Unfailing – An Interview With Départe

Black metal is an ever-changing beast; shifting, writhing and evolving, but always with the same cold heart. With last year’s stunning album ‘Failure, Subside’ on Season Of Mist, Tasmania’s Départe have made it their own: its cold heart is surrounded by swathes of gorgeous emotive post-metal and howling lashes of dissonant death, creating something both harrowing, uplifting, and wholly unique.

This also nestles them in quite nicely to the incredible and varied line up for Direct Touring‘s fifth birthday celebration, ‘Direct Underground Fest’: Marduk, MGŁA, Ulcerate, Gorguts and Départe. Vocalist/guitarist Sam Dishington was kind enough to sit down amidst preparations for the Friday night Sydney show to answer a few questions.

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Hey Sam! Thanks so much for your time. We’ll start with the shows you’re doing this weekend, Direct Underground Fest: Marduk, Gorguts, MGLA, Ulcerate and Departé. That’s the greatest line-up Australia has seen in years! How did that come about?

– It really is a massive line-up isn’t it? We are all very excited, and I’d be lying if I said we weren’t also pretty nervous – to be sharing the stage with some of the best in the business is not only a huge honour, but it’s a pretty big responsibility! We heard about the tour in its very early stages, back when it was only one or two bands. We eagerly expressed our interest in being a part of it, and thankfully David at Direct Touring found us to be a suitable support act.

You’ve toured with Ulcerate before. Which of the other bands are you personally the most excited to share a stage with?

– We have played with Ulcerate many times since we started this band, they are good friends of ours and we are incredibly thankful to be able to share the stage with them again. We also played with Gorguts once before in Melbourne back in 2014, and that was an amazing and humbling experience. I know everyone in the band is extremely excited to see Mgła, given that we are all huge fans of their work and we never thought we’d get to see them play, let alone in Australia. To top all that off, being given the honour of supporting someone as long-standing and influential as Marduk is very exciting for us.

Your last album “Failure, Subside” was an absolutely crushing, emotional beast that simply demanded its inclusion on many end of year ‘best of’ lists, my own included. How do you feel about the overwhelmingly positive reaction to it?

– Releasing ‘Failure, Subside’ to such positive response has been a very exciting and humbling experience for us. We didn’t know if anyone was going to like it, we worked so hard to make it happen, it took a very long time, and it’s a very personal album, so even handing it over to the label when it was finished was terrifying – at least for me. I remember starting to get really anxious when I heard about it being sent out to various websites and magazines for review, I felt like I wasn’t ready to know if people thought it was good or not. But, when the first track was premiered, and all the positive reviews started coming in, it felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. The support and encouragement we’ve received from this release has been a real blessing to all of us.

For an album so bleak and dissonant, the fascinating flipside of it is that it packs an incredible emotional weight, helped in no small way by the inclusion of your clean vocals. They’re quite frankly great. Do they come naturally to you, or is it something you’ve had to develop?

– Thank you! For some reason, I’ve always liked the idea of clean vocals in metal, though it’s not always particularly well executed. I used to be really awful at it, as is evidenced on the first album by Separatist, the band I used to do vocals for. Regardless, I stuck with it. Over the years my voice developed into something far more mature, and when Départe came to be my voice just happened to sit well in this style. As we developed the band’s sound we knew that that kind of emotive clean singing in our genre would be a little divisive, but as with everything we do in this band, we’re just doing what we love, and we loved that sound. Thankfully, it wound up being a fairly substantial point of difference for us, which has proven beneficial.

It seems to be a very introspective, cathartic album; and from a technical standpoint I’m a huge fan of the sound. Can you shed some light on the writing and recording process?

– I’m really glad you like the sound, we are incredibly happy with how the production turned out. Half Moon Productions, the folks that mixed the album, is composed of a friend of ours, Jamie Marinos, and his business partner Lance Prenc. They specialize in more of the modern metalcore/deathcore/djent style mixes – in fact, if I’m not wrong, I think we were the first band in the realms of black/death/post metal that they’d ever mixed. But, we had heard their previous work, and we decided they were the right fit for the job, especially based on their ability to dial in a really thick, heavy bass tone. So it was something of a gamble, but we really believe it paid off and that they nailed it. Drums were recorded at Red Planet Recording Studio in Hobart by a friend of ours, Nic White, and everything else was recorded in my bedroom, with assistance once again from Nic, who helped out with mic placement and allowed us to borrow some of his gear.

There seems to be a fair amount of great black/blackened Tasmanian bands vs. population. Do you reckon there’s truth to the thought that being amidst the isolated forest peaks at the bottom of the world fuels inspiration?

– Yes and no. I think being in such a small community that’s somewhat isolated from the rest of the country has the potential to cultivate particular styles and movements, but at the same time with advances in technology and connectivity we’re really not that isolated any more. 

Recently you guys have been doing a bit of charity work, raising funds for White Ribbon, which I reckon is fantastic. Is that something you’ll continue to do in the future?

– We plan to continue with that sort of thing, yes. It’s important to all of us that this band amount to more than just music and lyrics. People are starting to pay attention to us, and we all believe that in that situation, even though we’re still relatively new, it’s our responsibility to try to make a difference to the community around us. It’s all well and good for us to play music because we love it, and we do love it, but it’s far more fulfilling to know that we are able to reach beyond ourselves to make someone else’s life better through our words and our actions. We hope that our actions will encourage more people to do the same, not necessarily for the same causes that we stand for, but to find something that they’re passionate about, something that affects their community, their loved ones, and make a stand for change.

I’d imagine you guys have a wide range of influences and great listening tastes, I think it may have been you Sam that got me on to Hexis in an article I read once. Any other ace recommendations of artists you’ve been particularly inspired by, or have just been jamming lately that everyone should check out?

– Ah yes, I remember that article, that would have been the Bandcamp Bargain Bin list I contributed to. As far as bands that have particularly inspired me, and probably shaped what Départe became over the years, I’d have to say Celeste, Isis, Rosetta (we got our name from one of their early songs), Altar of Plagues, Deathspell Omega, Plebeian Grandstand, and Ulcerate. I’ve also always been a big fan of Deftones, they are a huge influence on my writing, and they have been ever since White Pony came out. As far as stuff I’ve been jamming lately, right now I am listening to ‘A Perpetual Descent’ by Greytomb, which is excellent. They’re good friends of mine, and it’s great being able to listen to and enjoy something so much that your friends have created. In addition to that, lately I’ve been listening to Dodecahedron, Ulsect, Varaha, Old Solar, Skáphe, The Drowned God, Zhrine, Kollwitz, Gevurah, Pianos Become The Teeth and, just to shake things up, the score to The Revenant.

Being that you guys are at the forefront of the current metamorphosis of the archetypal black metal sound twisting from its origins and assimilating other influences to devastating effect, what’s your opinion of the current state of the genre?

– I think this genre has so much potential, as is evidenced by the vast amounts of different bands moving taking the style in all sorts of different directions. There’s always trends, as with any genre, but above all I really believe the genre is growing, shifting, and evolving. It’s very exciting.

What’s in the forseeable future for the band after this run of shows? Thinking about the next album yet?

– We’re working on getting back overseas hopefully in the near future. Aside from that, I’m sure there will be a few more Australian shows before too long, though nothing confirmed yet. We actually plan to start work on writing for the next album fairly soon after Direct Underground Fest. We want to try some new things, new techniques, and get better at working together as a band as far as writing is concerned, so we are allowing ourselves a great deal of time to get used to that.

Thanks again guys, can’t wait to see you decimate this weekend! Anything else you’d like to add?

– Not really mate, we’re very much looking forward to seeing everyone at these shows on the weekend!

You really should catch Départe and the rest of the excellent line up at either The Factory Theatre Sydney on Friday 17th, or The Corner Hotel Melbourne on Saturday 18th. Tickets still available from http://directtouring.oztix.com.au/

Support Départe: 

Donate to White Ribbon: https://www.whiteribbon.org.au

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Your Doom Awaits – A Review of Funerary Descent’s ‘Ov Chasms Beyond’

“Funerary Descent is the always present dread.

Funerary Descent is the void of existence.

Funerary Descent is the madness of eternity.”

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Have you ever heard of the “Windlass of Erasmus”? Well, as the tale goes, Saint Erasmus of Formia was a Christian saint and martyr who died back in the heady days of 303 AD. He is venerated as the patron saint of both sailors and abdominal pain. Why abdominal pain? Because his death was allegedly the product of one of history’s cruelest and most harrowing forms of torture.

Ol’ Elmo apparently shuffled off the mortal coil in a particularly horrifying way. Bound on a rack by Romans a neat little incision was made in his abdomen and his intestines separated from his stomach, attached to the windlass and then spooled slowly out of him; winding around the makeshift crank as he writhed in what was sure to be excruciating pain. He died an agonized and protracted death, completely helpless and only able to watch as his guts were removed incrementally and inexorably from his body. Why do I mention this? Because the sheer pain, suffering and sense of doom you would be consumed by in that situation is the closest approximation to the experience created by US duo Funerary Descent‘s despair-filled debut album ‘Ov Chasms Beyond’.

