I have written in the past about Manchester black metal band Winterfylleth – looking at their 2016 “The Dark Hereafter” album as well as a 2014 live show in Birmingham supporting Polish act Behemoth. Artist Dan Capp has been involved with the creation of Winterfylleth’s artwork for a number of years and joined the band as lead guitarist in early 2015.
Wolcensmen is Capp’s solo project that has been in the works for several years, and was inspired by the acoustic parts of music by the likes of Ulver, Opeth and Empyrium and also by Capp witnessing an Irish folk band playing in a Dublin pub, leading him to reflect that he felt an English version – local pubs etc. with acts regularly performing English folk music – was lacking. Wolcensmen is his answer to that void though, as he says, “…as it happens, the music I’d go on to record had none of the happy, merry-making appeal I’d first envisioned, but anyhow…” I’d venture that Wolcensmen are the English equivalent to the rather super Norwegian act Wardruna who aim to create musical representations of Norse traditions.
“Songs From The Fyrgen” is the debut album from Wolcensmen. The “fyrgen” in the album title refers to mountain woods or a wooded hilltop, so it’s natural that the music contained within should evoke such surroundings. I suppose that the closest his day-job band come to the music found on the record would be something like “Children Of The Stones” (also the title of a super TV series originally broadcast back in 1977) or perhaps “Æfterield-fréon” – both excellent, delicate and atmospheric acoustic pieces.
So it is with this album. Beginning with one of the shortest numbers “Withershins” this is full of acoustic guitars and very natural vocals by the main man, augmented by percussion by Dan & Mark Capp, flute (by American Jake Rogers), some synthesizer (by Grimrik from Germany), piano (by Dries Gaerdelen from Belgium), cello (by Canadian Raphael Weinroth-Browne) and some ritualistic vocals from Norwegian Nash Rothanburg. Despite the multi-national support cast I feel that this record is a very English sounding one.
And that was certainly Capp’s intention. He stated in an interview that Wolcensmen is “…specifically a celebration of old England…”. It is also definitely thematically heathen – “…the Heathen aspect is vital, because I am a Heathen and Wolcensmen is essentially a cultural statement. It is meant to be romantic, and I simply can’t see that there’s anything to romanticise about post-Christian England. It was the beginning of our decline. The stories are mine, except for ‘The Mon o’ Micht’, which is lyrically traditional, and ‘Hoofes Upon the Shymmeringe Path’ whose lyrics are based on the names of the horses belonging to the Asa (Aesir) gods, on which they ride across Bifrost, ‘the shimmering path’, to Asgard. My other lyrics are inspired by folk tales, natural phenomena and esoteric concepts…”
“The Fyre-Bough” is up next and is one of the high points of the album for me. Capp’s voice is almost acapella at points here and there are no rock star histrionics, just an understated delivery that sits perfectly with the theme of the music. The cello and flute parts really shine though on this track too. “Sunne”, the album’s briefest track at 2:42, follows and leads into the excellent “Hoofes Upon The Shymmeringe Path” which has the aforementioned Rothanburg intoning ancient Norse poetry in the background.
The ten-minute plus Heathen epic “‘Neath A Wreath Of Furs” contains all that’s good about the album and just about knocks the later “The Bekens Are Aliht” into second place in terms of my favourite numbers here. In truth there really isn’t a bad track here and the album as a whole is, in my opinion, up there with Skuggsjá’s “A Piece For Mind & Mirror” and “Mausoleum” by Murkur – in fact, had I discovered “Songs From The Fyrgen” last year when it was released, rather than recently, it would likely have elbowed its way onto my top ten albums of the year.
Another quote from Capp is that “…Wolcensmen exists for a specific purpose – to inspire people to reconnect with their ancestors and the old ways of their people. It is Romanticism – not in an unrealistic sense but in an idealistic… don’t settle for what is, strive for what could be… I’d like Wolcensmen to be a small beacon of light in an age of darkness; a small reminder to those not yet dead inside to maintain their inner-spark whilst many of those around them have let it die, wanting for nothing more than to consume and follow…” This really is a fantastic record that transports you to an arguably better time and place. Here’s hoping that this isn’t the last we’ve heard from Wolcensmen. Highly recommended to anyone with a love of good folk music, nature, mythology etc…
“Songs From The Fyrgen” tracklist:
1. Withershins / 2. The Fyre-Bough / 3. Sunne / 4. Hoofes Upon The Shymmeringe Path / 5. ‘Neath A Wreath Of Firs / 6. The Mon O’ Micht / 7. Snowfall / 8. The Bekens Are Aliht / 9. Yerninge
I have talked briefly about Manchester-based black metal band Winterfylleth before, when they were the opening act at Behemoth’s 2014 show at the O2 Academy in Birmingham. At that time I mentioned that the band’s name is taken from the Old English for “Winter Full Moon”. Other sources have stated the word to represent an ancient heathen festival to welcome the first full moon of winter, and others still that it simply means “October”. The band’s own stance on this, taken from their official website, states that it “represents the first full moon in October as well as the Anglo-Saxon festival of the arrival of winter.”
