Lynchpin: Bringing Caricore to the masses from Trinidad & Tobago

When we think of the Caribbean region, our first thoughts are not about metal music. We imagine golden beaches, azure blue seas and so forth. In recent years a metal scene has started to really step out of the shadows. At Wacken Open Air, the band Lynchpin made the world aware of their scene.

Lynchpin hails from Trinidad and Tobago, an Island in the Caribbean region that is known for its music culture. Metal may not often be mentioned, but there’s a thriving scene. Lynchpin caught the international eye thanks to their participation in the Caribbean Wacken Metal Battle. Not only did it bring the small scenes in various nations together, Lynchpin became the emissary for the region after that.

A chat with Lynchpin about playing metal in Trinidad and Tobago, but also the hardships of going abroad and the lack of words to describe their Wacken experience (hint: there’s actually a lot of words).

Lynchpin: Heralds of Caricore

How did Lynchpin get started?

In 2009, Sievan realized that there was a drop in the local rock scene in Trinidad. It felt like the rock scene had no bands pushing and fighting for a voice. He met with Aaron, who was previously in local death metal pioneers Necropollis along with him and Overdose (Nu Metal), to discuss the creation of a new Band… a band with an attitude…. something to be in the face and forefront of local media and lead the local rock scene to new heights.

This was the Genesis of LYNCHPiN. Gerard was recruited soon after, coming of guitar duties for Vox Deus (another local mega band) and Jiggy, from Abbadon, for their technical abilities and unique personalities. All members have known each other for multiple years, in their other bands, and now combined their talents to make this new entity. LYNCHPiN was born in 2009… a new era… a new direction. A band and an attitude.

Last year you guys played Wacken Open Air. Can you tell us what the road to Wacken was like since it all started with the Wacken Metal Battle in the Carribbean, didn’t it?

Well, we played Wacken in 2016 actually, and yes it all started in the 1st ever Caribbean Metal Battle, Suriname. Wow, the road to Wacken…. phew… written words honestly cannot express how it all was.

A clear memory was the submission of the documents required for Wacken Caribbean Metal Battle, and then the wait. A wait without knowing when the announcement would be made for the 5 finalists. Thinking that there are 100s of bands in the whole Caribbean and we are one of only 5 to be selected?!? That was a feeling that I can’t express, helpless maybe? Since we had no control of selection process, it was quite amazing. It was Christmas season, very close to Christmas eve (I think) when we got the news that we were one of the 5 finalists!! We were in utter shock and glee, imagine, a CHANCE to perform in Wacken, but before that, in Suriname as one of 5 TOP bands?!!?! Surreal!

If people know us well, they would tell you that LYNCHPiN is a planning machine, LOL! We planned a whole lot for the Suriname competition, even getting 15 fans to move across with us, like carrying our home advantage with us! Well, cliche time:  the rest was history.

We destroyed the Caribbean Metal Battle, but it made us realize how great the other bands in the Caribbean are. We made lots of new friends. But that feeling of being the first Caribbean Metal Battle Winners is something we still cannot fully wrap our heads around….

The key for us is that we came in first and history will always have us there as the first winners!!

So now, we had 3 months (max) to figure out how to reach Wacken. We staged a huge fundraiser called “LYNCHPiN vs the World” as local bands all came together to assist us on this journey. But not just local bands, also other bands from the Caribbean and metal battle supported us.

Particularly This Will Be No More (Aruba), who have become very close to us in LYNCHPiN.

With fundraiser money and personal money combined, we embarked on the long, historical journey to Wacken Open Air. It still feels amazing to be able to say this. We traveled from Trinidad, to Tobago, then to Germany (Frankfurt I think) via airplane and then on train to Itzehoe (upper Germany) and then via Car to Wacken grounds. Trust us, that it is a lot of movement with a lot of baggage. We camped there for 5 days (yes, in tents), walked on stage on the 2nd day and that was indescribable. Just a whole experience. Jeff Waters (Annihilator) introduced us on stage (which was incredible) to over 10,000 new fans.

And that my friends was the sound of Caricore being born to the world…

What does it mean for you guys to play at Wacken? Not just as a band, but also as metalheads from Trinidad & Tobago?

It was significant for all of us. It meant breaking the stereotype of Caribbean bands and what people perceive us to sound like. It also gave the whole region a new outlook on what we as people in the Caribbean can do.

I think it literally changed the rock scene in one step… now every serious rock band is planning to play outside and bring back experience and help upgrade here.

After that, you’ve done some more touring. How did that go? Got any mad touring stories apart from the insane amounts of traveling you guys have to do?

I think the mad tour stories and tied with the insane amount of traveling. Man, luggage and many people make traveling always hard… I think we remember running a lot… to trains… out of trains…. to busses… out of busses… it was a lot!