The trauma begins with the portentous sound of a solitary piano in a storm… Before everything then explodes in a grand thunderclap of rain-drenched misery. Opening track ‘It Crawls In The Venomous Hollow’ is ten minutes of the most soul-draining funereal wretchedness you’ll have heard in your life; the guitar tone bitingly morose while each ponderous, echoing drum hit is the sound of seconds ticking by while your life is running out. The riffs scrape past like nails on a blackboard and you can almost feel them sucking the life out of you. The rasping vocals have stepped up; they possess a new savagery and are far more powerful compared to the throatwork on their 2016 demo ‘Winds of Dissonance’. In fact, in my opinion everything about this is a huge step up; more vital, deadlier, blacker.

Something the duo of Dread (also of Vampyric Bvrial) and Blind (ex Serapheum) already did astoundingly well on their last demo was envelop you with their compositions and paint a vivid mental image of the terror; here they’ve not only kept up the standard but somehow managed to hit all new levels of devastating clarity. Visions of cloaked figures move slowly toward you in procession, a horrifying visage as the midnight rain pours on your wracked and broken body. You’re right there, soaked, delirious, frozen in pain and terror; the spool of your intestines growing larger with every passing minute.

Second death rite ‘Sunderance Ov The King’s Manor’ is where the ravens appear, circling and waiting in the shadows to ravage your flesh and pick your corpse until only bones remain. The opening dirge was merely a warm up, now the torturous element of their sound really comes into play. At over thirteen minutes long the track is given ample space and time to be sure its morbid task is done to greatest effect, miasma seeping in and filling every inch of your lungs as the death-knell riffs turn the windlass evermore.

Third passage ‘Eternal War of the Eclipsing Sun’ is where things reach critical mass. Opening with the sounds of a panicked battle, this battle is also your own as you fight for what remains of your slowly fading life. Several tempo changes from a relative canter to a depraved crawl make this the most dynamic track on the album, while the storms remain ever-present, bearing morbid witness to your final, struggling breaths.

And then, mercifully and yet all too soon, it’s over. Titular final piece ‘Ov Chasms Beyond’ is an instrumental accompaniment as your spirit, finally freed of its shattered flesh prison, passes almost gratefully into the next plane of existence.

I sometimes find it hard to connect with your typical blackened doom act, but there’s absolutely no danger of that happening here. The misery is simply exquisite. A remarkable debut in which the hellish duo have not only challenged your pain tolerance and capacity for torture, but delivered on the promise of the demo in spades. The same spades wielded by hooded and moonlit figures, digging your shallow grave in a location nobody will ever find, right now.

Available 27th April through the one and only Fólkvangr Records. Limited to 50 copies, pre-orders up now. Your doom awaits.

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Purchase Funerary Descent‘s ‘Ov Chasms Beyond’ on cassette from Fólkvangr Records here, and keep an eye out for a digital copy soon from their own Bandcamp here.

Support Funerary Descent:

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Ab Absurdo (In Sterquilinus Invenitur) – An Interview with Wolok

Slowly we ruin and spoil what we designed

Surely we wreck and crush the flesh of our flesh

Grind the bones of our bones

Dissolve the spirit of our spirit

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Warning: Wolok do not create music for the weak at heart. Their albums are not safe places. The turgid madness and gibbering insanity within can only be described as an assault on the mind, not through intensity but through channeling the surreal, absurd and hideous; challenging and in opposition of everything.

I discovered this for the very first time when their latest symphony of sickness was heaved splattering upon my doorstep towards the end of last year. One listen to their side of split with Rotting Heaven ‘The Anatomy of Madness’ and I was hooked; spiralling down the wretched vortex of their discography until I wasn’t even sure what was real anymore. To help make sense of it all I asked main vessel and conduit for their discordant delights Eymeric Germain, holed up in his native habitat of Luxembourg, if he could provide any further insight. Having given grotesque birth to the project back in 2003 alongside vocalist LucLhükkmer’thz” Mertz plus being wholly responsible for the name Wolok when he utilised a moment of trance-like automatic writing to scrawl the word in logo format; who better to attempt to explain the lunacy? Thankfully, he obliged, the resulting conversation both restoring some semblance of my sanity and simultaneously making it much, much worse.

It should go without saying that I’m now a huge fan of their work and cannot recommend it highly enough to fans of the unconventional and downright disturbing; so without further unnecessary or woefully inadequate words, prepare as best you can and read on below to tumble scrabbling and flailing into the seething black hole that is Wolok.

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Hello Eymeric! Sincerest thanks for speaking with us. So, for some unfortunate reason I’d never heard the sweet sounds of WOLOK before last year’s split with ROTTING HEAVEN, ‘The Anatomy of Madness’. I’ve since traversed the warped, evil landscapes of your discography and aside from absolutely loving it, I have to ask… What the hell is going on in your heads?

– Your words of support and wisdom suit us right to the heart. It is always rewarding to know we can still thrill new fans with our music, even somewhat belatedly. As you traversed the evil landscapes of our discography and now know every single note of each song, I guess you noticed there is indeed a whirlwind of mess and noise spiralling in our heads. I cannot speak for the other two members in the band, but in my case, being the project’s mastermind, I go into a trance-like state when I lock myself in the room and compose. Writing music for WOLOK is like to be blind for a few hours. It is like I cut myself off from the world and explore unconscious territories, reaching the inner spheres of chaos and savagery. I am a very calm, poised and serene person in everyday life, but when I go into that trance-like WOLOK shit, I get caught up in subconscious fear, anger, sorrow, anxiety, extravagance, lunacy and absurdity. Hence the bizarre tunes.

Being a little abstract: what would you say WOLOK is, what is its purpose, and how did it come to exist? Is it the same beast as it was fifteen years ago?

– My only purpose with WOLOK is to basically express my creativity, my vision of dismal music, my own interpretation of dark arts and, of course, to give free rein to my bleakest urges. WOLOK is not a band per se; it is more a collective studio project. Obviously, our artistic approach has progressed over time, but you will always have that twisted governing principle on all releases. Whatever the release, you should be immediately able to say “yes of course, this is WOLOK”. Musically, WOLOK is unpredictable. ‘Universal Void‘ (2003) was a primitive and crude black hole, ‘Servum Pecus‘ (2006) and ‘Caput Mortuum‘ (2009) were convoluted, tortuous efforts… while our most recent works (‘The Silver Cord‘ EP in 2013 and ‘The Anatomy Of Madness‘ split album in 2017) head more towards blackened doom territories. The beast has evolved over the years but the ugliness is intact.

Much of your work often sounds like a variety of deteriorating mental and physical deformities given audio form. What is your writing process like? Do you have any premeditated idea or purpose in mind when you begin to write, or is it more of a cathartic channeling of whatever demented energies need to escape at the time?

– The way I write music is not standard. It is mainly based on improvisation. The blackness springing from the strings is spontaneous and uncontrolled. I actually always worked like that. Typically, I will spend three or four full days writing and recording music, partially or completely cut off from the outside world. Then Cypher will take the lead to arrange and enhance the whole magma, just before Luc pukes the words of madness. Then it can happen I do not play any instrument anymore for one or two years… until the next ritual.

As opposed to the usual satanic or occult themes, in both sound and word your overall body of work almost seems a wild, nihilistic and negative celebration of chaos, absurdity and utter hatred. Would you say this resembles your personal philosophies and thoughts on humanity?

– I am someone discreet and down-to-earth. But the lyrics reflect really personal views on the meaning of life. There is a strong parallel between the absurdity of existence and our meandering, sinuous tunes. I am not willing to elaborate a bit more on that, since my lyrics are entirely open to self interpretation.

Heading back to the 2017 split with ROTTING HEAVEN: that was fucking mental and probably bears the least resemblance to “standard” black metal of anything you’ve done so far, which is saying something. How did it come about? Were you happy with it?

– Definitely more than satisfied. That split album is fantastic and sounds exactly the way I wanted to, exploring the richness of Black Arts through different prisms. I agree that our approach gets some distance from usual Black Metal as you say, but this is just WOLOK’s own interpretation of Black Metal. It is deviant. Hard to predict. Out of control. Unreliable. The three songs are so different from each other; I think we have now reached a multifaceted depth. ‘The Murky Waters Of Life’ sounds, as its name suggests… fucking murky. The song’s structure is so turbid and disconcerting. Then ‘Tremors’ will lead you into the oblivion of dementia, with a grandiose doom finale. ‘Skull Gnawer’ will eventually destabilize everyone with a basic, repetitive and unusually melodic construction, opening the gates of hope and transcendence.

I believe the split was mixed and mastered in 2015. Why the two year delay before release? Pressing plant woes?

– There were no pressing plant issues. Death Knell Productions is a really small underground entity and they offer quality releases with an admirable passion. Their dedication is boundless but those dudes also have regular life and jobs and shit, and of course they cannot always stick to their initial reverse scheduling plan. The delay was considerable, but who cares…

You’ve worked with a few labels throughout the life of the band, but the last couple of releases have been through Death Knell Productions. How has it been working with them?

– As mentioned above, they’re a small Russian structure devoted to underground black filth. I got in touch with Shamil back in 2013 and we quickly clinched a deal to release ‘The Silver Cord’ EP on Death Knell Productions. Their back catalogue is utterly brilliant and I robustly recommend you to check VTTA, ROTTING HEAVEN, HUMAN SERPENT, DRAUG and THE PALE HAND.

Do you listen to many artists that you consider truly experimental, avant-garde or just plain boundary pushing, and have any influenced WOLOK at all?

