Tag Archives: black metal

Vong: Vietnamese folklore & history

Vietnam is a far-away place and often our perception is limited to cinematic exposure and (in my case) snack food. I’m not stating this to make light of it, just to illustrate how little we sometimes may know about the world around us. Vong is a black metal project, hailing from the South-East Asian nation, and its sole contributor Indigo Tongue weaves the history and culture of his country into the tapestry of its music.

Vong has released a debut, titled ‘A Wander in Liminality’, in 2019. A record that stands on its own, with a distinct flavour and identity. I was happy to find Indigo Tongue willing to fill me in on its contents, the Vietnamese metal scene and more.

A Wander in Liminality with Vong

How is Vong doing? How has the pandemic been treating you?

Greetings, it’s been an honor to represent my home country and take part in your project.

Aside from not being able to hang out with my friends or jamming with my bandmates, I’m not really affected by the pandemic. Normally I work from home and staying in means I get more time to finish my artworks, record new materials, or tend to my cat and my plants.

Your moniker is Indigo Tongue, can you tell me what that means for you?

It was an alias that I picked for my illustration projects. It came to me pretty randomly and doesn’t necessarily mean anything much, other than bearing a mystic vibe to it. I figured it had a nice ring and decided to adopt it for the black metal project as well.

What got you into metal music?

I couldn’t say much, other than the fact that I developed a taste for it in my teenage years, just like most people. It started with something like Metallica or Black Sabbath and got gradually more extreme down the line.

Can you tell me how you started the project (which I understand is a one-man band) and what bands inspired you to make this kind of music?

It’s not hard to point out that I was inspired mainly by several second wave Norwegian bands, or specifically, the most notorious one-man black metal project that I need not mention. It was their sound that bought me: raw, uncompromised and gritty, cold and grim like a rusty blade cleaving into your flesh. What fascinated me was the fact that they made do with whatever equipment they had at hands, which was a similar situation that I found myself in: I was in college studying fine arts, all equipment I had around the house was a cheap guitar whose neck had broken twice and got glued back, a combo amp, my cellphone which I used to record everything and my laptop. So me, being a DIY guy, decided that I’d try to make black metal with whatever I had lying around.

At the same time, I found black metal to be the subgenre that I’m most comfortable with, compared to other subgenres that I had listened to. I’ve always been drawn to themes like romanticism, occultism, nature, death, human emotions,… and dark medieval aesthetics. Black metal just happens to have most of them to offer.
You’ve released your debut in 2019, titled ‘A Wander in Liminality’.

What can you tell about the process of creating this record?

Like I’ve mentioned, it was all DIY, from the process of recording, mixing to the artworks. It was a fun experience, as I was new to songwriting and audio engineering at the time so I got to experiment recording with a cellphone and fooling around in the digital audio workspace.

I built a pillow fort around the amp and just stuck the phone in to record it, and samples on the title tracks were from creaking cupboard doors, amp static noises and me gargling water over the phone. For the intro of the track “Lệ Chi Viên”, I used the bell and mokugyo (or fish drum, a small wooden percussion typically used in chanting and ceremonies) from the family altar (probably without my ancestors’ permission).

The creation of the artworks was my favourite too. They were all hand-drawn and took many weeks to finish. But the end results were worth it, I believe they were the best artworks I’d ever completed up to that point.Overall, it was a fun experience as I learned a lot about songwriting and audio engineering from it, despite the horrible sound quality, which was a result of recording on a cellphone.

Some of your song titles are in Vietnamese, yet your lyrics are in English. Why did you choose this language and not your own? Black metal has never had an issue with different languages, it would appear, so it would be a valid choice.

Vietnamese is a complicated and colourful language that works very much different from Germanic or Latin. For example, there are dozens of different pronouns depending on age, genders, relationships and context of the speech, which makes wording a chore. If I were to write a romantic poem in Vietnamese, it would flow elegantly like a petal in the stream. But we are talking about black metal, so the lyrics tend to focus on sorrow, war and hatred,… you know, the whole nine yards. Writing about such matters in Vietnamese often feels kinda cheesy (to me, at least). It’s just really hard to explain to non-native speakers.

But the most important reason why I stick with English is that I knew the majority of listeners were going to be foreigners because I was pretty much unknown in the local scene back then. I’d spent a lot of time on the lyrics, so I wanted them to be heard and understood. At the same time, most Vietnamese metalheads (or the youths in general) are capable of understanding English since they are no strangers to Western culture, so it’s a win-win situation.

I understand you are inspired by literature and history, specifically of your home country of Vietnam. Can you say something about this? And can you give some insights into what sort of stories and writers those are?

History and culture have always been among my favourite subjects, and when I took a look at our own history and customs, I found a lot of aspects that would fit well in the context of black metal. For example, over the course of three millenniums of our recorded history, we had fended off foreign invaders numerous times, got subjugated and revolted again and again until we gained sovereignty, which inspired a patriotic theme (not to be confused with ultranationalism) similar to those observed in some of my favourite projects. When it comes to history, I often draw inspiration from tragic events (foreign oppression, famine, persecution of innocents…) or decisive battles that shaped the country. Sometimes it was wartime stories from family members who served in the army as well.

Asides from history, I took inspiration from folklore as well, most of which however are orally passed on from one generation to the next, so no one really knows the dates or who the authors were. Typically these stories either serve as explanations to origins of beings, or fables that reflect the perspectives and moral values of Vietnamese people.

Like most Oriental cultures, our customs and beliefs are heavily based on spiritualism and have a connection to death and the afterlife, with rituals and ceremonies involving the dead. Although Buddhism is the most popular religion in the country, people found ways to integrate folk religions into it, like worshipping ancient deities and saints alongside the Buddha, or ancestor veneration, which is considered unique to the Vietnamese culture, also inspired the themes of Vong.

Vietnam is a country which is to most, including to myself, known mostly for the Vietnam war, which I’m sure has its reverberations to this very day. As you intentionally chose themes from your culture and the English language, is it a purpose for you to change of at least affect that view?

You could say so. Southeast Asian countries have a rich history and cultures but they are often overshadowed by East Asian nations. It wasn’t until the 50’s that we were actually recognized as an independent country internationally when the French colonialism was put to an end, and not until the breakout of the Vietnam War that we were put on the map. Yes, the Vietnam War very much shaped the country as we know it today, but I wanted to point out that there are much more to Vietnamese history rather than the stereotypical “American PTSD experience”.

You’ve also been active in Elcrost, which would seem to focus on a more western romanticism in the lyrics and themes. How did you get into this project and how does it relate to the obvious other direction you embrace with Vong?

It’s a small scene. I’d known the guys from Elcrost before joining their live lineup and we have been good friends ever since. At that point, we were the only two active black metal bands with original materials in the North, they needed session members for live gigs because two out of three guys were abroad and I’d need live members since I’m a one-man project. So we formed up as a 2-in-1 kind of lineup, where we’d perform songs of both bands at gigs under Elcrost/Vong, featuring members of Vietnamese bands like Rot (black metal) and Cút Lộn (thrash/punk) at the time.

Well, just because Vong embraces national history and culture, doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy Western literature and arts. After all both projects are influenced by Western arts and music. The only difference is that I chose to integrate Vietnamese themes in the lyrics. So even if the themes or music of both projects contradict, we share quite some common interests in visual arts and Romanticism. I very much enjoyed their materials and it was a great experience playing in their live lineup and taking part in their EP “Foregone Fables”.

What is it like to make this kind of extreme music in Vietnam? Is there a connection with surrounding countries?

Like I’ve mentioned, the extreme metal scene in Vietnam is relatively small, so as soon as you drop new materials you will certainly get support from the Vietnamese metal scene, which I find rather wholesome.

I’m aware of black metal acts in neighbouring countries like Thailand or Laos and to a greater extent, the Southeast Asia region. I have made contact with the Thai black metal project กาฬพราย (Kanprai), but other than that I don’t know much about connections between bands within the region.

How free are you to explore darker themes in your music? Is there censorship to take into account?

To a certain extent, but in general, it’s rather easy to breathe. Most extreme metal bands are under the radar of mainstream media so most people don’t know or care if you write songs about butchering humans or burning churches. They would just call it noisy or unintelligible music and turn their heads. But of course, censorship is a thing here and there are certain parts where one should tread lightly if you don’t want to catch the attention of the authority, i.e. controversial topics like politics or history of the past 70 years.