So, your last EP was from 2014. Are you working on anything new currently?

Yes! Our new album/ EP will be out in Summer 2018!!! It is to be a concept album of sorts. We are really excited about it. It seems like a mature step for us musically and content-wise.

How do you guys go about creating new music? Who does what in the process and how do you get started on a new song?

Honestly, all of us write. Sievan is mainly lyrics whereas the band is music. We always work on the theme of the song and what it is about first, so we have the atmosphere to build on. Well, that’s what we normally do…

What can people expect from a Lynchpin show? What kind of experience do you guys deliver?

It is an overall experience, graphically to performance to content. We try to push the fans to want to be a part of the show! That is really what we are good at, getting the crowd to die for the performance.

So metal in the Caribbean is something that was pretty unknown for a long time. Now, having played at Wacken, that might change. What is the scene like in Trinidad & Tobago?

It is small, but maybe the biggest in the Caribbean scene! Suriname has a lovely growing one also. Still, in Trinidad, we have Soca and other local musical genres that are most dominant in this country. Our rock/ metal scene has always had its ups and downs in terms of size, so it’s on the up for now. We always think that this is the plateau of the rock scene here in terms of numbers. We want more, but we’re unsure of its possibilities.

Is everything readily available for you guys (like record stores, music equipment, rehearsal spaces, and venues to play at) or is it a big DIY thing?

DIY aways!!! Equipment is best shipped! There are no record stores who sell metal exclusively (except maybe the rare in-house merchant). Rehearsal spaces are also always a situation; as one comes, one goes!

How did metal music come to your country and what bands were instrumental in its development? Can you sketch out some of its history?

We’ve always had western influences here, from music to dress to culture (we unofficially celebrate Halloween here, for e.g.) because of our historical involvement with England and the United States, so I suppose it’s only natural that rock and metal appeared here. With the international popularity of Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles (The Beatles actually came to Trinidad once!) and The Rolling Stones etc. people here started getting into it – however these genres were (and still are) seen as foreign, so there wasn’t a very big movement around it. There were no more than about 10 bands in the 70s and 80s, and most were cover bands. The band Touchdown then debuted in the 80s and, with their connection to a successful soca/pop band – Fireflight, achieved great popularity both within and outside of the traditional rock community. The combination of Touchdown’s success and record shops beginning to supply rock records, due to their demand, lead to a surge in rock interest and the formation of bands between the late 80s and mid-90s. Bands like Smith Tuttle and Big Eyed Grieve had more of a grunge sound, while Orange Sky, Jaundis-I and Jointpop began blending rock with regional sounds like calypso and reggae.

The heavier side of rock and metal also started showing up in this period, through cover bands like ‘Infernal Death’ and ‘Tribal Darkness’ and original bands like ‘Bleed’ and ‘Lucifix’ (which actually contained members of Orange Sky!). Later on, in the late 90s/early 00s, the Black/Death Metal bangers Necropolis and heavy hitters Face of Death carried the torch. Nu-Metal also came on the scene with Brown Fox and local legends Incert Coin who, with Orange Sky, are perhaps the two most popular local bands to date. The mid-90s to early 00s really saw a boom in original bands performing heavier music, that many see as the highlight of the scene, with the aforementioned bands being joined by the likes of Tamper Evident, Alexes Machine, Cobolized, Vox Deus, Spectral Vibes, Anti-Everything, Krucifix, Overdose and many more.  These bands all paved the way for the scene today, and a few are seen as icons in our rock and metal history. Because of our small population, you rarely see more than two or three bands playing the same or similar genres of metal, but it also means that we have a very diverse range of rock and metal sub-genres, from pop-punk and punk to death and djent.

Apart from bands and record stores, 3 milestones were instrumental in the development of our rock scene: 1) Emmet Hennessy having listening parties and jams at people’s homes in the 70s 2) The launch of the radio programme ‘Total Local‘ and the ‘Mike Ross Underground/MRU‘ on 95.1fm almost 20 years ago, which had a huge impact on the modern popularity of rock and metal, with Mike Ross bringing these genres over the radio for 2-3 hours every Thursday, when no other station would, and 3) The launch and development of the website ‘The Bandfield‘ by Dexter Banfield, which catered specifically to local rock & metal bands, events and supporters, with its messaging board helping to bring the scene closer than ever before

I would like to thank  Maarten Manmohan for my knowledge of the history of metal here. Maarten actually did a study on it and he’s one of the main reasons I have so much info on the topic!

Which bands from your part of the world should people really check out (and why)?

There are so many relatively unknown bands in our region – Trinidad may have the largest number of bands but the other Caribbean islands are producing some great bands and music also.

