio system to catch all the riffs and all the notes. I was listening to Hate Eternal in my car when I had a cassette from my friend who told me: "hey, listen to that! It's a guy from Morbid Angel and a guy from Suffocation," and I didn't know much more. I am not anymore into this death metal scene. I know a lot of bands in the underground because we are in contact, and stuff, but it's not like I'm following the death metal scene to buy all CDs, or something. It's not as interesting as it used to be, and it's not that musical, as you told. To get back to Hate Eternal: if you listen carefully enough - and you play the guitar - and you have a good audio system and catch every note, then you realize that some songs contain melodies and riffs that are really brutal, and really cool, and very musical. But it's hard to catch. See, 'cause it's too fast.

Maelstrom: How old are the songs on Onset of Putrefaction?

Muhammed Suiçmez: The songs are very old. The last song is from 1993. [The album] is all the stuff from Necrophagist from the past put on one CD to give the people insight into Necrophagist's development.

Maelstrom: Well, obviously the songs are all re-recorded.

Muhammed Suiçmez: Right. It's no compilation. It was all recorded at the same time. The songs on Onset of Putrefaction never lost any actuality for me.

Maelstrom: Certainly not. How long did it take you to program the drum machine? I mean, that's one of the most remarkable things about this record; how much time you must have taken to do this.

Muhammed Suiçmez: Each song took me a whole day. Twelve to 15 hours of work, so it was a hard job. It was not my stuff I was programming it on. I had to hurry up a little bit. The drum lines were clear before I started to program: I had a drummer in Necrophagist before programming the drums. These are the drum lines I arranged with the former drummer. Maybe that's the reason why many people say the drums on Onset of Putrefaction seem like real drums. Except for the toms. It's very difficult to program toms without them sounding like a machine.

Maelstrom: I think the fact that it sounds a little like a drum machine gives it its charm. It's sort of like - I don't mean to say this in a wrong way - lunatic in his apartment metal. It's great: it's this one guy, and he does everything himself, and it's so cool. It's what gives it appeal in terms of being cult on top of being a really good piece of music.

Muhammed Suiçmez: Thank you very much! I appreciate this kind of thinking. It would be very cool if everyone would see it from that point [of view]. Many people think: "Oh, ugh, it's a drum machine! Fuck, this CD sucks." That's a position that I can't understand. You should focus on the music, not on the stuff around, like "Is the drummer cool? Is the bass man cool? Is the guitarist cool?" See what I mean. Well, I have to say there were a lot of people who didn't realize that it is a drum machine.

Maelstrom: You have all those intricate fills on the ride cymbal; people may not realize you can do that on a drum machine. It must take forever.

Muhammed Suiçmez: Yeah, it was hard work. But you have to realize that because I arranged the drumlines together with the former drummer, it was easy for me. I have insight into this drum playing. I can play drums too. I have to say that I'm an auto-didact. I don't know if you say that in English. I taught myself. I can play all the drum parts in my head, but I can't play all the parts in real.

Maelstrom: So, you taught yourself guitar.

Muhammed Suiçmez: Yeah, I did.

Maelstrom: That's incredible!

Muhammed Suiçmez: Thank you very much. But, it's a very interesting question, because my parents are very conservative, old school Turkish people. They never wanted me to play the guitar. It was my biggest problem. They forbid me to play the guitar.

Maelstrom: You had to hide to play?

Muhammed Suiçmez: In fact, for the first month, my older brother helped me. I had to give him the money, and he bought me a guitar. He was going to a bigger city to study, and he brought it back to home without my parents knowing it, and my parents found the guitar, and, BIG TROUBLE! (laugh) It was a very sad story. I never told it to anybody officially; you are the first person. My father destroyed my first guitar. I would have loved to get lessons.

Maelstrom: What do your parents think of your music now? Or, do they even know?

Muhammed Suiçmez: Of course they know. They know from my brothers and sisters. My brothers and sisters respect that a lot. They are telling my parents all the time: "hey, he's playing guitar like crazy!" I never had a response from [my parents] regarding that. It's a bit sad, but it's not important for Necrophagist. It was my dream to make this band, and I never stopped to think about that, despite all these problems and troubles. Considering my descent and parents, it wasn't easy, but maybe it was in fact more motivation for me to do it.

Maelstrom: Did you get tapes, or listen to Carcass and try to get that sound? How did you do that?

Muhammed Suiçmez: ...You remind me of things I did 10 years ago! I never thought about it. If I think about that, I never told anybody I started with "Zombie Ritual" of Death, because it was very easy. It was hard work. Sometimes maybe I registered the notes wrong, but it didn't matter, because I was practicing the technique and getting faster. It was like anything: if you are interested enough in a matter, you can manage it.

Maelstrom: How did you pick the name Necrophagist?

Muhammed Suiçmez: It was [a result of] me having eight years of Latin in school. I stumbled over that around the words "phagus" (to eat) and "necro" (the dead). I'm asked that question a lot: why I chose a band with the prefix "necro." I'm getting this question all the time. But, you have to realize, when I chose this moniker, it was 12 years ago. There weren't that much bands with the prefix "necro." The problem of Necrophagist is that the people knew about it too late! I chose the name because [at the time] a name like that wasn't that common. Of course I knew of Necrophagia, and this band was previously called Necrophilist. I thought it was not powerful enough, so I thought Necrophagist sounds maybe better.

Maelstrom: Onset of Putrefaction deals lyrically with a lot of dismembering of rotting corpses and liking it...

Muhammed Suiçmez: (starts to laugh hard.)

Maelstrom: ...it's a curious contrast to the level of musicianship that you play.

Muhammed Suiçmez: (Continues to laugh heartily, making him miss the entire long-winded question)

Maelstrom: ...it's sort of like a low brow concept with extreme musical talent and execution. This often seems to be the case in death metal. What do you think of this?

Muhammed Suiçmez: I didn't understand the question. Could you repeat it please?

Maelstrom: Well, basically, what I've found to be interesting is often you have these musicians who are so great, but all the music deals with chaos and death, etc... Yet the musicians themselves are very organized and dedicated. It's like a contradiction.

Muhammed Suiçmez: Yeah. You're right.

Maelstrom: And your case is a perfect example. I can't imagine how much you've practiced to get to where you are. But at the same time, you have these lyrics that are about eating dead people. What do you think about this sort of duality?

Muhammed Suiçmez: I can speak for Necrophagist. But lot of [other] bands have the same problem. I don't have the time to practice anymore. I practiced for the first three years like a maniac, and I got a certain level. I practiced every day, and it was enough. To talk about the contradiction: in the case of Necrophagist, that I pretty much liked the old Carcass stuff. The (Onset) lyrics are about 10 years old. When I was 14 years old, I was inspired by the lyrics of Carcass; it was fun for me. It was something cool. When you're that young, you don't think of things like that. I had the chance to change the lyrics when I recorded the CD in 1998. I could have said: "Well, we're old enough. We don't like the lyrics anymore. We don't think they're ok. They don't fit anymore," but the problem was not to lose the authenticity of the songs. The lyrics were originally for these songs, and if I would changed the lyrics, I would have destroyed something about the song. I wanted to make a document for myself to put all Necrophagist songs on one CD and not change anything about them. See what I mean.

Maelstrom: Does that mean we can expect something different in the next Necrophgist? Should we expect anything from a band whose name means "eater of the dead"? If it's about love and flowers it's going to be really odd if it's coming from Necrophagist.

Muhammed Suiçmez: No, no, no. I won't speak about flowers. But I will speak about different things that are important to me. I think everybody is saying that. It's not about gore and dismembering people and liking it. No, it's not like that anymore. It's more about philosophical themes. I hope to give the people more. I think Onset of Putrefaction was only music for the fans.

Maelstrom: It was for me. When I got it, I didn't open it up to pay attention to the lyrics. But, personally, that's how I am. I generally don't read the lyrics to the metal albums I get. That's not why I get them.

Muhammed Suiçmez: Then you're like me.

Maelstrom: I read 'em to have some inspiration to ask you questions. (laugh)

Muhammed Suiçmez: Ha-ha! But you have to admit that some CDs catch your interest. Maybe I can do that. Necrophagist was always just music. That's what interested me. The music was important; the lyrics weren't that important for me in the past. But if lyrics aren't important to you, why do you take them?

Maelstrom: I think I like the voice as an instrument, rather than it conveying words.

Muhammed Suiçmez: I think that's what I like about it too... (laugh)

Maelstrom: Well, frankly, you shouldn't listen to death metal if you want good lyrics.

Muhammed Suiçmez: Yeah, but maybe some bands can change your opinion.

Maelstrom: What do you think about this, Muhammed? I've always wondered, if you're going to write lyrics that are supposed to be important, why sing them in a style that no one can understand?

Muhammed Suiçmez: You have to admit that you understand more in Necrophagist than other bands.

Maelstrom: Umm... Maybe a little bit. (frankly, no).

Muhammed Suiçmez: That was my goal. It's difficult to make people understand what you are singing when you are doing that style, because it's too deep.

Maelstrom: My favorite death metal vocals (that manages to be coherent) is guy from Bolt Thrower. Ever listen to them?

Muhammed Suiçmez: Uh, 10 years ago. I don't know the new stuff.

Maelstrom: The old stuff, of course. That guy was able to be coherent. He's so great. He's my favorite, maybe.

Muhammed Suiçmez: You like his style? Well, I don't like his style. I don't think the vocals of Bolt Thrower have enough expression. It's too monotonous. Sure, many people are saying that about Necrophagist's vocals. I don't know in which direction the new vocals of Necrophagist will go. Necrophagist was death metal, and Necrophagist will always be death metal. We won't change the lyrics into wimpy style. I say wimpy...I listen to other stuff besides death metal. If I want to do different music, I'll start a new band.

Maelstrom: How much have you toured?

Muhammed Suiçmez: Well, uh, we toured never. We made some concerts on weekends. Maybe around 50 concerts in 10 years. It's not that much. But we're a complete band now. I think this will be the final line-up for Necrophagist.

Maelstrom: Do you think pulling off the material live will be ok?

Muhammed Suiçmez: We have proven that. We've been playing live since May of last year (2000). I think that most of the people are concerned that we won't be able to play this live. That was never a problem for us. It is no computerized music that you listen to Onset of Putrefaction. There is no stuff that we cannot play. We will prove that maybe in the US some day. We've been asked many times to go over, but we don't have the financial capabilities. But someday, we will.

Maelstrom: I understand now that you are in a band with actual other members.

Muhammed Suiçmez: Yeah. Necrophagist has always been a band. It was founded as a band, and was intended to always to be a band. As you can listen to it on CD the stuff is pretty complex, and the guys who were playing in Necrophagist before Onset of Putrefaction were not able 100% to play the stuff. I didn't want to make CD that was 80% of what I wanted.

Maelstrom: That's why you did it by yourself.

Muhammed Suiçmez: Yeah. I had some trouble with the musicians back then, and we decided not to continue together. I thought, ok, I signed the contract with Velvet Music about this album, and I will do it alone if necessary. But my intention always was to find the right musicians to play this stuff. Now we're a complete band. We're four. I play guitar and the vox.

Maelstrom: When should we expect more Necrophagist material?

Muhammed Suiçmez: I'm working on it, but I don't have enough time to complete all the stuff for a new CD. The release date is planned for summer 2003. I hope we will release it by then. I'm pretty sure we will. We will enter studio on Xmas of this year; record maybe for one week and then make a break. Because of all our engagements at university, it's very difficult for us to find the spare time to do it.

Maelstrom: What equipment did you record the album with?

Muhammed Suiçmez: Onset... was recorded in the rehearsal rooms, but on pro-equipment. Mixed on that equipment. You could say "on the computer" but it is not controlled by the PC itself. The DSPs of the 19" rack mount hard disk recorder from Soundscape (www.soundscape-digital.com) did the job. It's known well in the video world, but not so much in the audio world. I did it myself. It was difficult and took a lot of time, as I was not experienced in recording. But I had help from a guy who managed the Eqs, and in the end it was ok. I hope the next CD will be better than Onset of Putrefaction, because there's a lot to do better.

Maelstrom: What is one thing you could do better?

Muhammed Suiçmez: The guitar sound. You know, my goal with Onset of Putrefaction was to make a crystal clear sound. Because Necrophagist has one problem: if you don't play it exactly enough, and if you have a guitar sound that is too fat, you don't hear all the notes. Necrophagist has always been a band that makes music for musicians as well as for guys who are not musicians. So I took out all the gain from the guitar. When you play precise enough in a recording, it gets its own power. See what I mean. It was very difficult. The next CD will have more gain on the guitars. More death metal.

Maelstrom: Who is Bjorn Vollmer? (Vollmer does a couple of solos on Onset)

Muhammed Suiçmez: He's American, but of German descent. His parents went to the US for three years, and he was born in that period. He played one solo on Onset of Putrefaction, and he's a full member now. I'm pretty lucky.

Maelstrom: Has he been in any bands that we might know?

Muhammed Suiçmez: I don't think you know them, but, he's been in Ferocity. It was pretty much jazz influenced death metal. It was complex and weird chords. Like jazz, but in a brutal death metal way. You are lucky, because when I update the website the next time, I will make a site for Ferocity. So people can download the songs. The band doesn't exist anymore, but it was too good to let the songs pass away. The reason the band split is because the drummer left to join Necrophagist.

Maelstrom: And then he left you guys.

Muhammed Suiçmez: Yeah, so I had the obligation to ask Bjorn to enter Necrophagist. He was very happy. He's studying classical guitar in college. He's perfect for the job. I'm pretty much amazed by him. The bass player and the drummer too. The bass player is French, from Nancy. He travels 200 miles one way to get to rehearsal. It's pretty cool, I think. He doesn't own a car. He's taking the train. The funny thing is that all the members of Necrophagist were fanatics of Necrophagist before they entered the band.

Maelstrom: What a great story.

Muhammed Suiçmez: It's pretty cool. Good to know for me.

Maelstrom: So you're the revered leader.

Muhammed Suiçmez: Ahhmmm...

Maelstrom: Yes, you are.

Muhammed Suiçmez: Well, I am the only original member. I'm not like a leader...

Maelstrom: You're the figurehead.

Muhammed Suiçmez: I'm the figurehead. I am the chancellor, maybe! Haha. Well, not really. I want the bassist and drummer to write their own parts so I can have more time to compose new stuff and concentrate on my studies. Hey, you have to expect a lot from Necrophagist in the future.

Maelstrom: Ok. Well, now the bar is very high. You have to jump over it.

Muhammed Suiçmez: Fuck! You have realized my biggest fear! (laugh)

Maelstrom: What album have you listened to the most?

Muhammed Suiçmez: Oh. Good question. I'd say Entombed's Left Hand Path. Over the last year it was Spastic Ink's Ink Complete. It's a band of the former Watchtower guitar player. I'm listening to classical music, like Symphony #5 of Beethoven, along with Prokofiev and Mozart.

Maelstrom: It seems that Prokofiev is quite liked by metallers. What do you think of Yngwie Malmsteen's playing?

Muhammed Suiçmez: He was an influence for me. It was around 1994 that I was introduced to Malmsteen's music by a friend of mine. Since I had never had any lessons, I had to pick up some style I could practice. I looked at his technique to have a glimpse on how to do lead guitar. I think the result of this influence sounds different from Yngwie Malmsteen. I think that's good.

Maelstrom: Do you have a girlfriend, Muhammed? If I may ask.

Muhammed Suiçmez: Yes, I have.

Maelstrom: Is she this woman Karolin whom you mention in the CD booklet?

Muhammed Suiçmez: Yes, it still is.

Maelstrom: What does she think of your music?

Muhammed Suiçmez: She thinks it's pretty cool.

Maelstrom: I think it's wonderful that you have a girlfriend who supports you like that.

Muhammed Suiçmez: Well, the funny thing is: she watched Necrophagist before we got together, but she didn't remember I was the guy who played on the stage! (laugh)

Maelstrom: Hahaha!

Muhammed Suiçmez: It was pretty funny.

Maelstrom: So she was a fan before you met her? Did she listen to death metal?

Muhammed Suiçmez: Not particularly, but she's a pretty much open minded person, like me, regarding music. She listened to some death metal stuff, and she liked it very much. She likes albums like Symbolic from Death. She was going to local concerts, one of which was Necrophagist. I saw her, she didn't see me.

Maelstrom: You saw her from the stage but she didn't see you from the audience?

Muhammed Suiçmez: Yeah. That's cool, isn't it? Half a year later she didn't remember who I was. I hoped she did not. See what I mean. It's not like, "hey! I'm the guy from Necrophagist!" if you like a girl. "You want to go out with me? I'm the guy of Necrophagist! Isn't that cool?" You know what I mean? So I was happy she did not know who I was. But her girlfriend told me that she liked Necrophagist a lot, without knowing me.

Maelstrom: That's so great. It's not like a girlfriend who says "I really like metal," only basically because she likes you, and she just wants to try to like metal for any reason, you know?

Muhammed Suiçmez: No, no. If it was like that I would have not dedicated the album to her. We're still together. It's been four years now.

Maelstrom: Wow. Great story. What was it like being the son of a Turk, growing up in Germany?

Muhammed Suiçmez: I think that is the most interesting question for me.

Maelstrom: I'm comparing to the race relations we have in the United States. It seems that in Germany, even now, there's so much racial hatred from skinhead groups. It seems so weird how much it lingers so strongly in Germany.

Muhammed Suiçmez: When you're so far from Germany, it's hard to get insight on that. What you're getting from the media is not exactly what is happening. It depends on the region where you live. I live in the south of Germany, 50 kilometers from Stuttgart. The region I lived in was not so problematic with the skinheads and racial stuff. In eastern Germany, the new states, it's a big problem with unemployment. Where there is big problems with unemployment, there is racial hatred and conflict. (...) If you're a Turk and live in Germany, you have a problem.

Maelstrom: What's that?

Muhammed Suiçmez: You have to look at the people who came here from Turkey. It was all the poor people from the countryside. If you send 3 million Americans from the countryside to a foreign country, the people in the foreign country cannot have any insight on Americans as a whole. See what I mean. The main problem is that Turkish people have a different religion than Germans. If they are foreigners from Italy, or Greece, or Yugoslavia, that's different, because most of them are Catholic or Protestants. But the culture of Germans and Turks is that different, so there is conflict all the time. So the Turkish people tried to uphold their own culture and not to lose it, so they hid a little bit in their own small world inside Germany. The people in Germany have a wrong view of Turks because of that reputation of keeping distant. You are always a foreigner. It doesn't matter if you are integrated into the culture, or go to school with Germans, or are doing the same stuff as Germans. I'm pretty much integrated in this culture. I never lost my own culture. One difference between me and most of the Turks is I am not dark skinned. For my looks, people cannot tell that I am Turk. They think I am German. It was not easy, because you are living in two worlds. As I have conservative parents who wanted me to uphold my culture; it was no problem for me. But, to deal with German culture, it's a little bit difficult if it's your intention to live between these two chairs, as a saying in German goes. Many young Turkish people don't want to have any part of the German culture. But since I was born and am living in Germany, I have to know enough of the culture, how the people are thinking. But I will always have a problem when people know I am a foreigner; a Turk, especially since Turks don't have such a good reputation in Germany.

It's always the case: if you don't know about a different culture, you can't make a correct view of that culture, and you will have prejudices. That's what I'm experiencing. I was born here and know about German culture, because I was interested in that as I live here. But German people I'm living with don't know anything about Turkey, the people or my religion. I get questions and I'm thinking: "Hey, what do they think about Turkish people? Like we are from a different planet?" That's the problem here in Germany. They say: "Yeah, we are all tolerant and accept all people," but they don't care about the people living here. They have to care about the Turkish people, because there are a lot living here. Most of the foreigners here are Turks. Not may people know that the German government focused on these people. I saw a film from the '60s done by the government. They said: "Hey, the guys from the countryside of Turkey, they are eating a lot of goats cheese, and they have strong bones. They are good for working." They focused on them because of that. That's pretty cool, I think, and funny. They asked them to come here; they cannot expect them to leave.

Maelstrom: You were talking about your religion. You know how anti-Christianity is very popular in metal. A lot of the bands who talk about anti-Christianity are probably themselves baptized. I wonder if metal ever became big in the Muslim world, that there'd be anti-Muslim Muslim bands.

Muhammed Suiçmez: I don't think so.

Maelstrom: Could you ever imagine yourself saying: "Right, I'm gonna write an album against the Muslim religion!" Just like people from Norway, who were baptized, say: "I'm going to write an album against the Christian religion!"

Muhammed Suiçmez: Well, this is just a fashion. Black metal. I'm sorry, for all the black metal fans, I don't want to make enemies. I can't take these lyrics for serious. I think you should not propagate something like that. Everybody has a right to believe what he wants. If your anti-Christian or anti-Muslim. I don't see the point of bringing that into music. Music should not be political. These anti-Christian lyrics are politics. See what I mean. I never could imagine doing lyrics like that, even if I was anti-Muslim, or anti-Christian. Why should I?

Metal with anti-Muslim lyrics? Maybe in Turkey, but I cannot imagine that. In the Arabic and African Islamic states, there is no possibility to make metal with anti-Muslim lyrics. You will have serious problems with the government.

Maelstrom: Muhammed, where would metal be without hating Christianity? It doesn't have to be black metal. It doesn't have to be satanic. Like, Immolation, for example. It goes back before death metal that they had anti-Christian lyrics. Whether it was for shock value, or it was real, it's such a big part of metal music. It's interesting what you can feel the way you do but also like metal, because hating religion is so much a part of it.

Muhammed Suiçmez: Well, it's a part of metal, but which bands do I like that propagate that kind of stuff? What should I say about that? I have to ignore it, because I don't take it seriously. I don't listen to black metal because I don't like the music. There are one or two albums I like. It doesn't have anything to do with the lyrics, because I don't pay attention to the lyrics and listen to the music. There are a lot of bands before death metal (with anti-Christian lyrics), you are right. Like Slayer, for example. But it's more for shock value, like you were talking about. I think not may of these bands were really behind their lyrics. It's like Necrophagist lyrics. They were more for shock value.

Maelstrom: You had talked to me before about people who try to help Necrophagist and spread the word for no real reason only because they love the music. Something I really noticed. Talking about underground metal, and taking for example the black metal scene. I just finished interviewing this guy from a German black metal band called Nargaroth. He talks so much of a misanthrope he is, and how much he wants to be left alone. But his answers are really, really long. It was just one example of this duality of this image of misanthropy, but at the same time want to be accepted and praised. You have so much in metal this hatred, anger and violence, but at the same time there's so much love in the scene: everyone wants to support each other and help each other out. People are really nice. It's an interesting duality. Even with Necrophagist: it's really aggressive music, and it's about mutilation. But, you're a really nice guy; people want to help you and you want to help other people.

Muhammed Suiçmez: The duality: why does it exist? I cannot speak for the guy in Nargaroth. I'm cautious when judging guys like him. It depends on your age and how seriously you take these things. What I experienced is, when a guy plays in a black metal band, he cannot speak about love in the interview. Hey, these black metal guys are no different from others. I don't believe any of these black metal guys believe in what they are saying. I'm almost sure in, let's say, five years, when they stop playing black metal, they won't speak of shit like that anymore. I think this is no belief; it's just a period for them. Hey, if you play in a death metal band and talk about flowers, you can't do that.

To speak about the underground; When I speak about the underground, it's not at all these "underground" labels or these "underground" guys who are doing concerts. This is not underground. "Underground" is people like Andee (Connors, of Tumult Records) who are doing a lot more without having anything to do with the business. They listen to death metal, that's the only thing they have to do with the scene. They love the music. These people love Necrophagist so much that they offer me any help. See what I mean. That's different from other bands who call me to ask if we want to play with them here or there. They want to play there and have another band [with them]. That's a different underground. All these "underground" labels are not really "underground." Believe me on that. I have enough experience. In the end, all of them want to earn money. The guys who have "underground" labels, maybe they have to work aside from their label activity. For me, that just seems like a struggle to get out of the underground.

 

 

 

               

interview by: Roberto Martinelli

In the already cult world of underground metal, Root occupies a unique place. This Czech band that is often given the black metal tag has been around a long time - longer than most of the seminal Norwegian crop. Root's tracing its, well, roots back to 1987 is one main reason for its culthood. More importantly, though, it's because the band is so fascinatingly weird.

At the clear forefront of this strangeness is frontman Big Boss. Definitely an intriguing and enigmatic character. How could you think anything else of a guy in a sort of black metal band with that kind of stage name; who writes all the lyrics dealing with Satan and black magic; who sings in an invariably wacky but always excellent, powerful voice; and with the dumbest/coolest corpsepaint ever; and who wears monk's robes? He's the only guy in the band to ever have "acted out" in this way. I guess he's sort of like the fabulously goofy Czech equivalent of King Diamond.

Primarily, this interview was intended to be primarily with Big Boss and supplemented by another member of the band. However, it turned out Big Boss is the worst email interview ever, so consequently the really cool and insightful answers are provided by bassist Igor Hubik, with only the remotely interesting Big Boss answers used complementarily here and there. Hubik was good enough to answer my questions about Root's entirely brilliant new album, Black Seal, as well as other insightful tidbits about the band and its history.

MaelstroMaelstrom: Your new album, Black Seal, is clearly your best yet. You are definitely moving in a more melodic heavy metal direction, and seem to be more inspired and focused than on any other of your records. Please talk about your feelings on the new album.

Igor Hubik: Well, I guess that Root still develops with each new album. It's the same also this time. There are influences of classic kinds of Metal, it's concerned mainly with the guitar solos and some another parts. But there are also pretty hard thrashing riffs, fresh rhythms or screamed voices at the single songs. I think we put our feelings which rose from reading the lyrics and it can be heard from the songs. The feeling hasn't lost any percent from itself...

Big: Boss: My feelings is fantastic, as usually from every [one of] our albums. But I don't think it is influenced with heavy metal, as you think... or do you know some heavy metal band which play songs as "Liber Prohibitus" or "Theriak"? he he he

MaelstroMaelstrom: Root is more often than not classified as a black metal band, but clearly the new album is not musically black metal. Yet you still deal a great deal with Satan lyrically, but with that unique and quirky angle that all Root albums have. Please talk about the driving force and themes behind your lyrics.

Igor Hubik: Oh, the lyrics are so great because they're written by a "man" who is just the real artist concerning the lyrics writing - Big Boss. He wrote complete lyrics on all the albums of Root. What I know from him so he finds an inspiration from different spheres. He's fascinated by the Universe, mystic powers, interesting books and, of course, by own dreams. Big Boss is able to write the lyrics during one night for example. Members of Root write the music after the reading the lyrics as far and that's a reason why the music is connected with the lyrics as one synthesy. About Black Metal - some people call our style like that but for example our label uses usually description Dark Metal. We don't think about that.

Maelstrom: Please tell us about Root's singer, Big Boss. Is he really big? He sort of looks like a jolly black metal lumberjack in religious robes. Do you have any stories you could tell us about Big Boss or any other members of the band?

Igor Hubik: Man, you would have to travel together with us by one car and listen to his thoughts, jokes and philosophies to understand who is Big Boss. There are so many stories that your site could be created just from these cryptic tales, hahaha! Anyway, he's pretty great singer and artist in my eyes. When he enters the stage so Root fans are simply fascinated by his movements, snoots and image. They always welcome him with highly risen up hands and loud screaming. When you read the interviews with him so it's usually interesting and you can laugh too. Anyway, the personality that you can love or hate. There's nothing between! There are so many people who don't understand him and don't like him personally but who are also able to confess that Big Boss is really good singer and personality. If is Big Boss a big one? We call it "a little big man" in Czech language. He's not really tall - anyway, haha!!! But the greatest one thanx to his acts! Do appreciate he's fifty actually, sings alive the Metal songs, worked at the crematory some years, lives alone just with the PC, drinks vodka and has twenty five years younger friends... It's interesting, isn't it?

