Tiamat – “The Scarred People”

Tiamat – “The Scarred People” (Napalm Records)

These guys have come a long ways since they used to play black metal as Treblinka in 1990. Now, over 22 years later only main man Johan Edlund remains and the band today plays atmospheric gothic rock. But exquisite it certainly is! Edlund now sings in baritone vocals, with gothic riffs to match, but the difference is the 70 rock almost reminiscent of Pink Floyd that also brings in delicate mandolins, psychedelic harmonies, space rock keyboards and some far out guitar work. As such, songs like ‘Before Another Wilbury Dies’, ‘The Morning Of The Red Sun’ and ‘Messinian Letter’ radiate rock energy with hints of beautiful melancholy and atmospheric intensity. All in all a superb tenth anniversary album that exudes musical maturity and brilliant composition! When all the darkness has gone, the sun always shines Johan….

Fullforce – “Next Level”

Fullforce – “Next Level” (Steamhammer / SPV)

Fullforce are a Swedish super group made up of ex members of Hammerfall, Yngwie Malmsteen and Cloudscape who play a seductive mix of rock and prog metal but in both cases with a decidedly melodic touch! Soaring soulful vocals, heaps of harmonies and beautiful choruses are lacquered on thickly amidst passionate ballads, exotic guitar work and some thundering drums on powerfully emotional songs like ‘Smile At The World’, ‘Karma’ and ‘Mysterious Ways’. Superbly crafted songs complemented by superior musicianship and matching production, this second album indeed takes Fullforce to a new level – that of being the crucial bridge between the metal world and mainstream rock genre in general – if they can keep it together I foresee big things happening for these guys indeed!

Eldorado – “Anti Gravity Sound Machine”

Eldorado – “Anti Gravity Sound Machine” (www.eldoradorockband.com)

As exotic as their name suggestions, this Spanish hard rock band are ironically named after the same mystical lost city of gold that never was. Taking inspiration from 70s rock legends like Bad Company, Purple and especially Zepp in Jesus Trujillo’s Plant-like vocals, Eldorado bring a contemporary but highly talented sound to the likes of ‘Space Mambo’, ‘Lady Of The Mountain’ and ‘Like A Lost Child’, all of which are graced with deep rock riffs, Hammond organ and funky blues licks. At times they could be hinting at grunge, whilst elsewhere it’s classic rock all the way baby, their musicianship being second to none. Given the number of awards they’ve won and amount of touring they’ve done in Spain, I’m surprised they’ve opted to crowd fund this album, rather than go for a label? But then maybe Eldorado are setting their sights far higher by singing in English on this album and given their music has a definite international appeal it looks like these modern day descendants of the Conquistadors are still chasing their dream!

Red Eyes – “Obey The Beast”

Red Eyes – “Obey The Beast” (Noiseheadrecords)

I can certainly relate to this Amsterdam crew’s name given some hard party nights in their cool city! Still, “Obey The Beast” came as a real surprise given their old school hard rock / metal style contrasted with how young these guys are – although they can certainly rock! Lucas Pruim’s youthful vocals are already showing signs of rawness no doubt from downing countless amounts of booze while the rhythm section Damian Lopez and Froggy Yanes just pound and kick it like speed freaks gone wild on songs like ‘Smoking Guns’, ‘My Frenzy’ and ‘Wicked Devils’! But the dual guitars of Yordi Lopez and Mathieu Martel bring it all together fusing together the metal of Maiden with the sassy rock of AC/DC and some cool modern get-the-funk out riffs. I’m not surprised that Noisehead signed these guys after one of their sold out shows at the Paradiso cos this music was born to play live, having all the hallmarks of a great rock out night – prepare yourselves for the New Wave of Amsterdam Heavy Metal!

