It’s been a while since I spoke to the man behind Ifernach, but the band’s intensity has not diminished. That’s a good thing since Ifernachis one of the torch bearers of traditional black metal, full of fury and hatred. It is radically opposed to all, defying mainstream appropriation. Yet, this album shows a gentler side of Ifernach as narrator and guide on a journey through his world.
I’ve seen some conflicting reports on the tracklisting of this album. For example, some reviews state that the song ‘A Cursed Spear…’ is an ambient track. I listened to the version on Bandcamp and have described songs thusly.
Ifernach is built on the Mi’kmaq heritage and the Irish roots of its sole member. We previously would mostly see the first; this album takes a swing for the second element. I think this is exemplified by the title ‘The Green Enchanted Forest of the Druid Wizard.’ though there are tons of cultural parallels. Yet, the folky part on this same track, after a good 6-minutes of eerie, melodic black metal, speaks for itself. It also fits the style of Ifernach, who never really sounded like your run-of-the-mill band in the first place.
If that wasn’t surprising enough, now follows the fingerpicking, 9-minute acoustic ‘The Passage of Dithreabhach’. It’s of remarkable beauty and takes us deeper into the forest that is this album before we truly get hit with its force on ‘A Cursed Spear…’. It’s a solid track, meticulously rhythmic, filled with gurgling vocals and an abyssal, dark quality. That’s what you get for awakening the dark gods of the ancient forests, I presume. Under that skintight drumming and bass-ing, chanting and melodies weave and spread out, which add to the mystique. It’s really, really tasty, and as we then enter ‘In the Hollow of the Togharmach’, I’m sort of sorry for the break with this intermezzo track. I want more violence from Finean Patraic.
And so, that is exactly what he provides on the two-part ‘Teinm Laida’, a reference to ritual practices banned by Saint Patrick. There’s a proper groove to the second part, actually, which really works in its favor. I’m surprised at the accessibility of these songs, which is not something I would say Ifernach is widely known for. It doesn’t take away from the ferocious nature of the barrage, the gritty hailstorm of the guitars and cymbals. The hammering fury of the blast beats; it’s all there. However, my favorite track must be ‘A Winter Tree Clad in Black Frost’. An almost Burzum-esque effort of a hypnotic journey through nature, amplified by synth elements hidden in the repetitive riffs’ haze. Ok, maybe there’s a bit of a mellow part to it, but I think it’s an apt description anyway.
‘Hidden Palaces Under the Green Hills’ is the closing track on this album, another collection of nature sounds and ambient, heightening this record’s mystique.
Where the Atlantic Ocean beats onto the farthest edge of the country named Spain, is a region you may not know about. It’s not where you find your Costa Brava or Costa del Sol, but Galicia has a proud and long-standing identity, quite distinct from the rest of the country. Mileth is an expression of that.
Formed all the way back in 2009, the band plays its very distinct mixture of folk music and metal. Though the project started light-hearted, their sound is now rich and filled with Galician traditional stories, the language and a feeling you can only get there. The urgency of slowly loosing ones identity, a recurring theme in all my interviews, has pushed the band in that direction. It’s without any form of malice, for all the good globalization brings, it would seem that the responsibility of preserving what is ours rests with us.
The band was kind enough to answer my questions and tell me more about their unique background and history.
Galician metallers Mileth
Hello, how are you doing?
Hello Guido, Marcos here, willing to answer your questions with a good storm as a background soundtrack.
How did Mileth got started?
We started playing with the excuse of having a few beers and playing songs from other bands that we liked, that’s been a decade ago. Then we realized that composing was more fun and we started looking for our own sound, we wanted to make the kind of music that we couldn’t find in our closest environment. This led us to look at our roots and delve into traditional Galician music. Taking our folklore as an inspirational element and bringing it to music was a slow process, as it has required and requires study time, but I think that today is our strongest personality feature.
Where you in other bands before you started Mileth?
For most of us, Mileth has been our first project as a band and our musical baggage has grown in the shade of this tree. Although many people have been in the group and yes, other colleagues have been or are linked to other Galician bands.
Could you tell me what Mileth means and how you came up for the concept of the band?
The name of the group is taken from the Gaelic word Miledh. This name appears in the Lébor Gabála, the book of the invasions of Ireland, and refers to a warrior descendant of King Breogán (hero of our mythology). But Miledh can also be translated as the “sons of a Thousand”, the Milesians, who, according to the story, epically conquered Ireland after leaving the Galician coast to avenge the death of their druid Ith, son of Breogán, killed by the Tuatha Dé Danánn.
This book, written in the Middle Ages, despite having an Irish origin, is important to us because it contains references to our Ancient History from the point of view of myth. In Galicia we have a very rich mythology of oral tradition, but it is difficult to find stories referring to mythological heroes of the past. And this fact, which is wonderful in many ways, helped recovering some figures that would represent the values of the resurgence of the Galician national spirit of the 19th century.
Perhaps it is convenient to clarify that today Galicia is a country without a state, or, seen from another point of view, it is a nation that is within the Spanish state (Like the Basque Country or Catalonia).
For a band like ours, where the lyrical concept revolves around our land and our culture, I think using the myth to build songs is a good way, not only to keep this alive, but also to express our current beliefs and emotions according to the pagan and folk spirit of our music.
Who were your inspirations when you embarked on this project? I feel a clear link to Slavonic pagan metal, but that may just be my perception.
Yes, some people have linked our sound with Slavic Pagan Metal, and it’s funny because there is no conscious inspiration in it at first. I think that the possible relationship comes from the fact that in both folklores there are some similar elements: there are some melodic forms with similar figures, in both folklores the female voices have a lot of presence and there are similar modes of expression. Also, the use of instruments such as the hurdy gurdy , the violin or the bagpipes can reinforce this perception when mixed with the Metal. What’s more, groups like Arkona or Grai use the Galician bagpipe in their recordings … Perhaps the Slavic pagan metal is the one that sounds similar to the Galician pagan (just kidding, this has its explanation, but it is an indicator that we have a really alive folklore).
In short, I could not tell you who has influenced us directly, we have very eclectic tastes and we have fed from many sources. But I could tell you that my main references are Skyclad, the 90s melodic black metal and, above all, traditional Galician music.
All your lyrics are in Spanish, which I don’t happen to speak. Could you tell me a bit more about the Galician mythology, it’s fundamentals, and how that translates to your music?
Our lyrics are written in Galician, not in Spanish. They are different languages. Galician, like Spanish, is also a Romance language, but in its origin it is as close to Spanish as it can be to Italian, Catalan or French. Yes, it is directly related to Portuguese since during the Middle Ages they formed the same language, Galician-Portuguese or Western Iberian. The Galician-Portuguese lyric of that time is well known for having a huge importance between the 12th and 14th centuries. Then, each language evolved independently; in the case of Galician, suffering different ups and downs. It has been an abused and even persecuted language over the years. Galicia’s history is complicated.
