Label: Independent Band: Divide and Dissolve Origin: Australia
It’s convenient sometimes to think that the whole world is alright. We’re wrong though. Divide and Dissolve are highlighting some issues that are still part of our landscape and life. White supremacy is, according to Takiaya Reed and Sylvie Nehill, still a part of the world around us and the wounds of the past have not fully healed. That is what ‘Abomination’ is about.
Takiaya is part Cherokee and Sylvie part Maaori. Their music is designed to decolonize and decentralize and pay homage to the ancestors. With drums, guitar, saxophone, and live effects, they make music that shakes the walls and breaks down common perceptions of the world around us. I’m hooked. From a comfortable background, it’s too easy for me to say that all is well when there’s still so much hurt in the world. Luckily, those voices are heard.
The music is absolutely punishing with erratic patterns and a deep, droning vibe to it on opening track ‘Abomination’. The drums are so you feel them inside your bones before we get into the eerie intro of ‘Assimilation’. Almost painful, almost grotesque, is it still a beautiful howling effect that you here? Before you can really process it, the lumbering bass and drums hit you again. It stomps and curdles onward, through the next track, all the way to ‘Reversal’, which is a spoken word section about the immigrant mind. The light music support only emphasizes the words, makes them stronger and more potent. It’s touching in its alienating form, but also is the only word of explanation the record offers us.
At times the music almost feels ritualistic or even slightly jazzy, like the tune ‘Resistance’. There’s a mystique, a feeling of movie-like suspense to the tune. Repetitive riffs come by, enriched with even further effects and sounds that take you into this trippy realm. The sound is strangely subdued, almost inaudible at times and less structured on ‘Re-Appropriation’ and ‘Reparations’. They feel like strange sound experiments, full of droning bass lines.
‘Indigenous Sovereignty’ is the short, but foreboding closer of the album. Perhaps a sign, a light, showing what is to come in the following years. Guiding the path for change.
I like cats. I don’t think this should surprise anyone, because I’ve mentioned that before. So if you have an album cover that looks a bit odd, but features a black cat and a cool sounding name like Midnight Coven, there’s a fair chance I’ll check it out. And, I have to say, I do not regret listening to ‘Bewitched’.
The project is initially a solo endeavour by Aaron Baker, a 27-year old multi-instrumentalist who has several other projects going. I haven’t been able to find out much more, but there are some musical references given like Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. That’s never a bad thing in my book, so let’s get to the music.
‘Sinister’ sounds much like any witchy sounding, doomy psychy band you may be familiar with. Angsty, creepy… Think Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, but a bit on overdrive on vocal effects. It’s cool. And weird. I guess both. I don’t get why the sound is rather wonky though. It wasn’t my headphones, I checked. What it does, is add a little spooky vibe to the song. The same goes for ‘Blood on the Wall’, which at times feels as if it’s merging all parts together into a formless mass of evil creeping up to you. The vocals are something else though, and might even hint at modern psych bands with that nasal tone that keeps sorta poking at you.
But let’s get down to the more doomy, theatric side of the record with ‘Midnight Summoning’. There’s certain bombast to the sound of the streaming guitars. A lot of space is left for those stadium rock-Oasis riffs that blow out with a slight dissonance as you’re familiar with from many pscyh bands. That slightly snotty whingy vibe, but Midnight Coven can do the riffing too in a grand heavy metal style. Just listen to the opening of ‘Corporate Slave’. Tell me that doesn’t sound like ‘Looks that kill’ by Mötley Crüe’. And that’s a great tune, so it works well here too in that specific vibe. At times the sound can be a bit highly processed though, which is very audible on ‘Welcome to the Horror Show’. The drums feel mechanic, the bass is just too perfect, and those soaring sounds in the back make it feel like you’re listening in a very, very tiny room. Does the job, though.
So, Midnight Coven is simply weird. It’s a weird sounding band, and therefore really cool. On closer ‘Conditioned Nation’, I like the flow, but I feel as if I’m listening to a synth track at some points. The lumbering guitars are so thick, like a frosty milkshake. The vocals are very clear on this track, though, which creates a unique vibe. I say, just check ‘m out.
It should come as no surprise that I’m excited about a new Possessor record. The horror-inspired doomsters from the United Kingdom have been quite prolific in the last few years, and they are one of the rare bands that I’ve interviewed twice already (you can read the interviews here, and here, they’re quite fun).
The main inspiration for this group is hard to define. Where before I had a strong Sabbath vibe from these gents, now we’re moving more towards a punky, upbeat sound. It must be that first wave-style black metal influence, but also, most definitely, Black Flag. It’s more energetic, pushier, more domineering. I mean, it’s all good stuff and good clean fun.
So the horror samples are still there, and you only need to glance at their artwork to get that vibe. ‘Gravelands’ is less spooky though, it’s more ‘scary-biker-gang-might-be-werewolves’ scary. I suppose that’s a thing. After that hardcore beatdown beat on ‘Jim The Mutilator’ (obscure reference to the Rotting Christ originator?), the buzzsaw bassline on ‘Backwoods’ is pretty rad.
