Hype and all that comes with it is a curious mistress to any fandom. It can take an unknown band in a tiny European country and create a global music phenomenon. It also can help eat the subject of it from the inside out. This is not only a microcosm of the rise of first-wave Norwegian Black Metal, but also the movie Lords of Chaos directed by Jonas Åkerlund (Gunpowder Sky, Vice Media/Insurgent Media, 20th Century Fox, Scott Free Productions). We’ve heard about this movie for so long, that I’m sure that some have very high expectations for this film. The film also has its many detractors as protectors of their genre, and those who never wanted to see this film made. We’re not going to use this review to retell the story we’ve all seen and heard before, but rather rate the merits of this film. Continue reading
Lords of Chaos, the upcoming film based on the (un)popular book about the early history of the original Black Metal scene in Norway has made its debut at limited screenings worldwide and will be available On Demand on February 22nd. A special screening was held last night in Brooklyn at Alamo Draft House, with a Q and A following with director and one-time Bathory drummer Jonas Åkerlund, and co-stars Rory Culkin and Emory Cohen. Åkerlund is well known for stunning videos by Metallica, Lady Gaga, and Rammstein and his own short films, and commercials. He spearheaded the project along with Gunpowder and Sky and is co-produced by VICE Studios, 20th Century Fox, Scott Free Productions and Insurgent Media. The film premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and currently holds a 75% fresh rating over on Rotten Tomatoes, down from a high of 91% so far. Watch trailers below. Continue reading
Lords of Chaos, the upcoming film based on the popular book about the early history of the original Black Metal scene in Norway hits theaters and On Demand early next month. The film has its first full trailer and it’s, …uh interesting. As in it looks somewhat compelling if you know the story, but also sadly a little campy. Maybe that is the way to market black metal to a mass film going public, but we’re really hoping it’s not too tongue in cheek. Starring Rory Culkin (Castle Rock, Sneaky Pete, Metallica’s Man Unkind, The Zodiac), Lords of Chaos was directed by Swedish filmmaker and one-time Bathory drummer Jonas Åkerlund, also known for videos by Metallica and Rammstein spearheaded the project along with Gunpowder and Sky and is co-produced by VICE Studios, 20th Century Fox, Scott Free Productions and Insurgent Media. The film premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and currently holds a 92% fresh rating over on Rotten Tomatoes, so far. Watch the full trailer below. Continue reading
Long in the making film Lords of Chaos, based on the popular book about the early history of the original Black Metal scene in Norway will finally hit theaters and On Demand on February 8th 2019. Directed by Swedish filmmaker and one-time Bathory drummer Jonas Åkerlund, also known for videos by Metallica and Rammstein spearheaded the project along with Gunpowder and Sky, and is co-produced by VICE Studios, 20th Century Fox, Scott Free Productions and Insurgent Media. The film premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and currently holds a 91% fresh rating over on Rotten Tomatoes. Watch the trailer below. Continue reading
At this point, what do you really have to say about Sigh? After being approached in 1990 by Euronymous to be the only Japanese band on his Deathlike Silences Productions label, they proceeded to spend twenty five years releasing experimental, varied, frequently genuinely eccentric albums that have now spelled out their name almost three times. With the exception of 2005’s Gallows Gallery (Candlelight) – which they’ve since admitted wasn’t really recorded with banned WWII sonic weaponry – “Black Metal” in some form has always been part of their sound, but the exact style has often changed wildly between albums.
This time around, the guiding theme seems to be a combination of rawness, progressiveness and symphonic majesty that calls to mind Venom playing Yes songs with Bal-Sagoth’s keyboardist, and works an awful lot better than you might be expecting from that description. The core of the album is a raw, savage but rocking “Black” Metal built on simple catchy riffs and Mirai’s always recognisable acid rasp, but one of the things that makes Sigh so successful is that they don’t simply litter their Metal core with extraneous garnish as so many of their “experimental” peers are content to do. Electronics, progressive and symphonic arrangements and even Pop song-writing is woven meaningfully into the tracks, creating an album which is both sinisterly understated and gloriously savage. In the context of their previous albums, the best comparison would be the band from Scorn Defeat (DSP) playing the songs from Gallows Gallery, but once again they have created something new.
I suspect that this review is largely unnecessary – by this point most listeners have already decided whether Sigh are any of their business or not, and if they are you’ll be listening to this album whatever I say. If you’ve somehow managed to avoid them until now, however, Graveward (Candlelight) is a strong, distinctive album with its own character and some genuinely excellent songwriting and works well as both an introduction to one of the most genuinely interesting metal bands of the last twenty years and an album in its own right.
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.”
Order Carrion Skies here
Words by STEVE TOVEY
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
Let’s be honest, the chances of a new Mayhem album being given a genuinely fair hearing in 2014 aren’t high. Even if you can overlook the murder, suicide and hilariously drunk interviews that still follow them around after two decades, their debut album – still considered by many to be THE defining moment in “second wave” Black Metal – casts an equally long shadow. Their career in the twenty years since Euronymous’ death has been both patchy and divisive, each new album being hailed as a return-to-form and dismissed as a betrayal of their legacy by roughly as many people.
In terms of sound, Esoteric Warfare (Season of Mist) is closest to 2007’s Ordo Ad Chao – sinuous, hypnotic riffs and Attila Csihar’s rasping, muttering vocals over drums so precise that they almost sound mechanised. Aesthetically, however, it is perhaps closer to the abstract science-fiction vibe of 2000’s ambitious, but unsuccessful Grand Declaration Of War, the violence and supernatural horror often associated with their work side-lined in favour of an ambient, industrialised kind of menace.
Esoteric Warfare is an altogether more sedate and balanced album than its predecessor – while that raved, gibbered and howled through a series of highs and lows with uncharacteristic emotional depth, the tracks here are mostly content to remain mid-paced or slow, building up an effectively sinister atmosphere. There are some moments of genuine power here – the threatening surge of ‘Psywar’, the thunderous march of ‘Throne Of Time’ – but they’re offset by moments around the middle of the album where momentum almost seems to grind to a halt, trading in dynamics for background atmospherics and pauses that are rather less pregnant than the band probably intends them to be.
Esoteric Warfare is a quietly impressive album highlighting a band who refuse to chase past glories, and deserves considerable praise for that. Many will dismiss it simply for not being De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, and they’re wrong to do so – this is very much its own album, and offers plenty of its own rewards to those who persevere – but it’s hard to silence the selfish inner voice which wants Mayhem to be more dangerous than this.
Burzum is heralded as one of the black metal greats – however, Burzum and Varg Vikernes becoming household names within the metal community is undoubtedly for all the wrong reasons. If it’s not Varg’s incarceration for the murder of Mayhem’s Euronymous being talked about then it’s his far right political beliefs having the spotlight shone on them. If you were to actually put aside the infamous brand name that he has become, and pick carefully through his discography, you’d notice he hasn’t actually released anything groundbreaking since Filosofem back in 1996. Continue reading