– I listen to so many musical genres. I’m open to any kind of music, provided that it tugs at my heartstrings. But when it comes to experimental & avant-garde music, the artistic palette is infinite. I mean, what does “experimental” signify? What does “avant-garde” signify? The definition is complex as it gathers countless artistic flairs. My favourite bands are VIRUS, ULVER, ZEAL & ARDOR, SHINING (from Norway – not the Swedish pricks), KING CRIMSON, OXYPLEGATZ, HAIL SPIRIT NOIR, ARCTURUS, ORANSSI PAZUZU, JAMBINAI and incalculable others. I could drop names for hours. But I think there is no interaction between those reverenced influences and WOLOK as I do not pretend to equal the talent of those artists.

This is going back a few years, but I learned while researching this piece that you used to run Foedus Aeternus, the French ‘zine, label and distro. Why did you close that down? Would you do something like that again?

– We simply decided to stop all activities under Foedus Aeternus (magazine / label / distro) for personal reasons: lack of time, progressive dedication loss, etc. I have really good memories from that period and would definitely like to do something like that again if I was able to. I mean if I had free time again.

As far as I am aware, WOLOK has never been a live entity. What would it take for you to go down that route?

– WOLOK has never been a live entity. WOLOK will never be a live entity. We all live far from each other and never rehearse. We all have time-consuming jobs, we all have children, etc. Playing live as a band requires rigour… precision… sacrifices… blood! Just to show you we are definitely an atypical band: Luc (vocals) has never met Cypher (drums & arrangements) in person.

What’s next for WOLOK? And, if you’d be so kind as to throw a bone to all the fans of your twisted black vomit: any news on another full-length yet?

A new full-length album, ‘Fading Mirth And Dry Heaves’, is indeed in progress. It is composed of five new eccentric songs. At the time of writing this, Luc is recording all vocals parts. I am quite confident our fans will be discountenanced again. I wish the album could be released by the end of the year or early next year. Annihilation soon.

And lastly… Someone asks you to show them the definitive WOLOK track. What do you do?

– Tough question, but I think I would pick an insidious song called ‘Bitter Swill’ from the upcoming album. I think it perfectly depicts the essence of the contemporary WOLOK. You will understand what I mean when you listen to that song in a couple of months.

Sincerest thanks once again for your time and allowing us a glimpse into the madness. Any final words?

– Massive thanks for your support Aaron. Our devious cacophony will make your readers weaker everyday if they dare to dig our discography on our Bandcamp page: www.wolok.bandcamp.com.

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Purchase Wolok‘s ‘The Anatomy of Madness’ split with Rotting Heaven on CD from Death Knell Productions here.

Support WOLOK:

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The End of All Pain – A Short Interview With Inner Suffering

You may recall Ukrainian one man depressive ambient project Inner Suffering from back in Bandcamp Misanthropy Volume 15. Well, since that last feature on the mesmerising shot of audio lithium that was ‘It’s All The Same In The End’, the prolific SadVoice has given painful birth to three more albums. One of which, February’s ‘Slow Dance on the Ashes of Failure’ (just released on CD through Share Your Pain Records) is especially notable for one particular reason: It marks what I believe to be the first time he has collaborated with another like-minded soul for his art. Furthermore, that soul is none other than Kimberlee (ex-vocalist of US cosmic black metal duo Synodic), who originally brought the project to my attention and who provided some words about it in the previous feature.

Reaching out to the reclusive SadVoice, I wondered what it was like to finally allow someone else to be part of his creation?

“Usually I’m glad that I work alone, but sometimes I wish there was someone to help me create things, because doing everything yourself could be exhausting,” he said. “Lack of ideas and such. Working with Kimberlee was very nice and easy, despite the distance and no idea of what this album would be.”

I bet. Kimberlee features on ‘Into Submission’, ‘Unhealthy Obsession Part 1’ and ‘Just A Memory’. Could a little light could be shed on the creative process between you both?

“I had only the name of an album and a couple of untitled instrumental tracks. Each of us wrote the lyrics on our own, without trying to combine and make it like one story or something, without concept, everything was personal. Well, she shared her lyrics in the process of writing, but I had no ideas at all. My lyrics came up suddenly. It all ended up like a story anyway. Like a dialog between us, even if we wrote about our own things, and I find it absolutely amazing. So yeah, our collaboration was definitely a good experience.”

Sounds like it.

“And by the way; there’s a plan to make a new project, where we will be working together.”

Excellent news, I’ll keep an ear out. Even from a very first listen, you can tell Inner Suffering is an intensely personal project. What does the project mean to its creator?

“A kind of therapy, maybe, I don’t know. Something like letting out the negativity to feel better, but it doesn’t work really, it only becomes captured in the music and I sometimes come back to it, so basically it never goes away, only stacks (actually it stacks even without music, lol). Can’t say I feel any good after finishing an album, but I enjoy the process of making them.”

Speaking of feelings, what do you hope for the listener to take away from the experience?

“I never really cared about how people would react, since it’s kind of a personal thing, but I always wanted to share feelings, spread the inner pain, to make music that will make you feel bad/sad/depressed if you want, but it won’t let you go. Something that you really enjoy listening to, but it makes you feel down. Paradox. Nice if someone could interpret it in his own way.” I definitely get that. “Also, I do it because I can’t do anything else in life.”

And you do it well, 31 releases and counting. Are you constantly creating? Why is this so?

“I just have too much free time. Too much time to keep drowning in thoughts about different things bothering me, like there’s no rest from this crap. Endless cycle of my negative mind that keeps me down. So I keep creating stuff, even when I don’t want to, because I see there’s too much already and it doesn’t feel right, but I have to. I simply can’t stop. Well, actually I may stop now for a bit, because I have no ideas at all. Anyway, time will tell.”

As it turns out, he wasn’t kidding about that last part. Since speaking to me he has released one more EP, entitled ‘Always Wrong’, described it on his Bandcamp page as “NOT black metal” and said this about it:

“This might be the end of this project, like no joke. I’m out of inspiration for anything, feeling terrible in general and my laptop is dying. So eksdee… I wish I was dying.”

If this does prove to be the twilight of the project, at least we’re left with a sizeable body of masterfully morose and beautifully flawed work to comfort us through despairing nights. Available for name-your-price download from Bandcamp, is it all really about to end? As the man himself says: Time will tell.

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Pick up ‘Slow Dance on the Ashes of Failure’ at name-your-price download from the Inner Suffering Bandcamp above, or on CD from Share Your Pain Records here.

Support Inner Suffering:

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Elven Tales – A Review of Dwarrowdelf’s ‘The Sons of Fëanor’

Dwarrowdelf is a one-man studio project from Southampton, UK, walking the utterly untrodden path of Tolkien-based epic black metal.“

Clearly written with a wry sideways smile, the self awareness in that promotional blurb is refreshing. This has all been done before, yes; but Dwarrowdelf‘s debut album ‘The Sons of Fëanor’ proves itself more than a mere emulation or adherence to a proven formula. No, this is this individual’s own personal take on the saturated sub-genre, and you can tell he loves what he does.

Don’t let that little self-deprecating jibe mislead you about the album either. There are no jokes or jolly jaunts found here, this is some serious Tolkien worship and a massive slab of truly superb epic black metal that constantly surprised me throughout every twist and turn of its hour-long journey. Main man Tom O’Dell stated in a previous interview that Michał at Wolfspell Records offered a deal within hours of receiving the record; the only reason I can imagine as to why it took even that long for him to respond is that after hearing the album once, he had to play it through again to believe what his ears were telling him. And then again after that.

Whereas his previous EP ‘Of Darkened Halls’ was moreso centred around the Dwarves of Tolkien’s work, here the focus is squarely on the Elves of ‘The Silmarillion’. Seven songs; seven tales to tell the story of the seven Sons of King Fëanor and their oath to recover his jewels (the ‘Silmarils’). It admittedly has been a long time since I’ve read the source material but it’s clear Mr. O’Dell knows the lore and tells it well with not only a great lyrical interpretation but musically too, being quite adept at composing the perfect emotional sonic accompaniment to each chapter of the Elves’ tragic saga. The darkness in opening chapter ‘Amrod’ is delicate and exquisite, while stirring teaser track ‘Caranthir’ is utterly enthralling and the sorrowful solemnity throughout the subterranean ‘Curufin’ draws you in and contains just the right amount of mystery and wonder. Special mention for the keys in this too, they’re particularly well done and are utilised to enchanting effect.

The vocal performance is solid but in my opinion his cleans are the surprise, restrained and the perfect tone for the material. Guitars are great; this man can riff, and he certainly knows his way around a tune as the songwriting skill on display here is fantastic (check out the killer ‘Amras’ for proof of both of those points).

The only minor qualm I have with this release is unfortunately and often unavoidably a common one for one-man projects: the programmed drum sound. It isn’t bad by any means; I just kinda hope he somehow gets to work with a live drummer one day as his epic compositions deserve much more of a human, earthy feel than the sterility of programmed drums can provide. As it is, it serves only a mild distraction at times and doesn’t overly detract from the listening experience.

Grand in scope and executed to near perfection, Dwarrowdelf has added its unique voice to the throng of epic black metal artists and it’s a voice that rings strong and clear, rising above the multitudes. If you’re at all a fan of folky, epic black metal you’d be doing yourself an injury to not pick this up when it releases on digital/CD through Wolfspell Records on 30th April, and at the very least expect to hear much more from this man in future. Excellent work.

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Pick up teaser track ‘Maedhros’ at name-your-price download from the Dwarrowdelf Bandcamp above, or keep an eye on Wolfspell Records here for CD and Vinyl pre-orders.

