I have a profound love for the Baltics. The rugged land, the history, the people and the beautiful culture. Like the culture of the bards in Russia, the Balts have their own style of singer-songwritership that holds close ties to poetry and ethnic culture, but I digress. I’ve been listening to the music of Imants Daksis for years and though the words and language are something I struggle with, I love his unique sound. It feels completely honest, in addition to having an urgency to it that feels very personal.
Think neofolk, maybe even a bit of the martial stuff and we’re getting towards the sound of Imants Daksis. Ethnic instruments are present, the words are abstract and thought provoking. The voice can be shouting, whispering and everything in between. Daksis is a creative sould of 33 years old. He always appears to be exploring and expressing new forms of art. I don’t know enough about the Latvian music world to say much more.
The title ‘Mūžīgā ģeogrāfa piedzīvojumi’ translates as Eternal Geographical Travels and on it Daksis is, like Rainis and Dostojevski as he writes he writes. As an artist he is trying to make sense of the world. The jangling, slightly dissonant guitar on opener ‘Ir baigi apjaust, ka esi šeit’ is accompanied by the foreboding vocals of Daksis. Never are they polished completely. They always retain a bit of their natural force and roar. The voice is the main instrument for Daksis and therefor always used in exactly the way its intended. Though the sound is essentially Baltic in origin, in addition one can detect various influences. Therefore the music takes on a universal feel and that fits very well into the concept.
The slow trickling ‘Jūdas dziesma’ deals with the forlorn deserts of the land of Judah and the wars that rage there and the meaningless of it all. It sounds so mellow, but haunting as well and slowly grips you. Sometimes playful, always a bit raw on the edges and never overly complicated. Daksis likes to keep things simple and accesible for the listeners. Personal favorite is probably ‘Rudens sapņi’, where in an almost 9 minutes lasting track all the best features of Daksis’ music pass by. The contained energy and expressive voice are captivating and enthrall the listener.
The great charm of Imants Daksis is not merely the force of the music. It’s the subtleties and poetic aspects of the tunes and words, which are utterly brilliant. It’s never giving more than needed, yet neither less. Dream away to a time before the modern age with this album, you’ll enjoy it.
My offerings of underground musics for you are this time Thränenkind, Kannabinõid, Musk Ox and Vektor.
Some out there stuff, specially the last blew me away and Musk Ox is one of the most haunting things in a while. It’s all good, check it out.
Thränenkind – King Apathy Lifeforce Records
If you make your post black-metal band with a twist of crust, post-hardcore and post-rock (yes, that’s a lot of little genre labels) sound like a bad ass rocking outfit, you’ve got something good going. Wildly accesible, the music of Thraenenkind (not everyone deals with the proper writing that well) from Germany is something special to behold. They debuted in 2013 with their album ‘The Elk’, which also displayed the punk/hc roots of the band with anti-capitalist, environmentalist and more isms as inspiration and lyrical matter. That’s all wrapped up in a package of natural beauty.
There’s two faces to Thränenkind (screw this, I’m using the proper writing). One is a bit like Agalloch, embracing the more post-rock influences black metal sound. You can add some more names like Alcest to that list, but it makes the band sound a bit cliché. The other side is a gritty hardcore/crust vibe, more akin to Amebix and Isis mixed together. There are some bands the sound is very akin to, but you can read Angry Metal Guy for the comparisons everyone already stole (props for writing such a good review). The emotive guitar lines would appear to clash with the energetic drumming, but the dreary feel of the melodies is enlivened by that ferocity. It steels the apathy from King Apathy, making it a potent and stirring record. The sound is filled with sorrow, but also vibrant and struggling with itself. A great record for your stormy spring days.
Kannabinõid – Troon Golem Records
How do you call a stoner from Estonia? An Estoner I suppose, but that’s another band from the northest of the Baltic States. Here we’re talking about Kannabinõid, not their brother band with whom they are on tour. The band has released an EP a few years ago, but now the real work starts with their record ‘Troon’, which means ‘throne’. The style they play, the band describes as stonedoom, So I decided to give these guys from Tallinn a spin and check out the three song record they unleashed.
Drones, that’s what you get, long eerie passages of drones in your face. The tones are full of remorse, more akin to a funeral doom band, specially when the organ comes in. There’s no rush here, but the vocals are more confusing. Hushed voices give a ritualistic feel to the music, which adds to the build-up. Then it swells to roaring with the ever slowly cascading riffs crawling onwards. There’s something psychedelic in the sound of these Tallinn inhabitants though, something about the way the drones reverberate. It’s along, heavy trip, but well worth taking with these gents.
Musk Ox – Woodfall Self Released
Canada has some beautiful nature, and in my head much of it is unspoiled by civilized destruction. It speaks to the heart to know there’s still something akin to wilderness in the world. I feel that this is often what is embodied in neofolk music, letting music paint the land. In this case the one where the Musk Ox roams. The group has released many albums and even though ‘Woodfall’ is from 2014, I really wanted to feature it here.
The music is clean, sculpted and so captivatingly melancholic. Taking the lead is the guitar of Nathanaël Larochette, who plays the tantalizingly sweet little pickings that underline the music ensemble. It’s the cello of Raphael Weinroth-Browne and the violin of Evan Runge that soaringly play and tell the stories. It never becomes repetitive or boring, it keeps finding new shapes and movements that keep you enthralled. Its the sort of record that makes you want to stay at home or take a long walk in the forest on your own, its a solitary experience to revel in the tones of this threepiece. They borrow elements from many music styles, which helps create such layered, complex masterpiece. This album is definitely a great piece of music.
