Underground Sounds: Trail of Lies – W.A.R.

Label: Edgewood Records, Farewell Records
Band: Trail of Lies
Origin: United States

Hardcore bands come and go at a rapid pace. It’s one of those things you can count on it seems. Trail of Lies has been kicking about for a while now and seem to stay their course in the landscape of tough sounding, breakdown filled tunes. High-strung hardcore music provided on their new record ‘W.A.R.’.

The band hails from Syracuse and is considered a straight edge act. Featuring members from Naysayer, Forfeit, and Warhound, they’re something of a hardcore-powerhouse, influenced by 90’s hardcore from the east coast of the States. This is definitely the sound that inspired me in the early days of my music quest and stumbling upon them definitely was a joy for the ear.
We kick off with the tune ‘Master of My Destiny’, which is a balled-fists power anthem for the self-empowerment so typical to hardcore music. Pounding rhythms and vocals that rip apart the vocal chords. This heavy hitting, battle-ready trajectory flows forwards through the rest of the record. Always full of fire and passion, driving for a mosh-worthy sound.
Lyrically, the songs fuel the fire with the hardcore staples of breaking stuff, breaking free, brotherhood and self-reliance. Add to that the straight edge lifestyle and you have a true sound of dissent in a society that more and more edges towards hedonism and herd mentality. If there ever was a time, where hardcore was needed, it is this one. Straight up hardcore, with a message and some balls, that’s what you get here.

Gaerea: Art, concept, black metal from Portugal

It’s there, silently on the far west of the European continent. The last land that explorers saw when they left and the first to herald their return: Portugal. The country is the quiet gem of the Mediterranean, oddly always a bit obscured compared to Spain, Italy, and France. Yet it holds beautiful nature, culture, and customs and with bands like Gaerea also a metal scene full of wonder.

As a band, Gaerea is pretty young but instantly connected with me due to their overpowering sound, particular aesthetics, and refreshing feel. The music of the band deals with introspective themes, with art and expression of negative emotions. This they do extremely well on their latest record Unsettling Whispers, out on Transcending Obscurity.

Gaerea were kind enough to answer some questions and tell more about their band, vision and what this music means to them. Thanks to Kunal Choksi for making this article happen.
Photo’s taken from band profiles online.

Gaerea: Exploring new realms of expression

Could you kindly introduce yourselves? Do you play in other projects next to Gaerea?
This is Gaerea, a Black Metal Quintet to emerge from Portugal. Due to the fact that all members are insatiable creatures for art, everyone has other projects to fulfill different parts of their beings.

When and how did Gaerea get started? Which bands would you consider your inspiration?
Even though Gaerea was a fetus inside one’s head for quite a few years, it was in 2016 the band was born with the record and release of the first debut EP. It was released via Everlasting Spew Records back then. We take many inspirations from different kinds of art like Paint, Cinema, and Music, of course. We like bands such as Obsidian Kingdom, Shining or Watain. Mainly because of their conceptual work other than music, which nowadays is so underrated. Music is not music anymore.

Can you tell about the concept behind the band? As in, what ideas, vision and such shape Gaerea and the art you create?
GAEREA acts as a reporter, a bringer of the chaotic message from the Void Society. It is a burden we all must carry for it also relates to us as individuals who are also lost on their own bubble.

The album goes deeper into this conceptual world. Again, the message is brought to you by a third person who watches everything that occurs in a street, a city. It is another dimension where suicide is part of the human regular daily basis. Death is a dream from another world. Aging is something for the lost generation and most of all, feelings of joy, anger or sadness no longer exist. They are part of a well-remembered past, a topic which once was praised and now is clear and present.

I’m also interested in the visual aspect, for example, the sigil on the masks you guys where. Where do they originate from and how did you come up with the overall visual expression, like the album covers. Also do you create this yourself?
Yes, most of the visual aspect is crafted by the band itself. The masks, the conception of our symbol and even the first Ep’s cover. The album cover was painted by an artist we respect: Khaos Diktator.