We turn a darker corner on ‘Savage Rampage’, with a higher pace, which approaches that primitive sound of bands like Midnight. The guitar riffs definitely contribute to that, no warm walls, but gritty, grim bursts hit your darkening mood. All good and set to go for the next bangers, which are ‘Breathe Fire’ and ‘Creature of Havoc’. Here we get back to the good old hard-rocking vibes we love about Possessor. Punchy, heavy sounding tunes, with nice heavy metal hooks and riffs. It feels like music made for a simpler time. It feels odd to get this classic metal vibe in these times, but it also just feels fucking good to hear these riffs that sound like sludgy Iron Maiden efforts.
‘Hiking To Hell’ underlines the coolness of this album again, by returning more to the grimy, repetitive sound and mossy walls of sound from their ‘Dead By Dawn’ album. Groovy stuff. You gotta love Possessor.
The primal movements of the earth can be felt when Bismuth plays its second set at the Ladybird Skatepark at Roadburn 2019. Slow, purposeful drone doom, delivered with a mantra-like repetition over a fundamental groundwork of drums by Joe Rawlings. The guitars produce a growling, textured sound that hits you like sonic waves with full force.
On guitar is Tanya Byrne, who also plays in Monoliths, Nadir and Dark Mother. Having been pummelled by the live delivery by the band, I wanted to know more about the duo from Nottingham and contacted Tanya to ask her some questions about Bismuth, sound, studying the environment, gear and, of course, playing Roadburn.
Interview with Tanya Byrne from Bismuth
I understand you are originally classically schooled, if I may use that term. How did you move from that to the music you create now?
That’s right. I play the piano, played clarinet in an orchestra and studied music theory and composition. I think I moved to drone when I discovered minimalism. Artists such as Arvo Pärt and Terry Riley. Space is an important feature of that, and I wanted to see if that could be explored within the sphere of heavy music. So much metal tries to bludgeon with riffs, but I feel contrast, space and dynamics are needed for something to remain heavy. That’s why I loved Lingua Ignota so much. It has a weight to it, without the usual metal and noise tropes.It would seem that this background really shapes your approach to music than, which is not based on, let’s say, the pop format songs. So where in this development did feel you transitioned that classic approach into a metal framework?
It happened when I was around 25. Through minimalism, I started to discover bands like Khanate, Asva and Sunn O))). For the longest time, I found guitar-based heavy music boring, but these bands showed me that heavy music could be interesting.
I like your mention of Arvo Pärt, because his music is for me essentially attentive listening and very heavy in its intentional nature, as every note has meaning… What attracts you to the minimalism and more so the slowness in music (as you play ‘very slowly’)?
The focus of minimalism is what drew me to it. You have to give each note your full attention. Playing slowly helps with that. Nothing can be rushed and you have to exist in the sound. Everything else falls away as the sustaining of the music becomes everything.
What does heavy mean to you and what role does volume play in that, which is what most people would assume to represent heavy?
Heavy is more of an emotional response. Volume can be helpful in reaching that intensity, but for me, the intensity in performance is so much more important. I’ve seen bands that are quiet in volume, but their music has a connection that makes it truly heavy.
I’ve seen you perform, but I wonder how you feel you put the heavy in the performance you deliver with Bismuth. Is it physical or in your own experience of the meaning and voice of the music?
A lot of my lived experience comes out in the music. Obviously, both Joe and I are fans of volume to add to this, so that comes out too. When we play, nothing else exists. I see nothing and just share what is normally hidden.
Is the meditative aspect of that sound on some level relevant to what you do? And by that, I mean the ritualistic or even religious aspect of music, but also may be a connection to your academic field?
Very much so, yes. Becoming lost in the sound is a form of meditation. It not so much religious for me, but I definitely think that playing so slowly helps me feel connected to the deep time of the geological record, in a small way. People need time and space to contemplate processes that take millions of years, and I think the state of feeling nothing but sound and time can tether me to that. Day to day worries fall away, and for a time, notes seem like infinity.
I am intrigued by the connection though, between your academic interest and music. Which came first and when did you first connect them like they are on ‘The slow dying of the great Barrier Reef’?
I’ve been playing music since I was five, but I only started studying environmental science within the last 6 years. Barrier reef was the first time I attempted to connect the two. The music and themes arose due to my increasing frustration with the world government’s inaction on climate change. I read journals pretty much every day showing the way in which humans are degrading our environment, and I can’t believe the inaction of governments around the world.
There’s a lot of disinformation going around, or fake news as we call it today. Was that attitude, the inaction, was it a driver for you to connect these two?
Or was it something brooding already to make this connection and just got this push here.
Both. As a scientist, it’s very frustrating to hear talk about ‘beliefs’ when there is solid evidence that climate change is happening, and that our species is causing it.
For you as a person, what does it mean to bring these two together? Is this a platform?
I’m not sure if it’s a platform so much as me trying to process the thoughts I have around this subject. It’s great if others are prompted to research, but joining music with this subject matter helps me deal with the anger and despair that I feel at times. It’s difficult to maintain hope when all you read about is destruction and death, but we must hold on to hope and work together.