Support Dwarrowdelf:

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Bandcamp Misanthropy – Volume 16

The bottomless wellspring of Bandcamp is overflowing with great shit just waiting to be discovered. This series aims to shine light on the freshest emanations and foulest incantations from its darkest corners, a few artists at a time. Here’s the sixteenth installment for your vulgar delectation. Enjoy.

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Artist: Karcist

Year: 2018

Kicking open the gates, we begin with some weaponized modern black death from the USA. Savage trio Karcist dropped their debut EP ‘Inner Sanctum Immolation’ in a burst of flame and sulphur at the end of January, and it’s pretty damn solid.

Whether they’re in death mode (‘The Leech’), black mode (‘Absent Muses’) or a menacing blend of both (the demoniacal final track ‘Incursion of Christ’), they do a great job of it and they’ll only get better from here. I personally hope subsequent releases see them either adding a touch more guttural filth to their sound, or honing it even further to where it could slice through bone with lazer precision. As it is however, it’s an impressive debut and you’d be remiss to not throw them some infernal hails on their Bandcamp for a name-your-price download. Neat cover art/logo too.

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Artist: Olxane

Year: 2018

Yet another excellent project from Netherlands-based maestro T, the shadowed mastermind behind Kaffaljidhma, Himelvaruwe and a multitude of others. The debut Olxane release ‘Primitive Casket’ sees him in fine form, although whilst he still taps the rich vein of transcendent raw black that he does so well this may have an even stranger subversive feel than anything I’ve heard from him yet. The melodies are almost uplifiting; while everything still retains a bleakness, both tracks on offer have a certain odd warmth to them and call to my mind images of sunlight glinting off dust motes as it streams hazily through an old, paint-peeled window in an otherwise darkened room. Weird to describe a raw black metal album like that, I know; but just have a listen and you’ll see what I mean.

The dissonance between the hum of the layered guitars is fascinating and I love the beautiful little outros to both tracks. Few artists are able to intrigue me like this; a truly unique vibe. Up for name-your-price download with a cassette release coming later this year. I’ll be buying it.

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Artist: Heir

Year: 2017

“Man does not deserve this earth he inherited

We accept it and spread this word”

The Frenchmen in Heir know we are fucked. They also inject ‘Au Peuple De L’abîme’ (“To The People Of The Abyss”), their debut album of intense post-black sludge, with a tasty progressive approach resulting in an engaging and kinetic debut album that’s heavy and unpredictable, suitably nihilistic and altogether thoroughly enjoyable music for us to listen to as the ship we have built for humanity is sinking inexorably down into the irretrievable depths, with us chained to it. Hey, how thoughtful of them.

Thrilling, sinister, creepy and furious; they can transition seamlessly between moods at the drop of a hat. The whole thing just gets better the further you travel on its winding roads, to the point where final track ‘Cendres’ is frankly spectacular. If these were the men that stayed and played as the Titanic sank, I’d stand there and listen. Do yourself a favour and hit up a name-your-price download available from the link below. Top notch.

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Artist: Zeit

Year: 2017

Heading off on a different tangent: some blackened drone sludge from Zeit (‘Time’). I can’t find much info on this, but it is the second part of a two part EP series titled ‘I’ and ‘II’ and has a slightly clearer production than you may be expecting, giving it an almost relaxing feel like laying listening to rain fall at night. Which, incidentally, is how I’ve been listening to it; the hypnotic properties of the recurring riff-mantras have lulled me off to sleep more than a few times now.

With no drums and no pesky vocals there are no distractions from the drone, so cop this at name-your-price download and drift away on swathes of distortion.

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Artist: Bloodbark

Year: 2018

“…We still remain anonymous for now. We want the music to speak for itself – we wish the art and the nature to represent Bloodbark. The nature portrayed is our home and we want it to be yours as well.”

It may not surprise you after reading the above quote that there is precious little information available about this project. Luckily ‘Bonebranches’, the debut album from Bloodbark, speaks far more eloquently than mere words would convey. This is a beautiful, cold and awe inspiring creation; you don’t so much listen to it as experience its harmonious winds caressing your ear drums, whispering to you everything you could ever need to know.

“Majestic” is a term that gets flogged to death in atmospheric/epic black metal reviews by any idiot who pretends he can write about music (ahem), but the music these mysterious folk create is the very definition of the word. See the picture on the front cover? Each of the three lengthy compositions here are the perfect musical counterpart to it. The grand sweeping songs, mostly mid-paced and tinted with sorrow and wonder, are just so damned majestic and will make you yearn for places you’ve never been.

The performances are wonderful, but even they play second fiddle to the overwhelming atmosphere conveyed by this release. Seriously, if this music portrays their home, I want to move there. Available at name-your-price download and in even better news has been picked up for an extremely well-deserved vinyl release by Northern Silence Productions.

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Artist: Drugoth

Year: 2018

Tolkien themed blackened crust from Australia? Alright. Solo berzerker Drugoth has spurted out his second EP ‘Legions of the Great Eye’ like ichor from a dying orc. With most tracks around a minute or less in length plus some great knuckle-dragging ignorant riffs that will make you want to throw down and club someone’s skull in with a spiked mace, your average Summoning fan may not find much to like here, but in my opinion this is fun as all fuck.

Solid vocals, great tone for what it is; there’s nothing I can say is wrong here. If you dig it and want more bone crunching black punishment you’re in luck too, his debut EP is also killer and both are up for name-your-price download. Hail the Drugoth. More please.

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Artist: The Projectionist / Féretro

Year: 2018

A split borne of pure savagery. Canada’s The Projectionist open proceedings and lull you into a false sense of security with a dungeon-synth-esque intro, before the most hellish and pulverising sound they’ve ever conjured explodes from your speakers. Lord Matzigkeitus is in fucking stellar form with some almost unbelievable sounds vomiting forth from his inhuman vocal chords while every one of their tracks is diabolical fire; almost primitive brutality melded with spiteful speed and hate-filled cold melodic riffs. Good shit, but it isn’t over yet: Brazil’s Féretro are here to continue bludgeoning you to death in the name of Satan, stripping further back to riff-heavy levels of blasphemy. With a great no-nonsense sound they hammer the final nails in this impure coffin with ease; your death is complete.

One of the best splits I’ve heard so far this year; grab a name-your-price download below or hit up Appalachian Noise Records to grab the limited tape. If there’s any left.

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Artist: Nightgrave

Year: 2018

Up next, an excellent blend of ambient atmospheric post-black from India. Formed in 2016 Nightgrave is the work of one man, the mysterious R; which is somewhat unbelievable given the variety and depth of textures on display here and proves to be even more impressive when you realise he drops an album every couple of months.

And all of those albums are great. I’d not yet heard any of his previous work before pressing play on latest offering ‘Nascent’, a grave oversight on my behalf that has since been rectified; but for the purpose of this article we’ll stick to this release.

The lush tones and yearning tremolo of charming opener ‘Forbidden Truth’ lull you into a placid state before he brings the hammer down harder for the second half of the track; a few intriguing and unusual melodies are at play here too, something which carries on for the rest of the album. Second movement ‘Darklight’ continues and as you listen to its raw, driving blackness it’s now that you realise this is going to be one dynamic journey; especially when the song turns seamlessly on a dime into transcendent Isis-like post-sludge. Superb, and completely unexpected.

I also need to make mention of the vocals, as I found them quite versatile. Whatever style/mood he is creating R has a delivery to suit, from depressive rasps and howls to distant, echoing spoken word, they do more than get the job done. The crushing savagery of ‘In Extremis’ is another particular highlight and how it then manages to perfectly flow into the introspective ‘Cold Hands’ is gorgeous, while the switch-up towards the end of ‘Purification by Fire’, where he trips from whimsy and melancholy post rock into the most furious black metal on the album and back again is impeccably executed, and a spectacular note to finish on.

How does one man constantly churn out songs this compelling, you ask? I’ve no idea, and it’s not even his only project: have a listen to the similar-yet-different Raat EP ‘Selfless’ here, and trek back through his name-your-price Nightgrave discography via the link below.

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Artist: S U T U R E

Year: 2018

People are pollution

Death is the solution.

This savage little French black crust/powerviolence EP was originally set off on its destructive mission digitally 12 months ago, and is finally dropping physically any day now through Black Pandemie Prod’. Featuring members of recent BMD favourites Karne and Névrose yet more vicious than either, S U T U R E‘s debut only exists for two reasons: to fuck you up, and to see the total eradication of the human race.

The track titles are a dead giveaway of their intent: ‘Miserable Insect’, ‘Human Slaughterhouse’ and ‘Wrong Life’. No, there will be no mercy here; each one is a pure hate-filled blow to the face, bloody teeth scattering on the floor. The grinding ‘Human Slaughterhouse’ is a personal favourite, and after all the carnage the trio have one final surprise in store in the form of a fucking killer Urgehal cover. Their more powerviolence infused version of ‘Goatcraft Torment’ is an inspired and worthy interpretation.

At name-your-price download you’ve got absolutely nothing to lose picking up this slice of vitriol and giving it a shot. If you survive, keep an eye on Black Pandemie Prod’ for more info on CD’s and merch.

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Artists: UtenHåp / 000 / Apothecary

Year: 2018

And to bring proceedings to a suitably morose close we have a triple one-man-project split by UtenHåp of Norway, OOO of NZ, and Apothecary of USA. Entitled ‘Through the Fog of Endless Desolation’, desolation proves to be just one of the feelings that will wash over you once you submit to the waves of this split, drowning in its hopeless waters.

