Tag Archives: black metal

Conrad – Exu​.​21: Voodooesque Nightshades, Her Embrace & His Alluring Ways

Conrad is a beast from a more dark place than you might think. The band hails from Barbados and is Kadeem Ward’s brainchild, a.k.a. Emdeka Anubis. After almost a decade of silence, the band ploughs on with this new release, titled ‘Exu​.​21: Voodooesque Nightshades, Her Embrace & His Alluring Ways’, an endeavour that displays a remarkable development in the band’s sound.

Originally, the band had multiple members, but it would appear that Emdeka is going at it solo for now under the Conrad banner. Barbados is not a place known for its metal connection and scene, so there’s a lot to unpack here. For this, I recommend reading the interview. Here I want to focus on this remarkable mixture of psychedelic music and black metal darkness.

Into darkness with Conrad

I don’t want to lump Conrad in a specific whole, but the way strange rhythms fluctuate through the hazy sound is fascinating. I can only think of Burzum actually, as using the texture of the sound itself in all its dissonance to create something new. I ‘d like to particularly refer to ‘Reinos Pt. II: Cruzeiro (Cross)’, the third track on the album. Yet, it is far from the only track in the Conrad maelstrom of distorted guitar sounds and cryptic drumming. The long-ass tracks (they are really long) are also filled with psychedelic loops, that remind me of Selim Lemouchi & His Enemies on the last record. Hallucinatory is the best word I suppose. I can taste the incense.

The record is a ritualistic one, paying homage to entities like Exu and Pombagira, who are key in the Afro-Brazilian cult of Quimbanda. Emdeka was inspired for this series of sonic sketches (because to me, that’s how they feel) by the teaching of Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold. You really feel that vibe on the repetitive, droney ‘Reinos Pt. IV: Cemiterio (Cemetery). But even the more metallesque songs, like the following ‘Reinos Pt. V: Almas (Souls)’ keep that ritualistic vibe going. It’s a testament to the strength of the music that each expression feels wholesome and connected to a larger idea.

If you are looking for traditional black metal, steer clear of this album. If you like your darkness to be like a starlight night in the Caribbean where voodoo rights are performed in the firelight, this is what you need.

Kadeem Ward brings psychedelica and black metal to Barbados

There are places where metal is still an oddity and Barbados is one of them if we can believe the stories Kadeem Ward has to share. Over a decade ago, he formed the band Conrad, together with two other musicians from other countries. The first extreme metal band from the island country.

You may know Barbados from its calypso music and, obviously, Rihanna is from the isle in the lesser Antilles. It’s a small place, known for tropical holidays and perhaps for its oddball world championship in Segway polo in 2009. Yet, there are deeper and darker traditions in the Caribbean to explore and doors to open. Kadeem Ward takes us on a flight through his fascinating career, that is still unfolding and filled with creativity. But also a number of setbacks and struggles he had to face on an island unwilling to embrace the darker sounds.

Kadeem is currently working on The Kadeem Ward Project, which has multiple sub-projects mentioned below. Enjoy!

Capturing Caribbean Darkness with Conrad

Let’s start at the beginning, how did you get into music and what inspired you to play rock music and metal?

When I was around the age of 9, I used to watch a lot of WWF shows. I used to like the theme songs that wrestlers used for their ring entrances. Theme songs for wrestlers such as The Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin & Triple H. That was the first time I ever heard heavy metal; but of course, I didn’t know the genre had that name. I had no idea who Motörhead were and that they contributed to that Triple H theme. I never heard the term heavy metal until around the age of 12. One of my cousins introduced me to heavy metal bands such as Sepultura, Slayer & Behemoth. A few years after he did, I was able to watch the documentary – ‘Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey’. Through that documentary, I discovered Norwegian black metal; and bands such as Burzum, Emperor & Mayhem inspired me tremendously. I related to their idea of the rejection of Christianity, because where I’m from, Barbados, is heavily populated by people who blindly accept the faith, and disregard the fact that Christianity was introduced to our black ancestors who were captured as slaves as a means to mentally control & brainwash them. I’m a firm believer of practising whatever forms of spirituality my ancestors were doing prior to their enslavement.

