Clara Engel is a singer/songwriter who has worked with esteemed artists, such as Aidan Baker, Armen Ra, ThorHarris, and SiavashAmini. Her music has been hard to put in a particular bracket, and descriptions as ‘minimalist holy blues’ and the stylistic portmanteau of ‘experimental folk’.
The songwriting of Clara Engel
Now, singer/songwriter is not a genre, but I’m going for that angle as I listen to this album by the Canadian artist, who resides in the wonderful city of Toronto. Many artists, who explore solitary musicianship fall into formulaic expressions of the floral dress girl with an acoustic guitar or the lumberjack shirt, bearded boy. But what makes an artist in this expressionist endeavor stand out to me is individualism. It’s not singing a song about emotions you’ve never felt all clear and precise as possible, it’s about the emotional charge of the notes and words.
Hatching Under The Stars
My first comparison when I listen to Clara Engel is, therefore, an unlikely one. The song ‘To Keep the Ghosts at Bay’, makes me think of Will Oldham, or Bonnie Prince Billy (or whatever moniker you are familiar with). Though I’d like to mention the lazy, sun-drenched guitars, it’s the voice that does it. It’s not perfect. But it’s the sound of weariness, at the end of the long night, ‘trying to keep the ghosts at bay’. It makes the song tangible, the theme real and convincing.
But there is also the element of poetry to the art of songwriters, particularly when one invokes larger themes and stories. ‘Oiseau Rebelle’ is a reference to Bizet’s ‘Carmen’ and the song ‘Preserved in Ice for Mark Chagall’ to me seems a reference to his pastoral works (an interpretation of some visual aspects I would presume). But I can hardly start unpacking that with any clear idea as there are themes that evoke new worlds for me. It’s how a song opens a thousand doors for those willing to traverse it.
There is a darkness in the work of Engel too, which no song shows as well as ‘Baby Alligators’. It appears cute and endearing, but soon paints a skyline not dissimilar to the apocalyptic visions in the music of Godspeed! You Black Emperor (Canadian is purely coincidental here). If you need a bridge that explains why Engel worked with Amenra, it’s here too, in the forlorn worldview, and the way words paint pictures and ideas more than tell you something directly. Both ‘Any Creature’ and ‘Old Feathered Devil’ are examples of this.
‘Time is a putty
in your grizzled claw’
What I enjoy about the music of Clara Engel, are it’s sudden shifts and turns. A song like ‘7 Minutes Past Sunrise’ may seem a bit like a Katie Melua song at first until you notice the crumbling world it describes, the grieving notes for a world that is disappearing. Let alone the title, that to me screams Iron Maiden, but hey… There’s a sense of escapism in here too, particularly in a song like ‘Little Blue Fox’, which talks about following the fox to a hidden valley. It’s one of the most straight forward songs on the album.
By the time we arrive at the final song, which is ‘The Indifference of Fire’, the sky has grown a little darker. There is an escape in the music, there is a better place in a world that is generally falling apart and seems uncaring. There is beauty in between the shards, growth between the ruins, and hope. And Clara Engel sings it’s songs.
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.
Akitsa is considered a controversial band by some. Now, I’m really not going into that whole debate nor do I want to separate art and artist, but ‘Credo’ is simply a record that can not be denied. It’s a tour of force that rekindles the flames of what it means to create black metal, what it means to stand in defiance.
The band is part of the Quebec metal scene, hailing from Montréal, which has been rapidly gaining attention thanks to its barren, cold sound and primitive aesthetics. Band leader O.T. is also known as owner and founder of the Tour de Garde label. Het notably also sang on a Kickback album, which is pretty badass in itself. But those punk aesthetics carry deeper than that.
‘Siècle Pastoral’ has that nerve-rending buzzsaw guitar, which keeps grinding down with chilling effect. Choral singing finds harmony with that noisy sound and we’ve launched fully into the almost 10-min opening track of ‘Credo’. Slow, creepy and eerie, this is the Darkthrone-ish sound you got to love as a black metal fan. My favorite track though is ‘Voies Cataclismiques’. The bleak buzzsaw, choppy rhythm and primitive force of the song are just pure excitement and raw energy. This is pure black metal warfare, but at times it feels almost joyous in its bouncy rhythm. I don’t want to say it, but it does make you move.
The gritty, distorted sound is one of the key features of this record. Dissonant, gnashing riffs are all over the album, like on ‘Le Monde Et Ma Bile’ and ‘Espoir Vassal’. Here we really pick up the pace with some shuddering blast-beat rhythms and a surging, blurry sound. The commanding, barked vocals seem to almost disconnect from the dense structure, but the train ride remains intact and keeps barreling on in its unrelenting fury on ‘Vestiges Fortifiés’.