The main reason I would tell anyone to check out these bands is the same I’d give for checking out any ‘big, international’ band: depending on your taste in metal, I think you’d enjoy them because they make great music and have recordings that you can access. These are only a handful of bands, as I don’t want to overwhelm you lol, but please let this be an introduction that will hopefully lead you to many more of the great bands we have around the Caribbean.

Mindscape Laboratory – Trinidad – djent

Bound to Oblivion – Trinidad – djent/modern heavy metal

Incert Coin – Trinidad – heavy rock/nu-metal

Feed the Flames – Guyana – Heavy Metal

Aeons of Disorder – French Guiana – Groove/Death Metal

The Supernormal Band – Trinidad – Rock with ‘Trini’ flavour

This Will Be No More – Aruba – djent

Asylum – Suriname – Heavy Metal/Metalcore

Do you feel that bands take something from Trinidad & Tobago in their metal music? Some sound, feeling or themes?

When we were in Wacken, we were told that we are definitely not death metal or deathcore. They said it’s more of a Caribbean groove with death/ black vocals, so we coined it Caricore! So, yes we do!!! Themes… maybe in terms of our realities here with crime etc.

What future plans does Lynchpin have at this moment? What can we expect in the future?

Working on recording and releasing the new EP and heavy touring over the next years. Breaking new ground and barriers for the Caribbean

If you had to compare your band to a type of food or dish, what would it be and why?

Actually thats easy… Pelau! We are a mixture of everything that influences us and is great together!
The band kindly linked some recipes if you’re interested in tasting some Pelau.

Underground Sounds: Мрамор – 9 дней

Label: Independent
Band: Мрамор
Origin: Russia 

Apart from the fact that these guys are named Мрамор, which translates as ‘Marble’, I know little about them. They were formed in 2015 in Ulan-Ude. This is in the far east of Russia, in the republic of Buryatia. A place far removed from Moscow and probably much different to what you think you know as Russia.

The music of the group is definitely different and is described as post-black metal or depressive rock, which immediately draws comparison to German experimentalists Bethlehem. It makes for a fascinating bit of listening though.

Ok, I’m going to give you the description of the wild sound that Мрамор produces as I hear it. It has a major tone in general, it feels just super upbeat and joyous in the weirdest way. Their vocalist shrieks with the same maddening style as Yvonne Wilczynska of Bethlehem and sometimes the songs simply have hooks that remind you of the feel-good punkrock of the late nineties. Though after ‘Пробуждение’ that soon fades and we get into the more post-black metal spheres that this band is aiming for.

The tremolo guitar play creates a vibrant tapestry full of color. That continuous stream is definitely taken from black metal, but the pounding drum and groovy bass line say something completely different. This actually rocks on ‘Оттепель’ and that explains why the band likes to call their sound ‘depressed rock’. The songs are rich with samples but go from swooping, majestic pieces to pretty firm rocking tunes and gentle ballads like ‘Навсегда’ in the best Russian tradition. That stunning variety alone makes these guys extremely good and interesting.

Extreme Nation: Roy Dipankar about his awesome documentary

Documentaries about heavy metal have started popping up ever since the global success of Sam Dunn’s Metal: A Headbangers Journey in 2005. These films show metal in the far corners of the world. It shows us what we have in common, but also what is different. A documentary film about metal in the Indian sub-continent and its various nations, therefore, seemed like a great idea and Roy Dipankar is trying to realize it.

Much like Sam Dunn, Roy has been scouring the continent for its most extreme and fascinating bands, live shows and lifestyles. His project is now hanging by a thread because it all depends on the success of his crowdfunding. The journey Roy wants to show to the world is one that finds that field of tension between ethnographic experience, journalistic interest and simple love and curiosity about a scene that remains largely hidden from the public eye. I thought it’d be nice to learn a bit more.

Extreme Nation’s Roy Dipankar

Hey Roy, How are you doing?
All good. Hoping to feel better.

So tell me about Extreme Nation, how did this idea start out?
I had always felt the need to have quality documentation of a show, an interview or a music video in metal music. I am talking in terms of Indian and Asian countries. Most of the information or coverage has been scattered.

It all started at the Trendslaughter gig in Bangalore around Feb 2014. What I had in mind was a docudrama of sorts that would be part documentary, part fiction. This was the initial seed. However, as my horizons expanded from city to city, town to town, country to country – I believe there was enough of amazing already happening with real people and characters and events. Hence since late 2013 to now – Extreme Nation has developed to be quite a unique story!

What do you find is the big appeal of the metal scene? Why would a film about it be interesting?
Roy: Metal music is outrageous, boisterous, it defies authority, questions rules, speaks of all and most things forbidden. And the followers, fans, and talented musicians go far beyond in proving that. The film is not just about the music alone but also about the people of the subcontinent and inter-relationship. That makes an interesting premise.

