May 5th of 2012 was the last time an issue came out... At least we didn't take an entire year to do it!!! MAKE SURE you read the editorial notations section of this issue, and see our miniature 2012 year end best of list. We're gonna try and not make the next one take so long...

Address for this publication:

Vibrations of Doom Magazine/DOOM Radio
c/o Steven Cannon
P.O. Box 1258
Suwanee, GA 3024-0963 USA


ABSKE FIDES "Abske Fides" (Solitude) SCORE: 27/100

WHAT?!? I know some of you are saying "But Steven, you seem to love EVERYTHING that comes out on Solitude Productions!" Yes, and while I enjoy the majority of acts on this label, there have been a few bands that I've not enjoyed so much and just kinda ignored. Well, that's not really fair to our buying public, now is it? What floors me most about this band is that this album is actually nominated for doom album of 2012!! Right off the bat, you get the track 'The Consequence Of The Other,' which gives you some odd, slow leads that didn't do a lot for me, but those jangly leads... THOSE bothered me. There is a bit of a post rock vibe here, and the vocals? Well, they remind me of a gurgling death metal band mixed with a somewhat nasally hardcore screamer... Even their clean sung vocals, maybe more like chanted vocals, were odd. But mainly their instrumentation left a lot to be desired... And the chanted female vocals were quite annoying as well... Then the followup 'Won't You Come' starts off with some dude talking... At least it's in English this time... Slow riffage that doesn't move me at all. More annoying clean sung vocals, kinda like some whiny college art rock project. This tune DRAGS. Then the awful high ended guitar notes... I think you can see where this is going. Dual extreme vocals that once again annoy. Track 3, 'The Coldness Of Progress.' DAMN! Now THIS is interesting to say the least! Melodic instrumentation starts this off, quite minimal, but nice and soothing. Cool guitar work abounds on this cut! This is the best tune on the disc folks. I was worried about what the vocals would sound like, but they didn't disappoint! Nice clean sung vocals, and you know... I'm reminded of some passage off the latest Ahab release. Now THIS is more like it! There's some heavy doomy instrumentation too, which is nice, but this post rock thing I can really dig!! Sadly, that's the extent of my interest in this disc, at least as far as a complete track goes. Followup 'Aesthetic Hallucination Of Reality' adds the odd death vocals and awful guitar work, though there is a nice melodic jam session midway through for a few, though the weird heaviness at the end doesn't bode well for this cut. The track '4:48...' Well, first off, it's over 9 minutes long to begin with (talk about false advertising with the song title! Sheesh!) Though the opening doomy riffs are decent, the clean vocals turn me completely off again. The mix here between riffage and vocals is quite off, in fact the vocals might not sound that bad but it's how they're utilized here. And CD ender 'Enbroided In Reflections' has some alternative scraping guitar sounding patterns that sounded a bit TOO melodic. You can DEFINITELY hear the post rock influence here and it's not pretty. The spoken vocals are kinda interesting, but overall this sounds like it's trying to mix post-rock, hardcore and doom metal, in the vein of Isis or some of those math-metal bands, and it just ain't working... If they could do more songs like they did 'Coldness Of Progress,' man, I'd be all over raving about some post rock. But they didn't. Folks, I LOVE most of what's on Solitude Productions, but how fair is it if I never talk about the few times they fail? Just doing my duty, folks, as painful as it is...
Contact: Solitude Productions.