Maelstrom: How did you all meet originally?

Igor Hubik: It's the process of Root's long history. Big Boss and Blackie founded the band at the end of eighties and there circulated other musicians around them. Everybody says that this actual line-up is the strongest at Root's history, it seems to be true word. I helped with the bass parts on Blackie´s project Entrials some years ago and together with guitarist Ashok we helped Big Boss to feature his the second solo album "Belial´s Wind" alive - one gig only. Then Big Boss and Blackie offered us the participating at Root. It's gonna be three years already. It seems like this line-up will stand some time yet! The drummer Evil joined the band since the third album The Temple in the Underworld at ´92!

Maelstrom: (to Big Boss) Your main vocal approach on "Black Seal" reminds me quite often of a lower version of Candlemass' Messiah Marcolin. Were you at all influenced by him?

Big Boss: I know him, but I think that he doesn' influnce me. I am Big Boss and he is Marcolin.

Maelstrom: Why did you originally choose the name Root?

Igor Hubik: There's written an interesting sentence at Root's history about it. It should be something easily memorable, strong, mysterious... There's the band Torr already (Czech old Metal band) so let's say it oppositely - ROOT. Guys told me that by this way too so may be it's not just a narrative...

Maelstrom: Root has always had one of the most solid and enjoyable rhythm sections as far as I'm concerned. On Black Seal, it seems that the guitarists have really upped their level of musicianship in their riffs and solos. Is Root's new direction allowing all members of the band to fully demonstrate their talents?

Igor Hubik: It's each artist, isn't it? Of course, we try to do our best and I guess you can hear it - you wouldn't ask that if you would not. For example Ashok trains fast fingers for many years already. You can't hear Slayer's or Metallica's rhythm guitars from him, mainly Malmsteen, Vai, Moore and another electric guitar stars. He practices this kind of art and it resuscitated Root's songs pretty much I think. The drummer Evil is very good musician, he can play also the guitar well. Blackie is able still create new and new riffs and 99 percents of them are applicable for the albums. A real talent man - that's why he has project Cales, Entrials. And Big Boss' voice? We're all just proud we can attend him with our instruments! And you must hear I speak the truth!!!

Maelstrom: What are your reactions to having your song "Pisen Pro Satana" included on Nargaroth's Black Metal ist Krieg - A Dedication Monument. Have you heard the album? What do you think of the cover of your song?

Igor Hubik: I have found it just today at your web site! That's great! I hope we'll get this album somewhere. Pisen Pro Satana is a real Czech Metal hymn. Not only Czech as we can see. When we played this song at Sweden last year so Rootans below the stage transfigured in dancing devils! Hell On Earth! I wanna hear the Nargaroth version, it can be cool job. If they sing it in English so... We have to contact them for the CD, definitely!

Maelstrom: If you were to make a covers album, which songs from which bands would you cover?

Igor Hubik: This album will never be released by Root 'cause we have to concentrate on our own stuff. Guys recorded only Metallica´s "Fade To Black" once for a local Tribute To Cliff Burton CD. There's also cool curiosity beneath the disc. The letter from Cliff´s parents from ´87 addressed to Big Boss! He had the club together with Metal friends (fans) which was called Total Metal and they corresponded with other Metal maniax worldwide then. So he got also the answer from Cliff's parents after Total Metal's commiseration of Cliff's death.

Maelstrom: The last song on Black Seal totals about 20 minutes. However, the last 10 minutes is the unaccompanied chorus of the song, looped over and over again. Why did you decide to do this?

Igor Hubik: Big Boss´ reaction is simple - UUUUUUAAAAARRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!!!! It was his idea: Let's do something shocking, original! So many people asked about that already and he is pleased by that so much - really crazy. Nobody of us didn't want do something like that. But the result is cool. Big Boss´ another argumentation: Fans give so many money for the album so they should get full minute CD! Haha, is it normal? It's not I guess but it's released already, hahahaha!

Maelstrom: The song "Liber Prohibitus" speaks of the Necronomicon. There has been much debate on whether this is a real book from ancient times. What do you think?

Igor Hubik: When we recorded the guitars, bass, drums, keys for this song, Boss was sitting at his apartment, relaxing and watching the TV. We cursed him - it's his composition, you know. We didn't know if to laugh or cry but during the listening to this song we always laugh now! It's so primitive, stupid and childish riff! But then He sang the lyrics and it turned of 180 points. The song transfigured to the real hymn and I personally love it very much now. The force of Boss´ voice is definitely heard just at "Liber Prohibitus"!

Maelstrom: Looking back on Root's discography, the album that sticks out the most from the rest stylistically is Kargeras. That album to me sounded like a mix of grunge rock, hard rock and heavy metal. Looking back on the time you made that album, could you please comment on the band's mindset?

Igor Hubik: The worst season of Root's career. Boss stopped the communication with Blackie, they were fighting between each other, drinking many alco bottles. Nevertheless they recorded great CD. I love these lyrics the most - like the set, you know. Also the music is a little bit fresher than on other CDs because the music was written along with the lyrics. It corresponds very well I think.

Big Boss: This was very bad times for Root... We have been on the edge of breakdown and our relationships was on the freezing-point....I don't like memories on this time of our existence...sorry.

Maelstrom: Thanks for the interview, guys. Anything else you'd like to tell us about?

Igor Hubik: Thanx for interview, don't forget to visit our web pages www.redblack.cz/root. If anybody wants something from us, let me know on igorhubik@hotmail.com to get all the important infos. Metal Maniax, get in touch!

Big Boss: Thanx too and STAY PROUD!

 

 

 

interview by: Steppenvvolf

With Swamplord (reviewed in issue #6), Kalmah has released a pretty melodic and yet straight-forward paced debut album that made quite some impression on me. I took the chance to conduct a phone interview with Pekka, the vocalist, after one of Kalmah's band rehearsals.

Maelstrom: Could you tell me a bit about the region you're from? Thinking of Finland, the first thing that comes to my mind is Nokia and a lot of wilderness. How does that match your background?

Pekka: We're from Northeast Finland, about the middle of the country, and actually we live in the town where Nokia founded its business. We live in Oulu. It's pretty far up north.

Maelstrom: How many inhabitants does it have?

Pekka: We have in Oulu about 100000.

Maelstrom: Is that a big city by Finnish standards?

Pekka: It's the fifth big city in Finland. Actually we come from a smaller town, which is about 30 km northeast of Oulu in from. But we all study and work in Oulu.

Maelstrom: Speaking of studying, last Friday at university I met some students from Finland. I think they like to drink a lot.

Pekka: That's right (laughs). Actually, I had to go to buy some beer right now.

Maelstrom: Do you do your rehearsals always with "liquid inspirations"?

Pekka: No, we pretty much separate the drinking and the music. Once in a while we do get drunk and play, because it's fun. But the "serious" part, such as composing, is usually separated from alcohol.

Maelstrom: So business is getting serious. I browsed your web site and found, that you played in Ancestor from 1993 until you changed to Kalmah. It also says you produced five demos in total, which looks like quite a lot to me.

Pekka: Yes.

Maelstrom: Are they still available?

Pekka: Mmmh, we have some of them at home, but won't print them anymore.

Maelstrom: How many songs did you do in Ancestor?

Pekka: About 40 or 50.

Maelstrom: In total or the ones you want to remember?

Pekka: (laughs) well, in total. Actually we're going to rerecord one song of the demo "With No Strings Attached" from 1993.

Maelstrom: You added some band members and changed the name to Kalmah. Was that intended as a sign for a kind of renewal?

Pekka: Actually it's because we've been recording the CD and somehow we wanted to have a fresh spirit to it. The music style tends to be a bit faster and the first demo tape of Kalmah brought us the deal.

Maelstrom: What's the meaning of "Kalmah"?

Pekka: It's a word from Karelian dialect, from the people living at the border to Russia, which was separated from Finland after WWII. We had relatives there. One of our uncles lived there and had written a book in this language. We used it as an inspiration for the band name. The word "Kalmah" means "To the grave" or "to the death."

Maelstrom: Your region is not far from Karelia?

Pekka: The whole Karelian area belongs to Russia, and it's about 600-700 kilometers away from us.

Maelstrom: Does that explain your song "Heritance of Berija"?

Pekka: That idea is from a book that had story about the former KGB leader Berija.

Maelstrom: The cover artwork is very interesting, very serene and restrained compared to the music you play. What made you think of the swamp lord?

Pekka: We live in an area that is 60% covered by swamp, so it's kind of our own thing. People from somewhere else might not understand it, but if you live here you understand the idea. The swamps are very common in areas up on the North Pole.

Maelstrom: It says: "Something you try to surpass in the very beginning of this moment."

Pekka: We have lived our lives in the middle of the swamp, so we thought we'd put something about that in the album title.

Maelstrom: If I met the swamp lord, what kind of guy could I expect?

Pekka: First of all, you'd have to search all of our forests and swamps, but even then you might not discover. He decides when to meet people and is rather a spiritual character.

Maelstrom: One of your leisure time activities is hunting, I read. Can you tell us a little about that? It might be very usual for Finnish people, but in areas like Germany it's not very common.

Pekka: Here up north we have a hunting season in fall. It lasts about three months. Yeah, it's very common hobby here. It's great to eat something that you have yourself hunted down: black grouses, for example.

Maelstrom: That's probably the time when the swamp lord would appear next to you, invisible to anyone else.

Pekka: Yes, he is our guide and leads us to the good game bird areas.

Maelstrom: Are you going to name your next album Swamp Guide then?

Pekka: We first figured something like Swamphell, but we came up with They Will
Return.

Maelstrom: Reverting to the lyrics, we had spoken about "Heritance of Berija" already, which is obviously hinted at Russia's raid on Finland.

Pekka: Basically it's just a story. There's no deep ideas behind it. It's not about the relations between Finish people and Russians.

Maelstrom: How about "Black Roija," then?

Pekka: It's also a word taken from th Karelian dialect and it means "Fire."

Maelstrom: A fire from within?

Pekka: (laughs) Yes, it's about alcohol fire!

Maelstrom: Mmh, yes, "Liquid years, no more tears..." is aptly chosen then... The song "Hades" seems to allude to the underworld of Greek mythology. In addition, it mentions the goddess Anubis rooted in the Egypt pantheon of gods.

Pekka: Yes, "Hades" is also present in Karelian myths and tales, described in a book called "Kalevala." It's a collection of stories passed from one generation to the other over hundreds of years. It's Finnish national book.

Maelstrom: How about the future? When can we expect your next album release?

Pekka: In Finland the release date was 4th of February. In Europe the new album's release date is 18th of March.

Maelstrom: How about tours?

Pekka: We have nothing planned yet. Maybe in the summer or next fall.

Maelstrom: Anything you'd like to say to our readers?

Pekka: I hope you'll like our new album and the debut. May the Swamplord guide you to metal stores...:)

Maelstrom: Thank you for the interview. May the Swamplord be with you all the time!
kalmah@kalmah.com
- www.kalmah.com -

 

 

 

 

interview by: Roberto Martinelli

Lamb of God instantly struck me as being a band that plays the kind of music Pantera should be playing. Lamb of God is heavy and muscular, but has a dynamic brutality that this kind of music really requires. I was lucky enough to be able to catch this rapidly growing Virginia-based band as they came through town on their tour with Mushroomhead. The following interview was conducted with Chris (drums), Willie (guitar), Randy (vocals), Mark (guitar) and Dusty (sound guy).

Maelstrom: What's it like to tour? As Mark was saying, you'll only be here (in San Francisco) for a day at the most. Is it just like "same shit, different day" all the time?

Chris: Although there is a routine about it, the best part about it is what's different every day. We're lucky enough to be on a bus this tour. Basically, you wake up every day and are in a whole new place with different shit to see. Meetin' new people and seein' the town. It's awesome. You couldn't ask for a better vacation: doing what you love and do it everywhere across the states.

Maelstrom: (to Chris and Willie) You two guys are brothers, right? (they nod yes.) Your sound guy Dusty was saying that you guys had played here at the Pound before, and it wasn't that great.

Willie: I know that I said that last time it wasn't all that.

Mark: Really? I thought we had a great show. It's hard to adapt. Like, for example. Last night in Portland we played the Crystal Ball Room. It holds 1500 people. It's more or less a hall. Then, 24 hours later, we're playing this, which is really a small rock club. It's cool; it's just a different kind of show. Last night, the barricades are like five feet away, and the kids are a good ways in front of you. Tonight, they're gonna be in your face. Last time we played here I literally butted heads really hard with a kid in the front row from bangin' heads.

Mael: As a fan, what would you rather go to?

Chris: As a fan, I'd definitely rather be here.

Mark: I think so too.

Maelstrom: Why is that?

Chris: The first stuff we did out of the basement was in clubs like this. That's what I'm used to. So when Mark is talking about the difference between a hall and this place, there's an evolution that goes on where you learn the difference between the two.

Mark: If you got 10-15 feet to cover, your night is going to be very different from a night like tonight, where you're lucky to have a hole to stand in.

Maelstrom: You were talking about getting on bigger tours. You mentioned earlier about playing House of Blues (in Chicago) and Harpo's (in Detroit). Those are about the biggest places you can play in those cities. Was this unchartered territory for you guys to be on a tour this big?

Chris: The past three tours we've had, we've been really lucky to play in really nice places and get the response we've had.

Maelstrom: (to Randy) I was asking these guys what the "D" stands for in your credit on the CD.

Randy: Dah-veed. David. Dumbass; dickhead. Whatever.

Maelstrom: They were saying "dickhead," and I was thinking "how a propos that you're touring with Mushroomhead." (to Chris) You mentioned about your garage days. How long ago was that?

Chris: We've been together in one form or another since '94. [The garage days] are still goin' on. Our favorite place to play in Richmond is a shit hole of a bar called The Hole in the Wall. If you fit 100 people in there, you're breakin' the law. It's packed every time we play: There's beer spillin' all over everybody. It's a great time. The four tours that we've done that have gotten us out of that level have been in the last two years.

Maelstrom: How long ago did you change your name to Lamb of God?

Chris: It was right around the break of 2000, when we switched guitar players with Willie.

Maelstrom: Is that what made you think "this is a different band, we have to change the name"? Or, did you just not like Burn the Priest (the band's original name).

Chris: It's one of the things. I think we kind of got burnt out the name after six years of doing it. We'd always be getting put on bills with Satanic grind bands, and we got labeled in that scene. With the music that we're doing, we write it purposely to not be put in a corner. "Here's the Lamb of God record. It's heavy metal." It's not any kind of metal.

Maelstrom: Talk about a completely different meaning of a band name. Something that's pretty anti-Christian to something like Lamb of God, which is pretty misleading in itself, isn't it?

Chris: True.

Mark: It's a little more ambiguous.

Chris: It's not so much of a sledgehammer to the face. I guess the way we figured it was to flip the coin on its head. We'd played for six years, and we were gonna change our name and shoot ourselves in the foot. But it was important for us to do it. Since then, man, no regrets.

Maelstrom: When I first heard your record, it struck me as the kind of music Pantera should be playing. You know? Pantera is tough guy and muscular, but they're not that brutal considering how tough guy and muscular they are; to my ear, anyway.

Chris: We all grew up on that kind of stuff. It impressed us years ago and I'm sure it finds a way into what we have goin' on.

Maelstrom: Is this tour supporting new material? Are you going to be playing songs that aren't on New American Gospel?

Chris: We got four or five written for the next record. We'll be playin' one of 'em tonight. The plan is: after this tour, to go home and try our best to turn down any more tours in hopes of getting material ready for the record.

Maelstrom: Wow, it's a hard spot to be in, huh?

Chris: Well, yeah, we love to tour, but at the same time, you know... We want to get some material on a record. We've got a great record deal with Prosthetic/Metal Blade.

Maelstrom: Is Steve Austin going to be helping you with this one, too?

Chris: It's certainly possible. There's a bunch of people we've been talking to. Dave Shipman is comin' to the show tonight to check us out and meet us. Devin Townsend came to the show in Vancouver. He was interested in the project. I know Steve's definitely interested.

Randy: Who's Shipman?

Chris: He did the System of a Down record.

Maelstrom: (to Chris) You either co-produced the <New American Gospel> record, or...what did you do?

Chris: We all really had a pretty heavy...

Maelstrom: Your name is on the production credit. There was Austin, and then you.

Randy: [Chris] never leaves the control room.

Willie: Chris stays in the control room the entire time

Randy: He's a masochist. I couldn't sit there.

Chris: Yeah, we were just <bleeding> to get this record done. We had a small amount of time and small amount of money. Considering the work it took, it was incredible.

Maelstrom: It seems like you put it out really fast. You said you changed your name in 2000, and then you had this record.

Mark: We recorded the record in nine days.

Chris: Yeah, it all happened pretty fast.

Randy: That includes mixin'.

Maelstrom: Oh, my god.

Mark: That's another thing that I really look forward to about the next record: not only is the material taking a sort of different direction, but just knowing that we're gonna have three times longer to do it and really pay attention to the things that we didn't have the time to work on before and that we didn't necessarily have the wisdom to look for.

Maelstrom: Like what?

Mark: It goes all the way down to how we're writin' songs. We're arranging songs differently now. They're a little more smarter....more smarter. Uh... (the band laughs)

Willie: Where are you from, Vuhrgeenia?

Mark: Our guitar parts: when we wrote that record, Willie and I had been playing together between six and nice months. As soon as we started playing together, we started writing songs. Now, we've been playing together two and a half years, the stuff we're comin' up with is way more sophisticated. It makes it easier to turn down tours because we know we're gonna go home and make our new record.

Maelstrom: Has this tour been your high point so far?

Mark: Every tour seems to have gotten better.

Randy: A lot more people come out to see <us>.

Mark: It's our first time to be in the main support slot.

Maelstrom: I'd never even heard of Mushroomhead before this tour. I was looking at this [Mushroomhead] t-shirt and I was like, "wow, it looks exactly like Slipknot."

Chris: (laugh)....no comment.

Maelstrom: (laugh) ...ok. I always like to hear tour stories, like, the worst fucking show you've ever played, or the most hilarious show you've ever played, or like the stupidest show you've ever played.

Willie: McAlinn, Texas was pretty crazy. The stage setup was huge, it was like an arena-style stage. There was so much room. The [crowd] barrier was a good six feet out. There were so many kids packed into the place; like, 1600. This was opening for Six Feet Under.

Maelstrom: Any comment on them? (laugh)

Chris: (smile)...Cool dudes.

Wille: Nice people. (nods)

Chris: But, that show looked like a Bon Jovi video. Kids trying to pull our clothes off...

Randy: I was stage diving, and they wouldn't let me back onstage. They ripped my shoes off. I was having to kick people. "Give me back my fucking shoe!"

Willie: There's a lot of places we go to where the kids seem starved for any kind of musical culture. They just lose their lids.

Maelstrom: The last song on New American Gospel is this long acronym. I wrote it down: "O.D.G.A.B.F.E."

Randy: It's very fitting that you asked me that in this town. A long time ago, I used to ride freight trains, and squat.

Maelstrom: So, you were like a hobo?

Willie: (laugh)

Randy: Pretty much. In the summertime. That song stands for "officer dickhead gets a black fucking eye." It's about me getting the shit kicked out of me by the cops in San Francisco. They broke a couple of my ribs, fucked me up really good. It was raining, and I was in the lower Haight. A bunch of us were squatting. The cops came in and carried us all off to jail, and beat the fucking shit out of me.

Maelstrom: (to the rest of the band) So he ran this by you: "I got this idea for a song called 'officer dickhead gets a black fucking eye.'" And you're like, "alright, let's do it."

Chris: Yeah, Randy has pretty much the creative control on the lyrics.

Maelstrom: When you think of metal, what's the first thing that comes to your mind?

Mark: Slayer!

Randy: Slayer.

Willie: Annihilator or Slayer.

Maelstrom: "Metal," Chris.

Chris: Ohh...man...

Maelstrom: You're thinkin' too much.

Willie: About $5,000 at your house?

Chris: Meshuggah, early Queensryche stuff.

Maelstrom: Interesting couple of picks, there. How about you, Dusty?

Dusty: Lamb of God.

Maelstrom: Did you put your life on hold to do this tour?

Dusty: I'm here because my life was put on hold by other people. I figured: "I don't wanna be on hold, so I'll be with these guys for a month and half a good time." I'll get back and my life will be in full swing again.

Chris: Are you having a good time, Dusty?

Dusty: I'm having a wonderful time, Chris. Thanks to you and your bunk last night.

Maelstrom: Do they give you beds on that bus?

Chris: Yeah.

Maelstrom: (to Chris) I wasn't too surprised that you had co-produced the album, 'cause the drums are really powerful on it. From a drummer's perspective, what's the best tension to put your pedals on?

Chris: I fooled around. My playing has come out of sheer determination; to go faster or to hit right. I'll stay and practice for hours and hours and hours and hours, and work things out that I can't even begin on a Monday, and by Friday it's tight. I really put my all in to it. I set the bar ahead. When we write a new song, I always try to come up with a part that I can't play.

Maelstrom: Where do you get the inspiration to do this?

Chris: I can hear a rhythm in my head that my body can't necessarily do yet. As far as pedal tension: I was struggling for a while with keeping consistency. The thing that worked best was when I picked up the pedals from the shop, put 'em on my drums - didn't even touch 'em - and they were as fine, if not better than if I tighten them all the way, or loosen them all the way. I used to be really, really anal about making sure they were exactly the same. Now, I've found out that I can tighten one up all the way and loosen the other all the way, and I'm still able to deal with it.

Maelstrom: You have the same sound live as you have on the record. It's really, really high and pops a lot. How do you get that sound? My snare doesn't make that sound!

Dusty: You gotta use a torque wrench. You gotta put about 1,000 pounds of pressure behind it.

Chris: On the Burn the Priest record, I had a piccolo snare, and I couldn't even get <that> one to the level I have now.

Maelstrom: The one you have out there is pretty deep.

Chris: It's a 12x5 Mapex Tenor Birdseye. It's just a mater of buying as thin a head as possible, without going right through it, and cranking the shit out of it. (a short conversation ensues in which Dusty talks about how bass drums have been getting smaller and smaller over the years.) Actually, the toms on the kit - now that I've been playing long enough to understand these things - are smaller. It really facilitates me being able to tighten up the kit and to be able to move around. I've go a 12", a 13", a 14" and an 18" floor tom.

Maelstrom: How did you guys meet, and what was the impetus that made you guys say: "let's make this metal band."

Chris: Well, we all came to school in Richmond, VA (Virginia Commonwealth University) - other than my brother. John, Mark and myself ended up living in the same dorm, on the same floor. We pal-ed around, getting stoned and drunk. We've known each other for 12 years. Actually, Randy was our drug dealer in the dorms. (Randy laughs). I came to find that Mark's a big metalhead - into the old Trouble stuff. We fooled around, but really started jamming in the winter of '94, with a space heater in the back of my house. The reason we wanted to do it was: I remember going into record stores at around that time. I could have $100 dollars in my wallet and not find a single record. You couldn't get anything. It wasn't that there wasn't stuff out there: it's when metal was falling apart; nobody was pushing it, record stores weren't ordering it; no one knew what was good anymore. We were sitting around saying: "compared to the stuff that's coming out, I think that we could write some better stuff than what's going on." Not on purpose or to teach anybody a lesson, or anything, but so that we could have some good music to listen to.

Maelstrom: Do you guys get burned out [touring]? It's different for me: I go see the show, and it's the only day. You know? Get geared up and go see the show. But for you, it's every day.

Randy: Every now and then some of it gets kind of old, but we think about: "Fuck, dude, I'm on a tour bus. It's about rock n' roll. If I was at home, I'd be at work." There's no reason to whine.

Chris: Whether you're not feeling good that day, or haven't had a shower in a week, you can get pretty run down. But we can never take for granted the fact that we're in a place that a lot of people never get to. You gotta make the most of that.

Maelstrom: If you could open up for any band, who would it be?

Chris: (whistles while thinking)

Randy: I would lose my mind to play a Slayer show.

Chris: My goal would be to get Slayer to open up for us. (laugh) I'd love to play shows with Testament, Meshuggah, Soilwork.

Randy: I come from a different musical view. We got to play with Eyehategod. That's my favorite band.

Maelstrom: That wraps it up. Please tell us when the next record is expected.

Chris: We're really hoping to have it finished recording by the fall. It'll be up to the record company to work on the schedule. It's a pain. We were talking to guys last night that were signed three years ago, and are having their record come out next week.


from left to right: Willie, Randy, Chris, John, Mark.

 

 

 

 

interview by: Jez Andrews

Arch Enemy are a band from whom I'd heard little since their 1999 Burning Bridges album. The odd MP3 sample, demonstrating the vocal talents of Angela Gossow, and that was about it. However, when I at last heard a few tracks from the new Wages of Sin CD at a decent volume, I was left speechless. It was truly incredible, the metal perfection that blasted forth from the speakers. I had to get my hands on a copy of this beast. Meanwhile, I talked things over with drummer Daniel Erlandsson. The past, the present, the future...

Maelstrom: Did you know a lot of people who listened to metal when you were growing up?

Daniel Erlandsson: Yes, I had my brother around (Adrian Erlandsson, Cradle Of Filth drummer) and he introduced me to metal, but none of my friends were really into metal.

Maelstrom: Who were the first band you saw live?

Daniel Erlandsson: Actually, that was At The Gates when I was 14, in Gothenburg.

Maelstrom: Who was the drummer who inspired you to start?

Daniel Erlandsson: I would give credit to my brother for that, because he was the one who had a drum kit in our house. Other drummers... I guess Clive Burr.

Maelstrom: How did you meet the rest of Arch Enemy?

Daniel Erlandsson: Through a record label in Sweden. This guy from the label got us together.

Maelstrom: Do you think there was some Carcass influence in the music at the beginning?

Daniel Erlandsson: Oh definitely, especially from Michael.

Maelstrom: What is your favourite Arch Enemy song?

Daniel Erlandsson: Definitely something from the new album. "Behind The Smile"
is excellent.

Maelstrom: How long did the writing take for the Wages of Sin album?

Daniel Erlandsson: About half a year, Michael and Chris writing the riffs and generally arranging the songs.

Maelstrom: What was it like recording with Andy Sneap?

Daniel Erlandsson: Actually, he just mixed the album. We recorded it and went over to England, stayed in Nottingham for about a week while he mixed it. It sounded great.

Maelstrom: Do you enjoy working with the rest of the band?

Daniel Erlandsson: Yeah.

Maelstrom: Are there any bands that you would especially like to go on tour with?

Daniel Erlandsson: Well, y'know, as big as possible. Pantera, Slayer, someone like that.

Maelstrom: What's your favourite Arch Enemy tour story?

Daniel Erlandsson: Tour story? Well, there's a lot to choose from. Probably our last Japan tour. That was my favourite. [Daniel didn't seem to have any amusing anecdotes from that tour to share with Maelstrom, but such is life.]

Maelstrom: How do you feel about Arch Enemy's success in Japan?

Daniel Erlandsson: I feel really good about it. The touring over there has been great. Things have been more quiet over here, but we're hoping to change that.

Maelstrom: I remember seeing you on tour with Cradle of Filth in London in 1999, but do you have any plans to come back to the UK at all?

Daniel Erlandsson: There are plans, but nothing written in stone.

Maelstrom: Have you had any strange gifts from fans in the past?

Daniel Erlandsson: Strange gifts? Not really, just some weird t-shirts [laughs].

Maelstrom: How would you describe your perfect night out?

Daniel Erlandsson: Well, to start, I'd have to have a Jack and Coke of course. Then basically, it would have to be just good music, good friends, good women, y'know?

