An Autumn For Crippled Children have a very credible reputation, one of almost unreserved critical acclaim gained over the four albums that precede The Long Goodbye (Wicker Man), four albums that have established the Dutch post-black metal band as able to combine prolificacy and class in rare measure, and a band whose raison d’etre is in the beautifully dark and melancholic.
And release seven (in six years, for they have also produced two EPs) will continue that reputation, and starts by snapping the head of the listener to attention with a deformed upbeat Death Rock opening trio that fuse goth-punk, black metal jangle and profound Cascadian melodies. Like a permeating disease, the white noise of distortion sits like an ethereal fog atop the bleak atmospheric music playing beneath its influence, as the dance beneath slows from the Death Rock four-step of the first three songs to a statuesque stall of reflection which subdues the mood.
Whether that is the right play or not depends on whether you’re prepared to accept The Long Goodbye for what it is, rather than what you thought it was going to do, or indeed what you wanted it to do. After the unexpected and pleasing opening, the expected combination of black metal shuffle and despondent atmospheres takes over from ‘When Night Leaves Again’.
Taking it for how it plays out, The Long Goodbye proceeds to unveil post-Black Metal dejection, with songs like ‘Endless Skies’ that segue from gentle mood pieces into evocative and epic movements, before recalling some of the simple touches that impressed from the outset towards the tail, with ‘Gleam’ an expansive story splashed with flickers of Americana that explodes , contradictorily, into an uplifting yet sad beauty in the manner of a Deafheaven.
As mentioned at the outset, An Autumn For Crippled Children have a strong reputation that they’ve cultivated and maintained at every step of their existence. The Long Goodbye will only serve to enhance that standing, with the exploration of death rock, alongside their usual despondency and delicate post-Black metal, adding a welcome vibrancy and impetus.
Comprised of Stephen Parker (Arkhum) and Jarrod Hyam (Sophos), with Kenneth Parker (Grst) and Cordell Cline (Dimensionless) recently enlisted to fulfill rhythm duties, Voir Dire was engineered and mixed during the Summer months of 2014 at Parker’s own The Wilderness studio and delivers seventy-four minutes of heart-blistering grimness, concluding with a four-part epic, ‘Opaque Shadows In Framed Stillness,’ the duration of which makes up nearly half the record’s length. Mastered by Agalloch‘s Jason Walton at Earth In Sound in October 2014, Voir Dire integrates black metal, doom and ambient, resulting in a caustic yet lush confessional.
Voir Dire Track Listing:
01. Shrouded by Peaks, Valleys Speak
02. Weeping Granite
03. Tears of Sky
04. Algid Lungs
Opaque Shadows In Framed Stillness:
05. I: Overcast Fields Ridden With Dew
06. II: Specie Æternitas
07. III: Water Sifting Through Iceladen Veins
07 V: Per Æternitas
Feb 27: Wandering Goat – Eugene, OR (Record Release Show w/ Facing Extinction, Dark Confidant, Black Woofer)
With their last proclamation Carrion Skies(Code666), British band Fen let the Black Metal flood back into their sound, releasing their strongest album to date and ultimately featuring in the Ghost Cult Magazine Top 40 Albums of 2014. In celebration of opening the sluice gates, front man The Watcher revealed the depth of his Black Metal love by unveiling his Top 5 unsung oft overlooked underground treasures
Setherial – Nord (Napalm Records – 1996)
Cold. That’s the one overriding word to sum up this furious blast of mid-nineties Swedish black metal – cold. Freezing, even. Taking its cues fairly heavily from Emperor’s seminal In the Nightside Eclipse (Candlelight) album, Nord strips backs the keyboards whilst simultaneously cranking up the intensity levels considerably. Riff after riff of freezing melody pours forth across thundering percussion, lengthy songs (the opener alone is nearly 12 minutes long) buoyed by relentless twists and turns. An exhilarating, windswept listen and serious contender for black metal’s finest hour.
Diabolical Masquerade – Nightwork (Avantgarde Music – 1998)
Anders Nystrom may be much better known for his “day job” in Katatonia but back in the mid-90s, as the mysterious Blakkheim he released four records of haunting, horror-themed black metal under the banner of Diabolical Masquerade. The pick is undoubtedly the third full-length Nightwork, a peak-laden brace of songs replete with infections fretwork, searing melody and an underlying sense of humour. This isn’t at all to detract from the ‘abandoned mansion’ atmospherics of the album and Nightwork simply oozes a convincing crepuscular ambience in amongst the riffage.