The Norwegians that were a part of the black metal scene, Varg Vikernes, Ihsahn, Euronymous and others, were very aware of similar atrocities which occurred in their native country’s history as well. Christianity has been always used as a method of oppression throughout history. I refused to accept anything Christianity had to offer from an early age. It just manifested into something more as I grew older. Eventually, I began to make music about it when I was 19.

My first recordings were done at the age of 17, but back then I never made music about blasphemous activities.

By the time I turned 21 in 2013, I had completed recording instrumental rough mixes for Conrad’s second EP entitled: ‘Exu.21’. However, I was not able to record anymore because my laptop had an issue and eventually stopped working. It was that same year I decided to switch to psychedelic rock with a solo band called ‘The Kadeem Ward Project’ in an attempt to make enough money to purchase a new one. However, this never worked out, and even to this day, Conrad gets more sales than the Project. Still, it’s not enough money to buy anything, as the customer purchase rates are incredibly slow. So I’ve decided to stick to the psychedelic/progressive rock sounds, as I would like to have a more lucrative band for the Barbadian live settings.

What are the band that totally captured you and really inspire you to this day?

Honestly, I don’t listen to most of the bands that inspired me in the early days. I’ve moved on. Not saying that I wouldn’t listen to those bands ever again, but I’ve just been making the time for new music. I listen to a lot of ’60s & 70’s music. There’s a sea of psychedelic rock & progressive rock that I like to submerge myself in. One band that I’ve really been digging very recently is the Pekka Pohjola Group from Finland. They have a track & album released in 1980 called ‘Kätkävaaran Lohikäärme’ (The Dragon Of Käkävaara) that is just simply ingenious. However, if I had to choose a particular band it would be Saturnalia Temple from Sweden. I love their 2011 full-length ‘Aion Of Drakon’ is a major influence for me. I first heard it in early 2012, and it resonated heavily. It’s so bluesy, especially for a Doom Metal album. Some sections of it remind me of the legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson. Especially tracks like ‘Fall’. I don’t know if Johnson was an influence for that album, like, if the craft was intentional, but I hail Tommie Eriksson and the gang for their efforts.

As I understand it, you started the first metal band or at least the first extreme metal band, in Barbados. Your first project was called Tohara Harakati, where you started using the moniker ‘Veldt Soldaat’ (which is in Dutch ‘field soldier’, which piques my interest). Here you also started using the moniker ‘Emdeka’. Can you tell me how this came to be?

In 2009, I was looking for a band name. I wanted to have an African name. I used an online translator to attempt to translate Purgatory Process into Swahili. That’s how Tohara Harakati came to be. Unfortunately, it’s not an accurate translation. And yes, Veldt Soldaat translates to ‘field soldier’ in Dutch. I used an Afrikaans translator, and both that and Dutch are quite similar. But I didn’t realize that at the time, haha.

Emdeka just came to be influenced by Samoth of Emperor who took his birth name Thomas and spelled it backwards from each of the last two letters. My birth name is Kadeem, so if I did the same thing it would be ‘Emdeka’. In 2013, I added Exuma to the name, as a tribute to the Bahamian artist who sang about dark Afro-based entities and traditions.

This project then became Conrad, which is the main reason I got interested in your work. It’s driven sound, atmospheric passages and intricate passages are, to me, phenomenal. Can you tell me more about this project and how you shaped it?

I went to the public library in Bridgetown when I was 17 to find a text about Barbadian folklore so that I could choose a new band name. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to borrow that book in particular, so I read through it very quickly and came across two interesting entities. Ballahoo, a spectral hound with chains attached to him, which was known to devour people. The next one being Conrad, a ghost that was said to penetrate women and live in their stomachs, causing irritation. I chose the latter because it felt more intriguing, and I felt a strong spiritual connection with the name.

