While Toronto’s Possessed Steel approached Epic Metal with a rough attitude on the EPs they released in 2014 and 2017, their first proper full-length is much classier in comparison. The style is as grandiose as ever, but a greater emphasis on intricate guitar harmonies and polished production gives Aedris (Temple Of Mystery Records) more in common with a band like Wytch Hazelthan Atlantean Kodex. Further comparisons could also be made to The Lord Weird Slough Feg and Hammers Of Misfortune with the free-flowing structures and pastoral air throughout.
It”s been four years since Eternal Champion unleashed The Armor Of Ire in 2016, but the hype has only intensified with their sophomore full-length. Ravening Iron (No Remorse Records) continues the Austin group”s Epic Metal aspirations as the coarse but melodic guitar work casts a dungeon friendly atmosphere and the vocals forever echo Manilla Road”s Mark Shelton (RIP) with their nasally yet bombastic character. Thankfully, there are enough alternate approaches explored that keep this album from feeling like a retread. Continue reading →
Just after midnight, UK time, and the hour finally arrives to bridge the gap twixt Blighty and the US West Coast with the indomitable Alan Averill, aka AA Nemtheanga of Irish extreme metallers Primordial, who discusses with Ghost Cult the veteran band’s eighth album, Where Greater Men Have Fallen (Metal Blade), and its powerful messages; the band’s legendary anger and intolerance of their homeland’s modern culture in his always thoughtful, forthright and occasionally provocative manner.
I began by commending the band on such a powerful album and wondered what the reaction had been across The Pond? “We have a small following here, we haven’t really toured enough to have a big one. It’s entered into US charts – the Newcomer’s charts, the Heatseeker charts and so on. There is a groundswell of people over here in the States who are really fascinated with what some European bands represent: we are a part of that, but it’s a terribly hard place to come and tour effectively, especially when you’re middle aged!”
The Americans do seem to see the British and Europeans as having a uniqueness, a quaintness about us, that maybe doesn’t buy into the mainstream. “Oh yeah. We toured with Korpiklaani and Moonsorrow in the States and some people there were chuffed to be seeing ‘Viking bands’. We had to explain that these guys came from Finland and Vikings didn’t! There’s always been a deep fascination in the States with European bands and obviously, being Irish, it means the times we’ve played Boston or New York have been almost like a riot. You can depend on ex-pats to show up in places like that.”
One word I’d use to describe the music is ‘impassioned’. I wondered if Alan felt that was appropriate? “I think it’s a good word to use. To me it’s always been a no-brainer: you mean what you say, and you say what you mean, and that is the way your music should sound. Obviously with us there are cultural and historical reference points within the music that are fact, not fiction. Fantastical escapism has never interested me in any way whatsoever: I couldn’t engage the same way if I was singing songs about killing prostitutes or killing zombies! That’s probably Primordial‘s biggest stumbling block with some sub-sections of the metal society: most people don’t want to be reminded of how dark the world is. If you take a song like ‘Ghosts of the Charnel House’ [from the new album], which is about institutional child abuse by the Catholic church, for most people that’s not Saturday night entertainment. We’ve never wanted to be!”
‘Babel’s Tower’ and particularly ‘The Seed of Tyrants’ from the new album is surely some of the most angry, heartfelt music of this year. How do Alan and the band maintain that anger after doing this for so long, and how do they control and direct it? “People told me that the older I’d get, the mellower I’d become, but the opposite has become true. We’re living in a dark world, and Primordial obviously reflects that. So yes, maybe this album is grimmer than elements of the last few. But whether it’s a war in the Ukraine, whether it’s ISIS a mile from the Turkish border, the rise of the religious Right and rise of the Left…this world is full if evil and some bands will do their best to block that out. We don’t.”
Being surrounded by so much pain and suffering, I felt that there must indeed be no end of grist for Alan’s words at present. “I’m maybe hard-wired a little more intensely than others and it’s not my place to generally want to switch off from it – which can make things a bit tiring! We’re not without a sense of humour of course, we’re not completely drab, but from the get-go, Primordial has always had a serious, dark tone. ‘…Seed of Tyrants’, for example, is about the Arab Spring. There’s a naive view in some sections of the West that somehow Democracy would be bloodless in these countries. All the rejoicing that occurred in Tahrir Square after the Egyptian uprising, and then this vacuum of corruption, this epidemic of rape, all the dark things that followed… We’re just saying that ‘Look, if you remove one tyrant, twelve will take his place’. So yes, there’s an awful lot to be occupied with.