Maelstrom: What's the best bar you've found while you've been out on tour?

Daniel Erlandsson: Well, we were in New York a couple of nights ago, in a bar called Severn Beach. That was really good.

Maelstrom: What was the last album you bought?

Daniel Erlandsson: Last album I bought was Rammstein. It's a great album.

Maelstrom: Are there any plans to release an Arch Enemy live video?

Daniel Erlandsson: We'll be filming some of the shows on this tour, so hopefully...

Maelstrom: Do you stay in touch with your family when you're on the road with the band?

Daniel Erlandsson: Yeah, I try to. I speak a lot with my brother.

Maelstrom: Is there anything you take on tour that you can't live without?

Daniel Erlandsson: I think that would be my Swedish rolling tobacco [laughs]. I can't live without that.

Maelstrom: If you could see anyone suffer right now, who would it be?

Daniel Erlandsson: Wow. I don't know if I could name any names...Bin Laden maybe.

Maelstrom: What was your response to the events on September 11th?

Daniel Erlandsson: Oh, I couldn't believe it was true when I saw it. I was really shocked.

Maelstrom: What are your thoughts on the death of Chuck Schuldiner?

Daniel Erlandsson: Tragic. I didn't expect it to happen like that.

Maelstrom: Are there any new bands that you would recommend to Maelstrom readers?

Daniel Erlandsson: There's a band from where I come from called Kromlich. They're worth checking out.

Maelstrom: What do you think of the extreme metal scene of today?

Daniel Erlandsson: It's very good. There seems to have been a kind of revival of extreme metal now.

Maelstrom: Do you think there's something about Arch Enemy's music that's particularly Swedish in nature, with the whole Swedish death metal scene?

Daniel Erlandsson: That would be the melodies and riffs. We recorded all our albums in Gothenburg, with a very Gothenburg sound.

Maelstrom: Are there any summer festivals around Europe that you're either scheduled or hoping to play?

Daniel Erlandsson: We're not scheduled to play any, but we'd like to play at one. Maybe Dynamo or somewhere.

Maelstrom: What is the most diverse festival bill you've appeared on?

Daniel Erlandsson: We haven't played too many festivals actually, but Dynamo is pretty diverse. You find a lot of different genres there.

Maelstrom: What kind of dream bill would you like to play on with Arch Enemy?

Daniel Erlandsson: Of bands that are around at the moment, probably just the biggest bands possible.

Maelstrom: Have you taken a lot of influence for Arch Enemy from old school metal?

Daniel Erlandsson: Yeah. I listen to more old records than new.

Maelstrom: Have you heard about any bands who have been directly inspired by Arch Enemy?

Daniel Erlandsson: I guess I've read a few reviews of bands that have been compared to us.

Maelstrom: What's the strangest rumour you've heard about the band?

Daniel Erlandsson: Well, lately there was a rumour that we were going to be playing in Mexico, but no one told us about it.

Maelstrom: I heard something about Angela damaging her voice last year. What happened?

Daniel Erlandsson: She's okay now. It started off as a sore throat, but she had nodules on her vocal chords. We had to cancel some of the tour.

Maelstrom: Name three essential metal albums.

Daniel Erlandsson: Volume 4 by Black Sabbath, Piece of Mind by Iron Maiden, and Reign in Blood by Slayer.

Maelstrom: Well, thanks for talking to us, and good luck with the show in Hollywood tomorrow night.

Daniel Erlandsson: Thanks.

 

 

 

interview by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Brodequin are a brutal death metal outfit from Knoxville, Tennessee. They started out in the summer of '98 with the line up of Jamie on vox/bass,Michael on guitars and Chad on drums. They recorded a 3-song demo that was distributed for free in the underground. Soon after they released their self-financed debut CD Instruments of Torture. These guys are now back in the news with their latest output of aural violence called Festivals of Death. Featuring some insane drumming and blood congealing low vocals, this is a CD all death metal fans can enjoy. These are some of the questions posed by me to Jamie.

Maelstrom: First of all, I'd like to congratulate you on a job extremely well done. Festival of Death is one of the most brutal albums ever to infest my CD player. It totally surpasses Instruments of Torture in terms of complexity and brutality. How long did it take to write these new songs?

Jamie: Thanks a lot for the compliment. We started writing the new songs pretty much right after releasing Instruments... so it took about a year or so.

Maelstrom: The label that has released Festival of Death (Unmatched Brutality Records) is owned by Brodequin members right? Are there any other bands signed on this label as of now?

Jamie: Unmatched Brutality is owned by our guitarist, Mike, and I work with him on most of the aspects. Currently, the UBR roster is Brodequin Festival of Death, Retch Reinsertion of Aborted Remnants (these guys are super sick they have a new album coming out this spring). We also have a Cock and Ball Torture/Last Days of Humanity spilt CD on the label. I don't really have to say much about that; it's like you would imagine: very brutal. Inveracity just recently signed and should have an album out summer/fall 2002.

Maelstrom: How is the death metal scene in your hometown, Knoxville? Are there many local gigs to play?

Jamie: Tennessee is not death metal friendly at all. This is a very religious part of our country, so you can see why it would not be popular. Plus it is a college city and all of the clubs are more toward the dance/club scene, so there is no place to play locally. Nashville, TN, which is about 150 miles from here, has some cool places to play, but it is very limited as well. It's the country music capital of the world, so again death metal is not very accepted here.

Maelstrom: About the music, I'm a bit curious about the drums on the new CD. They sound inhumanly fast and the blastbeats are much more intense and prolonged than the last album. Did Chad use triggers while recording the drums?

Jamie: Yes he did. He triggered the bass drums on the recording, but that's it. He didn't trigger the snare or the rest of the kit. He worked pretty hard to build up the stamina to continue the blast beats as long as he can.

Maelstrom: Instruments of Torture seems to have a twin vox attack. How were the vocals recorded? Were they multitracked or processed in any way?

Jamie: No vocal processors/harmonizers were used on any of our Recordings. All the vocals on Instruments... were recorded in one take, except for the last track at which point I was pretty burned out and had to go back and re-do a couple of things. We did do a bleed on "Strappado," but other than those two instances we never did and vocal multi-tracking.

Maelstrom: I once met a grind fan from some Islamic state on IRC. He said he hated you guys since you had called Osama Bin Laden a "raghead" in some interview. There is a lot of death metal fans in the Middle East who regard Osama as a hero. Do you have anything to say about that?

Jamie: Sure I never called Osama "raghead" so he must be thinking of someone else or had gotten some incorrect information. Actually, I don't ever remember mentioning Osama's name in any interview except this one. As far as Middle Eastern people regarding him as a hero, that's great for them. I don't want someone telling me who I can and can't have as a hero, so I wouldn't do that to someone else. There are people that regard Adolf Hitler as a hero and although I wholeheartedly do not agree with them, I wouldn't attack them because of it.

Maelstrom: Can you tell us something about your side project Cinerary? Who are the Brodequin members playing in that band and who are the other members involved in that project?

Jamie: Cinerary is made up of Matti (ex-Disgorge) on vocals, Wrench (ex-Incestuous) on Guitar, Ricky(Disgorge) on drums, and myself doing bass and vocals. So far we have a CD out called Rituals of Desecration on Deepsend Records, which the contact is ww.deepsendrecords.com.

Maelstrom: Since Brodequin and Disgorge have similar foundations in their brutal yet technical style, is the Cinerary stuff along the same lines? Or does it bring any new twists into the picture?

Jamie: It is along the same lines but at the same time it is completely different. The songs are very brutal just like Disgorge and Brodequin. At the same time Cinerary has some guitar work that is different than either band mentioned. It is some really cool stuff and more than worth checking out! Currently we have been working on new material for the next Cinerary release and we will be playing the Ohio Deathfest here in April 2002.

                                          

 

 

 

 

 

ABORYM - Fire Walk with Us - CD - WWIII Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Aborym is the band fronted by Attila Csihar. You know, the guy who did vocals on Mayhem's De Misteriis Dom Sathanas. This is Aborym's second album. There is absolutely no comparison between this album and the first Aborym, Kali Yuga Bizarre, which is more run-of-the-mill, thrash influenced extreme metal. You are guaranteed to be in for a major treat with this one.

While this is clearly a black metal album, it's of the genre that reviewers seem to like to call "black metal for the new millennium." So be it. Indeed, the music relies strongly on electronica elements, such as a drum machine. However, the drum machine isn't only good, it's as essential to the success of this album as any of the other factors that make up Fire Walk with Us. The blasting drums are masterfully matched with guitar riffs that come at you at all sorts of weird and engaging angles. This is very unlike the kind of bizarrerie found on Abigor's (excellent) Satanized, in which the strangeness has a cold and alienating effect on the listener.

The band masterfully inserts melody, brilliant building chord progressions, awesome, whacked-out guitar solos, and rhythm breaks into their songs to make them interesting no matter how many times you listen to the album. Background keyboards featuring well-chosen, never tacky or "gay" tones expertly add major amounts of dimension to the whole. Adding to the atmosphere are fantastically applied electronic effects, like bubbling, rattling, pinging, ominous industrial effects and general fuzziness, the last of which will always make this reviewer happy.

Last but not least are the groaning, whispering, croaking, moaning low vocals of Attila Csihar. You'll never hear vocals like this from anyone else in any genre. Csihar mixes it all up and somehow manages to give what he does some form of melody and hooks, playing off the unique approach of the music to make the whole experience even more fresh and entirely enjoyable. Added to the organic vocals of Csihar are masterfully chosen voice samples of what sounds like children screaming, incoherent male moaning, random breathing, whistling balloon shrieks and other inconceivable strangeness. Where so much of the vocal samples found in genres like dark ambient fail in that their primary purpose is to supply some form of coherent message, the incoherent nature of the subtly interwoven, musically structured vocal samples on Fire Walk with Us makes them forever complementary and fresh.

This album is so fucking great, even the techno track rules. Oh, yeah, there's also a genius cover of Burzum's "Det Som Engang Var," dark, ambient tracks, "Twin Peaks" worship, and more interesting ideas than can be chronicled in a mere review. Is that enough for you yet? Totally essential not only for fans of Anaal Nathrakh and Mysticum, but for any black metal fan with a brain.

One of the best albums of 2001, and certainly my most highly recommended selection of this issue.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Kali Yuga Bizarre (issue No 11)  
With no Human Intervention (issue No 12)  

 

 

 

ANDRAS - Das Schwert unserer Ahnen - CD - Last Episode

review by: The Condor

I think what first attracted me to this record was the logo. There have been indecipherable logos for as long as there have been metal bands, but Andra's takes the cake. Looking like some sort of seventeenth century alchemical equation, scrawled in delicate brushstrokes, in the handwriting of some sort of madman, with vague hints of a pentagram, but no hints at all as to what the name of the band might be. Luckily, the music lives up to the high standards set by the unreadable logo. Truly fucked, stumbling necro metal, with ultra-distorted guitars, pounding, barely-in-time drumming, and some of the sickest vocals I have ever heard, like some sort of demonic Donald Duck squawking wildy over a maelstrom of metallic mayhem.

Lots of midtempos and one almost rock-ballad sounding song (don't panic, even on that track any melody or sappiness is rendered null and void by the maniacal screeching and the speaker shredding production). There are occasional, German spoken word bits, with atmospheric breaks and soaring strings (over what sounds to be swordfighting) to break up the record, but it's never long before the band stumbles back into action, spitting fire and venom and lurching from riff to riff like some demented metal beast. And while this is not entirely new (it came out in 1999), it's new to me and good enough that I figured if I managed to miss it, you probably did too.

 

 

 

 

 

ARALLU - Satanic War in Jerusalem - CD - Raven Music

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Satanic War in Jerusalem is Arallu's second album, and it's lightyears better than the first one. Before, Arallu went really fast and had a drum machine programmed to ludicrous speed. The result was that special brand of interesting that black metal can have, meaning that it was stupid and ridiculous and fucked, and sort of endearing because of those qualities.

This time around, Arallu has got a real drummer, and he's good. The dull thud of the kick drums sounds cool, as does the use of two different snares. The music is way slowed down compared to before, but still gets you going. There's a lot of emphasis on more traditional heavy metal/thrash riffing that's very catchy and enjoyable here. If you took Absu, but slowed it down and made it less technical (and insane), you'd have a pretty good idea what Satanic War in Jerusalem has to offer.

If that's not enough, Satanic War in Jerusalem has some cult or stupid and therefore cult reasons to get a copy. For one, all the song titles have exclamation points where such punctuation marks really wouldn't fit, like: "Jewish Devil!" and "Jerusalem Gates!" and "Mesopotamia Story!" This last track is mostly made up of a collage of spoken clips that sound like they were taken from documentaries about Egyptian mythology and such. It's very cool, and you can learn stuff from it, too. Always a bonus. Also, the main guy in Arallu looks like a bald, seething version of John Turturro.

Arallu is from Israel, which I think is great. It's nice to hear some black metal coming from the other side of the NSBM movement (which is basically code for Nazi, in case you didn't know). Up till now, the few Israeli black metal bands I'd heard were either not so good (Aztec) or good, but not really black metal (Betrayer, Orphaned Land). In terms of their Judaism, Arallu has this to say in the insert of the CD:

"Coming from Jerusalem we live inside a never ending war. (...) We truly despise the 'bigmouth' so called 'Black Metal' who market themselves as war supporters and death worshippers and sit in the pub [and] drink vodka, sing songs that they read about in books. Those books were written about US and those pathetic chickens make a business out of it. (...) We got in touch with some of the known "Black Metal" bands of today, invited them to share our blasphemy and share a stage with us here. The "Virtual Black Metal" bands were afraid to come here. (...) Go back to your woods! The devil came from the desert and NOT from the forest! Wake up and smell the flowers, for we are the ones who smell the stench of blood."

Maelstrom totally needs to interview this band. You should check this out.

 

 

 

 

 

ANGEL DUST - Of Human Bondage - CD - Century Media Records

review by: Jez Andrews

Call me slow to catch on if you will, but this is the first Angel Dust offering it has been my pleasure to hear, from a back catalogue spanning about 14 years. Of Human Bondage is a tough nut to crack. Even now, I can't be sure whether or not I like it.

This album is a decent enough example of modern power metal, despite the slightly annoying doses of synthesizer intros and breaks. I'm of the opinion that if a power metal album is to be really effective, it should impress the listener at any volume. You've got to play this one loud, no question about it. I wouldn't say that this is to compensate for any great lack of creativity on the band's part, but to emphasise the finer points of the music. The quantity of mediocre material displayed here can get a little frustrating, but Of Human Bondage does have its moments. The riffing is solid, and producer Siggi Bemm has done a fine job with the sound.

Opening track "The Human Bondage" will have heads nodding at the very least. "Inhuman" is better still, with the keyboard track benefiting the sound nicely. In fact, there are elements of it that do actually get the hair flying. Unfortunately, the excitement fades with the end of the second track. The token 'mellow' number, "Disbeliever," is just a little too fucking boring for my taste. Let it not be said that Angel Dust haven't made an effort though. "Unite" has some decent weight behind it, and the album overall has a reasonable quantity of double bass drum assaults.

"Freedom Awaits," despite the serious need for speed, has one of the most gorgeous keyboard tracks I've heard in a long time, complimenting the guitars perfectly. However, Angel Dust's ill-chosen cover of Seal's "Killer" to round off the album is something I will not even dignify with a response.

Well, this one has its ups and downs. It's nowhere near mundane enough to be considered sub-standard, but at the same time, it lacks the spark and finesse that would make it a great album. Damn it, I'm confused...

 

 

 

 

 

ARCH ENEMY - Wages of Sin - CD - Century Media Records

review by: ~Vargscarr~

Swedish bands like this do not play 'Melodic Death Metal,' I don't give a fuck what any other music critic says. There is not the merest semblance of Death Metal about this music. No, this is modern Heavy Metal that just happens to have dirty vocals. With that out of the way, Arch Enemy's new album: same old same old, but with far superior vocals to the previous releases; and much less interesting songs.

This album features a lot of that 'start - stop' style that serves to piss me off no end. Better, more crushing riffs are traded off for weak, undecided chord progressions that were fortunately kept to a minimum on Arch Enemy's previous (and to my ear, their best) work, Burning Bridges. Gone is the bombast of "Demonic Science" or "Angelclaw"; and worse still, Wages of Sin lacks the wonderful solos that used to define and elevate the band amongst and above their Swedish contemporaries (you know - shitty pop bands like In Flames). The solo on "Dead Inside" (track two on ...Bridges) ranks up as one of the very best I have ever heard - not one of the solos present on Wages of Sin even come close. The song structures all seem very modern, and the general modus operandi the band spent their last three releases defining seems to have been lost, making me wonder if perhaps their ex-vocalist wasn't more responsible for the songwriting than the credits let on...

It's not all bad - there are a couple of decent tracks on here - but it's a big let down for those who've enjoyed the band in the past but don't enjoy other Swedish bands of the same genre, since I'm sure all you 'Melodic Death' Metalheads will lap this up. At least the vocals are the best you'll hear from a band of this kind for a very long while - Angela Gossow is a credit to her chosen style and female vocalists everywhere, and its a great shame her talents were wasted on this rather pitiable release that exudes a similar air to that of a retarded child lost in the snow - confused, weak, and oblivious to it's plight. She needs to hook up with Children of Bodom; for there is a modern heavy Metal band crying out for a vocalist of her calibre.

 

 

 

 

 

BARBATOS - War! Speed and Power - CD - ISO 666

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This awful album is largely a one man band headed by Yasuyuki Suzuki of the (also retarded) band Abigail. The (now former) vocalist of Ritual Carnage supplies the vocals. What you basically get is heavy punk/ black metal with a bass drum that is as subtle as a wrench to the bass of the skull. The bass lines are practically all identical, and the content is tiresome even before it has the chance to get interesting. Not even the (obligatory) lame as hell Japanese lyrics in English on songs like "Poisoned Sake" and "Teenage Slut" ('Come on baby sixty nine (...)Beat your ass like karate(...) Your my personal toilet' (sic)) can save it. Total dorkiness.

 

 

 

 

 

BETHLEHEM - Schatten auf der Alexander Welt - CD - Red Stream Records

review by: Laurent Martini

Schatten Auf Der Alexander Welt is the story of Alexander Welt, who escapes into a self-created reality. Radio broadcasts are his only hope of avoiding insanity and as the album booklet tells us, "He of course fails." (ho how Deutsch!) The album is thus Alexander's story punctuated by the various radio stations he listens to. The first one is by far the best with the sound of a radio being scanned through. We hear snippets of songs, "Hotel California" is one, and talk shows. The end of this broadcast has a nice touch with Twin Peaks inspired backward talking.

The music is fascinating as Bethlehem mixes every sort of style possible, synthesizers with a slow blues saxophone and hard guitars with electronic beats. Yet this is definitely one time when I am happy not to understand what is being said because, as interesting a premise as Schatten Auf Der Alexander Welt is, it sounds like a bit too complex a storyline to make into an album (yes I know Pink Floyd pulled it off with The Wall, but they are Pink Floyd.) That point aside, when taking into consideration all the other elements brought into this project, the radio broadcasts and the eclectic music, Schatten Auf Der Alexander Welt is definitely worth buying.

 

 

 

 

 

BLACK DAWN - Blood for Satan - CD - Necropolis Records

review by: Jez Andrews

We have here some very proficient black metal. Brutal, razor-edged, and to the point. No keyboards found in here, and for this brand of musical assault, that's just the way it should be. Oddly reminiscent of Tagtgren-produced Marduk in places, even the occasional hint of Enthroned. The scattered sound clips, some from "Omen III," all add to the tempest of evil that is Blood for Satan.

In this day and age, it makes a change to hear some black metal that's just plain fucking great from start to finish. A throaty scream that exudes an evil kind of pain, and not the kind that can be cured with a blackcurrant lozenge. The production is nice and balanced, and the style never strays into the artificial, nor does it weaken in the slightest. "Graverape Ritual" is a perfect example, and one of my favourites from among this 10-track display of devilish excellence. 'Hyper-fast true black metal' cry the adverts. A little dismissive, if I'm being honest. Sure, it's both hyper fast and true, but it's also one of those albums that really stirred up something inside me.

Blood for Satan is a shining diabolical testimony of how black metal should go straight for the jugular if it is to stand out on its own. It blasts, it thunders, and from "Pitbound (The 4th Trial of Acolyte)" to "Within Ye Woods, Before Ye Throne" (with its truly haunting outro), it's fucking beautiful. A crushing series of anthems to the legions of hell, and I loved every minute of it.

 

 

 

 

 

BLIND GUARDIAN - A Night at the Opera - CD - Century Media Records

review by: Steppenvvolf

One thing you can be sure of is that the release of a new Blind Guardian album will stir the metal scene in Germany. This time, more than ever, the record is preceded by a big fuss over technical aspects such as the amount of tracks used in the production or the fact that it took two years to write and record the songs for this album.

If you're a power metal nut, you might have got wind of Blind Guardian's single release And Then There Was Silence, a 14-minute song, meant as a prelude to this album. The former took four months(!) to record. Please mind the exclamation mark while being impressed with and honouring Century Media's efforts to make A Night at the Opera seem essential by pushing it with all-but-music-related facts.

Speaking of the music, Blind Guardian has proved loyal to its elves-and-orc-metal style. But despite some potentially good riffs the songs come over awkwardly. This is because Blind Guardian simply tried to squeeze in too much into each song. The deeply layered structure doesn't allow for its effect to mature since the themes follow too densely one after another and suffocate the clear brilliance that could be achieved by one theme alone. This observation coincides with the fact that all the songs have a duration of more than five minutes. "The Soulforged" has evergreen-qualities, but again it stumbles over its long-winded character. If Blind Guardian should move on in extending the duration of their songs they should consider moving on from the epic metal genre, create the "metal musical" genre and ask someone to produce a Blind Guardian musical.

If you're a Blind Guardian fan, there's nothing that should keep you from buying this album. The songs ARE good, but they do not stand out.

 

 

 

 

 

BLOOD DUSTER - Cunt - CD - Relapse Records

review by: Matt Smith

Blood Duster is notoriously crass, and this album definitely doesn't stray from their high standard of offensiveness. It's great. The samples between songs really tie the album together: clips taken from movies ("Boogie Nights" was the only one I recognized) really set the tone. It's hard, but pretty funny. Most of the lyrics are completely banal, but at least they all deal with sex and violence and are growled in an intimidating manner.

One song I particularly like is "A Track Suit is not Appropriate Metal Apparel." Here's a clip: "A million clones of Korn and Limp Bizkit / Are spreading through the land/ What the fuck's a track suit for??? / Commercial sellout bandwagon whore." But the satisfying message isn't all Blood Duster is good for.

Musically, Blood Duster definitely knows what it's doing. This four-man group from Australia knows death metal enough to even create their own sub-genre: "porn metal." They keep their songs short, fast, and polished. The biggest problem I found with this album was its length. Nineteen tracks (including samples) crammed into 34 minutes are over before I'd like them to be.

 

 

 

 

 

BRODEQUIN - Festival of Death - CD - Unmatched Brutality

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

This CD should come with a "seismic hazard" warning. Play it loud and watch the people in your neighbourhood scurry out of their homes while everything collapses around you. Then, when your speakers finally explode outwards, impaling you with shards of metal, your final dying thoughts will be "BRUTALLL......"!

Jamie Bailey's vocals are THE lowest, most guttural, diseased growls ever burnt on plastic. Any lower and his vocal chords could be used as basslines. The blast beats are relentless, assaulting you almost for the whole duration of the album. They sound triggered, but I'm not even sure about that.

One problem with this CD is that the guitars are too low in the mix. Combined with the fact that they are severely downtuned,you need extremely good ears and an incredible amount of concentration to make them out. But when Brodequin do slow down, or when the drums stop their relentless blasting, you can make out the demented wickedness of the riffs. My fave track has got to be "Judas Cradle" which has this great slow part in the middle and it really accentuates the brutality of the music.

In case you didn't know, this is Brodequin's second release, the first being "Instruments of Torture." While their debut also ranks as one of the most brutal albums in my collection, this one beats it and most other albums of this genre hands down in all departments. GET THIS OR DIE A THOUSAND MEDIEVAL DEATHS!!!

 

 

 

 

 

BURMESE - Burmese - CD - tUMULt Records

review by: Roberto Martinellli

From the ever eclectically excellent tUMULt label comes this album of the most intense and satisfying noise music.

What else can you call it? Throughout the album's first 20 tracks, Burmese presents you with a sinister whirlwind of huge, flying scrap metal whipping by your head and crashing heavily into the ground. Heavy-handed drumming is played between caustic bouts of maniacal speed. The whole package is total chaos, yet nonetheless comes across as being in total control. While the music is a mess, it's hardly sloppy; while it's abrasive, the noise from the bass, guitar and fx manipulation is presented in a musical fashion.

In terms of atmosphere, Burmese outdoes many black metal bands that are trying their damnedest to achieve the same goal. At the forefront of this are the most completely fucked, angst out vocals you may ever hear. The vocals of Burmese totally put most black metal vocals to shame. Making the vocals even more engaging are the way they are interwoven within the music at different levels: sometimes in the forefront, sometimes in the background, and at all points in between. This aspect coupled with the wide (and always excellent) range that goes from the most depraved shrieking to evil growls makes this album one to definitely play extra loud.

Despite the comparisons, this music is by no means black metal, but achieves the same end in its approach. The blood red packaging and pictures of ruin and genocide fit well with the sonic approach of apocalyptic war death noise that the band pulls off so well. But Burmese avoids becoming a caricature of itself by mixing it up with awesome, seemingly random elements, like a drawing of an elephant under a tree on the cover and song titles like "Monkeys Tear Man to Shreds," "Kosovolvo," and "Crushed to a Crisp." Burmese doesn't need imaginative fantasy worlds to convey their darkness and evil; real life situations will do just fine. Consider song titles like "Bikini Atoll," "Himalayan Cross Volley" and "20 Missiles Later" to get an idea of where the band is coming from. It is only the last track, "Man Never Forgives Ape, Man Destroys Environment," which is an 18-minute repeated windy electronic loop (that is about 10 minutes too long) that prevents this from being a perfect album.

Where the so-called genres of "noise" or "power electronics" - where 70-minute albums are made up almost exclusively of at the most three ideas - are trying to be the most extreme, but are actually being the most boring and uninteresting, Burmese delivers. Everyone take note.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
A Mere Shadow and Reminiscence of Humanity (issue No 14)  

 

 

 

BURNING POINT - Salvation by Fire - CD - SPV

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Here's a surprise: a metal band from Europe (Finland, no less, the land of super happy/sappy Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica) that doesn't play candy-coated children's metal. I didn't think it was possible.

No, Burning Point definitely seems to draw its inspiration from the American side of power metal, with heavy songs that don't rip off that double bass beat, and happy riffs and choruses that Helloween and all of that band's legions of followers seem to be helpless without. You'll get good mid-ranged vocals, solid production, great soloing, and some nice riffs, too.

While this is a good album, the thing that prevents it from ascending to the great level is a lack of innovation. Rather, Burning Point seems content in staying comfortably in the realm of simple, chugging metal riffs too much of the time. Why not go for a little more creativity and innovation? Regardless, Burning Point is a worthwhile acquisition, especially for anti-happy power metal fans.

 

 

 

 

 

BURNT BY THE SUN - Soundtrack to the Personal Revolution - CD - Relapse Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This album by Burnt by the Sun is a totally heavy, rhythmically satisfying experience. The music is chock full of jagged, aggressive beats that occasionally break out into some nice blasting. On top of the tight drumwork are equally well played guitars and bass, whose varied tones keep things fresh. The vocals are almost entirely done in an aggressive scream/shout. The last track, "Rebecca," is a peaceful guitar only instrumental that rounds off the 35 minutes of angst very nicely.