AETERNAM "Moongod" (Galy) SCORE: 100/100

Folks, right off the bat I think I've made it known that I'm not a huge fan of death metal. However, I REALLY enjoyed Nile's "Amongst The Catacombs Of Nephren Ka" album when it first came out, due to my fascination with Egyptology and the like. However, I thought that later Nile albums focused a bit less on the Egyptian ambience and more on speed, brutality and the unintelligible vocal style death metal is usually known for. That being said, I will say right now that the death metal vocals in Aeternam are almost easy to understand, which is VERY important for an album with a storyline. The amount of time, preparation and attention to detail in this album is astounding. What we have here is a bit of Arabic, Middle Eastern AND Egyptian influences in what is basically a brutal but melodic death metal album. I must say I've never heard of a symphonic death metal and folk laced album before. What really sets this album apart from bands like Nile and the like is that the heavy almost thrash like guitar work sounds SO NATURAL alongside the synthesized, symphonic like passages. Nile does it and gets brutal with it, here Aeternam makes everything sound like it BELONGS together. Opening up with the title track, the headbanging riffs and emotional passages drop you right into the storyline. The opening Arabic instrumentation on 'Invading Jerusalem' leaves no doubt as to what race of people the main focus seems to be on, and of course the crushing choruses help to cement these songs in your mind, anti christian seeming though they may be. (The storyline seems to center on this "cult of the moongod" that comes to power after the Egyptian race has declined, and proceeds to go to war with the christians, the Arabs, and the Muslims. At least, that's how I understand it without an actual lyric sheet or CD). By track 3, 'Cosmogony,' when you hear the heavy thrash riffs, you ask yourself how can Middle Eastern instrumentation POSSIBLY work here, but Aeternam are MASTERS of their craft. And the tribal percussion was a nice touch. The tracks sometimes swing between creating an epic landscape and crushing brutality, but never one at the expense of another. Tribal percussion and Arabic like "strings" start off 'Iram Of The Pillars,' though folks, this is a track DEVOID of heavy guitars! Almost sounds like an Arabic ballad, though the ultra rich multivocal SUNG passages, yes, that's right, actual SINGING (which I forgot to mention is found on many other cuts), and lemme say right off the bat that they either utilized an actual Arabic vocalist or their clean sung musician is a natural at sounding Middle Eastern. They really nailed the atmosphere on this track, making it a definite standout on a CD with so many extremely high points. CRUSHING heavy thrash riffs continue on 'Rise Of Arabia,' complete with a few lines sung in Arabic! Sinister synth work opens up 'Xibalba,' with a very occult feel, dark and otherworldly. 'Descent Of Gods,' 'Idol Of The Sun' and CD ender 'Hubal, Profaner Of Light' proceed to CRUSH the world into darkness. The CD ender in particular has a wicked chorus behind it, and it was nice to hear male and female sung Arabic type choruses to end the album. Folks, I cannot heap ENOUGH praise upon this Canadian outfit who are only on their second album, and a MASSIVE best death metal album of 2012 is probably not enough high praise for a band who probably spent hours upon hours honing and perfecting what is truly a remarkable album of epic proportions. I didn't see the movie "Prince Of Egypt," but one reviewer said this is what this album reminds him of. You get the brutality and barbaric overtones of the endless wars and conflicts, and moments of pure clarity and insight into a very unique album. I cannot recommend this highly ENOUGH.
Contact: Galy Records.

ALTAR OF OBLIVION "Grand Gesture Of Defiance" (Shadow Kingdom) SCORE: 91/100

Shadow Kingdom Records. Folks, you're going to be seeing a LOT more of this label in the future, especially with the success they're having not only reissuing classic 80's metal gems, but also with some of their unique finds from across the globe. They went all the way to Denmark to find epic doom metal done right. Now right off the bat I will say my main problem with this album is the vocalist, one Mik Mentor. He has a fantastic soaring higher registry, which is heard all over the disc, but his lowest range is a tad unnerving. Granted, sometimes it works when he's not trying to go TOO low (like on latter parts of 'Sentenced In Absentia'), but from the opening of 'Where Darkness Is Light,' you hear it. It's kind of a shame too, because there's some really killer heavy bass lines going on in the cut 'Sentenced...' where some lower vocals would REALLY drive the ultra doomy point home. Still, though, EVERY song here is very enjoyable, most notably because those vocals SOAR on the choruses and pre-choruses of damn near every song. And the lead solos! Man, they are some of the best written I've heard in a long time, and they really add weight and dimension to the songs. Just listen to 'Sentenced...' again for the third time, yes, I've mentioned that song A LOT but others are great too. This is an interesting feature of this disc: only 6 songs and a running time of only 34 minutes. One track, 'The Smoke Filled Room,' is a short 2 minute instrumental, but once again, the amazing melodic guitar work (dual guitars only, acoustic and distortion-less acoustic/electric) becomes the highlight and makes this enjoyable. Emotionally driven content and amazing guitar work means these songs are written WELL, and a delight to the senses, once you get past the few places where lower toned vocals are a slight turn off. Still, there's much to love from a Danish band that KNOWS how to craft well written songs. I look forward to hearing MORE from this doom metal outfit.
Contact: Shadow Kingdom Records.