Vong is associated with House of Ygra. What sort of cooperation is this and how did you connect?

House of Ygra is a new label based in Hanoi, founded by members of the local scene. Their specialities are black metal, melodic death metal, gothic and experimental stuff, so naturally, I was offered to join their roster, which I gladly accepted. Their role is to produce and distribute merch like CDs, shirts and art prints for bands as well as taking part in visual designs.

What are the future plans for Vong?

I plan to save money for a recording mic and a proper bass (the bass on the demo was played on a guitar pitch-shifted an octave down), finish the artworks for CD releases, record another full length or two, probably another EP or a split before retiring it and move on to other projects.

If Vong was a type of food, a dish, what would it be and why?

Not exactly a dish but I’d go with green tea mixed with passion fruit juice and a spoonful of honey, solely because it’s my trusty beverage during vocal sessions.

Glora Nexus: Independence, expression & isolation

Indonesia is a hotbed for metal, though black metal is rarer so I was surprised to find the debut album of Glora Nexus in my mailbox. The band from Jakarta is a solo project from Svarte, who is determined to pave his own path in the genre. The debut, ‘A Grand Monument To Mortality’ is quite an engaging piece of work, that combines a raw approach with an atmospheric sound. On the album, there are some guests contributing. Alexander Lexy from Blodwen plays the guitars on a track, Ragnar Sverrisson from Helfró joins on vocals, Teguh Permana  from Tarawangsawelas plays the tarawangsa and finally from death metallers Devoured, Ardian Nuril Anwar joins in. It ads to the result, because the downside of a one-man band is that it often gets to be much of the same.  Also, it adds a little death metal groove to the sound I feel.

Svarte was kind enough to answer a bunch of my questions, that came up. Well, most of them, as is his right as an artist to keep holding on to a certain mysterious side of the band. More than anything, I encourage you to check out the music. After all, that’s what this is about.

Glora Nexus and Indonesian black metal

How is Glora Nexus doing? How has the pandemic been treating you?

Hi, I’m still fine even though sometimes it’s very annoying to be in a pandemic situation that has succeeded in limiting the space for human activities. Thank you very much for this interview, I had fun answering it! Also, a very personal thanks to you and I wish you live much luck, keep supporting the underground!

What got you into metal music?

To be honest, “Ascension of a Divine Ordinance” was the first metal song I heard when my uncle brought some CDs home. at least Messiah’s Rotten Perish album has made me familiar with the metal genre.

I felt that sense of pride and individuality that only true feelings for metal can give a person, I listen to metal because I truly love it with an undying passion, and I’ve always been so proud of that, I’ve never bowed to any trend or done anything because I was “supposed” to, and I’m very glad that I had the ability to become an individual instead of a mindless follower like how 99% of today’s society is, indeed. Just like any other human being, I grew up together in the good and the bad, it was good in a sense.

Can you tell me how the project got started, and what bands inspired you to make this kind of music? I understand Glora Nexus is a one-man project.

Previously I asked you, have you ever read the results of the interview answers about this question?. If you have found it, I will not rewrite it here. Sorry to say, I’m not really interested in this question. The music of a Black Metal band should be dark in some way. There is no law that would forbid growling from a Black Metal singer. And I’d like to see bands use more imagination, knowledge, and individuality in their lyrics. Could it be more pathetic?

(ed.) If the reader is interested, here is more to be found in the interview on Occult Black Metal Zine, which is the other interview I’ve found. A later interview sheds more light too, on Himnos Ritualis.  I do feel the music sounds particularly as if it has been inspired by the Icelandic scene. 

Before your EP, you released two singles, what has been the development like for you as an artist towards this EP?

I don’t think there is any clear and definite answer, but this is a philosophical statement using music as a vehicle and I think that is just plain foolish. From the song “Spiritual Havoc” to the release of the EP “A Grand Monument To Mortality” is that progression is simply exploring yourself because in the end music and all art is a reflection of the artist. As long as you explore yourself and use yourself to write music. Ultimately the quality of a musical work should reflect the musician’s confidence in his own abilities and his ambition to achieve the desired result.

You’ve just released your EP ‘A Grand Monument To Mortality’. What can you tell me about this record, your process in creating it?

From my own experience, I find that through the years I have become more comfortable and find myself trying out new things or trying stuff I could not pull off in the past. I have always held a certain philosophy behind songwriting. I like tempo changes and transitions to build up different moods and I think there needs to be a certain natural flow to how all the riffs come together and how the melodies float over them. I don’t think we have reached the ideal sound or style just yet, but I think that any active musician would say that it is just an ongoing process filled with development and experimentation. The composition of “A Grand Monument To Mortality” was really spontaneous, kinda comparable to how we did proceed with the debut track “Spiritual Havoc”. When I had the complete songs and their related lyrics we started to add this and that to melt each lyric to its own musical support. Everything went very fast a bit like if some force was just telling us what to do, it was quite intense and natural.

What sort of theme are you striving for with Glora Nexus? The artwork of the EP gives me very specific vibes that sort of click with dark romanticism, but maybe I’m completely wrong there.

I think people just got bored with their hollowness and started to look for something with a deeper meaning behind it. Our “imagery” is everything to us. My attraction to Black Metal has always been based on the combination of the raw primitive aggression with the melodic and atmospheric elements that come together to create such a cold and dark listening experience. We try to keep the Black Metal spirit alive with our vision. To me, our central theme has always been and will always be nihilism and Solitude is essential for keeping yourself balanced and healthy if you are unhappy being around most people, as I am. From my point of view, this is also beneficial as staying isolated keeps one’s ideas independent and free of any manipulating influence. That’s what I wanted to convey with Glora Nexus when we started out, and that’s the path we still tread.

What is it like to make this kind of extreme music in Indonesia? I know little about the scene there, apart from fragments displayed in the ‘Global Metal’ documentary, which is years old now. Can you say something about that?

To me, nothing surprising. Indonesia’s metal scene is one of the countries that attract the attention of death metal maniac audiences with all the positives and negatives that accompany it. I think that most Indonesian bands are original because of our national character. We have this inborn tendency to be very individual, to the point of being stubborn. Currently, the Indonesian black metal scene has also grown very significantly with the presence of several bands that have been able to attract international audiences to start paying attention to their existence. I think, “A Grand Monument To Mortality” has also helped strengthen us into the Indonesian metal scene further, at least I hope so.

Even if you are the reigning king of the universe, you have to bargain with people and deal with them in a proper manner. I think this is indisputable.

How free are you to explore darker themes in your music? Is there censorship to take into account?

Of course, I would never limit the theme, although there are also quite dark themes like you said. Glora Nexus is a means for me to externalize what I feel and spread it upon the world like a plague. I see Glora Nexus as the most important thing in my life right now. this musical project is a means for me to “unleash” the darkness within me. let me ask you something: how many people who listen to violent and extreme music are actually placid and harmless individuals in real life? We ought not to forget that music is an extremely powerful medium, with the capability to affect sensibilities in all sorts of unpredictable ways.

When I was reading up on you, I found an interview and you express the following sentiment: “The Spirit of Opposition is still very much alive & potent in the most obscure underground fanatical circles. Life is war, choose your side, stand for the underground.” What do you feel extreme metal in this time should be opposing? And where does Glora Nexus stand?

This is a good question, as it illustrates the way in which we humans unconsciously dress up the world to suit our needs and desires. It’s easy to extrapolate this further into other avenues of existence, and determines the structure of our awareness. Everyone ought to find his or her own path to happiness. I don’t believe in ‘utopian’ solutions if you have that in mind. When each individual lives for nothing but his own benefit then society cannot hold for long, at least when taking in mind the way most humans behave themselves. I think that as long as one is able to adapt, even if it’s a superficial adaptation and not a ‘real’ one, they will be able to survive. But this is not a simple process for them. Admit it, humans are anomalous creatures. Glora Nexus’ position is not to deny all forms of human existence, even the absurd ones. because reaching a compromise with another human being is almost impossible to avoid in real life. Even if you are the reigning king of the universe, you have to bargain with people and deal with them in a proper manner. I think this is indisputable.

You’re releasing your EP through Bhumidhuka Productions (Malaysia) and Harsh Production (Indonesia). How is the connection between local and national scenes in your region? As it surprises me your record is also coming out on a Malaysian label.

I think the Indonesian metal scene is still very solid even though there are some people whose passion lies more on an individualistic level who just want to be left alone with their creations. We’ve partnered with Bhumidhuka Productions and Harsh Production for the release CD and cassette so far, at the same time I’m happy that we’ve been able to at least have people interested in working with us.