UtenHåp opens rather aptly with first track ‘Desolation’, and it truly is the very embodiment of the word. Depressive, solitary but also transcendent and with hints of an at-times uplifting breath hidden deep in its black lungs, it’s an excellent start, but it’s what comes next that is the real surprise: ‘Affliction’. A stunning piano composition, it somehow seems so right amidst the carnage… Until the song erupts into a surge of raw euphoric black metal, soaring into the heavens on burning wings and obliterating your soul. Simply breathtaking, perfectly beautiful. Third track ‘Torment’ follows suit, and UtenHåp has effortlessly seared its name into your memory as a project to watch extremely closely.

Then 000 arrives to push things in an altogether stranger direction. The atmosphere conveyed here is hard to describe; imagine a hundred haunted toys and other random objects clicking and whirring autonomously, creating a ponderous, mechanical and solemn ode to the miseries of the world, moving inexorably closer and suffocating your sanity as the bleak cacophony becomes all you can hear, all you can feel; all you are. Intriguing stuff with creative guitar work, I’ve never heard anything quite like it. Listener beware: you may find yourself consumed by this beyond all hope of return.

Closing out by delicately unraveling the fabric of time through madness and despair is US artist Apothecary. Already featured on BMD once before with his excellent EP ‘Heims Ventis’, his two lengthy pieces presented here are more of the same, just refined and expanded to even more mind-altering states. Truly tortured vocals reverberate through twisted, dismal and ethereal soundscapes that expand and constrict like the breath of a great beast; pouring everything he has into each composition, I thoroughly enjoy what this man does. Mesmerising.

Three unique and gifted artists from the deepest subterranean catacombs and furthest most inhospitable reaches, combining talents that perfectly complement each other’s particular darkness to create an esoteric triptych of immeasurable worth and power. If you want music that will affect you profoundly, look no further. Available at name-your-price download, so do yourself a service and grab one now. Total support.

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Submissions for possible inclusion in future Volumes are welcome.

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The Sacred and the Profane, Part 2 – A Review of Graveir’s ‘Cenotaph’

And thus, the world was plunged into darkness once more. Picking up where we left off in our interview with frontman Gloom for the first part of our coverage of the Australian wraith’s upcoming new release ‘Cenotaph’, the time has come recite the necessary incantations and take a deeper look at this great release.

A little history for those who missed part one and can’t be bothered clicking back: the embryonic stirrings of Graveir began in 2009 and eventually blossomed over time into the full rotting flower we see today, resplendent in filth. Currently consisting of Pandora on bass (also doing time in the excellent Moon), skinsman XI (ex-Moon, ex-Dead River Runs Dry, ex-Vyrion and more), the twin obscenities of Emaciation (Arms of the Abyss, Defamer, Tower of Fire) and Alone on guitars plus Gloom (ex-The Silenced) tearing his throat to pieces in the name of art, ‘Cenotaph’ is the project’s fourth release overall and follows their superb end-of-year-list -making split with Mar Mortuum from 2017.

If their contribution to that split was superb, they’ve taken things another step further on this EP. As ‘Sanguine Inferno’ bursts to life in sorrowful dissonance and begins to traverse it’s darkened path, you’re struck by the deep melodious bleakness in their sound; throughout the course of the journey it’s as if the songs try to take flight but are weighted down by utter hopelessness. Which is a very good thing, a definite honing of their abilities and focus has taken place here and the EP reaches down into depths no sentient being should ever have to experience.

‘Dyatlov’ draws inspiration from the Dyatlov Pass Incident that occurred in an almost impassable region of Russia’s frozen Ural mountains in 1959. The bodies of nine ski hikers were found scattered and damaged by an “unknown compelling force” whilst apparently attempting to flee their tent (which had been destroyed from the inside), skulls and ribs smashed. One woman had her tongue cut out, some were dressed only in socks and undergarments in the freezing snow. The mystery of what took place that night remains unsolved to this day; and it’s a fitting theme for this track as it surges through the mire, its haunting misery punctuated by violent throes of horror. One of my favourites on the EP and one in which you realise how unusually prominent and integral to their sound the basswork is, as Pandora‘s sinister rumble and dreadful tones add menace and instill a real fear of the unknown. Very welcome and effective here, providing the sinewed muscle to XI‘s winding percussive backbone.

EP centrepiece ‘Whips’ continues in dysphoric form, piling the melancholia on even harder before it then flies into a tempestuous rage. Despite their relatively short run times I find the tracks deceptively epic and expansive in their progression, there’s a depth to each one that reveals itself further and further with each listen. On the latter half of ‘Droit De Seigneur’ Gloom and Emaciation‘s dual vocal assault is utterly terrifying, while Alone‘s guitars sound like that door tucked away in the darkest reaches of your mind that hides and locks away all the unspeakable things has been ripped from its hinges. Both great songs, but they save the best until last: ‘New Gods (Drowning the Sun)’.

It might just be because I’ve spent the most time with this particular track overall, but it fucking kills. The moods it taps into, the true despair and intensity; frontman Gloom said in our interview that it decribes “the building of the new order over the bones of the old, through bloodshed”, which is not only a fitting theme for this piece but also the EP as a whole. Graveir are building a new order for themselves here, perfecting their formula and crushing everything in their path in the process.

It may sound like I’m just blowing hyperbole but I honestly am quite partial to this release. There’s a raw charm to their morose melodic power and a sense of integrity to the sound and songs, you can tell they’ve been crafted with care. The overall production hits me just right and sounds like the audio equivalent of dead things reaching out to consume your flesh. Which will most likely be while you still breathe and remain totally cognizant of what is taking place, but… Not quite yet. No, this is the sound of that fleeting moment in between life and death, when you’re frozen and everything stretches into eternity, forcibly aware of your own fragile mortality and its impending end. Each time you visit this world it pulls you further and further down… And I haven’t even mentioned the fantastic Norot Art cover artwork yet. Just look at it.

A killer EP, one that spells big things for the impious lot. Vinyl and shirt pre-orders available now from the ultimate purveyors of misanthropic art down under, Impure Sounds. Releases on 20th April. Get keen.

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Pre-order ‘Cenotaph’ on vinyl or digital from Impure Sounds here.

Support Graveir:

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The Nurturing Soil – An Interview With Beorn’s Hall

There’s a lot to be said for the old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, and the same holds true for an album. When you first lay eyes on ‘Estuary’, the second full-length offering from US folk black metal warriors Beorn’s Hall, you may be forgiven for initially and inadvertedly being a little over-presumptuous: With the glorious painted cover art and weapons-laden logo vaguely reminiscent of Caladan Brood plus a Tolkien inspired project name to boot, thinking you were going to be in for a typically grandiose and bombastic slab of epic black metal is not an entirely outlandish conclusion to have arrived at.

Until, that is, you push play and the duo of Vulcan and Rognvaldr draw you into their richly textured world. Friends for life but formed as Beorn’s Hall in 2016 to create music inspired by their home of New Hampshire, the pair do paint with an “epic” base but utilise a palette and techniques that encompass much more. Irresistible shades of Bathory and stirring traditional metal/rock strains are prevalent throughout a great album that you’ll increasingly find packed with enjoyable surprises, and that’s also one of its major strengths: it is a great album. Each track serves as another unique step on the journey, a veritable cornucopia of styles and tones all tied together with consummate skill as a coherent whole, a melting pot of everything from Candlemass worship to the introspective Americana of ‘I Know You, Rider’.

Eschewing an overly polished production for a more authentic sound, there’s a raw, immediate life to proceedings. This thing sounds amazing, visceral yet austere all at once. The sound distorts at times but that only makes it better and comes across as the offspring of your favourite ’70s recordings and the kvltest of delicious lo-fi ’90s black and death atmospheres. I couldn’t get enough of it, so when the opportunity arose to ask a few questions of the gentlemen behind it all I had no real option but to jump at the chance.

Releasing this very day through the excellent Fólkvangr Records and Naturmacht Productions, there are no gilded thrones or fantastic beasts to be found here. This is real pagan life: spirit and survival, revelry and battle, blood and soil. So, check out the official clip for the title track ‘Estuary’, filmed in the misty marshes of New Hampshire and hands down my favourite track on the album with its irrepressible earworm riff and incredible energy; then read on as we speak to Vulcan and Rognvaldr about all things Beorn’s Hall. Hails.

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Greetings Vulcan and Rognvaldr, sincerest thanks for speaking with us! I hope you are both well. Your excellent second album ‘Estuary’ is coming soon through Naturmacht Productions and Fólkvangr Records. Are you happy with it overall, and in your words, what can people expect to hear from it?

VULCAN: Hello! Thanks for taking the time to interview us. We are very happy with this album, we feel it’s an improvement from ‘Mountain Hymns’ in every way.

ROGNVALDR: We went for a bit of a different production as you can tell. On ‘Mountain Hymns’ we did things very naturally, the drums and rhythm guitar were recorded live and we used a totally flat EQ on the whole album. I’m very pleased with how things came out this time. I was listening to a lot of
viking-era Bathory while writing the riffs, so people can expect a bigger more epic sound. We just wanted to create something more dynamic.

The album is heavily inspired by where you hail from: “The True Vinland” (the area of coastal North America explored by Norse Vikings), New Hampshire. For those of us who have never had the pleasure of visiting, what is it like over there and why is it such a source of inspiration to you?