What was the concept behind Conrad? And what attracted you to the sound of black metal?

The concept behind Conrad is a spiritual one. It is connected with the past activities & rituals of the African people. It just so happens that I took the more sinister path of such a notion.

Also, I always loved how minimalistic black metal was expressed. These guys created a phenomenon through the use of poor quality equipment and recording styles. I also like the variation of speed that can accumulate within various bands.

You’ve said that you wanted to capture Barbados myths with Conrad. You also explored various languages and ideas related to your personal heritage, if I understand it correctly (perhaps afro-centric themes is the correct word?). Can you elaborate on that?

I’m trying to bring forth awareness and glorification of Afro-based entities such as Baron Samedi (found in the Haitian Voodoo tradition, Eshu/Exu (found in both the West African Yoruba & Brazilian Quimbanda traditions; the latter which I have been an active practitioner of from 2011 to 2013) & Shango (found in the West African Yoruba tradition). Our black ancestors suffered a lot and some even died trying to defend their culture. I think it’s fair that more black individuals accept these traditions again because it was our way of living and it was stripped from us!

For this band, you started working with Lord Ifrit from Jamaica, known from Orisha Shakpana. How did you guys get in touch and how did this steer the project to the darker sound on the last releases?

Lord Ifrit contacted me in 2010 via email and hailed me for my contributions to heavy metal. We then exchanged taste in music and eventually talked about collaborating. He wrote the lyrics and performed the vocals for the track ‘Purgatory Process’ which is the second track on Conrad’s first EP entitled ‘-Conrad Within-‘. The darkness of the sound came from me being very heavily influenced by bands such as Watain & Dissection; those two bands glorify the concept of Chaos as a source of liberation from the chains of the cosmic existence and the stagnation of the forces of Order.

New Horizons for The Kadeem Ward Project

I’m not entirely clear on how and why Conrad got quiet or even ended. Orisha Shakpana seems to have gone quiet at the same time according to what I can find. Since then you’ve worked on several projects in new directions it seems. So how did this project end and where did your interests shift towards?

Conrad never ended! The band is currently going through a very long hiatus. What happened with Conrad was a series of unfortunate & detrimental events. First of all, in 2013, during the recording of Conrad’s 2nd EP ‘Exu.21’, my laptop had issues and stopped working. It was my main work station at the time. I couldn’t continue with Conrad’s new material as a result. The DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) that I used was pirated and for some reason, entered a trial mode, and prevented me from recording. I also lacked space on my internal hard drive. So I knew I needed a new laptop.

So sometime in 2013, I worked very briefly at a hotel on the south coast of Barbados to acquire some funds for a new laptop; however, I was fired in less than a week. I managed to accumulate enough money for an external hard drive, and I figured that maybe I can try to form a new project that would be lucrative enough for financial assistance. I created a project called ‘De Adversaries’ which was based on dark psychedelic rock with metal influences, but this was really just an experiment for the development of my playing skills on the guitar. It was supposed to feature individuals from ‘the darkest corners of the world’, but it never worked out.

On November 30th 2013, I created The Kadeem Ward Project, and launched a brand new demo that featured about 9 mins of improvisation through an instrumental jam session. That demo was called ‘Austere’. Shortly after my laptop finally expired and I was forced to use my mother’s laptop in order to do more recordings with the Project. It just became so much easier to record with ‘The Project’ because it was entirely based around guitar improvisation, which I became very good at. With Conrad, everything was composed very carefully and strategically. This became too time-consuming for my situation, because my mother never liked the idea of me recording music on her laptop.

Another thing that took place in early 2013 was my manifestation of schizophrenia. I was doing lots of cocaine and marijuana at the same time and started hearing voices while having a rather painful and unusual increased heart rate. This went on for the duration of a year plus a few months. In 2014, I got in some trouble with my mother after someone I once considered a friend tried to push me out of a moving vehicle and I ended up in the island’s psychiatric hospital, a place called Black Rock.