What are the future plans for Glora Nexus?

The new record will be even more unholy than ever before!

 

Arabia – Oman’s metal warriors

Metal pops up all around the world, but sometimes you find the scene can be surprisingly small in some ends of the world. Oman has a grand total of two metal bands. And yes, I asked my interviewee about it and he’s adamant that this is probably it. I’m talking about Shabeeb Al Haremi, frontman of Arabia.

Shabeeb currently lives in the UK, and he doesn’t make a secret of the fact that metal was the reason for him to move. Not that Oman is that strict, there was just no scene. He as eager to tell me about Arabia and though I’ve redone his words (Shabeeb has had a car crash and only has one functioning eye, so writing is a challenge), I hope his love for the music shines through in his words.

Get ready to dig into Oman’s very own Arabia.

Arabia, Arabian Blood, War, Metal

Hey, could you introduce yourself and tell me how Arabia got started?

My name is Shabeeb Al Haremi, frontman and founder of the black metal band Arabia from Oman. A nation in the Arabian Gulf and my bandmates names are:

Tarik Al HaremI – Guitar

Said Al Mahmoody – Keyboard

And ex-members:

Nasser Bahwan 

Tarik Abdul Rahman 

What got you into metal music in the first place?
Well, I used to be in boarding school when I was 13 years old, and one day I met a fellow student, and he made me listen to Iron Maiden. The music blew me away, and I never heard anything like it before. It gave me a crazy rush inside, and when I went back home to Oman, I tried looking for the record that I heard when I was in school, but at that time, metal music was not known that well. I had a friend who used to go to Europe for vacations, and he got it for me, so when I went back to the UK, I started just buying all sorts of metal bands, which is how I went deep in the music. I just wanted heavier music, and that’s how I got in extreme metal. I never used to know the styles. Anything heavy? Just buy it! I fell in love with it ever since.

Arabia Rocks

Arabia has relocated by now; what is the main reason for this, and where are you currently?
When we were here in Oman, I wanted to start a band, but there were no real metalheads at the time. So I tried so hard to find them, making flyers for in music stores and everyone who called me were into shitty stuff, like Bon Jovi and other bands that are nowhere near what I was looking for. Then I met Nasser Bahwan. At first, he liked things like Metallica, but I was trying to make music instead of playing covers, so we tried to do that, then my nephew got interested, and I started to teach him what I knew, and that’s the tritone, which others call the Devil’s note. When Said Mahmoody got amazed by the music, he wanted to try and join, and that’s how we first got together and just playing and nothing else than just making music. We got cheap recording equipment to build up the music and make a demo. It took so long to do, but we did it, and the recording was kind of fuzzy. After working so hard, we wanted to get gigs here in Oman, but everyone rejected us, claiming this is dark satanic music (Shabeeb finds this hilarious). We tried to send our stuff to local record labels and they rejected us too, so we had no choice but to leave Oman for the UK because we wanted to be heard. Anything to make that possible, so we left. That was in 2009. Now we are recording our upcoming album in Florida, ‘Where Evil Lies.’ The other three, we did those in England.  

Various bands from the middle-east have moved abroad, and some, like Saudi Arabia’s Al Namrood, stay put and work in anonymity against the ruling forces from within. What do you think about this situation?
Well, yeah. A lot did leave. It’s all because we are very passionate about music. Some bands from where I’m from had to do that. Others stayed in there because they couldn’t leave, such as Al Namrood. They’re good friends of mine. We met through the Internet, and they came over to see us for a couple of days. We had fun, but to me, they make their music by hiding and being low profile about it. But you know, metal is about standing your ground and doing whatever it takes to do what you love. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, it’s strict when it comes to metal, but it’s a risk you have to take and not get caught. In Oman, it’s cool, but you won’t get support from many people. I think Al Namrood is very brave to do this, but it’s a shame that you get arrested if caught. They are doing a great job by mixing our Arabic vibes with black metal. 

Can you tell me what concepts and stories you deal with in Arabia and what your origin means to you in the context of your music?
Well, the context of Arabia is based on Arabian wars. The past and the history of the invasions we had through the ages. This is basically what we sing about nothing against religion, or we would get in shit because we come from a Muslim country. Plus, we don’t believe in disrespecting any religion. Al Namrood is the opposite. They sing anti-Islam songs, and their music is about stuff from the Quran like their name. Namrood was the enemy of the prophet Ibrahim.

I understand in your music you put a lot of history and mythology. Can you tell me a bit about those stories or maybe give some examples for people like me not quite familiar with Oman and its past?
Well, the songs that we have are about the past in Oman. Some are about when Portugal came and invaded us in the 1500s, and the mythology of our past was about the pagan gods the Arabs use to worship before Islam. The gods were kind of similar to the Vikings and the Romans. Not much difference, but they don’t have a real storyline, like how the other mythologies do. Stories, like Hercules and stuff. That’s different because we Arabs used to believe in a creator back in the day, but we used to worship God through idols. There were no temples like the Greeks had; they used to just put the idols around the Kaba which is the direction of the Muslim for worshipping the one true God, which is the holy city of Mecca i

Your last release was the album ‘Arabian Blood’. When was it released, and how did you record and create this record back then?
‘Arabian Blood’ was released in 2010 after the ‘Black Pearl’ in 2007. We made the album in Liverpool, UK. We did the start at home and then in the studio, making it sound better by mastering the music and mixing it properly.  The demo of ‘Arabian Blood’ is on YouTube, just type: ‘arabia arabian blood album.’

How do you work when creating new music. Is someone taking the lead in it, or are their specific roles within the band?
Well, it’s me who starts everything in writing the music, then the band follows what I made and add into it till we like what we made and take it from there. I write, then we record and experiment by recording at home. Finally, we hit the studio to do perfect the music. 

Are you currently working on any new material, and where do you see this going in the future?
We are now working on recording the upcoming album, ‘Where Evil Lies.’ Our label will handle where we will be after that. Arabian dark records, it is called.

They found us on the internet, the label did, but also through metal mags such as Zero Tolerance UK and Metal Hammer Germany and other metal mags that interviewed us.  

I understand that there’s one other band from Oman, named Belos. They are still there, and I’m wondering how they are different and in what way there is censorship and the like in your country.
Belos is a gothic metal band. It’s only us two from Oman who play metal. I heard them on the net, but here in Oman, you can play such music. It’s just that it’s not recognized. Not many people listen to this type of music. They are more into hip hop and all sorts of shit. Belos, I don’t hear much about them… and I don’t know much of them. 

What was it like to start playing metal in Oman? Did you have things available, like instruments, rehearsal space, music, and all? What sort of response did you get from people?

Here in Oman, you can practice in places anywhere. Still, we prefer at home because we have more freedom to express ourselves, and playing here doesn’t lead anywhere, unless you are the type who just wants to stay in the same spot—just moving forward in improving the music without being heard being in the radio. They don’t care about metal music. If its the other stuff, you’d reach something, but not with metal, which is sad. We all want to have a metal scene here like in Dubai, but sadly it doesn’t work here. 

Why not?
There’s just not enough fans, too little support. I should be possible, but it has never worked out.

Arabia band metal

Are there any other bands, perhaps relatively unknown, active in Oman that make metal, which is currently not known? Or from neighbouring countries that you feel connected with?
Well, in Oman, it’s just Belos and us. You have more in Dubai, where the most recognized band is Nervecell. They’re an awesome death metal band. I know them too. You should check them out, and there are a couple of them in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also. I’m only friends with Al Namrood because we play the same kind of black metal music.

What future plans does Arabia have?
The future of Arabia is just making music and playing around the world and in all kinds of places. Just keep making boiling metal music, bro!

If you had to describe Arabia as a dish, what would it be and why?
A dish? Well, that would give people nightmares. Let’s just say lots of bashed up brains with metal music! 

Tir – Exploring the Mists of Time

The world of dungeon synth is filled with remarkable individuals. One of those is Oytun Bektas, a musician with origins in Turkey, but currently residing ‘down under’. His music has been well-received in the world of synth lovers as being of remarkable, singular quality. Performing under the moniker Tir, Bektas has redone several of his albums in a quest for more perfection, exploring the ancient past, myths and the Cosmos.