Armagedda – Ond Spiritism (Agonia – 2004)
From pure early Darkthrone worship on their debut to ‘fist-in-the face’ muscular black metal on ‘Only True Believers’ to occult-themed dungeonesque roamings, Sweden’s Armagedda explored a gamut of expressions within their short, three-album career. Swansong ‘Ond Spiritism’ is the peak – a lengthy, sprawling opus with an undeniable cloak of darkness wafting across the whole thing. Graav’s guttural croak spits venom in his native Swedish whilst the guitars and bass swirl like a thick fog. Absorbing and unsettling work from the young Swedes.
Tenebrae in Perpetuum – Antico Misticismo (Debemur Morti – 2006)
Yet another band who are no longer with us, Tenebrae in Perpetuum specialised in a particularly brittle, shrill form of frozen melodic black metal – made particularly surprising by the fact that they were actually Italian! Mainman Atratus’ guitar sound is one of the most distinctive you’ll hear – a treble-heavy, reverb soaked saw that nonetheless manages to convey the band’s excellently-developed sense of melody and song structure. All three of their full-length releases are worth tracking down so consistent is their quality but Antico Misticismo probably edges it thanks to a couple of genuinely spine-tingling moments.
Obsidian Tongue – A Nest of Ravens in the Throat of Time (Hypnotic Dirge – 2013)
The most recent release on this list and hopefully a band who won’t remain ‘hidden’ for too much longer, this US-based duo ply their trade with a particularly punishing brand of “Post” black metal. Building on the template laid down by the so-called ‘Cascadian’ sound (Agalloch, Wolves in the Throne Room et al), Brendan Hayter and Greg Murphy lay down a serious challenge on their sophomore effort here. Winding passaged of considered guitar, inventive percussion and a darker atmosphere than many of their peers render them a real one to watch. That they can pull it off live is just the icing on the cake.
Did you ever go to a show and know right off the bat that it was one for the record books? Well on Friday December 12th at the Middle East Nightclub in Cambridge, there was such a show, and this one makes it into my top 5 out of about 60 for the entire year of 2014. Why? Because it had some of the best bands New England has to offer on the bill coupled with one of the most amazing atmospheres, crowd wise, I have seen in a while.
I always know it’s December in New England when Morne plays a show in the Boston area. A band that keeps it’s local show appearances to about one a year won’t ever be blamed for over saturating the local scene, not that I know anyone who would complain if they were to add a show or two each year. Stacked to the gills with local heavyweights Churchburn and Obsidian Tongue plus a solid new comer, SEA, opening up the nights musical assault, I knew there would be no complaints about the music on this night.
Unfortunately I missed most of SEA’s set but what I caught was really good. Take heavy, slow doom and mix it with part melodic, part chugging riffs. At least that’s what I took away from the 2 songs I got to hear. It was enough for me to be interested in the band and what they do in the months ahead. Hopefully there will be some sort of recording to come from them in the near future.
Next up was the Massachusetts black metal outfit, Obsidian Tongue, recently off a stint with Agalloch where they played on 6 of the North American tour dates. This band has grown so much in the past few years and now is a serious force to be reckoned with on stage. How exactly they are able to create such a full sound being a two piece, I have never understood but watching this band mature over the past 4 or so years has been a sheer pleasure and they are definitely one of my favorite local bands.
Churchburn hit the stage and began the set with their song ‘V,’ showcasing their take on unrelenting black/death/doom. I have seen this band more than a few times and have not been disappointed once. When Dave Suzuki gets to the mic it’s almost as if instead of opening his mouth, his face actually splits open (like it’s on a damn hinged cantilever or something) and spews raw venom at the audience. One of these days I think he might bust a vessel or something. Absolutely powerful performance from a really devastating band out of Providence. They are solid front to back and definitely not a band to miss.
