Skaldic Curse was a band from UKBMs early 2000’s heyday, featuring members of Fen, Akercocke, and other contemporaries. Sadly, defunct after their second album World Suicide Machine I must admit I was rather surprised to see this album in my inbox for review as they officially split up back in 2011. Continue reading
One of the truly unique music labels in the underground, Prophecy Productions, returns with their really special music festival. Prophecy Fest takes place in a natural cave formed in the Old Stone Age – Balver Höhle. According to Germanic Saga, the blacksmith Wieland had his workshop in the cave. Balve, Germany, is situated in the center of Germany between Dortmund, Cologne, Frankfurt, and Hannover. Beyond myths, the show will be the stuff of legend with the following nine bands: Empyrium (Exclusive European performance 2019), Strid (Exclusive Central European performance 2019), Farsot and Coldworld (performing Toteninsel World Premiere) Year Of The Cobra, Disillusion, A Forest Of Stars, Laster, Fen, Tchornobog. Seven more bands will be announced at a later date. For tickets and full festival details, see the link below. Continue reading
Of all the grandchildren of heavy metal subgenres, one of the most precocious and still burgeoning is atmospheric black metal. As my colleague Richie HR noted in his recent new column for Ghost Cult, it seems that even the most mainstream bands are reaching for opportunities to expand their sonic palettes to include the more unconventional, and extreme styles. However, time and time again we return to the underground to seek greatness, from those who follow their own path, and eschew typical glory. One of those bands is Fen. Continue reading
Boasting members from illustrious UK acts such as Fen, Binah and Code, London doom/death dealers Indesinence are packing a pretty impressive line-up. Having been lurking in the shadows of the underground for nearly fifteen years now, their previous two records Noctambulism (Goat of Mendes) in 2006 and Vessels of Light and Decay six years later won numerous plaudits but were too far under the radar for most people to take notice of the ominous darkness contained within. Third record, the imaginatively titled III (both Profound Lore) is unlikely to win many new admirers, but for those who already dwell in the shadows, it’s a welcome treat.
While most doom/death acts are content to rip off My Dying Bride and hope the listeners are too miserable to notice, Indesinence have their own clearly defined sound; one that uplifts as well as bruises, with shades of dappled light amidst the stygian gloom. They’re still slaves to the lengthy track however as songs evolve over several minutes, with riffs unfurling languidly to strike at their own pace, while the stark, pounding drumbeats batter the listener into submission.
First track proper ‘Nostalgia’ is appropriately titled, for it calls to mind the sheer bleakness of US masters Evoken, as the devastatingly sad lead guitar work provides the perfect counterfoil to the gut-punching of the rhythm section. ‘Embryo Limbo’ sets the scene with some stately clean-picked notes before giving way to some crushing riffs that flirt with mid-paced mid-90s death metal, like Incantation after a heavy dose of lithium.
The first real burst of pace occurs on ‘Desert Trail’ with brisk blastbeats and strange melodies contributing to a strong feeling of malaise but the best is saved for the end of the album as the tortuous crawl of ‘Mountains of Mind/Five Years Ahead (Of My Time)’ soon gives way to a frantic chugging section, aided by eerie keyboards before a gloriously exuberant solo emerges from the mire and it becomes apparent that the band have wandered into full-on dark prog territory. The triumphant end-section is worth the price of the whole album.
Most bands would call it a day there, but Indesinence decide that things need to remain grim, which they do with aplomb on the seventeen minute dirge of ‘Strange Meridian’, an oppressive crawl through agonized soundscapes. The riffs are depressing, the vocals are truly anguished and were it not for another burst of soaring lead-guitar to end things again on a breathless, stargazing note, the whole thing might get too much. There really is no need to tack on a ten minute dark ambient closing track to finish things off though.
A difficult and undeniably too-long album, III is nonetheless a masterful and imposing piece of work. Doom/death is a naturally restrictive genre, but Indesinence have proven themselves to be one of the finest acts working in its field. Full-on misery can often get a bit one-note without some other forces to counteract the despair, and there are enough ideas going on here to ensure that even for an album approaching eighty minutes in length, attention will be maintained and engaged. The heirs to Disembowelment? Why not, eh?