Bektas was willing to tell more about his remarkable project, his journey to where he is right now and his vision of the sound he strives for. There’s a depth to his approach to music, but also a well-condensed form to his answers and explanations I found most enjoyable.

The dungeon synth experience of Tir

How are you doing? 

Thanks. I’m pretty busy, but I’m fine.

How did you as a musician arrive at Dungeon Synth? What musical projects have you been in, who are your inspirations?

Actually, it wasn’t a special choice for me to meet DS music style. I think that the fact that I have been dealing with classical music since I was very young maybe the first factor in this situation. I believe that along with the education I have received, I have developed myself in the field of polyphonic music production. Of course, the bands and musicians I have listened to for the past 20 years have been the second-biggest influence in capturing this music. Wongraven, early Mortiis and Burzum to name a few. Of course, I also got inspiration from some neofolk, dark folk and ambient artists because I didn’t directly produce DS. By the way, I’ve never been involved in any projects before Tir.

For anyone not familiar with Tir, how would you introduce yourself?

A one-man project based on Dark Folk / Dungeon Synth, whose main theme since 2016 is the depiction of Cosmos, myths, history and nature. I think that’s the ideal definition.

How did you get to the name Tir? I was drawn to it as it has a meaning in Tolkien’s languages, but also refers to the Norse god of the sword. I read for you it has to do with the Turkish meaning, which is closer to solitude, can you tell more about that and what that means to you?

I know a lot of people were confused by that name when they first heard it. Tir is a word of Central Asian origin. It’s an old name of Turkish origin. So it has no relationship with Tyr.
Secondly, On my U.S.V. album, there were people who thought I was doing the Tyr song for my band name. But that song was only about the album’s depiction of Nordic mythology. In its clearest sense, Tir (not TIR) means alone and deserted. But I think it’s a very impressive detail that the language we use has taken on different meanings in itself.

When I found out about your music, at first I was under the impression Tir was a Scandinavian project. Only then I understood you’re located ‘down under’, but you are originally from Turkey. Can you tell me a bit how you ended up there and is there something of your travels that has seeped into your music? 

This was a decision I made about the direction of the world I live in. Sometimes when you think you cannot solve something, you have to create a new path. Otherwise, you will start to rot. You can think of it in every sense. I have the same instinct in the art I have produced. While in Turkey, Tir’s adventure bore the traces of European folk, and on the other hand, the different effects of the dark geography. Now I feel like I am on a different planet here. I think this will improve Tir’s needs and orientations a little more.

When you moved you did a funding campaign for equipment. How come you didn’t have the gear anymore?

Yes, we were only able to bring a limited number of personal items of goods when we travelled to Australia. That’s why I created a charity campaign on this issue. Some followers, whom I’d like to thank again, helped me buy a midi keyboard. Later, I ended the campaign in order not to force more people on this issue. I continued to see my works with an old laptop 🙂 But now, those who want to help can reach me through PayPal.

You released an album titled Mountains, which you later gave a Redux version. As someone who loves mountains, I wanted to ask you what you find inspiring about them? What do they mean to you? 

For me, mountains album was the artistic expression of my musical experience for so many years. It was a reflection of the books I had read until then, my communication with nature and perhaps more. Mountains were actually an image. I can say that the journey of man and nature was in a way the intersection of the universe. I tried to present this as minimally as possible. Redux was a move to further enrich this simplicity.

What do you mean when you talk about simplicity, which you describe as key to what Tir is and does
not mean simple? Or in other words: what is your vision on the sound of Tir?

By simplicity, I mean, I have a completely dissimilar understanding of music. As I mentioned earlier, it is a wealth for me to produce a very vocal harmony. In other words, since I did not produce music in a narrow and routine pattern, Tir’s position in this genre is a little different. I would say, little intensifying the effect of dark art. Also, Tir basically intensifies its music without leaving the DS patterns. Even this detail keeps it away from its understanding of standard and simple composing.

Your recent album brings the theme of your music much closer to your region of origin. What prompted to switch from the Nordic darkness on ‘Nigritude’ to the mysteries of ‘Persepolis’? And can you say something about what you are telling on this album, what stories etc.?

In fact, there was no deviation in the depiction of dark art. Nigritude had a more edgy number of songs than just being an EP album. But the fact that the cover art was gifted to me by Markus Stock and the design was made by Peter Bursky (who also owns Brilliant Emperor Records) brought a lot of interest to this EP. Persepolis, on the other hand, was a rich serving of DS and Dark Folk art. During my visit to Iran many years ago, Persepolis left a very deep impression in my mind. In that red-painted land, I felt war, art and more with excess. I mean, in the middle of the desert, there was a source of life. I even felt the emotions of that period. I wanted to create a sound from ancient times on this album today. I’m happy to talk about the brutality of the old and bring history to life. Some places are ignored only for political reasons, but we have a detailed history that offers tons of importance.

For me, ancient history and the middle-east is a topic that is filled with mysteries. I believe you could build a whole body of art around this, expressing stories and ideas. Do you plan to continue with this? 

In fact, not only men (I had made a type in my question, hence this reference, ed.), but for many women in the Middle East and Anatolia there are many heroism stories. The female warriors and the female hierarchy was much stronger than now. With religion, a regression and patriarchy began to emerge in this process. On the other hand, the most important bend of civilization’s crossing arms is in that land. Actually, I have the idea of continuing this depiction not through Tir but through my side project Ruins of Xibalba. My primary target is old Anatolia and Central Asia.

What is your process of writing and recording music like, particularly for your last album?

My musical composition processes are all about my visual experiences. I start to experience the subject I depict visually and start to read these details. Then comes the technical part of the job. Which is not a process that runs without any blockages. So I can say that it sometimes happens that I can finish a few songs on the same day.

So, what is the scope of topics for Tir and since you also have a side project, how do you decide what fits the Tir concept and what needs a different moniker? Also, can you tell me something about Ruins of Xibalba?

When I founded Tir, I decided to depict history, nature and war, as well as loneliness in nature. I think I’ve brought out these concepts through the music in a way I’m happy with, but of course, these depictions are also influenced by the dark face of Black metal. It is of course more symphonic, but it’s pure. When I founded Ruins of Xibalba, I wanted to shape the dark ambient elements in my musical understanding more. In other words, it is a circled state that imprisons the listener in it, and I wanted to draw the audience into the dark world of Xibalba. At this point, I’m trying to bring it back to the universe we live in a little bit. So, R.O.X.’s first album describes the Mayans. They are a unique civilization that is very difficult to describe. I still think the Mayans are World Masters. Without being changed by this truth, my side project will continue to process both the mysticism in history and the role of past civilizations in the universe. Maybe this project can connect cosmically outside this world? Cosmic Ambient, sounds good, doesn’t it? 🙂

You are one of the artists in this genre who have decided to perform live. What does it mean for you to perform live and what sort of vibe do you go for?

I’m not the kind of person who looks warmly at live performances. But after my concerts at festivals such as Peru and the Northeast Dungeon Siege, the positive feedback made me very happy. As I said before, listeners and viewers can feel many different effects due to my not performing standard and simple music. I think that makes Tir’s influence different. Sometimes the listener is comforted by melancholy, while on the other hand, they can imagine themselves in a different universe with a mythological breeze. I think the biggest thing about such activities is that they lead people to more collective unity, especially during the pandemic period. The texture of underground music brings together many different elements. If I can contribute to it as a Tir, it’s flattering for me.

Dungeon synth has become a genre dense with meanings and offshoots. Sub-styles (or genres) like comfy synth, winter synth and so forth are disrupting the definition of the genre. How do you feel about this?

It's certainly possible for music to diversify in itself. Each production and composition can have its own form of narrative. The most important point here is how much it retains the main theme. For example, how stupid and unnecessary it would be for a Black Metal band to give you pop tunes and images, wouldn’t it? Seeing Dungeon Synth only in the form of game fiction reduces its great
strength. I’ve always defended this. DS Black Metal’s backyard; symphonic face. There will always be differences, but basically avoiding anathema can be the biggest mistake.

Which artists are you currently listening to and do you think should receive more attention?

Although I listen to Black Metal with intensity, I devote time to other genres from time to time. If I have to recommend it, I think the She Past Away is very strong. Again, from the same musical genre
Oul is a very successful band. On the other hand, I am looking forward to the new Tenhi and Summoning albums with great curiosity!

What are your future plans with Tir?

Persepolis is the last album before we see a shift in direction for Tir. For my next album, I want to produce slightly different content with the main difference from the current style being that more live instruments will accompany it. I guess there is no need to give more details, let’s wait and see together.