I spent a duration of about 2 months there before going back home and then attending their walk-in rehab.

I can’t say what happened to Orisha Shakpana, because I was out of contact with Lord Ifrit for a while; but I believe that band is also on a very long hiatus.

One project I came across, that I found particularly interesting was Emdeka Exuma & De Adversaries. It made me think of Selim Lemouchi & His Enemies. Can you tell me more about that project? Is that the last mention of your moniker Emdeka?

For now, it is the last mention, you can say. I became very influenced by Selim Lemouchi’s work since I first heard The Devil’s Blood in mid-2011. Conrad’s 2nd and unfinished EP ‘Exu.21’ is heavily inspired by The Devil’s Blood. When Selim started his new project, I was so inspired that I changed the name of ‘De Adversaries’ to ‘Emdeka Exuma & De Adversaries’. As I mentioned before, ‘De Adversaries’ was an effort to have people from different parts of the globe muster ideas for dark psychedelic music.

You seem to have grown more fond of psychedelic music, but as I understand it from your personal story, there is little room our tolerance for that music on Barbados. You’ve had quite some personal and legal issues as I understand. Is that something you want to tell more about? Do you feel there is more acceptance regarding the music you make today?

I’d say psychedelic rock & progressive rock are a bit more lucrative within the Barbadian setting. It’s something you can get away with if executed correctly and accurately. Most Barbadians don’t like rock music in general. As Christians, they’ve acquired the herd notion that all rock music is Satanic. So they don’t ever step out of their comfort zones when it comes to rock, blues and especially heavy metal. However, the few that do appreciate the genre would probably find psychedelic rock to be interesting. If you play music in the vein of Jimi Hendrix, they’d gravitate towards it. But honestly, I didn’t choose the genre to have people think I’m the next Jimi Hendrix, it just came naturally as something I loved and wished to express. Honestly, I don’t mingle too much with the local rock fans, because in my opinion, they’ve stagnated themselves by listening to mainstream alternative rock bands that have really watered down the spirit of rock n roll. Rock n roll is a lifestyle of rebellion against oppressive forces, which is a notion that mainstream bands don’t cater to. I get quite annoyed while talking about it, but whining about your girlfriend and singing about being the least favourite student in high school (or whatever the fuck those bands sing about) is absolute weakness and has nothing to do with the true spirit of rock n roll.

As for legal issues, I actually appeared in court for the first time in 2013. January that same year, someone wanted to purchase a tobacco pipe I was selling for $40 Barbadian ($20 USD). They were a graphics designer that did posters for local dancehall shows. He said he didn’t have the money so I trusted that he would’ve returned with the money eventually. I realized that every time I met with him, he didn’t have the money, followed by some excuse. At one point he told me about a situation where he abandoned a girl after offering her ice cream, and he thought that was funny. Eventually, I started hearing stories about how he ripped off several of his clients who wanted to do shows for him, as he was a ‘promoter’. They never saw any money from him. So, after weeks of waiting, I sent him a warning with a picture of my Quimbanda altar and he panicked. He came into my workplace (at the time I was working at a supermarket located a few minutes away from my home in a place called Six Roads) and threatened me twice. When it was time for me to leave around 10:00 PM, he was in the parking lot waiting for me and spoke violently. After he attacked me, I stabbed him. My mother told me to turn myself in, so I did. I was in a jail cell for a few days before I was granted bail. Because of that incident, I lost my job at the supermarket, as they said they weren’t allowing violence on their compound. When I went to court, the judge dropped the charges against me and told me to be careful next time.

Also, I’ve been to the psychiatric hospital 4 times between 2014 – 2018. The 3rd time, in 2016, my mother made me homeless the day after I was discharged from that institution for my 2nd detainment. I refused her request to get a haircut and she called the police to escort me off of her residence. I was homeless for about 6 days. I was then approached by a neighbor who said that my mother wanted me back home. When I did return home, my mother called home from work and asked me what I was doing there, and called the police again. I verbally abused my grandmother because of that. Anyway that same night, I returned home and my mother called the police and I was detained for 9 months. That was the most inhumane experience I’ve ever been through, and I’ve been disgusted by my mother because of it.

