Polish and English progressive rock and metal quartet Disperse returns to present their third studio album Foreword (Season of Mist). This band may take inspiration from bands such as Pink Floyd, and Dream Theater, but it ends up with a very modern sound , in some parts similar to pop bands such as Kensington, but with a more progressive bent to their music. Continue reading
While roaming the green green grass of Bloodstock Festival earlier this year, Ghost Cult caught up with Saille to discuss their first appearance at the legendary festival, and how work on their next opus is coming along…
If there was something special about Bloodstock Festival in 2015, aside from the bands and the people of course, it was the constant sunshine and heat; something we always hope for at UK festivals but we rarely get (anyone who has encountered Download Festival at its worst will testify to). However, while this is great for the fans it does not necessarily prove to be so for those bands on the main stage who strive for dark and haunting atmospherics. The likes of Agalloch and 1349 across the weekend made due effort and came out well; for poor Belphegor the presence of butterflies clearly visible to the stage proved too comical to take them seriously.
With their debut Bloodstock appearance on the Sophie Tent instead of the main stage, Belgian black metallers Saille luckily benefited from the tent atmosphere, able to showcase their tone and visuals unaffected, and as a result proved one of the weekends highlights. Speaking to vocalist Dennie Grondelaers and guitarist Reinier Schenk before their Sunday set, they both understand their stage positioning, and are very positive about their setting.
“We have to accept the fact that we are a growing band; if we are on the main stage we would just vanish into nothing” begins Grondelaers, philosophically.
Schenk “I prefer to play inside because we can bring our own light show”
Grondelaers “Its certainly interesting for black metal bands to play in the sunlight.”
With a very strong release ethic which has seen 3 albums in the last 4 years, Saille have, unsurprisingly reached UK shores more frequently as of late, but Bloodstock represents their first festival appearance, at least in the UK. With so many festivals across Europe now, competition is as fierce as ever. Grondelaers muses “I don’t think it’s actually well known (outside of the UK), but people who know Bloodstock are really excited about it, but I also think the main audience is people on the mainland.”
Schenk: “There is a lot of competition on the continent, a lot of small countries and huge festivals, if you can’t see a band there then maybe come here, like Emperor last year.”
Grondelaers “Plus it’s the same weekend for Party San in Germany and Brutal Assault in the Czech Republic.”
Despite the competitive nature of the festival season however, Saille are very positive about Bloodstock and say there is a big plus on its side. Grondelaers explains: “It’s a small festival, there are very big bands but on a smaller scale, compared to say Graspop which is nice but its huge, about 50,000 people. Here it’s half (that) and much more laidback, more relaxed and you don’t have to walk around. You don’t have to walk 4 hours on some sandy trail to get to your camping spot.”
With the festival season still in full swing even after Bloodstock, Saille have a busy schedule of more European festivals before returning to regular venues, and the writing of the follow up to last years Eldritch(Aural Music). With a very fast paced release schedule before, this time around they want to take things differently. On the subject of new music, Grondelaers adds “We want to take a little more time for the next album, we are not putting any deadlines on it this time.”
Reiner Schenk continues in blunt fashion. “Deadlines always destroy something, if it’s the artwork or the production, it sucks.”
Grondelaers “It’s a bit too early to talk about it but we have pretty much worked out the concept will be about pain and suffering.”
“We tried butterflies and love but that was taken already” Schenk deadpans.
WORDS BY CHRIS TIPPELL
It’s staggering to realise that Finnish sextet Shape of Despair have been travelling their heart-rending road for twenty years. New album Monotony Fields (Season of Mist), the band’s fourth, is their first in eleven years and first without their noted growler Pasi Koskinen. The good news is that Koskinen didn’t take the magic with him.
This is poignant stuff: from the atmospheric synth work building the form of opener ‘Reaching the Innermost’, the immense dirge ‘The Blank Journey’ and devastating closer ‘Written in My Scars’; to the sparing piano intermittently puncturing subtle yet powerful riffs, dropping tears into the soul. With piercing, vertiginous lead chords, and the moving intonations of Natalie Koskinen stopping the guttural growls of Henri Koivula, there’s more than a smattering of the symphonic here. The funeral march pace, however, lends more than enough real gravitas to ensure that the passion is not diluted.
At over 70 minutes’ duration, this is a long trek so the lighter touches serve to enhance and tickle the brain: the evocative, cosmic synth of the title track underpinning the mournful growl and ramping up the emotion rather than urinating on it. The tempo also, hardly relenting, rarely moves above a respectful coffin retinue. The nebulae of ‘Descending Inner Night’, augmented by lead pedal effects, are stellar and supremely emotive – the Anathema-like cleans here chilling the bones, the whole a premier example of an outfit atop their game and as moving as the Liverpudlians to whom they perhaps invoke most comparison. The swell of ‘In Longing’ and the slightly more up-tempo ‘The Distant Dream of Life’ is chest-filling, the contrast of the harsh vocal a delicious melding of tastes, the latter an incredibly touching track and the embodiment of this album’s seeming intent to enlighten and give hope as it simultaneously crushes all resolve.