Lyrically the group strive to portray “tales of England’s archaic history, re-counting major events, battles, the spiritual outlook of the people and the way they lived and even draw inspiration from certain sites and scenery that grace the countryside of England and have played an integral part in England’s history.”
This intent has led to accusations of racism in the past and the band describing themselves as English Heritage Black Metal is bound to draw comparisons with other bands who celebrate the ancient heritage of their particular countries. Inevitably this national pride is often viewed as national socialism, or simply put, Nazism – particularly during turbulent times such as those we find ourselves in these days with such fierce debate around subjects such as multiculturalism and migration where folk talking of their country’s history are often perceived as anti-everywhere-else.
I am not overly concerned with the personal views of the members of bands that I listen to, and take the view that the lyrics form a part of the whole package – just as plot elements of films and books do – and that I don’t have to agree with or endorse any such views to appreciate the music on offer, as touched upon when talking about Shining’s latest album “XI : Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends”. That said, I do not personally feel that writing and singing about the history and landscapes of your homeland should be considered as racism and that too often these days political correctness does more harm than good.
Anyway, enough rambling – what’s the new record like, I hear you ask? Well, “The Dark Hereafter” is Winterfylleth’s fifth studio album and follows on from 2014’s offering “The Divination Of Antiquity”. The first thing to note is that whilst previous albums have nine or ten tracks and clocked in at around an hour, this one contains only five tracks and has a duration of just over 40 minutes.
Of those five tracks one, “Led Astray In The Forest Dark”, is a translated-into-English cover of a track first recorded under the title “Capitel I: I Troldskog Faren Vild” by Norwegian band Ulver back in 1995 on their debut album “Bergtatt – Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler”. Ulver are one of the band’s primarily influences, along with acts such as Enslaved and Slavic black metal bands like Drudkh. The album artwork is also clearly influenced by the Ulver debut.
Another track, “Pariah’s Path”, appeared as a bonus track on the aforementioned “The Divination Of Antiquity”. This suggests that, even though band leader Chris Naughton reckons that they are about two albums further down the line in terms of writing they were perhaps a little short of inspiration when preparing for “The Dark Hereafter”?
Whether or not that is the case I do think it’s fair to say that this is another really good record from one of the shining lights of today’s black metal scene. It may not be black metal in the traditional corpse paint and Satanism sense, but there seems to be a definite shift in appreciation for history and nature in recent years and Winterfylleth’s music fits in with this perfectly.
This isn’t “summery” music. The soundscapes here compliment the colder and bleaker seasons and suggest the majesty and beauty of the beautiful lands in which we live. Beauty may seem like an odd choice of word for such harsh and brutal music but the elements of folk music (though there is less of that than on the previous albums) together with clean and choral vocals that form part of the sound help to give a broader feel to proceedings. I also think it’s perfectly possible to appreciate the beauty in our landscapes during the coldest and wettest times of year so see no issue with doing the same with the aural representation on this album.
Of the remaining tracks it is without doubt “Green Cathedral” that is the highlight and centrepiece of the whole record. Not only due to its length (using up 13 of the 40 minute total) but also due to the sheer expansiveness of the song. Apparently influenced by author Ben Myers who wrote “The Green Cathedral is a place, a series of places, a philosophy, a feeling, a mind-set, a movement, a lack of movement, a meditation. Many meditations. It is walking and running, sitting and seeing…” this is surely the group encouraging us to get out and reconnect with nature – or at very least imagine that we are doing so whilst immersing ourselves in the music (best experienced through headphones). A truly excellent piece of music.
Winterfylleth these days features founding members Naughton (vocals / guitars) and Simon Lucas (drums / vocals) joined by long serving bassist Nick Wallwork, new boy guitarist Dan Capp (who also does the artwork) and keyboard player Mark Deeks. Though the overall sonic template hasn’t altered much since day one for this distinctive outfit I do feel that each release has shown some progression and development from the previous one, and “The Dark Hereafter” is no exception.
Although if you discount the inclusion of “Pariah’s Path” it is essentially only really three new songs and a cover this is still a really worthwhile addition to the band’s catalogue. The title track and “Ensigns Of Victory” are good, if typical, Winterfylleth tunes, but the best of the record is without doubt the aforementioned “Green Cathedral” and the really great version of “Led Astray In The Forest Dark”. Well worth exploring as the winter draws in…
“The Dark Hereafter” tracklist:
1. The Dark Hereafter / 2. Pariah’s Path / 3. Ensigns Of Victory / 4. Green Cathedral / 5. Led Astray In The Forest Dark
“Rebellion is a part of youth. Sometimes it’s dangerous. Instead of a sword, I hold a guitar in my hands. I’m in the same, rigid world but instead of Molotov cocktails, I’ve got a computer. It’s a much more powerful weapon.
