Label: Self-released Artist: Vėlių Namai Origin: Lithuania
I’ve shared music by VėliųNamaibefore, for the reason that it is exceptionally beautiful, harrowing and evocative at the same time. This time Julius Mité is delving in a different piece of earth, namely that of Kurland or Kurzeme. Though parts of this are lost in history, this is believed to be the realm in the west of modern-day Latvia, currently also called by the same name, and western Lithuania.
With ‘Kúrir’, a sound is being delved into. Moving away from the ambient vibes of previous records, this feels much more like entering the catacombs of history with more synth-based sounds, stronger beats and a different level of intensity and forcefulness, but that’s never a bad thing, is it?
Instantly, you recognize the almost dungeon synth-y vibe to the sound. Though not falling into the dusty tomb cliché, we do experience that claustrophobic experience on ‘Sussrúmnir’. It swells up at some point with a clearly traditional element, which is a persistent thing in the music of Vėlių Namai. This is different though, it takes you really to a human place in history with the deep drones and easy passage of the sounds.
This record feels more like story telling as well, it really takes you through somewhere, instead of letting you simmer in a mystical atmosphere. On both fronts Vėlių Namai performs great, but for me tracks like ‘1042’ and ‘Sventovit’ speak to the innovation in a more concrete way. Granted, I’ve been to Lithuania and Latvia and have seen these lands and meditated on their past and for that, this recor is the perfect soundtrack in all its warm, overwhelming glory.
Label: Seasons of Mist Band: Erdve Origin: Lithuania
If your band prompts a discussion on whether or not what you make is metal, then that probably means you’re interesting. Erdve from Lithuania is definitely a band that would prompt your interest if sludgy, dark mayhem is something you’re into. As it happens, I am and the record ‘Vaitojimas’, released in 2018, deserves all the attention it can get.
This is, in fact, the first release by the band, who were fortunate to be taken straight out of the demo pile onto a release. Members of the group have previously been active in acts like Nyksta, SraigésEfektas, and Spirale.
It needs to be said, that Erdve truly adheres to the blackened sludge movement that seems to stick to whatever vestiges of the metal scene are still standing in 2018 and they run with it. Their sound is thick with atmosphere from the atonal riffing, creating a vast amount of space and a sense of something big happening on the opening title track. ‘Isnara’ attempts a little nuance with long, repetitive passages that really don’t do much more than keeping the vibe coming along with the sludgy riffing. The vocals are a furious hardcore bark and never really deviate from that sound. At some point though, things get slightly repetitive.
That sound is what the band persists with on ‘Prievarta’, where the vocals are really the only big stand-out factor for the group. The sound just keeps up its bludgeoning ferocity and hardcore anger throughout. while never releasing their catchy clarity. That requires clarification, but suffice to say that the distorted riffing and thundering rhythm section are always easily distinguishable thanks to excellent production. I have to make special mention of the track ‘Apvertkis’, which really starts with a more grungy mood and vibe. It’s much more melancholic and lacks the aggression of the further record. That makes it exceptionally captivating.
We end the album on a high note, with ‘Atraja’. A rugged, bitter and vitriolic track of pure grim-sounding sludge, masterfully crafted and captivating from start to end. Erdve has really established a name for themselves with this release and I can’t wait for more of this Lithuanian piece of violence.
Label: Inferna Profundus Records/Rat King Records Band: Living Altar Origin: Lithuania
Blood upon the Altar
I first read about LivingAltar in Forgotten Path Zine. As it stands, the band has been around for a bit, but it took some time get a release out. After a demo and split release, this is their first album and it’s some pretty strong stuff from the Lithuanian group.
The trio has had some experience apart form Living Altar. They played in Regressive and Fuck Off And Die!, bringing a bit of speed and thrash to the mix that makes up Living Altar. Their inspiration is drawn from a psycho-spiritual world, making the band an interesting group.