We say goodbye to this record of destructive, cornerstone black metal with the title track. Akitsa definitely puts their own flavor in the mix here, but it all returns to the roots of the genre. Furious, distorted music, grim sounding and icy cold, but with an atmosphere and vibe that is undeniable. It’s music for the opposition, for otherness and anger. That’s ‘Credo’, start to finish.
Metal pops up in many places, but it appears that the remote and cold has a particular attraction to many artists. It creates a specific kind of man, living in those places and that means a particular type of music. Mistwalker and the affiliated projects on the collective ViridianRecords are such entities from the far north and distinct they are indeed.
Greg Sweetapple comes from the coast of Newfoundland originally but has since changed his native Glovertown for Montréal. The hard life and special nature of his home still affect his music though, and probably always will as the project shapes up and new creativity flows.
Greg was kind enough to answer some of my questions about his music and the place he comes from.
Hello! Could you tell me something more about yourself?
Well, my full name is Greg Sweetapple (yes, that’s actually my real surname). I’m originally from a small town on the east coast of Newfoundland called Glovertown, whose population is only about 2000 people. In the summer of 2017 I moved to Montreal, Quebec and I’m still here at the moment.
How did you get into music and what projects are you involved in?
Believe it or not, my first musical love was ABBA, mostly because my dad used to listen to ABBA Gold in the cassette deck in our family car when I was a kid. But my first introduction to heavy music was “Iron Swan” by TheSword, which was a righteous kick in the ass if there ever was one for the pre-teen version of me. When I got older I started to mess around with drums, either in the music room at my school or at my friends’ houses, until eventually, I got my own. I played in a couple of bands during high school, but nothing too major. Then when I went to college I couldn’t bring my drums with me because I moved into a tiny apartment building and drums are way too loud for that sort of setting. So I brought my electric guitar with me and decided to learn to play that instead. After about a year I finally decided to try and record something with the serious intent behind it, thanks to my friend Aaron Powell (Fog Lake) who kept urging me to do it, and thus Mistwalker was born.
When it comes to other projects I have a two-person black metal project called Impaled Upon the Mountains with my friend Kristopher Crane (Nemophilist), though that one is kind of on hiatus right now since he recently moved to the UK. I’ve also got a neofolk project called WaveringRadiant (named after the Isis album), a hardcore punk project called Goddammit that satirizes Newfoundland politics and culture, an ambient project called Icefog, a drone project called InvertedCoffins and a stoner rock project called TrinidadGunfight. I’m also the official live drummer for the aforementioned FogLake.
What’s the idea behind Mistwalker and can you share something about the background, moods, stories, and ideas that shape up the music you make with this project?
There isn’t really a consistent feeling behind Mistwalker, because the whole idea is that because it’s my flagship project I can do whatever I want with it. I don’t stick to one particular style of metal with it. There’s elements of black metal, death metal, thrash metal, hard rock, stoner rock and ambient to it. I can really make it whatever I want. But when it comes to what things inspire the music itself that can be anything as goofy as video games like Skyrim to serious personal feelings. For example, the album Strix Pantheon consists of instrumentals dedicated to some of my favorite female characters from fiction, while the album AlexanderBay was basically a loose concept album about my hometown. The last song on that album, ‘Willower’ is about the feeling of knowing that one day your parents are going to die and you’ll have to come to terms with that when it happens. So really I just write about whatever I feel like writing about, and that changes as frequently as the weather.
What sort of size group is associated with Viridian Records? And how did the label get started, how did you get together and what sort of cooperation do you have?
The thing about Viridian Records is that it isn’t really a record label, per se. It’s more of a name that’s used for a collective of artists to release music under. Mostly it’s just myself and Kristopher, though occasionally my friends Walter, Aaron, and Kenney will release music under the name too. Most of us just record music at home in our apartments/bedrooms, so it’s not really a professional setup. We’re just people who like to make music and put it out there for our own satisfaction, more or less.
Tell me about Newfoundland, what sort of place is it in your words and why does it inspire such a distinct sound?
I’ve heard people say before that Newfoundland is the Iceland of Canada, and I think that’s true. A lot of the landscape consists of rugged coastline, boreal forest, and dense bogs and the livelihood of the people there is really dependent upon the ocean. There’s a lot of respect for nature to be found there, and I think that really inspires the music that my friends and I make, though of course, I can’t speak for all of them. But aside from that, it’s also a hard place to live because right now the economy is suffering, which is part of the reason why I moved away. Making music was partially an escape from that atmosphere of living paycheck to paycheck. I guess when it comes to making black metal, or at least music that is heavily inspired by black metal, turning to nature is a form of escapism.
How do you approach creating music for various projects? Like, how do you know a song is particularly suited for Mistwalker?