Answering your question, our mythology has lived through oral tradition until almost our days. There is a strong connection to the pagan world, with old cults to nature that, curiously, have mostly lived through Christianity. These cults have been transformed and adapted to the new religion, as it has happened in almost all Europe. But, under different forms, the stones, the sources and springs, the stars… they continue to be blessed. Rituals marked on the Celtic calendar are still being celebrated such as the Imbolc (here Entroido), the Beltaine (here Os Maios) … Hundreds of stories are collected about characters from the Hereafter, such as “os Mouros”, creatures who live under “castros” and dolmens. Galicia is a land where witches have had such a presence in society that it has attracted scholars from Europe to document this phenomenon. Different superstitions about witchcraft have remained alive almost to this day. But if there is a fundamental god in our popular mythology, it is Death.
Catro pregarias no albor da Lúa Morta is a journey through the paths of tradition and myth I was telling you about, it is a journey where a dialogue is established with the elements of nature, not always explicit, and where also Death has its leading role.
Musically, it is an extreme melodic metal with sounds inspired by traditional Galician music, but also connected with these natural elements of our landscape. It is really a canvas with many nuances that, despite being a humble production, public and critics have been able to understand and value very positively. So yes, we are happy with how it was received. Our expectations were low and the album has had almost no promotion. So it is incredible that it has reached its public outside our borders. Although publishing with a Russian label like SoundAge has made this a bit easier.
Mileth contains 8 members. Did you start out with this format? And what is it like to compose for such a sizable band? The sound feels still spacious.
In the original lineup we were only two guys, but we immediately decided to look for more people to be able to take our proposal to live shows. Actually, composing for a big band is not the problem, the problem about being many people (and with many instruments) is that it sets a strong limit for us to tour and play live (paradoxically). The technical requirements, space and costs of each show are tripled. It is very difficult to be able to bring such an ambitious proposal to the stage as an underground band. Even so, we are always making our fixes and tricks.
Why is it important to you to specifically express your roots through music and has it become more important in recent years?
Globalization has positive things, but it has many others that are very negative, and on a cultural level, it means sentencing people to gradually lose their own identity marks. The paradox of this is that anyone in the world can access information about Galician culture, they can read about aspects that I have been talking about, or even that in Russia they can have Galician bagpipes or edit an album by a group called Mileth, unknown even in their land. But at the same time, here in Galicia, Galicians increasingly speak less of our language, we destroy important archaeological remains, or we cut down our native forests to plant more economically productive foreign trees. It could be said that our culture is being transformed, adapting to new times, or that it is being enriched by contact with others. In part it does, and it has positive points. Societies have always advanced through communication between people. But we should not allow omnipresent cultures to overwhelm and monopolize all aspects of our society, especially when they mock your roots and erase your identity. Let us build a free and connected world, but not from the culture of capital and economic powers that do not understand neither people nor cultures or nations.
Are there other Galician bands people should check out? I’m familiar with Sangre de Muerdago.
Of course, Galicia has always had a small but high quality metal scene. I would recommend listening to other projects by people from Mileth such as Dioivo, Metalxis or Dysnomia. As well as I would invite you to listen to some of our most mythical bands such as Xerión, Balmog, Dantalion, Absorbed, UnrealOverflows, Machetazo, Kathaarsys, Talésien, In-verno, Fallen Sentinel, Barbarian Prophecies, Wisdom, MadameGermen … or fellow bands such as Atreides, Aquelarre, Lóstregos, Iron Hunter, UtopianVisions of Earth …
And in terms of traditional and folk music we have a lot of renowned bands around the world such as Milladoiro, Berrugüetto, Leilía, MercedesPeón, Luar na Lubre, Carlos Núñez, SondeSeu, Susana Seivane, Budiño … . or groups of musicians who have collaborated with us such as Caldo, Quempallou, RodrigoRomanítrio, Güintervan … Sorry, I start and I can’t stop.
What future plans does Mileth currently have?
A vinyl edition of our album is going to be released through Darkwoods label, but we had to postpone it due to the pandemic. Although if everything goes well, in a few weeks (or in a few days) we will have a release date. Darkwoods had already released a special edition of the album that was impressive. It sold out very quickly, so those interested must be aware because this will also be a limited edition.
On the other hand, this year we had closed the participation in several festivals, even abroad. But we have passed from scheduling trips to not knowing when we’ll be able to rehearse again.
If Mileth was a type of food, what would it be (and why)?
“Cocido galego” (a Galician stew). It is a mixture of vegetables, legumes and potatoes cooked with different parts of the pork (ribs, ham, tail, “chourizo”, “botelo”…). It’s usually accompanied with a good “do país” red wine. The richest parts are the ones that people are most shy to eat: the ears and the muzzle.
Why a stew? We make a mixture of various elements, and there is always someone who finds something disgusting, but if you do not like meat you can eat vegetables, and elsewhere, you will always have the broth, such an amazing thing to both have the body coldness removed or to get rid of a good hangover.
Dwarrowdelf claims to be: “walking the utterly untrodden path of Tolkien-based epic metal”. A bold claim from the UK-based project, as Tolkien and metal have been bedfellows since the early days of the genre (the man himself had little to say about this I’m afraid). Think about Blind Guardian, who soar high to this day thanks to their themed records. Even if you want to ignore bands who on a few occasions used Tolkien material. As a worshipper in the waters of Summoning, one should tread carefully and even if that is considered a band with a sound that is slightly one dimensional, there’s epic black metal from the likes of Emyn Muil. In so far, alone, this one-man project is not, but that shouldn’t stop us from checking out ‘Evenstar’.
Dwarrowdelf: More Elvish Than Twilight Force
That doesn’t mean it can’t be good, however, and Dwarrowdelf is something else in the way of cinematic-sounding metal. I would not go so far as to call it overproduced, but the black metal element is dim and remote on this record. Though, you would probably not say so after the barked vocals and intro of ‘Estel’, opening track on this record that tells the story of Aragorn and Arwen (she being the titular ‘Evenstar’). Sure, there’s the soaring ‘reach for the heavens’ tremolo riffs, but they sound more heavenly than hellish. Not saying black metal needs to be evil, but none of the grim aesthetics remains.