Holy Dragons – “Zerstörer”

Holy Dragons – “Zerstörer” (Pitch Black Records)

Holy metal from Kazakhstan! This is probably the first band from this Central Asian country I’ve heard although I question just how Kazakhi they are as most of the band have European names? Musically the band are heavy / power metal, especially in the German sense with epic choruses and strong Maiden guitar melodies along with a galloping rhythm on songs like ‘Doomsday Angels’, ‘Cuband Crisis Insomnia’ and ‘NORAD Alert’ – holy crap guys, the cold war is over lol! Vocalist Ian Breeg even sounds like he’s having his own meltdown as he tries to out scream Bob Halford or James Rivera, and given how loud he is they could probably mistake him for a nuke heading to the US. Aimed decidedly for the ‘true’ metal market, “Zerstörer” is far from grade A but given the challenges of being a metal band in Kazakhstan, it’s a commendable effort nevertheless and certainly better than Borat lol!

CROWNED IN EARTH – “A Vortex of Earthly Chimes”

CROWNED IN EARTH
“A Vortex of Earthly Chimes”
Black Widow Records

Groovy 70’s style Doom Rock / Metal – this band even has their own Mellotron player! Bringing to mind Black Sabbath, Nektar, Atomic Rooster and I’d even say there’s some Creme influence in the mix. Crowned in Earth creates a slow and doomy classic psychedelic rock adventure that continues moving forward and doesn’t get mired in repetition.  With tracks like “Watch the Waves” and it’s classic watery style vocals and the classic groves of “Winter Slumber” , Crowned in Earth have created one of the more enticing Doom metal releases I’ve heard in some time. “A Vortex of Earthly Chimes” will be on CD and LP from legendary Italian label Black Widow Records – the vinyl edition of this release will just be killer!

ASHES YOU LEAVE

ASHES YOU LEAVE might have a long history but I’m pretty sure most of you out there in metal land have no clue about their existence. That should be about to change now with this interview with Luka Petrovic. Anders Ekdahl ©2012

You are on your 6th album by now. Does it feel frustrating that you haven?t reached further than you have?
-After almost 18 years and six albums in sometimes it is a bit frustrating having to deal with things that smaller bands have to deal with. On the other hand, it is amazing to still be around after so many years.

How difficult is it to keep a band going? How do you get 6 individuals to work towards the same goal?
-Actually it’s seven of us now. Our session keyboards and flute player, Ana Tori?, who has been playing with us live for the last few years is a member of the band now. Well it is difficult at times, especially since our lead singer is from Italy and we all have jobs. But at the end of the day you have to look at it as a great hobby that we all enjoy and we dedicate all our spare time to. When someone becomes a bit tired the others pull more. The most important thing is that we are really good friends. We know each other’s parents, have birthday parties together and so on. So being in a band, for us, is hanging out with your mates and playing the music that you love.

How much do you think it has played that you haven’t reached further that you come from a place not known for its metal history; Croatia?
-I think that it had a major, if not even a determining role for our career. To this day we are faced with statements such as; if you only weren’t Croatian, or your music is great but it works only for Scandinavian bands. In the negotiating deals with labels, throughout our history, it is a fact that always arose in negative connotations. Everyone seems to like the influence our origins had on our sound, but our country is more known for it’s football players or as a tourist destination than a country with a metal scene.

When you come from a country not known for its rock/metal traditions does it feel like you have to first build a foundation to stand on and then take it to the people? Are people more skeptical when they don’t have anything to compare it to?
-When we started out, the war in Croatia just ended and there was no concert infrastructure whatsoever. No clubs, no promoters and no labels. We were among the first bands that got a foreign record deal and step by step the things started changing. Now we have a bigger scene with new bands emerging every day. Several of these bands also have a contract with foreign labels. The perception of metal bends started to change even with Croatian record labels. Some of the mainstream labels from Croatia started signing metal bands as well. All major tours include our country as well, so the situation is much better than ten or eighteen years ago. It’s a lot easier for bends starting now than it was for us back in ’95. They still have to go through some of the things we had to, but at least they are not the first metal bend from Croatia that the labels heard of.
Since medias always liked labeling and comparing, we always puzzled them. They didn’t know where to fit us in, first we were doom, than gothic, than gothic-doom, we sounded like My dying bride but not quite, than like Nightwish and so on. So both medias and the audience are skeptical when you say to them we are a female fronted metal band, there are seven of us, we play a mixture of doom and gothic metal, we have a violin and a flute, and yes, we are from Croatia.