‘Confessions Of A Heretic’ is the forthright and erudite memoir of the front man and driving force behind the Polish heavy-metal group Behemoth, currently at the top of their game following the release of their 2014 US Top 40 album ‘The Satanist’.
Presented as a series of interrogations by friends and associates, the book reveals a complex man of great contrast-a health-conscious, highly personable intellectual known for his extreme views and even more extreme music – lifting the lid on everything from his clashes with the Polish Catholic church to appearing as a judge on the Polish edition of The Voice to his recent battle with leukaemia.”
I’ve just finished reading “Confessions Of A Heretic – The Sacred And The Profane : Behemoth And Beyond” by Adam “Nergal” Darski, frontman and founding member of Polish black metal band Behemoth. Released earlier this year, this is the English translation of his book “Spowiedz Heretyka – Sacrum Profanum”, which was originally published back in 2012.
The book is essentially a really long interview. Two friends of Nergal’s, Krzysztof Azarewicz and Piotr Weltrowski ask the questions and Nergal answers them The whole thing has then been translated from Polish into English by Mark Eglinton. Although therefore the book perhaps isn’t technically an autobiography, you are still essentially getting one man’s story in his own words.
The questions are clearly designed to get Nergal to really think about the subjects at hand and to open up, sometimes they seem phrased in such a way as to deliberately provoke a reaction. Throughout it all Nergal remains true to himself.
As the book progresses we learn about Nergal’s childhood and the beginnings of his band, about life on the road, his relationship with the Catholic church , his appearance as a judge on the Polish version of TV talent series “The Voice”, his relationships with his parents, brother and women – including his high-profile engagement to Polish pop star Doda (real name Dorota Rabczewska) – and his life-threatening brush with leukaemia, the latter of which led many to expect Nergal to turn to the Christian god of his upbringing.
Whether or not you regard the man as a “true” Satanist, and no doubt there are many different variations just as there are with many other religions / beliefs, there is no doubting his complete sincerity in terms of his beliefs and his total opposition to the Christian faith. It’s also worth saying that I don’t think you need to be a fan of Nergal or his uncompromising music to appreciate the human story told here.
As the book originally saw the light of day in 2012 it does not cover the period since which saw the recording of Behemoth’s superb 2014 album “The Satanist”, the increasing success of the band, and Nergal’s venture into co-ownership of a barbershop. Leaving aside the absence of the immediate past, however, this tome provides a fascinating look at the man behind the corpsepaint…
Time for a little something from the dark side today. Formed in 2010 by singer / guitarist Andrea “Burdo” Burdisso, guitarist Marco “Gale” Galeotti, bassist Riccardo “Paso” Pasini and drummer Andrea “Allo” Allodoli, Italian band Void Of Sleep describe their music as occult progressive metal.
A debut album, titled “Tales Between Reality And Madness” saw the light of day in 2013 and the group’s follow-up effort, “New World Order” has recently been released.
In theory, given the increasing amount of occult and extreme metal, not to mention progressive rock, that I’ve been listening to in recent years, this should be right up my street. So?…
The record follows in the steps of the promotional lyric video “Slaves Shall Serve” which has a procession of images providing an effective visual accompaniment to the song’s Luciferian theme. Although bearing the same title, this is a more 70s hard rock / doom sounding song than the Polish black metal act Behemoth’s ferocious track.
The album’s opener “The Devil’s Conjuration” has a nice sludgy doom metal feel topped off with vocals akin to Ghost, and picks up the pace a little towards the track’s climax.
“Hidden Revelations”, meanwhile, hints at influences from the likes of Opeth with its progressive metal guitar riffs and melancholic vocal passages.
The aforementioned “Slaves Shall Serve” is followed by “Ordo Ab Chao” (translation – order from chaos) which has plenty of light and shade even though the song is generally slow and heavy.
“Lords Of Chaos” is a forty-two second interlude and introduction to the title track which sees the band channelling Tool at their most reflective, and is one of the highlights of the album.
That just leaves the closing number “Ending Theme”. At a little over fourteen minutes this is by far the longest track on the record. It starts with some atmospheric and discordant guitar before the drums and vocals join the fray, and before you know it all those influences mentioned above are making their presence felt through your speakers.
Given those influences this is clearly not a hugely original album. What the band have done, however, is to take those influences and produce something fresh and interesting from them. The band members’ musical ability is not in question as they shine throughout.