That’s something I find a bit hard to define. Usually, it’s just some form of intuition. Like, I’ll come up with a riff and I’ll think to myself “Yeah, that’s a Mistwalker riff” and then sometimes I’ll say “Yeah, that’s more like an Impaled Upon the Mountains song.” With Mistwalker I like to experiment more because it’s my main project and I have complete creative control over it, so a lot of my weirder ideas find their way into that project more so than others.
As interest, you’ve listed quite some pagan and mythic elements on your Facebook page, could you tell more about that?
While I’m not a pagan myself, I do have an intense interest in mythology, pre-Christian religions, and folklore, especially when it comes to the Norse and Celtic variety. A lot of this comes from my love of the fantasy genre in fiction, which is obviously inspired by mythology and folklore. I’m a big nerd so I love all that stuff about elves, dwarves, magic, etc. I’m especially a big fan of The Lord of the Rings and The Elder Scrolls series so that often finds its way into my lyrics too. I aspire to be a fantasy author myself someday so naturally, my music is affected by that too.
What sort of recording and writing process do you follow to create music?
I don’t really follow any set process. It really varies. Sometimes I’ll write lyrics first and write something based around that structure and try to evoke the feeling of what I’ve written into the melodies. Other times I’ll compose the music first and record all the instruments before I even get into writing lyrics for it. When it comes to the actual recording I always lay down the drum track first, and then follow that up with guitar and bass, and vocals come last.
I‘m curious about the scene from a more ‘availability’ side, as in there’s a group of people creating works under the Viridian banner. Is that all very DIY? Or does Newfoundland have all the facilities like record shops, rehearsal spaces, venues etc. available in proximity?
When it comes to Newfoundland the metal scene really only exists in St. John’s. Sure there might be a band or two in other towns like Corner Brook or Stephenville, but everything is more or less constrained to the provincial capital. With record shops, the only one that exists is Fred’s Records, which does cater pretty heavily to local artists. Venues are pretty limited too, the only ones I can say for certain that cater to this style of music include CBTG’s, Distortion, Valhalla Tavern, The Rock House, Bar None, The Rose & Thistle and Factory, so you’re always going to the same four to five places every weekend to play and/or see metal and punk shows. These venues also sometimes double as rehearsal spaces in the daytime, and if not a band might just have to make do in somebody’s garage or basement. When it comes to Viridian like I mentioned before, it’s mostly just my friends and me recording stuff on our own time, more often than not in our bedrooms, and then self-releasing it on Bandcamp, so it’s definitely very DIY. There are professional recording studios in St. John’s but none of us really have the money for that.
Is it love for where you are from or loathing, that you feel when writing for Mistwalker?
Admittedly I laughed when I read this because honestly, it’s a bit of both. I love my home and I do miss it to an extent, especially living up here in Montreal where you have travel so much further to be immersed in nature. Back home I could go out into my backyard and ten minutes later I’d be in the middle of the woods on the top of a mountain. But like I mentioned before, living there is pretty difficult. It’s the reason why so many people who are my age have left to go work in Alberta’s oil industry. It’s just a better opportunity for them. Writing about Newfoundland in my music is equal parts love and loathing and I channel that respect for the land into it, while also expressing the frustration of the economic difficulty that rises from living there.
What future plans do you have and does Viridian have?
Mistwalker is a name that I plan to record under for as long as I live. Of course, things always change but I hope to be playing heavy music even as an old decrepit grandpa. Eventually, I’d like to get a band together and start playing shows here in Montreal, even go on tour if my music gets enough traction, but these things do take time. I can’t really speak for the other artists on Viridian, but I know that Kris records music sporadically under both of his projects: Acorn to Great Oak and Nemophilist.
If you had to compare Mistwalker our the whole Viridian roster to a dish or various dishes, what would it be and why?
That’s a hard question. I wouldn’t really compare the music to a specific dish, but rather a smell. The scent of evergreen trees, especially fir and spruce, combined with the smell of the ocean, really encapsulates the atmosphere of the island and the music that I try to create. Again I can’t really speak to the creative process of the other artists.
Thanks for the interview! I always appreciate opportunities like this.
Our ancestry is often a source of pride our base of how we identify ourselves. But sometimes, it can be a cause of strive, of clashing entities. It would seem that this is at the base of what has become Ifernach. A band that looks to consolidate the Celtic and Mi’kmaq heritage in fierce black metal on this EP ‘Gaqtaqaiaq’.
Ifernach has released a series of records and though it is a solo project by Finian Patraic, has also been playing some bold live shows where knife-wielding and bloodletting appear to be a big part. Also interested in the style of corpse paint, which appears to evoke images of the native cultures of the land emulated in the music.