Often nearing the borders of Cheeseville without ever setting foot inside, Monotony Fields adds a touch of light to the overwhelming darkness of Funeral Doom yet, far from trivialising it, only increases its power to move and intrigue. This is as refreshing as it is heartfelt and affecting.
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.
Up and coming UK grind trio Oblivionized are hitting the boards to promote their upcoming new album Life Is A Struggle, Give Up which is due for release via fledgling label Secret Law Records in March of this year by taking the fight to the UK gig scene in February.
Bringing the chaos with them are French quartet Plebeian Grandstand, whose latest slab of atmospheric metal Lowgazers is out now on Throatruiner.
Catch the pair at the following venues near you.
7-8/02/15 – Lisbon (Portugal) – RCA Club (Burning Light Festival)
14/02/15 – Plymouth – Underground
15/02/15 – Bristol – Exchange (Rad Not Sad Fest)
16/02/15 – Canterbury – The Lady Luck Bar
17/02/15 – Leeds – Santiagos Bar
18/02/15 – Hull – O’Rileys
19/02/15 – Chester – The Compass
20/02/15 – Nottingham – Stuck On A Name Studios
21/02/15 – Brighton – The Green Door Store and Fitzherberts (two separate shows)
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 last of our four part feature, with a further feature to follow in the next Ghost Cult digimag, he opened up about the lyrical concepts and themes prevalent on the new release, and the folly and failures of mankind…
There seems to have been a change in your lyrical themes and style. Would you say you’ve changed the emphasis and topics as you’ve gone on?
“We have. The last couple of albums Dustwalker and Epoch were quite personal, it was internal thoughts being expressed via metaphors of the external – the inner landscape being presented as an outer landscape. We really ploughed that furrow extensively on Dustwalker, in particular, and that led to a lot of the lyrical themes being quite spiritual and transient discussions. This album is going back to The Malediction Fields (all releases on Code666) and is a lot more of an external reflection on mankind, the follies of the human spirit, and how we engage in endless repeating cycles tending towards self-destruction, failure and misery.
“People have said how lyrically it speaks of ancient times, but we’re trying to draw that line, because we are here in 2014 and we exist in a really technocratic age and society but, really the same failings that have plagued humanity since the birth of civilisation still occur and continue to haunt us, and that’s where a lot of the thought processes have gone on this album.”
It’s worrying that in 2014 and we’re still witnessing people being executed due to beliefs, a high degree of exclusion and negativity towards diversity and in the UK, with the rise of UKIP, we’re seeing a worrying trend in terms of what is becoming popular in people’s politics.
“It’s worrying. I was talking to Gunnar (Sauermann) and he was saying there’s similar themes on the new Winterfylleth and was asking ‘Is there something going on in England? Is there a problem, and is it serving as an inspiration?’ The answer is, not consciously. We’re not a political band, I have no interest in discussing politics, and in fact I’m sick to the back teeth of this whole English Heritage Act concept that keeps getting thrown at us, but I suppose, subliminally, the entire discourse of society at the moment, and I don’t want to sound dramatic, but day by day there’s more negative news stories, and there’s the whole rise of UKIP…”
That’s a big part of what worries me, thousands of years down the line and a right wing party with an exclusive agenda can still be popular and on the rise…
“People don’t learn. Everyone that lives in the present day thinks we’re more civilized and advanced than in the past, and it’s not true. It’s a lie. Just because we’re more technologically progressed than we were 50 years ago, 500 years ago, 1000 years ago, well, human mentality and physiology doesn’t evolve that quickly. Every person is 3 good meals away from a riot, we haven’t advanced. It’s just a Western perspective, too, as there’s vast tracts of this planet that still live in medieval conditions.
“In the last 6 to 12 months there’s been some very unpleasant discourse that is becoming increasingly mobilized, and that is the first step to badness. I went to the Holocaust Exhibition the other day, now, a visit to that is always going to be sobering but looking at it through the prism of where our political discourse is going at the moment, it sent a chill down my spine. The holocaust isn’t some evil entity that happened in biblical times, or distant past – it was only 70 years ago. It’s within living memory, and it started with rabble-rousing discourse about “others”. That’s how it starts; a charismatic demagogue talking about “others”, gradually normalizing demonization through political discourse.