ANKHAGRAM "Thoughts" (Endless Winter) SCORE: 87/100

After their brilliantly received "Where Are You Now" album (reviewed last issue in case you missed it), I was quite surprised to hear that this Russian funeral doom styled band had left Silent Time Noise Records. Part of the reason may have to do with their structural shift in influences, especially when you hear the opening instrumental only song 'Gates In Mind.' A mere 5:50 of beautiful and melodic piano notations are quite shocking given what the band usually writes, begging the question: is Dead leaving the doom metal genre behind altogether? I definitely enjoyed it, however, and the violins were a nice touch. Fear not, however, as we hear some of Ankhagram's darkest instrumentation on the followup 'Don't Feel This Life.' Harsh and howling winds permeate this track for much of it's 18 minute length, perfectly capturing the essence of such cold and cruel winters the Russian landscape is well known for. The vocals kick in here, and are quite reminiscent of "Shades Of..." era Shape Of Despair, sounding very ancient and very much like thousand year old trees speaking for the first time in ages. A very unusual and DIFFERENT type of vocal style than the usual death metal fare. There's not a ton of variation in this track, though the beautiful Shape Of Despair like synths get their fair share of foreground space. The track may run a little too long for some, especially when the synths are running through several minute passages. The followup 'Lost In Reality' has a somewhat overused moving train sound that sometimes detracts from the beautiful ambient synthesized passages. This is a 14 minute track that adds some nice doomy instrumentation amidst some amazing horn like keys and you will start to notice, these songs contain VERY little in the way of vocals. Yeah, the train sounds do get annoying, but followup 'I'm Fake' has some of the best instrumentation on the album! The trumpet like horn sounds bring to mind a slight Colosseum influence almost instantly, though nowhere NEAR a "carbon copy." The beautiful piano notations also retained a hint of sadness, showing Dead's mastery of emotional presence within his chosen instruments. That "light and uplifting" feeling blends well with the heavier stuff. 'Without Us' is noteworthy of being a very dark and slow funeral doom piece, and here is where things were most noteworthy for me: an almost 12 minute piece containing ONLY 80 seconds of actual vocals! (That's 1 minute and 20 seconds). Immediately the heavy doom presence is felt from the start, though the synth only passages end this track a bit far from where it started. CD ender 'Thoughts' raised eyebrows a bit as a 12 minute instrumental, and by far one of the weakest cuts on the disc, as it seems to be "playing it safe" instrumentation wise; not only taking a few minutes to really flesh out, but the main synths seem to be very unemotionally involved, not like the other tracks. Still, this cut has a tendency to be somewhat relaxing, further throwing you off balance by adding heavier instrumentation at the end of it all. Not their best piece of work, but overall the ambient dynamics prove that this newest addition to the Ankhagram repertoire works well in the hands of the composer Dead, and I look forward to hearing how the sounds develops on their next full length.
Contact: Endless Winter Records.

BEDEMON "Symphony Of Shadows" (Svart) SCORE: 28/100

This band is said to be legendary in underground doom metal circles, having been considered the first true U.S. doom band. Sadly, Randy Palmer would die tragically before anything else could be finalized, but the band soldiered on and after a ten year wait, this is the result. Folks, I believe the reason you heard more about Pentagram than this band was because once you discovered Pentagram, you heard such heavy riffage, and a dark and eerie presence that not many 70's bands HAD. And here, the songs fall far short of ANYTHING Pentagram was doing, which is probably why Bobby Liebling and Greg Mayne abandoned the project. First off I think is the addition of new vocalist Craig Junghandel, who obviously doesn't really add much to the project. His vocal delivery comes off laughable many times, and only a few times on the record do I get a glimpse of what his TRUE potential could be. Bobby Liebling was a master chameleon, able to take on many different sounds and styles, and truly injected life and emotion into such already powerfully heavy songs. Here, Craig doesn't have much to work with, and frankly, doesn't add much. The songs themselves are almost a complete travesty, with the guitar work showing great mastery but sadly relegating their most impressive moments to solo instrumentation and "jam sessions" (more on that in a moment). The slow and haunting guitar work starting off the cut 'Saviour'seems like it will show promise, but that promise is quickly shattered. The ghostly chanting vocals were interesting, but come on?! Those lyrics... 'Fall to your knees and swallow the sword?" "Lay back, close your eyes and realize that god is deep inside you?" Okay, now obviously this song deals with pedophile priests, but lyrically... Ugh. Anyway, moving on, 'Lord Of Desolation' is another HUGE travesty. 7 minutes of drudgery, and for some reason the drums sound flat here. A "forced" 70's style recording? You get two minutes near the end of ultra repetitive lyrics, and damn I'm gone. 'Son Of Darkness?' More goofy lyrics... "face the wrath of the creator?" And the way Craig phrases things... It was cool to hear his higher register (which, I forgot to mention, is the only highlight on that held note on the opening CD's track), but it's just so... damn... lifeless... 'The Plague...' What is this a fucking ballad?!?? Drudgery again. Lifeless. 'D.E.D.' Track 5 and I'm still unable to recommend anything to anyone yet. High toned singing here doesn't help. More dull riffs. The vocals really grate here towards the end. Repeat ad nauseum once again lines like "I feel like I'm dying everyday." Shit, me too man! And if that didn't have you screaming for the exits, 'Kill You Now' was absolutely THE worst track here, hands down. What's with the ridiculous handclaps, now we're a 50's doowop band or something? And those lifeless "whoooah's," shit guys you ain't the Misfits! Yeah, surprisingly though there's some halfway decent doom buried DEEP under all the shit and mire... You gotta search for it in this track. 'Godless...' Damn, lyrically it sounds like Craig's trying to RAP for fuck's sake! And you know what, these tracks incidentally are WAY too long, many topping out at 7 and 9 minutes. That being said, as horrible as this track is, the extended jam session closing this cut out was nice. See, the guys DO have talent... Followup 'Hopeless' is GREAT for the last 4 or 5 minutes where they are playing a BEAUTIFUL set of moving, melodic instrumentation! Why couldn't the rest of the damn disc have such amazing catchy and epic instrumentation. FINALLY, after 8 tracks I can FINALLY recommend something to listen to on this disc. And a faster piece on this cut reminds me of Pentagram, though those ridiculous cowbells threaten to ruin a beautiful moment. Very interesting haunting synth notes, which I don't remember hearing much of. And CD ender 'Eternally Unhuman' did the whispered vocals along with that gruff "gang shout" thing I suppose, and here you see the most comical attempt at being dark and all "haunting." The ballad type stuff works better against Craig's vocals, but then you get the trademark closeout of a song with the over-repetitive vocals. Damn, it's almost like these guys are trying too hard to write material they clearly have very little understanding of. Still, that being said, I recommend you hear it first before you check it out, since everyone and their mother seems to care more about the relative age and obscurity of this band rather than the actual skill of writing catchy songs.
Contact: Svart Records.

