Waldgeflüster translates as the whispering in the forest. The word translates literally as an ancient forest, shaped by nature instead of man. At least when I look at it through Dutch. I might be filling in things here, but there’s something about the music of this German group that seems to evoke the feeling of the ancient forests in their native Bavaria.
So, ‘forest whispers’, a band that has been around since 2005, has released their fourth album titled ‘Ruinen’. The band got in my sights thanks to their collaboration on a split with Panopticon. The music of both acts evokes a strong sense of losing touch with the world and looking to nature for some sort of answers. The lyrics of Winterherz, bandleader of Waldgeflüster, in that way touch me as well:
I am part of your world but I cannot live in the here and now
I want to wander freely through my woods and I shall still carry all of my burden – ‘Weltenwanderer’
It’s in mournful tones that the band speaks of this duality, the world we live in and the world we are drawn towards. Though sometimes the music can be harsh and ragged like the dark tree tops that cast shadows downwards, it’s the melodic passages that are the part of Waldgeflüsters music that really captivate the listener. There’s a moment of freedom in those forest worshiping tones.
In that sense the record becomes quiete accesible, thanks to the many clean vocal parts with clearly articulated lyrics. Violins enrich the sound even further, giving it that particular folkish feeling. The sound of the band is rich, also thanks to a couple of guest musicians. In a way the clean production also reminds you of Equilibrium. Not that they sound so similar, but the feeling of the German bands seems to connect somewhere. The songs are notably long by the way, but that doesn’t mean the sound is stretched out over the minutes. For example, the song ‘Graustofen Novembertage’ takes a few seconds to fully get to speed. It does offer enough variation to keep you listening, but so does the whole album of organic folk black metal.
A particularly beautiful part is the outro to the album, titled ‘Susitaival’. A calm and flowing folk tune, with a nice bass punch. It shows you that foundations of the sound this band has.
Black metal has shown many new outings, exploring new sounds and forms of expression. Some come up with strange avant-garde outings, others go in more conservative directions. Adding folk to metal is a risky pick though, but Saor has been pulling it of for quite some time now. It’s a fine line to walk, not to let either side really take over or become a washed down version .
Back in 2014 I wrote a bit about Saor’s previous album, titled ‘Aura’. A real experience with all the good Celtic metal has to offer. Saor is still Andy Marshall on this album, with a bunch of incredible guest musicians. Where ‘Aura’ was a haunting experience of the foggy hills of the Scottish realm, ‘Guardians’ shows a slight change in direction. Marshall was also active in Falloch, but where that project just doesn’t hit me as much, Saor is the truely convincing output of this gentleman. Oh, he also just started Fuath, which you can read about here.
By this I by no means am traying to say that this is a bad turn. On the recently released ‘Guardians’, we hear more of the roots of the band. The folk aspect is more outspoken, more in your face as a listener. By this I don’t mean that the songs are more like jigs, but the instruments have a more pronounced position in the compositions, they’re simply much more identifiable and on their own. This is the instant greeting on title track ‘Guardians’ by proud bagpipes.
Never does the record sound boisterous, but it does have a sense of pride in its warm majestic sounds. ‘The Declaration’ is a praise of liberty and independence, delivered with grace and love for the land. Gentle passages offer respite until the guitars soar once more and rumbling drums offer a heavy under current.
There’s something splendidly sincere about this album, it’s thicktapestries of sound, but most of all the moments where it dresses down and speaks more directly. Often with one instrument taking the voice for a few lines, leaving the music to do the talking. The vocals are sparse but meaningful, but it’s those passages, like the final part of ‘Tears of a Nation’ that really do it for me. Saor is a project made with a lot of love for something Scottish, something pure and maybe even conceptual. This makes the music as direct and pure as that. Lovely.
Label: self released/bandcamp Band: Arx Atrata Origin: United Kingdom
It’s strange how sometimes you instantly hear that a band is from the UK. I’m finding that this is in the black metal realm a very distinguished sound. Clean, nature oriented (or that’s my personal reception of it) and with little regard for the grim traditions. The same goes for Arx Atrata, who released a rather gorgeous record with ‘Spiritus in Terra’.
Arx Atrata is a one man band, from a guy named Ben Sizer. If the artwork and font used on the record didn’t give it away yet, maybe the song title ‘Sherwood’ tipped you of. The sound is very clean, stripped of a lot of distortion to create a more harmonious, pleasant feel to the music. Not too pleasant though.