In a sense, Dwarrowdelf sounds like you would imagine white metal would sound. Full of epic moods, emotive guitars, clean vocals full of heroism and boldness, and of course richly decorated with synths, it is a clean record in the most complete sense of the word and I find myself warming to that. If Summoning is the best soundtrack for reading the books, this is probably what I would have preferred for the movies. I mean, if ‘The Eagle of the Star’ isn’t more elf-metal than even the faithful Twilight Force, I don’t know what is. Now, on this album O’Dell does ad more folk and melodeath to the sound, but I think for this genre of fantasy metal that doesn’t really fit one classic definition, that’s the way to go. More so, the vision of using guests on your solo project shows ambition and a high standard, which is admirable. It’s particularly in the details, like the fantastic ‘In Pursuit of Ghosts’, where the tin whistle from Kristoffer Graemesen adds a haunting element, that this shows itself.
The following track, ‘The Three Hunters’, is also a more energetic gem on this record, where other songs may take the lamenting tone a bit much to my opinion. But that’s an opinion you can discard. Why? Because, as a whole, this album is a great listening experience and I highly recommend checking it out.
Artist: Dwarrowdelf Label: Northern Silence Productions Origin: United Kingdom
Welcome to another selection of tasty dungeon beats (not really, it’s not beats… I mean, that would be way to hipster) from Akerius, Casio Tomb, Meadow Grove and Vale Minstrel.As I listened to these, I was reading ‘The Dragons of Autumn Twilight’ by Weiss and Hickman. You know what I’m talking about. Anyways, pretty nice to have som good atmospheric tunes to go with that book. So here goes, enjoy these dungeon synth finds!
Header image: Partly broken tower in the Anacopia fortress in the hills above New Athos in Abkhazia. The fortress played an important role on the border between Byzantine Christendom from the Umayyad Caliphate. King Leon I of Abkhazia had his seat here.
Akerius – Shadowed Paths Through Middle Earth
Self-released Artist origin: France (Réunion)
This is actually an oddity for Akerius, who normally is inspired by medieval/alchemic themes from his region of origin (Occitania). A Tolkien-infused dungeon synth album in the best tradition of this act, filled with mystery and subdued notes. Akerius stays true to the sound, with slow, steady rhythms and an all-together aura of mystery on this record. The music is always sombre, which is pretty much the whole tone of Tolkien’s works when you are venturing outside of Valinor and the Shire. The droning sounds really give shape to that sense of dread and danger, while the higher notes weave their own patterns. At times, Akerius does the odd surprising thing, like the intense drumming on ‘The Malefic Fortress of Utumno’. It shakes you up a bit, and helps you keep your eyes on the road in this dark land. I love how Akerius manages to make such small gestures in his music, but those small shifts take you to a whole new level of epic drama. ‘Shadows of Mordor is a prime example of how small nuances can make such an impact. As far as dungeon synth goes, for those who like to leave the cave for open-air threats, Akerius is as good as it gets for your personal peace of darkness descending.
Casiotomb – Exkursion in das Hügelgrablabyrinth
Heimat der Katastrofe
Artist origin: Unknown
So, technically I’m out on a limb here listing this release in dungeon synth, but the vibe is there. Casiotomb just uses the sound of the 8-bit (or less) videogame soundtrack to emulate the feeling of a dangerous dungeon crawler. There’s a simple excitement that only those who played these ancient video games can really understand and this crawler-soundtrack captures perfectly what the vibe of those games was. A gritty bass layer, primitive, scratchy and not really heavy on the thudding keeps you on edge, as the spooky music beeps and blurps onward. In a way, it makes you wonder how with so little these composers managed to do so much. I particularly love the spiralling sound on ‘Devoured By Vermin’. Seems like you just lost a life. The energy is high on this album, electric even. No time to stop, there’s a monster lurking around the next corner and each tick your supplies dwindle (remember that game aspect? I’ve never eaten a thing in Skyrim… pfff). This record is fantastic.
Meadow Grove – The Exile of Lord Bearston
Meadow Grove is a Finnish dungeon synth project that focuses on the story of a knight, named… as you may have guessed, Lord Bearston. The Lord refused to bow before the encroaching empire and is now on the run. The songs tell the story very precisely, step by step. Musically, Meadow Grove is an artist that enjoys minimalism. There are rarely complex layers at work in the music, neither do the sounds wholly conform to the medieval setting of the story. At times, the synthetic nature of the sound is clearly audible, even a bit scifi in this form of audio-storytelling. Notably on ‘Reflections in Solitude’. That’s only odd if you have focused on the music and not the story because there everything makes sense for Meadow Grove. Having ordered the cassette, I was charmed by the DIY aesthetic, which also made me take a closer look at the story. This is a project in which you can hear (and see if you get a physical copy) the love for the art itself and that’s, to me, the coolest thing dungeon synth can do. It’s what makes it more real than any Netflix production. Meadow Grove is definitely a project still developing and when the sounds are more tailored to an organic feel, this can go a long way.
Vale Minstrel – Warden of the Vale
artist origin: USA
If you ever genuinely wanted to get the vibe of sitting down by the fire in a tavern, located in a beautiful, lush green valley, this is your chance. Vale Minstrel is encroaching upon the terrain of comfy synth with his ‘Warden of the Vale’ release. Call it medieval synth if you like, it strikes that bardic cord with simple flute-like synths and interwoven repetition. It’s what you imagine hearing in the background as you bend over that tankard of ale you wish to gulp down as you listen to a wondrous tale. Only ‘A Minstrel’s Control Spell’ the sound goes a bit off as all the melodies spiral together. It’s an oddity on this otherwise perfect collection of medieval tunes. I can just picture the damsels curtsying and tip-toeing over the dancefloor. Somewhere in the back some dwarvish type shouts something incoherent and indecent but is further ignored. Peace, tranquil (like ‘Awoke! Near a Moonlit Grotto in the Glade of Green’), time to escape to the fantastic realms. In that case, Vale Minstrel is a worthy companion. I do wish the songs on this 100th Ancient Meadow release were slightly longer. That way you could linger in their magic a moment more.
I’ve always found An Autumn For Crippled Children an odd formation, ever since they were introduced to me. Their music feels different, yet clicks with the essential vibes of black metal. Some outlets have described them as a pure proponent of blackgaze, which is a term that not everyone is equally excited about it seems. On ‘All fell silent, everything went quiet’, the band pushes further into the regions in which only a few bands dare venture.
The new album is the eighth full-length release by the Dutch trio in their 10-year run, making them a very productive collective. The warm tones on this release make me think a bit more of Alcest than the scorned Deafheaven. The music flows like a warm bath, particularly the second track ‘Water’s Edge’ tells you everything you need to know about the sound An Autumn For Crippled Children is going for. The mellow vibe, the major key and gentle jamming contrast sharply with the raspy vocals. There’s an element of rawk and roll with that scrappy sound of the guitars as the two collide, but eventually, all flows together like a stream of sonic honey.