‘Blinding Shower of Light’ is indeed much like a shower, pouring down on you visceral and vicious black metal. The rigid riffing finds contrast in the bestial drumming and battle-hungry vocals. A clear thrash influence can be detected early on in the songs when the guitars wail and scream. A different vibe is available on ‘Invert the Hearts’, which jangles and wallows in twangy guitars, that emit a more punky feel (like early Norwegian bands) with perhaps a bit of the current Polish bands atmosphere-wise. A strong moment on the record.
The recording quality is exceptionally good, but clearly muddled and dulled in production to create a certain lo-fi sound. Living Altar needs to sound primitive, it fits the brutal pummeling on the drums and frantic use of cymbals on tracks like ‘Dawn of Shadows’. They’re not renewers of the scene, but they are feisty worshippers of filthy, fierce black metal. That they deliver with conviction and fury.
This band brings a raw, feisty sound. They do it well and with power, so check them out.
Label: Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions Band: Au-Dessus Origin: Lithuania
Au-Dessus from Lithuania
Au-Dessus is one of the new wave of bands that bring a new aspect to the realm of black metal. Some may call it post black metal, others may use the new term blackgaze for this. Formed in Vilnius in 2014, the band has members in its ranks from groups like Pergalė, ExileIntoSuffery and Mangragora. Though they hail from Lithuania, the name translates to ‘Above’ in French.
What you immediately notice about this group is their whole aesthetic. No harsh logo’s, corpse paint or spikes, nothing traditional. The only thing that you might find connective is the black hoods, but even those are stylized and different. The cover with a child, carrying coins on its eyelids is heavy. It signifies a death. The subtlety and cold beauty are exemplary for the sound of the Lithuanian group.
The sleek and clean artwork is immediately tangible in the well-produced sound of the group. Polished riffs and a great balance in the sound makes listening to Au-Dessus a pleasure. The songs are numbered, and ‘VI’ plummets you instantly into the atmospheric black metal riffing. The continuous, blaring wall of sound creates an uncanny calm, with haunting spectres ever at the edge of the experience. Vocalist Mantas roars, growls and spits in pure harrowing anger over the ever pushing and progressing sound, which flows with the smoothness of a river.
By the time you hit track ‘IX’ it becomes sort of clear that there’s a good bit of rocking groove underneath all the mayhem. For brief moments the engine to the sound shows, which is really running smoothly and purring like a kitten, but screams a moment later when the pace increases for a dramatic climax. Au-Dessus is all about the build-up, the subtle shifts and sudden bursts of energy. Wave after wave of dissonant, wailing guitars hit you. You submerge in the cold sea of sound.
I’m quite certain that purists will have less appreciation for this band. Their sound moves you with layers upon layers of the atmosphere, crisp production and a sense of grandeur and emotional beauty. They make me think of groups like Harakiri For The Sky and maybe elements of Deafheaven, while holding that mysterious allure of more occult bands. They never seem to actually implement many symbols in their music, maybe to let the sound speak for itself more.
Au-Dessus can be tough and hard, but only when it serves the overall narrative. Most of their music has a dirge-like somberness to it, but harrowing, biting passages are there when they need to be. Losing yourself in this record is quite possible.
Apricity took their sweet time making this album. Most of it was recorded in 2014, but the whole vibe of the record fits the prevailing sound of that melodic death metal era a while earlier. Now, I’m not calling this a retro act. They sound great and the recent production is awesome. It just happens that they clearly take their inspiration from a very melodic corner of the metal scene.
The band originates in Klaipeda on the Lithuanian coast and should not be confused with their American counterpart in name. The album was produced this year and finally unleashed on this world. I for one wish them a lot of luck and success with this release.
The style of Apricity fits best in something that is both technical and melodic, bearing with it influences from melodeath and metalcore alike. The way they implement this in their sound from ‘The Afterflow’ onwards creates a strong sound. The vibe is that of a narrative with gritty effects and interesting effects. As if we’re in a sci-fi horror film. When the riffs kick in a moment later, they sound smooth and clean. A very accessible sound for a metal band. This reminds me of the days when I’d listen to this endlessly while gaming. This is the kind of band that lures the kids in. That’s not a bad thing.