V: I’ve always loved living in New Hampshire. We grew up in an area where the mountains and the ocean are about an hour drive from one another so it’s easy to find so much inspiration for this style of music, it is pretty natural.

R: Cheap booze and smokes, low taxes. What’s not to love?

The project was only formed in 2016, relatively recently considering you have your second full-length ready to go. How did you guys first meet and why did you decide to start Beorn’s Hall?

R: We actually met at age 3 in play school. We started playing death metal and grindcore together in 2003 but always talked about starting a black metal band. We both became very busy musically after high school so it wasn’t in the cards until 2016.

The album is gloriously adorned with a stunning Albert Bierstadt painting, whereas I believe the debut album’s cover art was painted by one of you. Both covers are spectacular, but why the decision to go with this particular piece of art this time?

V: That particular piece is something we discussed using as an album cover for years and we felt like we created something that would be fitting for it.

R: This painting just rules all around! It is just too awesome not to use. It is true I do oil paintings of this nature as well and painted the ‘Hymns’ cover. However, I am nowhere near this level. Maybe in a few more years I will be. It’s pretty funny that a lot of people think these paintings take eons to create but they only take a little less than an hour. If you watch Bill Alexander paint, he does the whole thing in about half an hour.

I love the sound overall, but especially the absolutely killer drums. Apparently you use a rather special kit, can you tell us a little about that? Were any other noteworthy instruments or recording techniques used on the album?

V: Yes! I have a 1970’s chrome over wood Slingerland kit that we used on this album. Nothing records quite like it. We figured an old school drum set should be used to record something so heavily influenced by the old school.

R: The bass was run clean which we believe sits better in the mix for the style. The guitar rhythms were dual tracked with a 57 offset on the speaker cone and a condenser about 6ft away at ear level for the atmosphere. The D’Angelico 12 string was run direct in with condenser off the sound hole. Keys were done on an early 90s shit Casio that runs on D batteries. Actually the same set of batteries from ‘Mountain Hymns’ last year haha.

Like your debut album ‘Mountain Hymns’, the whole thing could have been created in and ripped straight from the ’90s. Where was the album produced, did you guys take care of it all yourselves?

R: The album was recorded here at our studio “The Hall”. Vulcan and I have been in the recording game for 15 years now. Ever since we started making music together we have shared the same mindset which is, “Why pay someone else? We can do a great job by ourselves.” We know exactly what it should sound like. It would be a huge pain in the ass and waste of time to have someone else try to do it. We’ve spent the past 2 years building The Hall into a professional recording space. We’ve actually recorded a bunch of other bands too and offer our services to anyone. Just no shitty deathcore.

What was the writing process like this time around? Do you find each other easy to work with?

R: We’ve known each other for a long time and get along like brothers. 99% of the time we get along great and once in a while we want to strangle each other, just a little bit haha. Musically speaking, we are both on the same page and we both have the same idea for Beorn’s Hall. There is actually little communication about the music, Vulcan just knows what kind of drums would work over the riffs. Sometimes Vulcan will tell me “Get drunker, you need to channel your inner Fenriz for this vocal!” So I will. Sometimes I tell him “play this part a bit slower, like an evil Phil Rudd” and he will.

V: Typically we start with a base song that Rognvaldr has crafted,we’ll demo out the guitars and drums and then just go from there. Years of playing together has made for an extremely streamlined and easy writing process.

This will be your second release on Naturmacht Productions, and the first where Fólkvangr Records is involved. What are your thoughts on both labels, are you happy with the support?

V: Both labels have been absolute pleasures to work with. We owe a great deal of gratitude to Robert from Naturmacht as he was and still is a crucial element for this band and its beginnings. Folkvangr is great as well, I’m blown away by what Mark has accomplished in just a year. Needless to say we plan on sticking with these guys for the foreseeable future.

R: Robert from Naturmacht is the coolest guy. We seem to understand each other very well! He does an amazing job with the label and will even help us with designs when we become frustrated with things like artwork and layouts. Folkvanger has treated us very well too! Mark seems like a super cool guy and someone we would hang out and spin records with. It’s really nice to have someone who is committed to releasing cassettes only. I love cassettes and am looking forward to holding a copy of Estuary!

Listening through the myriad of different styles on the album, you guys clearly don’t listen to just black metal. Which audial delights have tickled your eardrums of late, and was there anything in particular that influenced you during the writing of ‘Estuary’?

R: Well metal music did come from hard rock so it’s only natural for us to pick up things from bands like Deep Purple, Rainbow, maybe even some NWOBHM and early speed metal. I like a lot of Allman Brothers and Dead too, so sometimes those mixolydian and major key modes come out which isn’t a bad thing. However, it must be done correctly or else you get this really weak Disneyland sounding black metal which I can’t get into. I think we achieved a really unique jam style segment on the end of “Dark Wood-Black Marsh”; it’s powerful yet a bit uplifting thanks to some Mixo modes. Hail Tony Iommi, Hail Dickey Betts!

V: Between the two us we have a large range of stuff we listen to but we tend to be a bit selective as to what to draw from for Beorn’s Hall. I feel when a band tries to represent every influence of every member it tends to become unfocused. We take our ‘extra’ influences from neo-folk, traditional metal, 70’s hard/progressive rock and blues.

The title track is such a stormer I almost threw myself out of the car when I heard it for the first time. From the incredibly physical riff that grips you full force, to the switch up into blistering black metal and that perfectly timed sword unsheathing… Magic. During the creative process, did you feel that magic and think “we’re on to something here”?

V: Thanks for the kind words. It’s my personal favorite song on the album. When I first heard Rognvaldr play that main riff I knew it was a choice slab of Candlemass-y goodness (we both fucking love Candlemass).

R: I am glad you like this song but please do not throw yourself from a moving vehicle! We would prefer you throw an enemy from the vehicle instead. Anyway, that main riff is a tribute to all my favorite riffs. Think of the riffs from Autopsy – Torn from the Womb, Candlemass – Well of Souls, Isengard – Naglfar etc… I thought “Beorn needs a riff like these” These are the best types of riffs, mid-paced fist bangers that are evil as hell. The end of the song is inspired by bands like Blasphemy or Swallowed from Finland, maybe some old Beherit and things like that.

The final album track ‘Roads Go On Forever’ begins perfectly with a recitation of a great poem by Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken“. An interesting inclusion, are either of you big poetry buffs?

R: We just thought it was cool as Robert Frost is a New Hampshire native. His poetry is incredible and heavily inspired by New Hampshire so it works perfectly.

V: It was kind of a last minute idea that worked very well.

Over the years, themes of history and heritage have been a great wellspring of inspiration for Black Metal. What are your thoughts on why they suit the style so well?

V: Black Metal has always evoked a certain old and dreary feeling to me as with many other lovers of the genre. History itself is for the most part very dark and depressing, so the two just go hand in hand.

I’ve seen you use the NHBM tag: New Hampshire Black Metal. What is the black metal scene like in New Hampshire? Any other great NHBM bands we should pay attention to?

R: The NHBM scene is great and the reason we use this label is because we are all friends that support each others bands and projects. The scene is strong and we have so many great bands. Its a small state with a lot of talented people. Here’s some bands we recommend from our great state: Malacath, Ancestral Shadows, Hraesvelgr, Northern. Actually Northern just wrapped up their new recording with us at The Hall Studios. “Desolate Ways to Ultima Thule” is set for release by Moribund Records sometime in March!

V: Kind of off topic but there are also some great death metal bands around here as well such as: Solium Fatalis, Excrecor, Angel Morgue and more!

Have you ever played any live shows with this project, and if not, is it something you’d ever be interested in?

R: We get asked this a lot. Sorry, Beorn’s Hall will never play live unless we get $10,000 haha.

V: And a trip to Europe! 🙂

And finally: What does the future hold for Beorn’s Hall? Have you started writing for the third album yet?

V: We plan on releasing one full album a year and to do some splits and other small releases in between those as well.

R: The future holds one solid pagan BM release per year. We have a blast doing Beorn’s Hall! As far as writing goes, I am always writing. I am always inspired and I am glad to have a drummer and vocalist who works as efficiently as I do. People think I am rushing but I’m not. I just like to work fast.

Thanks again for your time! Looking forward to the full release. Anything else you’d like to add?

R and V: Thanks for the interview! Cheers!

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Purchase ‘Estuary’ on CD and vinyl from Naturmacht Productions here, and on cassette from Fólkvangr Records here.

Support Beorn’s Hall:

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Label Spotlight: Solar Asceticists Productions

~ Analogic Occult Editions for Transgressive and Nihilist Souls ~

If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, you really should check out what’s going on over at mystical French underground tape label Solar Aesceticists Productions. You know how it’s nice to see a little extra effort put into the packaging or presentation of a release, how a personal touch or extra something special can really show the passion behind it and/or help with immersion into the art? Well, Solar Asceticists Productions take this very seriously and label head Carl Neomalthusian is a modern day alchemist, injecting an almost unforseen level of care and ritualism into his work.

Originally launched in 2015 as Mithra! Infrasound, an offshoot of Mithra Templezine before rebranding autonomously shortly after, the label has now had fourteen cassette releases to its name and the large majority have had the option of a unique ‘limited edition’ version available for purchase. These rare editions have contained multiple intricate ingredients and artefacts such as crushed bone powder, hallucinogenic substances, ritual incenses, Icelandic green moss and various handmade art pieces, to name just a few. This hasn’t been a mere gimmick, either; each special package is meticulously constructed and compiled by Carl with the artist’s work front of mind, totally complementing it and enhancing the overall experience.