When you have 5 albums behind you does it come easier writing a new album? How do avoid repeating yourself yet not straying too far from the sound that is Ashes You Leave?
-It is never easy to write an entire album, but there are ways you can make it easier for yourself. We have a small studio, which we call “The Dungeon”, where we demo all the songs before we enter the studio to record the final version of the album. By doing this a lot of things get noticed in the phase of the pre-production and not after the recording of the album. Also there are four of us writing the music, Berislav, Marta, Matija and myself, so the task is not on just one person’s shoulders.
The only way to avoid repeating yourself is by always looking forward. What you did in the past has to stay there. You can’t keep writing material that is an reinterpretation of one of your previous records, you just have to reinvent yourself with each record.
When you listen to our new records some pieces of it are not what you would usually hear in this genre, from death metal to slap bass, but the overall sound is still Ashes You Leave. I think that over the years we managed to make a distinguished sound that is there no matter what we play.

Are there choices in the past that you wished you had not made? How much setbacks have you been through?
-All the choices and mistakes we did in the past are what brought us to this point in our career. I think that all that is what made us the persons we are today. So there are no regrets.
Unfortunately there are always things that you can’t influence, like some members deciding to leave the band when you already have a booked studio, but those are things that all bands that don’t make a living from music are faced with. It has been a bumpy ride but one definitely worth taking!

When you signed your first album deal with Morbid did you think that this was going to be your highway to success? How important were those days to build the character of the band?
-We never took things for granted, so we never expected a skyrocketing career or anything like that. But when the first record deal came in it was a definite confirmation that we are doing something good. That was definitely what kept us going. Soon after people from all over the globe started contacting us and congratulating us for the record and it was additional wind in our sails so to speak.

You’ve been through a lot as a band. Has that built the band’s character? Are your goals today different than they were in the beginning?
-We survived the war, we had members leaving us just before the studio sessions, tours canceled, equipment stolen, so our hide is pretty thick. We were always fighters and we will always remain such. I think our goals are more or less the same since we started playing. We wanted to be in a band, to walk on stage and perform our music and to create something different from the bands that surrounded us. It’s the same force that is driving us to this day.

If you look back to that first album and compare it to this new one what kind of progression do you see?
The span is almost 16 years in between so the most obvious one is that we matured, both as persons and as musicians. Our writing is better, our playing is better and we have more experience. But the thing we hit right on the spot with the first record is the sound. It’s amazing what was accomplished with so little. The equipment was either old or borrowed and the studio in which we recorded resembled more a garage than a recording studio. So we just defined and refined our sound and all the rest is just years of experience.

What would you like the future to bring to Ashes You Leave?
-These are are strange times, the music bussines has never been so low, so I hope we will survive these times and record a few more records. I would imediatelly sign up for another 18 years!

DYNFARI

Icelandic black metal might seem like a metalheads wet dream. It doesn’t get much more “true” than this. DYNFARI impressed me so much that I had to interview them. Jóhann Örn answered. Anders Ekdahl ©2012

I gotta say that I’m impressed by the number of bands that do come from Iceland, a country with the population of the Swedish city Malmö. How do you survive as a band on Iceland when people seem to leave to find work somewhere else?
-We’re both fortunate enough to have jobs, although we are both students at the moment.
We bought most of our gear before everything went to shit, save perhaps for our recording gear. It is true that a lot of Icelanders have left to find jobs and a life somewhere else, but we are part of those who remain to keep things going here on Thule.

What is it about black metal that sees all these one man or two man bands? Why don’t we see more of these sorts of constellations in other forms of metal?
-I can’t come up with a definite answer to this question, but I believe it has to do with how the bands work as well as what kind of music they are making. Many are familiar with the cliché of the one-man DSBM band. If you wonder why they are predominantly solo-projects, well, why would people depressed enough to make this sort of music want to work with others creating something so emotional, so personal? You would need to have someone with you that shares your vision, really gets what you are doing and perhaps, even better, is doing something similar himself. And that’s kind of the point, other forms of metal such as death metal or thrash metal usually don’t deal with such personal and emotional topics. It’s just not a part of the style. The music and the whole culture surrounding those subgenres calls for more group work than black metal. It seems more about drinking beer and having fun while making music in the meantime (although I do not want to generalize here). And I don’t mean that as a bad thing, we have both played in a death metal band (called Sacrilege) and it was great fun. But when we started Dynfari and wanted to focus on that project, we saw that it would just work much better if we worked together just the two of us. Still, we do have a full line-up for playing concerts and gigs, but all song writing goes down as a duo.