Currently, I see project names like The Kadeem Ward Project, Kadeem Ward & His Mechanical Devices, Kadeem Ward & The Pillars of the Pilgrim’s Temple, and Supa Fly Don X Goon City, which is a hip-hop project, but you seem to have a fascination still for the magical element in music. Can you maybe give some insights into what all these projects mean and which role they fulfill in your total artistic expression?

Well, first of all, The Kadeem Ward Project is a medium for my creative energies & passions and I try to have as little restrictions as possible with that band. It’s a vessel that nurtures a field of possibilities, hopes & dreams. It’s one of the most naked experiences I’ve ever had, as in, the band caused me to reveal aspects of myself that I have never expressed on a musical & personal plane. I’ve been listening to my 2nd album: ‘Confection: A Syncretism Of Guises & How All Mad Men Go To Heaven’, and I came to discover how sonically advanced it is for a very minimalistic production. The compositions are very unique and original and I came to indulge in the fact that I was composing something quite progressive and ethereal. That album, along with my 3rd album ‘Dilemma Of Dispersal & Aging (Or A Continuum TO Departure)’ was released the same year. I personally believe that ‘Dilemma’ has a voluptuous role in my life. If I were to accumulate enough money to form a band, that is the album I want to perform live globally, because it has so much potential as a 2 hour plus progressive/jazz album. That album can build an economy, man. I want to use that album to give Barbados a new façade and a new aura & atmosphere. I want to do something like what Fela Kuti was doing in Nigeria during the 70’s & 80’s with ‘The Shrine’ where people can visit Barbados from all corners of the globe with the anticipation to hear my ‘exotic’ compositions. Who knows? That may inspire some locals to create more original and exuberant music. For the last 10 years or so in Barbados, guitarist & singers have just been doing the same bloody covers of mainstream pop/alternative artist and have been making a living off of it. My presence in the Barbadian music industry is to ensure that I denounce that notion of such stagnation, lack of originality & laziness for something more unique, potent & pure.

Kadeem Ward & His Mechanical Devices and Kadeem Ward & The Pillars Of The Pilgrim’s Temple are both subsidiaries of The Kadeem Ward Project. The Mechanical Devices is a live project, associated heavily with the use of a loop station. It’s for one-shot recordings. The Pillars is an acoustic-based project that gravitates primarily around world music.

The rap project came about as a side-interest and a means to support me financially. I used the alias Goon City for that. My cousin that lives here in Padmore Village, St. Philip goes by the name of Supa Fly Don. He’s an amazing freestyler. It’s stunning what he can do off the top of his head. I leave the rapping up to him, I just produce beats.

Religion, spirituality, magic, it all seems to play a big part in what you do musically. These things are, of course, always connected if we look at rock’n’roll history. How do you view this today and which bands are currently your biggest inspirations?

Unfortunately, I haven’t been practicing magick since 2014, because my mother discarded my altar. I haven’t had a steady job to be able to realign myself with magickal practices either. My schizophrenia didn’t help either, I lost touch with reality for many years. The only form of magick I’ve been practicing all these years was through my composition in The Kadeem Ward Project. It’s a medium to express a spiritual connection with entities through vibrations and sounds. I believe in sonic & voces magick (sound and spoken word), so I try to incorporate them into my music as much as possible.

It’s mandatory for me to have spirituality as a theme for my music because it helps me transcend the barriers of this mundane existence in order to find something greater. A lot of artists that I have been around just stagnated themselves with the idea of partying and accumulating material possessions to satisfy themselves. I look past this notion of brain dead entertainment. I want to manifest the energies of my ancestors into the present day in order to grow and to become a wiser, smarter, more progressive person. I do that with magick. I see this world as a grand illusion of false hopes & desires, so I try my best to animate life of sustainability and substance to detach from the false notions of this world.