And that’s not mentioning the roster. Carefully curated to contain only the finest of experimental, abyssal and transcendental sound; you’re sure to find something to your taste no matter what your preferred flavour of aural depravity. Read on and listen deeply as for our next Label Spotlight we sample four of the most recent black manifestations from this very underrated bastion of exquisite darkness. Hails.

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Artist: Abyssal Vacuum

Year: 2018

We’ll open proceedings with some French wretchedness from Abyssal Vacuum, and that’s a suitable name if I’ve ever heard one. The solo project of guitarist and throatsman Sebastien from Ominous Shrine, debut three-track album ‘MMXVII’ is a powerhouse of occult cavernous black with deathlike physicality; an otherworldly carnage, primitive, yet like nothing seen on earth.

Each of the numerically titled tracks on offer grabs and undeniably moves you through the use of great morbid riffage (unsurprisingly, given his killer work in Ominous Shrine) and driving percussion, but it’s all thrown gloriously off-kilter with just the right amount of reverb and atonality perfectly creating a negative vortex of swirling atmospheric unease.

As you traverse the alien landscape of the album it only becomes even more mesmerising and unsettling; such as the entrancing tremolo underpinned by ponderous bass thrums in the excellent ‘II’, or the chilling final section of ‘III’ before it fades out and returns to the sound of water leaking down from hell knows where, full-circle with the opening ambience of the journey and complete with the terrifying realisation that no matter how far you traverse its endless expanses you’re trapped somewhere in a pitch black subterranean tomb, your death imminent, your fate sealed.

Plumbing depths of unnameable cosmic horrors and seething menace, it’s a truly great first conjuration from the project and I sincerely hope we hear more soon. Available now for name-your-price download or pre-orderable in a special “Troglodytic White Remains” edition cassette package; containing a white velvet sigil-printed pouch, white printed tape, white “Benjoin Blanc” natural incense in rock form and three special art cards created with photos taken in ancient occitanian caves. Superb.

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Artist: Cendres

Year: 2017

‘Schattengestalt’ (“Shadow”), the second demo from enigmatic French act Cendres (“Ashes”), is horrifying from the very start. Based on themes of the underworld, the instant you press play it seemingly opens a portal to hell and the resulting next seventeen minutes is the hypnotic and disturbing sound of various demons or inhuman entities inexorably dragging their way into this reality. Or perhaps, dragging your consciousness back into theirs.

Originally self-released in miniscule quantity back in 2015 but now receiving the treatment and hopefully wider attention it deserves, this is a wonderful hidden gem that will affect you in all the wrong (read: very right) ways. Hellish screams and psychotic descending motifs initially throw you off balance, setting the tone admirably before the “Ambient Psychedelic Black Metal” kicks first track ‘Schattengestalt I’ into gear. Powerful repeating riffs surge through a deliciously lo-fi muffled drone, dread oozing from your speakers as vocal emissions strangulated from tormented subdimensions rake down your spine. Experimental it may be but this is cult shit, no fucking around. The track eventually builds and mutates into a completely destroying, all-consuming industrial churn; and for an almost ten minute song feels like it’s over all too quickly.

After that assault on the tenuous strands holding your mind together, they move it up another notch with ‘Schattengestalt II’. A brief few seconds of the best horror synths heard in a while heralds the coming of some of the most queasiness-inducing dissonant rawness I’ve experienced so far this year. The vibe is altogether more menacing on part II and the two tracks work together well, complementing each other and becoming a single warped composition.

Sadly, the “Sleep Paralysis” special edition is sold out but it came packaged with a raw textile pouch, a unique handmade charcoal drawing representing visions during sleep paralysis, and a small quantity of Salvia Divinorium so you could experience the hypnagogic hallucinations in the correct state of mind, all portals fully opened. Name-your-price digital and precious few standard edition tape copies still available; grab one before they disappear forever.

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Artist: Hyrgal

Year: 2017

Every time I listen to the debut full-length from French heathens Hyrgal, it unfolds another layer of itself to me. Exposing new whispered intricacies and nuances hidden in the howling fury with every journey through its emotive passages, this release is the dark flower of this article; slowly opening and revealing the depth of its scent and affecting beauty over time.

And while I know I haven’t had nearly enough time yet to absorb everything this release has to offer, the trio of gentlemen responsible for it probably have. Originally active for a few years from ’07 – ’10 that only bore one split as a solitary fruit, they reactivated in 2016 with a renewed purpose and lineup now consisting of members and ex-members of Pillars, Svart Crown, Karne and Marble Crown to record the long overdue full-length ‘Serpentine’.

A well rounded album with a myriad of influences and textures swirling throughout, at first glance it appears a mere Cascadian style but there are many other forces at play here. The heavy rhythm guitars and layering create a rushing, powerful density; combine this with the great basswork and there’s often a low ominous wind that blows throughout this release like death over the fields. The use of bleak, irresistibly ensnaring melody is absolutely top notch in each of the five songs and two instrumental compositions. Tracks like my personal favourite ‘Représailles’ can lift you away akin to the throes of a symphony while ‘Aux Diktats de l’Instinct’ has hints of punkish aggression, and the dynamic final act ‘Etrusca Disciplina’ is simply sublime. You’ll be taken places from which you won’t want to return.

The album is also available on CD and vinyl from Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions and Naturmacht Productions, but the special handcrafted “Mount Blue Pine” cassette edition available here is where it’s at. Coming lovingly packaged with a raw Eco-Textile hand-printed textile pouch, a clockworked French Army insign and some handmade incense; there’s just five copies left so don’t hesitate to own this beautiful piece of art.

With every track on here a winner, this is an album with many secrets to tell. Let it speak.

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Artist: Adherent

Year: 2017

And the final piece we’ll check out today is ‘Demo MXVIII’, the first release from US raw black project Adherent. Released back in October, it’s also listed on Metal Archives as ‘Tranquility’. Now, tranquility might seem an odd quality to attach to a raw black metal release at first, but listen through and it will all make sense.

If the title, or the introductory piece ‘Intro / Dreams in the Etherial Forest’ with its almost 7 minutes of gently austere synths doesn’t give it away, the fact that the next 5 tracks are also titled ‘Tranquility I-V’ may give you a hint that the rawness on offer here is of the somewhat transcendent variety. Not quite Black Cilice levels of carrying you away on swathes of ritually intoned distortion, don’t let that mislead you (the press release names Drowning The Light and Abyssic Hate as comparable sounds, which is also true); but it’s definitely playing in roughly the same ballpark and oozes a similar solemn black majesty from its compositions at times. Great stuff, and when you finish traversing the epic misanthropic depths of all the ‘Tranquility’ tracks the album has one last surprise in store: the final piece is a cover of a cut from a certain longstanding and controversial US “cult horde”. But I’ll leave you to unearth that mystery alone.

One of the few releases on the label that didn’t come with a special edition of arcane artifacts, it’s still very worth your time regardless. Unfortunately sold out of limited transparent blue tapes, support with a name-your-price download below and do yourself a favour: keep an eye out for all future Solar Asceticists Productions releases. You won’t regret it. Hails.

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The Sacred and the Profane – An Interview With Graveir

Graveir‘s black star is on the rise. Fresh off the back of contributing to one of the greatest splits of 2017, the Australian horde of Gloom, Alone, Emaciated, XI and Pandora have announced a new EP about to seep out and spread its insidious influence across the earth: the mighty ‘Cenotaph’.

It’s available for pre-order as we speak and I’ll be taking a more in-depth look into its wretched majesty when the time arises, but for now we can feast our ears upon the stellar teaser track ‘New Gods (Drowning the Sun)’. The horrifyingly dissonant guitars and depraved multi-pronged vocal assault contained within head up what I believe to be their strongest recorded work to date; and I’m extremely pleased to say I was fortunate enough to sit down with throatsman Gloom to discuss the track, the EP itself and all things Graveir. So have a listen at the link below, and read on.

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Greetings Gloom, sincerest thanks for speaking to us. First up, a little history: What inspired the creation of Graveir, and what is its purpose?

– The genesis of Graveir really started in 2009 as a vehicle for me to write the kind of music I was interested in. It’s not for everyone so I’d found myself playing in things more out of friendship. There was always compromise rather than a full creative expression. There was no real timeline on it, just a collection of riffs which ended up being the genesis of the songs on the demo.

I think it was around 2012 I met XI and found we were pretty much on the same wavelength. Being a particularly driven individual, once I showed him what I had been working on that was enough to set things on the path. Pretty quickly we’d demoed the songs. Admittedly these were pretty rudimentary given my lack of technical ability and preparation at the time but these helped us to form the remainder of the lineup in late 2013. I am pleased to say it has progressed from those humble beginnings much further than I would ever have expected.

As for its purpose, I am generally interested in the interplay between the sacred and the profane so sonically I wanted something that had a definite sense of melody but also felt slightly unsettling at the same time. At least to my ears, t’s the friction between the two that helps create the atmosphere in our music.

You have a new EP on the way, titled ‘Cenotaph’. How do you feel about it, did everything turn out exactly as planned? What was the creative process like?

– I think we will never be 100% satisfied with anything, no matter how good it is. This is healthy as prevents stagnation but it becomes important to know when to let something go and release it. People will ultimately make of it what they will. I am comfortable with the release – which is as close to happy as you should ever realistically be.