Is it up my street then? It’s certainly in the neighbourhood. As a whole this is an album rich in texture. There is plenty of great guitar riffing to get your teeth into and harsh vocals to display aggression, whilst there are more memorable melodies and harmonies present than on your average album of this type. The sound gets more complex and challenging as the album moves into its second half, but flows beautifully as a whole piece of work. So overall this is impressive stuff…
“New World Order” tracklist:
1. The Devil’s Conjuration / 2. Hidden Revelations / 3. Slaves Shall Serve / 4. Ordo Ab Chao / 5. Lords Of Conspiracy / 6. New World Order / 7. Ending Theme (I Mourn / II Triumphant / III Void)
With Halloween on 31 October and Samhain on 1 November both having longstanding connections with Satanism and paganism it seems like as good a time as any to have a look at a new black metal album.
During 1997, in the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship of Poland, black metal band Non Opus Dei were formed by guitarist / vocalist Tomasz “Klimorh” Klimczyk, bassist / rhythm guitarist K’ris and drummer Radoslaw “Fux” Fuks.
As “Opus Dei” translates as “Work Of God” it’s reasonable to assume that the band’s name is intended to mean “Not The Work Of (The Christian) God” – about right for a black metal act, I’d Say.
The group’s debut album “Diabolical Metal” emerged in 2002 by which time the line-up was comprised of Klimorh, Fux, guitarist Krzysztof “Nex” Kułakowski and bassist Sarkueil.
By the time second album “Sem Al Diavol Va Porti Al Mal” was released in 2005 the band’s line-up had changed once more and it is only in the last few years that the current four-man group has been together.
Klimorh has been the only constant from the group’s beginnings, with a number of other bassists, guitarists and drummers coming and going over the years.
Since 2012 however the line-up has seen Klimorh joined by drummer Wojciech “Gonzo” Błaszkowski (joined for 2006’s “The Quintessence”), guitarist Horizon and bassist Isil (who both first appeared on 2013’s “Dziwki Dwie” release which was split with fellow Polish band Morowe).
This line-up’s first full studio album together (the band’s seventh) is the year’s “Diabel”, released in September on the appropriately named Witching Hour Productions label.
This album is described as being lyrically and conceptually “inspired by the cult of the Devil (Diabel) in Poland, with an emphasis on the territory of Warmia” and certainly starts off sounding fantastically demonic with the vocal introduction to opening track “Milk Of Toads” which sounds rather like their fellow countrymen Behemoth at times.
Aside from the evil sounding vocal stylings, the guitars, bass and drums are all very impressive. Gonzo’s drumming, particularly the bass drum patterns, are fast and furious and whilst not perhaps as interesting as some other bands’ drummers do point to an amazing stamina level!
Guitar-wise, there are plenty of traditional discordant black metal style riffs from Klimorh and Horizon, but also echoes of technical bands like Meshuggah and even Tool can be heard too. Isil’s bass playing is, as you would expect, solid and unfussy and anchors everything nicely.
As is often the case with this genre the lyrics are pretty much unintelligible and with at least some of them being in Polish too there’s no chance of me being able to understand them. However, knowing that they are related to the devil and being soundtracked by some really rather good black metal means that this is unimportant as the intended feeling is well conveyed to the listener anyway.
My favourite numbers here include the aforementioned “Milk Of Toads”, “Trickster – Shapeshifter” and “Gold-Finding Hen, Kiss-Finding Whore”.
I would say that “Diabel” is the Non Opus Dei’s best album to date, and hopefully they will continue to improve with future releases. The artwork is pretty striking too! Well worth checking out…
1. Milk Of Toads / 2. In The Angles Of Her Sigil / 3. Władca Ropuch / 4. Gold-Finding Hen, Kiss-Finding Whore / 5. The Other Side Of The Mushroom / 6. Pustka Twoja We Mnie / 7. Trickster – Shapeshifter / 8. Plony / 9. Oko Kruka, Głowa Anioła / 10. The Tenfold Gift
Wednesday 23 September – my first all-metal gig of this year. Billed as a co-headlining tour between Norwegian progressive black / Viking metal band Enslaved and Swedish heavy metal band Grand Magus, I caught the tour’s first show at the Marble Factory in Bristol.
Although the ticket (I say ticket, but it was one of those horrible e-tickets, not like a traditional proper ticket where you get the stub ripped off on the door!…) said doors at 6:30pm and show start at 7:00pm, when I arrived I heard the people in front of me being told that the doors wouldn’t be opening until 7:00pm. As it was spitting with rain I made myself comfortable back in my car and watched the queue start to form along the pavement past the next door tyre fitters.
Shortly before 7:00pm security staff appeared at the gates, and around ten minutes later started to let people through. Now a problem with e-tickets is that they are supposed to be scanned but many folks, like myself, were told that the qr code was too big to be scanned, meaning that we had to be manually ticked off a list! The upshot of all these delays was that opening band Heaven Asunder (who weren’t even listed on the bill) had started their set – probably in front of a mere handful of people!
A Bristol-based metalcore band, Heaven Asunder certainly had a few fans in attendance, making plenty of noise in support of the band. I must confess that their particular brand of metal, metalcore, isn’t really my thing but they were clearly musically tight and enjoying what they do. Guitarist Lewis Blake did look slightly like he’d dropped in from another band but I was impressed with his fretwork, even if not moved by the band’s material as a whole.