Above all things such as where did all of this come from, it is important to state that the basis of our work is to put out characters which have no name, face, feelings or equal skin from others in the audience. For me, it was a normal visual reaction from what we see today inside our system. We are just lost ents who crawl under our dreams to get bigger, fatter and richer lives. Everyone dreams of becoming a celebrity, a dictator to others, a model for others to follow. And that is all part of the sickening way we tend to live.

Back to the album cover, it a piece filled with beautiful details not just in terms of paintwork but also it is the catch of the perfect despairing moment where death is only a mirage. We see the old pale man falling apart while anxiety and numbness consume him. For us, it is the perfect face for this release.

Your next album is out soon at Transcending Obscurity. How did you end up signing to this label and how has it been to you this far?
We had some offers from other labels after we finished recording the album last summer. Many were interesting and others not so much. Transcending Obscurity was the one which stood out with a good offer, a sick promotional work and most of all understanding the band, its concept and motivations for this release. It has been a good start.

Your next album, ‘Unsettling Whispers’, is appearing soon. What can you tell about the writing and recording process for this album and how did you feel you progressed from your EP?
It definitely goes deeper into the void concept, which for me, is a step forward and a final nail in the coffin for that concept. The music is just different from the one we recorded for the EP. The feeling and expression was also something very different and mature so that’s why some people may hear a more “grown-up” band in “Unsettling Whispers. ”

The writing process happened right after we released “GAEREA” EP, surprisingly. I was not expecting a new wave of inspiration. For me, we didn’t necessarily have to put out another ep or album. The job was done. But yes, inspiration took us by surprise and things started to happen fast. All the writing process took just half year to conclude and in June we were recording the album at Demigod Recordings in Portugal with Miguel. The recording process took us only 2 weeks to start and finish the whole thing. We knew exactly how it was supposed to sound and fortunately, we worked with a very good producer who instantly gave new ideas and approaches to our music.

What is the story on the album and how was it conceived conceptually? From what did you derive inspiration for it?
From the first moment, this band started to take its first steps, we got into Thomas Ligotti’s work. It definitely changed and was an inspiration for this Album. Saramago is also a creature who is firmly present in this conceptual work. All is explained in the lyrics and texts of an extended 20-page booklet inside the Digipak.

When listening to the now released track, I feel that your sound progresses from the traditional black metal sound into something well-polished, balanced but yet very heavy. In a sense, harder to classify in a genre. Is that where you’d like to place yourself as a band?
Personally, I can’t really fit this band into one genre only. Of course, it has strong Black Metal roots, although you may find other styles like Doom, Death or Hardcore. I don’t think about it. Nowadays it’s just weird to see people categorizing contemporary music.

If it was meant to be squared or direct, we wouldn’t have today’s artists like Hans Zimmer, Marina Abramovic, and others. It’s art which takes elements and inspiration from every other art realm already conceived to create or mold something called “new”. And no, I’m not talking about only music.

As I see it, you are pushing what it means to make black metal forward. In your perspective, what is black metal in its essence, what does it mean in 2018?
It doesn’t mean anything but something to be an inspiration for today’s artists and above all, something to be respected. It’s something which made total sense to be born inside Norway’s nest and spread like a plague to the world. Nowadays it’s just hard to do “pure” black metal cause the world has changed, metal music also changed a lot.

Every artistic movement happens on its own timeline for a reason. For me, it is strange how some new artists try to copy or recreate the same exact music in 2018. I don’t think that we’re taking black metal forward. Gaerea stands for another reason. But of course, we enjoy embracing new followers and people who think that just by hearing the songs.

Right now this kind of music is constantly under scrutiny. Watain, Marduk and so forth. How do you feel about this and what sort of situation do you face in your own country?
and Inquisition also. We are aware of what’s happening in today’s media and internet world. Yet, we don’t condemn artistic choices but personal ones which can ruin a career hard or impossible to be rebuilt. Let’s not go into detail regarding what we feel about every case. It’s not up to the Portuguese underground band to take part or to catch the moment to say anything about bands we respect and wish some things weren’t true. The one thing that matters to me is art and what their music means.

Could you tell me a bit about the scene in Portugal? What is happening there currently?
Everything is way smaller in Portugal. No big scandals because there aren’t many big bands and people just don’t care too much about it. Good thing we have some of the most die-hard fans in this country who will follow their favorite artists no matter what.