The recording was definitely a positive experience. We recorded locally so there wasn’t any time pressures and all of our equipment was available to us. Ean Redman, who recorded and mixed the album is someone we know on a personal level so the recording environment was very good. Tonally I think we got some good sounds from the instruments.

The writing process itself is fairly painless, new material comes easily to us. As for how it comes together, someone will demo guitars and guide drums for a song and send it around for initial opinions and if it is received well we take it to rehearsal and adjust it until we have a finished version and I’ll add lyrics to it from there.

The dictionary defines a ‘Cenotaph’ as: “a monument, sometimes in the form of a tomb, to a person or group of persons buried elsewhere”. Why did you select this as the title?

– It came from the lyrics for New Gods (Drowning the Sun) and seemed fitting for the overall tone of the album and the artwork. In a more literal sense it does serve as somewhat of a monument between where we have come from and to where things are heading.

The first teaser track is the aforementioned ‘New Gods (Drowning the Sun)’ and in my opinion is another huge step forward from everything you’ve done before, oozing with a bleak and unsettling menace. Can you describe the themes and intentions behind the track?

– Definitely – the lyrics centre around the cycle of domination and violence that come with change. More specifically changing of religion within a society. What we often refer to as mythology is really an insulting way of denigrating what was previously the dominant religion of a society i.e. “That was all make believe, what I am telling you now is the one and only truth.”. The song describes the building of the new order over the bones of the old through bloodshed.

Listening through from your last full-length ‘Iconostasis‘ and the great 2017 split with Mar Mortuum you can really hear the refinement of certain aspects of your sound, such as the development of a mutidimensional vocal assault that proves to be devastatingly effective. What would you say the biggest progression or development has been for Graveir since ‘Iconostasis’?

– There are three key things I’d point to as having the biggest impact on our sound to date.

The first thing that happened is that after the demo I was able to share more of the songwriting duties and this has continued to increase over time. We try to make sure everyone has had some songwriting contribution on all our releases but the composition of this has shifted. For example on Iconostasis if one of us wrote a song we would normally write both guitar parts before sending it to everyone. Now we will often write one guitar track then send it to either Alone or Emaciation to complete which often adds a different perspective to things.

The second thing is improving as musicians over time. This has enabled us to stretch our songwriting and technical abilities. Listening to a demo from 2009 versus today this becomes very apparent. This one is especially true for me.

Finally, Emaciation adding additional vocals has really helped add some additional depth into the songs both live and on the newer material.

There will also be a track on the EP titled ‘Dyatlov’. I’m curious, because if I’m correct this is something that has always fascinated me: Would this be referring to the Dyatlov Pass Incident? If so, can you tell us a little about why you chose to write about it?

– You are correct, it is referring to the events that occurred in Dyatlov Pass. The title was initially just a working title, which will often change once I actually start writing lyrics. However after doing a bit more reading and research I found it a particularly fascinating topic.

What makes the Dyatlov Pass Incident a compelling case may be more to do with the level of development of forensic science as well as the propensity for secrecy on the part of the Soviet government.

If I had to take my best guess I think it was something of a military nature, perhaps air mines or some other weapon capable of generating significant concussive force. The interest for me lyrically was the thought of the isolation and the unforeseen terror that would have followed.

The EP will be adorned with evocative cover artwork by incredible occult artist Norot Art. How did this come about, were you big fans of his work? How does the resulting image tie in with the themes of the EP?

– Essentially just by being fans of his artwork. From there we made contact and he agreed to do the artwork. He has done a stellar job and we are extremely happy with the end result. Our approach when contacting artists is to give them a listen to the songs, lyrics and titles to enable them to draw out what resonates with them and draw something based off that. We give little to no instruction or guidance beyond that. So, given that it draws from the source material I think it fits the overarching themes on the EP (which are essentially meditations on the nature of death, suffering and change) quite well.

‘Cenotaph’ will see the continuation of your recent partnership with the great underground Australian label Impure Sounds. How has it been to work with them?

– No complaints whatsoever. Graveir isn’t a money-making venture so any notions to that effect are easily dispensed of so long as you aren’t being exploited. What then becomes important is finding someone who will show as much care for the release as we have in making it and that on a personal level we are dealing with people we respect, like and trust.

We know the EP is in good hands so it is a largely stress-free process for us. Impure Sounds don’t run a massive release schedule so can give each release they put out care and attention it deserves. We have nothing but positive things to say about the label and would gladly work with them again.

I know you’ve been playing a few live shows of late, have you aired any of the new material and was it received well?

– This is always a balancing act as you don’t want to play all the new songs months ahead of the EP release otherwise there isn’t all that much excitement around the new material for the audience. Recent shows we’ve done one or two songs just to test them out in a live setting and to add a something unexpected to the setlist.

We did do a set of the EP material late last year at an event hosted by our friends the Brewditos. Given the excellent quality of the beer on offer and their support over the past few years we thought we should repay the favour with something special. Hard to say how much of it was the beer but the reception was very positive.

For the uninitiated, what can one expect from a Graveir live ritual?

– Great question – I think you can expect to hear a close representation of what is on the recordings. For the most part we don’t record anything we can’t re-create live and we avoid using anything overly processed so I think this translates well in the live setting only with a bit more of a feral energy to it. Outside of that you should expect a sufficiently bleak atmosphere.

Australia has a killer black metal scene. Are there any sorely underrated Australian bands that you believe deserve more widespread attention?

– Completely agree with that sentiment. I think there are some bands that are getting some well-deserved recognition at the moment such as Départe and Greytomb which I hope continues as they have both produced some excellent releases.

On the other side of the equation there are some excellent bands who I think are due a bit more than they might currently have. Ignis Gehenna, Convulsing, Siberian Hell Sounds, Norse, Bleakwood, Snorri, Ploughshare, Mar Mortuum, Host and Dødknell have all put out great releases in the past year or two. I’d also be interested in a follow up from Dead River Runs Dry as I thoroughly enjoyed the first album. I will miss Funeral Moon who were great and were over all too soon.

When can we expect the full EP to drop? Will it be on vinyl, CD, cassette?

– Release date will be April 20th and will be vinyl and digital only at this stage. CDs may come later but I think it depends on the level of interest.

Sincerest thanks for your time, Gloom. Very keen to hear the rest of the EP. Any last words?

– Thank you for the well-thought out questions, it has been a pleasure answering them. I hope I have answered them sufficiently. I will be interested to hear what you think of the rest of the EP once it is out.

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Pre-order ‘Cenotaph’ on vinyl or digital from Impure Sounds here.

Support Graveir:

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Abyssic Terror Ritual – A Review of Vessel Of Iniquity

If you’ve been reading this site for a while you’ve probably gathered that I’m a big fan of Sentient Ruin Laboratories. They pump out quality release after quality release, not only black metal but all sorts of harsh or experimental weirdness carefully selected to cater to all manner of wretched tastes. Easily my favourite label of last year and in news that will surprise no-one who’s been following their releases, they’ve started off 2018 in exactly the same fashion: already unleashed are two incredible finds, the previously mentioned on these pages Rotting Sky and the co-released with Xenoglossy Productions debut EP of vicious UK black/death/noise act Vessel Of Iniquity.

This slice of negative energy is the latest project from black noise architect A. White, who has been active since before the turn of the century with Thoraxembalmer and various other subterranean niceties.

This time, he’s harnessed the sheer horrifying power and pull of the void. When you think of the void, do you imagine immense calm, or mind-bending incomprehensible violence lashing you from all sides? Well, Vessel Of Iniquity is definitely the latter. Opener ‘Void of Existential Terror’ is exactly that; an all-out sonic assailment of inevitable destruction whipping your flesh to dust. It is fucking terrifying. Percussion teeters on the brink of becoming flat-out physical punishment as disembodied howls ride escalating waves of panic-inducing power electronics noise carnage; until it all collapses in on itself and you’re allowed to breathe for a brief, precious moment.

EP centrepiece ‘Where Even Nothing Is Something’ seems like it just wants to try out new and more disorienting ways to beat the shit out of you, switching it up for the latter half of the track to descend into chaos and become somehow even more intense than anything that’s come before. It’s the shortest track on offer at 3:40, which is a good thing, as aside from the piece itself never becoming tiresome I seriously doubt the tenuous grip we hold on reality would be able to withstand a longer assault.

The ultimate panel in the hellish triptych finally allows some respite from the torment. Everything slows to a relative crawl; twisted atmospherics, ritualistic drones and hypnotic patterns forming the necessary Thelemic sigils to evoke the Dweller In The Abyss… ‘Choronzon’. Once manifested, however… Well, you’ll see.

I bought this immediately after hearing it for the first time, but I’ll probably never end up receiving it. The way Sentient Ruin keeps digging up black gold I’ll be forever adding to my parcel and it will sit in pre-order limbo forever. Which is meant as the highest praise, and I guess nothing could be more fitting than for this wretched abomination of an EP to languish in stasis, not of this world yet infecting it by its very existence, spitting and howling in the fathomless void forever.

Don’t sleep on this. Out on tape as of three days ago through the Sentient Ruin / Xenoglossy Bandcamp pages, with vinyl pre-orders also available.

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Purchase/pre-order ‘Vessel Of Iniquity’ digitally from Bandcamp HERE and on cassette or vinyl from Sentient Ruin Laboratories HERE or Xenoglossy Productions HERE.

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