So with the grunted, roaring vocals, the particular arch they take, I have to think back to bands like Norther. Particularly on ‘Bridging The Infinite’. I’m less impressed by the vocals on ‘The Human Hive’, where they seem to try a bit too hard, even on the clean parts. The keys are ever so present by the way, which is noteworthy. This avenue of metal was sort of abandoned years ago, but Apricity picks it up on their album like it never left. It’s a dangerous sound, like on previously mentioned song, where the listener really surfs along on those clean waves. The catchy melodies, the production, it all promises way too much. That is what makes Apricity so damn nice to listen to. The catchy riffs, the smooth drums, this album is just super slick and a great lure for future metal fans.
It’s a rainy day in Varniai and we’ve found a dry spot for a chat with Lithuanian folk-metallers Ūkanose at KilkimŽaibu festival. The band has been around for a little while and released an absolutely great record with classic sounding songs. We’re sitting down with guitar players RobertasTurauskas and LinasPetrauskas to discuss the band.
The sound of the band is a complex matter. It’s not full on metal, but it also isn’t rock. The songs are almost purely folk though, which all the force and bombast merely support. It’s as if the band tries to make the songs more vitalic, more powerful, without losing any of their integrity.
The group has six members, who have all been active in some form in the metal scene. They’re currently changing drummer, so half their set at Kilkim Žaibu festival was played by Vilius Garba (who also plays in Sagittarius) instead of ViliusPanavas. It turns out it’s not the first shift in the band’s line-up since 2012.
I just think that if you want to say you are a warrior, if you want to sing about being a warrior, you can’t be some lazy guy just blathering about this while smoking your cigarettes. You have to be what you preach. – Martynas Švedas
Q: Can you tell me a bit about the origin of Ūkanose?
Linas: Well, I started the band back then together with our accordion player Tadas (Survila red.). We both had a love for folk music and wanted to do something together. We wanted to be like folk music, but heavier and for that, we needed a drummer and so on. So we got a band together and played our first show in Trakai back in 2012.
Mind, back then we were a very different band, we had a girl on vocals next to the male vocals and the line-up was vastly different.
Robertas: When I joined the band 1,5 years ago, there were seven members. Some of those were dropped, it was simply not working. We also decided to not have any females in the band. No, I’m just kidding about that, but the singer was just not fitting in with the sound we wanted to attain. We wanted to play, as a band, a much heavier sound so some members left at that time. We were simply not on the same line and that showed in the productivity in songwriting. By that time the band had written 5 songs in 4,5 years. In just 1,5 year we wrote 6 songs now and we’re working on more.
At this moment singer Martynas joins.
Martynas: Songs that I actually can sing!
Q: It seems to me that this addition was very significant for the sound of Ūkanose?
R: The thing with Martynas is that he doesn/t play anything, but he listens very well and has a good overview of things. Het looks at it as an outsider.
M.: You really have to take your time for the songs to come together and keep an eye on the theme and topics. For example, we did a song about Viking raids and the Curonians, a tribe from current day Latvia.
R: We have to make the songs relevant to what we want to communicate. We take inspiration from the partisan songs during the Soviet occupation, we make resistance metal!
L: What we write about comes from the inside.
Q: What sort of reception did your music get at first?
R: A friend in Poland, named Leopold, said that we sound like an amazing folk punk band. I guess we have a mixture of punk, metal and folk going on. This is also because Tadas is the punkrock guy, so I think that also helps with a unique sound.
L: There’s something in there for everyone, even for the people in the small villages there’s something to be found in our sound.
M: We want to do a lot of things with our music, it has to be as Linas says something we truly feel like. For example. today I have three events to partake in. Participation is essential to feed the base. You have to be there to make it genuine. But we play only to please ourselves in the end.
R: We participated in a band contest a while ago, where everyone gets to play three songs. For some reason, the judge of that contest decided to say we were Nazis. That makes no sense at all. They decided that our music and message was in that spectrum somehow. That sort of crap comes easily if you try to be different.
Q: So how did that work out? That sort of accusation can really be damaging for a band.