 You’ve been exploring the unique identity of extreme metal in the Indian subcontinent. What makes it so different to the rest of the world?
Roy: Indian subcontinental metal has its own flavor. Though the seed was laid in the West, metal music has gradually metamorphosed into a monster of its own kind. Metal music from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal through its various sub-genres, avenues and initiators carry their own story that is akin to the region. We are telling our tales through the eyes and tongue of a leviathan spawned out of your own backyard!

What can people expect from Extreme Nation?
Conflicting viewpoints, shock, mainstream bashing, our problems, our moments of joy here in South Asia and a lot of socio-political opinions. There are also fun moments and a travelogue involved.

What are some of your favourite encounters with the film? Without spoiling too much of its contents…
My visit to Sri Lanka to some really inaccessible places, and Kohima in Nagaland (far North East India). I have struggled for visas to Pakistan. And if the Wishberry campaign is successful, hopefully, I can travel to Lahore.

I’ve found that exploring is an activity that can change the way an audience sees something. Did you have any goals like that in mind and in what way has your journey changed you and your perspectives?
Exploratory travel is one of the best kinds for cognitive development and free thinking. Travel brings out the inner person and flourishes the soul with adventure in spite of risks and overwhelms you completely. Fear of the unknown and unexplored, uncharted realms entice me the most! One becomes a more inclusive person as well as sets priorities right.

Can you name some bands that will be featured in your film and that people should definitely check out as well?
To name a few – Anton Dhar from Nafarmaan (Bangladesh), Sandesh Shenoy from Cyclopean Eye Productions (India), Hassan Amin from Multinational Corporations/ Dead Bhuttos (Pakistan), Genocide Shrines, Serpent’s Athirst and Konflict from Sri Lanka.
Apart from all of them, there are also many more individuals and bands from Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Ladakh, Guwahati, Shillong, Nagaland, Lahore, Dhaka and Colombo.

What future ideas and plans do you have for film projects?
I am working on the pre-production of a short film, it will be hybrid cinema with mix-media involved. This will lay the foundation for a feature film in the making. All I can say about that film now is that of “a psychedelic experience from the underbelly laced with vitriol laden social comment.

Extreme Nation is in the last 15 days of the crowdfunding. Have one less beer next weekend and support this!

X-Mantra from Nepal: Crying For Peace

Nepal has had a turbulent history and through those years, one band stood in defiance of the situation. Seriously, rarely will you find a band that has lived through so much. X-Mantra started playing thrash metal in 2000 and immediately was faced with realities that other bands in this genre merely fantasized about. Their album Crying For Peace stands as a testament to that era.

A little history of Nepal, which was already in the throes of a civil war around the time X-Mantra started out. More than 12,000 people were killed in this war that lasted from 1996 to 2006. This is the theme for the first album of the band. In 2001 the monarchy of Nepal started to go down in blood, after a massacre in the royal palace (an inner-family feud), which only heightened the tensions up to 2008. Since then the country has been struggling to become a republic, but that is easier said than done obviously.

Now, a little footnote to this interview. Unfortunately, in this project I get in touch with bands from various places in the world and sometimes language forms a barrier. I’m pretty sure in the e-mails sent between Eindhoven and the United States (the current abode of Rojesh Shrestha, founder of the band) some things got lost in translation. X-Mantra is currently on hiatus, but they’ll be back and are looking to spread their music outside of the mountainous nation of Nepal.

X-Mantra: Nepalese Thrash Gods

First of, can you introduce yourselves?

We X-Mantra and we are a Heavy Metal Band from Nepal..We play THRASH Metal. I, Rojesh Shrestha, am the founder of the band and I’m answering these questions.

The current line-up:

Current line-up: guitar: Rohitaj Hiring  Guitar: Ram K. Century  Drums: Bikram Shrestha, Bass/Vocal: Rojesh Shrestha

Do you guys play in any other bands or are you starting new projects now X-Mantra is on hiatus?

No, some of our members are out living in US and Australia so for time management we are on hiatus.

How did X-Mantra get started back in 2000? What made you guys get together and decide to make this kind of music?

We were in different bands. We all were sick and tired playing cover songs. As our musical taste wore the same we decided to form a new band and started playing original Nepali Metal songs in 2000. Actually we as a band were form to participate in national music contest.

Where you inspired by Nepalese bands to make metal music or did it come from foreign bands?

No, we all were inspired by foreign Metal bands then.

Can you tell a bit about the start of metal in Nepal and what that scene was like back in the days when you guys started playing? How did metal music come to Nepal in the first place?

For a decade there used to be metal scene here in Nepal. There used to be good bands like Dead Soul and other bands whom we adored. As I mentioned before we wore in different bands some glam rock, some rock and some from metal itself, we decided to come up with our original album so we gathered and started playing original songs.