The bands that inspire me in this sense would be Saturnalia Temple (as I’ve mentioned before), Watain, Dissection & The Devil’s Blood.

What does music mean to you now? To me, it seems like you treat it like a wide-open playing field. Do you see yourself returning to the recording of extreme metal with Conrad or a new project in the future?

Music to me now means mind-expansion. That’s what I’ve been craving more of these days. Developing my psyche and intellectual properties. Music, and good music at that, is a release. It’s hope. It’s the future. Interesting how you should refer to me treating music as an open field; and I do treat it that way. I try not to have a limit to what I listen to and create. I listen to everything expect gospel, country, & dancehall (well I listen to some dancehall tracks but it’s minimal. It’s not a genre I’m too fond of anyway).

Conrad will return someday, most definitely. As for when I can’t say. I plan to launch a new Doom band too called Mycelium Ghost, but that may have to wait a while.

What future plans do you currently have?

Accumulating money for the future of my musical journey.

If the Kadeem Ward Project was a dish, a type of food, what would it be and why?

A plate of psilocybin mushrooms, because it’s the key to the inner gate, the forbidden doorway.

Mental health is a concern for everyone. If you struggle, reach out to professionals, talk to people. 

Ifernach – The Green Enchanted Forest of the Druid Wizard

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.  

Artist: Ifernach
Origin: Canada
Label: GoatoaRex

Dwarrowdelf – Evenstar

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

An Autumn For Crippled Children – All fell silent, everything went quiet

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

Paysage d’Hiver – Im Wald

Paysage d’Hiver – Im Wald

Tobias Möckl is also known as Wintherr, and has a love for winter landscapes. That’s, in fact, the main theme for his project Paysage d’Hiver, which has released a ton of demos and splits over the years. In fact, the project is 23 years old and it required a global pandemic for Möckl to finally drop a full-length album with Paysage d’Hiver. In 2020, the album ‘Im Wald’ became a reality.

It’s not the only project of the Swiss musician, he is also active in the fabled Darkspace and runs the label Kunsthall Productionen. Stylistically, Paysage d’Hiver is an ambient black metal project, as the atmosphere of the music is the most important aspect according to the artist. It’s songs all connect to the same story, which tells of a realm of winter, with the same name obviously,

A winter walk in the forest

‘Im Wald’ is the magnum opus, with a running time of 2 hours. Musically, this is the sonic equivalent of a long walk in the forest, under an obvious layer of white, pristine snow… as the darkness of the autumn sets in on ‘Im Winterwald’. The music is blisteringly intense, but the melodies soar above the jagged treetops and create a mesmerizing specter. One can even detect a hint of that Darkspace weirdness, due to the futuristic keyboard lines that interlace the song. It adds wealth to the tapestry of sound.

Icy storms of black metal

All tracks are fairly long actually. ‘Flug’ takes its time, for example, building up through hazy ambient sounds/field recordings that demonstrate the forest is never truly quiet. But that’s how the song unfolds. Now and then, the guitars come to the forefront, but the babbling of a brook is louder than the acoustic twanging of the strings for most of the song. The music serves as a frame for nature, not vice versa, providing a mournful dirge to the wintery forlorn realms. At other times, the sound scours everything else away from your aural perception, particularly on ‘Kälteschauer’ you are subjected to a hailstorm of distorted guitars with the vocals piercing through the noise like a howling wind. At other times, the tracks can be punishing, caustic. ‘Weiter, Immer Weiter’ is that type of song, plowing through the snow, against the wind that blows with an icy gale. It’s intense and punishing, but the journey is rewarding.

Interesting is that the language choice is switching between German and French on this album only once for the song ‘Le Rêve Lucide’. This track actually feels more traditional black metal, with a pleasant rhythm and clear sound. Crisp riffing, thundering drums the way you like it. To me, it’s one of my favorite tracks. Dark, necro vocals, a constant pushing melody, and rhythm. it’s perfect. But it’s not surprising that an album of black metal of over 120 minutes can be so good. It’s music that needs to bewitch, to entrance you, and transport you to other realms. It’s fantastic to have so much in one go.