In every musical movement, the leaders are the ones who bring their own twist, their own innovation, to the collective sound. Since Portal’s cross-over from novelty clock-head band to serious underground phenomenon, the number of bands following them into abstract Noise-damaged eldritch Death Metal have steadily increased until it constitutes a genuine – if deeply underground – trend. We’re still at the point where even the orthodox followers can still deliver a genuine impact, but the big hitters are already identifiable as the ones with their own distinctive contribution to the formula; Portal, of course, with their ferocious creativity and nightmarish song structures; Aevangelist with their super-dense wall of Noise overload and Impetuous Ritual with their underpants. With their let’s-have-fun-with-syllables third album Antikatastaseis (Profound Lore), British one-piece Abyssal step firmly up to join the top tier.
Having mastered their thick, oppressive brand of Murky Death Metal over two previous albums, Abyssal’s grand bid for innovation here is to mix it up with a hefty dose of what I’ll grudgingly call “post-rock” – the expansive, contemplative sound-scaping (another grudgingly used term) that’s been an increasing part of Metal’s musical landscape since Neurosis. On paper it sounds hackneyed and forced, and the first listen may not do much to dispel that impression – the more post-heavy passages sound surprisingly conventional, almost twee, to ears prepared for eldritch cacophony, and the transition between them and the more typically murky passages seem a little abrupt – but give it time and it develops into something genuinely distinctive and unsettling.
The key to Antikatastaseis’ success is probably that Abyssal haven’t softened the attack of their Death Metal elements in any way – they’re still as cavernous and oppressive as anything on Novit Enim Dominus… (Independent) – but they have put them in a different context. Whirlwinds of chaotic Death Metal are dragged and distorted into unexpected, atmospheric shapes that would almost be beautiful if they weren’t so ugly. Passages of genuine harmony collapse into sudden, jarring violence, or fade into chilling ambient drones. At times the effect calls to mind Black Metal bands like Fen or Winterfylleth, but with their bucolic pastoralism replaced with nightmarish horror. This isn’t Portal-lite – though it may have the potential to cross over to a wider audience than some of their peers – it’s the work of a band who are putting their inspirations into a new and distinctive form, just like all innovators.
The temptation to make a joke about Antikatastaseis being as hard to listen to as it is to say is pretty hard to resist, but they deserve better. It’s also not true – once you’ve adjusted to the combination of elements, it’s a surprisingly intuitive and engaging sound that develops with each listen. Whatever you think of the current state of spooky abstract Death Metal, Abyssal have simultaneously appointed themselves to the top tiers of the scene, and created an album with the potential to draw in fans from outside it.
Abyssal. Too kvlt for Social Media.
Although emotive, the dark harshness of Vattnet Viskar’s sound seemed a strange choice to accompany the heavier, more melodic Pallbearer on last winter’s US tour. Look deeper, however, into the very British blackness of Settler (Century Media), the New Hampshire quartet’s second album, and the melancholy shines through.
Brutal stickwork permeates the tremolo riffs of ‘Colony’ until a wholly unexpected mid-point breakdown of slow, deliberate Shoegaze, reappearing at the track’s coda, marks the band out as a different breed. ‘Yearn’ begins with a portentous yet evocative passage, building with delicate synth effects into vocalist Nicholas Thornbury’s colossal yet almost whispered, dry bark; a more Doom-laden pace seeing lead shimmerings emerge only in a Post-style underpin. It’s a savage track, yet pregnant with emotion: the layered, twisting chicanes sending the sound into the more inventive horror of Inter Arma’s Blackened spin-off Bastard Sapling, rather than that of the band’s core which is heavily influenced by Winterfylleth, Fen et al. ‘Impact’, for example, evokes images of rolling, furze-heavy hills in winter, as is expected from that UK Pagan contingent: yet a Viking element adds punch to this truly moving track.
This is an album giving true meaning to the ‘Atmospheric Black Metal’ tag: expertly blending the hostile, hissing tundra with chest-swelling passion and, in doing so, creating a living monster. Seamus Menihane’s pounding, resonant tubs return as the direction for the aptly named ‘Glory’, more sadness wrought from that lead guitar as an initial Trad metal rhythm gives way to dual Post wails, crushing riffs returning at the height of the ensuing explosion, an emphysemic roar coating the whole in a wonderful disease. The brutalised, throbbing heartbreak of both the title track and ‘Heirs’, meanwhile, where those expressions of angst remain constantly on the right side of Metalcore to emit sincere feeling, are supreme examples of the band’s organic versatility and heart of fire.