Metal in Nepal started as by covering the greatest bands like SlayerMetallica etc.

You guys started playing metal music in what probably is the most turbulent time in recent History for your country. Can you tell a bit about that for people who are not familiar with it? And how did that impact you guys as a band?

We did Political lyrics then starting from our 1st album till the 3rd (2000-2005) As we had our own official legal advisor. The lyrics were too hardcore for that time being, which brought a revolution in Nepali Music Industry in 2000. The literature and the deep meaning took us to the place we are in still.

You guy’s have probably seen it all. The transition from a kingdom to republic, civil war… I think it’s reflected particularly in your early work that seems to be highly political. What was it you were trying to say with for example debut album ‘Crying For Peace’?

Our first album Crying For Peace represents the situation Nepal was in. That was something that no other musician tried to express at that time. We had our offensive lyrics and I think our music was too new for the Nepalese music industry. The album’s motto was to wake up people before it’s too late and kick some fucking ass of the politicians.

Since then, back in 2000, it was political crisis going on. There were no other bands or musicians who sang against the way things were going or dealt with politics and the suffering of people. We hired an advocate and started writing songs about that. But now things have changed, we can now hear many genres artists (from folk/rock/pop/hip-hop) are rebelling against the politics. We thought that it would be the same if we used such lyrics, we wanted to be different…. that’s all. Everyone is using the same words these days, but no voices are heard. So, it’s useless to repeat the same thing again and again.

How has the metal scene grown and developed since you guys started out?

We used to organize some underground gigs called Metal Mania which we continued till part-III. There used to be 50-60 people for our show, which was awesome at the time, but now it’s a different story. We have many shows, more than a pop or other musical shows… and it’s too good. Now, we have more than 5.000 people visiting an outdoor show. The new upcoming bands are growing day to day, and we are very satisfied with that!

Nepal is in a way an extreme country, with its mighty mountains, high located cities and such. Do you think there’s a connection between these extreme conditions and the booming extreme metal scene?

No I dont think it does, but it doesn’t harm the Metal Culture in Nepal either. Music has nothing to do with politics or a county’s conditions I think. Doesn’t make any connections within both. We did music in our location in even worst situations of the nation.

I’m intrigued by that history your band went through. In that tumultuous past, did you guys have to deal with controversies and censorship and the like? I imagine not everyone was appreciative of a band trying to get involved in the politics of the time.

Yes, our songs were not played in any radio and television stations then, they used to say “we don’t have the perfect show to play your songs”. But it’s the same problem even now, except 2-3 media houses. Censorship was one of main issues then. As I said, we even got together with an official legal advisor when we released our debut album….. as we were also prepared for all those circumstances. We were also ready in case we’d be send to jail, haha!

At some point you guys really got big in Nepal. I’ve seen footage where you’re working with a rapper and a singer. What was the mainstream appeal that you think X-Mantra holds?

Yes, we did some collaboration at a time that was due to our producers and record label. We were not allowed to release the music we liked and that really SUCKS. We used to be in no 1. charts for months then. We thought to do something new and secondly, those days, the record label used to decide which songs were to be finalized in that moment.

So, after 17 years of playing excellent music, you’re going on hiatus. Why did you guys make this choice and how long do you think the hiatus might last?

Overseas migration problems are the mean reason. Me, being frontman of the band, I continued the band for 17 years without any breaks. Due to my family problems I had to to move to the United States, so we are taking a break for maybe 2 or 3 years from now.

I just moved to here in America and most of our members are in Australia. The current members are in Nepal though. Since I am the founding member I am thinking to continue my band while staying in the US.

Having seen all these youngsters come up in the Nepali metal scene, which bands should people definitely check out and why?

Now every new bands are equally good in both their gear and they are musically strong. Everyone should check Nepali Bands these days without any doubts. All are freaking awesome in their own way.

What future plans do you guys have? Will there be an anthology of sorts of X-Mantra?

Yes we will be COMING with new videos yet to be released. And after 2-3 years we will be COMING out with our New album DEFINITELY.

If you had to compare X-Mantra to a dish (a type of food), what would it be and why?

We are the crab….. haha….. because we never decided to move on the fast track….let the time roll in its own pace and we’ll catch up with time again. That’s how we define ourselves.


Books: Cult Never Dies edition

I love black metal in all its aspects. It has not ceased to amaze me this far. Extreme metal in itself is a rich outlet, with art, image and philosophy always intertwined with the art itself. No one documents that better than Cult Never Dies in a stunning series of books and merchandise.