After a short break for an equipment change it was time for Grand Magus to hit the stage. I had seen this bunch previously, third on the bill when I went to see Behemoth last December.
At that time I commented that the lack of a second guitar player left a hole in their sound when vocalist / guitarist Janne “JB” Christoffersson played a guitar solo, and that is still the case.
The group, completed by bassist Fox Skinner and drummer Ludwig “Ludde” Witt, are a great band to have on a mixed genre metal bill as their material features an accessible traditional metal sound – not unlike Manowar – with lots of anthemic sing-along qualities. They perform their Viking tales with conviction and with good humour too, and interact well with the audience.
In truth, though, I found that their set tended to drag a little towards the latter stages as a result of what I felt was a lack of variety in terms of tempo and style. Still, that never hurt bands such as Motörhead, and the band went down very well with the crowd (which had filled out to a few hundred I would guess), so it was probably just me!
Setlist: (probable – I didn’t have anything to make notes on!)
1. I, The Jury / 2. Sword Of The Ocean / 3. Kingslayer / 4. On Hooves Of Gold / 5. Steel Versus Steel / 6. Iron Will / 7. Valhalla Rising / 8. Like The Oar Strikes The Water / 9. Drum Solo / 10. Wolf’s Return / 11. Hammer Of The North
1 and 11 originally from “Hammer Of The North” (2010) / 2 and 7 originally from “The Hunt” (2012) / 3 and 10 originally from “Wolf’s Return” (2005) / 4 and 5 originally from “Triumph And Power” (2014) / 6 and 8 originally from “Iron Will” (2008)
Another gear change was followed by a roar from the assembled crowd as Enslaved entered the stage, blasting headlong into the opening track from this year’s excellent “In Times” album, “Thurisaz Dreaming”.
Bizarrely, the band – led by frontman Grutle Kjellson – were only lit from behind for the whole eight minute number (and quite often throughout the set) leaving the audience looking at silhouettes of the band and lots of red lighting. Whilst this may be, perhaps, atmospheric it is somewhat frustrating to go to “see” a band play live only to spend much of the time only being able to see them in silhouette – that said, maybe the effect was better further forward in the room?…
Musically the band were excellent. Cato Bekkevold, the drummer, had some equipment problems with his kick drums which disrupted the flow for the band a little, but I imagine there are always likely to be teething problems on the first show of a tour.
Bassist / lead vocalist Kjellson was an engaging frontman and capable of some ferocious extreme metal vocals, which were offset superbly by keyboardist Herbrand Larsen’s clean vocals. Incidentally, on the small Marble Factory stage Larsen’s keyboard riser was so high that he towered over the rest of the band (including Bekkvold and his mammoth drum kit) and looked to have his head rather near the ceiling!
Guitarists Ivar Bjørnson and Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal were intense and concentrated on producing a wall of sound from their instruments, and it’s here that I think the biggest problem with the band’s show lay (lighting issues aside). On record, particularly with the band’s more recent output, it is quite easy to distinguish between guitar parts and focus on individual elements of the band’s sound should you want to. In the live arena, however, although the bass, drums and keyboards are all crystal clear, the two guitarists disappeared into a kind of audio fog with even guitar solos getting lost in it.
That’s a shame, as on record Enslaved are brilliant. Following the aforementioned Behemoth concert, this was my second “extreme” metal gig and whilst I most certainly enjoyed it I would have to say that in terms of both visuals and musical performance the Polish black metal band produced the better show. That said, I’m glad I went to this show as, even with my reservations, it was definitely worth the price of admission…
Setlist : (again probable – for the same reason as above)
1. Thurisaz Dreaming / 2. Fusion Of Sense And Earth / 3. Death In The Eyes Of Dawn / 4. Building With Fire / 5. Ruun / 6. Ethica Odini / 7. Convoys To Nothingness / 8. Allfǫðr Oðinn / 9. Isa
1 and 4 from “In Times” (2015) / 2 and 5 originally from “Ruun” (2006) / 3 originally from “RIITIIR” (2012) / 6 originally from “Axioma Ethica Odini” (2010) / 7 originally from “Monumension” (2001) / 8 originally from “Hordanes Land” (1993) / 9 originally from “Isa” (2004)
OK, the first new release to catch up on is the eighth studio album from South Carolina based death metal band Nile.
The band were formed in the town of Greenville back in 1993 by vocalist / guitarist Karl Sanders, bassist / vocalist Chief Spires and drummer Pete Hammoura. Debut album “Amongst The Catacombs Of Nephren-Ka” followed in 1998.