Closer ‘Coldwar’ melds elements of Black, Melancholia, Post-metal and Rock in a swelling, distraught yet euphoric finale. A refreshing, ambitious effort whilst remaining faithful to the dark core, Settler shows Vattnet Viskar to the stage of serious contenders.
Vattnet Viskar on Facebook
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.
The Watcher was speaking to STEVE TOVEY
Our UK Editor Steve Tovey has been counting down his Top 25 albums of 2014 via Social Media, including via his Twitter account @steevXIII
If you haven’t been following, find his thoughts on his favourite 25 long players of the year here…
25, Scar Symmetry– The Singularity (Phase 1 – Neohumanity) (Nuclear Blast)
A bit of kitchen sink album, this one – prog, power, death, bits that sound like Extreme (the band), a concept that makes Demanufacture look like a children’s story (OK, it is hardly the most developed story anyway…) and part 1 of a trilogy I’m keen to see if it can keep up with the level of this first one.
24, Unearth – Watchers of Rule (eOne)
The album I wanted ‘At War With Reality’ to be, but with a metric tonne of breakdowns (or possibly beatdowns – I still get them confused) on top. Blistering with Gothenburg tinged spiky riffing, dual guitars flying, full on vocals and some good old fashioned metal aggression, Old Wave of Swedish Melodic Death Metal style. No remorse, no repent, no let up, no problem!
23, Ageless Oblivion – Penthos (SOAR/Century Media)
Relentless, progressive and technical death metal, and damn good at it, too.
22, Opeth – Pale Communion (Roadrunner)
I have always had a very strong dislike of Opeth. Then they released an album that doesn’t sound like Opeth. Now loads who did like them, don’t, and loads who didn’t like them, do. Not normally a massive prog fan either, but this album is really good. AND somehow I’ve now started to get into the older stuff I’ve never liked before like Blackwater Park and Still Life. Weird, innit.
21, Overkill– White Devil Armory (Nuclear Blast/eOne)
Continuing their brilliant run of form that near matches their classic first 3 albums since signing for Nuclear Blast with another energetic, full-on, thrash classic. Really loving the vitality but above all the quality of the tunes. Always had a soft spot for Overkill and well chuffed they’re still flying the flag louder and harder than any other “old school” thrash band. Proud to review this one here.
20, Bloodbath – Grand Morbid Funeral (Peaceville)
Set your HM-2 pedals to kill… Really enjoyable old school Death Metal romp. Plenty of Dismember, plenty of Entombed, bit of Morbid Angel in places, and just sounds like a bunch of guys who know what they’re doing having fun with metal they love. ‘sGot big riffs. And I like Nick Holmes vocals on it, too. More cookie monster than cookie cutter and add a distinctive edge.
19, Devin Townsend– Sky Blue (HevyDevy)
So, I split the two albums out and Dark Matters was in the ‘Not Quite…’ list. It took me a little while and a few listens to forgive Sky Blue for not being Epicloud. But seeing as Epicloud is probably my favourite album released in the last 10 years it was always going to be difficult. Sitting very much in the Addicted, Epicloud pop-metal end of the DTP arsenal, it can’t help but be a great, enjoyable listen. I just think he perfected it last time around, so this has a touch of diminishing returns. Still think it’s bloody good, like (hence it making the top 20).
18, Killer Be Killed– Killer Be Killed (Nuclear Blast)
‘im from Mastodon, ‘im from Dillinger, another ‘im from somewhere else (can’t be bothered to google it, sure someone will say below) and a Max Cavalera relegated to side-man all pulling off (tee hee) a bloody great album of riffs, grooves and big old tunes. Lovely stuff.
17, Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen (Metal Blade)
The first track is possibly the greatest chest-beating Heavy Metal track of the year, resplendent (I’ve always liked that word) in its’ Bathory meets Manowar glory. After such an blinding start the album could only struggle to live up to expectations. It is bloody good though, and the last track is also amazing. Does what Primordial do, and does it well. One I reviewed, too, so you can check that out here if you like
16, Machine Head – Bloodstones & Diamonds (Nuclear Blast)
OK, still haven’t fully gotten grips with this one – it’s not long been out, there were other albums to cram in before end of year, reviews, life, all that, plus it’s a pretty long album and there’s a lot of music going on (contrary to popular belief, your average Machine Head track isn’t as bone head as many think these days), so sticking this one here. I know it’s good, I know I like it, just not lived with it enough to know how much.
Still, I know it brings the riffs, diversity, some intelligent song-writing, some really cool choral and non-metal touches, and I know I’ll like it more once I spend some time with it and the songs separate out.
15, Judas Priest– Redeemer of Souls (Epic/Columbia)
No, it’s not as heavy as Painkiller, but it does sound like a mix of everything they’ve done til now. Just lashings of good, solid, classic Priest with plenty of nods to their 70s and early 80s stuff (though no Turbo, unfortunately)
And, you know, songs and shit. Good job all round and damn fine album.
Another one I reviewed here.
14, Fen – Carrion Skies (Code666)
The one where they brought it all together, tying up all the threads that make up Fen and producing their best material to date with every track. A sound of a band with confidence and making a statement about who they are. More focused, more “metal” than the last and their definitive release to date.
13, In Flames– Siren Charms (Sony)
Note this is MY albums of the year… and by that I mean favourite not “best”. The perception that most people don’t give a monkeys about post-Colony In Flames is completely overridden by the fact that they’re loads more popular now than they were then (though popularity isn’t a measure of quality etc, I know…) It’s just the undergroundzz innit.
According to itunes, this was my most listened to album of 2014, and, yep, I dig it. It doesn’t do anything particularly different, amazing, new or unexpected, but is a step up on everything post-Come Clarity, for me.
Above all I just think it has a load of good songs. And I like good songs. Even more than I like spazzy-jazzy tech metal. Much more than I like spazzy-jazzy tech metal, to be honest… I dig it. Most of you on here will scoff. The band won’t care either way. And neither will I…
I reviewed here.
12, Bast – Spectres (Burning World)
Excellently crafted “serious” metal, with a great album dynamic that moves through and between post-Black Metal, UK Doom and post-metal, but doesn’t sound inconsistent or forced. I have Steve Patton of Sea Bastard to thank for bringing these to my attention. Really glad he did. I reviewed here.
11, Pyrrhon– The Mother Of Virtues (Relapse)
This album still intimidates me. I probably could (should?) have this higher in my list, but I very rarely want to listen to it cos it’s hard work. Rewarding, but horrible hard work to listen to. Probably the most extreme, all out clusterfuck of the modern-tech “jazz” Ulcerate/Gorguts/Deathspell Omega influenced death metal albums of them all. This was the highest mark I’ve given anything in a review since I gave Insomnium‘s demo 10 back in the late 90’s (and the only time I’ve had an online slagging for giving a band a great review!). Takes death metal almost to the point of not being music any more.
Just don’t call them free-form… (which I actually didn’t… You can read what I did say here)
10, Edguy– Space Police: Defenders of the Crown (Nuclear Blast)
I really like this. It’s dumb, cheesy fun, yes, but it’s well put together, catchy – I still have a fair few of the songs and riffs bouncing around in my head – good, enjoyable entertaining rocky power metal. Cheesier than the stuff that’ll be on the board that will come out with the port at my folks an hour after Christmas dinner, and I love it for that.
Also, it has the best song Van Halen have(n’t) written for 20 years. Reviewed this one here.
9, Schammasch – Contradiction (Prosthetic)
Came to this late in the year as was unsure about its mammoth length (fnarr etc). Atmospheric black/death cleverly sprawling over 85 minutes, it certainly doesn’t drag, filling every one of those minutes with quality.
8, Voices – London (Candlelight)
Was very impressed with these at Bloodstock, the discovery of the weekend for me, so couldn’t wait to check out the album particularly once you hear they’d chucked in a concept to it. Wasn’t disappointed, indeed they exceeded my expectations. Discordant and unsettling and well worth a checking if you haven’t already.
And for the record, I’ve never checked Akercocke beyond seeing them live at the LA2 as a support band 15+ years ago, so no fanboying from me.