CANDLEMASS "Psalms For The Dead" (Napalm) SCORE: 93/100

Almost as surprising as their move to Napalm Records, was the announcement that this would indeed be the last Candlemass album ever made. Sadder still that, as of this writing, Robert Lowe is no longer a member, citing problems in the live performance (which, witnessing some of their recorded videos, proves to me that Lowe was incapable or unwilling to learn the lyrics and timings to the older material, songs which are crucial to a Candlemass live performance). Folks, if this is Candlemass' swan song, they have ended on a very strong note. The CD opens up with 'Prophet,' which is one of the most kick ass tracks on the record (and it isn't a slow tune). A crushing track that I thought would have been better to present as the "first single" rather than 'Dancing In The Temple Of The Mad Queen Bee.' (More on that in a moment). 'The Sound Of Dying Demons,' well, lyrically it's kinda silly, and the ultra doomy instrumentation doesn't give Lowe a chance to shine well; he doesn't perform the mainline vocals well simply due to the fact that he's not really a low toned singer. This is seemingly the Candlemass entry into a more funeral doom pace, though the choruses are still decent. The dirgy Sabbath guitar riffs are admirable however. 'Dancing In The Temple Of The Mad Queen Bee' sounds like the band is attempting to write a fairy tale, and though the concept is rather silly, the track is quite catchy. It's also one of the shortest tunes on record, at a mere 3:38! It amazes me how much Candlemass packs into a short song. Another slight foray into funeral doom follows with 'Waterwitch,' where Lowe decided to go for a rather minimalist approach vocal wise (and works much better). 'Lights Of Thebe' surprisingly adds Egyptian ambience, proving that there's still a few shocking tricks up this over 25 years' running band's sleeve. The opening synths remind me of how 'Demon's Gate' started way back on their very first album! Lowe is at his absolute height of vocal mastery on this track, choosing to wait until the catchy choruses to unleash his range and vocal power, even holding the final note for a few seconds longer than you'd expect. The second shortest song here 'The Killing Of The Sun,' ends up sounding almost ordinary for the band, but Lowe's ability to sing almost to a whisper and then reach the soaring heights he's known for make this rise to the occasion, not to mention the keyboard's more dominant presence in the music, which continues on right up to the track 'Siren Song.' Once again, silly lyrical concepts abound ("The sirens will suck on your soul?!?" Really?), however hearing that psychedelic and trippy Hammond organ routine really makes this a standout track (who would have ever thought Candlemass could pull off a doom album that utilized keyboards?) CD ender 'Black As Time' starts off with a spoken word piece that sounds like the dialogue was lifted straight out of a Doctor Who episode (garnished with the all too familiar British accent), then proceeding to hit us with some familiarity: the opening heavy guitar riffs sound like they were rewritten from the old hit 'Mirror Mirror' from their "Ancient Dreams" album. While still hearing traces of what made Candlemass great for so many years, this is quite obviously THE best Candlemass record ever made with Lowe at the vocal forefront. As for the entire discography? One of the best Candlemass records ever created, and I HIGHLY suggest Candlemass perform at least one farewell show here in Atlanta before they hang it up forever.
Contact: Napalm Records.