If you had to describe Tir as a dish, what would it be and why that one?

It’s a point I never thought about. But I’d definitely say water. I think it’s the right match. It points to the plain and clear simplicity of Tir.

Svarrogh: Bulgarian folklore, history and ways of looking back

Distance may make the heart fonder, and when it comes to Svarrogh this seems to be the case. Multi-instrumentalist Dimo Dimov has been living in Germany for years now but returns to his native Bulgaria with his main project Svarrogh frequently. It’s not his only project, but perhaps the one closest to himself.

After a long time, this year finally saw the release of the latest record of Svarrogh, titled ‘Aether’. A record out of time and out of its time, but that’s in many ways what the band is all about. It’s the 6th full-length in the band’s 20-year existence and a true work of art for those who love pagan metal or folk metal with deeper levels.

Dimov is also a bit of an expert on paganism but turns out to not be a blind follower of stories from our past. His views are quite critical, in fact, spiced with realism and a sense of wit as I found out. We talked about his work, blending metal and folk, retracing your past and, most importantly, how to treat that past when we think it must have been better back then.  Thanks to Dimo for his time and honest answers.

History, Folklore, Svarrogh

My first question would be, how are you doing and how has this pandemic been for you. Has it affected your artistic endeavours?

Hello! I am doing quite fine, but yes, the pandemic has affected plans for concerts (but not for Svarrogh, as we don´t have a live line-up, it affected the gigs of my other projects Alto Lago and 16 Strings Under) as well as personal travel plans very much.

Moreover, the administrative restrictions to combat the pandemic have proven that art and culture is very much system- and life relevant, and not just a “nice-to-have” side phenomenon of society. We need culture and art, otherwise, our life´s are reduced only to a very existential, almost survivalist form of being.

Svarrogh's Dimo Dimov

You released ‘Aether’ in February, I assume the follow up didn’t go as planned. Can you tell me a bit about his album and its creation?

The album “Aether” has been a long journey so far. I started recordings in 2009, then followed some turbulent years, Svarrogh also even seized activity – and finally, I decided to mix, master and release it in 2020, and to finally close this old chapter.
It is actually quite different than any other Svarrogh album. On the one side it goes back to the Folk/Black Metal roots, but also
merges the Neofolk/Post Folk phase (if I have to use categories), so it somehow closes the circle logically. Overall the production sounds raw, even after having put a lot of effort in the mix and especially in the arrangements of many different instruments, such as the drums and piano. Interestingly, this album contains much less Tamboura which is typical for Svarrogh and has been used extensively on every record since (and also on gigs).

Overall the release is a real relief. My ambitions to be recognized are however not very high and I am not part of a scene or community at all. I just want to do music for myself and when the feedback is good, I can´t complain. Many leftover ideas of the album were channelled 2012 into a side project called Moon Orchard, containing instrumental compositions, but they can be linked semantically and atmospherically to “Aether”. Because the music industry changed dramatically in the past few years, a digital release was primarily aimed for, however, a limited edition of 100 copies has just been printed and is available.

What can you tell me about Aether, and the stories shared on that record?

Aether is a conceptual album where everything revolves around a very aetherial, surreal and atmospheric perception of nature and natural mysticism combined with folkloristic motives and the amazing poetry of Ezra Pound creating unexplainable, naturalistic, eerie landscapes (somewhat Nietzschean as well) where you have to sleep with lynxes amid a moon orchard, where elm trees are from iron and marble or where the sun is dragging her stars among time and space – as Ezra Pound stated: “Moth is called over mountain, the stars are not in her counting. To her, there are just wandering holes.”

But in the same way, it is also a surreal depiction of Slavic mythology where you have a being like the firebird, where eerie forest creatures are trying to deceive your spaced out cognition and where apples are treated as gold treasures. So yeah, the lyrics are quite psychedelic although I am not a stoner dude.

On your earlier notion of culture: culture, to me, is a word that embodies much. I think. It’s an organic part of our ‘living together’, but also of where we come from. What is your view on this? And why is it important to you to share, through your art, the Bulgarian/Slavic culture?

Sorry, I was thinking in much simpler terms, in fact, your first argument was right. I mean, culture in its artistic, metaphoric, metaphysical, crea(c)tive and educational form. I didn’t mean culture as anything related to ethnicity or a nation. It is not important, I just view it as interesting to share my views and interpretation of Bulgarian history, ethnography and music, due to nostalgic reasons and to represent (in a way) a kinda under-represented nation, that is not very famous with its true beauties.

And of course, to present new paths of musical expression, by modernizing certain folkloristic elements and even creating some sort fusion with other musical styles coming back to your statement “where we come from”: Yes, I think it is in our very nature to seek identity (be it in culture, music, fashion, whatever), and especially in a very confused and globalized world, heritage and traditions play a very important role to a healthy personal identify development, but in the same time discarding the politicization, backwards mentality and right-wing romanticisms.

I like your notion of culture. Though I understand how you used it in the first answer, it made me immediately think about how it so much is a part of us organically. How it shapes us and is part of our daily lives. Hence my question. Your interpretation echoes how Einar Selvik often explains his work as not romanticizing, nor reviving the past, but taking lessons and inspiration from it for today. Is that your approach to Svarrogh too?

Yes, I like the explanation also. You have to keep in mind, that neopaganism and any yearning for a past that you have never experienced may come from the inability to cope with the modern world which itself, of course, is a confusing and disappointing (but then please give back your higher life expectancy and central heating). However, this inability reoccurs in almost every generation since the beginning of time. People who are dissatisfied with the present are either progressives or the opposite, and if you put them in a time machine 1000 years back, they will be still unhappy. People seek for peace and liberation, which is something that they don´t have and this is where romanticism and critique to the modern world start. But you can´t hide in your basement and read backwards ideology such as Julius Evola over and over again. To put it in very simple terms, Svarrogh itself, of course, was very different when I was younger and was engulfed by self-given constraints that had to fulfil a sort of neopagan romanticism, but now it matured and it acts even more as inspiration and as a bridge between timeless folklore and modernity. Especially Bulgarian folklore and mythology are very inspiring as they very often blend seamlessly with nature and i want to capture this specific yearning and folkloristic tragic which is rooted very deep in the Bulgarian soul, which had to bear a lot of suffering, hardship and scarceness. But on the other hand, folklore has always a fantasy or dream world aspect to it and acts as a temporary escape from everyday life.

Dimo Dimov banging out some Svarrogh tunes

On Metal Archives, I fond listed that you are inspired by Slavic heathenism, Bulgarian folklore and Tengriism. These are topics I know little about. Do you consider your this pure inspiration for your art or is your art a vehicle to share about these topics? And could you tell a little about these things? They are not well known to me and I’m interested in your view on these.

Tengrism is an Altaic, Mongolian religion whereas Tangrism is the naturalistic religion of the Proto-Bulgarians between the 6th and 9th century before Christianization. I was always very fascinated by the first Bulgarian (Danubian) empire which is a multicultural fusion of southern Slavs and Proto-Bulgarians. The difference is that the Slavic pantheon is polytheistic and can be somehow compared to the germanic or nordic one (Perun vs. Thor, Svarog vs. Odin, this, of course, may come from the Varyags) whereas Tangra itself is the ancient and eternal sky (the sky, not the sun plays the most important role) and embodies more shamanistic and ritualistic forms. However, I am not a neopaganist, nor is Svarrogh´s music. As I stated, I use these themes to create atmosphere.

So, just to get some clarity on this, the original religious views are much more in line with harmony with nature? It’s often hard to see that in the Germanic/Nordic pantheon and mythology, as the stories are now told through the lens of Christian writers. But I do know the Baltic pantheon is really very closely related to nature and the philosophy of it focuses very strongly on balance and harmony with all these elements. Embedded in daily life so to say, of our ancient ancestors. Is that how I should see it?

Maybe, I assume so. I am not a religious nor a very spiritual person, I just think that this earth has such amazing beauties, lakes, mountains, forests, meadows which are very related to our yearning for peace and liberation. Svarrogh also doesn´t have any religious aspect, if any, then rather a symbolist one related to folklore (which has pagan elements). And music can resemble feelings and thoughts which you can find in nature, by a particular atmosphere, for example, the Tamboura, reminding you of shepherds and meadows, guitar riffs which sound and smell like wind, rain or misty mountain valleys. Also, moving to Germany in 1992 as a child, created a sort of vacuum and nostalgia, that I tried to fill with Svarrogh ever since. A big inspiration has always been the Rodopi mountains in South Bulgaria, I really recommend you to visit this place that can be a journey in time. Germany itself offers also amazing landscapes (the Alps, Rhoen Mountains, Black Forest, etc.) and maybe a part of my mentality is already German in a sense.