Meandering between the warm atmosphere of ColdWorld and the organic, Brittish sound of a Fen or Winterfylleth, Arx Atrata is evoking feelings of a mystical past. Inspiration clearly is from nature, if only from the coverimages. The origin of Notthingham of the band doesn’t shine through, but with a song like ‘Sherwood’ its surrounding woodland sure does.
The single string sounds of the guitar are very distinguishable in the sound of the band, but so are the keys. When either are used, they are the most prominent part of the sound. The tormented screams of Sizer fit right in with the sound, that is higly melodic with a touch of melancholy. The guitars sound feverish, nervous and never at ease, but then there’sthe keys like drops of water in a moonlit pond.
Take away the distortion, the grimness and satan stuff and you end up with pretty much this record. It feels like a reverie of that mysterious past, of history that is lost and felt keenly. It’s about that green realm in which we love to dwell. The harmonious balance, the blistering drums like hail in autumn and that dense oppressive feeling of autumn coming on. Contemplative and rich, it’s the record you should hear right now.
Label: Avantgarde Music Band: Botanist / Oskoreien Origin: United States (both)
The band Botanist is a one man metal project, that steers black metal into the realm of plant life. The apt name for that side of the split is not without reason ‘Green Metal’. The sound of Botanist has captivated me, even more after seeing them perform life on Roadburn. It’s vibrant, unrelentingly different and in its own sphere of existence. It’s use of instruments is also peculiar, mainly the use of a hammered dulcimer. I love entering that verdant realm of Roberto Martinelli aka Otrebor.
Oskoreien is less familiar to me, but the band has their roots in viking metal. This is also a one man band. Jay Valena has more moved towards black metal with a slightly philosophical theme to it. The two tracks of Oskoreien are under the title ‘Deterministic Chaos’. I’m a bit puzzled why these two artists have come together, but it makes sense soundwise and lets be honest, both are fairly strange acts in a league of their own.
The tracks of Botanist are marked by a peculiarly frantic percussion and lack of the blazing guitars. The harsh barked vocals are in sharp contrast with the often harmonious and very beautiful tones. It’s a bit like drifting through Wonderland, where a mad plant-man starts barking at you in the midst of the green overgrowth. It’s rare to use the word vibrant for black metal, but the blissful tones of ‘Varkoor’ evoke no other feelings. The epic lyrics describe plants and their reproduction in grand terms, like ‘Clathrus Columnatus’: “Lord of the flies, In pilgrimage they come, To its altar of slime, Gathering its children, Spores to arise anew”.
The final track by Botanist is an almost shoegaze affair, where only the vocals stand as the extreme metal element.’Saprophyte’ fades into another track, where that weird, hammering percussion is again on the forefront. This playful, lively sound is in sharp contrast with the noisy, distortion laden sound that Oskoreien delivers, including some big riffs by the way, to keep the rock element high. Droning, gritty sounds with melancholic guitars woven through is what you hear on the title track ‘Deterministic Chaos’. Though it feels black metal, it has a sludge/drone sound going for it that is so utterly bleak that the harsh vocals are all that gives life to the tune.
The most surprising track is the Placebo cover by Oskoreien. It’s like a long stretched, doom-gloom version of the track with tormented howls instead of the nasal Brian Molko. An improvement many would say, but what an unearthly emptiness does Oskoreien invoke with their cold soundscapes. Harrowing and haunting, combined with those tracks by Botanist, this makes for an excellent record exploring the far of realms of black metal.
Nubiferous is no novice act in the ambient/folk soundscape realm and produces a sound that is akin to other acts in the Black Mara stable. It blends the elements together to create an almost soundtracky/filmic experience for the listener. The origin of the act is the Russian town of Pyatigorsk and the man behind it seems to be called Andrey.
‘Primeval Forest Hymns’ looks like a book and I guess apart from my film comparison, that is pretty much a great way to depict and present something that has so many different stories to tell. So time to get into this I suppose.
This album opens in the most annoying way possible, by the approaching sound of a moskito as if it’s right in your ear. Luckily that immediately shifts to horns and a tribal rhythm. Obviously there’s a lot of that traditional folk with blaring horns and the rhytmic drumming, but the most fascinating part is how natural sounds are blended in together with the music. For example ‘Ridge of Fiery Owls’, where traditional instruments and birds form the sound together.