DANTALION "Return To Deep Lethargy" (Unexploded) SCORE: 91/100

Dantalion's fourth full length release is on yet ANOTHER new label! I was surprised that Dantalion didn't remain with Xtreem Music (and I am KICKING myself for not purchasing the "All Roads Lead To Death" 3 color shirt!!! You know how to contact me if you have one of these for sale). That being said, howveer, this is only their second record with their new singer Sanguinist, and let me tell you, he sounds more wicked and mentally twisted than ever! Right off the bat, you're going to feel like you've heard much of this material before, and you'd probably be right. EVERY track has a few passages where you go "haven't I heard this somewhere before on previous tracks from previous albums?" I actually went back and tried to locate certain riff patterns to see if they existed more than once on this album, but I believe I've heard them on earlier releases. You come to KNOW the Dantalion guitar sound after 4 albums. Still, they are not simply a one trick pony; though they do vary the tempos, speeds and structures greatly within the framework of each song, 'Ode To Nothingness' was probably most noteworthy for starting the first minute and 32 seconds off with a synthesized fade in followed by acoustic like guitar work. Frankly, nothing here on the record displeases me (well, except for about a minute of the slower guitar work and first set of vocals on their Katatonia cover 'Murder,' BUT... That's a bonus track that only appears on the digipack version of the record and I also own the jewel case version of the same release. Points don't detract for that). As I said, it just all sounds.... familiar. Sanguinist does his stellar best on this album, and that alone is reason enough to own this album. It's an album that I could listen to just as easy as "When The Ravens Fly Over Me," or even "Call Of The Broken Souls." What else can I say about this mixture of icy Scandinavian black metal with the doomy touches of doom metal, mixed with a guy who can start off with a growl, work his way into a blackened shriek and end it up with tortured shrieking howls that conjure up the depths of the harshest emotional pain. Everything here is well done, and you'll own it because it's fucking Dantalion...
Contact: Unexploded Records.

DEMONIC DEATH JUDGE "Skygods" (Inverse) SCORE: 98/100

So after doing a nice interview with DDJ JUST last issue, and raving about their amazing debut release (which, incidentally, should have been voted best newcomer album of 2011), along comes Skygods!! You can tell how long it takes us to put issues out when even though the albums are only 1 year apart... Anyway, all that aside, if you loved the debut, there's even MORE here to dig and jam out to. Now, this time around you won't find a long, melodic instrumental (GREAT story behind their last one, see the interview for details if you wish), though there is a short one entitled 'Latitude,' which isn't nearly as good as 'Stick That In Your Pipe And Smoke It' from "The Descent." Sure, it's got some melodic dark acoustics, but there's this weird howling voice thing, and it's a bit strange. So yeah, there goes two points. Everything else? Fucking spot on. Catchy fuzzed out stoner/doom grooves? Check. Sick as rabid dog mixed with satan's demon on vocals? Check. Melodic jams intertwined with all the heaviness? Double check! If you loved the last album, there's no reason for you to really read any further, is there? Okay, well, CD ender 'Pilgrimage' threw me for a loop with the barely audible chants of "whoooah," and let's not forget the cut before it 'Nemesis.' Clean sung vocals? Wow. And yes, in contrast to it's name, 'Nemesis' is one of the most melodic cuts on the disc, ESPECIALLY due to the mostly relaxing melodies and all clean sung vocals! The riff structures on this disc are mainly kept simplistic, kinda like they've done before, though they're crushingly heavy like on tracks 'Aqua Hiatus' (which is one of the heaviest and most skull crushing on the disc), and 'Salomontaari,' which bounces around all over the place with melodic passages via warpy acoustic guitars entering the fray. One BIG noticeable difference between this album and the last is that the majority of the songs are a bit shorter, averaging between 4 and 6 minutes, with only one song clocking in at 10 minutes while the second longest is only 7:40!! So it seems that while they've streamlined some of the lengths of these songs, they're no less busier than songs from the last album. Blackened stoner doom is the order of the day here, and I think this disc will crush you just as easily as the last disc, though some of the riffs may start to sound a bit familiar...
Contact: Inverse Records.

EARTHEN GRAVE "Earthen Grave" (Earthen Grave) SCORE: 95/100

Doom and thrash metal? How often do you hear about those two genres of music being combined? This isn't the only thing Earthen Grave has come to bring you, however, so read on... Our story begins with the track 'Earthen Grave,' and right off the bat you know the dark instrumentation means E.G. knows how to get doomy 'n' dirty! There's kind of an Old West feeling to many of these tracks, due in most part to the amazing violin passages that pop up everywhere, and the vocalist has this interesting "shouty preacher" from the American West to him. It's hard to describe, but you'll have to hear it. It's interesting to hear the violins blazing away with the choppy, thrash like riffs on followup 'Life Carries On,' though this track does bounce around quite a bit bringing about slower choruses and different speeds and tempos which makes it hard to lock into the track as a whole. 'Burning A Sinner,' damn that's an amazing cover of the Witchfinder General tune from the 80's. And violins emblazoned, hell I hate to admit this but I actually like this one better than the original! And yet ANOTHER cover, that of Pentagram's 'Relentless,' complete with amazing soaring vocal work and who would have thought to hear violins in a Pentagram song! At first I thought the covers were the best songs they had on the disc, but maybe that's due to the familiarity factor. The truth is, there's some down and dirty riffing that permeates some of their heavier cuts, like 'Fall In,' 'Beneath A Shovel Load' (which, incidentally, reminded me of epic guitar passages that Spiritus Mortis would do), and 'Dismal Times.' 'Blood Drunk' is an AMAZING tune that starts off almost ballad like, with amazing violin and acoustic like guitar riffs, a rather sad old west and epic tune to boot! It's a tad long for what it is, but man is it ever amazing. CD ender 'Death On The High Seas' has no problems crushing your head with brutal choppy thrash riffs played at slower speed; once again the violins start your journey off but really, this track seemed a bit too long at 10 and a half minutes, though the remainder of this cut features quite a bit of faster bludgeoning thrash done the doom way, and passages that are even faster than that. All in all, Earthen Grave has made a sort of Old West vibe throughout this disc, while NEVER failing to remember how to keep doom heavy, dark and skull crushing... This band has created something quite unique, and I urge you to at least give it a few listens...
Contact: Earthen Grave homepage.