By the time Morne started their set, the place was sold out and started to get a bit steamy. Sneaking a peek at the setlist got me excited for what was to come as it was filled with a combination of songs from all three full length albums. First song was the opening track off the newest release, Shadows, called “Coming of Winter” which was appropriate on many levels. The newest member of the band, Paul Rajpal, seems to be a superb fit to the band and gels very well. The dual nature of Milosz Gassans vocal style, filled with emotion, always reminds me of a dark and painful form of Tuvan throat singing. If you listen carefully you might understand what I mean. As they blasted through the 8 song set, the entire crowd was rapt with their performance, and for good reason. This was one of the most powerful performances I have seen them play to date, which is saying a lot since I have never seen them be anything but top notch. The band just plain crushes, I have no idea how else to put it but this time they leveled the place.
This show proved just how strong and vibrant the underground metal scene(or whatever the hell you want to call it) is here in New England.
I highly recommend checking out all of these bands if you haven’t already done so. They do not disappoint!
Summer Breeze Open Air Festival has announced its lineup for the 2015 edition. The event is held at Aeroclub Dinkelsbuehl Airfield between Sinbronn and Illenschwang in Dinkelsbuehl, Germany from August 13th to 15th, 2015.
Any Given Day
Cradle Of Filth
Ost + Front
The German Panzer
To celebrate the release of their stunning 9/10 album Carrion Skies (Code666 – review here) The Watcher, guitarist and vocalist of England’s atmospheric post-Black Metal band Fen spoke to Ghost Cult on a range of subjects. In the third of four parts, with a further feature to follow in the next Ghost Cult digimag, talk turned to the role of the audience in the development of a band…
When it comes to writing music, and developments and changes in Fen’s sound, do you care what your fans think, or is writing music for Fen purely for the band members?
First and foremost you have to write music that satisfies yourself; that is an absolute underlying fundament of being in a band, but I do care, yes. I think a band takes on a life of its own after a point. We’re on our fourth album, we seem to have quite a few people out there who support us, and I think it’d be disingenuous to say that your audience, or the buyer, isn’t in mind when you’re putting together material. If people are willing to take the time and effort, and potentially money, to invest in your art, then there has to be an element of reciprocation there. We are conscious of the fact we have listeners; it’s not like we’re a global phenomenon but we are aware, and if we put out a record and our established fans didn’t like it, I’d be really interested to know why.
By not being a band that is overtly a touring artist, does that audience becomes more distant, and contact with the people that buy your product is reduced? It’s not like you are a 5fDP with 18 month tours…
“It isn’t, but that’s not to say we wouldn’t like it to be [on tour that long – not that they want to be Five Finger Death Punch – ST]. I enjoy doing this, I enjoy doing shows, we enjoy getting opportunities, and if you’re in a band and you have an audience, you look to grow that audience, and it’s important. I think there are bands that are disingenuous, and they say ‘We just write for ourselves, and it’s a bonus if people choose to listen to us’, but if you’re just doing it for yourself, then just play your music loudly in the rehearsal room.”
To Misquote Al Jourgensen, as soon as you play music to other people you’re selling out…
“I think it’s a dishonest thing to say ‘We just in it for ourselves’. When you pick up a guitar when you’re 13 or 14 years old, you just want to rock the fuck out. You want to be the man! No matter how many permutations your musical endeavours go down, or whatever prisms you view yourself through, as an artist the minute you’re going onto a stage and plugging into an amp that’s cranked up, there’s an element of that original instinct that kicks in, of wanting to just rock out in front of a crowd. I’m not going to lie about that just to make myself look a little bit cooler or more detached, or more intellectual.
“OK, we have signifiers and caveats to it – we’re playing “Atmospheric post-Black Metal…” Well, ultimately, we’re playing loud rock music. That’s an underlying fact. And a part of that is an audience. It’s an important part of being in a band. No one in a band can look me in the eye and tell me they enjoy playing in front of fuck all people. That’s not true. You can lie to yourself with your ‘There were only 2 people there, but those 2 people really loved it’.
“I remember in my old band, in Skaldic Curse, we started working on a 25 minute long progressive black metal epic, and we were ‘Oh, this is really going to piss people off’… Hang on a minute, where’s this thinking leading? Are we getting so wrapped up in trying to do what people don’t expect of us? But then you are still thinking about what the audience think, you’re just looking at it through a different end of the telescope. It’s an un-ignorable part of the artistic process, unless you are going to record music on your own at home and only listen to it alone. The minute anyone else enters the picture, even band mates, you’re sharing, and there’s consideration for the listener, and I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t see why that has to somehow compromise the purity of the art.”