During the period between the band’s first album and 2007’s “Ithyphallic” release there have been a number of different band members come and go, but will “Ithyphallic” the band’s line-up stabilised around Sanders, guitarist / bassist / vocalist Dallas Toler-Wade and drummer George Kollias. Bass player Brad Parris has joined the band since the recording of the new album, which is titled “What Should Not Be Unearthed”.
As with the rest of the band’s catalogue, the majority of the music, and all of the lyrics have been written by Sanders and reflect his deep interest in Egyptology and sometimes other Middle Eastern cultures and history. This gives Nile’s music a distinctive difference from many of their death metal contemporaries, with perhaps only Melechesh offering a similar output.
The album begins with the appropriately named “Call To Destruction”, which is fast and heavy as hell. Topically, the lyrics of this track sound as though they could be from the point of view of today’s Islamic State as it talks about the annihilation of “all that is pre-Islamic… burning a vast accumulation of ancient knowledge existing long before the Quran…”. However, the lyrics are actually inspired by, and quote directly from, the Sunni leader (and Bahrain’s president of National Unity) Abd al-Latif al-Mahmoud who was reported to have called for Egyptian authorities to demolish the pyramids and continue the Islamisation process of the Egypt begun by Amr bin al-As when he led an Muslim conquest of the country in the year 640. The band have been at pains to point out, however, that this is not a perspective that they endorse. As you can probably tell, simple songs these are not!
Musically, straight away I can see that although this is a technically accomplished band at work this record isn’t as technical or clean in delivery and sound as the previous album “At The Gate Of Sethu”.
The next two tracks deal with aspects of the ancient Egyptian deity Apep, who was the greatest enemy of Ra (the sun god) and known as the Lord of Chaos.
Track four, which begins with the most obvious Middle Eastern musical influence so far on this record, is “In The Name Of Amun” – referring to another major Egyptian deity – and is followed by the title track, the longest and (to my mind) best track here. Exceptionally heavy guitar riffs mesh with some superb drumming and very menacing sounding death metal growls.
“Evil To Cast Out Evil” is another brutally heavy track, and initially reminded me a little of Polish black metal legends Behemoth, such is the level of aural violence and evil blasting out of the speakers!
After “Age Of Famine” comes the atmospheric instrumental track “Ushabti Reanimator” evoking the funerary figurines used in ancient Egyptian tombs before the furious and malevolent “Rape Of The Black Earth”.
The record then concludes with another epic death metal number in the form of “To Walk Forth From Flames Unscathed” which, along with the title track and “Evil To Cast Out Evil”, is one of the highlights for me on this superb album.
Sanders stated that “…the goal for the new record was sheer epic brutality. The focus this time around is on brutal Heavy Metal riffing and songwriting…”. I think it’s fair to say that the band have most definitely fulfilled that aim. Extremely heavy, dense, intense, intelligent, technically accomplished and simply very very good…
“What Should Not Be Unearthed” tracklist:
1. Call To Destruction / 2. Negating The Abominable Coils Of Apep / 3. Liber Stellae Rubeae / 4. In The Name Of Amun / 5. What Should Not Be Unearthed / 6. Evil To Cast Out Evil / 7. Age Of Famine / 8. Ushabti Reanimator / 9. Rape Of The Black Earth / 10. To Walk Forth From Flames Unscathed
Living in the Forest of Dean has definitely helped me have a greater appreciation of, and feel closer to, nature. In such a seemingly hectic, disposable, instant gratification world, and with organised religion continuing to cause great suffering to many – whatever religion may be the cause, I find myself increasingly drawn to ancient and pre-Christian ideas.
One way in which this manifests itself, I suppose, would be in terms of some of the art that I now enjoy. I thoroughly enjoy the lyrical, visual and sonic experience of anti-Christian black metal acts such as Behemoth, and on some level I can identify with satanism, particularly after reading Gavin Baddeley‘s excellent “Lucifer Rising” book. However, there is also a part of me that loves folk music with it’s tales of times past and feels strongly drawn to paganism.
It is this that brings me to the new album release, “Sabbat”, from Damh The Bard, a leading light in the Order Of Bards, Ovates & Driuds. Damh’s seventh album, and about eighteen months in the making, this follows the very good “Antlered Crown & Standing Stone” from 2012.
The record starts with the up-tempo title track, “Sabbat”. Although the title conjures up images of witches dancing in praise of Satan, this actually refers to the eight festivals that make up the Wheel Of The Year, which include Beltane and Samhain.
The gentler “The Wicker Man” follows. This is a more trance-like track addressing the practice of burning wicker men at modern pagan gatherings.
A wonderful version of “Scarborough Faire” follows, and is far more affecting than versions such as Simon & Garfunkel’s. Damh covers Uriah Heep’s “Lady In Black” which gives the song a nice rustic flavour without losing any of it’s majesty.
“Forgotten, Never Be” is a celebration of various living traditions, such as the Green Man and Morris dancing.