I wouldn’t call the music joyous, but there is an exuberance in the sound of songs like ‘Silver’—a drivenness and burning energy. It struggles for release that never really comes. I find myself longing to the moments of release when the blast beats fall away, and the melody soars freely. The vocals are frequently buried in the sound frequency, allowing it to merge together. Check out, for example, the track ‘None More Pale’, which is what black metal sounds like when all sounds are clean. Or maybe I just imagine that. It has a certain pop-sensibility to it, but still carries the epic, dramatic movements I love so much.
What may be an issue for those listening, is that its smooth sound may lack the fire that keeps you ‘onboard’ while listening to a record. To me, songs like ‘The Falling Senses’ work well, due to their relentless pace and energy, but others, like the title track, become hazy summer days. Where your vision becomes blurred, the heat plays tricks on your eyes and you slowly drift off. I think that’s the bridge with postrock, in a very complete and fully immersive manner, but it’s something you have to like and I happen to do. Which is why this is a great album in my book. Band: An Autumn For Crippled Children Origin: Netherlands Label: Prosthetic Records
For anyone who has a special place in their hearts for heavy metal, Thomas Gabriel Fischer needs no introduction. Though many will know him as Tom G. Warrior. The man who fronted the pioneering Hellhammer and CelticFrost are as much of an icon as the extreme metal scene ever had and this year he is releasing a new record under the banner of Triptykon; the live recording of the ‘Requiem’, performed live during Roadburn2019, together with the highly esteemed MetropoolOrkest.
This once in a lifetime performance was recorded and now will be released. We had the distinct honor to speak with the man himself about this record, the performance, the emotions attached to it, but also his future plans with Triptykon, Triumph of Death (his Hellhammer tribute), and a new project. Obviously, the COVID-19 outbreak was also part of our chat.
Tom is an easy person to talk to. Every word is carefully formulated, and he lets no opportunity pass to thank those who’ve helped him realize his musical ambition of performing the ‘Requiem’, a piece that took over 30 years to create and complete. Polite throughout the interview, you’d hardly imagine this man to be the guys who sort of crashed a Venom press conference to proclaim they were going to outdo them (more on that in the book ‘Only Death Is Real’). Enjoy.
Tranquillity, Gratitude, and Contentment
How are you doing, Tom?
Doing alright, I had some issues with my health two months ago and some of it is still lingering, but basically, I’m doing alright. Pretty much recovered.
How are you dealing with the current situation?
Well, there’s not that much to deal with as it is not up to my personal decision. It is as it is and I have to adjust to it. All the concerts that we had scheduled for Triptykon and Triumph of Death have been cancelled. That of course means that also my livelihood has been very much impacted. I have invoices to pay like everyone else. I simply have no income from this, so we’ll see what happens. For musicians, it is a challenging time. We were looking forward immensely to playing live. There’s a lot of concerts this year we were very much personally involved in and looking forward very much to play with both bands. It’s very difficult to know that these will not take place or in a year at the earliest.
We felt very refreshed in both bands, so it’s not easy to see everything get cancelled if you have a good connection with your audience. You go on stage with a lot of honesty and enthusiasm, so then it is very hard to let go of all these shows.
I can imagine that feeling, you’re personally and emotionally invested in this endeavour, so it is difficult. But it seems that there’s some shift now taking place. How is that in Switzerland?
There is some indication that things will open up slightly quicker than we anticipated. But I’m very careful with this because there are only very small events that are permitted and there’s still a lot of social distancing required and various measures in place. So I really don’t know, when we are talking about bigger concerts and festivals, there’s nothing right now that indicates when everything will restart. We are basically in unknown territory still. But it’s, like you say, a glimpse at the horizon that certain clubs and restaurants can open again. That’s something we didn’t expect a month ago.
Let’s hope for better days. I suppose you can’t really plan anything in this situation?
No, we can’t. The entire year will now be focused on working creatively. Working on new material, recording new material, working on live recordings. We have some live material from Triumph of Death to mix. We have material to write for Triptykon, and so on… But even that is hindered right now because we record everything in Germany and right now the borders between Germany and Switzerland are closed. Half of Triptykon is German, half is Swiss, so we can’t even meet at the rehearsal room right now. We can’t go to the studio in Germany, so everything is sort of up in the air right now.
There’s a lot you can do online though.
Well… we send files back and forth, but I’m not a huge fan of rehearsing or playing concerts over the internet. I’m a bit oldschool in this regard.
There is a release coming up, the live at Roadburn recording of ‘Requiem’with the Metropole Orkest. What can you tell me about this?
Well, that’s a broad question. That’s a project that took over 30 years to finish, I would talk like… a day.
I wish we had time to do that. But I mean the release itself, as It was clear from the start you wanted to record it, correct?
Well, of course, if you do a project of that magnitude with so many special people involved… the conductor, the orchestra, the female singer, of course, you want to try and preserve this forever. It was clear from the beginning that if we were going to do this, we needed to record it. It’s a very complex project and a very expensive project, and it is in no way given that this will ever be performed again. In other words, it would have been very neglectful not to record it.
Has it become what you expected it to be?
I think so, yes. It was really complex on every level. Starting with the songwriting, then the arranging for the classical musicians, the preparations, the rehearsals… Even the performance itself. And then there’s the mixing of the uncounted tracks that we recorded, with all the individual musicians, cleaning the tracks from all the background noise. It was all very complex. But having said all of that, we are quite happy with the result. It’s a live album, so you don’t have the perfect studio conditions for a regular album. I think we did what we could, it is as perfect as it can be, while still capturing the live spirit that you really hear. We’re really happy with the result.
I was present during the performance at Roadburn and got to listen to the final record, so I can kind of compare and it is really capturing that experience. What I would like to know, having completed this, what did it mean to you to do this on a personal level?
First of all, it was an incredible honor to be invited to Roadburn to complete ‘Requiem’ and not do it on my own basically. It was an extreme honor Walter gave us this platform and all the people who work with him, but also to work with such an incredible orchestra. Walter suggested working with them, the Metropole Orkest. Jukka Iisakkila, the conductor… Like I said, a complex project, but all these people made it as easy as it can be because all of them were very experienced and professional. So I felt it was a big honor to be granted me to work with these people.
On a more personal record, it was quite a significant event to see this project completed that I started with Martin Eric Ain back in the mid-eighties. It was a beautiful feeling on one hand, and sad on the other, because I really wanted him to be part of it or at least hear it. Of course, since he died in 2017 that was impossible, but I literally was thinking of him while we were performing on stage. I carried him with me when we played in my heart. I’m not just saying this, he was very much part of my emotions and I hope in some way he would approve of this.
Has this also for you been part of dealing with his loss?