The Condor likens the music and vocals on Soundtrack to the Personal Revolution to the music of Pantera. I dunno, I never liked Pantera nearly as much as this. We'll call it the intelligent, thinking man's Pantera. This is certainly true, and taking a look at the lyrics will show that the band actually has some thoughts in their head and some creative expression.

So, there are plenty of reasons to get this, even if it's only to have an album with song titles like "Dracula with Glasses," "Soundtrack to the Worst Movie Ever," "Dow Jones and the Temple of Doom," and "Shooter McGavin" (the bad guy from the movie "Happy Gilmore." Yes!). Maelstrom seal of approval.

 

 

 

 

 

CALIBAN - Vent - CD - Lifeforce Records

review by: Matt Smith

This album is great. I was very impressed with the production, musicianship, and style. The sound quality is excellent, from the hardcore-style vocals, drums, and guitar lines to a couple of acoustic parts and rich female vocals that are reminiscent of doom. The slower parts have some interesting, sorrowful melodies that bring some emotional appeal to Caliban's sound without being too cheesy. Their timing is excellent, as well, with style changes being added just when they're needed to keep everything interesting.

One thing I particularly liked was how they, in a couple of songs, slow the tempo down perfectly in time with each other, creating a pitch shifter-type of effect. Caliban must have a sense of timing to rival that of Meshuggah or some such mechanical-sounding group. I also really enjoyed the drumming style - Robert uses some good fills and a sophisticated sense of rhythm that carries the music along without having to hit every 32nd note with the double bass pedal (although he makes it clear that he can, if he wanted).

Caliban's wide range of different but compatible-sounding styles and great execution make them a really strong (and hopefully long-lived) group.

 

Related reviews:
 
Shadow Hearts (issue No 12)  

 

 

 

CANDLEMASS - Nightfall (reissue) - CD - Powerline

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This album has finally grown on me. It took a bunch of years.

Whereas I thought the re-mastering of this album sucked at first, I now think it's pretty good. While the sound of it does at some times give you that unpleasant grating feeling in your gums that is unique to re-mastered works, overall it's a big improvement over the original issue. Chalk the blame up to the poor quality of the source tape, as re-mastering can only really make the original sounds louder and fuller, but also reveal the flaws more.

However, as is the case with all these disks, the real gems are to be found on the second, bonus disk. In this case, you get a demo version of "Bewitched" and the never released song "Battlecry," which is really a good tune. Also featured is a neat-o live cut of "Dark are the Veils of Death," along with studio outtakes of "Mourners Lament" and "At the Gallows End." However, the biggest prize on the bonus disk is the 25-minute interview with Messiah Marcolin, Leif Edling and Lars Johansson, as they talk about the early years of Candlemass' most definitive lineup: how Marcolin, the rabid Candlemass fan, harassed Edling everyday by phone to give him an audition, and then finally staged moving up to Candlemass' town; early tour stories with Slayer; and failed stage antics, like Marcolin's original idea about coming out of a coffin for every show. Truly hilarious and entertaining.

If you've never heard the album, Nightfall was the first of three albums to feature Marcolin, the band's heavy metal monk with an electric afro, on vocals. Marcolin's operatic, powerful voice has a signature that makes him an instant classic. The music you get is true heavy metal doom. No violins, no forced eye corner dabbing. Just kick ass songs with a great singer, really memorable and wonderful guitar soloing, and enjoyable songs. A totally worthy buy, even if (or, especially) you own the original release.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Ancient Dreams (reissue) (issue No 8)  
Tales of Creation (reissue) (issue No 8)  
Epicus, Doomicus, Metallicus (reissue) (issue No 8)  

 

 

 

CANDLEMASS - Ancient Dreams (reissue) - CD - Powerline

review by: Roberto Martinelli

It was originally thanks to this album that I even discovered Candlemass. I found an old, second hand, forgotten tape of Ancient Dreams at a bookstore years ago, and I've been a fan ever since.

Looking at the band's work now, it's ironically clear that Ancient Dreams is the worst of the first four albums from this essential Swedish doom band. It's certainly the cheesiest. It's apparent that the band's founder, Leif Edling, agrees, as he slams most of the songs on this album in the interview found on the second, bonus disk of this package.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Ancient Dreams is still a totally worthy album to have. Messiah Marcolin's voice may be kind of alarmingly cheesy, but he's still a major presence both in terms of talent and character. The truth is that in order to like Ancient Dreams, you'll probably have had to have been exposed to Candlemass at an early age, at a time before the cheese detecting powers that come with adulthood are able to prevent you from accepting this album. If this is your situation, too bad for you. Sure, the songs may be kinda dumb, but they're still Candlemass doom! And they still contain Lars Johansson's killer soloing, Marcolin's enjoyable vocals, and some of the most memorable, simple riffs ever. Most will probably choose to enjoy clandestinely.

Actual musical content aside, of the three Powerage reissues, this is the one that benefits the most by the re-mastering, so in a sense it is the most essential of the series.

Disk two contains tasty goodies, in this case four previously unavailable live tracks from this album. The tracks showcase how exuberant the band was live, featuring Messiah Marcolin screaming at the crowd to get into it between lyrics. Maybe it's because the music is super loud, but you can't hear all that much crowd reaction. This probably makes the listening experience more fun. So do Marcolin's intros to the songs in Swedish. He sounds like the Swedish Chef of metal. Fucking great.

You also get a 25-minute interview featuring bassist Leif Edling, Marcolin, and lead guitarist Lars Johansson. Here you get to hear Edling's really strange accent and stories like how Marcolin would buy two Big Macs every day, one to eat and one to put in his pocket for later; how the band would come up with strategies to get the workers at McDonalds to give them BBQ sauce without having to buy Chicken McNuggets; and how they were chased all over Athens by rabid Greek fans in what they call "Candlemass mania." Guaranteed laughs.

 

Related reviews:
 
Nightfall (reissue) (issue No 8)  
Tales of Creation (reissue) (issue No 8)  
Epicus, Doomicus, Metallicus (reissue) (issue No 8)  

 

 

 

CANDLEMASS - Tales of Creation (reissue) - CD - Powerline

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The third and last studio album featuring Messiah Marcolin's vocals, Tales of Creation is Candlemass' concept album that tells the tale of a man's apocalyptic journey through Hell, only to awaken and discover it was all a dream.

Concept albums are almost invariably wasted on me. I never saw the point in them; if I want to hear a good story, I'll read a book. What's more, concept albums often have this uncanny knack of sucking like only a concept album can. This is so not the case with Tales of Creation. There are so many great tracks, vocals melodies, and great guitar work to be found here, it may be my personal favorite of the three reissues.

Ok, I'll be honest. Objectively, Marcolin fronted Candlemass can be pretty cheesy, and there's a fair share of that here. However, if you can like an album in spite of its cheesiness (or even better: because of its cheesiness) then you'll totally be into this excellent work of true doom heavy metal.

Like the other two re-mastered disks, the Tales of Creation package comes with a bonus disk. Of the three albums extra material, this is clearly the weakest. You'll get prototype recordings of Candlemass songs done by bassist Leif Edling's pre-Candlemass band, Nemesis. (If you have the first Candlemass disk, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, you'll now have three separate recordings of the song "Under the Oak.") The problem is Nemesis can't really play all that well, and their singer, while passable, doesn't even begin to approach the vocals of either Marcolin or other Candlemass singers like Bjorn Flodkvist or Johan Lanquist. It's kinda neat to hear, but only if you're way into the band. Also, the interview with Marcolin, Edling and Johansson is relatively weak compared to the great stuff on the other disks.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Nightfall (reissue) (issue No 8)  
Ancient Dreams (reissue) (issue No 8)  
Epicus, Doomicus, Metallicus (reissue) (issue No 8)  

 

 

 

CANDLEMASS - Epicus, Doomicus, Metallicus (reissue) - CD - Powerline

review by: Roberto Martinelli

As a late addition bonus to Maelstrom readers is this review of Powerline's first Candlemass reissue. In this case the album is in fact Candlemass' debut, Epicus, Doomicus, Metallicus, which is arguably the band's best work ever. This reissue is not part of the more recent trio of releases, and so is packaged a bit differently.

The separation of the releases is logical, as Epicus... was before the Messiah Marcolin-era. Although Johan Lanquist doesn't have the pure character and stylistic force of his successor, he is very crucial to the success of this album. (He's certainly much less cheesy.) Lanquist's voice is very befitting a record that labels itself as doom, as his voice conveys a definite sense of cold morbidity not felt till the melodies of current Candlemass frontman, Bjorn Flodqvist. In terms of songs, Epicus... has got some of the best Candlemass tunes ever, including the super slow and heavy "Solitude," the first (and overall superior) recording of "Under the Oak" (which would later be featured on Tales of Creation), the epic "A Sorceror's Pledge," and "Demon's Gate," which has one of the most memorable riffs in metal. Ever.

While the original version of this album sounded pretty good to begin with, the remastering has been done very well - the best of the four - and so it makes Epicus... worth getting for this reason alone.

As is the case with all the Powerline re-releases, this one also comes with a second disk. This time, it's all live tracks that seem to be taken from different shows. None of these Powerline live cuts are as good as on the original Candlemass Live album on Metal Blade Records, but they're still quite good and very enjoyable. The funniest part about all of them is how much Messiah Marcolin eggs on the audience to sing along with him. Maybe it's just the way the shows were mic-ed, but invariably the poor guy gets little if no response. However, this gives Candlemass a sort of Spinal Tap appeal. As if this band wasn't loveable enough already. I can't wait for the reunion at Wacken 2002.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Nightfall (reissue) (issue No 8)  
Ancient Dreams (reissue) (issue No 8)  
Tales of Creation (reissue) (issue No 8)  

 

 

 

CANNIBAL CORPSE - Gore Obsessed - CD - Metal Blade Records

review by: Matt Smith

I'm sure you can tell by the title of the new album that Cannibal Corpse hasn't lost its edge. Over the years, their sick lyrics and ruthless sound have only been refined, making them one of the greatest and most notorious death metal bands of all time. According to the press release from Metal Blade, their work has been banned in Australia, New Zealand, and Korea, and Butchered at Birth can't be sold in Germany. I can imagine government officials leering at their cover art and saying, "Uh, not in my country."

Gore Obsessed proves that Cannibal Corpse hasn't calmed down any, although their lyrics have gotten a lot more intelligible since they started out. Now I can pick out phrases here and there without even looking at the liner notes; songs like "Dormant Bodies Bursting" and "Sanded Faceless" are worth being enjoyed to the fullest.

Cannibal Corpse's style is unrelenting, as always. The album hardly slows down during its entirety, and the energy level only seems to increase with the track numbers. The quality of the songs gets better further into the album, too, when their matured style really becomes apparent. "Hung and Bled" is one of my favorites on this album, and it diverges noticeably from the traditionally straightforward Cannibal Corpse "sound."

Drums, guitars, and vocals all sound great. It's all much clearer and seemingly more thought-out than on previous albums. The production of Gore Obsessed isn't any great leap from past albums, but anything else would be blasphemous (ha, ha). It will be great to see Cannibal Corpse try to outdo this release.


 

 

 

 

CAUL - Hidden - CD - Eibon Records

review by: Steppenvvolf

Have you ever seen a CD with one single track lasting 60 minutes? One track filled with drifting echoing noises of obscure origin, reverberating sounds and clangs create an atmosphere of ethereal eternity with a mood lingering somewhere between melancholy and indifference. It is certainly an odd piece, and sometimes it gives you the feeling of being lost in a weird realm that had been abandoned by its creators for unknown reasons at an unknown time, with its perpetual machines working in the rhythm of eons.

Sometimes silent, slowed down melodies played with equanimity blend into this slowly revolving sound vortex and add to my impression that Caul's music alludes to something in between the rational and the irrational. Irrational it would be to pass over the experience of hearing this. Watch out for this CD to complement to your hard and fast collection.

 

 

 

 

CAVITY - On the Lam - CD - Hydrahead Records

review by: Matt Smith

After listening to this album several times, I'm still not sure what to think of it. Many of Cavity's songs feel dreadfully laborious. The feeling is almost dirge-like, as if the entire band is plodding along on a forced march or something. But that's not a bad thing. It reminds me of Isis, but less extreme and with more punk influence.

A lot of the drums and guitar work is overly simple, but keeping it downtempo and changing rhythms and melodies frequently within their songs makes Cavity almost hypnotic at points. It's not all slow, though, and little bursts of speed often accompany melody changes. Rene Barge's vocals are undeniably hardcore - as raspy as can be imagined, like he swallowed a mouthful of gravel before recording. Without much pitch variety or interesting rhythms, vocals just don't seem necessary a lot of the time. But that's often the case with punk and hardcore.

Adding to the hardcore appeal is the generally raw sound of the guitars with feedback forcing itself into the spotlight at times. A lot of the same chords get reused a lot, though, and by the time On the Lam is finished I feel like I've heard the same song at least a few times throughout its duration. Often simplistic stuff just goes on too long, making me look periodically at my CD player to see just how long the song is. Overall, I'd recommend avoiding this album unless you're a true hardcore fan or you might just end up getting frustrated.

 

 

 

 

CENTURIAN - Liber Zar Zax - CD - Olympic Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Wow. Centurian has improved a whole lot since their last album, Chronozoic Chaos Gods. While that album was indeed brutal, it was sort of sloppy in both production and execution. Problem solved on Liber Zar Zax. In fact, Centurian has added a level of musical intricacy that gives the listener more to savor than just a plate full of fairly duh-duh clunking over the head, serving up a meal of breathtakingly intense, attacking death that isn't afraid to slow things down once or twice.

Gone is the muddy production. Instead, Centurian is playing faster and SOOO much tighter, writing material (the solos especially) that is much more interesting, while keeping that certain truly mean and violent aura that was present on the previous album.

While Centurian isn't really revolutionizing the genre musically, the blistering pace and mesmerizingly difficult execution - made even more so by the awesome speed at which the material is played, added to the captivating rhythm changes and the density of different riffs being played on top of one another - will certainly appeal to death metal fans, especially those looking for something that's truly brutal. Way recommended.

 

 

 

 

 

CONFLICTING THEORIES - promo - CD - slaytan_666@yahoo.com

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

This is a 4-song promo from India's first grind band. Or a 3-song one rather, since the 3rd song is a 38 second sample the likes of which I would have expected to hear on a Rob Zombie album. Needless to say, I didn't like it much. But the rest of the songs serve up such high speed, technical riffing that you won't regret getting your hands on this promo disc.

The first track is called "From Disillusion to Dissolution" and you need to listen to this at least 10 times before you can begin to understand what's even happening. The riffs go past you in a high-speed blur and abrupt drum fills change the course of the song in split seconds. There are a lot of samples on offer here and this song is rounded off by one.

The second song, "Circles of Megalomania," continues in the same vein: crazy hyper speed grind interspersed with weird sound effects. The very unorthodox nature of the song structures reminds me of stuff like Cephalic Carnage. The vocals consist of bizarre yelling and screaming courtesy of Ben Vargas (ex-Engorged) and it does fit the music very well.

The fourth song, "Trick Or Treat," starts off in a slow fashion but any semblance of sanity is quickly ripped to shreds within the first 20 seconds as the band again launches into their own brand of musical annihilation. Jimmy's riffing just lays waste to most other guitarists in this genre. The band is rounded off by Vikram on drums, and they have no bassist. (Though they play with a bassist for live shows only). I feel the production could have been slightly better since the drums are too low in the mix and the guitars sound a bit too raw.

I can't wait to hear the full length now. They have finished recording the full length and are sending this promo around to record labels and zines. Get in touch with the band right NOW!

 

 

 

 

CURSE - Cursed Be Thy Name - CD - No Colours Records

review by: The Condor

Now this is lo-fi! Had to turn the stereo up almost twice as loud just to get this to a comparable volume. Buzzing Burzumic black metal epics with blasting beats and haunting, far-away keyboards. Creepy and sinister, demented, minor-key breakdowns with clean guitars and deep, guttural vocals, spastic drumming and some totally bizarre, highly processed lead guitar. Pretty fucking great, too bad it's only a three-song EP.

 

 

 

 

 

DARKLORD - Symphony Satanica - CD - http://darklord.tripod.com

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Symphony Satanica is pretty damn cool. Stylistically, while it is primarily a black metal album, it's got some other metal elements mixed into it in a very interesting way. The main elements come through in the often death metal-styled, low, guttural vocals, and the soloing. This last element is the most interesting one. While the music on the album is tuned low and heavy, when a solo comes around, it is of the hyperspeed, noodly version, and it's played with a guitar tone that is high and slick. This makes for a tasty contrast. The riffs and arrangements are also not the same kind of stuff you'll hear on every third black metal album. Good on Darklord for that.

However, Symphony Satanica may have been more successful as a mini album, as after about four or five songs, everything starts to sound the same, especially the solos, ironically. We're not sure if the soloist can actually play more than one solo. But he does have this totally masturbatory two-necked guitar that was made especially for him. That's pretty metal. Overall, a recommendable album.

 

 

 

 

 

DEW-SCENTED - Inwards - CD - Century Media Records

review by: Jez Andrews

Most have made the Slayer comparison by now, I would imagine. Just as they did for The Haunted's last release. But Dew-Scented have not only surpassed The Haunted in sheer weight and intensity, but they've also wiped the floor with the past 10 years of Slayer. In fact, I'll take that a step further. Despite the likes of Reign in Blood, South of Heaven and Show No Mercy being classics that I can still enjoy to this day, I got more listening pleasure out of Inwards than the three of them put together. Go ahead, sue me. This, dear readers, is the
genuine article.

Each song is just brimming with thrashy goodness, with the occasional nod towards the staccato double bass drum chops of Fear Factory. Leffe Jenson's part thrash, part death metal vocals give the whole experience a thrilling edge, and producer Andy Classen has done a cracking job of bringing each and every track to full strength. Every band member is so perfectly represented in the overall sound, without any elements of hardcore that can sometimes be found in the modern thrash scene. Slices of aggression like "Degeneration," "Blueprints of Hate" and "Reprisal" exemplify the finer points of modern metal, and it's simply incredible that after my first listening of the band ("Idolized," from a 1999 Nuclear Blast sampler), I didn't imagine that I would hear anything more of them.

Cutting to the chase, if Inwards doesn't give you the urge to turn up your stereo obscenely high and headbang maniacally, then consult your doctor. There is a sea of shit out there, thick with musical compromise and the trends that have infected metal in recent years. But there is also a lifeboat approaching, with 'Dew-Scented' written in big letters on the side...

review by: Tom Orgad

Dew Scented's latest release is a perfectly performed, well-produced, tastefully arranged thrashy death metal product. Still, I believe it comprises an indicator of a problematic, annoying, disturbing manner prevailing in the Swedish and Swedish-influenced, relatively-commercial death-oriented metal scene (Dew-Scented actually come from Germany), imparting it a rather dull and unnecessary effort.

Dew-Scented consists of a bunch of extremely crafty instrumentalists, churning string-skipping, deathy tumult combined with more thrash-stemmed riffs and at times fast picking and blast beats more typical to brutal death or even Black Metal. The rhythm section is tight and accurate, issuing complex riffs and rhythms in a flawless fashion, the singer easily achieves the required intimidation qualities, and the guitar players prove their high technical level in quite extravagant guitar solos, blending successfully with the accompanying constructed mayhem. All of the aforementioned elements are joined by the meticulously calculated production, allowing a crunchy and powerful sound, aggressive and ominous yet not over-distorted. So far, so good.

The main problem of the album, and of many in the likes of it, is revealed after the first overwhelming impression is a bit calmed, and the main part of the listener's attention is focused on the actual compositional ingredients, inducing the overall musical impression of the album. Then, the horrible yet completely unsurprising truth is discovered: this album is terribly boring. Even though some of the riffs and solos and different instrumental interludes may be allegedly original, not blatantly imitating leading bands of the genre as At the Gates or The Haunted, they express feelings of a ridiculously narrow emotional spectrum, transmitting to the listener, from the very first note, a steady drone of simple, unsophisticated shallowness. And yet, the apparent monotony within the realms of a specific album is not the main falsity here: Some bands have applied emotional monochromatics to a great use, as may be seen in the famed works of Katatonia and Agalloch, just to name a few. The problem is that most of the recent death metal bands, including Dew-Scented, do not make the slightest attempt, nor show any hints of intention towards inserting innovating or renovating elements in their musical essence. These bands keep issuing, year after year, albums with almost exactly the same specific mood, without generating any forward movement within their profound characterizing aspects (there are some superficial, aesthetic changes).

This destructive attitude is a derivative of some metal fans' numb minds. It scorns the dawn of creativity, preferring the easy, convenient choice of stagnantly sticking to an existing given approach despite having run out of messages to convey a long time ago, trusting the faithful metal sheep to support this abominable state by constantly praising the artists (and by purchasing their albums.)

I'm sure Dew Scented and any similar bands do not act the way they do as a result of malignant motives. They just follow the trend dictated by some metal industry activists and certain slices of the metal fan public. Moreover, some of the bands, as Dew-Scented, are very good at what they do, and actually don't deserve any anger turned towards them. Let us just not buy these repetitive releases, but instead settle by enjoying the great old creations of the genre, and hope for new innovative output from the current active artists.

 

 

 

 

 

DIM MAK - Intercepting Fist - CD - Olympic Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Dim Mak is the band that features three fifths of the death metal entity that was Ripping Corpse, the band in which guitarist Eric Rutan got his start. (Erik Rutan is not in this band, although he did produce this album. Do you also find that kind of weird?) This is Dim Mak's second album, which is twice as many albums as Ripping Corpse put out when it released Dreaming with the Dead in 1991. Maybe it's just me that finds it strange, but isn't it time to stop trying to sell this band based on the fact that it's related to a band that only released on album, 11 years ago? I mean, Ripping Corpse is good and all, but it's not THAT good.

I had never - ever - read anything good about Dim Mak's first album. Based solely on third party information, I can definitely say Intercepting Fist is much improved. However, it still isn't really that good. Sure, it tries to be technical and hard and brutal and angular; kind of bringing the best of the worlds of hardcore and death metal together. But the music just mainly stomps around. It's played well, but it feels like it's constantly being held back. We want it to be set loose, but it never is. It just sort of chokes, and then ends. Not much to recommend here, unfortunately.

 

 

 

 

 

DUNCAN WILDER JOHNSON - Destruct A Thon - CD - Wonderdrug

review by: Laurent Martini

Spoken word metal poetry and "highway-metal-stoner-doom-punk" music. Great. With the advent of cable, anybody can press play on a camera, film anything and have their own show on the cable access channel. And with advent of technology anybody can record anything, transfer it onto CD, put some graphics on it and have an album. Thus came Destruct-A-Thon.

First, the spoken word poetry. I always assumed that if one were to put out an album, one would want his/her best material on it. This is apparently not Johnson's belief. The six spoken word tracks (ranging from a profound two minute thesis on the word "dude" to a 16-minute long Adorno deconstruction of Ozzfest) sound as if they had been written by a 13 year old who, after much drug use, thought he was being witty and/or deep. Furthermore, the fact that in each track we hear an audience of perhaps five chuckle does not all together reassure us that Johnson is funny or worth listening to.

As for the songs. Written because he was jobless and bored of watching TV (read the liner notes written by Johnson himself) and with titles like "Nipplekabob" and "Screaming Penis Eats the Corpse," they sound like something the host of the Man Show would like (not a compliment). They are crass and lack any originality, supposedly funny because of the use of words like penis, nipple, etc. Fourth grade humour at best.

As for Johnson being called the Lenny Bruce of Hardcore, please. Self proclaimed maybe but Bruce was more talented than Johnson can ever hope to be.

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Yeah. It's pretty lame. However, as The Condor put it without having actually heard the CD (and with a half-smile): "That sounds dangerously close to being great. I mean, that's an untapped genre: stand-up comedy punk rock." And indeed it could be. But the stand up is in fact lame. We tried to like it. We didn't. However, I thought the songs (which are on every odd track) were pretty ass-kickin'. Ok, not genius, but relatively so compared to the rest of the CD. If only all the stupid spoken word stuff was buried at the end, so you could just stop the album after the songs instead of having to keep the remote in your hand at all times in order to press the "track forward" button. Not worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

EDENBRIDGE - Arcana - CD - Sensory/Lasers Edge

review by: Roberto Martinelli

If there would be such a thing as "light" metal, then Edenbridge would be it. But hang on! Don't stop reading. Yes, it's true that this band has close to zero heaviness and no aggression, but I can't help but loving this album.

The main reason for the album's success is the voice of Sabine Edelsbacher, who has the best voice I think I've ever heard from a woman in metal. Well, actually she doesn't exactly have the most suitable voice for metal, but she totally makes the approach of this band work. Anyone else, and this review would read something like "totally lame, flaccid power metal. Avoid." Instead, it's my dark horse pick of the issue. The bittersweet vocal melodies are so memorable and engaging, you'll want to hear this album over and over. It certainly helps that there is a very talented group of musicians backing her up who are able to compliment her melodies with well-placed and tasteful solos and solid rhythms.

Musically, Arcana often sounds like the equivalent of what a power metal song would sound like if it were composed for a Japanese Anime soundtrack, while at other times it sounds like what would happen if Elton John became interested in metal. Then throw in a few parts that sound Stratovarius inspired, along with a couple songs that have a Middle-Eastern flavor to them, and you've got a good idea of what to expect. I'm totally into this album. Wussy metal forever.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Aphelion (issue No 13)  

 

 

 

EXSANGUINATE - The Black Acts - CD - Crionic Mind

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Total excruciating noise terror. This album's concept focuses on painful torture and punishment, and the sounds that are represented are like the soundtrack to a holocaust. For some, it's complete tedium, uninteresting and stupid. Indeed, there isn't a whole lot of variation on this album, except the level of harsh non-music wanes and waxes. For others, it's amazing. If you like harsh noise, this is definitely a winner. If you want music, avoid.

 

 

 

 

 

FROZEN AUTUMN - The Pale Collection - CD - Eibon Records

review by: Steppenvvolf

Few albums that I have reviewed are so uncompromisingly bound to old, accepted patterns as this one by Frozen Autumn. Soothing keyboard sounds and clean computer drums lull you into the Depeche Mode universe with a voice at about the same equanimity of the original. The illusion is almost perfect, but frontman DM has yet a larger vocal range, I'd say.

Being bit more upbeat would have done the album good; if not in general then at least for a couple of songs so as to take away some of the lullaby atmosphere. Apart from that I can only conclude that Frozen autumn has recorded a recommendable CD. Only what's going to be distinguishing about their next one, I wonder?

 

 

 

 

GLOOM - Non/Organic Messiah - CD - evil_dave98@yahoo.com

review by: Steppenvvolf

This is best described as industrial in the style of Ministry. The intro, "Wiring in the Face of God," guides us with a slow, intense, dampened, but massive and violent beat into the world of Gloom, accompanied by sounds reminding remotely of noises from a submarine, a sonar, rough sirens, and again and again the intense crash of the computer drum.

I am reminded of the movie "Titanic." No, not Leo and Kate, but of the scenes in the machine room with the huge levers moving up and down in time with the giant pistons, giving the engine its heavy breath. In "Slow Motion," Gloom's breath stays back in favour of the other instruments, spherical sounds, hissing, distorted guitars and voice maelstroms. "The Crawl" describes only too well the emotions unleashed by this last track on the CD. Clear and threatening monotonous guitar riffs support a high pitched voice distorted beyond recognition and give me the vision of a tortured human creature writhing and creeping onward. Unfortunately Gloom's breath withers and dies after four tracks, spanning 20 minutes, and the world to the Non-Organic Messiah closes after it's been opened only slightly.

