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INTERVIEW: Turkish Brutal Death Metal Band CENOTAPH

Cenotaph are veterans of the Turkish metal scene. Vocalist Batu is the only original member of the band and has kept the band going through multiple lineup changes. Earlier this month, they released their latest album, ‘Perverse Dehumanized Dysfunctions’; after multiple listens I can testify that this is their best release yet.  

I spoke to Batu about their first album in 7 years, the Turkish metal scene and also their upcoming European tour.

Transcending Obscurity (Peter K): You have been around as a band for 23 years now. How does it feel looking back at your career?

Cenotaph (Batu): It feels awesome. There a lot of memories of both the good times and the bad times but after 23 years of playing brutal death metal, I am proud of it.

TO: You are the only original member of the band. What has motivated to keep going through the different line ups over the years?

Cenotaph: It’s just my passion for death metal and extreme music. This music is a part of my life and gives me happiness and fun.

TO: Your latest album ‘Perverse Dehumanized Dysfunctions’ sounds brutal. Tell us more about the album.

Cenotaph: It is a step up, a progression from previous album ‘Putrescent İnfectious Rabidity’. It was released on 2010 and during those years we tried to develop our style and music with the new songs – the result is ‘Perverse Dehumanized Dysfunctions. It has 8 brutal songs inside, came out from 3 different labels on CD and vinyl versions, and it’s also available as digital from our Bandcamp.

TO: The album comes 7 years after the release of ‘Putrescent Infectious Rabidity’. What was the writing process for album? Did you try anything different this time around?

Cenotaph: Yeah 7 years after it came out indeed. The reason why it took so long was the line up problems, with guitarists leaving the band on 2010 just shortly after the ‘Putrescent…’ album released and I searched for new and right members for the band and also waited patiently till new members understood the music style, chemistry, and the song structures of Cenotaph. Later new songs and ideas started to come from new guitarist Erkin,and we totally focused on new songs. During that period of time also we continued to play gigs around and kept writing new material.

TO: The album was recorded, mixed and mastered at DTH Studios in Moscow, Russia. How was the recording process? What was the reason behind recording in another country, Russia?

Cenotaph: To get this natural and acoustic sounding album we choose DTH Studios at Moscow Russia as the sound engineer Stanislav Baranov was a friend of us. We decided to record the whole album there. The recording process was hard like in every album but it was also a new experience and challenging for us to record it outside of our country. We are happy with the final result and sound of the album. The mix and mastering process was also done at the same studio.

TO: What are your thoughts on slam in brutal death metal?

Cenotaph: Personally I like to listen some slam bands, but not all; there are a lot of both good and shitty bands around. I’m a bit picky about it and it’s a thin border between slamming brutal death and brutal death metal, so we are using some groovy and slamming parts in our music but in our own way as we are not a slam band but a brutal death metal one. Nowadays the festivals at Europe are full of slam bands. It’s a bit boring but people seems to have fun at the festivals. I think most people there are just for fun, alcohol and hanging around and not so much for the music. They like to mosh and doing circle pit to slam bands but a very few of those people at such festivals seem to be listening and caring about the band’s music.

TO: What is your take on the prevalent misogyny that’s part of the artworks and even lyrics and song titles sometimes in the style?

Cenotaph: I really don’t care much about the lyrics in brutal death metal or slam. For me it’s important how the vocal patterns are or how low and guttural the vocalist is, whether he using any distortion or harmonizer or any plugin or is it natural guttural voice. I don’t care how the vocalist pronounces the words understandably because for me it’s brutal death metal and the vocals must sound like a monster. That’s the first thing I check when I listen any brutal death or slam band. Later I check the band on their live performance videos on youtube or at live concerts. About your question ‘Prevalent Misogyny’ I think it’s a boring cliched lyrical content since the early Cannibal Corpse albums. Millions of bands in this genre used such lyrics. Our lyrics are more science fictional or about a different kind of gore, about mutations, diseases, epidemics ,unknown creatures from other dimensions and time, viruses, psychological diseases, etc.

TO: Turkey has an active metal scene. What are bands that you recommend our readers to check out?

Cenotaph: There are a lot of good releases that came out this year and earlier too. I would recommend these bands: Decimation, Carnophage, Suicide, Engulfed, Hell Sodomy, Rektal Tuşe, Drain of Impurity, Grotesque Ceremonium, The Sarcophagus, Acrosome and many more.

TO: The album is being released by three labels – Sevared Records (US) , Coyote Records (Russia) and Hammer Muzik (Turkey). How important do you feel record labels are in this digital age?

Cenotaph: Labels are still important for us. All the labels we are working with are fully supportive to us and since many years we are working with these labels and we are also good friends with them. Yes nowadays in the music industry some fans prefer digital only and then there are some die-hard fans and collectors still buying CDs, vinyls and tapes – it depends on person and listeners. But I think labels always be there, no matter what.

TO: You have toured around Europe and even at Maryland Deathfest in USA. What have been your favourite venues/cities to perform in?