For me, as a listener, your performance felt very cathartic too, as the music is delivered with a certain laborious effort. It helped to connect, to move in harmony with you as artists. Is that something you feel is important, this connection through the music?
The connection is one of the most important aspects. When you are playing with others, it’s important to get into the same space. I’m not very outgoing in real life, and the way I connect the most is through playing music.
How big is the role of your equipment when you play music like yours?
Very. Very important. I use multiple amplifiers set up so I can use each amp to cover a different frequency range.
Coming back to your approach of music not as simply bludgeoning with riffs, is this an example of your way of creating this heavy effect?
For sure. Cutting the bass amp and reintroducing it later can help add heaviness. I also run different effects chain for each amp. It’s important to have different amps for different tonalities.
So what is your process when creating music, because by what I read about your gear expertise it feels like an engineering job, so I was wondering if you could describe how that happens?
Generally, Joe or I will have an idea, a riff or a drum beat. We then work in that for a while and see if it’s something we can expand on. Vocals are always written secondary to this, as layers of sound are very important to us.
Is there a lot of tinkering with the equipment involved?
Yes…I tend to have a pretty precise idea of the sound in my brain. There have to be lots of playing around with pedals to match up the sound I am aiming for.
Do you consider yourself a bit of a gearhead?
Yes, in other aspects of my life I work as a programmer, so I get really interested in tech of all kinds.
Now, this is usually a pretty male-dominated terrain. Is that something that ever came across your path of an artist and do you notice the shift that’s happening and was very visible at Roadburn this year?
Yes, I have had a couple of amps and pedals custom made for me, and only I and the person that built it knows how to work them. This still hasn’t stopped some guys trying to tell me how to use my own equipment (they usually shut up after they see us play). Sometimes I feel like I need to be super nerdy about it so I can stand my ground in male-dominated spaces. It was very heartening to see that Roadburn is showing that creating experimental music is not just the domain of men.
So, can you tell me about your Roadburn experience and history?
Both Joe and I are so overwhelmed by our experience of Roadburn. Becky, Walter and the rest of the Roadburn crew are amazing. When they asked us to play a second set in the skate park. We couldn’t believe it. I watched the Lingua Ignota show there and it was amazing.
Bismuth started 8 years ago and we’ve recorded two albums and a few splits and EPs., but this was our first performance at Roadburn, yes. We’ve done a few tours in Europe and the UK. We have always wanted to play Roadburn and were so so excited to be asked.
But then to get a second set, what was that like?
Disbelief! When my friends told me about the queues for the first set, I really didn’t know what to think. It was a great honour for us.
Did the second one feel different?
Yes. I think we were both more at ease. I’m not sure why, perhaps it’s because it’s more similar to the usual places we play? I think its because its closer to the DIY spaces a lot of the bands are used to normally play. I definitely felt more comfortable there
Do you think Roadburn is a different place to play?
Definitely. I think many bands aspire to play there. The friendship and open-mindedness of the people that attend is something I’ve never experienced at any other festival. It’s really special.
What does the future hold now for Bismuth?
In the next couple of weeks, we are playing Northern Discomfort fest in Copenhagen, DIY fest in Nijmegen and Raw Power fest in London. We also have a show in Leeds with Thou and Moloch. That should be fun. After that, we are going to take a little live break to focus on writing for our third album and a few splits.
If your band was a dish, what would it be and why?
Hmmm well, it depends who you ask! Joe would definitely say kebab. However, I would say tasty lentil dahl, with rice and chipati. We would both agree on tasty Oreo brownie though.
Is that because you both like it or is there a more complex idea?
Haha nope, we both just think it’s tasty. I think it would match is as it appears sweet but can be intense.
Belarus, the last really mysterious place in Europe under the auspicious leadership of a president that seems to be boundlessly popular in a country that is prim and proper like you’ll never see a street in Western Europe. Belarus has a dark underside though, an underground scene full of exciting bands. One of those is folky doomsters Dymna Lotva.
The band has been quite prolific over the years and plays a very distinguished type of music. Their origin leaves a little in the way of the language barrier, but they were kind enough to answer my questions. This took some time, but I’m certain that it will provide you with many new insights on this exciting band.
Dymna Lotva might sound dark and misty, but also presents the listener with the other magic that is Belarus. A country with a long history and a mysterious past. This is part of what Dymna Lotva is about.
From the fogs of Belarus
First of let me thank you for taking the time to do this.
Thank you for the interview offer. We apologize wildly for the delay. We have been answering these questions for so long that during this time we have changed our lineup and had to start all over again.
First, can you introduce yourselves and how you got together?
Jauhien: Hi, I’m a Jauhien and I’m the father of Lotva 🙂
It all started with the fact that after writing about 5-6 demos, I made a post on a local music forum about the search for a vocalist to record an EP. Nokt wrote to me and we started to work on material. After the release of the single “A Solitary Human Voice” we began to receive proposals for the concerts and started thinking about a concert lineup.