A funny event shall not go unmentioned: while listening to Gloom, my flat mate, alarmed by the beats, rushed to the kitchen, because he thought our washing machine had broken loose...

Very good material, but unfortunately very short. Yet at the price of 50 Norwegian Kroner, (around $6-7) definitely worth buying. Contact Dave directly by mail for more info.


 

 

 

 

GOD DETHRONED - Ravenous - CD - Metal Blade Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Look out for Holland! First the new Centurian (who is also Dutch) comes Maelstrom's way, and now we get to have a listen to the new God Dethroned. This is so great.

Stylistically, God Dethroned owes a good part of its sound from the melodic "death" stuff that Sweden pioneered. However, this is no rip-off band, as God Dethroned adds plenty of elements that make their sound clearly southwest of Gothenburg. In fact, God Dethroned take what is often called (falsely, in the minds of several Maelstrom's writers) melodic death metal, keep it melodic, but actually produce something that is clearly death, rather than power/heavy metal with gravelly, screaming vocals. Ave to that.

In terms of progression, this is probably God Dethroned's best album yet. Bloody Blasphemy, the previous one, is a very good album and a HUGE improvement over the quite boring The Grand Grimoire, which preceeded it. Ravenous is even tighter in terms of song appeal and production. There are plenty of excellent, mega-speed blast beats and very appealing fills to complement the engaging, melodic riffs and tasteful guitar solos. It seems that the band has a new drummer, credited as being a session musician. Please keep him! The album cover is a little dumb, but don't let that throw you off.

In fact, the only negative points on Ravenous come when God Dethroned try to play a slow song; "The Iconoclast Deathride" is strikes you as boring almost immediately with its overly repetitive main verse and unsuccessful laid-back tempo. The good solo near the end isn't enough to save it. Also on the negative side are the vocals, which aren't necessarily so bad, except that they convey lyrics about stuff like poisoned apples and other topics which are either so inane or just plain dumb. A completely incoherent vocal style would help a lot here.

Aside from these two relatively minor points, God Dethroned deliver a really good album that will satisfy death metal fans with a need for speed that's also got lots of music and hooks to listen to and enjoy. Overall, not as good as the new Centurian, but as its style is so different, we recommend you get both and have a great few days (at least) of listening enjoyment.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Into the Lungs of Hell (issue No 13)  

 

 

 

GOETIA - Wolfthorn - CD - Mordgrimm Records

review by: The Condor

Another winner from UK label Mordgrimm (along with the almighty Anaal Nathrakh and the yet to be heard but sure to be amazing new Old Forest), this Polish black metal band takes the traditional lo-fi/cult black metal sound and twists it around just enough to keep things interesting. Sure there's plenty of buzzing and blasting and screeching and pounding, but there are some surprises, weirdly syncopated midtempo breakdowns with stuttering drums and hiccupping rhtyhms, pounding too-high in the mix drums, hysterically squealing vocals, bizarre stop-start riffs and lots of dark atmosphere. Fans of Burzum and Darkthrone and that sort of nastiness will eat this up. Good stuff.

 

 

 

 

 

GORGASM - Bleeding Profusely - CD - Extremities

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

This in my humble opinion, hits the new Dying Fetus on the face with a shovel and buries it sixty feet under the ground. These deathsters from Chicago are back with their second grinding death metal opus. And they have Dave Culross (Malevolent Creation) filling in as a session drummer. Dave's performance is simply astounding. He is known for his ultra brutal blasting and he doesn't disappoint us here. But his playing has also developed into a highly technical style too, effortlessly changing gears for the slow parts and inundating us with loads of precise pedal work.

And the riffing is even more astounding! Guitarists Tom Tangalos and Tom Leski provide some super fast palm muted devilry to go along with the trademark of the US brutal death scene: the chugging parts that seem to have been designed specifically to rip your head right off.

The vocal attack is three-pronged with each member of the band contributing his diseased larynx to the mix. An important aspect of this band that I feel separates them from the rest is the cool melodies they manage to put into such a brutal onslaught. No, no, not some gay happy melody but a really interesting kind of lead work like on "Morbid Overgrowth."

Perhaps the only crib I have about this album is the length; it's just way too short. (11 tracks and hardly any of them reach the three-minute mark). But that is just as well I guess. Gorgasm would have maimed you for life had the album been any longer. ESSENTIAL.


 

 

 

 

GRABNEBELFÜRSTEN - Von Schemen und Trugbildern - CD - Ketzer/Beverina

review by: The Condor

I'm a huge fan of bands that do their own thing, the bands who often manage to alienate a huge chunk of prospective fans in the process. Think Benighted Leams, Necrofrost, Goat Thrower, Meads of Asphodel, Boris, Solefald, Abruptum, and on and on. Bands with a personal vision so singular that you hear it and are either transported to the unique plane they inhabit or think it's utter shit. Most of the people I played this for thought it was "goofy" and "stupid" but I have to say, this record has spent more time in my CD player lately than almost anything else.

Track one starts off with dark rumbling atmospherics sounding like a distant swarm of insects before the song erupts into a swirling wash of Emperor-ish riffing, and vocals that careen wildly from cookie monster grunting, to insane multi-octave howling to spoken word (in German of course). Track one blends seamlessly into track two, veering wildly from blazing Norwegian black metal, to grinding death metal to almost ambient doom and back again. And that's just the first ten minutes! And so it continues, blazing riffs, gorgeous melodies, blast beats and doomy bombast all underpinning maniacal spoken/sung German, while keyboards drift in and out of the mix.

About half way through the record, the piano and the vocalist take center stage, sounding remarkably like prog-metal atmospherists Devil Doll. The band relaxes while a mad German cabaret darkly unfolds, with urgently whispered vocals and soaring minor key synth washes before they rejoin and launch into a renewed metal frenzy, while the vocalist continues to wail in a semi-operatic howl, over crushing doom riffs and blurred metalscapes. Grabnebelfursten manage to take traditional sounding black metal and add just enough fucked-up-ness to make it sound new and fresh and vital. Fucking awesome.

 

 

 

 

 

HARVEY MILK - Courtesy and Good Will Toward Men - CD - tUMULt Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Harvey Milk is the band that most embodies the tUMULt label: it's not really classifiable, but it's heavy. Parts of it aren't heavy, but they still have this strong fucked up feeling to them. Basically, this album fits in on no label that largely concentrates on a specific genre. Then, the band is called Harvey Milk, who was an important gay activist in San Francisco during the '70s. What does this or the album title or cover have to do with anything? Nothing, but yet this tUMULt flavor of nothing is beautiful and crushing.

Track one starts the record off with some piano and some rhythmic pounding that gradually gets faster and then releases. This happens a few times. The music doesn't seem like it's going anywhere; it's more like we're hearing the band warm up. Then, the song gets very mellow as an acoustic guitar is played and a man with the worst range ever begins to sing. As lame as this may sound, it's the furthest thing from the truth.

The fact is that Courtesy and Good Will Toward Men is one of the heaviest albums ever. This is the case with the physical way the music moves the air around you, but also in the level of feeling that is conveyed. This album is an emotional juggernaut, for it is somewhere on track two, "Brown Water," where the entity of Harvey Milk loses its mind. From then on, the album shifts from deliberate, crushing dirges to soft, acoustic songs sung by a man with some sort of Southern accent and who sounds like he smokes way too much. There are sad songs about Eskimos as well as massive tunes with titles like "The Boy with Bosoms."

Harvey Milk the band is in fact a group of people, but it feels so much more fitting to think of it as being one person. This is because of how strong the feeling of isolation and one person's descent into detached madness is conveyed though this album. Yet somehow it avoids being morbid. I guess that's just another element that makes it so perfectly Tumult Records. The icing on the cake is the packaging itself, which may be the most beautiful of any single CD I own. It's all matte cardboard with a watermark on the back and the painting shown at left on the front. The painting is raised from the main packaging and contains gold leaf highlights. Limited to 1000, this album even smells cult. Totally stunning and unequivocally essential.

review by: Laurent Martini

Let me start off by saying that I think it's great when an artist takes a specific art form and stretches its limits to see what can happen. To break all rules and expectations and to shock the audience by playing on those expectations is the only way that any art form can advance. Without this experimentation we would not have any albums like Sgt. Pepper's..., composers like Schoenberg, artists like Diekenborn and writers like Calvino. These types of experiments have resulted in art that is either love or despised, rarely is one in between. As is with Harvey Milk's Courtesy and Good Will Towards Men. I give the band credit for playing with their art form however it did nothing for me.

The first song sounds as if it was taped by a high school garage band playing for the first time. A single note is played on a guitar about every minute or so, the drums sound like they were set up wrong, a very out of tune bass is heard sparingly and the same two notes are played on a piano...this goes on for over seven minutes. And although I did like the fact that it was hard to tell when one song ended and the other began, making the album seem like one continuous flow, I couldn't get over the fact that each "song" is over eight minutes long. There are some nice moments like when we hear the band plugging in their instruments and tuning up, giving you a feel that you're there with them in the studio, but those moments and the interludes when there is what most Westerners call music are to few and far between to make this worth while. Lou Reed however would most certainly love this.

 

 

 

 

HEAVEN SHALL BURN - Asunder - CD - Lifeforce Records

review by: Matt Smith

Heaven Shall Burn is hard to put your finger on. It's hard to tell exactly from where they draw their influences, and their sound is something unique. The vocals have more hardcore/punk influence than anything else, with so much force it sounds like every word takes a new breath of air just to get out. Unlike the vocals, the guitars sound more like black metal than anything else to me. Fast-picking drawn-out melodies the way they do makes me think of Impaled Nazarene or Marduk more than any hardcore band. But they change to more of a crunchy, death-metal sound. They go back and forth and in-between, and keep the music really interesting.

The drums are something different, too. Sometimes they're completely relentless, hitting as fast as possible in true black metal style, but sometimes they slow down to a rock-sounding beat before speeding up again and adding a couple of short but remarkable fills. But each song and style change flows seamlessly into the next, with excellent production that makes Asunder fit together and move along without error.

Heaven Shall Burn infuses each song with harsh emotion and severity, but still manage to fit in an acoustic guitar in places. I'm convinced that they could have played any metal style they wanted successfully, but no one genre was good enough. I'm thankful they opted to create such an imaginative new style, instead. Asunder is one of the most impressive releases I've heard in a long time.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Whatever It May Take (issue No 9)  

 

 

 

HIMINBJORG - Haunted Shores - CD - Red Stream Records

review by: Laurent Martini

When I heard that Himinbjorg was a French band I got excited. I had visions of Brel's mastery of words, Gainsbourgh's biting wit, Air's dream like mood music and Daft Punk's way too catchy beats. I wondered what Pagan/Viking music could be.

Well, simply put, Haunted Shores is terrible. The singer's voice amounting to nothing more than a guttural scream, and the music to a very thick drone. The entire album is just one loud note. Now I do understand that I sound like my parents right now and am reminded of Kiss's motto: if it's too loud, you're too old. But on the flip side is Weezer's motto: If it's too loud, turn it down. Listening to Himinbjorg, I have to agree with the latter.


 

 

 

 

HUMAN FORTRESS - Lord of Earth and Heaven's Heir - CD - SPV

review by: Laurent Martini

I'll be honest: I'm a little weary of anybody who wears a cloak nowadays. So upon seeing the band's picture on the album I was a tad apprehensive. Well I was wrong. Human Fortress' first album is quite enjoyable. Jioti Parcharidi's voice is great, piercing and loud, like Sebastian Bach at his best. Guitarists Torsten Wolf and Volker Trost play brilliantly off of each other. "The Dragons Lair" is simply awesome and the melodies on "Amberdawn" and "Little Flame," along with the riffs on "Damned to Bedlam" would make any band (from pop to metal) jealous.

There is unfortunately a downside. Mainly Human Fortress' love of medieval times, chants, and wood gnomes and fairies (what is up with metal bands being obsessed with anything from Willow?) The minute I began to hear the pan flute on certain tracks I knew there was a problem. And indeed it is when the band begins to focus on their love of the dark ages that the album slows to a boring halt and becomes hard to listen to. Human Fortress has a bright future ahead if they just try to stop topping Zephyr.

 

 

 

 

 

HYPOCRISY - Catch 22 - CD - Nuclear Blast Records

review by: Veit

After releasing their best-of CD, 10 Years of Chaos and Confusion, on which we had the pleasure to listen to one of the tracks of this new album, Hypocrisy seems to have changed something. I was really disappointed when I first noticed it. You can no longer call Hypocrisy's music death metal. Is it another unsuccessful attempt of a death metal band trying to change its style by making softer music? No. The voice is influenced by thrash metal (very similar to Kreator), especially the guitars, although you still find the very deep riffs for which Hypocrisy is known. The demonic atmospheric elements found on previous works have almost disappeared. And that is the main criticism! At first, this CD seems to be run-of-the-mill thrash metal. But if you aren't deterred from that you will enjoy finding the typical scary parts. So I will still continue listening to figure out if I like this CD or not. Will it be for months?

 

 

 

 

 

ICED EARTH - Dark Genesis - CD - Century Media Records

review by: Jez Andrews

This was a very nice surprise. A 5-disc box set from the power metal kings. Their earlier material was completely uncharted territory for me, so I naturally leapt at the chance to give this stuff a listen.

One thing that particularly interested me about this collection was the inclusion of Enter the Realm, a CD containing the band's original demo recording. True, it doesn't have that big Iced Earth sound that has become so essential, nor would anyone expect it to. An enjoyable set of tunes, with a definite leaning towards the late 80's thrash of Exodus, Testament, Dark Angel, Megadeth, etc.

The eponymous 1991 debut album is yet again very thrashy in nature. The vocals of Gene Adam come in on the title track in a peculiarly black metal fashion. The overall feel of the music is more akin to the Iced Earth of today, especially with the improved drum sound and riffing style.

Night of the Stormrider is a different matter altogether. It's more the total power metal that Iced Earth are now known for, and quality power metal it is too. The likes of "Desert Rain," "Pure Evil" and "Travel in Stygian" are some of the album's finer moments. The Jon Schaffer chugga-chug guitar crunch is being brought out well in the mix, giving some real strength to the tunes.

Burnt Offerings seemed to me like a turning point for the band. The recruitment of vocalist Matthew Barlow (current Iced Earth) was truly inspired. The music reached new heights. It was a fantastic album to listen to, each track having its own punch and finesse. From "Burnt Offerings" to "Dante's Inferno," it must have become clear to the world that Iced Earth were of the power metal elite by the time this bastard was released. The sound was stronger than ever, and it has continued to improve in recent times, thanks to latter-day Deicide producer Jim Morris.

There is also the Tribute to the Godz that completes the set, featuring covers of the some of the band's heroes. Here I found the third cover of Iron Maiden's 'Hallowed Be Thy Name' (the other two of course being Steel Prophet and Cradle Of Filth, and doubtless there are others I haven't yet heard). This was probably the most solid sounding of the three, though I would still rate Cradle's as the most worthy. The rendition of "Number of the Beast," however, was somewhat flat. Some nice covers of AC/DC, Kiss, Blue Oyster Cult and Black Sabbath, but the crowning moments on the disc, to my mind, were Judas Priest's "Screaming for Vengeance" and a delightful blast through "Dead Babies" by Alice Cooper.

Iced Earth. It just gets better and better.

review by: Roberto Martinelli

I'm totally impressed by this compilation as well. Not only do you get one sweet package with totally redone artwork (the old stuff is included too) and a big, bodacious A4 sized box with slipcase, but you get what is perhaps the best re-mastering job ever. Seriously. In fact, I wonder if some of the stuff wasn't snuck in there in the studio while re-mastering. Night of the Stormrider has got bits and nuances that sound totally new to me. (if only they could have re-mastered out the singer on Iced Earth. My rant ends.) Whatever the explanation (who cares, really?) this is so essential for Iced Earth fans.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Horror Show (issue No 6)  

 

 

 

IMMORTAL - Sons of Northern Darkness - CD - Nuclear Blast Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Immortal has taken the best bits of their previous album, Damned in Black, and given us fans everything that last album was supposed to be. Don't get me wrong, I totally love Damned in Black, but I do remember feeling disappointed by it the first time I heard it. Following such an essential album like At the Heart of Winter, which was huge and epic, Damned in Black just felt rushed somehow.

In fact, Sons of Northern Darkness, while maybe not being overall as great as At the Heart of Winter, nor having riffs as individually fantastic as Damned in Black, is nonetheless the best of the both worlds of the last two albums. While it's true that there is a slight taste of riff recycle, this album is ultimately so totally satisfying that there is no question that this is destined to be one of the top metal albums this year.

What you get, in the "new," post-Demonaz age of Immortal, is a proper album, one that lasts an hour and that is chock full of songs with loads of different parts. As usual, Abbath and Horgh show that they can write the best riffs in black metal. (Well, ok, admittedly Immortal isn't totally the full-on, pioneering, "true" black metal band it used to be, but the new incarnation is just as great.) You still get the right amounts of burst of speed, matched with a fine flair for arrangements and dynamics, including the unique "clean" guitar tone first introduced on the quintessential song "Blashyrkh" seven years ago. Abbath's vocals aren't as raw as before. It seems that his most brutal stuff may have ended with At the Heart..., but nonetheless he is in fine form and is still eminently recognizeable.

Unfortunately you won't be getting a review of any real objectivity here. Sorry about that, because Immortal is indirectly one of the reasons this zine even exists. When one of my favorite bands ever releases yet another totally great album, all I can say is, get your ass to a record store and buy a copy! Get one for all your friends, too. (and check out our interview with Immortal in this issue!)

 

 

 

 

 

JAG PANZER - Ample Destruction (reissue) - CD - Maelstrom Zine

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This is a reissue of the album that started Jag Panzer's career back in 1984. It's funny how that the band could make such a totally great power metal album like this, then either not release anything or just make crappy albums for the next 13 years until The Age of Mastery.

Yeah, Ample Destruction is very good. It features Harry Conklin's greatest amounts of unabashed power metal vocals with killer highs. The solos and songs are great, too. It's Jag Panzer before Jag Panzer tried to be the most interesting power metal band on the planet and just played kick-ass melodic metal, so you're going to get more adrenaline-fueled music with a higher concentration of fist-pumpability, which is both good and not so good. The lyrics can get pretty cheesy at times, like: "I am a man who has no mercy for the weak!" (backup singers: "No mer-cy! No mer-cy!") But it's cheese in a true metal kind of way, so it's acceptable. This one is hard to find, and it's definitely worth hunting for.

 

Related reviews:
 
Mechanized Warfare (issue No 5)  
Decade of the Nail-Spiked Bat (issue No 16)  

 

 

 

JUDAS ISCARIOT - To Embrace the Corpses Bleeding - CD - Red Stream Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This is the new era of Judas Iscariot, a new era in which primary member Akhenaten realizes that his skills aren't good enough to continue having a band in which he is the sole member. So, as it was for the band's previous album, Dethroned, Conquered and Forgotten, Akhenaten has once again asked his friend Duane Timlin to play drums.

There is a definite clique within the already miniscule US black metal scene: Krieg, Judas Iscariot, Weltmacht, Sarcophagus and to some extent, Forest of Impaled. All these bands share the same members. In the case of the first three, the members are the same. Thus, the music in all three indeed has traits in common. In the case of Judas Iscariot, which used to play generally slow to mid-paced black metal, the material greatly relies on blast beats.

This approach worked well on the mini CD, Dethroned, Conquered and Forgotten. That album evoked the purest of black metal emotions through its production, composition and delivery. The same seems to have been the goal on To Embrace the Corpses Bleeding, but it falls short. For the first few songs, at least, the material keeps the listeners attention. It's not the absolute best stuff, but it's good. So, also is the rest of the album, and so the same could be said about any other three songs on the disk were these songs to be re-arranged to be the first three tracks. However, the material doesn't feel as urgent for some reason. It seems like Judas Iscariot is running a bit through the motions of being evil black metal.

To Embrace the Corpses Bleeding is good, but nothing will really make a black metal fan go "wow." Still, I know one Judas Iscariot fan who is all excited by this album, but also one who thinks it's weak. Ironically, the song that sticks out the most, not only due to it's stylistic difference from the rest of the album but also due to its energy, is "Spectral Dance of the Macabre," which is the most simple and straightforward, black metal meets punk tune. Aside from this , Judas Iscariot tries to stick with the haphazardly arranged, amorpheously blasting tune, and it gets old after a while. Also, Akhenaten's new, lower vocal style isn't as good.

It's ironic: Judas Iscariot is so much tighter, but not as interesting. The band would probably benefit from returning to the slower composition style of Heaven in Flames, or at least writing songs that are originally slow, and then playing them at hyper speed like on Dethroned, Conquered and Forgotten.

 

Related reviews:
 
Dethroned, Conquered and Forgotten (issue No 1)  
Moonlight Butchery (issue No 10)  
Of Great Eternity (issue No 10)  

 

 

 

KNUT - Untitled - CD - Hydrahead Records

review by: Matt Smith

This is some intense hardcore. Crazy yelling, every beat being accented by something, and so much discord among the guitars that I could imagine my ears bleeding to it if I turned my stereo all the way up or ever saw Knut live. The thing I like most about their style is how all the instruments meet up at unexpected time, giving the music a sense of urgency and makes me nod my head a little deeper. This album's production may not be perfectly polished, but it is perfectly appropriate. Everything seems to be at the right levels and fits together suitably.

But sometimes Knut seems like they're giving too much. They remain at almost the same level of intensity throughout, and I get tired just from listening to it. Another thing that hurts this album's listenability is the range where everything falls. The treble range of my ears is completely exhausted, and I'm sure they'd be ringing if I played it any louder. But I think that's probably what the members of Knut had in mind from the beginning. I'm sure their vision is of something earsplitting and severely brutal. If this is the case, they have achieved it, I'm sure.

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The above description that Matt gave is pretty right on the money, except the part about it being too ear-splitting. I find that aspect to be one of the primary things that I like about this all too short Knut EP. Then again, maybe 14 minutes is the perfect length for something that screams at you with supreme intensity, always driving and driving, never letting up. The music is pounding and so enjoyably obnoxious in its extremity. This material is superior to the already good Bastardizer album the band put out four years ago. I want more!

 

Related reviews:
 
Challenger (issue No 9)  

 

 

 

KREATOR - Violent Revolution - CD - SPV/Steamhammer

review by: Steppenvvolf

Two bits of news on Kreator: with Violent revolution the band has stylistically returned to the "old" Kreator. The bad news is, that it is exactly the same style.

Pretending as if the album Renewal never existed, Kreator has reverted to the early '90s thrash style that once heaved the band to its cult status. Mille still shrouds his lack of talent in singing with noisy cries and makes it all the more original. The guitars pace along as in Coma of Souls and, no doubt, together with Mille's angry barks, Kreator can definitely make a claim to the thrash metal throne again. This album rocks!

Since there's nothing much new to tell about the music, it's more instructive to take a closer look at the lyrics. Mille, being the unconquered master of un-reconciled, anti-establishment teenager metal lyrics, has again found succinct words to bring the ills of the world to the fore. This is something I find especially remarkable, since I never deemed it possible to yet find more ulcers in society that Kreator had not yet uncovered. Lyrics like: "Society has failed to tolerate me - and I have failed to tolerate society " are so blunt, that I wish I had not read them, but yet the album fucking rocks so much and does set another hallmark in the thrash universe. My neighbours hate this album - teach yours to hate it too.

 

 

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Live Kreation (issue No 14)  

 

 

 

KRIEG - Destruction Ritual - CD - Red Stream Records

review by: ~Vargscarr~

This album may well be the definition of extreme. Chaotic guitar - as much present for its randomly churning ambient atmosphere as for any semblance of structured musical expression - combines perfectly with the unrelenting skin-beating of session drummer Duane Timlin to provide the necessary musical foliage for the flying, rending, shrieking spirit of Lord Imperial to uproot and viciously explode asunder as he haunts his personal forest of hatred. His vocals are almost unique in their tortured entreaties and threatening malignance, for although bearing more than just the occasional hint of Burzum's lost, forgotten, sad spirit; the lyrics are for the most part perfectly audible and delivered in what is very much his own style.

The material on this album is not all new - five tracks are rerecorded versions of the music from Krieg's first release, The Church; and later on we're also presented with a new version of "A Crumbling Shrine" to name the most notable examples. Still, these new versions are sufficiently different (and more importantly superior) as to be more than worth owning for Krieg devotees.

As with all Krieg releases, each is utterly different from the last (disregarding The Church, since Destruction Ritual treats that MCD almost as a demo for its own music); and where Rise of the Imperial Hordes is notable for its use of movie clips; subsequent recordings made use of classical samples and monkish choirs to add a new dimension of atmosphere to the Chaos Metal that is Krieg's trademark. Personally, I miss those elements, which are almost entirely lacking on this album, though there are a couple of choice clips which provide occasional breaks in the mayhem. However, despite feeling The Church didn't work anything like as well without those interludes, Destruction Ritual is brutal enough to pull it off, and succeeds in creating an album of Black Metal hatred based on chaos alone, untempered and unrelenting. Just listen to the drumming - if you thought the two session musicians on The Church were inhuman, you'll be forced to picture Timlin as some kind of hideous, multi-limbed Lovecraftian nightmare. Best Black Metal release from the US since Krieg's last one.


 

 

 

 

KRISTALLNACHT/ SEIGNEUR VOLAND/ BLESSED BY SIN - Split - CD - Warspirit/Semen & Blood

review by: ~Eternus~

Three politically incorrect French bands joined together on one three-way split CD. With the exception of Kristallnacht, (whom previously I`d heard a rather lame keyboard dominated demo of) I had never heard the other two bands until this CD.

The CD starts with Kristallnacht doing a rather short but interesting intro with some keyboards and some church bells clanginng away. Then, the first track kicks in and it's noticeably better than the demo material... Gone are the dominating and pointless keyboards of the past- (pointless in that they added no atmosphere or particular highlight to the music) and replaced with, well, just fast, hateful, rawish black metal. Vocals are of the more growly/shouty nature. Kristallnacht still don't do much for me though, which is a shame. Maybe the next release will stand out more.

Blessed in Sin then follow on with their one track contribution which, like Kristallnacht, is just fast simplistic black metal. However, they fare slightly better in that they add some keyboards that *do* succeed in creating an atmosphere of majesty but also kind of a medieval feeling. The vocals are somewhat dubious and they chop and change between the harsh black metal type to a clean, almost spoken type thick with a French accent. It sounds kind of strange but not too offputting. I look forward to hearing more by Blessed in sin.

Seigneur Voland makes up the last part of the CD with very distant guitars and vocals that are high pitched and sharp but only just enough to seem to cut through all that guitar noise. It works, though, and sounds primitive and hateful, which after all is what I'm attracted to. Seigneur Voland add three tracks, all of which pass right by me without really attracting any interest. Yes, they are hateful, but they sound just like any other hateful underground band. The final track is a live cover of the Beherit classic, "The Gate of Nanna," done faithfully. The slow, grinding riffs remind me just how much old Beherit is missed. Beherit were masters at creating cold, creepy, anti-social, evil riffs, and I'm pleased to see that they have been given the respect they are due.

 

 

 

 

LAMONT - Population: 3 - CD - Wonderdrug

review by: Laurent Martini

The Ramones made playing only the same three chords famous. The Sex Pistols made not knowing how to play their instruments famous. Blink 182 made a certain taqueria in San Diego famous. Judging by the vast difference between these three bands, one can see that punk is a musical style that can span a wide array of sound. However, Lamont would not fit in any of these categories. Are they punk? Read "Lipstick Traces" and the answer is clearly no. If you could care less about music and pop culture theory, then perhaps they are. To me Lamont is a cross between Dick Dale and The Reverend Horton Heat with heavy distortion and if that's your thing then you'll love this band.