Vektor – Terminal Redux Earache Records
I normally don’t cover records on bigger labels, but come on, this record is insane! Vektor are a progressive thrash band from Pensylvania, that has been around for a a good decade. Originally named Locrian, the band puts the word progressive in one of the most stale music genres around. Ok, I’m not trying to diss thrash, bu the genre is a bit retro. Luckily guys like this are pushing the envelope with their maddening sci-fi themed music, that packs quite a punch if I may say so. Wait, sci-fi themed thrash metal with progressive elements? Yes sir, so they did and its one hell of a ride to listen to this reocrd full of weird and amazing.
Look at the artwork! Just look at it, it’s awesome. Don’t doubt for a moment that this record shreds like a motherfucker. I mean, this is some serious thrash. It’s just that you don’t expect the epic synths, choirs and effect on everything. If you need nine minute sfor that, or 1,5 minute, it’s all good. As long as it completely blows you of your socks. The squeel of David Disanto is unmistakable and ever bordering on the insane. The guitars are slugging solo’s at you, like it ain’t no thang and the pace is relentless. Most astonishing is the lenght of the record, with songs clocking over five minutes only, usually closer to ten, filled to the brim with all sorts of unexpected elements. It’s one hell of a ferocious bit of metal, which is hard to fully comprehend and transfer in words. Frantic riffing, hectic twists and turns but mainly a record that is ready to become a classic.
I keep finding great underground records, so here are some with OranssiPazuzu, Deströyer666, Ulvesang and Plateau Sigma.
Oranssi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä 20 Buck Spin Records
The name of the Finnish weirdo’s translates as Orange Pazuzu, a demon from Babylonian mythology. Vocalist Jun His’ used to be active in surrealist rockband Kuolleet Intiaanit. Apparently the band started after seeing Emperor play live. There’s little doubt about the fact that Oranssi Pazuzu is a black metal continuation of that concept. The band thus incorporates psychedelic and progressive elements into their own brand of black metal, which leads to interesting results. The band prefers to not repeat itself, leading to even more fantastic fun, every album is different.
The strange, repetitive riffs feel strangely captivating and lull you into a state of mind that is perplexingly relaxed, while maintaining a sense of wonder. The weird sound effects around the songs are enhancing this weird, submerging experience befitting such a band. Weirdly hypnotic riffs, combined with guttural barks are a strange thing to behold. The almost circular atmosphere the band generates is slightly unnerving, but fascinating at the same time in all its weirdness. Its some truly remarkable music, I have to say. I think I detected a locomotive beat somewhere between the twangy riffing.
Plateau Sigma – Rituals Avantgarde Music
Nothing wrong with a good bit of funeral doom, specially if the band takes the easy going direction that Plateau Sigma embraces. Taking inspiration from the traditional doom/death direction, but also from the Greek and Roman societies of the ancient past, this band is on an interesting trajectory. The cover tells as much, with a warrior lady in full weaponry depicted as on an ancient fresco (the goddess Athena?). The songs are dedicated to the Roman deities and the album itself to Bacchus, because Plateau Sigma believes that their style is the best to represent Dionysian themes. I would disagree, bu tthey make an interesting case that is well worth listening to before judging.
One thing I notice rather quick into listening to this record is the limited vocal range of one of their vocalists (not sure, since most of them take on vocal duties). It just doesn’t add up to the epic scale of the riffs here and there. The general feel of the music makes up for most of that though, in its laid back, pleasant atmosphere. This is normally not the feeling you get from a bit of funeral doom, bu tthe lingering sense of nostalgia somehow captivates you as a listener into a lulling, dreamy state. For a Dyonisian experience I miss the vitality on this record though. It all seems so tame and controlled. It’s a nice listen though, specially when you’re reading D&D novels.
Deströyer 666 – Wildfire Seasons Of Mist
Deströyer 666 is an interesting band with an even more interesting history. Originally the band hails from Melbourne in Australia, but later they moved to the south of the Netherlands, where they resided for a while. When members left and visas expired, the band seems to have scattered towards London. I guess it’s that Eindhoven connection that made me look into this Motörhead of the black metal scene, who’ve come back to the forefront after a long, long time with their new album ‘Wildfire’. K. K. Warslut gathered some new minions around him and its on!
From the fierce opening riff of ‘Traitor’ onwards. There is no fillers on this album, just relentless blackened rock’n’roll with a lot of oldschool swagger and rawness to it. Deströyer 666 is in no way a band that is opening new doors or is innovating the black metal genre, but they are doing everything in a way that suggests they simply don’t give a fuck whether you like it or not, This is rock’n’roll purity in its natural surroundings. What is very noticable is how the band manages to incorporate various traditional metal elements into their sound, without starting to sound cheesy. It actually makes it even more catchy and fun to listen to these guys. I really love this record, I hope you do to.
Ulvesang – Ulvesang Unsigned
They might be unsigned, but someone should catch this haunting trio of neofolk musicians quickly, because wherever this music is coming from I want more of it. The Canadians have many influences, but want to state that they are looking for their very own sound within the genre they describe as dark/neofolk. Spiritualism, paganism and nature combined with an element of melancholy are their main sources of inspiration. It’s clear that bands like Ulver and Agalloch have, wether the band knows them or not, a profound impact on the neofolk scene and I think it can be traced to records like this one.
The music is subtle, evoking images of nature and the northern forests. There is a tranquility to the calm and measured presentation of Ulvesang. It all takes its own pace, the way nature works and how time passes in that realm. Trickling gently, the acoustic instruments are not simple clean sounds but echo and reverberate in the air. The production really facilitates that organic feeling in that sense. There is a darkness to the sound though, which I think prompted the band to note their black metal influences in the tag cloud. Its that dark edge that makes them so captivating to me.