“That said, I’m always on the side of the committed. If you want to write about 60’s and 70’s zombie exploitation movies, good: go for it. I don’t want every band to have the same tone as Primordial but what I do ask is that they be committed to an ideal at least, and to be passionate about it.”
There’s a tremendous sense of emotion gained from listening to Alan’s phenomenal vocal performance. I wondered how the power of the music affects him and the rest of the guys, especially when performing live? “We’re five very different people: hardened, cynical guys who bring five very different things to Primordial. We’re committed, y’know?! Music isn’t created in some sort of emotional vacuum: you get out what you put in, and if Primordial sounds emotional or powerful, this is how we are. If you think what ‘Babel’s Tower’, for example, creates within the listener is real, then that’s what you’ve placed into the song. It’s not really meant to be entertainment; there’s an artistic value as well.”
While blighted by sound problems, it is apparent that Eastern Front have undergone significant improvements over the last twelve months, adding melody, tension and drama to their Marduk-ian overtures and go down well to the swelling crowd. Playing a set entirely of tracks from their new album Descent Into Genocide, the Suffolk black metallers have made the right choice in focusing on new material that comes across as an entirely different, improved band to their previous efforts.
Yet from the moment vocalist/guitarist Chris Naughton leads the crowd in a semi-ironic arm waving intro that leads into the Celtic Frost /Motorhead chug that propels ‘Mam Tor (The Shivering Mountain)’ into the converted church, it is clear that Winterfylleth are a class apart. While they remain staunchly anti-image, no histrionics or pyrotechnics, and clad in plain black T-shirts, their music does all the speaking and impressing for them.
Up next ‘The Swart Raven’ builds from open chords, swathed in beautiful tremolo-picked melodies and underpinned by a driving beat, before dropping down to it’s clean build-up, that sees arms and voices of the gathered throng raised along in chorus. Already the audience is firmly in the hands of the band as the song’s coda bruises in a flurry of bass drums and vocal roars, even before the double-punch of crowd-pleasers ‘Casting The Runes’ and ‘The Wayfarer Part I’ see the dark of night.
Yet, better is yet to come, as the two new tracks aired, an epic broil titled ‘A Careworn Heart’ and the more straight-forward Darkthrone tinged yet still wholly “English” Black Metal of ‘The Divination of Antiquity’, along with rousing closer ‘Fields of Reckoning’ are the highlights of a set where the ‘fylleth disprove the myth that black metal doesn’t work live with an excellently delivered performance that uplifts the gathered faithful, with heads banging all the way back throughout. Mesmeric and powerful at Bloodstock, they perhaps even exceed that, with darkened anthems filling the Essex evening.
In a scene where the genre classics have been unchallenged for two decades, Winterfylleth are now established as one of the leading exponents in their field, status their excellent new album The Divination of Antiquity will only enhance. With their output ranging from raging Bathory influenced aggression to sweeping, landscape-inspired grandiose moments via Primordial midtempo pump, all is delivered with the confidence of a band who know their wave is rising. Their brand of organic, atmospheric and all-consuming blackened metal with touches of class, heritage and intelligence has seen them rise, relatively unopposed, to stand as one of the best black metal bands today both live and on record, with tonight a further example of their inherent quality.
Winterfylleth Set List:
Mam Tor (The Shivering Mountain)
The Swart Raven
Casting The Runes
The Wayfarer Part 1: The Solitary One Waits For Grace
Billed as “a musical constellation whose primary foundation rests on epic metal while drawing experimental influences from ancestral musical traditions of the North and spiritual guidance of its hermetic crafts”, Sweden’s Eldkraft’s debut Shaman has plenty to offer for those who like their metal big. And I don’t mean just “big”, I mean “big” with a capital “BIG”. To describe this as grand would be a gross understatement. Where to start? Well, the guitar sound is huge, of course. The palm-muted chugs, mammoth riffs, ball-breaking bass, and thundering drums are the size of Godzilla’s gonads during a particularly bad bout of elephantitis. Translated as firepower, Eldkraft’s moniker is probably the most apt name chosen by any band of late. With the kind of fire and brimstone-laced artillery that these guys pack, they look set to make a devastating impact. Or at least they would were it not for J. Sandin’s warbling theatrics clashing with the otherwise fine tracks on offer. Continue reading →