Population: 3 would've made a great EP but as an LP it's too much. The Ramones could take the above-mentioned three chords and stretch it into an almost 30-year career but Lamont can barely stretch it past the fourth song. The album at first is repetitive and bland, not sounding any different than any of the other punk clones heard on MTV or the radio. The highlight is Pete's voice. Sounding like he's smoked for too long and drank too much JD, Pete's raspy deep vocals make some at times questionable lyrics sound cool.

The album gets better at the end as the band begins to experiment with licks and some great solos. "King Contrary Man" especially has some amazing guitar work. "Hammer" is by far the best song on the album and "Falling Down," with its intro being just laughter, closes the album with drummer's Bucky best pounding rhythm.

 

 

 

 

LEVIATHAN - Howl Mockery at the Cross - Cassette - Wrest, 404 Ashbury St. #2, San Francisco, CA 94117

review by: Roberto Maritnelli

We're thinking about changing the name of this zine from "Maelstrom" to "Maelstrom presents: Leviathan," we've reviewed so many of this project's albums. This is the one-man project's twelfth release in about two years. If you haven't already, please check out our back issues to read the other reviews of this most cult and essential black metal machine.

Luckily the previous album, Intolerance (Eleven), was only a bit of a fluke in its mediocrity relative to Leviathan's other albums. Wrest has got his project not only back on track, but charging ahead with even more dark conviction and separation between songs. The result is Leviathan's best album yet, even better than last year's Seven + Slaveship, which made this writer's top albums of 2001 list.

Howl Mockery at the Cross can effectively be split up into two sides, side fast and side slow. The two sides work perfectly not only separately, but more importantly, as two halves that play off and complement each other. Wrest is blasting more and more, while breaking it up with even more evil bits of slow. Now, he's adding different sound effects to the parts in his songs. Take for example my new favorite Leviathan song, "Lycanthropus Rex." The song starts with a sinister, frantic, buzzing riff. Leviathan is one of the few bands that have ever raised the hair on the back of my neck with their total evil. The song eventually breaks into a hollow yet warm, tunneling riff. Several fantastic parts later, a sound clip of a snarling dog is thrown in to add even more atmosphere.

Along with even further mastery of the four-track recording practice (you won't believe it's true), Leviathan's music is developing more nuances both in terms of construction and melody. It's nothing short of awesome how many different vocal and instrument effects Wrest manages to throw in with only the equipment he possesses in his apartment. "King of Province Glacial" features one of the best new Leviathan guitar tones: as clips of shattering ice and dripping water plays in the background, the tone of undistorted, echoing and celestial guitar (sort of having that same mysticism that some of the music from "Twin Peaks") plays before one of Wrest's signature folky riffs. The song eventually moves into more familiar, heavy and warm buzzing territory.

The crypt vocals have never sounded better, and neither have the quintessential, towering black ambient slow pieces that spice up this album. The evil of Leviathan is only augmented due to how cult it is, and vice versa. This absolutely kills 95 percent of the black metal out there. Stop at nothing to get this.


 

Related reviews:
 
Misanthropic Necro Blasphemy (issue No 3)  
Shadow of No Light (issue No 3)  
Seven + Slaveship (issue No 5)  
Nine (Inclement Derision) (issue No 5)  
Ten (issue No 6)  
Intolerance (Eleven) (issue No 7)  
White Devil, Black Metal (issue No 8)  
The Tenth SubLevel of Suicide (issue No 11)  
Verräter (issue No 11)  

 

 

 

LEVIATHAN - White Devil, Black Metal - Cassette - Wrest, 404 Ashbury St. #2, San Francisco, CA 94117

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Did I say my favorite Leviathan song was Lycanthropus Rex? Well, in what seems like the five minutes or so since the release of the last Leviathan, a new song has won my black heart. "Requiem for a Turd World" is an eight and a half minute glory ride through the black dimension of Leviathan. It features lengthy melody lines, ever increasingly maniacal blasting, and those irreplaceable crypt vox. The best part of the song is when Wrest screams "white devil, black metal!" That has got to be the best fucking title I've heard in a long time. I still smile when I think about it.

However, we'd have to say the absolute best moment on the CD comes into the very Gorgoroth-influenced song, "Carrion," which not only features some of Leviathan's most infectious riffs yet, but has a section in which Wrest actually sings! He's technically not very good (well, neither is Pest from Gorgoroth), but the result is so purely great, and the end result is that it's nothing short of perfect. It makes us feel proud and metal just to hear it.

White Devil, Black Metal marks Leviathan's first experimentation with acoustic guitar. It's pretty well done, but unfortunately is of the plug-in variety (there was no alternative available), so it only sounds mostly acoustic. Still, it's a good and very promising start in this direction.

White Devil, Black Metal (I'll never get tired of that) is mostly new material, with a few of the songs being re-recorded from older albums. Therefore, while some of the songs are the best individual work yet, the clear album to beat remains Howl Mockery at the Cross. Being nit-picky, the vocals on White Devil, Black Metal are a bit too fuzzed out and high, making most everything sound almost exactly the same. A totally small price to pay. Write Wrest and order the whole enchilada. Tell him Maelstrom sent you.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Misanthropic Necro Blasphemy (issue No 3)  
Shadow of No Light (issue No 3)  
Seven + Slaveship (issue No 5)  
Nine (Inclement Derision) (issue No 5)  
Ten (issue No 6)  
Intolerance (Eleven) (issue No 7)  
Howl Mockery at the Cross (issue No 8)  
The Tenth SubLevel of Suicide (issue No 11)  
Verräter (issue No 11)  

 

 

 

LIBIDO SPACE DIMENSION - Libido Space Dimension - CD - Gyokumon

review by: Roberto Martinelli

I don't find the Japanese flavor of stupidity amusing anymore. I used to. I guess having lived in Japan for three years ruined the whole aura and charm of wacky pop culture that Westerners (who generally enjoy Japan from far away from the actual country) find endearing about Japan. Having to experience it on a daily, inescapable basis pretty much dashed the appeal.

Yeah, Libido Space Dimension is really dumb. Retarded, in fact. So some people may like it. The music on the album is predominately stoner rock. It's not doomy, though. It's much more in the vein of hippie, silly stoner stuff with a song or a part that sounds like the idiot version of Jimi Hendrix. The made in Japan element really comes through with the particular flavor of stupid-fun randomness with which the songs are laid out and played.

And then there's the last song, which is about 25 minutes long. The song shifts inexplicably from slow, pretty annoying techno music to a windy, ambient section with monastic chants. Then, the song ends with five minutes or so of a simple bass line repeated into oblivion with minimal accompaniment. The result is so pointless, random, and, well, Japanese.

Technically, Libido Space Dimension plays pretty well, but the vocals are quite annoying: very high and way too much flange. Again, don't look to this for the crushing sounds that can be found on work by excellent Japanese bands like Corrupted or Boris. Think instead of rather cliché, bluesy stoner riff signatures, the kind that would fit right in on a mock documentary about how hilarious the '70s were. I don't get it anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

LOCK UP - Hate Breeds Suffering - CD - Nuclear Blast Records

review by: Jez Andrews

Lock Up seemed like an intriguing combination from day 1. Put together members of Napalm Death, Dimmu Borgir, and Hypocrisy (though vocalist Peter Tagtgren was soon to be replaced by ex-At The Gates/The Crown frontman Tomas Lindberg), and there are bound to be some impressive results. With this, their second album, the thrashy grindcore mob deliver the goods with tremendous ferocity.

Hate Breeds Suffering is perfectly executed. You can try and pick holes in this one until you're blue in the face, but the fact remains that this is about as true, as real, and as honest as they come. Nick Barker's drumming is dazzling as ever, and the heavyweight riffing of Jesse Pintado flawlessly compliments the firey basslines of Shane Embury.

Sixteen tracks of raging metal, clocking in at under 30 minutes. Something of a rush? You might well say so, but this album doesn't contain a single moment of weakness. Having been the brainchild of Embury and Pintado, I couldn't go without a Napalm Death comparison. Though Napalm are without a doubt one of the most blistering live acts I've ever witnessed, I would have to say that Lock Up have the edge on the recording front.

It's tight, relentless, angry as fuck, and about as delicate and subtle as a chainsaw evisceration. The idea behind this project was a hatred of the trendy nu-metal scene of today, and a desire to bring back some real old-school metal. Well, they've done that, and a lot more besides.

I would like to make an apology to the Maelstrom readers. There was supposed to be a featured interview with Shane Embury, but due to the retarded nature of yours truly, the conversation wasn't recorded.

 

 

 

 

LORD WIND - Rites of the Valkyries - CD - No Colours Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Some of us at Maelstrom are way into Lord Wind's previous album, Heralds of Fight. It's sort of like the alternate soundtrack to the movie "Conan the Barbarian," done entirely on keyboards. While the new album, Rites of the Valkyries, is largely the same type of thing, it really pales in comparison with its predecessor.

The main problem is that the tracks all sound the same. You have to wonder why. Certainly, the tracks, which are all instrumental, were cut from the same cloth on Heralds of Fight, but they stood out after you heard the album a couple of times. Not here. Also, it seems as if Rob Darken (most notably known from his main project, Graveland) isn't using as many sounds as he did before. That's a shame.

It also hurts that in lieu of voices, Darken is using voice-y sounding keyboard tones. Again, this worked ok before, but it really puts Lord Wind's material in a weak position on this one. While nothing has really changed stylistically, the lack of proud, stirring melodies and interesting mélange of percussive sounds and keyboard tones makes this one a passer.

 

 

 

 

LUNGORTHIN - Prophecy of Eternal Winter - CD - Folter

review by: The Condor

This German band spews forth a competent but not entirely original mix of brutal/primitive black metal and Dimmu Borgir-style bombast. Not to say that there aren't moments on Prophecy of Eternal Winter deserving of praise, because there are. It just happens that all of those moments are moments from other records I already own.

Black metal, more than a lot of genres, seems to suffer from the whole "sound before song" thing, with all the focus going into the necro/primitive/buzzing/whatever sound regardless of whether the riffs are good or the parts are catchy. Don't get me wrong, I do love the "sound" of black metal and I could listen to Burzum clones and Darkthrone clones all day, just wallowing in the buzzing hypnotic guitars and the relentlessly mesmerizing blast beats. But sometimes that's not enough.

The most notable thing about Prophecy of Eternal Winter is the artwork in the CD booklet: dark blue tinted mountainscapes and wolves and desolate rocky outcroppings, with the bizarre addition of a tiny spread-eagled naked woman, superimposed, apparently randomly, over the text/scenery on last page of the booklet!

 

 

 

 

MÄGO DE OZ - Finis Tierra - CD - Locomotive Music

review by: ~Eternus~

Thanks to listening to a British-based online radio station called Totalrock (www.totalrock.com) I got introduced to this band after a track called "Satania" was played. I loved it from the very first listen; Catchy-power metal mixed with riverdance???...have I gone quite mad?!.. (well, that's still in debate!) I just love the combination of power metal with the Irish "jiggyness." Vocals are really great and among the very best in the power metal genre that I've heard, with the added uniqueness that they are all performed in Spanish. The guitars are played with some great skill and feature truly great riffs and solos. The violin and fiddle are what makes the band, though. There are also some woodwind instruments in there.

This is a double CD, with the second disk continuing in the same style as the first. The only problem being that once you've heard one track you've really heard them all, which is a pity as *had* this been just one CD with some more variation, Mago De Oz would have been one of my favourite power metal bands, (along with Rhapsody, Nightwish and Lost Horizon). Nevertheless, Mago De Oz are a more-than capable band and I await a follow-up album, hopefully with more variation.

Just what is it with the disturbing/odd artwork though!? Very, very strange. I spotted a man getting a hand-job from a happy looking woman in the woods with a witch playing a violin, hovering above them, and don't get me started on the penis fish! *Shudders*

 

 

 

 

 

MEATKNIFE - Bloodblister - CD - www.meatknife.de

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

This is some sick downtuned shit from the bowels of the German underground scene. Fans of Mortician will lap this up like a pack of hungry dogs feeding on a pile of steaming pig entrails. Hell, they have even covered a Mortician song on this, "Slaughterhouse." If you like your grind with a tinge of technicality then stay the hell away from this. But if all you want is some sludgy grind that just oozes gore from every pore, then Meatknife is what you are looking for.

The guitars have a real sludgy sound like old Autopsy and though the riffs are pretty basic, they do nail some cool grooves here and there. The drumming is tight and I like the fact that they haven't overdone the blast beats. Vocals are pure pitchshifted sickness. Recommended for all the extreme gore fetishists.

 

 

 

 

MENZA - Life After Death - CD - Maelstrom Zine

review by: Laurent Martini

(This is Nick Menza, the former drummer for Megadeth, solo record. - Roberto)

Nick Menza not only plays every instrument on Life After Deth but also recorded, produced and mixed the entire album all by himself.

Congratulations to Nick as that puts him in very high and rare company (McCartney did the same for his first solo album.) Now what about the music? Well the album has a few hits but too many misses to be truly worth anybody's time because Nick Menza's strength, his ability to write and play everything and do everything else by himself is also his downfall.

There is a reason that artists have producers, mixers and managers, it's to keep their ego in check and to also be that extra voice that can sometimes solve a problem or make a great recommendation. Arguably the Beatles would not have done so much if they hadn't been pushed by George Martin or AC/DC by Mutt Lange.

Menza gets too full of himself on with his own absolute power and that's when Life after Deth suffers the most. The songs begin to drag on or become too full in the sense that there are too many elements in them, extra licks, double tracked vocals etc... that deter the attention from the music itself. Furthermore, the album becomes littered with pseudo-political rants that really make no sense as on "Heaven's Gate," "One Nation" and "RU486."

I think it's great that Nick Menza is as talented as he is but unfortunately in trying to do it all, the music gets left behind.

 

 

 

 

 

MIDNIGHT SUN - Metal Machine - CD - SPV

review by: Laurent Martini

"It certainly requires a healthy portion of self-confidence to call the opening track of one's new album 'We Are The Metal Gods,'" claims the Midnight Sun press release. Yes, it does, friends, especially when your song sucks. Let's just focus on this song for now...

We begin with sounds of rain, wind, distant thunder, church bells, and an organ. This brilliantly followed by Gregorian chants singing god knows what in Latin. A synthesizer begins to play the same ominous descending scale over and over again. A guitar joins in with an equally ominous riff. The bass drum is punishing...What's that in the background? A gong! Luckily we are only one minute and two seconds into the song. What more can Midnight Sun throw at us in the remaining three minutes...Catch your breath, friends, for the Metal Gods are just toying with us. In store for us is:
- More synthesizer reminiscent of Europe's "Final Countdown"
- More chants
- Two, yes two, "Bohemian Rhapsody"-like opera breaks
- The fist pumping chorus: "we are metal gods in the metal world, in glory we praise your name. Though fire and ice we will keep up their advice, protected from the deadly reign" (or "rain", who knows what the hell they are talking about.)

Other album highlights include:
- More inane lyrics
- Much too lengthy songs
- Self-grandizing solos

 

 

 

 

MUSIC OF THE GAMBUH THEATRE - MUSIC OF THE GAMBUH THEATRE - CD - Maelstrom Zine

review by: Laurent Martini

Reading the extensive liner notes to the Music Of The Gambuh Theatre album, the best way to summarize what Gambuh Theatre is, is to say that it is Bali's version of Kabuki Theatre. The album is a collection of songs that the Gambuh Ensemble of the Butnan Village Temple would play to go along with a performance. The music, as with any Western film or musical, is there to highlight, emphasize and emote what is happening on stage. Thus it is hard to begin to analyze this music as it is missing a very important visual element (try listening to any film score without the film and you'll see that it's a bit disjointed at times.)

The music of the Gambuh Ensemble's patterns and rhythms are quite unlike anything that I usually listen to, yet it is able to convey a feeling that is hard to quantify of a world most of us know only through documentaries or the Discovery channel.

This is a very good album (said of course with the inability to compare it with anything else in the genre, so maybe to a connoisseur this sucks); like Air or The Firemen, it's definitely something that is great to put on as background music.

 

 

 

 

NARGAROTH - Rasluka Pt. II - CD - No Colours Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Nargaroth had set the bar for itself so very high. Consider the utter godliness of all three of Nargaroth's CD albums (as well as the not quite as good Fuck Off Nowadays Black Metal - gotta love that title - and the Orke demos.) So, while this is a really good black metal album, as far as Nargaroth albums go, it's just ok.

The best part of this 4-track MCD are the flutes that begin and end the first song (which is spread out over two tracks), "In stillem Gedenken/...und ich sah Sonn' nimmer heben.". The wall of noise, fuzzed out guitar intro is equally awesome. Then, things go noticeably downhill as Nargaroth launches into this melody that sounds...almost happy. Unthinkable. Actually, the riff sounds a lot like the vocal melody on the verse to Candlemass' "Mourner's Lament." The song does have some cool riffs, but it doesn't have that totally brutal, yet somehow delicate melancholic power that previous Nargaroth stuff has. Kanwulf's vocals are still awesome, but not quite as good as before.

At some points Rasluka Pt.II gets alarmingly silly. The last song, "...vom freien Willen einen schwarzen Einhorns," seems to be a tribute to AC/DC's original frontman, Bon Scott. The song begins with a sound clip collage of radio reports of Bon Scott's death, and finishes with what is supposedly Kanwulf talking about Scott in German. Some soft female vocal is heard. Strange, but not necessarily cool.

Nargaroth has never had a lineup as big as this, three members, on any recordings up until now. We could come up with all sorts of silly theories why this new album isn't as good, like Kanwulf has lost his hateful edge, or there are too many people in Nargaroth. Whatever, Kanwulf did say in his interview with Maelstrom that Nargaroth would be different each time. As it stands as an album, Rasluka Pt. II is certainly a mixed bag, but overall it's worth getting, especially if you're a Nargaroth nut.

 

Related reviews:
 
Black Metal ist Krieg (issue No 4)  

 

 

 

NECROPHAGIST - Onset of Putrefaction - CD - www.necrophagist.de

review by: Roberto Martinelli

In the annals of death metal, Necrophagist may be the most cult of all. Here's how we come to this conclusion: Not only does Onset of Putrefaction contain jaw-dropping, perfectly played technical death metal with ripping solos and Deicide-like vocals, but it's all done by one guy in Germany. It's nothing short of wonderful.

Imagine what would happen if someone of the caliber of Trey Azagthoth played solo for 40 miniutes, and you'll start to have an idea of what to expect. Throughout the album's eight songs, the listener is assaulted with a barrage of super catchy, technical riffs, which are placed around solos played with wizard-like skill. The whole was recorded with no gain on the guitar (as attested to by Necrophagist mastermind M. Suiçmez, who is interviewed in this issue), allowing every note and nuance to be heard clearly. While this may not yield the heaviest sonic result, the music is so brutal and well-executed as to not make you notice.

While some may be initially turned off by the presence of a drum machine, this is truly an afterthought. The focus here is how amazingly well Suiçmez can play all the instruments. Hell, even the obsessive-compulsive way in which the drum machine is programmed into oblivion, with heaps of different fills, is reason for wondrous admiration in itself. You just get this image of a complete lunatic in his apartment, grinning madly, punching away tirelessly at his drum machine, looking up periodically to cackle before resuming his task. One hundred percent essential to every metal fan.


 

 

 

 

OLD MAN GLOOM - Seminar II - CD - Tortuga

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The first of two simultaneously released, companion albums, Seminar II is clearly the best of the two. Practically, it's because it's broken up into 16 tracks. More on my little rant about this in the Seminar III review. But more importantly, the album mixes up angst-out noise/hardcore with awesome, beautiful ambient dronings and chuggings to perfection.

The hardcore elements are the first to be presented on the disk. Hardcore? Metalcore? Noisecore? What can you call it? If you've heard Isis, you'll have an idea what to expect. It's heavy, slow, pounding, aggressive music with anguished screams on top. The melodies aren't really that, being noisy, deliberate notes. However, these apparently un-melodic elements are constructed in a way that gives the songs a strong sense of such in the end. The noise element is most present in this style on the song "Bells Dark above Our Heads," which lapses into a well-done feedback manipulation section to end the song. The other "hard" tunes work superbly as well, and grow on you more and more as you listen again and again.

What makes the album truly a stunning work is the inclusion of relaxing, yet still huge, ambient pieces. Old Man Gloom is one of the many musical projects in which Aaron Turner has a hand in. Turner was interviewed in issue #7 of Maelstrom about his drone project, House of Low Culture. The chugging elements found on that album find their way in on Seminar II, like on the tracks "Jaws of the Lion" and "Three Ring Ocean Sideshow." If you can see the album cover that pictures a blue washed photo of a rock face to the left of this review, you can get a great idea of what effect the ambient compositions on this album sound like: huge, relaxing, somewhat otherwordly. It's sort of like appreciating the awe of a stark yet gorgeous view of nature. The dynamism that results from the dynamism of the two aforementioned perfectly executed elements makes this one album that you totally need.

 

 

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Seminar III (issue No 8)  

 

 

 

OLD MAN GLOOM - Seminar III - CD - Tortuga

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Seminar III is the companion album to Seminar II, and to make that point clear, the albums were released simultaneously. See, if you turn the albums over and put them together you can read "OMG." Oooh.

Focusing on the stuff that really matters, Seminar III delivers music that pretty much sums up the kind of stuff talked about in the review of Seminar II, except that the extremes of both the hardcore stuff and the ambient/drone stuff are not reached. This is finally not to the album's detriment, as the listening experience succeeds more on a passive level. Seminar III consists of one, big, 30-minute track. The track progresses deliberately and explores five or so melodic themes before its end. Also included is some wacky, long clip about giant, monster apes. Odd.

Here lies my biggest complaint about this album and those like it that consist of single, extended tracks: please break the one track down into smaller ones. We understand and respect the artists' intention of making the album a piece of music to be listened to all at once, but you can still do that and have multiple tracks. This is especially the case on an album like Seminar III that has clear breaks or changes that would be great places to give the listener an opportunity to stop, make some toast, and come back. Luckily, some people have CD players that remember where you left off.

Aside from layout issues, Seminar III is very worth listening to, at least. In fact, it takes about four listens for it to really grow on you. It may not be as good as Seminar II, but I doubt anyone who listens and likes that will be able to resist completing the second half of this companion release. Good stuff.

 

 

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Seminar II (issue No 8)  

 

 

 

ONWARD - Reawaken - CD - Century Media Records

review by: Jez Andrews

I guarantee, if this album had been released twenty odd years ago, it would've been an all-time classic. But let's face it, the same could be said for the works of Concerto Moon (and no, that's not a compliment).

This stuff is very old-school metal, with occasional modern power metal pretensions. Personally, the only way I can enjoy Onward is by imagining that it did actually come out twenty odd years ago. There's talent there, no doubt about that, but with the likes of Iced Earth, Lost Horizon, and Rhapsody in the running, Onward don't rank too highly as a power metal act.

I like some of the ideas on Reawaken, but there is something about Michael Grant's voice that grates on my nerves. There are parts of this album that project strength, but they just don't last long enough. Just when I think I've found a real stand-out track, it seems to weaken. The cover of "Clockwork Toy" by Loudness just sounds plain fucking terrible. There is, however, light at the end of the tunnel. The 2-part "The Next Triumph" that ends the album is actually a nice piece of work. But once again, those fucking annoying vocals have to throw a spanner in the works. Re-record this thing with some more weight, better arrangements, and Ronnie James Dio on vocals, and high praise would be theirs.

 

 

 

 

 

PIG DESTROYER - Prowler in the Yard - CD - Relapse Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Whoa, I think I like grindcore now. I'd always pretty much relegated the style to "the punk equivalent of the metal genre," but Pig Destroyer has changed all that.

It's remarkable to see that a three-man band, a band in which one of the members doesn't play any instruments, is able to be this great. The only instruments here are one guitar and a drum kit. What's then even more remarkable is how you notice that Pig Destroyer's music doesn't sound all that different from any similar bands that have bass guitars. That's because the guitar has all the bass the band needs.

Being bass-less makes everything better, in the end. Liam thinks this allows the drums to be heard more clearly, and we can all be thankful for that. Holy shit, this is some intense pounding assault, made all the more potent by the frightening speed and absolute tightness it's played in tandem with the guitar, and the super production.

Prowler in the Yard works from the get-go with an engagingly sick and bizarre monologue about two girls wrestling, but spoken by a Speak and Spell (remember those?). The result is unsettling in a way that draws you in and makes you shamelessly want more. The chillingly, inexplicably bizarre end to the tale comes on the last track. The rest of the album, while being actually 22 songs, is brilliantly laid out to sound more like one continuous work of grind, so even those who think 20 second songs are a waste of time can enjoy this.

Total intense music that'll make you proud to rage along with, rhythms that'll infect their way into your mind, mad vocals, a bunch of fucking excellent parts toward the end that focus on eerie noise, and (another rarity as far as this reviewer is concerned) creative lyrics that are actually interesting to read while pondering their sick, random yet totally cohesive nature. Like I need to tell you that this is recommended.


 

 

 

 

PIG DESTROYER/ GNOB - Split - CD - Robodog

review by: Roberto Martinelli

More madness from Pig Destroyer. If you're like me, you have to own everything by this band. This material is pretty on par with the Prowler in the Yard stuff, but the production falls very short of the level of perfection on the Relapse album. Still, it's great, and there are some marvelously twisted and deprecating lyrics, like on "Rejection Fetish."

Gnob is weird and strangely delivered insanity that's in it's own way interesting, but ultimately stupid and lame. It's like a melody aneurism that was composed by a retarded person. There's also a bonkers version of that chim-chimeney song from "Mary Poppins." The production is crap in a not very good way: muffled and not brutal at all. The kung-fu clips are always welcome. Overall only really worth getting for Pig Destroyer nuts.

 

 

 

 

 

POWERS COURT - Nine Kinds of Hell - CD - Dragonheart

review by: Roberto Martinelli

You gotta love this album. Ok, it's not exactly a terribly great album song-wise, but it's pretty cool. Power's Court is a three-piece fronted by Danie Powers, who also plays all the guitars. What makes this so great is that Powers is the real deal: she's a rabid metaller who just happens to be a woman, too. I hate it when women are in metal bands primarily to act as window dressing, or in a reprehensible attempt to give the band some T&A appeal. Yech. If I want fantasy T&A, I'll rent a porno.

Powers is a really good singer, and a pretty good guitar player, too. She is without a doubt totally metal in both categories. That's what carries Nine Kinds of Hell. However, the songs could offer more, as the riffs aren't the strongest, and the music itself doesn't have as much lasting appeal. However, this is a band that ought to be supported and encouraged, so maybe you should check Nine Kinds of Hell out.

 

 

 

 

RAWHEAD REXX - Rawhead Rexx - CD - AFM Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This American power metal album may sound appealing to an enthusiast of the genre at first, with the good, clear and heavy production and rough, high vocals, but leaving the CD on for a while reveals that none of the songs on Rawhead Rexx are really anything special. The music feels very linear and one-dimensional, and is really an album you would only listen to in passing.

Rawhead Rexx also comes with a CD-ROM video clip. I'm not sure if the atrocious, drawn out intro that I believe is supposed to simulate the action on the album cover (some terribly drawn monster ripping its own heart out) is supposed to also be considered a bonus.

 

 

 

 

 

REGURGITATE - Carnivorous Erection - CD - Relapse Records

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

Still disconsolate over the fact that Carcass took up residence in homoville during the later stages of their career? Fret no more, 'coz Regurgitate are back. Back to console you with an album that will satisfy your goregrind withdrawal symptoms to its fullest.