I guess it’s always been something that’s intrinsic within the Black Metal / Kvlt Metal mentality or mindset…
“Yes, there’s always the isolationist thing, but if you look at the second wave of black metal, Euronymous still wanted to shift records. He ran a record label. He wanted to sell records from a shop. It was under the guise of spreading the message of the horned lord, or whatever, but he wanted an audience.”
And let’s not pretend De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (Deathlike Silence) is shit…
“It’s a brilliant record, and Euronymous wanted an audience for it. He’d do tours; Mayhem were touring around Eastern Europe in 1990, 1991, and they were one of the first second wave Black Metal bands out there doing it. And there are some real headbanging moments on De Mysteriis… take the riff on ‘Pagan Fears’, that’s a proper fists in the air riff. The mid-section of ‘Freezing Moon’… that’s a head-banging classic, and that’s why I don’t think considering your audience has to be a compromise at all. I think there’s some dishonesty in that level of thinking because you can be inspired, you can write with integrity and you can still consider your audience.
“If you’ve got to a point where your band has a fanbase, then your band has overtaken you. It’s no longer yours and yours alone. And I know John from Agalloch gets really upset with this, he gets upset with fans having a sense of entitlement, and that’s fair enough, but these people are buying and consuming your music, and it’s a sense that’s born from them enjoying your music. While that can be annoying, in a sense, you can listen to them and take some stuff on board. There is a line, but if they’re genuine fans, buying physical releases and merchandise, and they’re investing in your band and your music, then you owe it to them to take them into consideration.”
The countdown to the Official Ghost Cult Magazine Album of the Year for 2014 continues. Please consume and enjoy the results of our 2014 Writers’ Poll. We hope it will introduce you to some of the incredible works of art you may have missed that we have had the immense pleasure of listening to and writing about this year.
In our third installment we bring you albums 30 through to 21
30. CASUALTIES OF COOL – Casualties Of Cool (Pledge/HevyDevy)
“Casualties of Cool is an intriguing experiment from a man who excels in making left-field music. Go in expecting massive a prog-metal exercise will only lead to disappointment, but having an open mind will result in a rewarding experience” DAN SWINHOE 8/10 Full review here
29. ANATHEMA – Distant Satellites (KScope)
“One of our world’s most understated bands, despite the plaudits they get, Anathema have once again showcased their knack for penning both forward thinking and emotionally driven music which oozes real human character and sentimentality”. CHRIS TIPPELL 9/10 Full review here
28. DOWN – IV (Part II) (Down Records)
“When we look back on this part of their career, we will likely understand that these are less like regular EPs that other bands release, and much more like a mini-opus, in pieces. Down clearly realizes their collective vision, no matter who is in the lineup, every time”. KEITH ‘KEEFY’ CHACHKES 9.5/10 Full review here
27. VALLENFYRE – Splinters (Century Media)
“Sadistic and aggressive with endless moments of bleak reflection Splinters is a leviathan unleashed upon unsuspecting listeners and a release surely destined to grace many year end lists” ROSS BAKER 9/10 Full review here
26. AGALLOCH – “The Serpent and the Sphere” (Profound Lore)
Like a massive-antlered stag glimpsed amidst a wintry landscape, breathtaking, elusive and hard to pin down, The Serpent and the Sphere looks set to continue their elegant and ever-evolving legacy JAMES CONWAY 9/10 Full review here
25. THOU – Heathen (Gilead Media)
“A storm manifest as a piece of music, as devastating as it is awe-inspiring, Heathen is varied and compelling for the entire runtime”. TOM SAUNDERS 9/10 Full review here
24. septicflesh – Titan (Season of Mist)
“Sharp, buzzing riffs and symphonic keys, strength and brutality amongst moments of pomp and beauty, bloody entertaining and another show of form” PAUL QUINN 8.5/10 Full review here
23. PYRRHON – The Mother of Virtues (Relapse)
“The Mother Of Virtues doesn’t just challenge what is “extreme”, but calls into question whether some of what is produced is actually even music. Completely and utterly impenetrable, and exceptional with it”. STEVE TOVEY 9.5/10 Full review here
To celebrate the release of their stunning 9/10 album Carrion Skies (Code666 – review here) The Watcher, guitarist and vocalist of England’s atmospheric post-Black Metal band Fen spoke to Ghost Cult on a range of subjects. In the first of four parts, with a further feature to follow in the next Ghost Cult digimag, he enthuses on the conscious injection of metal back into their sound that facilitated the statement album that should propel them to the head table…
“You look at a band like Paradise Lost. When they started out, they couldn’t be more Heavy Metal. Then they get to 24, 25 years old and then it’s ‘Heavy Metal is for losers. I’ve been listening to this for 10 years, it’s old hat. I’ve heard all there is to hear of this, it’s for bozos. I like Depeche Mode, let’s do that and let’s be all grown up’. But then it goes full circle, and when they hit their late 30’s they’re ‘God, I think I was a pretentious little twat back then! I actually do like Heavy Metal and I wasn’t anywhere near as clever as I thought I was when I went all experimental’.