For your style of music, who do you look to as pioneers you follow up with. As in, regarding the history of metal in Portugal, do you place yourself in line with any pioneering bands as such?
Artists like Shining, The Great Old Ones, Obsidian Kingdom or even Secrets of the Moon. These are some strong names for us. And even though they do not fit entirely into the black metal genre or anything, neither do us. Regarding your second question, as I told you, we do not think too much about any of that. Of course we’re ambitious to the point we walk in a straight line towards the success of those acts. But still, we’re a small group and we must keep that in mind. We still have our own long path to craft.

Which bands from Portugal should people really check out?
We follow a lot of Portuguese acts. On the top of my head are The Ominous Circle, Process of Guilt and Lobo.

What future plans does Gaerea have?
For now, we have a massive release coming up. Some special appearances are being booked as we speak. Still, do not expect any extensive touring season.

If you had to compare Gaerea to a dish, what would it be and why?
Francesinha. You’re probably not familiar with this typical Portuguese dish but if there’s anything worth checking out, it’s that monstrous sandwich.

Is there anything you’d like to add that I didn’t ask?
“Unsettling Whispers is due to be released 22nd June. You know what to do.

Official Bandcamp – https://gaerea.bandcamp.com

Transcending Obscurity Records – http://tometal.com

Underground Sounds: Vonlaus – Vonlaus

Label: Vánagandr/Mystískaos
Artist: Vonlaus
Origin: Iceland

The map of Iceland is blotted with little groups of black metal artists, but the biggest is right over Reykjavik. The vast empty land does here and there spark some fires, but the capital is where it happens and Vonlaus is no exception. Their debut has come out this year and that’s all I can tell you about this group.

As the demo is out on Vánagandr. It’s likely that this project is connected to that lot and Mystískaos limits it even further to a very limited group. Though this speculation may be fun, nothing comes from it. Yet, I will just mention Wormlust and Skaphé as label mates and leave it at that. Vonlaus did contribute a track to the compilation ofMYRKFÆLNI magazine before and that’s all I can tell you at this point.

Opener ‘Vistaránauð’is a grimy, dirty doom track, with a slow progression that just glues you to the floor. The howling, raspy vocals are almost mocking, challenging the listeners in an uncanny way, while a clean guitar melody breaks through the murky haze. Slow and heavy, this hits quite hard and effectively. The shimmering guitars and thudding rhythm, the chuggy bass line, all works wonderfully.

On ‘Mein’ the band truly arrives though. A rocking vibe unleashes itself from the start. The repetitive melody feels as if it works your nerves like tiny little hammers for the 5-minute duration of the track with that nagging sound. It similarly holds that low pace, with a punky beat to it, a remarkable simplicity that just works for Vonlaus. The exit is the tune ‘Í blindbyl ótta og haturs’, which has that same raw and melancholic vibe, sticking to the base principles of the band. A welcome entry into the black metal realms, but hard to say if this is going to be one that sticks around.

Underground Sounds: Aorlhac – L’esprit des Vents

Label: Les Acteurs de L’Ombre Productions
Band: Aorlhac
Origin: France

Occitania is probably not a place you will easily find on maps, as it borders are not clearly defined and the language is not written down. Yet a vast amount of people in the south of France speak it. This is the place where Aorlhac hails from and their ‘L’esprit des Vents’ is a telling from their origins.

The band derives their name from Aurillac, home to the group. Members are also active in An Norvys, and three of them played together in Towersound before. Drummer Ardraos is more well-known thanks to his participation in Peste Noir. This record counts as number three for the band in a trilogy dealing with their ancient homeland.

Soundwise, the group compares to the like of Windir and Taake, thanks to that epic, yet aggressive sound they embody. The opening riff of ‘Alderica’ immediately grabs you, with howling vocals and blistering beats and rhythms. The music surges, like the Mistral wind, filled with atmosphere and riffs that evoke medieval images. At times we even hear the effects of hurdy-gurdy like music, for example on ‘Infâme Saurimonde’, which has some noteworthy breaks in the sound.