This album contains 38 tracks of quality gore grind. This has virtually been playing non-stop in my player ever since I received it. The sound is massive, the violence hits you in the face and leaves you gasping for breath. The guitars sound dirty without being excessively so and the distorted bass tone just adds to the juiciness of it all. Songs like "Fecal Freak" and "Parade of the Decapitated Midgets" make you mosh like a madman. The drumming is maniacal...insane blasting and total murder of the hi-hat.

And I haven't even mentioned the vocals yet! Putrid inhuman gurgling that sounds like battery acid is being forced down his throat. There are also some guest vocals by a Nasum member on offer. The songs are all very short, (Rather obviously, since there are 38 of them!) and each one of them makes you want to smash your neighbour's head in. Check out the drumming in "Dismantle The Afterbirth": where were Regurgitated hiding all this while?? Favorite track? All 38 of them!

 

 

 

 

RHAPSODY - Rain of a Thousand Flames - CD - SPV

review by: Jez Andrews

To hell with convention, a 42-minute CD is not what I'd call a 'mini-album.' Okay, now that I've got that off my chest, down to business.

Rhapsody have done it again. The Italian power metal giants have produced a truly awesome cocktail of atmosphere, exquisite beauty, and firey, theatrical metal at its best. In fact, remove the frankly embarrassing "Tears of a Dying Angel," and it's just perfection from start to finish. Both opener "Rain of a Thousand Flames" and the utterly incredible "Queen of the Dark Horizons" will have the hair flying in all directions, and more than a few air guitars, I'll warrant. Alex Holzwarth's drumming is a display of excellence the like of which is rarely to be seen this side of extreme metal, and Luca Turilli naturally pulls out all the stops with the superb lead guitar tracks and song arrangements (with the help of keyboard player Alex Staropoli). The production is simply gorgeous, and at last, the thundering double bass drum blasts, though still very effective on the past three albums, are now given the presence they richly deserve.

"Elnor's Magic Valley" is a short, folky instrumental that just makes you want to break out a barrel of wine and perform a celebratory jig. The whole thing is just such a wonderful listen, that one can only imagine the fresh magnificence will be unleashed with the new album, later this month.

Makes you proud to be a metaller, it really does. This I would call an essential release, so get your hands on a copy, before I lose my temper! And as for the individuals responsible for this gem, get yourselves over to merry old England, if only for one show.

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Even I'm into this record, and I don't even like Rhapsody. Finally, this band has made an album with a production befitting a metal record. Before, like on Dawn of Victory the sound was too manicured, kind of like the whole thing was mixed on a Macintosh computer, but now it's great. What's also great is how there are so many different types of songs on here, and they all are cool. One song is totally obnoxious but awesome power metal, and another song isn't metal or obnoxious at all. There's even a prog sounding song. What's not so great, however, is how Rhapsody persists in using that awful, awful guy to do their "metal" narrations. You know, the guy from Dawn of Victory: "At the c-c-c-c-c-c-ourt of k-k-k-ing c-c-c-c-haos..." ARGH! He sounds like a profoundly constipated, wussy non-native English speaker with a cold. It was so lame before. Now, it's just like that, except his monologue goes on for minutes!!! Someone get a clue!

 

 

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Power of the Dragonflame (issue No 9)  

 

 

 

RISING FORCE - Birth of the Sun - CD - Powerline

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Powerline has released the demo tapes of Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force from 1982. Certainly the material is rough compared to the manicured production of albums like Alchemy, but the sound is remarkably good. These aren't shit recordings. Rather, you'll get what's, in a sense, the best Malmsteen material available in terms of being pure metal tunes. The singer is sub-par by Malmsteen standards, and there are no keyboards at all. Also, the songs tend to be quite long and, truthfully, wander quite a bit. But it's fun to get lost with these tunes. This record is recommended, but mainly for those who feel that Malmsteen is one of the great metal masters of all time.

 

 

 

 

 

ROOT - Black Seal - CD - Redblack

review by: Laurent Martini

Listening to Root is like having your face pounded against a brick wall...and liking it. The music is absolutely awesome. There is a thickness to their sound that just makes your headphones almost explode. Igor and Evil, bass and drums respectively, keep up a heightened pace, while Blackie and Ashok, both on guitar, have a sound that is purely distinctive. Just as one can easily pick out Jimmy Page or Brian May's sound, so it is for this duo. The downside however is singer's Big Boss' voice. Deep and thick as well, it just doesn't sound right with the music. A contrasting higher pitched vocal style would have fit better with the heavy and vicious sound the band produces. I spent the entire album listening and enjoying that sound while trying desperately to ignore the vocals. However I would recommend Black Seal first to aspiring or experienced guitar players for the incredible riffs or to those who think that they might enjoy deep, guttural vocals.

review by: Roberto Martinelli

How can you be so dead on by saying that Root is a godly band, but be so dead wrong by saying that Big Boss sucks? No way. Big Boss is the man. In fact, he's never sounded better. While he's always been a pleasure to listen to (in equal parts silliness and talent) on previous albums, Big Boss has improved his delivery to fully take care of the massive talents that he is fortunate to have. His tremendously powerful bellowing is mixed up with irrepressibly stirring melody lines delivered with such proud conviction. It's true that Big Boss' voice can strike the listener as being kind of corny sometimes, but I like fuck-it-all-I'm-doing-it-anyway styled corniness. It's honest. It's metal. And when Big Boss does these totally whacked out, stupid voices, they come across as totally awesome.

I couldn't agree with Laurent more about the review of the music. Root has released one massively brilliant heavy metal album. It should appeal to all metal fans, from those who prefer melodic power metal to "true" metal buffs to enthusiasts of black metal. The only negative aspect of this album is the 10-minute long part on the last song where the chorus is repeated unaccompanied, over and over again. Not really a problem as you can just press stop. It's really almost ridiculous to mention when you consider what makes this album so great: such massive riffs, such godly soloing, such great harmonies, such a perfect rhythm section, and, perhaps most importantly, such an inimitable singer. Black Seal is the best album Root has done, and is guaranteed to be in my top 10 albums of 2002.

 

 

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Kärgeras/ Hell Symphony (reissue) (issue No 7)  

 

 

 

SECRETS OF THE MOON - Stronghold of the Inviolables - CD - Cicatrix/Red Stream

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Ok, what we've got here is some darkwave/industrial techno music. Well, it's pretty good for what it is: pretty good in the ominous department. I can imagine goth vampires strutting around to it.

But hang on...it was just an intro. Stronghold of the Inviolables is in fact a pretty damn good necro black metal album. Whew. Now I can stop trying to be open-minded to whatever kind of music that was before.

Yup, Secrets of the Moon have made a totally fun and enjoyable black metal album. (I use the word "fun" with the utmost respect.) There are tons of great melodic, remarkable black metal riffs to keep the listener interested. The songs are laid-out as to never get boring thanks to the arrangements, the tightness of the playing, and the way the music subsides into creepy, slow parts before building back up into necro blasts. Way cool. What makes the whole formula work even better is how well the intentionally poor production is done, making the instruments sound ideally black metal. It's just right. It's shit, but it's great because of it. Fans of cult black metal will be very pleased with this German band.

 

 

 

 

 

SIX ORGANS OF ADMITTANCE - Dark Noontide - CD - Holy Mountain

review by: Roberto Martinelli

File this along with Leviathan in the "absolute wizardry with a four-track" drawer. The two guys who made the music on this album prove that you don't need a super production and Blind Guardian-amounts of recording tracks to produce an exquisite piece of work.

Although we just compared Six Organs of Admittance to Leviathan, please understand that we were only talking about the choice of recording tools. The comparison ends there. Leviathan is one of the best black metal projects out there, while Six Organs of Admittance have absolutely nothing to do with metal. Dark Noontide is an album of acoustic instruments, with about a third of the tracks featuring vocals of the laid-back, sleepy kind. The acoustic playing ranges from mellow picking, to Spanish guitar signatures (the extended instrumental ""Khidr and the Fountain" is my favorite), to having a Middle-Eastern flavor. It's all very cool and totally well-done. These elements put together fairly regularly give the album a hippie-like feel. We get images of a small group of liberal American people in the '60s, being really into the Hindu religion way up in the woods. This is especially conveyed by the doped-up, we love everything feel the vocals often take on. This doesn't make the CD suck by any means, but some may be turned off by it.

As if it all wasn't great enough, Dark Noontide also features some passages of ambient drone/noise that are very successful. Very much an album worth looking into.

 

 

 

 

 

SKINLESS - Foreshadowing Our Demise - CD - Relapse Records

review by: Abhishek Chatterjee

"Sit back, slip on your absorbent undergarments and let the mayhem begin." So proclaims the intro to the opening title song. Well, I did just that, and very soon found myself wishing I had brought along an extra pair of absorbent undergarments.

Skinless bludgeons your ass to death with some brutal yet catchy death metal. The production is excellent and the guitars sound so thick and meaty during the chugging parts that you actually feel an invisible force clamp around your head, forcing you to bob your head up and down in time with the music. Some may call this generic, but when you are writing songs as good as this, who the hell cares?

Each song on this album is a masterpiece. The riffing sometimes reminds me of Cryptopsy in the way it switches between high-speed tremolo picking and the slower chugging sections. Perhaps the best example of this is the song "Salvage What's Left." The drumming is really fluid: slowing down at the right moments, resuming with the blasts at the drop of a hat and always coming up with some interesting fills between the riffs.

"Enslavement" is one of my favorite songs on this album, and is in my opinion a great example of quality death metal song writing. The way it builds up from a slow start to the ferocious blasting at the latter stages, it just oozes class. Cannot recommend this highly enough.

 

Related reviews:
 
From Sacrifice to Survival (issue No 14)  

 

 

 

SKULLVIEW - The Price of Failure - CD - Maelstrom Zine

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This American power metal band is going for a rough and raw sound, and sounds like a mix between old Helloween, The Lord Weird Slough Feg, and a little bit of Manowar thrown in too. The vocals are also rough (with some faux high singing often found in the background) but there is neither much talent nor much likeability about them. While Skullview isn't awful, there's nothing very compelling about them. Maybe those who are really into proud and cheesy American-style power metal will have some fun with this.

 

 

 

 

 

SKYLARK - The Princess' Day - CD - Underground Symphony

review by: Jez Andrews

Italy. Home to the heavy hitting gothic metal of Lacuna Coil, the atmospheric blackness of Opera IX, and the larger-than-life symphonies of Rhapsody. Home also, to power metallers Skylark. Having a discography dating back to their The Horizon andThe Storm EP in 1995, they are a band that has only now been brought to my attention.

The Princess' Day is one of those albums that require a good few listens in order that I might identify both virtues and faults. Kicking off with the title track, it's very evident that it is the drums that rule the roost, with vocals that remind me somehow of Sonata Arctica and Insania. Indeed, those of you familiar with the works of Insania will doubtless notice a few other similarities in the sound. The drums and keyboards clearly taking a front seat, with the lively chug-chug of the rhythm guitar buried in the mix. It's a shame, because there are some very nice ideas scattered about, that simply need more weight behind them. This is particularly true of "Journey Through Fire," though the glorious lead solo (compliments of Fabrizio 'Pota' Romani) comes slicing wonderfully through the layers of instruments, and goes some way towards making up for it.

The lyrics are utterly abysmal, especially when stood next to those that run alongside Rhapsody's Algalord Chronicles, but luckily they do not affect the merits of the music to any great extent.

Well, it isn't what I would call essential power metal listening, but to give credit where credit's due, Skylark have nonetheless done a fine job, and nobody can take that away from them.

 

 

 

 

 

SOILWORK - Natural Born Chaos - CD - Nuclear Blast Records

review by: Matt Smith

Disclaimer: The only album I have of Soilwork's is Steelbath Suicide, so my comparisons may be a bit outdated, but Natural Born Chaos is a big step (well, three steps, but [refer to disclaimer]...). The production, instrumentation, and vocal styles have improved by leaps and bounds. Even Bjorn "Speed" Strid's English has gotten noticeably better (though the lyrics sound kind of like an angst-ridden teen's diary).

The songs are more structured, with more fills and bridges breaking up any looming monotony. The biggest improvement I detected was in the vocals. Where Steelbath Suicide was all Strid's forceful yelling in the foreground, Natural Born Chaos layers the lyrics more and includes some great melodic lines in the choruses.

The rest of the production for Natural Born Chaos is equally impressive, and the songs are well-ordered and lead into one another nicely. Soilwork's sound is clear and clean, displaying their musical abilities and making Natural Born Chaos a very listenable album.

review by: Tom Orgad

As may be seen on many of Swedish death metal releases in the last few years, this scene had taken an obvious commercial turn. Many of the spearhead bands of the genre, which had always been relatively approachable compared to some of its contemporaries, had substantially leaped, by tingeing their recent creation with aesthetical and structural elements, renewing the so far known attributed inventory of the scene.

This change is rarely actually necessary for essential musical expression purposes. More often than not, these bands cast themselves with the dubious robe of "maturity" or "progression" in order to (mostly unsuccessfully) hide their excessive aim of financial profitable interests. Instead of attempting to generate a true artistic profession, they choose the mundane, self-indulgent one.

Considering this process, adjoined by their prior release, Soilwork's recent album comprises quite a small surprise. As could be easily prophesied according to the obvious evolvement in the Swedish Metal scene, this band, which based their career on fulfilling the potential bound within a flourishing trend by producing, when established, a high-quality product of the already famed and followed Gothenburg-oriented Metal, has made this time a giant step, not to say dive, towards the popular pseudo-Metal musical territories.

The change in Soilwork's approach is nearly total. They don't teeter on the edge here (perhaps this stage could be traced on their previous release); they unregrettably plunge into the depths of the horrifying pop-metal limbo. Most of the songs on the album feature an absolute MTV- adjusted pop/rock structure, while the death metal elements, in the shape of some vocal shouts and growls, as well as deathy musical phrases, are only imbedded within the overall mainstream construction, which lacks any of the true dynamics, turbulence, and structural tension that would characterize truly essential death metal. Soilwork have completely strayed off the underground path, lamely trying to maintain the disintegrating memory of it in the shape of allegedly violent outbursts.

Furthermore, another defect is yet to be mentioned. The band doesn't only incorporate an increasing dosage of commerciality in their music; they also don't do it very well. Like some progressive rock bands trying to play pop (Best example that comes to mind is the latter era of Gentle Giant), it seems Soilwork hasn't yet mastered their new earthly occupation. Most of the clean vocal parts present boring, stalled, unnecessary worn melodic ideas in a mediocre way. The degradation doesn't only appear on the conceptual level, but also in the implementing one.

Still, Soilwork must be praised for the actual quality of their still-existing metal presentation: I believe that the band's playing is their strongest and tightest to date. The separate aggressive musical segments are very well done: some of the twin guitar work and rhythmic ideas reach brilliance at times, and the guitar solos are creative, interesting and furiously technical. Nevertheless, I don't find these positive features compensating for the overall approach taken on the album.

Also, yet another certain kind comfort might still be made available for Soilwork fans: the band had never deserved to be taken very seriously, hadn't it? It did supply us with numerous pieces of binding, enjoyable melodic aggression. Still, I believe that their work had always been inclined to be a source entertainment and fun, more than thorough, meaningful art. Therefore, there isn't too much to grieve when the band issues a definitely commercial, entertainment-oriented effort. One can say they have just gone a bit further this time.

Overall, if you aren't too bothered by the popular ideas and failing performance of some of them, this might be a nice invigorating feature for long, drowsy car rides. Not much more than that.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Figure Number Five (issue No 13)  

 

 

 

STARS OF THE LID - The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid - CD - Kranky Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This beautifully packaged 2CD set is composed of some of the most beautiful, melancholic drone music ever. The secret to this band's success is the use of melody and the choice of instruments. Much of the sound is generated by sustained tones from piano and violin, for example, while the presence of melody makes each piece distinct from the rest while still retaining that dense sound that is so wonderful about the drone genre. The rest of the sonic field is made up of gorgeously sustained, reverberating electric tones and notes, notes that sound heavenly and sad. Try to imagine witnessing the huge, shimmering sheets of color of the aurora borealis while standing alone and safe on the shore of the Arctic Ocean, and you'll get an idea of the kind of feeling this music will instill in you.

In addition to the floating experience provided by the soothing sounds, subtle sound clips like the little whimper of a dog or the clinking of glasses are presented between tracks and greatly add to the feeling of sweet melancholy. Forlorn embellishments, like what sounds like a gently creaking porch door, provide even more layers to the audial cake.

If you've heard and enjoyed the blissful sounds of Black Tape for a Blue Girl's Remnants of a Deeper Purity, but could do without the goth angle and REALLY hated the awful goth vocals, then you're going to flip over this one. The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid is aptly named, as it makes you feel almost painfully melancholic in your exhausted lethargy, but in a way that somehow liberates you. I can't get enough. Easily one of my favorite albums of 2001.

 

 

 

 

 

SUMMONING - Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame - CD - Napalm Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Summoning couldn't resist releasing another album inspired by Tolkien. I thought they had given up on that after devoting something like 80 percent of their previous material to that author. However, we can all understand the band wanting to cash in on the release of "The Lord of the Rings" movie.

On Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame, Summoning presents largely what they have been doing on their albums since they kicked out their human drummer and started using a drum machine: keyboard heavy "medieval" music that really goes for the atmospheric angle. It fits into the black metal world because a) the vocals are windy and raspy, and b) because the members of Summoning have connections to the band Abigor.

Honestly, I've never seen the appeal of Summoning. I've tried. I keep reading how great this stuff is, but to me it's just so hokey and annoying for the most part. That is, until now. Sure, Summoning still sounds like the a silly mixture of movie soundtrack and Playstation role-playing game music, but this time it works all the way through. In fact, I seem to be becoming addicted to this album the more I listen to it.

The themes manage to achieve a level of grip on the listener despite the inherent cheese. If you just leave all your self-conscious issues at the door of your room, you can put your foot up on your bed and pretend you're a mighty warrior standing at the edge of a craggy cliff as you overlook a mystical medieval village, with your sword in hand, the wind blowing through your long hair. It works.

The music is primarily made up of melodic themes that are meant to be stirring. The keyboards are made to sound like horns and other brass instruments that are meant to sound like they are heralding something terribly medievally important. Buzzing guitars, plodding, sort of Renaissance-faire drums and forever repeated vocal clips like "In the darkness…..find them" fill the music out. The windy, raspy black metal vocals have thankfully been replaced by a more solid, lower register. I still can stand Summoning's earlier albums only in selected bits, but I love listening to this one all the way through. But only after I lock the door to my room.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Lost Tales (issue No 13)  

 

 

 

THY PRIMORDIAL - The Crowning Carnage - CD - Blackend

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Having been greatly disappointed by the direction that Thy Primordial had taken on their last album, The Heresy of an Age of Reason (review in issue #1), in which the band almost entirely abandoned the sweeping, epic melodies of their first two, godly albums and went more for a straightforward, almost death metal attack, I was expecting more of the same. And, indeed, while the music on The Crowning Carnage more so than not resembles the style on The Heresy..., the result is way better.

Thy Primordial has enlisted the services of one of the prolific Tatgren family - in this case Tommy - to handle the production, which is the band's fullest and technically best yet. It really augments the go-for-the-jugular approach that Thy Primordial has been focusing on since the style change. However, it seems that the band has slightly altered course and reverted a bit to using the kind of hooks found on their more melodic records. The result is an album that brings together the new and the old in equal parts. The album may blow by at first, but repeated listens reveal a lot of really cool riffs, like on "Icon Retribution" and "Subterranean Carnality."

Thy Primordial is to be respected for not ever having a member change over the course of its five CD history, although the band is now a four-piece, with original guitarist N. Nilsson having left the band to go to school (as detailed in the interview with Thy Primordial in issue #5). Drummer Morth may not have learned any new tricks since the beginning of this band's career, but he's super solid. Vocalist Isidor's days of sounding like a possessed duck seem to be over, and he's sticking with a lower register. There is much less emphasis on harmonies in the new Thy Primordial, which is still my biggest complaint. However, Thy Primordial 2.0 is growing on me fast. Glad I don't have to cross this band of my favorites list.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
The Heresy of an Age of Reason (issue No 1)  

 

 

 

TOLKKI, TIMO - Hymn to Life - CD - Nuclear Blast Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

I like Stratovarius. A lot. There, I've said it. All my metal friends think Stratovarius is "gay" and make fun of me endlessly, and I accept that. So, even coming from a Stratovarius fan, I have to say that this latest solo album from Stratovarius leader and guitarist Timo Tolkki is truly awful.

A quick look at the dorky album cover and a scan of the song titles ("Now I Understand," "Are You the One?," "Fresh Blue Waters," "It's Xmas Morning") leads one to believe that this is a positive album. And the first half largely is. The first seven or so songs are straight up '80s pop tunes that borrow airs from songs of the period that were never any good ever, and infuses a bit of heaviness into them. The songs are sung by a singer who isn't particularly adept at what he does, either. Themes center around non-religious spirituality and the loss of innocence, amongst others.

When track eight, "Father," arrives, things reach their most dire. This song is made up primarily of what are supposed to be anguished, tuneless vocals that don't match the music at all. The voice is primarily screaming at his father, and talks about suicide attempts and brutality. Then, a sad spoken voice talks about how much he resents his dead father, but that he still loves him. It might be moving if it weren't so thoroughly embarrassing.

"It's Xmas Morning" is really a laundry list of depressing stuff about the world, sung constantly in the kind of melody that a non-musician would come up with if asked to sing whatever words were coming out of his mouth at the time. "Dear God" is almost as bad, and features clumsy lyrics like "did you fuck things up?" presented in a would-be soft pop song.

The last track, "Hymn to Life," is an 11 1/2 minute song that features an old recording of a British man who really gets worked up about telling soldiers not to let themselves be treated as cattle and cannon fodder (I swear I've heard this same voice on a Gathering CD). The song ends with a simple piano melody. Of all the stuff on Hymn to Life, this one works the best as it actually leaves you with a depressed and haunting feeling, but that still doesn't make it any good.

This album is billed as Tolkki's introspective and expressive album, one that comes from the heart. It's not easy to say things like this, but perhaps Tolkki should get these issues out with a paid professional, rather than ask unsuspecting fans of his regular band to pay for this album.

 

 

 

 

 

WATCHMAKER - Kill.Crush.Destroy - CD - Wonderdrug

review by: The Condor

Hmm. Watchmaker? Not such an apt name for a huge and heavy and nasty almost-metal band, but the album title, Kill.Crush.Destroy., is right on the money. Huge, relentless pummeling noise rock reminiscent of Jesus Lizard and Dazzling Killmen, but upped a notch with black metal riffing, unbelievably ferocious drumming and the howling roar of vocalist Brian Livoti.

This band does those dynamic 'loud/soft' bands one better by just playing loud, sustaining the sort of intensity most bands can only summon once or twice a song. You know that part in a song where everything, guitars, drums, bass, vocals, are all at a fever pitch, roaring and building tension, and everything threatens to breakdown mercifully (and finally) into a quiet or melodic part? Well, somehow, outside of a few purposefully rhythmic and atmospheric bits, Watchmaker manage to explode into that point the second the song begins, and they stay there until the song ends, never letting up, just stretching and stretching, pulling and pulling, threatening to split your skull, from ear to ear. Nice.

 

 

 

 

 

WILT - Wither - CD - Crionic Mind

review by: Roberto Martinelli

I can see the ad now: a freshly cut bouquet of flowers is placed in front of a stereo with Wither in it. "Play" is pressed and the flowers wilt before your eyes. This scenario isn't far-fetched, as Wilt's CD of harsh noise could do this.

As is largely the case with the genre known as noise, the sounds on Wither are very caustic. Unfortunately, what they're not is original or interesting. Fans of this genre should take these words with a grain of salt, as I admit that I am no connoisseur. However, what little I have heard has been enough for me to recognize the exact same elements on this album that I've heard on others.

You'll get one track of scratchness. Then, a track of scratchiness with some machine noises in the background. Then, a track of what sounds like angry bees. None of it is musical, and the way it unfolds strikes even the dilletante as being predictable. Again, it's become clear that just straight up noise is not one of my favorite genres, so maybe this is totally great for the style. For what it is, Wither achieves, but I can't see the need for more than one version of this album in your collection, even if you're a noise fan.

 

 

 

 

 

WOLF - Black Wings - CD - No Fashion Records

review by: Roberto Martinelli

The follow up to this Swedish band's debut, the self-titled Wolf, is largely disappointing. However, that is mostly the case only if you are familiar (and liked) the stuff on the first album.

Wolf's debut was one of my absolute favorite albums of 2000 (please check out the review and interview with the band in issue #1). It was like re-living what I liked best about Iron Maiden, the band that actively got me into metal. It was rough, melodic, epic, catchy, memorable... all the things that work for a heavy metal band. While Wolf sounds fresh and honest, Black Wings sounds contrived.

The new one is largely cut from the same cloth, but it's like Wolf is overcompensating for being a heavy metal band by being too metal. It sounds like the band was really going for a heavier and darker production, but the result is mostly just unpleasantly loud, somehow. The vocals of Niklas Olsson still reach that mid-range high that was almost always present on the first record, but here too the vocals sound like they're trying to be rougher and tougher than is necessary.

The main culprit here is simply that the songs just aren't as good. None really endear themselves to the listener until track eight, "Genocide," on which Wolf goes for a more straight up rock approach.

Again, objectively, if you have never heard Wolf, Black Wings may strike you as pretty good. In all honesty, it actually isn't too bad. It's just that the bar was raised so high by Wolf that fans won't help but feel let down.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Wolf (issue No 1)  

 

 

 

WOLF'S WINTER - Nordal - CD - Christhunt

review by: ~Eternus~

No time for intros here! Nordal jumps straight into black metal. The first riff reminds me of Destruction; very thrashy and pretty killer. The vocals are recorded quite high in the mix, making the CD have a rather "tinny" sound. The vocals themselves are nothing spectacular but certainly suit the music. The guitars are reasonably raw but never primitive, which is a shame - as I think had this album been faster, the vocals been more evil and inhuman and the guitars given a rawer, primitive bite this could have been an amazing album.

review by: The Condor

While this record is not bad - not at all - it had the sad distinction of being last in a big pile of black metal listening, which unfortunately dulled any of the sharp edges there may have been before and became just a black metal blur. Raw German black metal with everything that entails: necro production, buzzing and blazing guitars, rumbling ribcage-rattling bass, blasting drums and demonic howling. Lots of cool parts and great riffs and a few really amazing songs. Definitely recommended. I imagine in a few days I'll come back to this one and LOVE it. Check it out.

 

 

 

 

 

ZA FRÛMI - Tach - CD - Waerloga Records

review by: The Condor

The first Za Frûmi was brilliant: dark and twisted, creepy and otherworldly; with plenty of orcish scuffles, violent sounding battles and arduous treks through dark forests filled with wild beasts and mysterious dangers. The new Za Frûmi sounds like Yanni or Kitaro; like the orcs gathered up all the fairies and pixies and elves and had themselves a little renaissance faire. Barely any orc interactions, just lots of super gay flutes and synthesizer melodies. Sounds like it could be a piece by John Tesh called "Dance of the Orcs." WAY disappointing.

review by: Steppenvvolf

Za Frûmi's patrons have been waiting eagerly for their new album. For those who don't know: Za Frûmi has been devoted to telling with its music the life and wants of orcs, who are all named and characterized in the accompanying album booklet. One example of the seven character descriptions is of Uglakh: "A huge and imposing uruk, the great orc leader's features are set with grim determination and undeniable authority. He towers over his clansmen, and they respect his leadership."