7, Slipknot– .5: The Gray Chapter (Roadrunner)
Not much to say, other than a massive return with a massive batch of massive songs.
As I said in my review for Ghost Cult: “The Gray Chapter is a statement of intent, a mountain-strong collection of hate-anthems to stand with Slipknot’s best.
All Killer, No Filler, And then some. .5 punches hard, deep and long, undeniably their most consistent album since Iowa. Nine may have become seven, but if you’re five five five, then they’re (still) six six six. ‘.5: The Gray Chapter’ is an album of some significance.”
You can read the rest of the review here.
6, Winterfylleth – The Divination of Antiquity (Candlelight)
It’s a close run thing, but I think I love the classics of black metal more than those of death metal, yet, other than those 90’s gems, I have very little time for black metal – mainly because it tends to involve the aping of the same 5-10 albums again and again (ad infinitum). It’s not a hard and fast rule, there are bands / albums of BM nature I’ve picked up on and very much enjoyed over the last 15-20 years, and this year brought forth a couple of beasts. I’ve already mentioned Fen, but there was also this British classic that brought joy to my ears. Running a gamut (good word) of sentiments and feelings, being more human than a lot of black metal dares to be, ‘Divination…’ excels dynamically, melodically and emotionally. Distinctively Winterfylleth, this is their best yet.
5, Decapitated– Blood Mantra (Nuclear Blast)
The most hotly anticipated modern death metal riff-fest of the year did not disappoint in any way shape or form. Power, grooves, and, well, riffs. Riffs that came armed with big meathooks. Some cool Slipknot-y and industrial touches here and there, but this was all about great *heavy* metal. I like the overall sound on it, too, dragging them out of the “death metal” pack and making them sound more in a field of one. Which, I guess is where they now stand…
4, BEHEMOTH– The Satanist (Nuclear Blast)
Another band I’d never been massively bowled over by in the past who impressed me this year. Something to do with the fact they actually have songs with hooks and interesting things going on in them. The album gets better as it goes on, peaking in a brilliant crescendo of ‘O Father! O Satan! O Sun!’.
Added to the music, aesthetically this album is great (cover, production, photos, the official vids as well) and can see why it’s wracked up a number of album of the year awards, including the Ghost Cult Magazine official writers AOTY.
Fair play and well done.
3, Revocation– Deathless (Metal Blade)
Paul Alan Ryan spun me a couple of Revocation tunes way back at the start of the year, and I was impressed, so had my eye out for this release. Once it hit, the mix of intelligent thrash, Death (Official) and definite lashings of Mastodon in the melodies and approach all wormed its way under the brain to become one of my go to albums in the second half of the year and one that I’ll keep going to into the new year. Really good modern, technical thrash with a touch of (when they were good ‘Rust In Peace’ era) Megadeth in there too. You’ll do me.
2, Mastodon– Once More Round The Sun (Reprise)
Was late to the Mastodon game, arriving some point around 2009 and ‘The Hunter’ was their first “new” album for me. Despite loving a bit of Leviathan and a bit of Crack The Skye (but not so much Blood Mountain), for me, their simpler, rockier stuff definitely suits them and they’ve really come into their own recently as OMRTS picks things up where Hunter left them off. Just tune after tune after tune after tune with swagger and hooks galore and distinctively ‘Don. Also, they have a song called ‘Diamond In The Witch House’ which does it for me in spades.
1, Sólstafir – Ótta (Season of Mist)
Two in a row for Sólstafir. Hats off! Svartir Sandar romped it for me in 2011, and by golly, Iceland’s finest have only gone and bloody gotten even better! Last time around it could be argued the album went on a touch too long and the vocals weren’t quite up to the level of the rest of wares on offer (though only by a smidge), well, those minor gripes have been consigned to the bin.
Now, post-rock isn’t exactly my bag of gravy, but Sólstafir delivers atmosphere, emotion and deep feelings, while the dynamic journeys of each track on Ótta pull you along for the ride.
A beautiful, magical album. As I say, it’s not my usual bag. Scroll through my ipod and there’s little similar on there, but Sólstafir have a way of speaking to me. Truly. Deeply.
This track’s a really cool video too.
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.”
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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 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