Well, of course, when Walter and I spoke about this whole thing for the first time he had just lost someone very close to him. I had just lost someone close to me, it was shortly after Martin’s death, so we were both mourning someone very close to us in our own individual lives. I think we both carried this in our minds when we discussed this. It was not just a professional proposal, there was much more to it.
Of the Requiem, two parts were already finished in a sense and ready to be played. The second part, however, is newly created. Can you tell me about its process?
The basic songwriting was done by me because the whole Requiem was an idea of mine. But for this third part, I was very open. I was working with people who are on one hand very experienced and professional, but on the other hand, were personally involved in it. There were no mercenaries and I know many people involved were genuinely part of it, not just hired guns. So I was very open to suggestions, especially when they came from our guitarist V. Santura, who was also the musical director, and Florian Magnus Maier, who was the classical arranger. Both of them are very close friends of mine and they had a lot of songwriting ideas that they contributed, which I was very open to. We had a million meetings in person and on Skype, to arrange this and to improve the piece and a lot of ideas were exchanged. It would have been egotistical in the face of such excellent people, to deny their ideas. I knew that if we combined all those, the piece would be much stronger then if I would enforce an ego. I really don’t have an ego, I was happy to be involved with so many good people so it was no problem to incorporate their contributions.
That’s good, because if it’s such a personal project, you want to be sure that everyone is in it for the right reasons.
Of course, but I never had to fear to miss the personal connection, as I wrote the whole thing. The basic construction and all, because at the end of the day it’s still my piece. This has just made the piece better. If you look at it as a memorial to people that have died in our circle of friends, then the better the piece, the better the memorial. It’s not about ego or being a star, it’s about creating something very, very special. If it’s about art, in my opinion, ego should be very far down the list. First and foremost, there needs to be creativity and the will to do something special.
I also wanted to ask you about the vocals by Safa Heraghi. Her vocals in the second piece just really carry it and hit the right spot. So how did you get in touch with her and considered her for this piece?
I first met her when she was playing a concert with Dark Fortress. She had done guest vocals on one of their songs and appeared later at one of their concerts in Zurich, my home town. I went to see them and her performance that night was absolutely brilliant and moving, so I went backstage and talked to her about one-day doing vocals on a Triptykon album. Traditionally, we have always had female vocals ever since the first Celtic Frost album. She was interested and when the idea for the ‘Requiem’ arose, I called her and asked if she would be interested in doing vocals. But not just backing vocals, but to be the co-lead vocalist in a classical metal collaboration. I’m very happy she said yes and she also contributed many ideas. She was heavily involved in some of the vocal melodies and the lyrics.
You know, we heard the ‘Requiem’ a million times by now, from the early demos till the final touches, but every time I listened to some of her parts towards the new middle part, we were all really moved to the point of tears sometimes. Even though we had heard it multiple times, this was how much her voice and performance moved us.
The artwork for this release is the first one without H.R. Giger’s artwork. Giger passed away in 2014, but I understand you still have the artwork for the future.
There is one more album that has been designed with and approved by Giger, when he was still alive. That was always supposed to be the third studio album, and that’s what it is going to be when it comes out. This is the album we’re working on this year. It’s long overdue of course, but when Giger was still alive in late 2013 he approached us after the first Triptykon album and asked if we were interested in continuing our collaboration. Giger and the band, we all agreed on doing a triptych. So I went with him and we selected the artwork and designed it together, and he approved everything. We used one work on the second album, and the third is yet to come.
Because the ‘Requiem’ is a different project and a live album, it has a different feel to it. It is not technically the third of the three studio albums, so it has a different kind of artwork to make it distinct. But the next Triptykon album will have the artwork, which will in fact be the last album where Giger was personally involved in the design and approval of everything.
But you have now also dedicated ‘Requiem’ to him.
Yes, of course, it is dedicated to Martin Eric Ain and H.R. Giger, two of our closest friends and collaborators who have died in recent years since the second Triptykon album. By the nature of the ‘Requiem’, we felt we had to make this dedication. However small it may be, we wanted to dedicated this to people who were instrumental to the band and close to us.
One last one is in the works then? Carmen Giger, his widow, has offered me to continue using Giger artwork even after the third record. But I’ve told her I don’t think it’s the right thing to do, even though it would be official, as she inherited it, has all the rights and would approve of it. I felt it was important to only do albums that Giger personally saw, oversaw and approved, so I don’t want to go on using his art past his death. After the third album, we will pursue a new direction at any rate.
Everybody knows how much of a fan of his work I am, and I feel infinitely honored for having been granted the possibility to work with him. I was a young teenager, many years ago, when I discovered the Emerson, Lake and Palmer album ‘Brain Salad Surgery’, and Giger’s artwork on that album impressed me to no end. At that time, I would have never thought I would be a musician and work with Giger. By now, I’m 56 and not only have I worked with Giger but I have done so on and on. It’s been four albums. I’m deeply honored and I don’t want to be greedy. I had these four albums with him, but I’m ok with going in a new direction, also as an artist. I’m not a capitalist in that I want more, more and more. I’m happy to say it’s enough, let’s do something else.
I want to ask you about the performance, because afterward you were part of a talk where you spoke with some finality. What you said was: ” I am no longer in tune in this world anymore and I really don’t know why I am still here. Now I finished the Requiem I guess I am free to leave.” I wanted to ask you how this was intended?
It was intended exactly in the way that I said it. When you discover some finality in this, that is exactly true. I’m not overly attached to the world as it is, given human conduct on this planet. I’ve been granted much more than I ever dreamt of as a teenager, when I had these daydreams of one day being a musician because music meant that much to me. I would have been happy to play in a local band, but I’ve been granted far, far more. As I said earlier, I’m not greedy, I’m not insatiable. I’ve been granted much more than I ever dreamt of so, I’m basically ready to call it a day whenever it’s the time and perhaps one day I’ll be instrumental in setting that time. There’s really not much joy in this world, giving the destruction of animals, the environment, ourselves and each other. Our ignorance, even after thousands of years of what we call civilization, we are still completely out of control, we haven’t learned anything and we destroy everything in our path, be it human, animal or environment in our endless egotistical narcissism. That’s not really a home I’m fond of, as much as it has given me. I’ve done a lot of things, fulfilled all my dreams, so I feel very free right now. When it’s time, I can go without hesitation, there’s nothing bad to that. I loathe the attitude of never having enough, always wanting more. It’s one of the big problems that us human beings carry with us, and I’m not like that at all.
Appreciate what you have, be satisfied.
Absolutely, and I have no problem with that fact that there’s an end to things. There’s no unlimited supply of everything. I’ve had my life and I’ve tried to live my life meaningfully, to try realize all my dreams. I worked on everything I wanted to achieve. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, so there’s really no regrets. I don’t need to hang on and say “I haven’t lived yet”, you know. I’ve always lived, against all obstacles.