I have to say, listening to the urgency and grand passages in their sound, Aorlhac strikes me as a band that could be so much bigger. Musically, they grab attention with catchy, driven songs. The vocals are rough but very audible and open for singing along, much akin to the Ensiferium’s of this world. Melodic, yet never cheesy, this historically themed record with hellishly good tunes, like ‘Ode à la Croix Cléchée’ and ‘Une Vie de Reclus’, stands strong from start to finish.

The songs form raised fists to the temporal forces, that have made the world so much smaller. They are raised in defiance of nature, history and the melting pot of cultures, harking back to an age before, to an age of heroes and pride. That makes for one hell of a record.


Underground Sounds: Nam-Khar – Secret Essence/Sangwa Dupa

Label: Winter Light
Artist: Nam-Khar
Origin: Germany

Inspired by the mysteries of Tibet and far-eastern mysticism, Nam-Khar creates music that his highly ritualistic, marvelously uncommon and wildly unsettling at times. Still, the German artist creates pure magic with his blend of industrial, ambient and drone effects, which leaves you with a modern age ritual of aural magick.
The mixing was done by Martijn Comes, who is an absolute expert when it comes to amplifying the minimal into the maximal as done on this Winter Light release. ‘Secret Essence/Sangwa Dupa’ is by far not the first release of Nam-Khar. The artist name is derived from a ritualistic object, a weave from the Buddhist and Bön traditions. Wholly fitting, as that is how the music is created too.
‘Dri Za’ opens the record with eerie drones. Cold and metallic, they suck you into a darkness where the self slowly is peeled away. To a realm where in the dark, with your eyes shut, you can only hear the odd shuffling, dripping and industrial cracking beats that come at random intervals. The cavernous sound does much to intensify the listening experience, with the clangs reverberating from cavernous walls. Though there is a sense of foreboding, the horror element doesn’t frighten but merely focusses the mind on ‘Sab Dak’, as the sound slowly shifts.
On tracks like ‘Srinmo’ the drones are ever present, waxing and waining like the underground waters that they sound like. It’s different on the soundtrack-esque ‘Shidak’, which immediately creates a rising tension. Cold and eerie, but well entrancing. The sound o Nam-Khar is not that of fear, but of immersion and meditation. To dissolve the self into, the mood and calm unfolding itself, closing with the magical ‘Klu’.

Underground Sounds: The Malnàtt Collective – Pianura Pagana

Label: Il Male Production
Band: Malnàtt/The Malnàtt Collective
Origin: Italy
Since 1999 the group The Malnàtt Collective has been paving the way with their experimental metal. Playing with poetry, futurism and black metal, they’ve settled on… Well, that’s hardly settling you hear on ‘Pianura Pagana’. Their logo even contains a bit of Marinetti’s futuristic writing, suggesting the perpetual, machine-motion of the dynamic art movement. Peculiar? Indeed, but well worth listening to.
The core of the group is Helios Pu, also Porz, who has rand the mechanism for a good 20 years now. He also played in Marbas Cult, Buzzum, Vedova and probably other projects. Surrounding him is a never rotating line-up of musicians, filling in the vacant slots. Translated from Bolognian dialect, Malnàtt translates as ‘swine’.

You might not think of the combination directly, but the melodic and emotional Italian singing, combined with metal riffing and poetry delivers a powerful, atmospheric experience. Call it avant-garde, or atmospheric black metal, it matters not, because this is unlike anything you’ve listened to before. After a brief intro, the tune ‘Io ti propongo’ opens in a rather common way, with blast beats and remarkably clean riffs. It’s when the melancholic singing pierces through, that you get the uncanny experience, where metal and the cantautori of Italy meet.

During ‘Il Collettivo Malnatt’, the group moves into a more power metal direction, with dramatic, powerful songs and big movements. Bravely and boldly, the band implements poetry and art into a sound that is so unlike anything I’ve heard before. It’s innate melancholy and power almost completely obscure the thrash roots the band has (though they shine through now and then). Limits hardly hinder The Malnàtt Collective, as they move to a more punk-driven sound on ‘Chiese Chiuse’. I would call this whole album fascinating and daring, and it should be listened to a lot more.