After a classical sounding intro, which sets the mood in bombastic tones, we move to ‘Extinction’. An eerie song with melancholic, twangy guitars and gritty, primitive sounding black metal. The vocals are also snapping, biting and raw, conveying the lyrics in French. The sound is eerie, strangely dissonant as if it comes from a different realm. In a way, it does of course. The punky beat meats intricate melodies on ‘Coeur boréal et païen’, creating an enigmatic track.
The guitar mesmerizes me constantly on this record, by invoking a kind of magic. It’s the alienness of the music, the strange different vibe it creates that sets Ifernach so apart. Yet, mostly what you hear is the sound of rebellion on a tune like ‘Elle Danse Avec La Mort’. Repetitive riffing, grooving bass and a thick palette of grimy, grinning anger, here you go. It hardly compares to the gnashing ‘Un Matin Fénien’, with a true menace to the riff.
We end the record with a traditional jam, yet even this sound ghostly and distant. It’s just out of touch with our reality, somewhere lurking in the wild. That is the spirit, captured by Ifernach.
Black metal is rapidly becoming a kaleidoscope of styles and themes, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Gone are the days of strict confines in the music, but at the same time… something goes missing. Luckily in the strange corners of the world, we find bands like Ifernach, who bring the danger and violence back to the genre with a distinct voice.
Ifernach is a one-man project by Finian Patraic, who has a heritage in the native Micmac people and the Irish immigrants. His identity is much intertwined with the project. Ifernach uses French, an expression of the regional identity of Quebec, which metal scene is close to Patraic’s heart. His native language is English and he hails from the city of Chandler on the east coast of Canada. Ifernach has released the latest EP ‘Gaqtaqaiaq’ this year.
Finian Patraic was kind enough to answer some questions about black metal, his roots, the need to protect what is left of his heritage and his way of life.
Ifernach: Roots, bloody roots
Can you start by telling a bit about yourself, your roots and how you started Ifernach? (and when, because that appears to be a mystery). Also, have you been active in other bands?
Ifernach started as my life turned into something really dark.
I was in terrible sadness, madness. I am an active musician, done 9 years of classical music, I play all kinds, but I kept black metal away for all these years because I just wasn’t ready for it. I think black metal was the only option left this time, my punk riffs turned darker, so did the lyrics, so did my opinion of life in general. When you go into black metal, it’s a journey, and maybe there is no way out. It’s hard to explain, but I found peace in this whole darkness, a quiet place where I can dwell and suffer in peace. I won’t mention any of the bands I’ve been into because there is simply no links with what I do today. I record music every day. Someone said Ifernach would release a lot of EP’S because there is only one person behind the project, I guess it’s true. Like I said, I wake up in anger and fury every morning… the day that I will be a happy person that says life is beautiful, my project and journey would probably be over. Anger is what fuels Ifernach.
What bands influenced you musically and how did you end up moving into this particular type of music with extreme sound and, often, extreme thoughts and ideas?
No shame to say Burzum and Darkthrone. Everyone says that, but I think it’s the way we experience their music that changes from people to other people. And also at what time we discovered the genre, what we felt, what we were going through at the time. I will remember that day forever. Putting the needle on Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger was, to me, a tempting invitation to the depths of Transylvania, or Norway… A wild call, and mostly something really really terrifying. Going into Burzum first albums was also a turning point, I don’t want to compare to punk here, but the horrific quality of the audio was inspiring me a lot, just like the punk days at school. That was way before I got into NSBM. No way I’m going to explain that, but this is devil’s music. The more evil it gets, better I like. For me it’s revenge on society, like on Halloween the dead rise back up. Always been a Samhain / Misfits / Danzig fan by the way. It’s crazy that people can love watching murders and torture on the screen and being such dedicated horror fans, but then automatically calls someone out when listening to NSBM or ”racist bands”. If you like murder, if you like guts and blood, you just can’t apply to any ethics code or human-wise shit. ALL MURDER, ALL GUTS, ALL FUNNNN.
Your music deals with very particular topics, related to your own origin. What made you choose this path and black metal as the vehicle for its expression (you may have already answered this above) and can you tell me more about the culture and expression you are sharing in your music?
Norway made me connect with the forest here. Simple as that. Black metal music is forest worshipping, so from time to time I got back into the forest I grew up, and started understanding more the whispers I heard from when I was young. I live on the land where my ancestors (from my mother side) lived and traded with the Europeans. There is a lot of mysteries and untold stories about the natives, and my project speaks about that. I try not to unleash the truth about the culture, but in exposing the dark side of it (wild hunt, torture cults, fire dancing, scalp collecting, to mention a few). I would say I do not speak for the natives. I am a lone wolf. But Ifernach is definitely a native Miq’maw inspired black metal band.