R: It happens a lot here. Maybe itś something political, but there’s a lot of generalization involved with it. Folk metal would automatically be nazi, even though these bands, like ourselves, rarely have any political content.
L: We shouldn’t care about this, but it ruins our reputation.
R: What we did after that is share that information as a video online and asked people this: “These people think we are nazi’s, what do you think?”. No one agreed with the jury…
M: I think these were just very narrow-minded people, who have no clue about music. They are only focussed on that mechanical music and disrespect attempts at making something genuine. They miss the effort that goes in it, the lyrics and the message of a band.
Q: Since you guys sound so different, what sort of reception did you get from the metal crowd?
R: There was this German guy who kept writing to us to tell us that Martynas sucks, he made a whole study of why and how he sucked and kept telling us about it. Unfortunately, there’s always a bit of a negative response from the metal crowd.
Thereś a huge divide between the pop audience and metal crowd I suppose. Metal really resists societies norms, wants to be evil and about satSatand stuff… Though I think it is not as bad in Lithuania.
Q: So what I’m getting is that you guys are about the past in a sense, but is it to reinvoke or reimagine the past or to take from there and be in the now?
R: I think we are a modern band, we are a continuation of that past. There’s something to take and learn from that past. You see Martynas and Linas here, they are real. Let me explain, Martynas for example plays three shows today and takes part in the viking reenactments. Martynas makes things like this leather satchel he is wearing, because he learned how to craft that. Linas is a shieldcrafter and also a reenactor. They are living the things we sing about. Martynas can just live in a forest and be happy there, you know? That makes what they do come from a real place.
M: I just think that if you want to say you are a warrior, if you want to sing about being a warrior, you can’t be some lazy guy just blathering about this while smoking your cigarettes. You have to be what you preach.
Q: Are there any bands you look to as an inspiration for the sound of Ūkanose?
L: When I started shaping this band and its sound, I didn want to sound like anyone else really. I wanted to sound like Ūkanose. Something that wasn’t around at that time and I think that is what we are now. I guess there is some black metal inspiration in the sound though.
M: I wanted this band to sound like Martynas…
R: I think Skyforger would be an automatic inspiration for us, we even covered one of their songs. To me thereś even something of power metal in the music, which is partly the ideas and context it invokes, like Sabaton does.
Q: How do you create your songs as a band?
R: We really start with one idea that comes to the table. We get on top of that with the whole band as a team. In a band like ours, you sort of have to. For example, I can’t write the melodies for the accordeon. We can help eachother add things, change things that don’t work, but we have to work together on that. We make a lot of changes. An then we have to make the songs a lot shorter every time…
Q: Ok, so let us talk a bit about your album that came out last year, the self-titled release. What can you tell me about it, how was the response?
R; The overall response we got was quite positive. We were quite happy that it finally got released actually. The original line-up of Ūkanose couldn’t do all these songs, this one can. Martynas sings all the songs and they are some great songs. Unfortunately the mix was done by someone with a metal background, so the folk is a bit missing when you listen to it.
L: It’s a good start, I give it a 7.
R: I think the album gives a good picture of what we are about, what we try to express and is a great way of saying to the world ‘here we are’! This is us coming out of the mist, as a band and a message. This is what the word Ūkanose actually means; ‘out of the fog’. I also feel it shows artistic integrity, it feels like an honest record to me.
L: For me Ūkanose has a lot of meaning to it, it is about life and death, being between the sky and the earth, it is the connective tissue that binds all of this together. I think the album captures that.
All money was put into this record and it was released on a Russian label. That was not the best idea I think, we should have done that part different. I have nothing against Russia, but with everything going on it may not be such a good thing.
Q: I just watched you guys play live. It’s a great experience with a sound, you can’t really compare to other bands. How would you describe your live show?
M: Well, I like to play as offten as possible actually… I want people to feel welcome at our shows. But now I have to go for the next act of the day. (red. Martynas plays later with Ukanose, a folk project and with Lithuanian black metal legends Obtest).