Forladt: I am Forladt and I play guitar and do some back vocals in Dymna Lotva. For me, Dymna Lotva was the first and is still the only band I joined. I wanted to play in a band so I gave an advertisement on a forum and Nokt replied to me. We met, talked a lot about music and other things. Nokt and Jaŭhien were already making Dymna Lotva and she invited me to play with them. Since then I’m here.
Nokt: I am Nokt and I am the mother of Lotva. I work on vocals parties, lyrics, concept, costumes, etc. In short, in the band, I do everything except what is really important. And sing.
By the way, we were acquainted with Jauhien and played together for some time before Lotva. We just don’t usually mention it. That is why I immediately responded to his post about vocalist search. We got acquainted with Forladt on the topic of music and his own project (now this is Absence of Life), but I didn’t then consider him as a musician for Dymna Lotva because of a very young age. However, we quickly became best friends. And when Lotva began to look for a concert lineup, we listened to a lot of guitarists, no one approached us, and we still had to call Forladt. And I put him before the fact that he would sing (he didn’t know how to do it at all, but he had to learn quickly). Forladt brought us a young drummer, Shen. He played with us for 2 years, but recently our paths diverged. Now our drummer is Barmaley. We also couldn’t find a second guitarist for a long time, so our friends played at concerts like session musicians. However, a little less than a year ago, Igorr joined us.
Do you guys play in any other bands or projects? And what bands inspired you to pursue the type of music you make?
Jauhien: I prefer to play my music, but recently Forladt asked to play in his band Absence of Life and I could not refuse. I was probably inspired by Mastodon, Amenra and Leprous.
Forladt: I have my own DSBM project Absence of Life. About the bands that inspire me… I listen to a lot of different music; it is difficult for me to highlight. But at the moment I joined Dymna Lotva, I listened mostly to DSBM.
Nokt: Everything around inspiring me. Singing is the most important thing in my life, so I’m ready to be involved in as many projects as I can. Unfortunately, free time is not as much as we would like. So besides Dymna Lotva I am the second vocalist in the Absence of Life. I also occasionally record guest vocals for various projects and prepare to start another project with my friends.
Barmaley:Darkthrone and GrazhdanskayaOborona (seriously!) are my inspiration. I will not talk about playing in other bands, otherwise, it will be a too long interview. Favorite drummers are John Bonham and Buddy Rich.
Igorr: I play covers on Opeth, Tool, Lamb of God, Gojira, etc in a jam band.
Where you inspired by bands from Belarus to make metal music or did it come from foreign bands?
Nokt: I am fully inspired by Belarusian metal and folk scene. Unfortunately, it is not very well known in the world. And it is, even more, a pity that the negative towards all made in Belarus is very characteristic for our mentality.
Forladt: My first metal band ever was Accept, since I listened to lots of heavy metal, then it came to trash, death, black and so on. So I was inspired to start playing guitar and making music mostly from foreign bands.
Can you tell a bit about the start of metal in Belarus? How did metal music come to Belarus in the first place?
Nokt: We are not so old, so we did not see the start of metal in Belarus with our own eyes. The most famous of our group was and remains the GodsTower, they have been playing since the 90s.
You’ve released the single ‘Трудна, нуднанасэрдуньку’. A collaborative effort with Andrei Apanovich. How did this come to be? And are you working on anything new?
Jauhien: It was a very funny story. In fact, this single is the result of losing a bet. In the Russian-language social network VK under one post with voting for the best folk metal band, there was a huge discussion with calls to vote for one or the other side, and we jokingly decided to support Apanovich with his band Trollwald. It was like this: “If Trollwald wins, Dymna Lotva will record folk”. As you can understand – they won.
Yes, at the moment we are working in parallel on several releases. The main one is the second full-length album.
How do you work on creating your music? Is it something you do together as a band or do you have divided tasks?
Jauhien: In general, we have divided the tasks. I write music, and Nokt writes lyrics. Also with the writing of music Forladt helps a little. Well, I hope our new guitarist Igorr will also join this process.
Can you tell a bit about the way you approach creating music and how that process looks like for you as a band? I feel there’s a very distinct feeling to your sound and I really wonder where you derive your inspiration from.
Jauhien: I cannot say that I am inspired by nature, books, films or other music. I am rather inspired by the process of creating music, the search for new sounds and interesting moves and combinations. But one cannot say that I am engaged in such a dry business, for I still write based on my inner feelings and mood.
What themes and topics do you put in the music, what topics do you address with your lyrics? The imagery and overall feeling hint at the land, mysteries, and folklore. Can you tell more about this and perhaps provide some examples?
Nokt: Our country has a very sad fate. So at this stage, all our lyrics are somehow about Belarus. This may be the tragedy of a particular person (as in A Solitary Human Voice I and II). This may be something more abstract, general view of the problem (for example, the total passivity of the Belarusians in the “Into the Swamp” track). Of course, in each text, my own history is also explicitly or implicitly present. They are just on different levels. This year we twice used non-original lyrics – the folk song text in “Sick at Heart” and the poem of the Belarusian poetess in “Dying” – however, the approach remains the same.