As long as you are here, I do hope you keep creating…
Well, I’m still here, to my own surprise. And as I said, I’m working on a new studio album for Triptykon. I’m also working on resurrecting my side project that I was working on until November last year, but that I left with the drummer, but we are resurrecting it in a new form because the material is fantastic. I’m also working on the live recordings we did with Triumph of Death, which we hope to release some of this year. As long as I’m here, there’s always going to be some new material.
And of course, I love being on stage. The moments on stage are some of the most pleasant moments of my life.
The side project you mention, is that the mysterious Nyrith project?
Yes, it’s still called Nyrith, but we’re no longer part of it. The drummer and me, we left in December, but I do own the recording sessions, because my labe. paid for those recordings. I’m going back to the studio to work on this bit, I’m going to add some new music and we have some new songs to add and so on. The Nyrith album, everything was signed and ready for those sessions. The album was supposed to come out on April the 24th, but because we left… That departure was unavoidable unfortunately, but we feel very strongly about this project so we are resurrecting it in a new form and I’m very sure we will manage in spite of the COVID-19 situation. In spite of being blocked from the studio, we very much count on it being released this year. It’s very strong material.
You mentioned fulfilling dreams you had. Triumph of Death allows you to play the Hellhammer songs live, which were never played on stage in their own time. Is that one of those dreams?
Maybe not a dream, but it is simply fun. I have a band that is basically my career and is a business venture, which is Triptykon. It has big contracts and big pressure, AR-people, Sony, a label and so on, it’s a serious burden on my shoulders. Triptykon is a serious band. But Triumph of Death is simply fun. We’re playing very early, punkish metal that is simply primitive and powerful and there’s no business pressure or expectations or anything like that. We basically go on stage and have a good time with the audience and that is how we all started and how music should be. It’s punkish, proto-extreme metal and enormous fun to connect with the audience and to play this without the need to promote a new album or satisfy a record company. So far, it’s been fantastic and the audience experiences it in the same way and we’ve grown into a circle of friends. It’s just enormous fun. It’s a privilege to do this.
I really hope to experience that in the future.
Well, most concerts have been canceled, but most have also been rescheduled for next year already. Hopefully, we’ll be showering the world with primitive music again soon.
Gratitude goes out to Never Mind The Hype for letting me conduct this interview. Thanks also to Paul Verhagen, who created the pictures and Justina Lukosiute for the interview shot.
Rarely have I taken the time to pay homage to a label (though I have a share of favorites that I should perhaps create some articles about), but this one is quite special and one I appreciate extremely: Haeresis Noviomagi. I’m saying a label, but it is in fact more of a collective of musicians that loosely expands, encapsulating other bands and projects as it morphs and grows.
Header image from Facebook page Haeresis Noviomagi
Flag bearers of Dutch Black Metal
I have not been following black metal music in the Netherlands so long to know what have been pivotal collectives or points of interest where meetings of minds took place. You see throughout the history of the genre that interesting things happen where like-minded spirits meet. A few years ago now, there was much ado about the ‘new wave of dutch black metal’, particularly focused on the region of Utrecht and bands like Terzij De Horde, Laster, Verwoed and others (I would not understate the importance of a band like Dool). Bands like Grafjammer and Wrang are essential bands that feed the underground spewing forth these bands. But at the same time, the hermetic group of Haeresis Noviomagi may have played an essential part in crafting this new, quintessentially Dutch sound. By now, they’ve solidly merged with the Utrecht scene, bringing forth collaborations such as Nusquama and playing in the aforementioned Dool (O. from the group joined them in 2019). More significantly, the group was deeply involved in the thematic one-time work for a performance at Roadburn, which was titled Maalstroom. I was there and enjoyed the spectacle immensely (read the interview here).
Hence a look back at some of their noteworthy releases from the Haeresis Noviomagi front, that I feel embody the best that has come out of their stables.
Galg – Monochroom (2014)
You won’t find any references to Galg on the website of Haeresis Noviomagi and only scarce mention of the project in any interviews. The reason for that fact is that Galg proceeds Haeresis Noviomagi. It’s an entity that has existed outside of their realm, but to me has been pivotal in shaping the final form the collective took. Much of the typical sound and visual art of the group can already be seen in this early release. It also happens to be a record I came across and conducted an interview about. Instead of conjuring up new words, I’ll just quote what I wrote at the time:
‘Monochroom‘ is a 26 minute descent into despair. The opening is like a bell tolling for mass. A bleak buzzing evokes dark clouds and a grim day. Samples from speech add an atmosphere of unholy ritual to the sound while the buzzing sound of the amps continues like an abysmal depth for the listener. A slow chanting arises from that deep bass sound. The sound swells up and suddenly blast beats emerge and intense guitar work lays out a barrage of dark sound while the sound of wind is sweeping through.
Lubbert Das – Deluge (2015)
The watershed record for the collective is the debut EP from LubbertDas, their most focused black metal outlet in my opinion. It’s dirty, decadent, and violent at times, but also illuminated by the unique approach of the band and ability to implement influences like Hieronymous Bosch in their work. In a way, Lubbert Das is always on par with Turia. These projects feel like two sides of the same coin to me. ‘Stone, God’s Blood’ is the first track on this EP, unleashing after a solid build-up. The track takes a slow pace and offers a lot of room for distant screams and generates a lot of atmosphere. It becomes a seductive feast of entrancing darkness.
The second half is ‘Forlorn Ages’, delivering atmospheric black metal with that ferocity in its foundation. Blast beats and furious screams, in a tapestry of sound. Descending slowly down into a pit of despair. The song flows in all majesty, as the train rattles on and on at a high pace. The movement of the sound slowly mutates over the 14-minute course of the song, but that tremolo guitar with the big echo makes everything sound so cavernous, so immense.
Iskandr – Euprosopon (2018)
Iskandr is a project by O., who also plays in Turia and previously was active in Lubbert Das. After the formative full-length ‘Heilig Land’ and the EP ‘Zon’, the second full length has become a record I return to frequently. The project’s name refers to Alexander the Great, who people called Iskandr in the eastern parts of his realm. The title refers to the impossibility of the perfect man and explores the concept of new ‘heroism. Steeped in the masters of pagan black metal and exploration, this is a record full of majesty and vigor.