You are on to your 2nd CD now yet this is the first time I’ve heard of you. What has happened this time around to make your public presence bigger this time around?
-For “Sem Skugginn”, we signed a record deal with Aural Music’s sublabel Code666 Records. Their promotion has increased our fan base significantly and we are very happy with their PR. They’ve already gotten us places we would never have imagined to appear in. Of course, they have contacts and distribution that we could only dream of having by ourselves, as can be seen when comparing the amount produced of each CD. Our self-released debut, “Dynfari”, came out in 50 hand numbered copies while “Sem Skugginn”’s original pressing contains 1000 copies. That’s a 2000% increase, so no wonder many people are hearing about us for the first time these days.

How much inspiration do you get from the cold harsh volcanic landscape of Iceland?
-Nature will always be an inspiration, not just for us but for everyone. Some people just don’t have nature but instead have skyscrapers and McDonalds. Your environment will always influence you in one way or another and, in a way, define your character. People never forget where they are from. But what’s important is that people won’t forget where they are originally from, and that’s not skyscrapers and McDonalds.

Icelandic is as true Nordic as you get. It is spoken by so few yet have so great a tie to the whole of Scandinavia. What does it mean to you to sing in your native tongue? How does it feel to be a part of something so ancient that it is almost forgotten?
-Way too few Icelandic bands sing in Icelandic. I think forming my thoughts as lyrics in my native tongue is not only easier for this style of music but also more fitting. As for being part of something so ancient, it’s not exactly something you think about every day. But it certainly is a strange thought: that your native language you share with only roughly 300,000 people compared to how vastly different it is for most other people.

Whenever I see the description “post” I get strange vibes of some smart PR-trickery. What does the post part mean in the post-black metal that the label describes you as?
-It’s merely a label that got stuck for some reason. I think the idea behind it is that bands that can be labelled as post-black metal are bands that don’t care much for the typical cookie-cutter “corpsepaint & satan” concept within black metal – have progressed “past” it, hence “post”. In fact I don’t think post-black metal is a very good label as it can be used to describe very different styles within black metal.

The cover almost looks like some photo from the late 1800s. How easy was it to find the right art work for the cover?
-Andrea Aðalsteins took care of the artwork for us as with the first album. The difference now is that we used a part of her work called the “Snowblind series” and all the artwork in the booklet is from that photo album. We immediately liked her idea to use those photos. The cover photograph on our debut is a photograph by Guðmundur Óli Pálmason, the drummer of Sólstafir, which we got permission to use.

When you are only two how important is playing live? What could you bring to music in a live setting that you can’t get in the studio?
-Live music is always a different experience than in studio, and then I mean both enjoying and performing. Everything is more “in the moment” so to speak, and it is easier to get lost in the atmosphere, as if hypnotized or in a trance-like state. We always do our best to create the right setting and atmosphere when playing live. As most of our songs aren’t exactly very headbang-friendly and for the fact that we do not use corpsepaint, we use other ways to set the right mood – lighting both candles and incense and using fog machines when possible. Despite all that, we see ourselves mainly as a “studio band” as that is what lives on long after we’re gone. Nevertheless, playing live can be a very rewarding experience.

Is it possible to find the right sort of people to work with on Iceland? Can you just set up studio time whenever you feel like it or do you have to plan ahead?
-We have been very fortunate finding people to work with. We have been working with Árni Bergur Zoega, who did a fantastic job with the sound on Dynfari and also did very well mastering Sem Skugginn. Hjálmar Gylfason, who is also our live bassist (and happens to be my third cousin, small country huh?), helped us a lot recording and mixing Sem Skugginn and deserves many thanks for that. Our other live guest musician these days is Jón Þór Sigurleifsson who is an exceptionally skilled guitarist who has his own progressive metal band called Daedra. We have our own low-budget recording gear that we used to record “Sem Skugginn” so we can really record whenever we want. However, we like to plan ahead and do things properly as good as we can – improving each time.