In pictures, some Dymna Lotva wears traditional clothing. How deep are these aspects connected to Dymna Lotva? Is there a pagan religious side to your work too?
Nokt: In fact, these are not exactly traditional clothes. In any case, not a reconstruction. But yes, Dymna Lotva deep inside is a pagan band. We do not stick it out clearly in the music and lyrics (at least now). But personally, I have long been deeply interested in Belarusian old traditions and mysteries and YES, I am pagan. I really want to work with folk spells as lyrics. I still do not know whether it will be in Lotva or in some kind of side project, but it will happen necessarily. As for the other musicians, they are all pagans to one degree or another.
Do you face any sorts of censorship in Belarus as a musician or are you free to do and say as you please?
Jauhien: Dymna Lotva is not threatened by censorship. We don’t go into political and social issues, we don’t praise Satan and we don’t incite hatred. But yes, there is a lot of censorship in Belarus. Often concerts are canceled, or musicians are simply not allowed to perform. For example, I am sure that in Belarus you should not wait for concerts of such groups as Batushka or Behemoth.
Nokt: I do not fully agree with Jauhien. Almost any band can have problems with censorship in our country. For example, a concert of the Belarusian group TT34 was recently banned. The band has been playing for many years, and as far as I know, they had no problems before. They do not touch dangerous topics in their lyrics. As regards DSBM, rumors have long been circulating about the adoption of a new law on the promotion of suicide in Belarus. Theoretically, then the problem can become much more serious than just canceling concerts. If we talk about the situation specifically now, for example, I cannot cut myself on the stage if I want to be able to perform here in the future. And more recently, our lightest sounding song was not taken on the radio (it completely fits the radio format) because of the lyrics. We used poem of the Belarusian poetess, the winner of one of the national poetry contests. The poem tells about dying and did not pass censorship on the radio. Our folk song was also not accepted because of the lyrics (despite the fact that this is a folk text).
By the way, Behemoth performed in Minsk about 6 years ago.
Which bands from Belarus should people really check out? And why?
Jauhien: Oh, we have such great guys as Nebulae Come Sweet. In my opinion the top 1 in Belarus. Make a unique mixture of Doom and post-metal. It seems to me that in terms of interesting arrangements, they surpassed even some famous groups in the genre.
Forladt: I do not listen to a lot of local scenes, but I think that my favorite Belarusian band is Nebulae Come Sweet. Their music is really deep, sensual and unique, especially for Belarus where most of the music is folk or black metal. They are definitely worth checking out.
Nokt: Of course Nebulae Come Sweet is also in my top. But I have to mention other bands. My favourite are: Pragnavit (ritual folk ambient), Vietah (atmospheric black with bright live image), Dzivia (epic orchestral folk), ViciousCrusade (folk trash), Medievil (black), Massenhinrichtung (melodic black with folk elements), Zaklon (atmospheric black), Re1ikt (post-rock with folk lyrics and really fantastic clean male vocals).
What future plans does Dymna Lotva have?
Jauhien: World musical domination, not otherwise.
Nokt: after the new album release.
If you had to compare Dymna Lotva to a dish, a type of food, what would it be and why?
Nokt: We are smoked roach. For Russian-speaking people, this is consonant with our name (do you know that in our homeland we are affectionately called “Plotva”?) And it is good with beer =)
Forladt: I can’t say properly why, but Dymna Lotva for me is associated with mushrooms. Jaŭhien, for example, is boletus, Nokt is death cap, Shen is amanita and Igor is armillaria.
Jauhien: Alcohol is a dish, right? Then we are absinthe. Hard, but it is not felt; smells like wormwood, and you will like it. 🙂
Having major technical issues with what is already limited time, spare time project sucks. Thankfully, I had a friend help me fix the issues in the source code that emerged with the latest updates and the page is back.
But I missed a lot of records that are now basically too old to share, but I’m doing it anyway, albeit briefly. Let’s dig in, into cool stuff released in, I guess, the last year.
Misþyrming – Algleymi
Granted, my enthusiasm for Misþyrming may have started to dwindle after it seemed to take the Icelandic giant slayers forever to drop anything new. ‘Algleymi’ hasn’t really stuck with me, which is weird. All the goodness you hear on their debut is still there. Certainly, it has been polished and perfected, which results in a record that sounds a little too crispy for my tastes, but is full of the high-pitched tremolo riffs, lumbering passages and blast beat assaults. Maybe I just thought the t-shirts were ugly. I can be that kind of guy, but ‘Algleymi’ has a lot to offer for anyone exploring the realms of black metal. For me, this feels like Keep of Kalessin in the way it opens the doors for new listeners, and that can be a good thing. And it’s not out on one on Season of Mist, that surprises me a lot.