The connecting of the two worlds of nature and culture feels like a step back into the forest, a movement from one towards the other. The trickling of water, the chiming of bells, the sound of the forest and gentle toms, it’s all in harmony, melting together in the clean, pleasant mix. Sometimes a folk melody emerges, but more often, like on ‘Old Forest Cult \ Rise of Shadethicket Beast’, the nature elements are the most present. Sometimes the sound is eastern, sometimes very Slavic, but it always feels so natural and unrestrained.
It’s a record full of beauty, poetry and harmony and you should just let yourself be engulfed by it, like nature encroaches upon the musician.
If you were looking out for awesome releases in 2015, you might have seen the album ‘Umbras De Barbagia’. An album with an intriguing cover that beckoned you to enter a misty world of a forgotten past. Interesting enough, if you looked into it, you’d find out that Barbagia is the more wild and untamed part of the Italian island of Sardinia. So how is it that Downfall Of Nur from Argentina is addressing this?
For those more versed in linguistics or history might have already detected the rare topic this band uses in their music, namely that of a forgotten civilisation on the island of Sardinia in the mediterranean. Wildy atmospheric and daring in its lack of simple song structures, it’s winding build-up and storytelling progression, it was an album that should have been and probably was in many end-of-year lists.
I instantly got my hands on the vinyl and recently also managed to purchase EP ‘Umbras de Forestas’. Listening to that after the full lenght feels a lot like going back in time, tracing the origins of a sound that feels so thought through, so completely captivating. I felt it was necesary to learn a bit more about this band and its origins. It’s because of that I decided to get in touch with Antonio, the man behind Downfall of Nur. A young musician with an incredibly creative and maybe even ancient mind.
How are you doing and can you kindly introduce yourself?
Hello, very well! My name is Antonio; I’m an Italian musician and producer based in Argentina, founder, and mastermind of the atmospheric Black Metal project “Downfall of Nur”.
There seems to be an overall confusion about your nationality. As I understood you are from Sardinia, but residing in Argentina. How did that all happen?
Yes, I was born in Sardinia in 1996 and moved here in Argentina on 2008, so, I’m Italian.
What does it mean to be Sardinian to you? To write about your homeland and the meaning it has, can you describe this?
It means a lot, and when something means a lot sometimes you are proud or just sad about it, Sardinia was always loved and hated for the wild and enchanting cultural heritage, this cultural heritage made of values, the language and history is what creates an identity, to which you belong. It’s in your blood. Nowadays, little is left of all this, considering that society since the seventies has become much more individualistic.
With globalization everyone wants to be the stereotype, each passing year more people cares less about their “origins”. I think it’s the media bombardment taking all of your attention in different directions and besides there’s this materialistic society, which encourages originality and diversity, but discriminates against those who think differently. Writing about Sardinia, my home, my history and culture is what make me be and feel Sardinian, defend my origins and carry them like a flag.
Your project Downfall of Nur is to me one of the most fascinating things I’ve heard in a while. I’m specifically intrigued by the story behind the concept. Can you elaborate on that?
The project concept is based on the Nuragic Civilization, the ancient civilization of Sardinia. Some years ago in 2013, I decided to end all the musical projects I had, than anyway, they were not approached very seriously.
I started to working on something new and much more personal that I wanted to approach with all seriousness (which I believe I did). With this idea I started writing about my homeland and my ancestors and after some months this project took the name of ‘Downfall of Nur’.
u’ve played in some other bands; can you say something about that?
Actually I haven’t played in any real bands this far. I just had a couple of projects when i was 15/16. Most of those are a bit embarrassing if I look at them now. In those times I wanted to have a band, though not a black metal band and where I lived at the time I just couldn’t find anyone to play with really, everyone at the time was wanted to play covers of other bands and I was bored of them.
Then I got in touch with the work of Burzum and the fact that Varg Vikernes used to do everything by himself and that just inspired me to start do everything by my own and after a couple of years here we are.
When I first saw the cover of ‘Umbras De Barbagia’ I glanced over it a couple of times, but it stood out so much and lured me in. Can you tell a bit about the cover and why you think it’s particularly interesting, drawing new listeners?