Cenotaph: We played at Maryland Death fest at 2006. It was a really huge and cool festival and a great experience for us. We also played big festivals like Brutal Assault and last year we played at Netherlands Death Fest which was a blast. We love to play live this music and our favourite ones include shows in Czech Repulic, Berlin, Maryland, Mountains of Death fest in Switzerland. We also played at many cities at Russia during our tours and we felt always like at home at Russia. Ukraine too always gives us good memories like at the Simferopol Metal Heads’ Mission Fest.

TO: You are going to tour Europe in August and September this year. What are you looking forward to from the tour?

Cenotaph: To promote our new album ‘Perverse Dehumanized Dysfunctions’, we will crush Europe from 24 August till 17 September. It will be the longest tour we will have ever made, a total 24 days, and a lot of countries and cities this time around. We are very excited about this tour and for more details on it like the venues and dates, please check our Cenotaph Facebook Page.

TO: Do you have any more shows/tour planned this year? ‘

Cenotaph: Yeah, there will be a festival gig in Athens, Greece, Brutality Over Sanity Death Fest in December 2017, and we are also planning to play at Moscow Death Fest. Negotiations continue about it and also the planning of a big Russia tour at the end of summer or early Autumn in 2018. There are some local gigs in progress too. We are open every kind of serious offers and organisers and concert promoters can get in touch with us through our Facebook Page.

TO: Thanks for doing this interview. Do you have any final words?

Cenotaph: Thanks a lot for the support and interview! Follow us on our pages and you can also buy our music and merch through that. Support the real music and real bands. Stay brutal!

CENOTAPH Official Facebook | CENOTAPH BandcampCENOTAPH Bigcartel

INTERVIEW: Polish Death Metal Band Kingdom

Kingdom- Sepulchral Psalms from the Abyss of Torment

Polish death metal band Kingdom released their third full length ‘Sepulchral Psalms from the Abyss of Torment’ last October via Godz ov War Productions and it was one of those albums that caught my attention from the first song.  Like many of you, Kingdom had flown under my radar previously despite the fact that they had been cranking out destructive and dark death metal since 2003.  Coming in at a quick thirty four and a half minutes, this is one of those albums that is blistering from start to finish and leaves behind scorched earth in its wake.

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Interview with death/thrash metal band – DECEASED

Deceased are a staff favourite over at Transcending Obscurity. They’ve released some excellent albums over the years and have developed an unmistakable sound and identity as a death/thrash metal band. Our label division even put out an official reissue of their 1997 album ‘Fearless Undead Machines’ over HERE. With a new album slated to come out in the foreseeable future titled ‘Ghostly White’, guest interviewer Tyler Brooks talks to King Fowley about that and the band’s illustrious past.

Transcending Obscurity (Tyler Brooks): You were the first band to ever sign with Relapse records, a label that would become a powerhouse at the peak of early 90’s death metal. What were those early days like?

Deceased (King Fowley): Working with them early on was fun. We were all gung ho and ready to rock. As the label got bigger and successful they sadly lost their way and it got harder to deal with them on a business level. But those early days we will always cheer and thank Relapse for giving us a shot!

TO: You made a flyer that you promised you were going to “out-thrash Slayer” at one point in the early days. Do you feel like you achieved this?

Deceased: Yes! We are still playing 100% deceased music while Slayer to me is playing hot topic metal for a paycheck and a past glory gratification! No thanks!

TO: Many fans consider your third album, ‘Fearless Undead Machines’ to be the album that solidified the Deceased style for years to come. What is it about this album, or the circumstances surrounding its recording, that you feel make it so powerful?

Deceased: I just think it was a heavy metal record in a time when heavy metal was a bad word. We didn’t care; we just lined it up and knocked it down! The songs are very strong on it. I think a lot of metal people related to the horror tinged theme of it. It’s my third favorite Deceased record behind ‘Supernatural Addiction’ and ‘Surreal Overdose’.

TO: Everyone has a favorite Deceased album, and I believe yours is ‘Supernatural Addiction’; ‘The Weird Travel On’ happens to be mine. Do you think that says anything about yourself or the people that choose other albums?

Deceased: It’s always neat to hear why someone has favorite record, details of it etc.  To each their own I always say. We all have different names for a reason~!

TO: Modern day death/thrash seems to be used as an excuse for death metal bands to play traditional death metal riffs at hyper fast speeds, but Deceased has always held the thrash side of the moniker in high regard.  What is the secret to blending so may influences into a coherent product, while still retaining quality songwriting?

Deceased: Passion for the styles and influences tenfold. You gotta believe! People sadly a lot of times toss shit together to hope its unique when it comes off kitchen sink or half assed. Neither is a good thing. Deceased really does where our metal heart on our sleeve. I arrange everything and I love hooks in songs and memorable music in general. Mindless song writing is a horrible thing. Wasted music as I call it, what a shame

TO: Speaking of influences, you’ve made it pretty evident where your influences lie. It’s clear from the plethora of covers of everything from Cro-Mags and Bad Brains, to Running Wild and Voivod.  Why do you feel so compelled to show reverence to so many classics when others may relegate one or two song to their influencers?