We’re also in a society that’s awash with Middle Class apathy…
“I don’t want to get too bogged down in this, because my band isn’t about this, but if you’re ruminating on human failure, you’re ruminating on human tendencies towards conflict, and violence and aggression, this is happening now. There’s a lot of misplaced anger, saying ‘look at the different, look at the others’ and it’s always about ‘blame the foreigners’, because that’s an easy one. But look at where the real problem is, and it’s in the paymasters of this country, they’re playing people like puppets.
“But what is quite interesting, though, is that a lot of the lyrics for the album were written over a year ago, and this wasn’t happening, and it’s since I’ve written them, now I’m even more heightened to what’s going on. The first two tracks, ‘Our Names Written In Embers’ [which comes in two parts – ST], it’s human beings are just this endless cycle of conflict, of war, and then the obligatory introspection and “we can’t let that happen again” and then ten years later the same thing happens again. It’s a propensity for, a lust for slaughter, yet nobody ever “wins”, nobody gets anything out of it, it doesn’t have to be that loads of normal human beings get killed or wounded and then that’s it.
“As a species it hasn’t stopped. We are so-called evolved in 2014 with our ipads and iphones and all that bollocks, and yet people are still being massacred on a daily basis. Is it ever going to stop? And that’s the over-arching theme for the album. You look at the title, you know, Carrion Skies, and that’s the future, that’s the future of man, it’s just a blood-drenched. carcass-strewn horizon. Throughout it, I don’t think nihilism is the right word, I think there’s a sense of furious despair.
“‘Menhir – Supplicant’ is about sacrifice, because you’ve also got this propensity towards sacrifice and subjugation. You talk about a middle class apathy to our political environment, and this is people just giving up and surrendering, surrendering their responsibility. Why are people so keen to throw away their responsibility and tether themselves to some abstract yoke? Why? Why sacrifice themselves towards ideals and values that only do harm? It beggars belief.
“The lyrics, they’re addressing those concepts. You do have to consider what’s going on around you because it’s all well and good to mull over these things on a higher-level abstract point of view, but when things are happening at a slightly lower level, more local point of view, you do look at it with a sharpened perspective. It’s happening now, it’s happening around us as we speak. Society is built on foundations of sand, the illusion of freedom, and easy comfort and distraction and that’s the only thing keeping people from marching into the streets and burning things.”
Fen on Facebook
Order Carrion Skies here
Words by STEVE TOVEY
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.”
“Dustwalker is 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.”
Carrion Skies can be purchased here
No genre is set in stone, but Black Metal has been through quite a series of self-discoveries since three goons from Newcastle covered themselves in leather and spikes. Belgian six-piece Saille represent what I can’t help but think of as the “niceifying” of Black Metal, and the nine symphonic, atmospheric tracks on Eldritch (Code 666) may come as something of a shock if you’re used to the nastier end of the genre.
Not that this is going to set charts alight anytime soon, of course – by true mainstream standards the factors that make Black Metal unappealing (harsh shrieked vocals, buzzing guitars, sparsely but effectively used blast-beats) are still present, but they’re assembled with a grace, a breadth of expression, even a delicateness that Euronymous would have taken as a personal insult. The pomp and bombast that often characterises much “symphonic” Black Metal is also absent, and it’s a welcome absence – this isn’t Dimmu Borgir thundering away like Mussorgsky conducting Bowser’s Theme, but a much more reflective and considered approach to melodic, keyboard saturated Black Metal. The main reference point that occurred to me while listening was Schammasch, and though Eldritch lacks the depth and profundity of their monstrous Contradiction (Prosthetic), it still speaks positively of their knack for constructing Black Metal which is both catchy and deep.
You’re waiting for the catch, of course, and in this case it’s that Eldritch doesn’t quite have the depth of ideas needed to keep attention across its nine-track length and starts to outstay its welcome a little. There are plenty of excellent ideas for the band to build on, however – from the spoken-word accompaniment of ‘Great God Pan’ to the churningly catchy melodies of ‘Aklo’ – that if they can trim their excess fat and develop more focus next time they might deliver something genuinely special.
For now, Eldritch comes highly recommended for anyone who doesn’t mind their Black Metal on the “nice” side.
Saille on Facebook
With Dead End Kings (Peaceville) being released last year it came as quite surprised that another Katatonia album saw the light last month. However, Dethroned And Uncrowned (Kscope) isn’t just an “another” record. It features stripped down and reworked versions of the Dead End Kings material. Ghost Cult talked with Katatonia guitarist and main composer Anders Nystrom about this remarkable release, the potential of crowdfunding and touring in America. Continue reading
Italian gothic metallers Ecnephias have been plagued by line-up and label changes since their inception in 1996, alongside not quite knowing their place in the world, and genre hopping more times than most people have had hot meals. However, with a now solid line up and after successfully signing to cult label Code666 it looks like it’s fourth time lucky for the five piece with the release of Necrogod. Continue reading