I am fascinated by the way you wear the corpse paint. Can you tell me about its significance? Also, I think I saw pictures with the more traditional form of corpse paint. Did it take much time for you to shape the visual identity that now is Ifernach and how did that process go? What symbols and meanings are people witnessing?
The one I was wearing at the Messe des Morts is a facepaint used for war by the natives more located in the south (USA).
My ancestors were proud warriors but I found no trace to this day of their face looking. They were wearing animal shapes on their bodies, and clothes. Animals were very important to their lives.
Ifernach needs to expose a violent image, you saw it with the knife and moose blood. Sick and tired of victimizing the culture. I was raised in hunting and I will practice the tradition from father to son. These things need to be shown on stage. Passamaquoddy used to wear swastikas on their clothes, don’t be surprised if I’ll wear some one day. Antifa is already crying. Sick of the people bashing our roots, culture, and runes. Ignorant fools raised up by the system!
Separately, I want to ask you about the knife, an item that seems to recur in aesthetic images like the absolutely stunning header image on your Facebook page, to the live shows and photo’s where you wield it, while covered in blood. Can you tell me about that and its meaning?
Just did it. Maybe next time with a gun. Who knows. Too much safe place in metal these days. I hate to play live because of that. Censorship.
Your latest record is Gaqtaqaiaq, which came out on Nekrart Records. Can you tell how this record was conceived and what the theme of this particular release is? I’m also curious how you go about the recording, do you do everything yourself and on what fronts is that most challenging or satisfying?
I record in the most terrible and annoying way possible. Nothing is wireless, cables are all jammed up together, I can barely move my head when I record the drums because I’m losing signal with the headphones. I record drum first, without any ghost track guitars. Crappy computer, one microphone. Cheap ass guitar amp. I play with the EQ’s, volumes, and that’s it. The way native American black metal should be done. Wild, raw and rude. Gaqtaqaiaq is a native word for End of the trail, journey. I wanted to expose the first contact between Native Americans and Irish men that came from the sea, sometimes dying at the end of the sea road. And for the ones who survived, witness a journey inside the mysterious northern woodlands of Gespeg. Fires at night, war cries and drum beatings. A soundtrack for my land, for what happened years and years ago. I sat there on the seashore and been thinking about it. A lot of Irishmen died on the coast, with sinking ships, not to mention the coffin ships. Musically, I couldn’t get a better result in being alone. Looking back at it now, I hate creating something with others, can’t stand it.
Listening to the record musically, I am fascinated by two elements. The first is the ever-present punk vibe in the music, the other is the sound of the guitar. I want to ask you if the first is a correct conclusion and how you created the second.
Right. Always been a punk fan. But not the peace-activist genre. You know the street punk with no future genre. Discharge, Exploited, stuff like that. Real punk. Don’t fucking tell me Sid had something to do with veganism and politics. Fuck ’em all. I love CarpathianForest because of that, they got that same pissed off mentality like we’re gonna kill everyone and piss on their bodies, whether you care or not. ‘Laments of Eriu’ had a pretty raw guitar sound, when you look on Gaqtaqaiaq, it has a more atmospheric vibe with some delay. 4 guitar tracks playing all different paths and sometimes an old piano, that’s how I manage to do it.
I’m curious about your choice for the French language, as I understand it is not your mother tongue. Being a speaker of multiple languages myself, I can see how one may be more fitting for what you desire to express, but I’d like to ask you about this.
I been into a lot of Forteresse and Monarque records, two important acts in the Metal Noir Quebecois genre. Also, we all know native Micmacs fought the English alongside with the Canadiens-Français. It was some sort of dedication to the French language, and also that, as an English-born person, I am proud to speak a good French language, in the province, I grew up. Finally, I have to say it’s a little protest against all the Micmac books all written in English. The reds destroyed everything here, on my land and all around, their language even got into our culture and legends… It’s a shame.
You’ve described your style as savage black metal. Where would you say the savage element is and what does it embody to you, as in how would you describe that element of your music?
I try to express what I hear and what I feel when going into these familiar woods within my music, I want the people to hear the wild call I’ve heard. Transcend the voices into the music. I don’t know. These forests are filled with old legends, sometimes still marked with the signs of the past. Savage also because I want to expose more ”savage” themes with the music, like mention before (hunting, war rituals…) you know things that are not into books at school, some Anti-evolution practices. Against the modern world. I go outside in winter at -40 with some cheap ass fucking boots that I bought on the internet when I can go outside, kill a beaver, and make me the greatest boots I ever had of my life. This is how I would describe it. Even if we live in 2018, my main goal is still to learn how my elders used to survive on the land. There are so many techniques and tools that are lost in time… For example, I saw an old Innu tradition, that was literally to put blueberry paste into a tree bark cone, with teeth-written imagery on it, to survive the cold winters. How crazy is that? It was more important to learn chemical formulas or maths at school. Fuck that shit. Don’t think savages are fools, because they can’t do math, it’s because they are happy without numbering what they have.