Deceased: It’s just a part of it. We take Deceased very seriously in our albums. To let up and have some fun amongst the song writing usually means a cover song tribute to a band or moment in time to us. We have lots of influences so we show it as often as we can!

TO: In 1988, tragedy struck when Rob Sterzel, then the bassist, lost his life in an accident.  Many bands are incapable of continuing on from something like that. What helped you to get through dark times in your formative early years?

Deceased: It’s all we knew! Music was our lives and we had to trudge on. Rob would have demanded it. Rob’s death was awful and it floored us. But we took from negativity and made positivity out of a dire situation.

TO: Your style of melodic death/thrash pre-dates even those bands from the Swedish Sunlight Studios period.  At a time when melody was probably a dirty word, what drove you towards it?

Deceased: A love for it. I know it’s a big part of my music heart. A good melody is so inspirational to me. We always had hints even at our dirtiest sounds. But it took time to grow as musicians both song writing and playing wise. When it fell into place I was thrilled!

TO: Deceased has consistently released excellent music almost yearly since 1986, whether it be through singles, EP’s, demos, or compilations. How do you keep so relevant years later without burning out?

Deceased: Again you gotta believe. You gotta want it. People that really listen or follow a band can almost always know when a band is mailing it in. We don’t rush into new records or toss out 8 new songs a year just to call it our new record. We got into writing music because it is dear to our hearts. And all these years later it still is!

TO: You’ve said in an interview that you love performing live shows.  How does playing live differ from writing in the studio?

Deceased: The studio is a very serious thing at times. You have to keep your mind right. On stage you get to perform your tuned in front of a crowd there (well a good bunch of them) to hear your music. You give it your all and it’s one big thrill ride. I love to entertain and getting on a stage and going for it really makes me happy!

TO: You’ve had numerous lineup changes over the years, mostly stemming from members living all over the country.  Les and Mike seem to be such constants throughout most of your timeline. What kind of relationship is necessary between the three of you?

Deceased: Understanding is the key. We are all older now and things like family, work etc come into    the mix as you get older. Everyone still rocks when it’s time to do so. Mike didn’t want to play live anymore late 2000’s and we worked it out so he could continue as a studio guy while turning over his live presence to someone else. Les married a gal and moved to Texas. He is still part of the studio band and plays out live with us as often as he can. Being around since 1985 life tosses stuff at ya it’s how ya deal with it that keeps it moving forward.

TO: For ‘Rotten to the Core’, Dave “Scarface” Castillo took over behind the drum kit for live performances. Was this something you had been seeking to do for a while, or was Dave just the perfect fit?

Deceased: After playing on stage as front man in October 31 it just felt right to be upfront. I always found it constricting live to sit behind a drum set on a stool and front a show. Dave is a dear friend and fit right in.

TO: Iron Maiden, or Judas Priest?

Deceased: IRON MAIDEN WITH EASE! Judas priest should have walked away mid-80s for all the following of musical trends to stay current they did. Iron Maiden just keeps on doing their own thing!

TO: Do you have anything to tell the fans about upcoming performance, or the highly anticipated seventh full-length album, ‘Ghostly White’?

Deceased: It’s almost complete song writing wise then the will record. A lot of time and effort has gone into this one. I’m really digging the tunes. It’s very heavy metal this go round with a lot of emphasis on melody, reminds me in spots of ‘Supernatural Addiction’. We are all very pleased!

Transcending Obscurity (Tyler Brooks): Thanks King!

Deceased (King Fowley): Thank you! Stay wildddddddddddddddddd!

 

INTERVIEW: Polish Black Metal/Doom Band UR

UR- Hail Death

Poland continues to be a hotbed for some of the strongest death and black metal out there, and with labels like Pagan and Arachnophobia releasing material on a regular basis it can be hard to keep up.  One release that caught my attention right towards the end of 2016 was the debut EP from UR, the six-song ‘Hail Death’.  Coming in at a little under twenty minutes, UR keeps their songs on the shorter side but accomplishes a lot with each one.  Rather than simply laying down fierce, unrelenting black metal like some of their country mates, this band delivers equal amounts of harsh black metal and somber melodic passages that have a doom and gothic tinge to them.  It’s a strong first showing that hints at even greater things still to come, and is another example of a Polish act that already feels like they’re pushing outside of the usual genre boundaries from the very beginning.

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INTERVIEW: Val Dorr of AEVANGELIST

Grab a drink and strap yourselves in, because this is a long one.  Rather than do a big masturbatory introduction, I’m going to keep it simple.  The following is an online correspondence with Val Dorr of Ævangelist over the course of a few weeks.  We connected initially over the fact that we grew up in the same Chicago suburbs just a few years apart.  Val even gave lessons at a music store just down the road with a good middle school friend of mine.  Anyways, I had the amazing pleasure of talking to Val not only about the band, but also thoughts on being trans in the black metal community, the defamation of the scene with accusations of Nazism, other projects, and much more.