EVADNE "The Shortest Way" (Solitude) SCORE: 97/100

Solitude Productions again... Yep, you know the score, you know what's on tap for my most favorite doom metal label in the entire world. Not content just to tap the roots of the Russian doom scene where this label is based, they trek all the way to Spain of all places to find a band that is young, hungry, and full of emotional rage! Now, right off the bat I will say there's some gothic touches explored on this album, some synthesized ambience and a few other things (which I won't mention until later), but folks, it's all about pure dark aggression here! If you though Swallow The Sun veered too far off track with their last few full lengths, Evadne makes up for that in spades. Melodic acoustical guitars start the album off with 'No Place For Hope,' and soon gives way to vicious deathly vocals, which also at times have a bit of blackened bite to them. There's quite a bit of variety within each track, most noticeable right off the bat, going from raging eerie and dark doom to some serene, melodic moments, but they NEVER forget what they are first and foremost. Whether they decide to incoporate melodic, soothing and almost tranquil clean sung vocals (the opener of 'Gloomy Garden' or bits and pieces of 'One Last Dress For One Last Journey') or surprise you with melodic, almost gothic synths and clean sung, almost innocent sounding female vocals (the cut 'All I Will Ever Leave Behind' features the most female vocal work you'll hear on this disc), Evadne NEVER forgets to bring the dark, eerie and brutal aggressive doom and death to the table. Even the acoustical passages on 'Dreams In Monochrome' surprised me as to how dark they were, not to mention the eerie and haunting yet beautiful synthesized passages on 'One Last Dress...' (which incidentally I thought was a great track for their video). I did think the spoken word "read this letter after I'm gone" piece on 'All I Will Leave Behind' was kinda cheesy, but thankfully anything light and seemingly fluffy is done with class and taste. There's so many emotions raging throughout this disc, that Draconian would even be an apt comparison in some respects. And though the songs are long they never get boring, due to the band masterfully crafting soundscapes that keep you interested. Even more surprising, the 4 and a half minute instrumental 'The Wanderer.' Now, if you don't walk away from this song feeling something after hearing some of the most beautiful high ended lead notes I've partaken of in awhile, then you need to go listen AGAIN... Still, I thought 'Further Away The Light' should have ended the CD rather than 'Gloomy Garden,' but just a small bias because from 6:34 until the end of the song, this guitar work is just un-believable. Soaring is a good word. Still, there isn't a bad track on the disc, and this album offers SO many different sides to Evadne... That's why we bugged the shit out of them for an interview, which you can also read this issue... Damn if Solitude Productions can't dig up some TALENT!!!
Contact: Solitude Productions.

EXXPLORER "Vengeance Rides An Angry Horse" (Pure Steel) SCORE: 82/100

I remember when Exxplorer issued their "Symphonies Of Steel" album in 1985. I wasn't overtly impressed with this record, due to the annoying continued use of the higher pitched yelps that Lenny Rizzo seemed to overuse on that record. Fast forward 26 years later, and listening to the two albums, you'd be hard pressed to think this was the same band! Lenny's vocals have added a rough edge to them that gives this record more of a kick in the ass than their earliest of efforts would have you believe. Still, from the opening "power metal scream" that kicks off 'Gypsy' (and the album), it's obvious that Mr. Rizzo has lost little of his power. Still, even though there's some great choruses and things going on, 'Gypsy' is about 7 minutes and 42 seconds. They seemed to drag the ending on a little bit, and sometimes that's a small complaint with this band: They tend to have long songs that don't seem to know when to end. Small complaint though. 'Glory Hunter' is a great epic metal like track, and those vocal ranges REALLY come into play here. 'Chasing The High,' now I understand the lyrical content, but once again, this is a song that is a bit too long and contains quite a bit of stuff that could have been cut, like the profanity laden "rap talk" at the end, and the acoustical break with the heavy breathing and what not. Still, those soaring vocals on the choruses have to be heard to be believed; 26 years later and no one will say he ain't still got it. I did dig the short instrumental 'The Vengeance,' especially with the battle sounds (even if there isn't a whole lot of lyrical thematics on this particular album dealing with that). Finally: 'S.N.O.E.' It's good that they abbrievate this (it stands for Sweet Nectar Of Evil), because quite frankly, this is the worst track on the record and quite embarrassing for a band of this caliber. I mean, the "crooning," all the low toned "ooh's," the trying to sing quietly and "seductively," plus the odd "sex talk," I mean this band has WAY more class than this. I'd expect this kind of crap from the "hair metal" of the 80's, but not a band like this. MAJOR points dropped off for this. The rest of the disc, though closes out in fine fashion, even if CD ender 'Return Of The Cycle' could have been a better track to end an album. Still, 'Freight Train To Hell' was VERY entertaining, and it sounds like the band had fun with this one. Lots of higher registered vocal work, soaring choruses (which I'm a sucker for), and just an entertaining song, reminding me of WHY I loved obscure 80's metal bands that knew how to write FUN songs. It's not a barn burner by any means, though the band ARE competent at their craft (hell, they've been making records SINCE the 80's though I haven't had the chance to hear them). A decent metal effort by a band who's been around nearly forever.
Contact: Pure Steel Records.