R: I think it’s a very genuine experience. Martynas is a great frontman for us live, he is just very authentic. I never was into this folk metal sound myself, but I think we sound very speial. Our music is different, it stays closer to something authentic, but it also has something spiritual to it for me.
L: I think we have a bit of a classic rock feel on stage, but itś also really metal to me.
R: The message is to express yourself, like we need to express this in Ūkanose. Don’t let the constraints of society stop you from sharing your message. Just play!
M: But make sure that you have a message!
Q: If you had to compare Ūkanose to a type of food, what would it be and why?
R: Well, that is sort of cheating, but it fits. Mead can be sweet and spicy, but not too shy. We drink mead to Perkunas. We would be a good honey mead of 14,5% alcohol.
M; It’s a celebratory drink.
L: It’s a drink that expresses strong friendship and praise of the bees and honeys, that’s us.
Folk metal ain’t dead, y’all! Sure, Finntroll has become a joke, Alestorm has descended into madness and I don’t even know what happened to Turisas, but there’s still hope. From countries you might not even know about great tunes are coming forth. Ūkanose is one of those bands from Lithuania who create some waves with the self-titled debut.
Lithuanian folk music is heavily characterised by ritualistic chanting and war songs, they have a special quality to them. They feel outlandish, magical and somewhat overwhelming at times. Ūkanose manages to incorporate that into their metal music. So we don’t have a band playing metal with some fiddles, but a genuine blend and that for me is the magic of folk metal.
The songs of Ūkanose offer a specific sadness, a weariness of live and look to the past you also find in Slavic bands like Drudkh. An accordeon gives a bit of a jolly feel to some of the songs, but what really it does is create that continuous flow that is so important in the Baltic music. It makes it also very easy for a listener to jump into their music and feel the passage of time in a more calm and natural way. There’s a closeness to nature in the sound, to tradition and folklore. You don’t even need to understand the lyrics for that.
Ūkanose translates as fog, which is a good metaphor for the sound of the band. The pace is slow, but constantly progressing. The vocals are easy, chanted and often in multiple voices. All in all it’s an album that is much closer to the volky sound of Ugniavijas. A favorite track for me is ‘Skrenc bitela’. The calm repetition of the vocals on such a flat tone is hypnotizing but catching. The guitars merely serve as a heavy fundament to build up the song upon.
This record is one that takes you to a different time and age. It takes you to dancing around the fire in praise of forgotten gods. Noteworthy is the song ‘Gerkime’, a CorvaxCorax cover. This music comes from a genuine place, not just one where you raise drinking horns wearing a kilt. Well worth a listen.
There’s a joke in the name, because Trys just sounds like trees. The profile picture on bandcamp is a fat cat and you might start having doubts about the seriousness of Forest of Trys . Still the sound of the band is not one for light jokes and fun, but a grim affair indeed.
Forest of Trys only has one member listed on Metal Archives, namely Šmėkla. Another fact is that the band hails from Kaunas and did release a full lenght earlier in 2016, titled ‘Architect’.
‘Stars I’ is the opener, which starts with hazy, distorted noisy black metal. It feels like an industrial haze with the lecherous sound of Fat White Family somewhere hidden in the sonic fog (no clue how I take that from it). Then suddenly it merges into an old carnival tune, not dissimilar to the Eraserhead soundtrack by David Lynch. It all sounds just a bit of and wrong, which makes the vibe more slightly unnerving. Guided by martial drumming, the song moves back to the noisey dissonance. Shattering sampling and icy beats follow for the next part of the track, creating a noisy template of assault.
A more gritty sound can be heard on ‘Stars II’, where we seem to move away even further from the noisy black metal sound. Groaning noise pulsates in the air, while string elements create a semblance of style and class in sharp contrast to the colossal noise. Again, such a peculiar sound, but the final song, surprisingly titled ‘Starts III’ really takes the cake. Grim, desolate and full of industrial elements, it consists of more effects and samples of people speaking in an order that feels completely random. Pulsating, humming, squeeking the sont thunders on, with a seemingly random drum pattern offering a semblance of steadiness in the sound.