FlightOfIcarus: Let’s start with the last bit of music from you I encountered: the split with Blut Aus Nord.  How did that come about?

Val: Sometimes elder siblings smile upon us. I remember being aware that Thorn and Vindsval had some sort of quiet, slow, hermetic communication as far back as 2009 or 2010, when I was discussing Benighted In Sodom‘s Plateau Σ: The Harrowing with Thorn (still probably my favorite Benighted in Sodom album) and made the comparison to Blut Aus Nord myself.

I believe Vindsval himself instigated the planning for our split. Through his connection to Thorn and our shared association with Debemur Morti Productions, Vindsval was among the secret few to hear our Writhes in the Murk long before release, and that seems to have been a tipping point. Our shared swathes of discordant synthesis and touches of trip-hop rhythms made for a natural combination.

If anyone doubts the glacial pace of musical planning, I’ll add that the plans to do a split were confirmed in summer 2013, almost two years before the work became manifest, and that with the speed of the notoriously productive hermits involved and an existing rapport.

To quote Blazing Saddles, and without any  intended misogyny, “You use your tongue purdier than a twenty dollar whore.”  Sometimes I feel like the black metal artists take some sort of secret linguistics and writing class.  Thoughts?

Good question. The surface answer is of course the strong value for æsthetics in black metal (the scene that began with a rebellion against sweatpants). I’m sure I’m not alone in my lifetime obsession with literature and poetry, though. I think black metal just appeals to people who value the taste of elegant words.

I personally developed an interest in writing and language long before music and began writing poetry a year or two before I started playing guitar. Learning more languages (we’ll not mention the time I invented one) and studying voice in college definitely brought my delight in poetry to the forefront.

As long as we’re talking about personal interests, what have you been up to since the BAN Split?

I finished work on Codex Obscura Nomina (Ævangelist/Blut Aus Nord) in July 2015, so that’s a wider question than it might seem. Around that same time, saxophonist Keenan Foley and I recorded a free jazz duo album (which we just created a limited CD edition of for a Chicago performance with a lovely master from Mories) and I recorded and played on the debut Vlk full-length, which Tour De Garde released in early 2016. Ævangelist has, aside from some releases that I don’t believe have been announced officially enough to mention, gone through and discarded at least an album’s worth of material for the fifth album, which is gradually nearing completion. Ævangelist has also nearly completely sabotaged progress on upcoming Shavasana material (which requires a great deal of effort from me and from Ævangelist live guitaris Æryn) with a series of festival appearances at Hells Headbash, California Deathfest, Metal Threat Fest, and most recently our first set featuring material from Enthrall to the Void of Bliss at Brickside Music Fest.

I suppose that’s more professional than personal, though.

No that’s all really interesting.  Sounds like you’ve been intensely busy.  I would, however, like to step out of Aevangelist for a moment and talk about something more personal we’ve discussed before.  Some may not be aware of your status as a trans woman.  I am intensely interested in what that experience has been like for you personally, both within the context of the current political climate and the world of black metal which is stereotpically (and often inaccurately) generalized as a bigoted genre.

It’s absolutely a bigoted genre. What it has going for it is the large numbers of people who legitimately love the music instead of “being” black metal. This, perhaps, seems like a confusing distinction, but there are beautiful people who happen to love Transylvanian Hunger and know the names and life stories of treasured artists who have released two obscure demo cassettes–and there are people who ARE black metal. There are people who are perfectly happy to chant “NO FAGGOTS!” back at Destroyer 666 (because, obviously, who wants faggots around?) who can show you a whole world of barely tolerable identical bands and somehow legitimately embrace every one.

Honestly, most of my life as a transgirl in black metal has boiled down to being afraid and pathetic. That’s the sort of vulnerability it seems a lot safer to cover up with rage and frustration around people who can’t even see a skinny guy or a ciswoman without screaming “fag” and “gimmick.”

Realistically? My first few years seriously involved in the world of black metal were an exaggerated relapse to the kind of don’t ask/don’t tell garbage that characterized the first handful of years I spent dealing with realizing I’d really and truly gotten stuck with an XY body after puberty. I stopped dying my hair (not sure how that was gender expression), stopped shaving meticulously, stopped wearing the tiny bits of more “feminine” clothing I’d managed, Ah, . . . there are a few more anecdotes that are probably mostly only from the inside of my own head that are too embarrassing to put where certain old friends can see them. I basically whined to people I was dating in private, listened to Coil and shoegaze on my headphones on tour, and latched onto any musician I met who wasn’t a walking advertisement for proper masculinity.

We’ll have to see what asinine future continuing to play something approaching black metal holds for me, to be honest. I’ve only just had the guts to start HRT in the past couple of months, and if the internet is any indication, people in the metal world have generally seen my “crossdressing” in front of them as a manifestation of the odd and inexplicable “fashion” trends of numetal and 2000’s Hot Topic. In a monumental feat of patheticness and bad communication, I somehow only actually “came out” to Thorn in fall 2015 as a result of talking to noted “serious problem in metal”/”SJW” Joseph Schafer about an interview at California Death Fest.