Origin: Switzerland
Label: Kunsthall Productionen

Tetelestai – Tetelestai

The last words on the cross by Jesus Christ were, according to Saint John, ‘It is done’. Obviously, he would not have said that in modern English, but in the language they spoke in where he was from at that time. And that is probably just something a monk made up, let’s be honest. He might as well have said: “I wish I could at least have scratched my nose…”. Anyway, in ancient Greek, it would have been ‘Tetelestai’, which happens to be the name of the band we’re about to discuss: Tetelestai, and their self-titled record.

Tetelestai hails from Utrecht, the cradle of the New Wave of Dutch Black Metal (I said it, not taking it back). Their members are active in scene pillars like Verval, Nevel, Wrang and Wesenwille. There’s a lot there to already give some promise that you’re in for something good, but I’ll refrain from saying that directly. Anyways, they’ve released an exciting demo that sounds, to me, fantastic as it is. 

There’s a notable rock’n’roll groove to opener ‘Vergiffenis’. I mean, it really feels like I’m listening to a melodic punk rock track with heavy distortion, as the riffing is tight, quick-footed and has those stop-go moments. It makes the music more dynamic, energetic and therefore intriguing. ‘Sluier van Begeerte’ follows, with a more traditional, haemorrhaging rhythm, though the start of the song features some wonderful acoustics. The bellowed vocals make it easy to link the band to a more current sound of traditional black metal. And yes, that includes the Tom G. Warrior ‘Ugh!’. The guitars are excellent though, but I think I’ve mentioned it. 

Time’ follows with what can be best described as a blistering hail storm of guitar riffs. The sound is lo-fi, subdued even, but still crackles with venom. At an average length of about 6+ minutes, each song is a solid slab of black metal violence. The coolest thing is that this is officially a demo according to the description and it already sounds so good! This song packs a punch with the incessant riffs, the violent howls and messy, raw sound. 

We close this release with ‘De Contradictie’. A raucous display of power, which is an unbefitting reference to Pantera. These guys sound nothing like them, which you may have gathered from the statements made before. It’s a furious song, full of deep grooves and heavy, crushing drums. Ok, maybe that reference wasn’t that weird, but it’s a good song to close up. Good stuff, really!

Band: Tetelestai
Origin: Netherlands
Label: self-released

 

Ragana – We know That The Heavens Are Empty

Ragana is one of the bands I keep coming back to. Their mixture of black metal aesthetics, screamo sentimentality and doomy vibes is a treat, but their message is equally powerful and one I gladly receive. This release is titled: ‘We Know That The Heavens Are Empty’ and it’s special.

The title comes from a poem, titled ‘The Toast of Despair’, by anarchist hero Valtairine De Cleyre. A poem from 1892, in fact, from this author. She played a significant role in shaping modern American feminism but was an activist in her lifetime against intermarriage violence and other issues that are still unresolved to this very day. 

The opening is slow, atmospheric and rich in emotional charge. The build-up on the track ‘Waiting’ takes time to reach the point of silence, only to restart again. Ragana was less subtle on their previous work, so as a listener you’ll be intrigued and the wait for that release is a good one. A pained voice cuts through the quiet and pushes the build-up onwards to a dark, thick tapestry of guitars and pained screams that embodies Ragana. The song never fully gets to the point of letting go, of unabated fury, unleashed. We keep waiting. 

‘The Tower’ feels much more powerful, full of threat and looming danger. Yet this doomy track also slowly creeps forward. It’s a slow and tormented track, where the vocals and flow of the song are often opposed, creating a sense of discomfort. It builds to a wail and scream: “Holding, Falling, Holding…” You feel the despair, as the tremolo guitar reaches a high note and stays there, teetering on the edge, almost falling down.