The record is an almost nightmarish trip. This is a peculiar album, with only black metal as a spirit present. Lithuania seems to have some interesting musicians out there. This record would go down well with noiseheads and experimental listeners too. Nice stuff!
Tuurngait is a new band from Lithuania, that has just released their debut. Not that much else is known about the group from Vilnius, apart from the fact that they certainly don’t sound as if they come in peace. They did show up at the release show of the last Luctus album, so they might have been around for longer than I can see now.
This EP is noteworthy short with just 3 songs and an intro. It’s the bare minimum relaly for an EP, but the band does not disappoint soundwise on this. They’ve also admitted to be very antireligious. The blackened element in their sound gives them a bit of Behemoth, the grandeur I would say, though not as pronounced as the Poles do it.
Dissonant tones anounce the start of the nameless debut. It’s a jangling sound that forms the introduction, creating a moment of anticipation for when ‘Open Sanctum’ unleashes with some thick groovy riffs and powerful, guttural vocals. A bit of effect over the singing makes it sound as if it comes from really deep. A rolling, thunderous bit of death metal, the way you like and love it. Roaring vocals and thick slabs of guitar, hell yeah.
The opening of ‘Crave For The Vultures’ reminds me a little of Debauchery. A roaring, wild assault of battle lusty death metal once more is unleashed by the Lithuanians. It’s a thick, sla of sound that the band delivers, with some guitar weeping through the sonic mass. It just happens that Tuurngait does all of this pretty good. Final song ‘With Fire’ is another full on track, fitting in the more modern death metal tradition. It’s a shame that Tuurngait is such an unknown, mysterious phenomenon now. I would be keen to hear a full album by this energetic new group. Good stuff!
Label: P3lican Partisans Band: Vėlių Namai Origin: Lithuania
Ambient music is like most electronic music genres quite a thing in the Baltics. It’s fairly easy to acquire the means to make it and I suppose it fits in the nouveau hip state of the countries, which you find in the capitals mostly. Still, ambient can also turn back and look at the past or nature, which is exactly what Vėlių Namai is doing on this record ‘Laumių Šokis’.
This one man project is done by Julius Mité, who is a Lithuanian that appears to travel a lot. Still, his music or art (I feel that ambient often drifts in that direction more) is firmly rooted in his motherland. The album is dedicated to Laima, the goddess of earth and pictures of him in ethnic clothing can be found on the Facebook page. This immediately draws me even closer to the music, having just undergone a Romuva wedding in Lithuania myself, this feels close to the heart (yes, my own wedding indeed).
‘Migla’ sounds like what it means, misty with drops falling and gentle piano play piercing the hazy air. It feels a little like some of the ’90s postrock bands. The sound shifts after a good 7 minutes when we shift into ‘Prabundu’ (I’m waking up). The music is introverted, maximizing only the elements it needs to achieve its purpose. Carefully crafted drones fill the lower sound regions and convey the voice of the earthy, while the cobwebs are still lingering in the fuzzy sounds.
The music lends itself for silent contemplation and introspection, it’s slow progressions and eerie soundscapes seem to be of the darker sort, but so is the mind. The listener is suddenly awoken from those thoughts by the vocals on ‘Mudu du, pilkume’ (us, in grey), by Hannah Knowles. Easy going, it breaks the solitude of the songs and breaks the cycle for the listener. After this we get back tot the solemnnity of the drones, synths and rare guitar line, as we find on ‘Laumių šokis (The dance of laumės). The record is not a very open one, the sounds are cavernous even and therefor the earth feels like the surrounding element.
Also there’s a sense of feeling forlorn, drifting through this undeground world and its wide expanses by yourself, weightless with just the mesmerizing drones accompanying you and painting the sight that fails in darkness. Slowly buts surely, all the other stuff falls away and just the elements remain on a minimal song with lamenting tones like ‘Vėlių takais visi mes eisim (The home beyond)’. Graceful and with a natural beauty.
This album is an experience, possibly best enjoyed with the Baltic landscape in view. Get closer to the essence and to the self and this is your soundtrack.