I’m sure reactions are mixed, whether stated or not.  Thank you for sharing that.  I was actually going to ask you about the stage experience.  I imagine their are fans who have seen you on stage in both personas, so to speak.  Has anyone said anything to you about it who actually understood what was going on?

Incidentally, the cashier at the Jewel in Des Plaines a bit ago was possibly the first stranger to call me “ma’am” when I was neutrally dressed after an actual face-to-face conversation o.O

You’d be surprised how rarely people are comfortable directly commenting on anything about someone’s appearance in second person. There’s also the awkward pattern I’ve either noticed or imagined in which people are deliberately supportive of anything related to appearance when talking to transfolk on the (probably accurate!) theory that our shreds of self-confidence probably need help.

I have more recently gotten some “really pretty!” comments and apparently something of a checking-out. I can’t really imagine how a straight or gay person feels to even look at someone clearly trans–I feel like sexuality and gender are incredibly strongly tied up in how people perceive and react to others. The reactions of men who don’t interact very freely with women have been probably the most severe–a bit like watching a 404 error pop up in someone’s head.

Haha that’s a good way to put it.  I’ve been talking to people on both sides of the argument and my impression has been that those less in the know are mostly just confused and also afraid to say the wrong thing.  Scared of the “pronoun police” so to speak.  Have anything to say to either those people who don’t know what to say or those trans people who are aggressive about their expectations from others?

This is where we get into the realm of good advice for all contexts. Communicate. Afraid to get your head bitten off? Talk to them about it. If you show someone you care enough to talk to them, even if you don’t get things right, they’ll know you care enough to talk to them.

I’m not surprised, particularly given my perspective, that so many folk, particularly the younger ones, attempt to solve this by lashing out. I used to think they just didn’t have the perspective us old folks did of taking every moment someone didn’t stab you to death as a high blessing, but I’ve come to understand that it’s emotionally exhausting to connect to people enough to explain where you’re coming from and why things matter to you over and over and over. The number of people each of us deal with daily, even those of us who mostly hide behind a wall of work, is a staggering barrier to creating constant vulnerability. And how have humans always burned a shortcut to “communicating” about problems? Anger, rage, hatred. I absolutely do NOT say that those are neither necessary nor useful, but openness and vulnerability are the only way to get anywhere with this.

So please, if you’re unsure of how to approach or deal with one of us weirdos, create a little vulnerability and talk to us. Chances are we’ve been trying to summon the resilience to do it ourselves.

Thanks for all of that.  I agree that given time and a little bit more openess from both sides these things can imporve.  Turning back to Aevangelist as a project, what can we expect from the new material?  Any concepts in mind?  Names?  Stylistic changes or new influences?

A lot will be . . . uncertain until the point that the traditional forms of musical revelation occur. Among the upcoming releases are a group of three EPs through I, Voidhanger with a lovely contiguous piece of art splayed across their packaging. The material on these EPs is mostly older than Enthrall to the Void of Bliss and has the sound one might reasonably expect from a hoard of Writhes in the Murk give-or-take unreleased gems–but the truth is that this release has just been in the works for some time. The song “Vessel” from this work is available for streaming somewhere online.

So far, “Death . . . ” (the fifth full-length) is a perhaps-unexpected step sideways. This will be the first full-length release featuring Thorn’s live drum performances, but retaining the focused song structures familiar from IIV. Thorn has been carefully building a different recorded sound around this that reminds me more of an Ævangelist take on the sound of longtime Thorn influence Vasaeleth or the like than the colder, cleaner sound of Blut Aus Nord. That’s not to say that we’ll suddenly be creating a fresh connection to the HHR and NWN crowds, but we’re exploring different possibilities for our abyss. I’m working on a more significant piano presence for this record, as well–previously, my piano contributions have been an ingredient in the swirling vortex rather than a more traditional instrumental performance. I’m primarily feeding from Thorn’s harp work here, though of course with a dose of my “academic” background from Feldman, Stockhausen, and the like–trained musicians who valued ritual serve us well as hierophants.

What spurred the interest in increasing the use of piano?

It’s inspired by the dominant, twisting role the harp played on Enthrall to the Void of Bliss, first and foremost. The harp honestly made me reassess what Ævangelist is musically and embrace the chaos and dissonance that was previously confined to the synthesized parts as not just an atmospheric but a musical element.

With the modest boost of experience with adding auxiliary instruments to the previous two albums, Enthrall was the moment I really began to explore using my academic training and interests in Ævangelist‘s music. There, it was “limited” to expanding the range of extended vocal techniques I used, playing off of the greater flexibility with detail and softer sounds I had in the studio, as well as introducing something as relatively simple as quartertone-grid melodic contours for the upper register parts.

Now that I’ve crossed those lines, it seems natural that I include the instrument I’ve mostly relied on for traditional compositional processes. With the microtonal dissonances already present in harp and synth, fitting serialized fragments of piano against the more traditional guitar riffs is proving a natural fit.

Would you say that Aevangelist has an underlying mission statement?