Lord Vicar – The Black Powder
Label: The Church Within Records
These Finnish geezers have not been around as long as I expected them to be. They sound like doom is supposed to sound and I know that this definition has been stretched far and wide. Yet, when you play some Sabbath, Trouble or Saint Vitus, you know what’s up. Right? Lord Vicar is like that, but even more Brittish sounding at times. These slow, cascading riffs have it all. It’s brilliant. The songs are compact, easy to get into and the sound oozes melancholy and straight-forwardness. Is it simplistic? By no means, it’s just really good doom!
Thronehammer – Usurper of the Oaken Throane
Label: The Church Within Records
Can I just kick this one of by saying that Thronehammer is friggin’ awesome? I mean, the name alone makes the D&D geek inside me shiver with excitement about the potential of epicness that this doom band has to offer. Combining members formerly active in Obelyskkh, Uncoffined and Naked Star from Germany and the UK, it’s a showdown of megamassive riffing and tales of woe. And that’s just opening track ‘Behind the Wall of Frost’, a 17-minute megalith. It’s not just riffing, there’s plenty of grooves and punch to the sound too, with particularly powerful vocals that give the band just that edge that makes them feel different. Perhaps on ‘Warhorn’ you can hear it best, with the melodic, toned-down singing and smooth flow of sound. It still kicks ass, even at its most gentle. I want a t-shirt!
Woebegone Obscured – The Forestroamer
Label: Aesthetic Death
Many people will not have such a strong 1992 reference when they hear Danish Dynamite, but I have. Since then, I’ve hoped for something from Denmark to equally impress me and I think I’ve found it in Woebegone Obscured. Punishing funeral doom with a healthy dose of atmosphere added to this dangerous concoction. They’ve also split up again, and somehow I picked up on this record almost 2 years too late. But never has it been said that this should stop you from praising a band with a name that beckons obscurity, right? These Danes produce a harrowing sound, with clear nods to the natural realm in both artwork and band photos. This is also tangible in the music, which offers a lot of space, to be filled with your own experiences. Much like a dense forest, where the roof obscures the light from above. To just quote, from the title track:
In the mountains I belong
Caressed by far travelled air
I watch the woods from above
For this kind of peace I care
Label: Ván Records Band: Our Survival Depends On Us Origin: Austria
Honestly, one of the most bewildering live acts I’ve seen in recent years must have been Our Survival Depends On Us. It’s a concept, an art, and the simplistic name barely makes you suspect what awaits you on stage in a pandemonium of taxidermy blood and pagan mystery. Though that last is maybe perspective from my end, or simply allegorical as it is on their latest record ‘Melting the Ice in the Hearts of Men’.
The group from Salzburg has released 4 full lengths, all with titles that undermine the hit potential due to their length and complexity. There is a light connection to Austrian black metal heroes Belphegor and many members played in Soulsearch before, which had a penchant for the medieval stories. The sound of Our Survival Depends On Us is unlike any other and well worth listening to.
‘Galahad’ sets the tone with a sonorous lament, that slowly opens up with somber tones and acoustic guitars. The band leans heavily on the folkloristic vibe of classic doom metal here, also in the vocals style, yet the music is much more atmospheric with keys and strings meandering in and out. It makes for a wonderful opener that needs a long time to get to some distorted riffing. You don’t miss that. But when it comes in, it is strong and forceful.
There’s always an apocalyptic edge to the music of Our Survival Depends On Us, something threatening. Yet even though the complexities in the lyrics, the band remains accessible, also on ‘Gold and Silver’ with its catchy guitar solos of ripping guitars. The low levels of distortion in the music really make every little bit count and that’s brilliantly employed.
We move forward with ‘Song of the Lower Classes’, which starts with samples, field sounds, and ambient tunes. The song has a hypnotic vibe with the clangy guitar sounds, that simply bewitch you. Mournfully, the words come to you as if they are a drag, carrying the world’s weariness along. “Down, down we go, we are so very very low…”. It is so powerful, it almost hurts. ‘Sky Burial’ meditates upon the topic of its title in a sonic journey that feels completely psychedelic and harrowing. It feels like a shoegaze-like track until it unleashes itself in a transcendental journey to the skies as the body dissolves. The summit of a sublime album.
Label: Shadow King Records Band: Iron Void Origin: United Kingdom
I’ve actually seen Iron Void play and I think they are absolutely awesome with that slow, classic doom sound they produce. The group sort of revolves around John ‘Sealey’ Seale and Steve Wilson, who continued playing together in Iron Void after So Mortal Be fell apart. The group has been around and is woven into the classic doom network of bands that is still very active and playing live frequently.
I’m a bit astonished to find the group has been in existence since 1998, but only since 2998 is there a steady flow of output with this record ‘Excalibur’ being the third full length available to the listeners. I saw then knock it out of the park (or of the island) during the MaltaDoomDays in 2015, which was brilliant. And so is this record, I can tell you that with some confidence.