“You see it a bit with the Norwegian scene, too, that all went ludicrously avant-garde in the late 90’s. It’s like they all went to university and thought ‘Ooh, I want to be clever now. What’s clever? Well, heavy metal definitely isn’t, so…’
“The thing is, I like Heavy Metal. I want to play Heavy Metal. It sounds a bit Bad News, but I love Heavy Metal. I listen to Heavy Metal. Heavy Metal.”
Once people stray away from the metal part of their sound they’re moving into a shallower pool of influences, and have a shortfall in their depth of knowledge. The problem is, bands not understanding these additional elements of their sound as much as they do the metal… I’m not saying don’t utilise these additional, non-metal influences, but make sure you understand what you’re doing…
“Exactly. It is dabbling. It’s going ‘I’ve been listening to a load of synthy 80s new wave bands recently, we can do something with that’. And there’s a danger for bands to get really carried away, and I think this is what was happening with us.
“At the start of last year, the end of the year before, we’d done Dustwalker (the band’s third album, also on Code666) and me and our drummer, Derwydd, had been listening to loads of Sad Lovers and Giants, The Chameleons and Snake Corps, all these guitarwave bands. Then, in rehearsal I thought I’d turn the distortion off, put a bit chorus and delay on it and, oh, we can sound like that… and it’s easy to carried away with it when you’re playing one style so much. But to your ears it’s a really fresh sound, and you’re like ‘Yes! We can do this!’ At points we were even talking about doing a whole album like that, a whole album with clean guitars.
“It was only when we got back from touring with Agalloch that we realised that we’d got completely over-excited about the fact that we do listen to some non-metal stuff and we can do a passable version of it. But it’s not really enough, and we did have to put the brakes on and take a look at it, and say ‘Are we just playing a slightly rubbish version of The Chameleons with some guy shouting over it?’ And in all honesty, we were.
“We took a really objective step back and looked at it, and a lot of the stuff that was originally pencilled in to be on the album was binned off. We had gotten carried away and were disappearing up our own arses.”
An integral part of the Fen sound has always been that it comes from black metal and the inherent extremity of black metal first, despite the fact that you are often compared with bands like Agalloch and Alcest, who are much lighter, much “nicer”…
“I like Agalloch and I like some of the early Alcest, but it’s a bit of a lazy comparison I think. Particularly with this new album, we’ve set ourselves apart from that. I mean, touring with Agalloch for a month… they do that stuff really well, but we don’t want to sound like that. They’ve got that sound nailed. We sat down and said we needed to define ourselves, we needed to really underline what we’re about.
“Unfortunately there are bands out there who don’t take that step back until it’s too late, until it’s ‘Oh shit, we’re not as clever as we think we are’, but I can see it from the other side of the fence, that it’s easy to get swept up in it. Everyone gets whipped up into a fervour, and gets all ‘We can do it! This is so different! Look at how versatile we are!’ , but any competent musician can turn their hand to doing a vague version of another style, but doing it well is a different thing.”
“Dustwalkeris a metal album, but we did go down a certain route. There’s a lot of atmospheric stuff on there, there’s a whole song on there that’s got no distorted guitars whatsoever. With this one, we thought ‘We’re in the mood for metal, we want to do some metal!’ We’re an extreme metal band and it’s almost become a cliché for bands that are in the post-black metal scene to shed the trappings of black metal, and that’s not a game I’m interested in playing.
“I want to reassert our credentials as a metal band.”