Despite all of that musical discussion, the real purposes of Ævangelist are not musical. The music is a key in the lock.

Ævangelist is a method for engaging with a collection of spiritual questions which do not necessarily respond well to the traditional mistake of verbally discussing things that human language was not meant for. The roles of the self, the divine, perception, and experience and their relationships are something of an endless turmoil. The only path to anything outside of this agnosis is constant effort to see, become, and create and strike down simulacra. The only viewpoint from which this is possible is another level of turmoil; chaos meeting chaos tears apart many of the barriers to vision that this blindness trap often succeeds with. Divinity breaks the self and the perception to access self and perception.

If this sounds circular and useless, remember that the tongues of the trap are hopeless to describe the way out.

I wanted to go back to the idea of bigotry in black metal for just a minute.  There was an article in AV calling out the scene, but taking it a step further in specifically demonizing Profound Lore, Inquisition, and even Charlie Fell, who I have met and you know

Before I say anything meaningful, the idea that Disma signing with Profound Lore takes Craig Pillard out the fringe is asinine. Profound Lore is a gifted younger sibling of the world of “metal,” and Incantation, though somewhat unjustly overlooked next to some of their brother bands, are SOLIDLY part of the death metal canon. There’s no “fringe” involved–if anything, the quite-popular Profound Lore lineup is a certain fringe of the metal world.. Maybe covering the fringe of mainstream rock makes the more “fringe-accessible” artists on Profound Lore–out of the metal mainstream–seem like the core of metal, but they are not.

One of the biggest problems with politics and beliefs in our society is the crushingly false idea that people typically have at least a core set of values from which they determine their other values, the idea that people’s expressions of belief or even merely their expressions reflect much of anything about those supposed core beliefs, and the idea that these supposed core beliefs are in any way fixed.

Identity, political leanings, taste, and “beliefs” are primarily the result of a complex of forces acting on the “individual.” “Christians” are “Christians” because their social groups (both small and large) pushed them in that direction, because life experiences made Christian identification the option that offered the comfort–or discipline, challenge, opportunity for validated hatred, you name it–that the prospective Christian needed to face the self, the divine, and their reality. Some just needed a hand-fed batch of “core beliefs” to fill the gaping void of meaninglessness and uncertainty. The structure of life expectations and opportunities to feel brave speaking or acting their Christian “beliefs” filled their lives the right way for their context and experiences and stimuli.

Everything else is the same. “Being a metal fan.” “Being a progressive.” Making every little decision, like the decision to scream about mutilating corpses or striking down the Jewish conspirators–is a reaction to a complex combination of internal forces. And you know what? The only things holding people to a set of “core beliefs” are the things that created them in the first place. Most of us prefer to BELIEVE in our beliefs, and the stimuli that would make us back down have to combat the stimuli that tell us to stick to our decisions so we can trust our ideas of ourselves and gain the trust of others–or somesuch garbage.

So yeah, Dagon’s been an edgy piece of shit and neither wants to throw his garbage under the bus nor to embrace it–because it’s “him,” and because it’s garbage. Craig’s project is at LEAST as much covered in the neon paint of absurdity that covers beliefs one puts forward but can’t entirely get behind as Dagon’s–the only difference is Craig’s been more stubborn about admitting he has toilet paper on his shoe.

Charlie and his collaboration with Jef are a different matter. I’m not going to claim Charlie’s any type of angel by any means, but his immediate option in his relationships with other people always seems to be to love first. He certainly tends to dwell on the less socially-approved aspects of the human experience when judging humanity, but he sees people as people–with “flaws”–and treats them like other thinking, feeling beings. I never for a second saw Death Mask as transphobic. That sort of judgment itself suggests to me a marginalization of transfolk–as if treating us like other flesh, bound and abused, is somehow more about a weird facet of our lives.

Frankly, this level of “nazi problem” is, especially in light of Woe’s recent removal from live performances because they were also booked to play with Inquisition, OVER-addressed. The unaddressed “nazi problem” is the normalization of actual “extremist” beliefs in normal low-level bands. It’s not the shitty over-the-top side projects, it’s the world of “sure whatever” agreement with default hateful beliefs. Unfortunately, when people try to eradicate low-level beliefs, they become the hateful extremists doing wrong–and they always seem to miss the low-level beliefs in favor of attacking people spraying neon paint.

I’ve also spent a couple of hours in a small room with Antichrist Kramer. We had NO communication except for awkward glances at each other. I wore my dressiest skirt and chatted with persons of Jewish heritage and Kramer excitedly gossiped with someone I didn’t know about who else in the world of black metal had quietly bonded over their little 14/88 connecting ties.

And you know what? I could have done that too, had my life hit me just a few degrees differently. If I’d taken a little differently to being not only white and of Southern descent but almost entirely descended from the first English folk to colonize the new world and feeling like “multiculturalism” only applied to embracing everyone else’s cultures–if I hadn’t made such important and strong friendships with people who just happened to be people nazis are supposed to hate–or maybe just if I didn’t happen to find describing myself as the latter half of LGBT unavoidable. Maybe only the persistence of both of those factors–and eventually finding that normal people could love me so I didn’t need to find some pathetic reason to feel properly like part of a group–is the only reason I’m not the “nazi problem.”