When I asked you if you were willing to answer these questions, you made a point of not wanting to be associated with Antifa. Can you elaborate on that?
Fuck the code. Fuck censorship.
My ancestors died because of an immigrant invasion.
In the Antifa codebook, I am a total nazi for stating these… facts.
Graveland got canceled in Montreal because of Antifa, and the famous sign shown in the news saying: Heil Satan, Not Hitler.
These kinds of things remind me why my culture has been erased from its own land.
Well, to be honest, basically it’s free hate for everyone…
– about black metal and politics.
There’s a thin line between proud of one’s roots and hatred for the other. How do you look at this, in the light of your earlier mentioning of NSBM?
Well, to be honest, basically it’s free hate for everyone. It’s how I see it. It’s also a political thing but you know, in life I’d rather be the wolf, the lion, not a sheep following the others blindly… In my culture, the natives were strong people, fast hunters, we kinda lost our path. My hate comes from there, now we’re just rejects from the system, looking good buying things and feeding this whole monster that mixes everybody into the same mold; working, paying. I never said my color was better than another one. But my color has vanished (the red skins). People these days are putting tags everywhere like you say something, automatically you’re this, you’re that. Like just because I fight for the nativity of my land, automatically I am against black people. I truly believe that with the school system, social mentality and internet going on with their stupid trends, all hope is lost for native culture revival, so why let all these newcomers in? Back then we had tribes, separated by the habits of life and the ways to survive in our own environment. I believe in war, I believe in adversity, I believe in fighting, I believe in violence. Go take a walk into those woods you’ll find out. Life on earth, we changed everything, but it all comes up to one thing; survival.
Perhaps on a related note, what do you think that the role is for black metal in the world of today? Is it still a voice of rebellion and if so, what does it rebel against?
I think the problem is bands that are saying don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t support this, people will follow you blindly. Black metal is total war. No code, no rules. I think it is still a voice for rebellion (if you look at Kiev and their awesome festival) , and surely something more than just canceled shows by Antifa. In the end, some of them are musicians earning money, and I’m okay with that. But I hope it will always be the voice of evil, no matter what evil is (and I’m not talking about black metal coffee). Black metal went mainstream with Varg and Euronymous. I saw a rapper talking about Euronymous.. wow. Internet world today also, very hard to come out with something real and authentic.
What future plans do you have for Ifernach?
I have one show in the record, maybe one next in the winter of 2019. I am alone here, the guys who played with me at the Messe des Morts are very far from me (8 to 12 hours drive). It’s very hard to play a show live. I keep recording and reading. And learning the native language. Ankami, Wije’wi. Kiwaja’lin, We’kwata’si… I have a surprise release for Halloween eve. A tribute to horror, something a little off-series for Ifernach.
If you had to compare Ifernach to a dish, what would it be and why?
Raw meat. bloody flesh. The way my elders loved it. The way I am trying to enjoy it. Hahaha…
Disclaimer: The opinions voiced in this article are those of the artist. In no way am I endorsing these ideas as they are not my own. As we live in a time of turmoil, I feel that trying to understand others is a lost art at times and I hope this provides the reader with insights.
Label: Les Fleurs du Mal Productions Band: Flešš Origin: Canada
Vampiric metal is a very specific undercurrent within the black metal movement.The unholy blood drinking entities inspire groups like Flešš (pronounced flesh) to develop unique sounds that express the harrowing nature of these monsters. This leads to listening material that often is out of the ordinary. Truly unnatural.
Originating from Canada, this is is the second release from the mysterious raw black metal entity, that you’d best listen to at night. Nothing else I can tell you about the origin of the record, which I find rather unpleasantly mysterious.
The raspy nature of the opening riffs on ‘Frenzied Bloodlust Underneath A Black Moon’, the opening track of two songs on this album, are like the scraping of tombstones in the dark. Eerie keys and sound effects add to the uncanny feeling you’ll get listening to the opening of this tune. The guitars are gritty and distorted, concealing whatever it is that skulks in the shadows. And then it pounces, with thin battering riffs and unearthly wails, gasps and gibbering. It’s a frightening ordeal to listen to.
‘Vampyric Drain Through Hypnotic Force’ is a whole different story. A gloomy, hypnotic tune with barely any outbursts, but repetitive and slowly, but surely, reeling you into the maw of doom. Creepy and overwhelming, that really brings the whole thing back home to towering peaks and ancient castles in Transylvania… or maybe something less tangible, even more, slithering and always around us, hiding just in the dark.