Indeed, that’s the famous AnaalNatrakh introduction from the ‘Excalibur’ film, this time spoken by Simon Strange from ArkhamWitch, before we launch into some absolute classic doom metal on ‘Dragon’s Breath’. Epic vocals with a bit of that folky drama to it, following a repetitive riff that feels sort of easy-going. Not the most fierce track, this opening, which has a bit of the classic fantasy metal vibe to it. Same goes for ‘The Coming of a King’, where I have to restrain myself and not pump my fist in the air as the epic riffage bursts loose and that voice swells in pride and splendor. There’s even a certain tranquility to ‘Lancelot of the Lake’, which fits the narrative well. Similarly, ‘Forbidden Love’ has a gloomy foreboding tone, which is delivered with music that goes very quiet and very loud, taking the listener on an emotional journey.
But this is mostly a storytellers album, yet with a lot of riffs. I really catch up again with songs like ‘The Grail Quest’ and ‘Enemy Within’. Both offer thick slabby riffs, with a crushing weight. The soaring vocals really do their work, even though they’re not that marvelous in reach, they work well within the parameters of the band. But here we come to the climax of the album, with ‘A Dream to Some, a Nightmare to Others’ as the peak. It brings us to ‘The Death of Arthur’, which is a slow-paced track with a sense of finality to it, as it describes the end of the story. The weary, yearning vocals, the big cascading riffs, it’s beautiful. Think of all your doom classics, that’s it.
‘Avalon’ is an outro, our final farewell and it has a tinge of folk to it, like most tunes. A sadness and a traditional side that is well appreciated after this magnificent piece of music. All hail Iron Void!
Label: Cursed Monk Records Band: Oldd Wvrms Origin: Belgium
Sounds converge in mysterious ways and inspired by ancient rituals and witchcraft, the band Oldd Wvrms crafts their own blend of crawling, creepy doom with post-rock affiliations. With ‘Codex Tenebris’ the band is unleashing their third album and it is one of a transformative nature.
Oldd Wvrms has worked as a fourpiece for a longer time, but on this record continues as an instrumental three-piece. Always a bold gamble in a genre that often relies on vocalist theatrics to keep attention on the band. But after listening to their record, I have no concerns regarding the attractive value of Oldd Wvrms’ music.
Enter the gloom with Oldd Wvrms. Opening track ‘Ténèbres’ is an instant baptizing in the dark and processional nature of their sound. Like a slow dirge, you are inevitably carried down, like a hoisted coffin, on a path towards the turmoil and chaos at the root of their sound. Notably, clean guitar sounds swirl together, with catchy rhythms from firm drums. It’s tempting to nod along. As we proceed the sound becomes heavier, more oppressive and then there’s suddenly calm. Questions arise, unanswered of course…
‘A l’or, aux ombres et aux abîmes’similarly never looks for the intensity and overruling thunder you might find in bands like Amenra, but stays on the level of slithering, macabre fear. It’s like a good suspense movie, where you have no clue what it is that causes your sense of fright. Is it human, beast or something elder and more frightening? In their music, the band plays with the clashing of their instruments to evoke eruptive moments of tension and certain anxiety. But never, ever does it let go of the rope and keeps tensions high, as done on ‘Misère & Corde’.
But there’s also a filmic quality to the music of Oldd Wvrms, like on ‘La vallée des tombes’. The percussion-heavy track is one to easily get lost in, as it evokes a certain trance in the listener with its strange push-pull effect in the sound. Yet it hammers away like no other towards the end. I have to say though, that ‘Fléau est son âme’ is the track that surprises me most, as it has some of that The Devil’s Blood magic going. The wrangled guitar sound, the peculiar tone drops and all that mixed in with the doomy sound of Oldd Wvrms. Love it.
Georgia is one of those countries, you may not even be aware of. A state with a vast history and rich cultural traditions in the borderland of the former Soviet-Union, it is the home of Ennui, who play monolithic funeral doom in the most dark and melancholic traditions.
Partly untouched by time, the country has one of the lowest crime rates and visitors speak of the friendly reception they’ve had. Yet it also has the scars of the past, proven by the conflicts with Russia . The same goes for most countries in the Caucasus.
It’s not known for its metal scene, but it is there and shaping itself in a distincly own way. Ennui has been around since 2012, as it was founded by David Unsaved and Sergei Shengalia. Their latest work is ‘End of the Circle’, out on Non Serviam Records. Thanks to Qabar PR, I got to ask them some questions about this project and the monumental record.
Ennui: End of the Circle
First, can you introduce yourselves and how you got together? I understand the name Ennui is an old French word. Can you maybe explain why you chose it and how it has evolved with you through the years?
Yes, we are a funeral doom band from Tbilisi, Georgian Republic. Ennui is the band with only two permanent members: me, David Unsaved and Sergei Shengelia. Both of us write music for the band, we always work together on concepts for the songs, etc. We’ve founded Ennui together in 2012. So it happened that we both had ideas for this genre, we both were able to play on all instruments, and we decided to work together. The name of the band came to our mind almost immediately. I had a few propositions on the name, but we settled on Ennui. We liked the meaning of this word, because it perfectly described our spiritual state at the moment. Over time, we put more extensive sense into this word – Ennui is a state of melancholy, spiritual boredom and loss of any kind of vitality.
Do you guys play in any other bands or projects? And what bands inspired you to pursue the type of music you make?