When we played in Lithuania in 2007, I totally understand what you mean. Baltic people are very rooted in their culture. I just remember the performance of Kulgrinda and their evocation of the son “Saulala Motula, uztekek uztekek”.

Dimo in an acoustic setting.

How does the form of inspiration work in your writing and recording process? Where do you start and how do you create music for Svarrogh? I’m also curious how you got into this kind of music and how you transition between folk and metal styles in your work.

Well, I started listening Heavy and extreme metal as a kid and then Viking, pagan and folk metal, when I first heard Nokturnal Mortum´s ‘Nechris’t, I was blown away by the fusion of very harsh black metal and gentle Slavic folklore. Now, I know that NM are just a bunch of pathetic nationalist idiots, supporting Ukrainian terrorists.

The music for Svarrogh usually starts with the basic song arrangement, chords and guitar riffs and I try to do the combination of guitars, tamboura and bass as polyphone as possible without getting lost in complexity. Tamboura fits very well with electric guitar and adds a very folkish taste to a rock or metal riff regarding the non-metal phase of Svarrogh, the songwriting was much more difficult because it was non–conventional for me and although the musicality was simpler on ‘Balkan Renaissance’ or ‘Temple of the Sun’, you have to play much cleaner, there must be more room and space tones and keep the rhythm section as simple as possible on those two albums, as well as later with ‘Yer Su’, the Tamboura was the most important instrument, on ‘Aether’ it has less focus

Yet, I feel there is a clear balance in your sound now and to me, there is also a very natural connection between folk and black metal. How do you feel about that?

Thank you, this has always been my intention, although Svarrogh had a clear neofolk non-metal phase 2006-2010. In fact, I feel that most music styles are very interchangeable if you break down the songs to their baseline (especially in simple chord progressions). It just the different instruments which add colour and define a specific style.

Also, you have mentioned NM and regressive use of tradition by certain entities. Yet, you have founded a pan-European pagan magazine. I am curious about your take on how paganism fits in our modern world in a positive and perhaps progressive manner?

Yes, I found a Pan-European pagan magazine named Svarga in 2009 (but then had to drop it after 3 issues due to lack of time) but I can do that just out of interest for specific themes without supporting regressive ideas or the “conservative revolution”. In my view, there is no such thing as paganism and it wouldn´t fit. I regard that as a very symbolist idea in order to: preserve nature and the environment as well as to be aware of history, folklore and traditions (which would be a big pity if they were lost). But that´s it. Nothing more.

About traditions, I agree it is a shame we lose them but sometimes they just lose their relevance. I think it is like that with everything. If it doesn’t fit our worldviews, like a quite uncomfortable celebration we have in the Netherlands, it is time to let go.

Lets put it very frankly: This world is very dynamic and change is very often inevitable. Thus, in a very generalized way, we have the two antagonist powers which drive humanity forward (in some way you can put here Jordan Peterson vs. Slavoj Zizek). So change is important, but we have to be careful that this change doesn´t eradicate valuable things that have a high value for our minds as humans. Also putting a pantheon above your head is just another “holding-to-something”-mindset (but everyone should do whatever makes them happy, I just speak for myself).

Take the Bulgarian Kukeri for example: In the last 20 years, this tradition (the masked rites for the welcoming of spring originating from the Thracians) experiences a boost in terms of social attention and interest. That´s great, and it is mostly accredited to the fact of economic and cultural recovery in Bulgaria.

On the other hand – many paganists (especially in the metal scene) deny (or don’t admit) the influence of Christianity in Europe. So when you want to go back to some pagan fantasyland you forget the fact, that Christianity shaped not only the European continent (in negative as well as in positive ways) but also our society and mindset. To put it short: I am a strong opposer of fanboy-ideology, either this or that like in a football game. Live is too interesting
to be one-sided, it is much more of a fusion. By the way, Tangrism was the official religion in pre-Christian Danube Bulgaria (681-865) and of the ruling caste, whereas the Slavic polytheistic religion was not suppressed (there is a theory of relatively good religious freedom in the empire), but pushed away from public life.

What can I say else, I am a geoscientist and not dogmatic about this topic. It´s just very intriguing.

What do you hope listeners take away from the music you release with Svarrogh? Like, I feel your motivation to create now comes from a deeper drive.

Very simply, I want listeners to enjoy the atmosphere. I don´t have the motivation to persuade others from my worldview. 🙂

Are you much connected to the scene in Bulgaria at the moment? Are there bands you recommend?

Not so much, but I have some good friends that play in bands that i like very much. For example Demonism (Black Metal), Voyvoda (Post Punk), Dimholt (Black Metal) and Corvus Records from Sofia who releases very interesting stuff. What I can recommend else is: Khanъ (interesting folk metal), Kayno Yesno Slonce, Vrani Volosa, Kayno yesno slonce (atmopheric ambient folk music).

What are currently your plans for the future (in a virus-free future of course)?

I am working on new material right now, live gigs will be anyway impossible. Also, I am working with my 2 bands Alto Lago (Stoner Rock) and 16 Strings Under (Folk) – there I hope it will be possible to play live in 2021, post-covid tour.

Do you maybe want to share a bit more about these projects?

Alto Lago exists since 2013 and consists of Max Marquardt (formerly in the German Pagan Black Metal band Helfahrt) and Raphael Schütze (also known from the German atmospheric band Tav). We play a mixture of stoner punk rock, somewhere between Kyuss, Monster Magnet, Solstafir and Motorhead.

16 Strings Under is a side project, mainly based on 2 tambouras, and is basically a mixture of Balkan Folk, Folk and Americana.

My final question is: if Svarrogh was a type of food, what would it be and why? ( I have been told this is a difficult question haha).

Uuh that’s though! It would be a roasted goose or something. Haha.

Is there anything I should have asked but didn’t you’d like to share?

We live in digital times and the physical releases on CD have completely lost significance. Nevertheless, we decided to release. ‘Aether’ on CD, limited edition 100 copies. But from now on we will move to vinyl for the future releases. That is actually growing again, good to see. In this regard, I am super old-fashioned and I don´t think that all music should be digital. Moreover, it is a jungle nowadays and of course, digitization simplified processes of recording (which is good! although analogue technique and tapes have a great sound quality, nobody wants to cut and glue tapes) and publishing, but that generated a flood of music as musicians somehow have a narcissist notion which drives them to share their music. And unlike printed books, CDs are dying, because you would still rather read on real paper (which is good for the eyes), but most of the time you listen to music from your smartphone, Spotify and so on.

 

Automb pays homage to the dark on Chaosophy

Life sometimes catches up with bands and writers alike. Automb split up shortly after this interview was completed. Danielle Evans is continuing with a solo project, named Stridskvinna. Serge Streltsov has started his own band, named Selfgod. Yet, the album ‘Chaosophy’ stands as a great record, unfortunately without a follow-up in the future. 

Black metal is and always has been a genre revolving around the darker themes. Dark has many faces and by now we should know better than to consider the dark evil because some forces in the universe just are. Automb sees this clearly and pays homage to one of them on their album ‘Chaosophy’.

Without chaos there is no order and vice versa, it’s one of those facts of life we sometimes forget. Without restrain, there is no freedom either. Yet, limitations of our time hit bands hard and Automb is one of those. Their album is an absolute gem and worthy of recognition, but without the ability to tour and promote a record, not much happens. Luckily, I received a copy of the cassette release through Knekelput and discovered the powerful, yet compact and focused sound of this band. Originally a side-project next to Necrophagia for band member Serge Streltsov, now the band from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is the focus of him and comrade in arms Danielle Evans, supported by drummer Scott Fuller (Morbid Angel, Annihilated).

Even better, they were willing to answer some of my questions, which I hope you’ll enjoy. Thanks to Serge and Danielle for their time.

Automb and the Laws of Chaos

First, how is Automb doing and how have you been treated by the global pandemic? Did you have many gigs fall through or did you manage to salvage something from this period?

The pandemic has been tough for us the same way as it for any other band. We had to cancel tours, but luckily got to play 2 gigs during it. Other than that it’s been a very slow year for us. All the time went to writing the new album.