Whilst much of Damh’s music celebrates the history of England, the final song here, “Thundersbarrow Hill” is a song about his Viking ancestry and was inspired by a trip to Thundersbarrow on the South Downs. Loved the thunder storm at the end too!
Lyrically I really enjoyed this album, and I have to mention the humour involved in retelling a dream in “Time Machine” with the lines “I saw Stonehenge and what it’s for, but I don’t think I should say much more”! There is a link on Damh’s website with track by track lyrics and “making of” video clips that is well worth a look, as well.
The instrumentation throughout is simple, based around acoustic guitar and percussion. Whilst Damh’s voice may not be the strongest, when put together with the music and his lyrics the end result really is quite special. Recommended listening.
1. Sabbat / 2. The Wicker Man / 3. Scarborough Faire / 4. On The Shoulders Of Giants / 5. Iron From Stone / 6. Lady In Black / 7. When You Were Born / 8. Forgotten, Never Be / 9. Time Machine / 10. Thundersbarrow Hill
Friday 12th December 2014 – my second gig within a fortnight. It’s been a few years since I attended two concerts so close to each other! This one was for the penultimate show on Polish black metal band Behemoth’s “UK Satanist Tour 2014 E.V.” I hadn’t previously attended an extreme metal show, so no matter what, this was going to be an interesting experience.
Following the (presumably unintended) comedy security ensuring that the fans queuing up outside left a big gap, enforced by crowd barriers, for the entrance to the closed (and therefore unlikely to be used) car rental business next door, the doors of this 3,000 capacity venue opened at 6:00pm – showtime starting early to accommodate four bands before the venue’s curfew of 10:00pm – in place, it seems, to allow for the regular club night.
Having perused the merchandise stands and found a suitable vantage point to the side of the light and sound desks, at 6:15pm the show opened with Winterfylleth, a black metal band from Manchester. The band got together in 2007, and are dedicated to spreading the word regarding England’s historical ancestral past, folklore, and landscapes – indeed their name is derived from the Old English for “Winter Full Moon”. These themes definitely strike a chord with me, and I have enjoyed their four albums so far, from 2008’s “The Ghost Of Heritage” up to this year’s “The Divination Of Antiquity”
Unfortunately, and I cannot put my finger on why, Winterfylleth just didn’t come across very well live, to me. Visually, it’s a case of four guys wearing plain black t-shirts (and in the case of frontman Chris Naughton a plain black baseball cap too) and little in the way of movement. One might argue, fairly, that this is to allow the music to do the talking. On this front, though, their short set was a little too samey, not really allowing for much of the light and shade that graces their recorded output. With just 25 minutes to fill, the band’s tendency to the expansive soundscape meant that they were able to fit in a mere four tracks. This wasn’t helped by the guitars seemingly needing retuning between each number, which in itself caused momentum to slip a little.
1. Over Borderlands / 2. The Swart Raven / 3. The Divination Of Antiquity / 4. Whisper Of The Elements
1, 3 and 4 originally from “The Divination Of Antiquity” (2014) / 2 originally from “The Threnody Of Triumph” (2012)
Next up, after a very short break, were Swedish three piece heavy metal band Grand Magus. A more traditional sounding metal style, not a million miles from the likes of Manowar, with clean vocals and impressive and melodic guitar solos.
Although I had not connected greatly with Grand Magus on record before, I was familiar with some of their material – which is easily more instantly accessible than the extreme metal of the other bands on tonight’s bill.
Guitar retuning was again a feature here, though less so than with Winterfylleth, but the biggest issue I had here was that, because Grand Magus are your basic power trio – guitar, bass and drums – it meant that the lack of continued rhythm guitar underlying the sparkling guitar solos left an audible hole to fill.
Nonetheless, and despite the short space of time they had to fill, the band got the crowd singing along, and were very well received.
1. I, The Jury / 2. Like The Oar Strikes The Water / 3. Steel Versus Steel / 4. Triumph And Power / 5. Hammer Of The North
1 and 5 originally from “Hammer Of The North” (2010) / 2 originally from “Iron Will” (2008) / 3 and 4 originally from “Triumph And Power” (2014)
Following another short break it was the turn of Decapitated, a technical death metal band from Poland. Formed by guitarist Wacław “Vogg” Kiełtyka in 1996, the band have released a series of impressive albums, culminating in their latest two albums, 2011’s “Carnival Is Forever” and 2014’s “Blood Mantra” achieving top twenty status in the U.S. Heat chart.
A very impressive light show accompanied the band’s brutal riffing and Rafał “Rasta” Piotrowski’s death growl vocals, and helped to visually accent some relentless drumming. Not an easy listen by any means, but I felt quite captivated by the sheer power and ferocity being exuded from the stage.
1. Veins / 2. The Blasphemous Psalm To The Dummy God Creation / 3. Blood Mantra / 4. Pest / 5. Exiled In Flesh / 6. Instinct
1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 originally from “Blood Mantra” (2014) / 4 originally from “Carnival Is Forever” (2011)
At 8:40pm the house lights went down again, which was greeted with a huge roar from the crowd. The atmospheric intro tape began to roll the for the headliners, black metal giants Behemoth.