Yes. Sergei is a veteran of Georgian metal scene. He is a front man of first Georgian technical death metal band Angel of Disease, also he’s guitarist/vocalist of his symphonic black metal band SIGNS. My biography is more modest, but I also have several side-projects in different genres. But none of them are released yet, actually it will happen in nearest future. Bands like Esoteric, Skepticism inspired us to make this music. These two bands were what introduced us to this genre very long time ago.
Where you inspired by bands from Georgia to make metal music or did it come from foreign bands? Are there aspects of your home country that shape the way you make the music you do?
No. We were never inspired by bands from Georgia. All influences and inspirations came from foreign bands of course. Also, you shall know that there are no other funeral doom metal bands from Georgia. It’s a little bit hard to name any particular aspect of Georgian culture which helped us in making this kind of music. You know, first of all, Georgia is not mentally a ”metal country”, and also Georgian culture has mostly a ”happy” mood in almost all of its forms. But working on our first album ”Mze Ukunisa” what means ”The Sun of Darkness” in Georgian, we indeed used some elements of Georgian culture, which perfectly suited atmosphere of funeral doom metal.
I want to ask you about the album ‘End of the Circle’. What was the creative process like for this record, did you do anything new or different this time and what roles do you both have in the process?
The songwriting principle was the same as always – we made individual songs independently from each other. But we’ve certainly changed the recording process as well as whole creative process in this album. Here I mean the whole approach to recording in the studio, getting the highest quality, real and ”warm” tube sound, all analogue equipment. This was first experience like this for Ennui. We’re very satisfied with the final result. I hope listeners will be happy with our new album as well!
As I understand it, in the past you’ve often used poetry for the lyrics and inspiration. Can you tell a bit about that and in what way you drew inspiration for ‘End of the Circle’?
The poetry of Terenti Graneli (Georgian dramatist and late decadence movement poet) was used as lyrics only for our debut album. After that, all lyrics are written by us. “End of the Circle” is conceptual work, inspired by some philosophical ideas about life and death, about principles of being and unbeing. We just imagined about what if there is some final point of everything? Final point of the endless. The End of the endless circle of life and death. Mostly these ideas inspired us.
Your record is in a sense such a huge slab of music, that it could easily be split into multiple releases. In fact, each of the 3 mammoth tracks feels like a separate journey. Was this your initial plan when you set out recording it or did it evolve to this enormous shape?
Oh, yes. The whole idea of this album was to write three huge songs with dynamic ups and downs in tempo and unorthodox melodies. First we had a plan to make an album with only two long songs, but later the idea evolved and we decided to split ”The Withering” in two parts to have two song conceptions reflecting each other. For example, the first part of ”The Withering” is about humanity which is lost under the vastness of starlit sky, and ”The Withering Part II” is about the lost and dead stars shining their ghost light upon us. But the title song is about death of whole Universe as it exists in our understanding and imagination.
Can you tell a bit about the start of metal in Georgia? How did metal music come to your country in the first place?
I guess first heavy metal bands in Georgia were formed in early 80-is. Heavy metal bands like Mtsiri (მწირი), Mekhis Kandakeba (მეხის ქანდაკება), also Heavy Cross (მძიმე ჯვარი). Their music was influenced by heavy metal and hard rock bands from all over the world, some records were rare, but still available to listeners in Soviet Union. Extreme metal was formed in Georgia much later, in 1990-is. It was influenced mostly by popular metal bands, because Georgia never had access to high-grade information sources about underground metal music. I mean no labels, no metal stores. Usually, records of new foreign bands were passing from hand to hand between metalheads. It was almost impossible to get tapes of rare bands. That’s why metal in Georgia was mostly influenced by mainstream bands from Europe. Nowadays, with development of social networks, metal is more available in Georgia then it was before. Here are some local metal bands, scene is has developed into different genres. Famous metal bands like Sepultura, Napalm Death, Sodom, Vader and many others played shows here. I hope that metal in George will keep progressing and in future will take its own place in Metal World.
What is the scene like these days and what bands would you recommend people check out?
Please, check out the band ComatoseVigil from Russia, I guarantee you the total desperation.
While your music and founding were rooted in sad emotions, you as a band appear to have embraced a positive life attitude in previous interviews I read. How do those two combine?
I think that such music does not oblige us to be constantly in a negative mood. And to be more precise, such music helps to get rid of the negative state of mind. It seems to me that you need to be able to treat everything with humor, even if it’s a black humor… Besides, I would not say that we are one of those people who are very open about showing everyone their inner state. Usually, we do not share everything with everyone around, but we channel everything into our music.
What future plans do you have for Ennui?
I think now it’s time to prepare for future live shows. We need to work more with session musicians and pay more attention to listeners from Europe.
If you had to compare the band to a dish, a type of food, what would it be and why?
I don’t know, maybe ”Shila Plavi” – this is a kind of Georgian dish made from rice and meat. Usually, here in Georgia this dish is served at a funeral feast in someone’s wake.
Anything I forgot that you’d like to add?
Well, I guess no! Thank you very much for conversation!