How did Automb get started and what are your musical backgrounds (and how did you arrive in the realm of black metal)?

Serge: Automb was originally supposed to be my black metal side project back when I was playing guitar for Necrophagia. I had all this material that was basically ‘too black metal’ for Necro and plus I always played stuff like that prior to Necrophagia.

I started playing guitar at 13 and drums at 16. I’ve been into metal since I was 8. I got into black metal in my mid teens after being into Death Metal for some time. It was the next logical step. Then years later me and Danielle wanted to make our own band so all the pieces fell into place. After the passing of Killjoy and Necrophagia being done, Automb became a full-time project.

Danielle: I started playing the guitar when I was 9 and fell in love with it. Then in high school, I went on to play in a program called “School of Rock” that had students learn classic rock songs and then perform them together at shows, which was awesome. That really gave me the confidence I needed in my guitar skills, as well as vocals. Then in college, I received a minor in music and learned tons of theory and classical guitar. Then in my second year of college, I met Serge and we formed Automb. I got into black metal in high school and Automb was the first band I was ever in so it was the first time I actually played black metal, aside from learning covers prior to that.

This year, you’ve released the fantastic ‘Chaosophy’ album, following the 2018 release of ‘Esoterica’. What happened in the time in between in ways of band development?

We wanted to progress and improve songwriting. Our goal was to focus on the aggressive side of the material that was successful on ‘Esoterica’. The objective is always to outdo the previous record. So we focused on the things we do best.

So, tell me about this album; its concept, creation, recording, warts and all?

The idea was to focus on the darker side of spirituality in this concept. We wanted to focus on one side rather than representing many points of view like on the previous record. But yet still within this concept which is ‘Chaos’ we got to include interpretations from many different cultures, For those of you that heard Dissection’s ‘Reinkaos’ know what we’re talking about. It’s our pagan take on those ideas.

Recording took place in two studios. Me and Danielle recorded in our home studio and Scott worked in his. We live very far from each other – he’s on the whole other side of the country. So it wasn’t possible to work physically together. We worked through demos and phone calls mostly.

One change is your label, how did you end up at Witching Hour productions and how’s that been for you?

Once our time was up with our previous labels we decided to seek a new one and Witching hour ended up being the best option plus we were already fans of the label and the bands that are/were on it.

You’ve also ended up releasing Chaosophy on cassette at Knekelput Recordings, which is what I have in my possession and it looks great. How did that come to be and are you pleased with the result?

We originally thought our previous cassette label was going to release but they went out of that sort of business and couldn’t do it. So we started looking around for the best cassette label we could find. After reviewing our options, Knekelput ended being the one. We were blown away by their cassette designs and thought it was very unique.

You draw inspiration from various traditions and cultures, you’ve said in other interviews. Can you tell me a bit about what you look for and maybe share some examples of ideas or philosophies you take with you into the songwriting of Automb?

Basically what we said in the previous question. Chaos philosophies from many angles of the world. Left-hand path side of paganism.

When I look at the lyrics, I see many cultural/religious references. In a way, it feels like a cultural-religious smorgasbord. How do you approach the process of using all these in your work and what is your method of gathering information? Are you avid readers?

A lot of it was stuff from commonly known mythologies from different cultures. Slavic, Germanic, Hindu, Egyptian etc. We are definitely big readers and researchers of all things ancient. For this particular record, it was focused on the destruction of the worlds and all creation and how those said cultures viewed that. Some songs are based on certain deities which happen to be gods of death and destruction. From a spiritual point, it was just a collection of Chaos Gods. There’s definitely a certain left-hand path Cult that follows exactly that. A lot of that is covered by, once again, Dissection. Who influenced that particular concept a lot and this record is dedicated to the memory of Jon Nödtveidt.

Your logo represents organic/natural forms, which were strongly represented on your previous album, yet this seems to be slightly different on ‘Chaosophy’. Is that still a part of your inspiration and in what form?

Everything we do is interconnected. The logo represents the world tree Yggdrasil and its roots which one of them is in Ginnungagap ‘Chaos’ There’s no Chaos without life. The logo represents life and death. Which in the songs ‘Trishula’ and ‘Ragnarok’ on the new record we talk about renewing the creation through destruction. Another meaning of the logo is the name Automb in general. It is a combination of the words ‘Autumn and tomb’ which represents the season of death that is Autumn. But it is a temporary death from which everything returns renewed.

There has been much ado in recent years about ‘female-fronted’ as a term to define certain bands. That has seen a major shift (for the better I think) where we stop segmenting in that way, how do you feel this has changed? And are there still struggles with acceptance for you as an artist?

Danielle: I personally do not mind that title so much because it is just a reality. A female-fronted band is still more rare than another band with all guys in it, which has usually been the case in metal, especially extreme metal. I think it becomes an issue when that’s the focus or the only reason why people listen to us. If a band is female-fronted and good, then awesome if there are male fronted and good, then awesome. It should not be completely about the gender of the vocalist, it’s about the quality of the content.

I very much enjoyed your album, so I’m curious what future plans there are, like tours perhaps across the pond? Obviously, as soon as this global pandemic allows us a semblance of normality.

Glad you enjoyed it! Right now we are in the works of doing a live stream. Besides that, we are also working on album #3 and yes once the pandemic is over we are going to tour. We already have plans for a North American tour to start. But obviously, no one knows when it’ll be allowed so everything is mostly ideas. For Europe, we already had a festival appearance rescheduled for summer 2022.

I enjoy asking this final one: If you had to describe Automb as a dish, what would it be and why?

We have no idea haha. Never thought of that before!

Ossaert – Pelgrimsoord

Ossaert – Blackness from  blackness

Band: Ossaert
Origin: Netherlands
Label: Argento Records
Style: Black metal

Pelgrimsoord

Ossaert is spawned by P. from Zwolle and is an entity that is simply and essentialistic black metal. I don’t really know how else to start this write-up, it’s not complicated and mingled stylistically. Debut ‘Bedehuis’ arrived early in 2020 and it’s already time for the follow-up, this time accompanied by W. on the drums.

The bones of ‘Bedehuis’ are still there, but ‘Pelgrimsoord’ embodies a next step in the development of the project musically. Richer, more dynamic and perhaps more aggressive. Let’s be frank, a bio of a band like this doesn’t reveal much, nor does it really manage to stand out from many of its ilk. In the case of Ossaert, I’m certain more of the story will be revealed in the future. If you like to know what the name Ossaert hails from, for example, look to Dutch folklore.

Submitting to the dark

Four songs, 40 minutes of music, it appears that there’s a dense slab of black metal here to be discovered and it starts off vigorously with ‘De Geest en de Vervoering’. The spiritual themes in Ossaerts’ work are obvious, the titles referencing Catholic concepts. After some sacrimonious chanting a wall of distortion unleashes the dark. For me the driven sound, with haunting melodies woven into it, is typical for a particular brand of black metal from the east of the Netherlands. True to the origins of the genre, upturning the Church’s own, with all the elements that make us love this genre.

Ossaert doesn’t fear some clean vocal chants either, so these are packed in there. The sound swells, creates air, instead of compressing into itself on ‘De Val en de Beroering’. I relly like those vocals, as they just twist the grimness around to something beautiful. I’m not saying black metal should be easy listening, but it increases the impact of the harsh vocals. The atmosphere conjured by Ossaert is often mesmerizing, hazy like a chapel where you almost choke on the incense. You can hear it in the foundation of ‘De Nacht en de Verdwijning’. A song that is more driven and forceful.

‘De Dag en de Verschijning’ is than the climactic end of this record. A full showdown with ascending walls of riffs, clawed hands as the screams are turned towards the heavens. Pure fucking darkness. Yet, Ossaert is not one dimensional I found. Certainly, the sound harks to a traditional interpretation of black metal, yet it also embraces the atmospheric strongly in a ‘no frills’ kind of ways. There’s sincerity to this record, which makes it all the more strong and convincing. Modern, yet true.

 

Dödsrit – Mortal Coil

Dödsrit

Band: Dödsrit
Label: Wolves of Hades
Origin: Sweden/Netherlands
Genre: black crust ‘n roll

Swedish-Dutch Destruction

The project that is now Dödsrit may have started in the forests of Sweden, when Christoffer Öster created it, it has now more or less become a Dutch affair for 75%. With members of Morvigor, Nuclear Devastation and Destructo in its ranks, it’s become a full-fledged metal machine, blending black metal coldness with a hard-baked crust sound and heavy metal sensibilities. In short, it’s tasty as fuck.