Recently the organization moved in new directions, to make products that don’t directly fall in the original line of books about black metal that they’ve been releasing. Since I normally write about the books I read in particular book blogs (here, here, here and here) (and here too). I felt that these new releases deserved to have their own little bit on Stranger Aeons, so here’s to the latest writings of Cult Never Dies/Dayal Patterson.

Dayal Patterson – Owls, Trolls & Dead King’s Skulls: The Art Of David Thiérrée

source: CND website

This book is an art book with a biography of a remarkable artist. David Thiérré is a craftsman, who works with a sense of reality and almost tangible eye for detail. His works are very well known and respected in the extreme metal world, but to just place him under that banner does little justice to his creativity. Thiérré seems to breathe life into nature, the way folklore and old tales do. It’s only logical that by 2017 his work appeared in a book form, presented to those who love and embrace the otherworldly quality of his work.

Cult Never Dies is well known for the metal-related productions, but this is a new venture and a daring one at that. Not only is the metal community a niche in itself, when you add the filter of art to the mix, you’re bringing something that might not find the broad appeal you’d hope. But that’s exactly what Cult Never Dies has been doing, capturing a scene that defies definition and putting it to paper, boldly presenting it to the world. The work of David Thiérré has a similar mythical quality and to capture it, without choking the life out of the gentle pencil strokes and layered washes of paint shows mastery on the publishing end as well.

The book contains the story of the artist. It’s not full of drama, but it gives in insight into the connective tissue that binds Thiérré to his art. A feeling of what meaning and love go into it. This book should not be missing from your book shelves

Sven Erik ‘Maniac’  Kristiansen – Ultra Damaged: Damage Inc. Zine Anthology 1987-2017

source: CND website

Before Maniac became one of the most feared and insane live frontmen the world has ever seen, he was mainly a massive music geek. Yeah, sure… back then we didn’t call it that, but this production clearly shows his massive love and passion for extreme music displayed for the world to see. Probably a bit surprising to many people actually, but the man knows his Japanese hardcore, underground black and death and much more. Only two editions of his Ultra Damaged zine came out back in the eighties, but specially for this release they have become available once more. Maniac is also starting his zine anew, with a love for the physical product and the handwork that goes into it.

In Cult Never Dies it seems that old zine makers have found a company that can put this together as a cool product, relevant in todays age of internet fluidity. Reading this zine, you become aware of the peculiar beginnings of black metal. The music is not known as such yet it seems, by the choice of words by Maniac. He talks about music that is evil, brutal and insane, with an uncanny passion. The interviews are not overly polished, the language is often riddled with mistakes, but the pure passion behind it is tangible. What I like most is how you really trace the development of something new and exciting through the words of Maniac and their ever subtle shift from zine 1 to zine 2. These zines are not high literature, but pure chunks or original black metal passion and history.

New titles

Exciting news, there’s two new titles available. A combination of zines, titled Ultimate Darkness and the amazing Doom Metal Lexicanium by Aleksey Evdokimov.

These things don’t just happen, they take a lot of work and investment. If you’re excited about this (as I am), make sure to grab some of these titles or maybe a cool new t-shirt (great quality, trust me). Keep the cult alive!

Underground Sounds: Myrkgrav – Takk og farvel; tida er blitt ei annen

Label: Pest Productions
Band: Myrkgrav
Origin: Norway

I really try to cover the more recent releases, but coming across Myrkgrav, I have to share this. Myrkgrav is the project of
Lars “Leiðólfr” Jensen, who played in Quadrivium and Storm. The project started out in Norway, but it seems that Jensen has relocated to Turku in Finland now. ‘Takk og farvel; tida er blitt ei annen’ was released in 2016 and after that, the band was put on hold.

With Myrkgrav, Jensen tries to preserve stories and myths from his part of the world, the region of Ringerike. To prevent those from fading into oblivion, he puts those to music. The artist is still working on new material, but it’s not clear if that will come out under the banner of Myrkgrav. To create the music, Jensen uses guest musicians like Olav Mjelva of Wardruna and various others. The artwork immediately sets the mood with its depiction of the beautiful, wild nature.

Musically Myrkgrav sticks somewhere between catchy folk punk and folk metal. It lacks the rigorous sound of full-on metal, but comes closest to Glittertind for me on some parts. Even when the vocals are grunted, the overall sound remains very accessible. Tunes like ‘Skjøn jomfru’ stick close to the folky traditionals, with clean, warm vocals that are easily enjoyable. ‘Vonde auer’ with its fiddle by Mjelva immediately takes you to the valleys and mountains in all their overwhelming beauty. The guitar play is remarkably catchy on tracks like ‘Bekom Gyrihaugen’, with swooping parts carrying you away. It’s one of the multiple instrumentals on this record.