In the Marvel Universe, Kurse is a dark elf, named Algrim the Strong, who becomes the champion of the dark elves in the overpowering armor of Kurse. You can see him in the Thor film, he’s quite bad-ass. It’s where the band Kurse takes the name from for their debut EP ‘Tales of the Wizard’.
The Québecois group is a newcomer to the doom/stoner scene. They’ve definitely has taken a good look at the more melodic bands in the genre, that focus more on the emotional sound. The threesome from Montréal has not got any particular band history to point to. Judging by this record, that is quite a surprise. The debut sounds stunningly good.
The opening of ‘Antagonism’ has the magical beauty and simple joy of an Opeth acoustic. That takes almost five minutes to be dispelled by one of those surging riffs that you just have to surf along on. The harsh vocals of Felix Pageau are a bit lower in the mix, but the sharpness of his bark really makes it break through the tide. By the time ‘The Giant’ kicks in, the band has a full-on groove going, with cascading mega guitars and that typical hazy sound.
It’s that psychy haze that really makes Kurse stand out. With the cover and band name, you expect the sort of cool, epic sound, but the band really goes into a more dreamy direction. Vision becomes blurry, as the drums just keep hitting and hitting. ‘Mythos’ really turns into a bass-heavy, gritty onslaught. Think of Sleep, ElectricWizard, and Ufomammut and you’ll get the gist of things. I keep returning to those cool vocals, which sound a bit choked off, but always right on track on ‘Four Princes’.
Kurse sounds quite promising on this EP and a full length may be what they need to really craft something amazing.
Eastern promises come from far off places sometimes. Sutrah found inspiration in the oriental mysteries all the way in the northern land of Canada. In a period of 7 years the band crafted their debut album, which is out now, titled ‘Dunes’. An album inspired by esoteric thoughts, metaphysics and oriental folklore.
Drawing inspiration from bands like Lykathea Aflame, Martyr all the way to Cocteau Twins and Oliver Messiean. Members of the band have also been active in Chthe’ilist. Sonically the band seeks to bridge the wide gap between the turbulence and ferocity of death metal and inner calm that comes from the eastern philosophies and thoughts. They’ve tried to capture this idea and fight in their artwork.
After a moment of meditation, the album launches in full force with the title track. The tremolo riffing and high paced drums sweep in, but soon find a tranquillity in harmonious unity. Like a tapestry, all feels whole. That lasts usually up until the breaks, where a moment of chaos and doubt tear these turmoils apart into a chaotic shredding explosion. The constant search for balance results in an album that truly has two faces.
The album sounds absolutely pristine in production. Sometimes it lacks therefore a certain organic quality I’d say, but that’s a general death metal ailment in my ears. I love the intertjection of strange elements, like the bells on ‘Effervesce’. Though their balance with the music can be extremely weird, it does give that extra thing to the music. When they fade away tight waves of guitar riffs take over again. Sometimes those soar away in wild, brief solo’s. It breaks that steady flow of the sound, which you’ll find if you can transcend the frantic pace and precise cuts.
The vocals are deep growls, barked on cue with the melody of the all over sound. At times the band can sound quite complex, but that technicality and the calm in there is the charm of this Canadian band for sure. I don’t see anyone getting their meditation groove on to Sutrah for now though.
GildedLily released one of those albums that pushes the boundaries of the genre. The group from Barrie in Canada just released ‘Mongrel’s Light’ and it blew me away. It sure as hell is not casual listening.
There was a little bit of info to be found, but I was keen to find out more about this band and Andrew Helinski was keen to share, so I asked them a few questions about their band, the urban environment and Canadian metal (not referring to the hilarious Darkthrone song).
Who are Gilded Lily and how did you guys get together as a band? What other projects have you been involved in (musical or non-musical related to your art)?
Gilded Lily began in 2014 mostly out of an itch to create some in-your-face music. Don’t all young guys who aren’t good at sports want to be in a band? Jordi and I had both been in Swarms together before this, which had a more long-winded approach to song writing, and we wanted to try something that felt more immediate. Once we recruited Cameron we realized that the approach was different enough that it warranted another moniker- a clean slate entirely.
I wanted to ask about the name of the band, since it sounds rather different from the more conventional names. How did you come up with this name?
I came up with it, though it wasn’t my first choice. I had actually settled on the name Mongrel for a long while and about 2 months before the demo came out I saw a flyer for a show in New York for YellowEyes, and a new band was playing it called Mongrel. So I had to scramble a bit to come up with something new. We ended up going in the opposite direction, instead of trying to convey the ugliness of the band, I went with a name that means “to make something beautiful that is already beautiful.”
In the end, it may have helped inadvertently from a branding standpoint, it’s certainly more memorable for a metal band then a lot of other choices.