Oh yes, I believe than the cover of an album is important as or even more than the music. In this case much of the interest the album garnered is thanks to the album cover. As you said, it’s particularly interesting. I think this is an image that provokes suspense and mystery and is also quite unique in its form. It expresses the concept of the album itself. What you see represented on the cover is the old masked figure, which is an ancient, traditional mask of Barbagia, than represents a pre-Nuragic divinity or expression of divinity.
How did you go about writing and recording this album and did you find a specific state of mind in which to do it, since it is so wrought with feeling and emotion (to me as a listener)?
I started to write for “Umbras de Barbagia” at the end of 2013/2014. I felt pretty nostalgic and was not too well in those times so I started writing songs. Everything went quite naturally, I never planned anything, the album started to take the shape on his own while I was recording and composing. When the instrumental recordings were finalized I started to looking for a guest vocalist and I got in touch with Dany Tee, we had meet some time before I started out with Downfall of Nur, I was a fan of his bands specially Seelenmord and I thought it would be a good contribution. After this, we spent all of autumn and winter working on the album. I think beyond how I felt at the time, what was most important and influential is that the album was not forced in any way. I believe than that determined the final sound of Umbras de Barbagia.
Balancing the folk and metal elements is something that can make or break an album, but on your album I find that it only makes each other stronger. How did you find a way to integrate the two so completely without mixing them up?
The integration happened through the composition and recording process of the album. Long ago I was planning to add ethnic instruments and create some semi-folkloric atmospheres to give to the album some details. This took place on this record, as the overall composition and the concept allowed it. These instruments fited very well without feeling as if they are out of place. I think this album needed such instruments to create these kinds of atmospheres.
The quality of your recordings is superb. Can you say something about the production and mixing?
Thanks, I think nowadays you can get great results even with a home studio. The mixing of ‘Umbras De Barbagia’ took quite a long time. We worked together with Dany Tee as co-producer. After the mixing process was end, we send the album to Hernan Conidi, Dany friend, who had a studio in Buenos Aires. He did the final mastering and for me the result was perfect. We are very pleased with the final sound of this record.
In your music you are using a couple of traditional instruments. Can you tell a bit about those and what effect you feel they have on your music? Why did you choose these particular ones?
What I use most frequently are the Quenacho flute, high whistle and the Launeddas, which is a traditional instrument of Sardinia. I also used some classic cellos. I think these instruments really contribute to enrich the atmosphere giving more archaic touch. This was one of the main points of focus during the production of the album, because there are many parts with ambient sounds. Everything was made to make it feel like the music was a bridge between the present reality and your imagination. Close your eyes and let the music take you away.
Do you feel connected to the black metal scene (in so far as there is one) in general and what bands have inspired you to make the music you make? What is it about those bands that you find inspiring?
Not really, I think I’m out of the ‘scene’ with the exception of a few friends.I don’t feel I’m really part of it. I just record and write music at home in my studio, because this is what I like to do, and that’s it. Back in the days, some years ago, when I discovered ‘Black Metal’ some bands did inspire me directly. Examples of those are Ulver, Burzum, Darkthrone and Satyricon. The sound, the mystics, by the time everything was mesmerizing. I was looking for something similar when I stumbled upon the first Opeth record. That was after reading about extreme metal and Scandinavian bands in the nineties and I found something better there.
Like many ‘new’ black metal bands, your music isn’t strictly in the ‘old’ format and explores its own artistic realm. Where else do you get your inspiration (outside of BM), both musically and in a sense of ambiance and feel?
Thanks! I think personally that it is boring to remain stuck in the old format. I don’t mean that this is boring for an audience, but for me as an artist it would not work out. It’s simply not what I like to do. I like listening to a lot of film soundtracks; these influence my ‘inspirational’ process a lot. Ennio Morricone, James Roy Horner and Jerry Goldsmith are my favorites. Nowadays I listen to very little metal actually, except some underground bands that seem to me to be spectacular and unique. I used to listen to a lot of folk, jazz, ambient, old prog and things like that.
Which black metal bands do you listen to and why should people check them out?
Recently I’ve been listening a lot of American/Icelandic Black Metal, a few bands from Europe too and the (no-metal) bands/artist I always listen to, would like recommend the following bands/projects; Vohann, Arizmenda, Selvans, Panopticon, Lluvia, Svartidauði, Misþyrming, Naðra, these are in my Black metal playlist.