A track like ‘Soterudsvarten’ shows the more heavy side of the band, but the folklore and the playful sound is still a heavy part of it. Sometimes the galloping rhythms feel a bit too repetitive for my tastes, It makes some songs feel a bit unnecessary, but then again on this record, some older work has been added from past periods of Myrkvar. When we return to the folky tunes, that’s where Myrkvar is exceptionally pleasant. The singing voice is calm and sonorous and manages to tell stories. The opening song even comes back towards the end in an English version, which is pretty sweet.

This album is quite a treat, clocking over an hour in total time. Check this out, it’s stilll available to listen to.

Underground Sounds: Au-Dessus – End of Chapter

Label: Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions
Band: Au-Dessus
Origin: Lithuania

Au-Dessus from Lithuania

Au-Dessus is one of the new wave of bands that bring a new aspect to the realm of black metal. Some may call it post black metal, others may use the new term blackgaze for this. Formed in Vilnius in 2014, the band has members in its ranks from groups like Pergalė, Exile Into Suffery and Mangragora. Though they hail from Lithuania, the name translates to ‘Above’ in French.

What you immediately notice about this group is their whole aesthetic. No harsh logo’s, corpse paint or spikes, nothing traditional. The only thing that you might find connective is the black hoods, but even those are stylized and different. The cover with a child, carrying coins on its eyelids is heavy. It signifies a death. The subtlety and cold beauty are exemplary for the sound of the Lithuanian group.

The sleek and clean artwork is immediately tangible in the well-produced sound of the group. Polished riffs and a great balance in the sound makes listening to Au-Dessus a pleasure. The songs are numbered, and ‘VI’ plummets you instantly into the atmospheric black metal riffing. The continuous, blaring wall of sound creates an uncanny calm, with haunting spectres ever at the edge of the experience. Vocalist Mantas roars, growls and spits in pure harrowing anger over the ever pushing and progressing sound, which flows with the smoothness of a river.

By the time you hit track ‘IX’ it becomes sort of clear that there’s a good bit of rocking groove underneath all the mayhem. For brief moments the engine to the sound shows, which is really running smoothly and purring like a kitten, but screams a moment later when the pace increases for a dramatic climax. Au-Dessus is all about the build-up, the subtle shifts and sudden bursts of energy. Wave after wave of dissonant, wailing guitars hit you. You submerge in the cold sea of sound.

I’m quite certain that purists will have less appreciation for this band. Their sound moves you with layers upon layers of the atmosphere, crisp production and a sense of grandeur and emotional beauty. They make me think of groups like Harakiri For The Sky and maybe elements of Deafheaven, while holding that mysterious allure of more occult bands. They never seem to actually implement many symbols in their music, maybe to let the sound speak for itself more.

Au-Dessus can be tough and hard, but only when it serves the overall narrative. Most of their music has a dirge-like somberness to it, but harrowing, biting passages are there when they need to be. Losing yourself in this record is quite possible.

Underground Sounds: King of Asgard – :taudr:

Label: Trollmusic
Band: King of Asgard
Origin: Sweden

If Unleashed hadn’t become the beer-guzzling cliché that it unfortunately is and had stuck to their guns, they might have become King of Asgard. I’m very aware that this is a risky thing to say because to put them in one sentence is bound to be controversial.  Musically, the Swedes appear to be difficult to place. Angry Metal Guy puts them in the folky black metal corner, while Metal Temple throws them in the bucket of melodic death metal. Being the much less genre-oriented typing metal fan that I am, I’ll just leave it at this; King of Asgard has a bit of both but is mostly Viking metal.

King of Asgard revolves around Karl Beckman, who has stayed firmly on the trajectory he started on with Mithotyn. This band is slightly different in being more dark and brooding. ‘Taudr’ is the fifth album by the band, which also has featured Jonas Albrektsson since 2009 (from Thy Primordial and Retaliation a.o.). Albrektsson is arguably more of a black metal guy, hence the sound on this record. Everything about this record just oozes northern folklore and the grim realities of that realm.

So even though I don’t wish to admit it, for me the great appeal of this album is definitely the black metal atmosphere blended with folk. Not in the blended way, where it all ends up being a drinking horn raising bacchanal. No, both aspects do their respective job in turn or distinctly separate. ‘The Curse and the Wanderer’ immediately jumps into the fray with vigor and battle lust. Notable instantly are the drums, that definitely keep the hard and solid bottom in the songs. Even when the chanting parts pass by, the skins keep it together. Sharp, tightly mixed guitars drive the song forward, without ever doing more than needed.

The hurdy-gurdy on ‘Death …and a New Sun’ is exactly where it needs to be. It offers the droning center that you stick with for the whole song. Rigid riffing and a continuous, monotonous sound tell a story in itself. It also makes the song extremely heavy. But I’d like to talk about the title track because the dynamic intro is already exciting foreplay to the grandeur of this song. There’s a majesty to the sound here, thanks to an again excellently produced bit of string magic. It leans towards folk metal, without ever crossing the border to fun and silly-land. The harsh bark of Beckman really shouts you into submission. Man your oars and row, you scabs! Excellent drumming on this track again.