What are your musical influences for the ‘Mongrel’s Light’ record, how would you describe the unique sound of this album?
We pulled from so many different places on this album. Some influences are almost bizarrely disconnected from the final product. Just to rattle off some bands, HEALTH, Black Anvil, Prurient, Cobalt, A Pregnant Light, Cattle Decapitation, La Dispute.
We had some trouble knowing exactly how to bill this album; blackened grind, blackened hardcore, post black… they all seem a disingenuous and at least a little inaccurate. It makes sense why people want genres as a point of reference- but we were pretty happy feeling like the end result wasn’t something that could be easily slotted into anything other than “extreme” metal.
The album feels like a very bleak expression that must have been fed by something of the surroundings or such. What inspired this album? Is there an element of dislike for the urban environment to it?
There certainly is, ha. When we started Gilded Lily, Jordi and I had both just moved back to our hometown of Barrie, it’s an exceedingly average, midsize, conservative Canadian city. The real motivator for me when writing was of course, my personal life- but also the city’s relentless banality, its dumb contentment, the petty criminality.
I don’t necessarily dislike the urban environment itself. I can’t claim some close affinity to nature after being born and raised in the city, but this album at least stays focused on the malaise and ugly aspects of suburban life.
As with anything that’s an artistic statement, the viewpoint is entirely the artists- perhaps someone else could write an album about the same city and it would be a sunny-sounding affair praising it. As it stands however, negativity and specific visions of Barrie and fenced dogs are the main motivators behind the album’s themes.
I was curious how you craft your songs, since the amazing lyrics seem to be at the core of things. How do you go about making and recording the music, who has which role?
The writing process generally begins with my lyrics, the themes being established and the album being sketched out conceptually. After we have the “tone” of each song established, Jordi just hammers out riffs and ideas and begins to piece them together. After the whole album was demoed out we each took two weeks to just listen to the album over and over and draft up a bunch of notebooks, and then just edited out every piece of the album that didn’t 100% hold its own to put ears.
We’re both very respectful of each other’s talents and process, and this album was the most we’ve ever challenged each other or vetoed anything the other has done. I revised my lyrics dozens of times and Jordi had me cut some entirely. And I made Jordi go through four different version of Glass In St. Mary’s Lot until it was at a place where I was happy with it as well.
Pushing each other’s creativity seems to be a big part of why this album felt so successful to us.
Your approach to black metal (if we can call the style of music that) seems to be very eclectic and I feel a kinship with groups like Sun Worship who’ve approached BM from a more artistic and aesthetic viewpoint. Is that the case for Gilded Lily?
I’m not sure we have any kinship with anyone based on style. There are so many bands out there that it would be hard to feel a based solely on the merit of looking or sounding similar. There’s a kinship with other artists or bands we have a working relationship or mutual respect with- Terzij de Horde, It Only Gets Worse, A Pregnant Light, Cara Neir. People who write and create similarly and seem to take the same approach to music’s importance.
That said, not to be too dismissive, Sun Worship are an excellent band and we all really enjoyed their last two records.
Can you tell me about Lion’s Jawbone? Why did you start your own label?
Vanity mostly. We really believe in what we do, and even if no one else did- we both wanted a little platform on which we would be able to display our work and projects on our own terms. To be frank neither of us really wants the hassle that is inherent with a label, so we keep things extremely barebones. It’s essentially just to give a voice to our stuff and retain control of how it’s presented.
Why are there so many good bm bands coming from Canada? And is it me or is there some abject to civilization, society and the urban environment to it? What do you think are the unique ingredients your surroundings offer that influence that sound.
It seems Canadian bands have a wide swath of influences and space to grow themselves. A band in Calgary is a day and a half of non stop driving away from us, so it’s very removed and disconnected. As such, aside from hearing the records and catching an occasional show, there’s no communal mentality to influence our stuff. The mentality is just do your own thing and own it.
We’re left to our own devices and to pursue our ideas down rabbit holes as far as we can.
Of course there’s exceptions, Quebec has an incredible and incestuous black metal scene and inversely, a lot of Canadian acts seems to have a goofy proclivity to folkish / melodic stuff that we can’t get down with. At the end of the day though, a lot of the gems that shine through seem to exemplify that aforementioned mentality.
What does the future hold for Gilded Lily?
Currently we’re recording a new EP, we have a split and a collaborative release with two different bands in the early stages as well. Eventually writing for a new full length I suppose too; we spread ourselves thin and work slowly as a result. Lots of moving pieces.
Finally, if you had to describe your band as a dish, what would it be and why?
Damn, this is a odd one to answer. Musically we’re a hodgepodge of elements kind of thrown together that only make sense as a whole. So maybe a soup? A burrito? A pierogi? Salad’s probably too boring. Would have to be a jazzed ass salad.