Out of the darkness came the slowly building opening of “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” with bassist Tomasz “Orion” Wróblewski and guitarist Patryk “Seth” Sztyber standing, hooded, on platforms either side of Zbigniew “Inferno” Promiński’s massive white drum kit in front of a huge backdrop depicting the band’s sigil, whilst frontman Adam “Nergal” Darski stepped up behind his elaborate microphone stand – like some kind of cross between a church lectern and a Roman standard – and began to unleash an epic performance.
Started by mainman Nergal in 1991, Behemoth have gone from strength to strength, with each album being, to my ears, musically and sonically superior to that which had gone before it.
Latest album “The Satanist”, the band’s first since Nergal’s successful fight against Leukemia, is a superb recording. Sprawling, grandiose, intense and brutal with orchestral and choral backing adding even further colour to the intricacies of the band’s music.
I must confess that my initial reactions, as I discussed the gig with my wife the next day (she didn’t come with me, with extreme metal not really being her thing) were that there were too many intro tapes between songs and not enough interaction with the audience.
On reflection, however, and having spent the past week with “The Satanist” on regular rotation on my virtual turntable, I now feel somewhat differently about the whole experience.
From the moment the lights went down just before Behemoth’s set began, the show became almost a religious experience.
If you weren’t aware of the lyrical content of the band’s material, the message was quite clearly visually presented. There was a lot of symbolism – the sigil backdrop, the band’s double headed eagle on the platforms, the hoods that they wore when they came on stage, the corpse paint and blood, etc. Add to that a fantastic light show, with the reds being particularly effective in adding to the aesthetic I feel.
Musically, however, is where things count the most. And it’s here that Behemoth really triumphed. I believe that something that detractors of heavy metal, and extreme metal in particular, often overlook is the sheer technical ability of many of the musicians involved. Well, Orion’s fluid bass playing anchored everything perfectly, meshing with the phenomenal drumming of Inferno.
Having played drums myself, I can honestly say Inferno’s speed and technique is frankly awesome! To play the way that he does, utilising all four limbs simultaneously at breakneck speed may not be unique in this genre of music, but still his performance was very impressive.
On the guitar front, both Nergal and Seth played with ferocity and precision. Razor sharp rhythms and devastating leads all combining to an all out attack on the senses.
Finally, Nergal’s vocals. Whilst black metal lyrics are often near impossible to decipher without a lyric sheet, Nergal’s delivery is one of the most accessible that I have heard, without sacrificing any of the “nastiness” required. Behemoth performed a brilliantly paced set, visually and musically compelling from start to finish.
The encore brought the closing track from “The Satanist”, the excellent “O Father O Satan O Sun”. As the track reached the midway point, the lights dimmed for a moment whilst the music continued, and when the red lights shone on the stage again it felt akin to a kind of black mass.
All four band members were wearing horned masks (like those on display in their “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” video), Seth and Orion standing back up on their respective platforms whilst Nergal stood still directly in front of Inferno’s kit, playing the hypnotic final section of the song whilst the spoken word part was played:
“O Lion-Serpent Sun, The beast that whirlest forth, a thunder-bolt, begetter of life! Thou that flowest! Thou that goest! Thou Satan-Sun, Hadith, that goest without will! Thou Air! Breath! Spirit! Thou without bound or bond! Thou essence, air swift-streaming, elasticity! Thou wanderer, father of all! Thou wanderer, spirit of all!
Hear me, and make all spirits subjects unto me; so that every spirit of the firmament and of the ether, upon the earth and under the earth, on dry land and in the water of whirling air, and of rushing fire, and every spell and scourge of god may be obedient unto me.
Thou spiritual sun! Satan, thou eye, thou lust! Cry aloud! Cry aloud! Whirl the wheel, O my Father, O Satan, O Sun!”
1. Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel / 2. Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer / 3. Conquer All / 4. Decade Of Therion / 5. As Above So Below / 6. Slaves Shall Serve / 7. Christians To The Lions / 8. The Satanist / 9. Ov Fire And The Void / 10. Furor Divinus / 11. Ludzie Wschodu / 12. Alas, Lord Is Upon Me / 13. At The Left Hand Ov God / 14. Chant For Eschaton 2000 / 15. O Father O Satan O Sun!
1, 2, 8, 10, 11 and 15 originally from “The Satanist” (2014) / 3 and 6 originally from “Demigod” (2004) / 4 and 14 originally from “Satanica” (1999) / 5 originally from “Zos Kia Cultus (Here And Below)” (2002) / 7 originally from “Thelema.6” (2000) / 9 and 12 originally from “Evangelion” (2009) / 13 originally from “The Apostacy” (2007)