‘Mortal Coil’ is the third album of this international outfit and it is a prime piece of metal destruction. The bio reads a little dramatic, this album representing the world in flames, the hell they call home. I think metal can do with some drama and theatrics, it’s after all not fucking punkrock, is it? I like punkrock though, but it’s simply another beast. Ok, pointless chatter, let’s go to the music.

Burning the fields with Dödsrit

The sound of Dödsrit is more of a journey, as the songs drag on and on. This is not a bad thing, since it nicely blends aggression with the richness of atmospheric passages. In its desperate nature and forlorn feeling, the sound is like everything is burning behind you. The world is indeed on fire, and hope is racing away from you. ‘The Third Door’ is a song full of story, and as one of the four, a great start of this record.

‘Shallow Graves’ takes it up a notch with epic guitars, roaring vocals and some of that melo-death grandeur. I noticed here how well polished this album sounds. Not to demean any of it, because the production quality is essential to really make you feel those hooks and riffs. In that sense, it even has a bit of that Dissection/Immortal vibe going. The title track is even more accessible, though it’s got that dragging sound going too.

I suppose ‘Apathetic Tongues’ kinda knocks it out of the park after that. Nothing else to say honestly. In many ways, Dödsrit fits the mould of the more new-school black metal bands, like Downfall of Gaia and ilk. Wide space in the music, bursts of energy, a little hybridization between genres, atmosphere… In four excessively radio-unfriendly songs, the band just drags you along. It’s got a bit of everything that makes this music good; it’s catchy, furious, melodic, yet still full of grit.

Lasher – Unleashing Kuwaiti black meal

For many, the first association that springs to mind when you hear Kuwait is not metal music. For me, it is the Gulf War, which I remember following on television as a kid. Luckily, those days are behind us and currently, it’s known for its export of culture. Metal is not really a part of that, but it’s happening and in the case of Lasher deeply underground, in anonymity.

The state of Kuwait is notably more tolerant. You’d think it has to be, since 70% of the current population are expatriates, vastly outnumbering the 1.2 million Kuwaitis. Adam, which is a moniker to hide his identity, is the sole creator of Lasher – a project that navigates somewhere between black and death metal. He prefers to keep anonymous because it’s merely safer regarding his artistic expression and content discussed in his lyrics. Luckily, he was willing to share a lot about his music, the record ‘Futile Endeavours To Transcend The Bestial Vessel’ and a lot more. Ready for Kuwaiti black metal?

Kuwaiti black metal unleashed by Lasher

Hello Lasher, so how are you doing? How has the pandemic been for you?

Hello, I’m doing alright. Thanks for reaching out to me for an interview. I’m managing with the pandemic.

How did you get into metal music and what is your musical background?

In terms of my musical background, I grew up in an environment where a couple of my family members played musical instruments and I’ve taken some music classes as a kid in school (piano mostly). But haven’t really started playing guitar until my college years. The main band that got me into metal and made me want to explore the genre more and more was Iron Maiden. I remember just getting blown away listening to Hallowed Be Thy Name for the first time and the whole Number of The Beast album in general. I just fell in love with the dark lyrical themes mixed in with the fast relentless riffing and the absolutely wonderful melodies. I believe Maiden was the turning point for me. Then I think it was just a natural transition into the more and more heavy and extreme metal stuff after that.

Lasher is a solo project. What bands inspired you to create this music and particularly, why did you choose to go at it alone

Iron Maiden for sure has a very big influence on my music as I’ve mentioned earlier in addition to the many other classic heavy metal acts including Motorhead and Pentagram. In terms of the more extreme and specifically black metal bands, I believe early Burzum has influenced me a lot. As well as Bathory, Emperor, Varathron, and Immortal. Pretty much a lot of the classic black metal acts. Of the more relatively newer bands, I’d mention Shining and Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult. And I’ve always been a big fan of the attitude and rawness of German thrash and Swedish death metal. Bands such as Kreator, Sodom, Grave, and Hypocrisy.

Regarding why I’ve gone at this project solo, it’s very hard to find individuals who are into black metal and who could play extreme music well over here. And also, of course, this type of music is not generally accepted and is frowned upon at times. So, privacy and discretion are preferable to me.

You released the debut album with Lasher in 2020. What can you tell about ‘Futile Endeavours To Transcend the Bestial Vessel’?

I started the active process of writing Futile Endeavours To Transcend The Bestial Vessel sometime after receiving news of the sudden death of a very close person to me. So, this album is basically me coming to terms with loss, the futility of life, and the inevitable death that awaits every man. I drew a lot of inspiration from a book called The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker in terms of the general theme and lyrics of the album. The book explores the existential problem of man and discusses the futile things people do in order to transcend themselves and achieve a false sense of immortality. The book concludes with the statement that true and genuine transcendency could only be achieved through religion. In the album, I also explore religious themes, I deal with misanthropy, desperation, insomnia, and self-destruction.

The song ‘Depraved Visions of An Ancient Fiend’, however, I actually wrote about a fictional character called Nadine Cross from the novel The Stand by Stephen King. I found that character very intriguing with the way she dealt with her religious turmoil. And so, I attempted to explore the character’s life in short form birth to death and attempted to interpret her actions and emotions.

What is your process like in writing and recording your music? 

I don’t think I have a formula I stick with to write music. I come up with a riff or a general motif that I find interesting and then start to build on it. I record it and then write a second guitar and other instruments like drums and synth. I record everything at home and then send it in for mixing and mastering.

As I understand, you got a Ukrainian studio to mix and master the record, and it was released by Depressive Illusions Records from the same country. How did you hook up with those and what has it been like to work with them?

Yes, I reached out to Chernobyl Studios for mixing and mastering. I read about the studio on the web, listened to some of their mixing/mastering work, and just decided to contact them. It was an absolute blast working with them on the album. Very professional and understanding. I’m very pleased with how the record turned out.

The album was released as a limited edition by Depressive Illusions Records, yes. They actually reached out to me and offered me to release the album with no strings attached and I took the offer.

Black metal is traditionally focused on themes like anti-Christianity, satanism, etc. That has changed and many bands infuse the style with their own backgrounds (history, religion, etc.). Is there anything typical you put into your music?

The main theme of the album as I mentioned earlier is existentialism. It is a subject that is not tied into a specific heritage or background and it draws from philosophy a lot. With that said, existentialism does tie in with religion in general, yes, and I believe I couldn’t help but to express that aspect through my own background and heritage. I do touch on politics quite a bit as well. I speak about the wars and conflicts that’s been plaguing the middle east for the longest time.

What is the metal scene like in your country? I did see that there’s a number of acts active. 

There are only a handful of metal bands in Kuwait and most of them, if not all, are inactive at the moment. I would say that the metal scene is non-existent over here.

You’ve mentioned that metal is not wholly accepted in your country, and obviously, there are places in your region that are even more strict on it. Can you tell a bit more about how that is for you?

Kuwait is a country that has always cared about art and artists and it is known for that. The art movement in Kuwait started in the ’60s and it was something unheard of in the Gulf region at the time. The country still puts out copious amounts of TV dramas and a lot of comedy/horror plays are performed on regular basis. Many Arabic music concerts are held here as well.  So, art is not something foreign to the country, however, extreme metal is still seen as something foreign and is frowned upon since it touches on taboo topics.

Are there any topics that you have to be careful with, particularly playing black metal? 

Certain religious and political topics are not spoken about publicly or openly over here. There are many restrictions on what you can and cannot say. This is something that is common in most of the countries in the middle east. However, there’s been a rise in the liberal ideology in Kuwait for the past 2 decades or so and a lot of people are trying to break the mold.

What are the future plans for Lasher?

I plan on making more music for sure. Whether I’d continue on as a solo act or not, only the future can tell. But yes, I plan on putting out more music.

If you had to describe Lasher as a dish, a type of food, what would it be and why?

I guess I’ll go with oatmeal and some peanut butter on the side. Unsalted oatmeal has a very earthy taste. Simple and clean yet not bland. The peanut butter adds some flavour to that simple earthy taste without overwhelming it. This is how I’d describe Lasher. Straight forward raw riffs mixed in with some melodic and clean moments. The melodies do not overwhelm the music, they have their own place and they add some flavour and tie everything together.

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.