I’m very intrigued by the folk project that you’re working on. Can you tell a bit about that? What can one expect?
I’m working on that and I guess I’m on 70% of the recording and mixing process of it. Most likely I will release it as an EP with five songs. It’s really a project inspired by all the music I like that is not metal. It will be my other facet. We’ll have to see what happens.
I have been to Sardinia, but for any reader who will still visit the Island, what are the parts to visit to get a true feel or sense of what it is you invoke on ‘Umbras De Barbagia’?
The entire island is truly beautiful, from its archeological and cultural treasures to its beautiful nature. It’s like an open air museum and if you go in summer you have some of the best beaches in Europe and If you go in winter, you’ll find in the centre of the island the forests, mountains and numeral archeological sites to visit. They’ll take your breath away. It’s in the heart of the island where you will feel the true vibe of ‘Umbras de Barbagia’.
What does nature mean to you? When I listen to your music I feel a deep connection to the land and natural force of Sardinia represented as much as its culture. How do you feel about that?
Nature means a lot for me, it’s another part of my being, just like another vital organ. Many people do not realize of this, for the simple fact that she is something that may seem far removed from everyday life, but truth is than nature elements are as important as our organs. We depend on her, so she must be treated with respect.
What future ambitions do you have with your music?
Keep doing what I’m doing now: compose, record and produce more music.
In November Downfall of Nur is releasing a split with Italian band Selvans. The split will be out on Avantgarde Music.
Label: 20 Buck Spin/Graven Earth Records Band: Kemmis Origin: United States
In an earlier write-up, back when I put four reviews in one piece, I embraced Khemmis. Their silk-smooth adaptation of classic doom, inlcuding the ‘Heavy metal’-esque artwork, was completely captivating to me. The female warrior is gone, but the foreboding wizard is still there on the cover, spurring undead hordes on for battle it seems.
Khemmis, as a reminder, hails from Denver, and this is their second full length. I’m completely baffled that they haven’t been getting as big yet as I believe they should be, but the four gents definitely got some boost after their debut ‘Absolution’. The sound of the band hasn’t changed that much in the mean time, though the heavy, dreary sound that reminded me of St. Vitus has switched gears a little.
There is still a mournful tone to the sound of Khemmis (and some deep guttural barking, if we listen to ‘Candlelight’), but the biting twang of the previous record seems to have taken the back seat. ‘Above The Water’ is instantly a more meandering, melodic track. Sure, the band leans heavy on the slow progressions, insepparable from their doomy sound, but they are really telling stories now.
We get even more down and dirty on ‘Three Gates’, where the hoarse roar of the vocalist (I know they have two, just don’t know who the grunter is) opens up the song. Exchanging the grunts with clean, soaring vocals is an emocore trick, but works great on doom as well. Shifting gears and intensity, the band makes great, captivating tracks by not caring for any standards. That makes Khemmis so liberating to listen to. You forget what genre they play or become more aware of the futility of its rules. These guys make an epic bit of music, by not giving a flying fig.
The brutal parts, the catchy passages on ‘Hunted’, it is all part of what Khemmis does. Grand doom with all the tasty sauce to make you absolutely love it and crave more.
Back when I was still a much younger student, I was listening to music all the time. Music was carried on my iPod, casually called Archibaldt I (instead of Guido’s iPod, which I didn’t like). Now I have Archibaldt V on my desk. Now extreme and weird music feels home, but it wasn’t always like that. So that’s where my tuesday thoughts drift of to today.
Back before Archibaldt I died in an unfortunate laundering accident, years before Archibaldt II finally stopped working properly, I was in the fortunate environment of people that dug music. I mean, really were into music that I had never heard of. I was pretty much into punkrock and that was the way to go. Punkrock was all you need, not Love. Fuck the Beatles! Well, I was already looking outward, so that was a good time.
Leaving the small town I lived in for university was a big thing, but the amount of music that hit me was even bigger. Suddenly I got to listen to Opeth and Graveworm and both terrified me at first (yes, I was late to the metals at 19). I had been listening to a lot of more accessible metal music, but these really got me reeling back for a while. I wasn’t ready for that. Luckily I had other sources, like the great record stores Sounds and Tommy (or was it Tommie?) in Tilburg. I went there with a class mate, who was more of an music afficionado than me, I think.