Though black metal is the foundation of the sound, ‘Euprosopon’ floats with big arches and esoteric chanting, while the fundaments of the sound surge forward with blast beat drums and rigorous guitar riffs. There’s something specific about the melody lines that rhythmically speaks to you from realms beyond the Occident. Further from the rigid reaches of the west, maybe even from beyond lost in the mists of time the guitars resound. It’s as if the songs are the soundtrack to what is to come, with a mid-paced black metal subtlety and highly sophisticated effects. Iskandr embraces you and shows you magic on ‘Regnum’, unleashes a show of force on ‘Verban’, and takes you to a dreamy state on ‘Heriwalt’. It’s an album that is solid as a rock, but furtive in its mythical state. In other words, it’s great stuff.
Nusquama – Horizon Ontheemt (2019)
With the apparition of Nusquama, the Haeresis Noviomagi group joins forces with musicians from Laster, Vuur & Zijde, Fluisteraars, and more. This musical endeavor has a wholly different vibe, yet also feels like a good fit within the overall opus of the group. Sun-touched black metal, with all the harrowing aspects as well as the soothing nature of warm riffs and melodies. The name comes from Latin and Thomas More used it to refer to the necessity and impossibility of a hopeful alternative. Those are the words the band shared, not my own, as they tell it best in my humble opinion. The record was written in a period of over 2 years, and recorded in 2018 in an old coach house. An affable nod to their nostalgic inspirations of poetry and naturalism.
The contrast is clearly audible on opener ‘De Aarde Dorst’. The guitars soar, while the drums and bass weave intricate patterns on the ground. The voice spits venom, particularly audible on ‘Wrevel’ where it is vitriolic in its vehement assault. The melodies don’t balance it out much in this track, though there are soothing passages and ominous chanting to boot. But there’s also a sense of majesty and pride in the music like you can hear in the big movements on ‘Vuurslag’. It’s as if the waves of the music imagine the rising of the sun, which I feel the lyrics refer to.
I can go on because a track like ‘Eufrozyne’ employs the furious blast beats and rising guitar riffs as a herald’s call, where ‘Ontheemd’ offers another thick slab of atmospheric black metal. ‘Met Gif Doordrenkt’ is then the final track and a worthy closer of the album. Intensive drums, soul-crushing riffs and so much feeling in that sound, it’s imposing. Clocking over 7-minutes, it feels like the song takes you on an upwards trajectory, ever higher and warmer.
Turia – Degen van Licht
For me, ‘Degen van Licht’ has been a ray of light in 2020. I feel that I can say this unironically (the title translates as ‘rapier of light’) because this is one of the best albums this year for me. I don’t need to point out how shit this year was. Turia has released multiple great records, and I would recommend all of them. Yet, this is something else by the mysterious threesome from the east of the Netherlands. It’s their third release and was preceded by split records with Vilkacis and Fluisteraars. Ok, so I’m a huge fan of this album and the reason is its remarkable clarity and cohesiveness. It feels like one, big slab of music, meant to quiet the turmoil in your head and focus your energies. it obviously has a dark edge. It is black metal, but also a radian beauty that I admire.
The album has a brief intro, but how good is it to hear those clear notes break the murmuring thunder. Similarly, the main riff on ‘Merode’ is an absolute beauty, calm and soothing, while also speaking of dreams of another world. Waxing and waning over the aggression brought on by the scratchy bass lines and screechy vocals, it’s a contrast again, like in much of their work. ‘Met Sterven Beboet’ is a bit more crunchy in its sound, also packing a bit more of a punch along the way. The guitar that weaves those clean notes, however, is what I find most spectacular and warm.
I keep hoping for another glimpse when listening to this song. More majestic, but sticking with the theme, is the title track. The sound feels fuller, grander, more stiffly in its expression. In a good way, much like the playful sound of ‘Storm’ doesn’t diminish the bleakness that is inherent to this album. After a brief interlude, we get to ‘Ossifrage’. That’s an old name for a vulture that likes to drop bones to break them, so that’s a good black metal title. It’s a richer song, showing the full diversity of the band and craftsmanship behind their songs. It’s all good, isn’t it?
Empyrean Grace -Bestowment of the Seraphic Key
I guess this is the birthday release for the five-year anniversary Certainly, there was a Lubbert Das/Turia split, a Iskandr EP, and re-releases, but this one took the cake. A one-track wonder of almost 30 minutes of ephemeral black metal of the highest order. This is truly majestic stuff. It’s not clear who is involved in this project and if it will see further releases or any form of continuation (much like other side-projects of the Haeresis Noviomagi family, it is all shrouded in mists). But it is fantastic and I wish I could get my hands on the tape, for the collection you see…
The shimmering guitars in the intro unfold into a black metal sound that has a certain ‘kosmische’ feel to it. Yes, I’m referring to the kraut rock-like dreamy state the first few minutes of the song bring you into, not least due to the ethereal vocals that resound through the wall….nay, flow of music. The song changes, and fierce blast beats and a threatening sound follow a bit later. Yet, the music retains an almost ritualistic atmosphere, though I won’t mention the band that springs to mind when I say that. Kaleidoscopic, is how they describe it, layered, hallucinatory and all those words make perfect sense to me with this album. It’s like fata morgana, a mirage, a dream state, this record brings you into. That’s what makes it so wonderful and moreover, so promising for more.
Phew, today is a day where I simply need some excellent guitar riffs and, if possible, something with cats, and look what the proverbial cat just dragged in? A lovely new E.P. by Swedens very own BlackSolstice, titled ‘Terrathree’. This band from Stockholm features drummer Peter Eklund in its ranks, who also was in Dark Funeral, so that’s all good and well. This is their fourth demo release.
On the cover of this record, we see a cat. You’ve seen it now, too; it’s quite obvious. It’s even got a third eye. Did you know Lovecraft firmly (H.P., the one who is now less cool because in the ’20s he was a bit of a racist) believed cats are extraordinary beings? I mean, you only have to read his books where they are heavily featured as supernatural creatures. I remember it that way. Thus, it is so.
Three tracks with an indeed earthy sound to it grace your ears on this cool EP. Thick guitars, hazy like a hot summer day (that’s gone now too, thanks 2020), burst onto the scene on ‘Part of Me’. Clean, almost proclamation-style vocals resound strongly. You know what? This is as straight up as they’ll serve it anywhere. I am reminded of my favorite Scotsmen Hair of the Dog a bit. I mean, this is t-shirt-free rock’n’roll. Ok, it may be a bit easy at times, but I like the solid groove a lot. That continues on ‘Ember’ with those scalding licks, instantly delivered in the intro. Sweet stuff, a bit more emotional, though. What’s that pounding sound of the drums? They sound a bit peculiar, but it actually works with those dull thuds as they hit hard. “Here we are, shooting stars…” sounds a bit cheesy. Sorry, honesty prevails.