Band: Ragana
Origin: USA
Label: An Out Records

Dämmerfarben – Des Herbstes Trauerhymnen MMXX

Dämmerfarben is Germen for the colors of twilight. It’s also a black metal project with a colorful group of participants. Founder Nostarion started the band as a solo project to explore the mixture of folk, acoustics, black metal, and atmospheric music. He has paved his way in the scene, playing in bands like Seelenfrost, Folkodia, and is currently active as a member of Folkearth, Ulfsdalir, Dystertid and Panopticon (live). And a ton more…

Later he was joined by Dystertid, Idhafels, and Throndt bandmember Fergen Grimnir on bass. Having had a steady rotation of other members, they added Panopticon mastermind Austin Lunn as the drummer in 2015. The result is a band with a remarkable amount of talent among its ranks, and the result is audible on Des Herbstes Trauerhymnen MMXX. As Panopticon is my most important reference point here, it comes at no surprise that Dämmerfarben has elements of that sound too.

Songs for Autumn

The soft acoustic intro is reminiscent of ‘Roads to the North’ on opener Herbstsonne. Still, the transition to the full-on metal is more subtle and smooth. The folk metal influences come up straight here, with some classic heavy metal riffing in the mix. We would remain within the autumn theme on this album if that were still news with titles like ‘Des Herbstes Trauerlied.’ A lot of acoustic guitar work really creates the space and atmosphere for the album’s vibe to set in. It helps bind the songs together, stretch them out, and enables you as a listener to immerse yourself even deeper into their sounds.

It’s interesting to note that the first four songs are, in fact, older songs reworked for this record. You wouldn’t call anything on this album dated, though there is a certain timelessness to the tunes. It helps that some of the tracks are so smoothly meandering, like a babbling brook or the wind through the autumn leaves. I particularly enjoy the song ‘Herbstpfad’, with chanting that creates a bit of that Mittelalter rock vibe the Germans were known for a couple of years ago. The field recordings help put the right frame around that sonic picture.

As we drift off,  with the wonderful ‘Golden Atem Letzter Tagen’, one is likely to always dream of autumn, the golden leaves and light of the setting sun. Soon…

Band: Dämmerfarben
Label: self-released
Origin: Germany

Underground Sounds: Csejthe – L’horreur de Čachtice

Label: HSP Productions
Band: Csejthe
Origin: Canada

Quebecois black metal is of a distinct kind, full of Francophone fury, gritty sound, and evil. Csejthe is no different in any of that. The band has by now released 3 albums and did a split with Monarque and Forteresse, two bands with an equal undeniable force and power in their sound. Just like these guys, actually, who also are active in some other acts.

Named after the castle of the infamous Countess Bathory, who murdered according to myth hundreds of girls, the theme is clear. Remarkably, this is a steady feat in the work of Csejthe. On this album, they even go deeper into it with a title ‘L’ horreur de Čachtice’ referring directly to the horror and telling the tale.

And we fall instantly into the darkness with ‘Terreur Nocturne’, a slow-paced, almost doomy track of drizzling black metal. The sound is hazy at the edges, creating this mesmerizing Burzum-like atmosphere. Slow and repetitive, that’s definitely what Csejthe is going for in their grinding tracks, though it picks up on ‘Lycanthropie misanthropie’ and the following title track. There are these wailing guitar melodies, this all-over barren feel to the songs, a certain grandeur… It’s what sets the scene apart and makes bands liket his so amazing.

The record doesn’t stick to a steady formula though and every following song has different nuances, strengths and expressions. But at times the band can actually surprise you. Not with their grim and dark stories, but when their music takes radical turns as it does on ‘Le Spectre de Soleil’. A moody, jazzy interlude breaks up the blast beats, like a sun ray through the clouds and its such a powerful thing. But when we hit the final track, ‘Sadique lunatique’ a vitalistic, suffocating intensity hits. The melody just creeps and writhes around the listener in an unnerving, illustrious speed. Hard to grasp, before the blade comes down.