A climactic point on the album is ‘…For the Fury of the Norse’. To me, this track crosses some lines in its grand finale moment, but it is entirely fitting on its spot in the album. The soaring guitars and slow pace are a bit too Marvel Thor for me. Still, it’s rather enjoyable and on a more critical level, I can’t find any fault in it. Closing the album is Mithotyn cover ‘Upon Raging Waves’. A cover is always tricky, particularly of a band with a distinct sound. Beckmann obviously understands his own song well enough to shape it to the sound and feel of King of Asgard. It might be the best song on this album.

King of Asgard is not breaking new ground because they do what they do excellently. A true gem in current day metal, particularly for those who need no novelties in their heavy sound.


Underground Sounds: Bergrizen – Der Unsterbliche Geist

Label:  Purity Through Fire
Band: Bergrizen
Origin: Ukraine

Bergrizen is remarkably enough a solo project by Myrd’raal. The band hails from Kiev. The music is self-described as HelCarpathian black metal, which was not a term I was familiar with up till now, but listening to this record I’m quite sure that its a fitting term for the furious sound.

The band has been around for a good 10 years now and in the live setting, there is a full band playing the songs, so that must be something to behold. This is the fifth album by Bergrizen, with the ominious Hegellian title ‘Der Unsterblichen Geist’.

The sound of Bergrizen combines a classic somberness with the rigid sound of straight-backed black metal. Pitch black, but surprisingly enough, also very listenable. There’s an inherent darkness to the sound of this band, with many remorseful and melancholic passages in the quieter bits. From the points where the music swells, we get powerful arches, tremolo riffing and pained howls.
The singing is often inaudible to an extent that only the feeling is conveyed in almost bestial screams. Musically the record cover might suggest much grimmer and harrowing sounds, but surprisingly Bergrizen is full of melody. On ‘ Ankunft der Winterdämmerung’ we also hear a deeper, more abyssal voice full of evil promises. Then again, on ‘Entsagen’ we actually get a bit of that rock’n’rolling sound and feel.
Bergrizen has a lot of the traditional black metal vibe while being much more easy to listen to. That doesn’t diminish anything of the grim and dark atmosphere on the album. It just makes it pleasant to delve into it.

Underground Sounds: Weed Demon – Astrological Passages

Label: Dissonant Society
Band: Weed Demon
Origin: USA

With a name like Weed Demon, you can already pretty much guess that we’re getting groovy, spacy doom metal from this Ohio quartet. The massive, rocky vision on the cover, which I love, tells everything anyways. It immediately captures my attention when a band like this gets some cool artwork. It shows the dedication to the general drive behind the sound.

So Weed Demon has been around only briefly. These gentlemen have no massive music history, so the quality of this release is especially fresh. Previously the band released an EP titled ‘Stoned To Death’, which seems to have stuck way closer to the more stereotypical stoner schtick. ‘Astrological Passages’ is the thing you should check though.

Weed Demon kicks off with foreboding guitar picking in that dropping doom style. Massive reverb gives the thing a cavernous (or spacy if that fits the title better) effect. The roaring vocals really give off the vibe that one listens to a maddened caveman who’s roaring into the dark in pure rage. Big, lumbering riffs progress at their own pace, sound effects create a foreboding, creepy effect at times. Weed Demon is a menacing beast, crawling towards you. Bringing the sound of Sleep and Spaceslug together in the best possible way.

The sound has a lot of space in it though, regardless of its full pounding force. Every hit of the drum, strumming of the guitar, it just floats on as if in space. Even the lyrics are huge, talking about almost abstract concepts like the immensity and awesome power of space in a burly roar. It’s interesting that the sound still has a lot of groove left thanks to that freely soaring guitar work. I imagine this band really kicking it live thanks to that. My favorite track I suppose would be ‘Sigil of the Black Moon’, thanks to its foreboding, dark lyrics. Here and there the band uses some little tricks to keep you on your toes, like some samples or mysterious chanting on ‘Dominion of Oblivion’.

My favorite track I suppose would be ‘Sigil of the Black Moon’, thanks to its foreboding, dark lyrics. Here and there the band uses some little tricks to keep you on your toes, like some samples or mysterious chanting on ‘Dominion of Oblivion’. It’s a bit cheesy, granted, but the gents pull it off for most of the song to sing sonorously in this meditative style. The music just works alongside it. Weed Demon is heavy, without ever being oppressive. Their music is awesome and that’s why you should listen to this.