What future plans are there?
-After the release concert of “Sem Skugginn” we will start recording the third album which has already been written. We hope to release it sometime next year. The future after that is uncertain. If we get the right offer we might try to go abroad to share our music live with other audiences. Otherwise, we already have some ideas for a fourth album. You have only just seen the beginning of Dynfari.

EVIL LUCIFERA

Search and you will find. How many times haven’t we heard that and then at the end of the rainbow only found crap. But trust. There is gold at the end if you search really hard. EVIL LUCIFERA is proof of that. Anders Ekdahl ©2012

To me Lucifera is the epitome of evil. Why did you feel a need to add the word Evil to the band name?
-I had this inspiration, and I liked the idea, because it thought was interesting add something to a name that already says a lot by itself. In this land, where humanity has become the ultimate evil in the world, you can really say that Lucifer can be the evil, or perhaps, a bringer of light, that through evil can purify the real cancer of society, that is, man? Is a dilemma, my thinking has always been that the face of evil, you have to be stronger, and then, well be the epitome of evil.

Your black metal is on the more symphonic side of things. How much does your cultural heritage play a part in forming the music you play?
-Yes, my kind of black metal is poured on a very symphonic side, I think it can be more enriched in the search for dark sounds but also melodic. Surely this has a very important role in shaping the music, is a point of view that greatly influence the direction that must take the songs

Is there a greater dimension to being black metal that might be missing if you just play power metal or heavy metal?
-Well, first of all, I don’t think that could be exact talk of a greater or smaller dimension playing a type of metal rather than another. I think that’s a way of be, and a personal taste, nothing else. I don’t want to fall into trivial considerations. I do what I am, I do what I love, for sure I do it because I think it’s my dimension.

What does black metal mean to you? Why is it that this kind of metal suits you better?
For me black metal it’s all, accompanies me since I was a teen ager, and is a very important part of my life. I can give up many things, but not to black metal and my ideals, and for me black metal is synonymous of my ideals. I think suits me better for various reasons, foremost, because as soon as I heard it was a love at first sight, secondly, I believe that it fully expresses what I am, the anger, and the continue fight in search of a top goal.

Is there anything beneficial to having your album released by a small underground Mexican label? Does it add cred to be underground and not a part of the mainstream?
-More than talk about what is useful, and how much is useful, I would like to analyze your question from another point of view. A band try to take more contacts possibles, then choose between the offers received. There may be waste, offers not interesting, and offers more good. Then choose what you think is best, and you can also make mistakes, in the past I was wrong. Currently I’m pretty satisfied with this label, and I hope in the future we continue to work well and get more credit through it.

Are there any limitations in geography anymore? Has the World become one huge playground with the help of modern technology?
-No doubt with the advent of technology many geographical limitations have been removed, and we got many advantages in many aspects. But I think, however, remains unchanged the problem concerning to be born in the wrong country. Although the geographical barriers have been virtually demolished, living in a limited country that doesn’t offer you anything is not easily solvable.

What does it mean to have an album out? What can you benefit from having a record out that people easily can buy?
-Have an album out is a good starting point, a beginning, for attempting to create a good basis.
Undoubtedly is a very positive factor that people who like your music can buy your album, it helps you to get to know more and get more exposure.

How hard work is it to do almost everything by yourself? What are the benefits of not working with too many outside people?
-Certainly work alone is more hard and labored, and takes up more time in the daily life. Sometimes is a bit stressful not to have some help. On the other hand, there are also advantages, surely it’s good to avoid threads that can often crop up for the different points of view on how to handle the various things.

Is black metal by spirit music for the lonely? Is black metal to be shared in huge groups of people?
-I don’t think that black metal can be a genre of music for the masses, because I don’t think the mass worthy of this wonderful musical genre. The mass is too dull, and has narrow visions, so yeah, probably the black metal is more for lonely.