What does that mean? Should angry progressives hate me? Should I NOT hate the extreme right? Are the reverse statements true? Good luck, just remember to apply your core beliefs and everything will come out fine.

So that’s quite a mouthful, but if I’m not just hearing what I want to hear, it seems like your sentiments are similar to my own: yes, these people are out there, but who and what isn’t all that consequential.  What IS important is recognizing that people are a product of their beliefs, and those beliefs do not develop in a vacuum.  With that in mind, it seems important to be more open to discussing these belief systems rather than going on a witch hunt.  Does that sound correct?

I’m somewhat less positive than that. I believe that beliefs are an affectation. I believe that the actions of “people out there” are very consequential, but that mostly the people blamed are not to blame. I don’t believe that there is any way to deliberately change a culture for the better. I believe that witch-hunts are usually poorly aimed, not that they are intrinsically hopeless.  I strongly recommend aiming future witch-hunts at politicians and lobbyists.

Okay, that definitely makes sense, though like you said I try to be more hopeful.  And honestly I’m much more concerned about actions than beliefs.  People can think what they want, but once they start actively causing real (beyond just the never-ending “I’m offended by this” BS), that’s where I draw the line personally.

Real action is certainly a more important expression than words, but words that aren’t wrapped in absurdity are also significant. Both of those are the trading stock of politicians and lobbyists and only occasionally that of artists.

Right, because the actions spurred by your words depends on your power, and politics is the ultimate stage.  Dagon is playing the high school dance to a Senator’s Madison Square Garden.  Even that analogy fails at scope, but you get the idea.  But I find that even political witch hunts often miss the mark.  You remove one, and even if they were the intended target, 5 more take their place.  But I suppose we arestarting to stray away from musical territory now.  I think I could carry on this conversation forever, but we should probably wrap up.  Could you name for us an underground metal band that you think our listeners should check out?

Nivathe, and the related projects around Plague’s Pale Horse Recordings. Filthy and discordant, with the timbral sophistication one expects from Gnaw Their Tongues and Blut Aus Nord, and a slamming weight of doom. Nivathe really lives up to sole member Plague’s pseudonym. I’ve never heard anything that sounded so diseased.

INTERVIEW+ALBUM PREMIERE: Chilean Death Metal Band Soulrot

Soulrot- Nameless Hideous Manifestations

They may not have released their first material until 2013, but Chilean death metal band Soulrot’s origins trace back to the early 1990s.  It’s clear that guitarist J.L. Olmos and company have been making up for lost time, as they’ve kept a steady stream of releases coming over the past few years.  Following a demo and EP, the band is now preparing to put out their debut full length ‘Nameless Hideous Manifestations’ on April 24th via Memento Mori.  And it’s sure to make a strong impression, as even though there’s that familiar Boss HM-2 buzzsaw sound and a good deal of Swedish influence to the writing Soulrot doesn’t feel like a clone of any one particular act and has the riffs to back things up.  We’re excited to offer you a full stream of the album alongside an interview with the band so you can get crushed by its immense weight and ominous atmosphere.

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INTERVIEW+ALBUM PREMIERE: U.S. Death Metal Band Ruin

Ruin- Drown in Blood

Ruin’s debut full length has been a long time coming, with the U.S. death metal band having existed in the early 1990s for a year or two before lying dormant for the better part of two decades.  The promo material for their debut full length ‘Drown in Blood’ (due out April 24th via Memento Mori) mentions periods of incarceration and institutionalization as one of the main reasons behind Ruin’s disappearance, but whatever the circumstances may be the band re-emerged in 2015 with the ‘Spread Plague Hell’ demo and released three splits shortly after.  Now with the full length ready to unleash its nihilistic and filthy death metal on your ears in a little under a week’s time, we’re excited to premiere the album in its entirety.

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INTERVIEW: U.S. Black Metal Band Woe

Woe- Hope Attrition

It has been close to four years since Woe released ‘Withdrawal’, and in the time that passed since then the band has been fairly quiet.  While some groups take time between full lengths and still tour, Woe went completely quiet for a significant period of time.  The U.S. black metal band resurfaced last month with ‘Hope Attrition’, showcasing a new lineup and some of the most abrasive and memorable material yet.  While still adopting a dynamic approach to songwriting, there’s a noticeable emphasis on aggression and bleak tonality.  It’s easily the darkest and in your face Woe has ever been, and an early highlight of this already standout year.  To find out more about the work that went into the album, we had the chance to ask singer/guitarist Chris Grigg some questions.

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Interview with Craven Idol

Craven Idol Logo

Have you checked out ‘The Shackles of Mammon’ by UK black metallers Craven Idol? If you haven’t, I urge you to take a listen to the band’s rather storming song ‘A Ripping Strike’ in the video below. It’s as good an introduction and any to the band, and is merely a glimpse of the dark blackened treasures that lie in wait for you on the full album.