‘Strong-minded’ basically means stubborn, so that’s a thing. I kinda feel that stompy, headstrongness coming from the first hits of the skins on this track. The vocals of Magnus Lindmark do not entirely convince me on this track. I mean, he’s strong but not particularly musical on the slightly elevated pitch. I’m not feeling it, you know? I mean, I get that he ‘Didn’t find the cure’, but did you really try? I think that’s the only miss on this track; for the rest, it again is a solid slab of hard-rocking-metallesque fist-pounding material.
Emyn Muil has never pretended to be anything but Summoning worshipping atmospheric black metal. Rigid, dungeon synthy patterns, with an occasional blast beat and barked vocals? Yes, it’s all there and even more so on the latest release titled ‘Afar Angathfark’. A term I can not directly link to anything in Tolkiens work, but that shouldn’t stop anyone. The album cover, which is remarkably social realist in vibe which I dig, depicts a mailed fist clasping the dark crown with three jewels. For those familiar with The Silmarillion, this begs no explanation. It’s the iron fist of Morgoth, holding the Silmarils. This is the tale of Fëanor, the greatest of the elves.
Emy Muil is a one-man-band project by Saverio Griove, also known as Nartum. He has previously released two records under this banner, both playing into the classic fantasy imagery and depictions. The new artwork is a refreshing change, I have to say. Epic black metal, named after the valley where Sam and Frodo meet Gollum. This may be something you’ve gleaned from the Sam Jackson movies, which I notoriously dislike. Yet, that is another story.
The hunt for the jewels of Valinor
The title track sets the tone for the album and is not particularly remarkable yet, but that’s why it’s an intro here, fully instrumental. It’s the rich sound of the ‘Halls of the Fallen’ that fully entices you. The song rolls out like a rich tapestry, full of depth and grandeur. The bombastic drums set an imperial vibe, which fits with the start of the story. The vocals are clothed in synths and mellow progressions, allowing the listener to be carried away. ‘Noldomire’ follows and that is probably the best track on the album. Of course, that’s mere opinion, but it is great atmospheric dosing in warm notes. A voice-over disrupts the flow, which is a great tool for such a narrative album.
It’s on with ‘Heading Eastward’, however, that the real hunt is away. The Noldor travel, chasing the enemy and thief. This is done with bombastic melodies, soaring drums that crack like whips. A great might arises after a mellow start, and here the epic nature of Emyn Muil truly soars. The music turns to something more sinister, subtly snaking its way through the dark with eastern rhythms on the prelude that is ‘Udun’, before we launch into the 9+ minute ‘Where the Light Drowns’. The battle drums, the flutes, it heralds the coming of strife with bombast and power. Everything feels very merged in the music, as the sound is heavily produced. It’s hard to hear what is organic and what is electric in the music of Emyn Muil. That is not a problem, as the music has an atmosphere of filmic suspense. It is the experience that counts, and even the ethereal vocals contribute to that effect. If that doesn’t do it for you, check out the gothic vibes on the ‘Black Shining Crown’ track, which refers to the cover obviously. The track is more aggressive, the vocals more biting and yet the gentle bells just emphasize that force.
Flowing through the tales
The record flows, it never seems to have any real breaks in the meandering songs. Because of that, it feels like one big story that Emyn Muil serves you. Certainly, songs have brief introductions, such as we hear on ‘In Cold Domain’, which has a distinctly Nordic theme to it. Fitting. But when those dulled drums come in and the synths weave a pattern, the song becomes a blanket that moves on and on. ‘Arise in Gondolin’ maybe the odd one out, feeling distinct more like a dungeon synth song due to its… perhaps even quirky introduction, but then it launches into a battle like a hymn. Still worshipping Summoning though, but add to that the bells, and flourishes and at times it feels like it is Christmas morning. Sometimes Emyn Muil puts too much in it and mellows the wound out too much, but its the style of the band. It’s just an observation that I’m keen to make.
If you like your Summoning-like songs epic and full of warmth, check this out. It is really good.
Band origin: Italy Label: Northern Silence Productions
I thought, at first, that this album was a reference to the Forgotten Realms. I was wrong, but Mystras does like referring to forgotten times and history in its music. The name is derived from a fortified town in Laconia, Greece, which inspired the project. The first offering from this project is ‘Castles Conquered and Reclaimed’.
The project was founded by Ayloss, who has also been active in Divine Element, Spectral Lore, Ontrothon, Sage of the AncientGlass and more. In this project, he brings together epic black metal and folk/ars nova music. Multiple guest musicians have joined in this project, to create something worthwhile for you to listen to (members of Lüüp, Art of Simplicity, and SpiderofPnyx join Ayloss on this record). The concept is in fact a bit more tricky to explain. Mystras focuses on the downtrodden, the rejected, in a sense. That helps turn the album into a rebellious battle cry, a medieval black metal statement if you will.
Ancient rebellions arise anew
The sound of Mystras is very particular. Imagine lo-fi black metal, but even more thin and caustic sounding, then in turn laced with folk elements. At least, that’s what follows after the opening title track. Particularly English folklore appears to interest Ayloss, who refers to Wat Tyler and The Cutty Wren in the first three songs. Both are very nice tunes though. The instrumental ‘The Cutty Wren’ has all the charm of an English folk song. Gentle and swooning, but full of nostalgia. On ‘The Murder of Wat Tyler’ a little of the violent sound returns in a primitive sounding metal tune of 13 minutes. The lyrics are pretty dense and long, so you need that time to get your story across in harsh vocals. It’s fearsome, but also rich in texture, which is why this is such a great track again.
From ‘Contre Dolour’, which feels more ancient than the previous instrumental. we go into ‘Storm the Walls of Mystras’. Another epic black metal track, with massive waves of riffs hitting you in the face. But just listen to how that guitar roars and spins around and through it. There’s a sound of hope, action, and strife. The theme is in fact rebellion against emperors, fighting against the Byzantines who are doomed to fall. It’s a complex matter in a history book and I feel that Ayloss is crafting an own version here in some ways, which works.
Zealots of Thessaloniki
Another thing I love is basically how the melodies just soar over the rumbling black metal madness son both ‘The Zealots of Thessaloniki’ and ‘Wrath and Glory’. There are the uncouth fury and savagery, but also majestic riffing to create beauty in the darkness. And you would indeed think this would not work together, as it apparently clashes big time, but Mystras makes it work. The first song is about self-rule implemented by the Zealots, who ruled the city. It’s told through a song that is at times gruff with its woven patterns, much like a reed chair I would say, the way all the hard parts chafe and clash. It’s a strange comparison, but it helps illuminate how much space the song offers. It’s not a thick production, but purposefully thin. That’s pretty cool for the result it brings.
Majestic, strong and surprising, a record to write home about. Mystras unleashes an album, right for this time. An album filled with the antidote against the racist and nationalist currents of our time, by looking back at how people make the difference. True medieval black metal with a ray of hope.