KHORS "Wisdom Of Centuries" (Candlelight) SCORE: 62/100

I mentioned that a HUGE part of my reviews will do more to take into consideration whether I would want to purchase an album that I received for free, and whether that score would reflect paying a domestic or import price, since a lot of labels I service are difficult to obtain at a reasonable price due to the fact they're, well, overseas! And Khors is a band I have followed religiously over their past 5 albums, usually citing the same thing I will say now: Khors albums are usually very spotty despite containing some great music within. This new record is their first for Candlelight, and after a forgettable "intro" (which doesn't even really "build" to your first proper song), the cut 'Black Forest's Flaming Eyes' spends 9 minutes and 16 seconds reminding you of Khors' potential. In fact, I dare say the three promising songs on this record are some of the strongest and most epic tracks Khors has ever done. Right off the bat, Khors kicks your ass into high gear, and the amazing structures and ambient synths really fill this song out well. Followup 'The Last Leaves' runs a faster pace, more reminiscent of icy Nordic black metal, with some great melodic and emotion invoking lead solo riffs. Finally, after two tracks that definitely tear it up, you have what is my BIGGEST gripe with the album, and one that I'm not the only one sharing. Here we have (with the rather annoyingly long song title 'Where The Grandeur Of Mountains Embraces The Space' not helping matters), a rather odd set of dark solo synths and tribal percussion, and okay, I get it, they're going for atmosphere. A short instrumental that, personally, I felt they could have left off, since it's not very good for one, and two, there's ANOTHER instrumental that follows (much better than the previous, but still, I WANT MORE SONGS!) in 'Horizons Glassy.' Drums, acoustic guitars, pianos, it's kinda dark but still has an interesting melodic yet melancholic feel to it. And the title track, which should have been epic since it's THE TITLE TRACK (besides being only the 4th complete song on an 8 song CD). Very slow and haunting, somewhat of an industrial/tribal influence with rather bad whispered/hoarse vocals. This track contains almost NO variation and is quite bland compared to what Khors usually does. This 6 minute cut should have been "cut" from the album. And the 3rd and last great song you hear on this record 'Only Time Will Take It Away' ALMOST makes you forget about everything else. The atypical waves crashing on the shore sounds mix well with beautiful dual acoustic guitar interplay, and the atmospheric synths mix well with everything else. Finally, the CD ends with ANOTHER instrumental, this time also being one of those I see no value in. Folks, 3 songs out of 8... I don't think I have to tell you the value of this CD, however, you ALSO have to realize that these are three of the most amazing songs Khors has ever written. If you can pick this up rather inexpensively, maybe? Import prices, you'll just feel you are getting ripped off... Sad, really, due to how amazingly talented this band is...
Contact: Candlelight Records.