In my humble opinion Craven Idol are one of the UK extreme metal scene’s best kept secrets.

Some things shouldn’t remain hidden though. Enter Vrath, here to inform, enlighten and lead the way…

Transcending Obscurity (Nigel Holloway): Who and what are Craven Idol?

Craven Idol (Vrath): Craven Idol are a London-based old school extreme metal band swearing by the first gods.

The current line-up is: Vrath – vocals, guitars, Suspiral – bass, Heretic Blades – drums, Obscenitor – guitar

TO: How did you form?

Craven Idol: Craven Idol was formed in 2005 by Scourger and I. We were two young kids from small towns arriving in London largely for the music scene. It was really as simple as that. A mate of mine mentioned told me about a kickass drummer/guitarist who was into Teutonic thrash and that was that. We jammed in a tiny, crammed, and noisy basement near King’s Cross until we somehow managed to put together our debut demo in 2006.

TO: The Shackles of Mammon is your second album – did you approach this one differently to ‘Towards Eschaton’?

Craven Idol: Very different indeed! Our debut ‘Towards Eschaton’ was perhaps more of a portrait of the band as young men, as it consisted of some material dating way back to the early days. It was also the last work with Scourger as a major contributor.

With ‘Shackles…’ we had a clear plan to create a more varied and aggressive record. All tracks were finalised by drummer Heretic Blades and I (again) in a small rehearsal room near Kentish Town. We then brought the songs to the band (one by one) and deconstructed them entirely…letting them evolve naturally.

Craven Idol Band

TO: Quite a few years have passed between the releases – what have you been up to in the meantime?

Craven Idol: I think when it comes to albums it’s quality not quantity. To my mind, you can’t force creativity or as Bukowski put it in his poem ‘So You Want To Be A Writer?’: “if it doesn’t come bursting out of you in spite of everything, don’t do it.” I have a few other bands on the go, but they are certainly not the reason for the time between albums. I mainly write in massive frenzies where the album comes bursting out of me, so it was a matter of waiting for that (or at least reading enough literature, listening to enough music, watching as many movies, gaining as many experiences as possible to trigger the deluge). All in all, I think it took about a year to write all the material…

TO: Now that you have completed work on the album, what’s your view of it?

Craven Idol: It turned out just as I wanted. I’m happy with every aspect of it. All the songs work as intended and the production is old school as all hell blown asunder. It’s the album I wanted to write from the very start.

TO: If you had it to do over again, would you change anything?

Craven Idol: Honestly, there really isn’t. If anything I’d be worried that we couldn’t replicate some of the killer performances on there!

TO: How do you balance the classic metal/first wave influences in your sound with the more traditional second wave ones?

Craven Idol: This is the key to what we do and you’ll be surprised to find that the balance comes completely naturally and we never talk about it whatsoever. Because we have never established what kind of music we play, we are equally influenced by Mercyful Fate, Candlemass, and Manilla Road, as we are by Bathory, Master’s Hammer, and Sodom.

It’s all about those pioneering days when the rules were few and the ideas many (rather than opposite way round). End of the day, we play what we like and ignore all trends. Damns us to a small following for eternity, but I’d pay that price any day.

Craven Idol Album

TO: Do you have any goals for the album and for 2017 in general?

Craven Idol: To keep the momentum going! We have a release show in London on the 8th of April and an appearance at the North Of The Wall festival in Glasgow the week after.
We are also releasing our 2010 EP ‘Ethereal Altars’ on cassette tape via a small UK label named Carvetii Productions. It was also include covers of Poison (Ger) and Onslaught as bonus, along with our 2006 debut demo! Lastly, we’ve also started writing new material. I’m aiming for a 7” split next!

TO: What are your views on the current state of black metal?

Craven Idol: What would you even classify as black metal these days? It’s fucking everywhere. Commercially available, top-selling, mostly overly repetitive/melodic garbage. And that’s coming from a great supporter of black metal!

Black metal is in a very similar state to the rest of metal when it comes to creativity…in a dark age…a slump. We have perfected many a formula that a bunch of teenagers came up with in the ‘90s sure. And the metal scene worldwide is bigger than ever. But because we have conformed to this pack mentality, we are killing the music. We huddle in scenes that are based on trends…and only that trend is real. Just look at the endless sewage of shite this occult death metal fashion is coming out with…and everybody fucking loves it! Slurp, slurp, slurping that faecal matter into your ears…

Don’t get me wrong, there are decent black metal bands out there, but they are underground (as it was intended).

TO: What’s the UK extreme metal scene like from your point of view?

Craven Idol: Whilst essentially affected by the above phenomenon, The UK extreme metal scene is in a decent shape in many respects. At least the deep underground is.

You just have to look at bands like Grave Miasma, Lvcifyre, Adorior, Indesinence, Esoteric, The Wounded Kings. The scene certainly has its gems. However, it’s hardly the NWOBHM!

TO: Anything you’d like to add to sum up?

Craven Idol: Thanks for the interview! Stand strong against the raging tide!

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