What would your ideal dark future look like?
-I believe that we already live in a dark future, in this case, however, has a very bad meaning. An empty world, where the interest of base money is destroying everything, pollution, environmental catastrophes, and multinational who think their profits rather than pollute less. I’d say maybe, there will be a short future more than a dark future

SEPTIC CHRIST

I am a huge sucker for good old thrash metal. SEPTIC CHRIST managed to still that urge with their two albums. I just had to interview them to find out more. Anders Ekdahl ©2012

Is there a German thrash metal tradition that you feel that you are a part of?
-Never really thought about this but I think we are too open minded to feel us belonging to any tradition. All members are totally fans of music itself either it’s Metal or Jazz or even Pop.
So I think that we won’t fit to any kind of tradition at all.

Is it necessary to be anti-Christian to be a metal band?
-I think this is up to everybody’s own choice. For my own opinion I prefer to think for myself. No gods no Masters. I also think that the anti Christian attitude which is very common in the metal scene comes more from a rebellious spirit that drives the Metalheads out there. So this is my only necessity on metal I have… it has to be rebellious and outstanding of the standards of our society.

How much have you looked to the past to get inspired?
-Honestly not at all… we all have our musical backgrounds and paid our dues in making music for a long time. So we only write the songs we would enjoy to hear from other bands. Our love for the 80ies Thrash possibly comes from the fact the we all spent our youth in these times and enjoy this sound the most. It’s fucking fun to thrash ‘em all…!!!!!

What thrash bands, past or present, epitomize all that is thrash metal?
-Woah that’s hard and maybe impossible to answer… but I’ll give my best let’s do it this way … I will name you some bands and the things I respect from the most.
Anthrax – for their coolness to do some totally different things
Megadeth – the first four records are a musical revolution for me. Brilliant and cathy at all
Demolition Hammer – one of the most brutal Bands ever… no prisoners no Mercy just musical violence
Voivod – their Songs are not Metal this is art… never heard any of those chords before
Nuclear Assault – dito to Anthrax but more speed and power. Very good lyrics with a mind on the world
Sacred Reich – Great Songs which carry a great attitude. I love it when someone has something to say even if i don’t share the opinion
Watchtower – unbeliveable musical skills ….
You see my musical education is a classic but when we talk about new bands I would possibly pick up Warbringer -who epitomize most of the trademarks above…. but ask me tomorrow and
you’ll get complete new list….sorry!

Is there a thrash metal sound that everybody look for? How do you do to achieve your sound? Any special tricks?
-Sorry I know I am boring but there are no tricks at all. We only try to get our live sound on tape/harddisk…. no triggers, a cool sounding room, good equipment and some microphones.

I remember album covers from the 80s that were quite graphic and fun to look at. How important are the art work to you? Does it have to say something?
-I know that it all should be for the music only and the songs are our first priority but we care a lot about the artwork itself. Yes it’s just a small detail in the whole process of making a record
and some purists say that your songs should speak for itself but it definitely has to rock and catch your eye…. and when it carries a message it’s even better for my personal opinion…..
Be honest no one will buy something that looks like shit, right?

Does doing it yourself bring with it a greater freedom? How hard is it today to get things done by yourself?
-Yes it’s a fuckin piece of work! But for us it’s the only way to work…. it’s not that we shut out all business methods but we prefer to stay in control of everything. So we decide really
carefull who works together with us… More freedom???? I don’t know we like to be in control….

How important is playing live/touring to a band? How do you go about setting up gigs?
-Very important… playing live is one of the things we enjoy the most. You’ve got to get out to the kids and thrash the clubs when you think you are into Thrash Metal. It’s all about releasing your everyday frustration and shit and what else could be better then a moshpit at a Thrashmetal show??? No special tactics on setting up gigs. We read and answer every offer that we recieve.

Is it easier to be a band when you are closer to central Europe than it is if you live up north?
-I don’t think so there are a lot of great bands from the north who made it all over the world. In my opinion quality beats quantity ten times and always will get the respect it deserves.

What future plans do you have now?
-Playing as much shows that we can till we hit the studio again to record the next record. Currently we are working on new material which is very exciting and promising…. really aggressive but still carrying the SC trademarks….. be prepared it will hit you like a hammer.