Seventeen tracks accompany the orcs after their journey to the South and the flight from the vampire Ismael (detailed in the debut album) to the shaman Shakapon, who tells them to find three bones: one from a cave, one from an ancient lake and one from a ruined city. The dialogues are in Orcish (a language that can actually be spoken by now, because it was assembled from Tolkien's books and added to a full command of words), but is only restricted to a couple of sentences per track, which should already emphasize the necessity of the music bridging the gap, and catching the emotions and moods as the characters go on their quest. This use of the word "should" already gives the cue for a whole stack of critiques of this album.

Unlike the first album, Za Frûmi uses almost solely uses cheap synthie-sounds that strongly remind of the 70s heyday of MIDI. One can really feel how the keyboard keys are being hit to elicit those *Program 0815 Tone bank* flute sounds, which sometimes come over as a modern day fun-fair; sometimes as middle-ages sideshow minstrel fiddling.

Sometimes Za Frûmi falls back to use drumming sequences that I last must have heard when playing "Giana Sisters" on my good old Commodore 64. A definite must-hear is the track "Alokh's Vision." It made me think of the dumb-smiling Camel Cigarette camel walking in its ludicrous gait on clouds in company with Dr.Snuggles on his flying machine. (what the fuck? J- Roberto) Whereas, what I was meant to imagine was the orcs in front of a magic mirror with each of them having his own vision. Of all the characters, Yagul's vision is probably closest to mine: he dreams of being offered huge magical mushrooms. I wonder if "magical" is only a typo error and should read "magic" instead...

I would like to add that despite the keyboard, the compositions themselves are good - but I can't. Take "Alba Fashat" (the elven village): it's meant to describe how the orcs are "severly outnumbered by elves, deciding to pass in silence." The elves fire some warning shots. Za Frûmi decides to underline the situation with the happy minstrel sounds and pushes on with its sort of restless easy listening ear stroking.

Uh, yes, and before I forget to mention: "Tach was recorded in lots of woods, lakes, rivers, caves and a castle in Sweden during 2001." I wonder where the samples to those places are hiding on the CD.

Sorry Za Frumi, but this album is crap. I have seldom been disappointed by an album as much as I am with this one. Please record chapter three, but take your time and do it according to your skills.

review by: Roberto Martinelli

I can't help but agree with The Condor's opinion. Za Frûmi's first album, Za Shum Ushatar Uglakh (review and interview in issue #3), succeeded due to the fact the sounds didn't seem like they were produced by a synthesizer; no cheap keyboard tones like those that are found on a lot of those Cold Meat Industry projects. Also, the appeal of the sheer ludicrousness of an album entirely in Orc was irresistible. While the formula is still the same on Tach, the instrument sounds from the first one must have been lost, or something. This in turn has seemingly also washed away the aura of mystery and culthood that the first has in bushels. Za Frûmi is inherently silly, but while the first album was triumphantly so, the new one falls short. Still, the element of interest through the storyline is present, and I am left wanting to know how the tale continues after the album's sudden, dangling plot twist.

 

 

Related reviews:
 
Za Shum Ushatar Uglakh (issue No 3)  
Legends Act 1 (issue No 13)  

 

 

 

ZORN - Schwarz Metall - CD - Last Episode

review by: The Condor

Not sure what it is that makes one black metal band stand out from another, when both seem to be spewing the same vile and primitve death fuzz, buzzing guitars and howling demonic shrieks, furious blast beats and downtuned riffs. But there is something. And it's not always technical prowess or catchy songs. It's something undefinable that takes that crap production, those trance-inducing drone-riffs, and those indecipherable howls of torment and turns them into a dark and spiritual epiphany. Darkthrone has it. Beherit has it. Judas Iscariot has it. Graveland has it. And I'm beginning to think Zorn does too.

These demonic German thrashers don't necessarily offer any completely new sounds within their lo-fi/necro/cult black metal, but there's something that is completely inspiring about Schwarz Metall: sorrowful minor key riffs, buzzing soul stirring melodies, super hot recording with an ear shreddingly raw production, lots of guitar buzz and cymbal wash. This is the sort of stuff that is so hypnotic and so brutally intense, it blisses me out and I just get washed away, buried in Zorn's evil wash of demonic hiss and whirring malevolence.

 

 

 

 

 

DIAMATREGON - Blasphemy for Satan - CD - www.loginsatan.org/dmg (later released on tUMULt)

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This album from French black metal band Diamatregon is quite impressive. If I understand correctly, this is the band's second recording, and contains eight tracks that span 45 minutes. The label on the disk reads "Diamatregon II - Blasphemy for Satan" which prompts us to wonder if the first Diamatregon burned down, or something. It shouldn't surprise us, considering how hot the infernal flames of Hell burn within this band.

The songs on Blasphemy for Satan tend to be fast on the first few tracks. The band manages to make them stand out from one another fairly well with some use of melody. Later on in the disk, more slowed down, evil passages are explored with success.

The jury is still out on whether Diamatregon is playing their songs under control, or if the band members just set their internal switches to "evil" and are going off. Where this may be many bands' downfall, the controlled messiness of Diamatregon really works in the band's favor. Very much adding to this impression is how the vocals are delivered with utterly reckless abandon. You can tell the band doesn't give a fuck: they've got the evil lumps of coal where a heart should be in the right place and are belting out tune after tune of mad, wonderful black metal.

As far as black metal goes, the sound quality on Blasphemy for Satan is at least as good as a lot of albums from bands that have been signed. Diametregon is on the verge of releasing something completely fantastic. As is, this CDR demo is something well worth getting, especially considering how cheaply it can be acquired.

 

 

 

 

 

AS ALL DIE - Time of War and Conflict - CD - Crowd Control Records

review by: ~Eternus~

A project which appears to be a comment/portrayal on the subject of war all it can entail, this is a one-man project done by Dragon Flight Records' Clint Listing. The CD begins with some German march music and some spoken word (which I assume is done by Clint). he keeps repeating the line "VICTORY OR DEATH!!!,I CALL FOR VICTORY OR DEATH!" which irritates me greatly. After the annoying intro, it's evident that this is going to maintain a slow, brooding and murky feel.

The album is mostly made up of slow, minimal keyboards, acoustic guitars and with what sounds like cello combine with the same spoken word vocals as in the intro. Thankfully, track three improves on the earlier vocals with monk-like chanting and whispers that which blend in well with the acoustic guitar, creating a rather tranquil, solitary atmosphere.

Track four continues in the same way but has keyboard that reminds me of Robin Hood for some reason. The tracks go from one to another without any real change to the ambient and desolate feel and because of this, As All Die belong in the background music category: Not bad, not great. It just merely exists like the breeze.

Go down to your local supermarket/mall and take a ride in an elevator and the music you hear will not be far off from this, but if you can excuse me As All Die has left me feeling rather tired..im off for forty winks! (dude, where do you do your shopping? - Roberto)

 

 

 

 

EINSATZ KOMMANDO/HALLSTATT - Split - CD - Battlefield Records

review by: ~Eternus~

Einsatz Kommando is a one-man Spanish entity that has been called RAC/OI music. *shrugs* I'm not too familiar with that kind of music, so you'll have to excuse my lack of RAC knowledge. Anyway, Einsatz Kommando doesn't sound *that* punky to me - as I feared they might, based on the various reviews I'd read both online and in a distro's catalogue. Rather, it's more like mid-paced thrash and in places has a certain 80s feel.

In the first track, "White Winter," there's a pretty simplistic and yet rather decent riff which kind of *races*; it sounds strangely familiar - almost like it was lifted from some old cartoon or 80s style "A-Team"-esque theme tune, which has a undeniable appeal to me. The rest of Einsatz Kommandoss side of the split maintains the thrashiness, but combines acoustic guitar, synth, various different sounds of bombs exploding and wolves howling, and do I hear bagpipes? All of these add interest and a pretty great primitive and genuine atmosphere to a band that could have been decidedly bland. My only complaint is that I really can't get used to the vocals, which are shouted in a thick German accent and yet the lyrics are written and performed in English, which is rather odd. Still, Einsatz Kommando has originality and some obscure charm about it.

Hallstatt is another one-man band, but radically different from Einsatz Kommando. We have raw, simplistic black metal here that slightly reminds me of Judas Iscariot in that the riffs are repetitive and hollow. Strangely, Hallstatt grab my attention more: amidst the murk are some furiously played drums and some decent dry-throated/growly vocals, somewhat of a cross between Mutiilation and Immortal, with maybe a hint of Judas Iscariot too. The vocals are slightly too low in the recording, which is a shame, but it doesn't spoil the recording. Hallstatt are nothing ground breaking but still rather good, and a band that should make a decent debut album...time will tell. One last interesting note is that this comes in an A5 booklet inserted into a plastic wallet.

 

 

 

 

HATE FOREST - Scythia - CD - Ancient Nation

review by: ~Eternus~

This is my first chance to hear Hate Forest and I am suitably impressed. I have no idea how many people are involved in this black metal band as there are no band pictures. To make matters less clear the inclusion of a contact address with "NO INTERVIEW" written below it so certainly it all adds to a rather mysterious band. (Why would you include your address if you didn't want anyone to interview you? Duh?! - Roberto) Hate Forest hail from Ukraine and like fellow Ukranian band Nokturnal Mortem, they are NSBM.

Scythia begins with an intro of wolves howling in the night and the sound of a cold wind lightly brushing a rugged landscape (this intro is also to be found on the Einsatz Kommando CD). The wind and the howling slowly fade away and a very raw guitar and some drums begin somewhere in the distance. The vocals are very interesting and remind me of a more evil sounding Holocausto (Beherit). Although Holocausto`s vocals were more varied, the ones on Hate Forest blend in really well with the raw guitar and it's as if they are being performed through a snowstorm. Before I had a chance to breathe, this 25-minute long MCD comes to an end all too soon.

While not reaching the standards of the amazing Nokturnal Mortem album, Nechrist (review in issue #1), this is still a worthy piece of work. With a debut full-length album being recorded and set for March, this is clearly just the beginning of a very cold, Ukranian onslaught that I hope will just keep getting better and better.

 

Related reviews:
 
The Most Ancient Ones (issue No 9)  

 

 

 

HATE FOREST - Blood and Fire - CD - Red Stream Records

review by: ~Eternus~

This is two EPs gathered onto one 25-minute long CD. The first, Blood and Fire, is pretty much the same as on the Scythia MCD: fast no-synth black metal. The sound it noticeably clearer than on Scythia, with the guitars being far less raw and the vocals louder and clearer and slightly more death metal sounding. The first EP is made up of two tracks, both of which are quite great but don't seem to stand out as much as the material on Scythia does.

The second EP, Ritual, is way different and closer to dark/black ambient music. It begins with the sound of frogs, various birds and insects to make the listener feel trapped in some forest swamp. Then some slow drumming begins, which is rather eerie. And eventually there are some strange spoken vocals that (I think) are being spoken backwards and in Ukranian (so no hope of translating now!). The second track (and last) on the <Ritual> part has the sound of a fire burning (the track itself is called "Burning Churches") coupled with some slow, depressive-feeling guitar with neither drums nor vocals.

Both of the tracks on Ritual have a really great atmosphere.This release comes highly recomended from me, but Scythia is better.

 

Related reviews:
 
The Most Ancient Ones (issue No 9)  

 

 

 

LOCKWELD - Industrial Requiem - CD - Dragon Flight Records

review by: ~Eternus~

And my torture continues to my ears, which are now buzzing from the endless abuse of noise/ambient music. Lockweld sound no different to me than other noise projects such as Law, and continue the trend of the horrible album cover. This is maybe closer to noise music than Never Presence Forever (see below), but this still just seems to be random static and noise with no little ambience to it. Thus, I really don't know how anyone can like this kind of music.

 

 

 

 

MAGO DE OZ - Finistierra - CD - Locomotive Music

review by: ~Eternus~

Thanks to listening to a British-based online radio station called Totalrock (www.totalrock.com) I got introduced to this band after a track called "Satania" was played. I loved it from the very first listen; Catchy-power metal mixed with riverdance???…have I gone quite mad?!.. (well, that's still in debate!) I just love the combination of power metal with the Irish "jiggyness." Vocals are really great and among the very best in the power metal genre that I've heard, with the added uniqueness that they are all performed in Spanish. The guitars are played with some great skill and feature truly great riffs and solos. The violin and fiddle are what makes the band though. There are also some woodwind instruments in there.

This is a double CD, with the second disk continuing in the same style as the first. The only problem being that once you've heard one track you've really heard them all, which is a pity as *had* this been just one CD with some more variation, Mago De Oz would have been one of my favourite power metal bands, (along with Rhapsody, Nightwish and Lost Horizon). Nevertheless, Mago De Oz are a more-than capable band and I await a follow-up album, hopefully more variation.

Just what is it with the disturbing/odd artwork though!? Very, very strange. I spotted a man getting a hand-job from a happy looking woman in the woods with a witch playing a violin, hovering above them, and don't get me started on the penis fish! *Shudders*

 

 

 

 

NEVER PRESENCE FOREVER - Disturbed Visceral Nociception - CD - Crionic Mind

review by: ~Eternus~

Ever listened to a plane at an airport? Well, now you can have that mind shattering experience recreated by listening to the first track on this CD!

Oh, joy!

Like Nothing, this falls under the noise/ambient category. The second track does have an innocent beauty to it however, and reminds me of watching raindrops fall on the window pane with the gentle sound of the breeze and an even gentler harp being played. It's enough to send me into a blissfull sleep. After that track the CD just falls back into the mundane and continues in a noise/ambient vein. Tedium in an audial form.

One other thing that I've noticed that is rife amongst this type of music: horrible modern art CD covers! This album has to have the worst cover I've ever seen in my life: It's white with a simple red and yellow stripe along the bottom. Eugh!

 

 

 

 

NOCTERNITY - Crucify Him - CD - ISO 666

review by: ~Eternus~

The CD begins with a short intro that combines slow dark ambient music topped off with a sprinkling of acoustic guitars. It starts of the CD rather well. The title track then kicks in and there is a certain early Emperor meets Mysticum type feel to the proceedings. Emperor is found in the riffing style mostly, and Mysticum comparisons are due to the rather odd and creepy keyboards which add a great atmosphere. The track then takes an unexpected but wonderful turn into some Spanish-style acoustic guitars that add depth and a certain contemplative feel. Vocals are slightly muffled, but this was a wise choice as it leaves the keyboard and the raw guitar plenty of room to provide the atmosphere.

Two more less impressive tracks follow; they are both good but just don't hit the mark, unlike the first track which left me suitably impressed. And then, before you know it, the 20 minute mini CD is over! It left me wanting more. I await a follow-up album with open arms.

 

 

 

 

NOTHING - The Spine Overshadowed by the Rope - CD - Triumvirate

review by: ~Eternus~

Now, I admit I'm not that familiar with this kind of music, and I am more drawn to the dark/black ambient side, like Kerovnian - (reviewed an interviewed in issue #6), Aghast, Sleep Research Facilty (also reviewed in issue #6) and Darkness Enshroud. The creepiness and atmosphere and evilness that these bands create are welcomed into my world and are great for late night listening. Nothing (the project reviewed here) are different. While they are still ambient music, they have a more modern electronic feel to them, which really isn't to my taste.

With Nothing, I don't feel the evilness, although there is an undeniable darkness to them. The first track, "Words that Break the Teeth," is evidence of said darkness with many whisperings and a slow, menacing feel. The problem with this track is that it goes nowhere: The track is more than half an hour long, and it just sits their without really changing; it's almost as if it's in stasis or hibernation. But, maybe that's the point?

The second track, "Words that Dislocate the Jaw," is a live track and begins with some electronic voice talking about viruses, along with some radio static and various muddled up voices. It then breaks into noise music, which I really fail to see the appeal of. Nothing is not too far away from more recent Abruptum - and like that it bores me and really serves no purpose whatsoever.        

One for the noise/ambient fans only and certainly not meant for my black metal ears.

 

 

 

 

SLAYER - God Hates Us All - CD - American line Records

review by: Liam Deely

Anyone who's been to a Slayer show can attest to the havoc that erupts when Kerry King speed-picks the opening to "Angel of Death." For the zealot, nothing released after Reign in Blood, the album that spawned the spiteful hymn, compares. Slayer's latest, God Hates Us All, is a predictably a much different beast than their 1986 classic. The scattered breed of metal-heads, punks, and skinheads that once deified them won't appreciate low-tuned guitars laid over the odd hip-hop beat, but still, Slayer never betrays their defining characteristics.

King and Hanneman solos are still of the whacked-out, King/Hanneman variety, and Tom Araya belts out syllables as fast as drummer Paul Bostaph hammers out beats. Rather than achieve break-neck speed from beginning to end, the songs themselves are geared more for Bostaph to prove over and over that he's the best drummer in metal (that includes previous Slayer drummers). God Hates Us All gives metal fans a new watermark.

 

 

 

 

WINTERBLUT - Der 6 Danach - CD - Darker Than Black

review by: ~Eternus~

A very obscure black metal one-man entity hailing from Germany, this is yet another band that seemed like a gamble. Once again the gamble paid off as this CD is stunning. I have to admit it did irritate me the first time I heard it, but after the second listen I found elements on this album tended to jump out at me and before I knew it, this CD was being played and re-played constantly.

The CD has 12 tracks that are split up into 4 different chapters all with German names, and totals just more than 72 minutes!!! It is a challenging listen and it will take a while to truly sink in, but once it does you'll be hooked! The key to Winterblut`s excellence is the usage of keyboards that convey varying emotions from the mystical and other-worldy to the depressive, majestic and sometimes happy and proud. 

Vocals are suitably harsh and growly, but there is also some clean vocals and various whisperings to be found somewhere within. There are some inventive riffs which seem to toy and torment and yet strangely feel right at home with the keyboard. I also noticed that on one track I'm reminded of the original Super Mario game from my old Nintendo (so very odd!). Definitely appealing and undoubtably an original experience. Drums are deliberately appalling on the first track, which doesn't hinder the song but rather gives it an even more obscure feel. The drumming does however improve and is played to a decent standard on the rest of the album.

One of the best CDs I've had the pleasure to hear so far in 2002, I urge you to track this down, then sit and listen to it and let your ears absorb the wonderful fantasyland that is Winterblut.

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

KING DIAMOND - Fatal Portrait - CD - Roadrunner Records - 1996

review by: ~Vargscarr~

King Diamond - Denmark's finest export. Love him or loathe him, his impact upon the Metal scene, in particular those of Scandinavia and Europe, is undeniable. After the premature disbanding of Mercyful Fate, King decided to continue his musical career under his own name, though ironically this first 'solo' release features almost all the members of Mercyful Fate, replacing problematic guitarist Hank Sherman with the incredible Andy LaRoque; and bringing in Micky Dee to drum - a man who is undoubtedly one of the most talented sticksmen in Metal.

More bombastic than most of Mercyful Fate's previous material (and with vastly superior drumming), Fatal Portrait still retains the haunting atmospheres, accentuated by King's decision to sing almost entirely in his falsetto style as opposed to varying it with mid-range and deeper vocals as he had in the past (and soon returned to) on his later works. This lack of variation is neither good nor bad, since as much as one misses King using his full range, the novelty of his devotion of an entire album to this extreme end of his style makes Fatal Portrait unique amongst his work; and some of the best examples of those ghoulish, haunting double-tracked vocal harmonies are presented on this disc.

The reissue also features the two B-sides of the singles released from it back in '86: "No Presents for Christmas" (a surreal seasonal ode to that time of year) and 'The Lake," which have previously only been available on the tricky-to-find King Diamond Dark Sides collection of rare material. A worthy introduction to King's talents, and essential to any fan of King Diamond, Mercyful Fate, or technical Heavy Metal in general.

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

DIMMU BORGIR/ CRYPTOPSY/ KRISIUN
March 13, 2002 - The Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, CA

review by: Roberto Martinelli

Even though I rushed over from work, I still missed all but two of Krisiun's songs. I was so looking forward to another Krisiun experience like the one at Milwaukee Metalfest 2001. I was getting super antsy waiting outside in a very slow moving line to pick up my ticket at will call. What I did hear of Krisiun's was what is to be expected of them: super blurry fast and tight. The coolest part was being able to go up on the balcony and watch the drummer's technique.

Despite the Krisiun disappointment, I would be able to see once again Cryptopsy (left), which put on one of the greatest death metal shows of my young life last year. (read about it in issue #3). However, it turned out that this show fell short of last year's. This isn't to say it wasn't great, because it was - I don't think Cryptopsy could ever play a bad show. The first problem was a technical one: the stage right guitarist's tone only came through on the stage right speaker. This made my standing on the left side of the stage a problem as I couldn't hear his parts. The other factor that detracted to the show was new vocalist Martin. He's very good, and put his all into the show (I will never be able to fathom how guys like him can not only whip their head around at 80 mph, but also still be able to stand after), but he pales into comparison to departed vocalist Mike DiSalvo.

It's funny, I never appreciated DiSalvo until I interviewed Cryptopsy drummer Flo Mounier (issue #4). Once DiSalvo's talents were explained to me, I've been a fan of his. Also, DiSalvo had a rabid energy and stage presence that was second to none. The new vocalist is a bit in-between the whacked-out time, hardcore inspired shout of DiSalvo and the guttural evocations of first Cryptopsy vocalist Lord Worm. I guess in a sense that makes Martin the best of both worlds, but not superior to either of his predecessors.

Musically, Cryptopsy slayed. But, that's a foregone conclusion. As last time, the band only played one song from their third album, Whisper Supremacy, "Cold Hate, Warm Blood." The rest of the songs were evenly divided between the other three albums, with the playing of "Open Face Surgery" from the first album being the first time the band played that song live. It was not only fun to watch the band play, but also to watch the audience watch the band: one burly man in particular, whom I recognized as a drummer from one time when I went into Guitar Center, just stood there with his mouth open, shaking his head. Everyone needs to know about how amazing this band is.

Dimmu Borgir took the stage with some fanfare. It was a little awkward to see the unusual placement of the drum kit: in the stage right corner, with the concealed keyboards in the corner of stage left. Dimmu Borgir put on an excellent show. True, their music doesn't have the raw power of the other bands, but they reproduced the sound from their albums so well. This was especially the case with the clean vocals of bassist ICS Vortex.

Dimmu Borgir opened and closed with two songs from their Enthrone Darkness Triumphant album, "In Death's Embrace" and "Mourning Palace," respectively. The rest of the set was predictably spread out between material from the two succeeding albums, Spiritual Black Dimensions and Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia. Not surprisingly, no material from the debut album, For All Tid, was played. Disappointingly, only one song from Stormblåst was played (and it wasn't my favorite, "Broderskapets Ring.") Still, it was a very professionally done and enjoyable show, one that came with a well-placed interlude in the form of a keyboard solo.

 

 

 

 

 

LAMB OF GOD (opening for MUSHROOMHEAD)
March 10, 2002 - The Pound, San Francisco, CA

review by: Roberto Martinelli

I had never heard of Mushroomhead before this tour was announced. Certainly, if any band worthy of headlining had managed to elude me, it was for a reason. Indeed, Mushroomhead were pretty silly. They didn't suck, though. I did watch for a while in curiosity to see what this band was all about. Their image borrows largely from Slipknot, as five of the seven members wear (matching) masks. The band has two vocalists: one who stands in place and one who moves. The band also has two keyboard players. This seemed exceedingly silly as one keyboard player's job seemed to consist entirely of holding one key down and occasionally agitate this flashlight over the audience. As is often the case, the band member with the smallest actual role in the music is the one who gets the most into it.

But this is supposed to be a review of Lamb of God. Strangely, there is relatively little to say about them, as their performance was plainly excellent. Their pure energy (without makeup or stage antics) clearly warranted that they be the headliners. Most of their set was unsurprisingly made up of their only album to date under the current band name. However, Lamb of God did play one song from their days when they were known as Burn the Priest, as well as a song from the forthcoming album, which will be recorded soon.

Somewhere in-between death metal and hardcore, Lamb of God put on a great show. The already smallish stage was made even smaller by the drumkit of Mushroomhead that occupied the rear. This meant that vocalist Randy had to constantly keep one eye on who might be kicking him while crowd surfing. Randy kept a good demeanor considering, as he annoyingly threw kids off the stage. Meanwhile, the band flawlessly played their set, which got the faithful going. I, too, was caught up in the rhythmic energy. Catch this band if you can.

 

 

 

 

 

GWAR/ GOD FORBID
February 9, 2002 - Phoenix Theater, Petaluma, CA, USA

review by: Roberto Martinelli

This tour was supposed to also include Soilent Green, but due to the injuries the band sustained because of the bus accident that also sidelined them on the Morbid Angel/ Deicide/ Zyklon/ Exhumed tour in December, the band had to cancel again. It was kind of fitting, as Soilent Green would have been rather out of place on this bill.

God Forbid played very well. It was good to properly see them after I missed all but five minutes of their performance when they opened up for Cradle of Filth/ Nile in Chicago last year. God Forbid is sort of in-bewteen death metal and hardcore, with music that is semi-technical. Most impressive this night were the vocals, which carried a lot of power. The band was super tight and finished with a Sepultura song from Chaos A.D.

I'm a GWAR virgin. So was Maelstrom contributor Liam, who came along. So I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I knew to expect a lot of goop, "blood" and "cum" flying my way, so I wore a ratty shirt.

It was taking GWAR an interminable amount of time to get on stage. I guess that's the price you pay when you've got so much whoopla as part of your show. The audience was getting so anxious that even the appearance of the GWAR technical crew - decked out in loud yellow raincoats and looking like they were going to Red Lobster's all-you-can-eat bonanza - drew applause. This was getting way ridiculous.

The end result was pretty worth it. I was expecting costumes, but not to the extent of the ones GWAR wore. They were astounding: huge, intricate, ridiculous. The best one was the second guitarist's, who had a mask that looked like a giant bear trap with horns. The bass player was dressed like some sort of evil centurion. To give you an idea of how grandiose these costumes are, the band members are fully eight feet tall (at least) and three feet wide with these things on. It's amazing that they can play. Well, I guess that's what playing simple, uninteresting music can afford you.

Musically, GWAR was a total bore. All the songs sounded exactly the same, except for one that had a relatively pretty guitar intro. But this is truly not the point with GWAR. Rather, you go to the show to be entertained by cartoon-style violence with latex costumes, and gratuitous shooting red and green liquids. Liam and I were luckily just out of range.

GWAR "kills" people on stage. The deserving victims this time around were: a skinhead, Mike Tyson, President Bush, Osama Bin Laden, and some whore. Every slaying was pre-empted by some dialogue between GWAR's frontman, Oderus Urungus, and the victim. In Mike Tyson's case, the GWAR slaves (who ran around in loincloths, doing silliness) tried to fight the boxer, who was represented by yet another massive and wondrous costume. Like all the outfits in the show, the victims costumes were "interactive," meaning they cam apart and had pumps that shot liquid. After Tyson dispatched the GWAR slaves, Urungus took out his sword and cut the boxer's hands off, which of course spouted blood in time to the song's beat. All dismemberments in GWAR's show cause blood to spurt. Then Urungus brandished a huge "axe," which he used to cut off the whole chest of the Tyson costume, which fell off to reveal latex guts and a rib cage.

All the other victims were dispatched in similar gruesome fashions: Osama Bin Laden, portrayed as a turkey, was beaten to death after being hung on a stick (the "Osama Piñata"); the skinhead's head came off; Bush "donated" his blood; and Bloody Mary was ripped to shreds while Urungus drank the green juice that shot out of her vagina. Also, at one point this huge, monstrous cannon was rolled out on stage and Urungus shot the audience with a powerful jet of "blood" for two minutes. Liam's favorite part was when the band's lead guitar, Flatimus, took center stage to do a solo and was then congratulated by Urungus.

It was stupid fun. However, it started to get a little repetitive. This, coupled with the total non-interest of the music makes GWAR a band to check out once, but only once.