“Have you ever listened to Godspeed! You Black Emperor?” he asked me one day, while we took the train to the center. For some reason that moment came back to me today, while I was walking to my lecture and listening to Meshuggah. “Godspeed! You Black Emperor… that sounds dark and heavy!”, I responded. He agreed, but his dark and heavy was something completely different than mine. I thought of black metal, he probably thought of the ‘Dead Flag Blues’. So soon I learned that dark and heavy had many different forms.
Departing from Pink Floyd (thanks dad) and punkrock (through postpunk and other stuff) I found a whole world of adventurous, daring music that I had not known about. I lived in a world of pop charts and punkrock samplers, but I found a dense and rich underground. Soon I was walking around campus with, next to G!YBE, bands like Mogwai, ThrobbingGristle, CabaretVoltaire, The Residents and so much more in my headphones. All that great music, all for me to listen to!
So I’m thinking of that and of the importance of other people in your musical journey. Of discovering and exploring new musical realms, flipping records in a store or discussing tunes over coffee. I miss that… it would be nice to have some more of that.
I saw Zaum play once in an obscure basement in Tilburg. The air was choking thanks to an uncanny cigarette smell and the location was ill fitted for the band that was playing. Still, Zaum was convincing and crushing thanks to their transcendental doom sound, that just takes you to another place.
Where previous album ‘Oracles’ spoke of places like the Red Sea and Parthia, also showing a desert landscape and a foreboding city on a cliff near the sea, this one takes us further into the middle-east (though the cover made me think of Maya/Inca society). The cover is a tell tale sign with Zaum where they may take you on their hypnotic journey. The title ‘Eidolon’ refers to an apparition of a spirit like being, something you’ll find in the Djinn haunted Assyria plenty
Still, their oriental favors are clear from the title ‘Influence of the Magi’. Magi traditionally refers to Zoroastrianism, but the lyrics make clear we are now in Assyria. After an almost religious chanting, the voices shift to more unearthly sounds. Everything becomes more foreboding, even before that first, threatening riff is layed down. It takes a while for the chanting to be substituted by crushing, slowly cascading riffs and hypnotic vocals. 21 minutes both tracks last, but they are epic journeys, that make you hallucinate slightly, tripping through the mysterious past.
There’s those oriental themes in the music, also thanks to the use of a sitar. That helps with the atmosphere, which is layed down thickly on ‘The Enlightenment’. The song is, as I sort of wanted to say earlier, a transcendental experience of mysterious atmosphere and tones and a playful expression with rare bursts of guitar work. Zaum brings the listener into a trance on this majestic track. When the band really hits it off, it is monumental. Crushing drums and that typical heavy, solid experience. Though I loved their previous record, this really takes the cake. I can listen to this forever.
Black Mara is a Russian label from Novosibirsk that has been releasing great records for a while now. The genre they fit into is dark ambient and Mrako-Su is their latest production. An ambient record that takes us far from the daily life that we embrace in our modern society.
Behind Mrako-Su is an entity known as Twilight or The Twilight (translation may not be perfect). A sjamanic explorer who retreats far into the forest on ‘Путь В Белое’. Inspiration is drawn from Chinese flute music to funeral doom metal , the music is a blend of strange, dreamy sounds.
The tones that you hear on the opening track are bells in the wind, blaring drones and unearthly vocals. This is the sounds you hear in the night, when you magnify your senses and fully embrace your surroundings. It’s the mind working on full energy in the darkest part of the forest, creating a forceful experience for the listener.
But the sound can also be harrowing and rather unpleasant, like the sharp sounds on ‘Чёрная Зима’, which is like standing next to a horrible machine. There’s a lot of dissonant, eerie sounds on the record, that seems to traverse from song to song to darker realms than before. The endless repetition puts the listener in a trance that doesn’t easily subside.
All in all this record has a more grimmer approach to the sjamanistic experience. Screeching sounds, buzzing drones and an almost unearthly experience await you. This makes sense, looking at the description with the record. It’s an escapist record, mournful about the loss of human nature and thus trying to cling on to it by recording it. It’s a record that will move the listener and maybe help you look at the green world differently and with more respect.