KREYSKULL "Year Of The Octopus (Inverse) SCORE: 52/100

Inverse Records blew me away when they sent me the first Demonic Death Judge album, and I'm afraid it colored my expectations of this heavy fuzzed out stoner rock laced disc. Right off the bat, the OTHER thing that colored my expectations further was the opening cut 'The Czar Of Rock 'N' Roll.' This rough edged, heavy ass kicking song is as heavy as it gets on the record, folks. A rough, gravelly edged vocal style that does a surprising 180 twist and gives us clear melodic singing; let me say I LOVE this guy's voice! And those fuzzed out distorted guitar riffs, they're everywhere. So why doesn't this work out overall? Well, the main problem here is that MOST of the songs lack bite. Even our favorite cut has some melodic singing and melodic acoustical stuff going on, but they keep the heavy rockin' vibe going. Things tumble FAST down that hill when followup 'Preacher The Devil' come in. You have some slow, dirty and heavy riffing, and this cut SOUNDED like it had promise, but something just seems missing. Restrained is what I think I'm feeling. Same with 'The Island Of Dr. Mondog.' Fuzzy riffs and the great sung vocals, but the song lacks bite. I mean I REALLY am trying to dig this stuff, but I keep getting steered off course! Their goofy side comes out especially at the end of this cut and it's definitely NOT helping. Melodic rock leanings strain me even further going into 'Selling The Sadness,' and those overtly melodic sung choruses don't help either (though I dare say some may find the track a bit catchy). Another sad disappointment with 'The Maze That Satan Built' (KILLER song title tho). Acoustic like guitar work abounds though. The 1:36 instrumental doesn't help the cause either. 9 songs and 37 minutes, it gives the latest Vitus record a run for short albums. Finally we're back onto something cool, with the cut 'Wicked Lady,' THIS is what I wanna hear more of! Heavy faster rockin' guitars REALLY perk my ears up, I was thinking we were done for. This track is the ONLY other song that kicks as much ass as the opener. Catchy choruses help further. Worst song here HAS to be 'Back To The Island,' especially those goofy spoken word vocals at the end. Now here's the kicker: CD ender 'Carnival Nightmarium' is a GREAT SONG. Catchy choruses, though a bit on the lighter side, despite revving things up midway with some faster instrumentation for their major structure change. The vocals really soar on the choruses; this is just a well crafted song, though it veers a tad a few times. Minor complain though. And of course the heavy Sabbath like guitars opening up have a nice presence, though that ISN'T what this song goes for. Really, this album seems to lack bite, and it puzzles me, even after MANY repeated spins. First time out I hated this record, because everything after the opener took a nosedive. This despite the fact that the guitars rock, though not with a strong dominant presence, and that guy can fuckin' SING. These songs don't out and out SUCK, they're just lacking something. Hopefully they can set things straight and maybe the next full length can capitalize on their strengths and cut out the weaknesses.
Contact: Inverse Records.

LORENGUARD "Eve Of Corruption" (Lorenguard) SCORE: 89/100

I first heard of this band when the Pathfinder metal fest here in Marietta, Georgia had this band opening up for While Heaven Wept, and they were indeed the surprise hit of the festival! (Well, that and the carful of people who drove almost 1000 miles to see Theocracy). Hailing from Indiana of all places, this unknown and surprisingly epic power metal is definitely one to watch for. After an EP of sorts, this latest release is even more surprising because the storyline follows THE NOVEL that was written by drummer Brady Sadler. Yep, we have a fantasy author in the house folks. Everything on this disc is top notch, and I mean the vocalists, guitarists and everyone else in this band on down to the female vocalist. This band contains lots of high quality musicians and singers, folks. The CD starts off with the title track, and though a synthesized intro follows, you get some medieval synths and some headbanging riffs! Folks, this might be power metal, but definitely there be an emphasis on the word POWER. The spacey synths were kinda weird though, but all in all everything seems to flow together well. Our fair singer belts it out with power on followup 'Upon The Burning Isles,' and this is a fast tune to boot. And let's not forget our lead guitarist who can really crank out the solos with craft and precision. This track is merely 4 minutes long but packs so much emotional content within the framework. Folkish instrumentation abounds on 'Greenstone,' and it's almost ballad like, but the soaring vocals on those catchy choruses and crafted lead solos keep this from becoming too syrupy. Female vocals are present here but you kinda have to listen for them. And once again, those odd spacey synthesized passages sounded a bit odd... Epic headbanging passages you'll find on 'Black Sails And Phoenix Flames,' but I thought the track was a bit too upbeat for such a downtrodden tale. Still, there's METAL in there. The 8 minute track 'Secrets Of The Spire' seemed a bit long for what it was doing; though you get some thunderously heavy instrumentation, this cut seems like it focuses too much on the melody when it should have maybe cut the length down a bit. Noteworthy too is the insane almost yelled like power metal vocals, which have some aggression built into them! (You'll have to hear it to understand). 'Wrath Divine' is another good song, once again ths simplistic and catchy choruses will get ya. And the sorrowful opening on 'Dragonsbane' rips into some GREAT multivocal work; I really would love to hear MORE of this from them. It's another favorite of mine to be sure. On 'Prince And The Pariah' it's quite fast to start out, and seems VERY classically influenced, from the speedy guitars all the way down to the amazing symphonic pieces. You want epic with your power metal, it's here. CD ender 'Hands Of Chaos' closes out this disc PERFECLY, with catchy choruses, great galloping instrumentation and female chanted like vocals to bring you in the mindset of this unique fantasy world. And the ending instrumentation closes things off fantastically, with spoken word narration that you can actually hear and UNDERSTAND very clearly. My only complaints are few: the almost 8 minute ballad 'Embrace,' which has nice female vocals and here they get their due time, but it's a bit long for what they offer (plus you all know how I feel about "the ballad.") The other thing is that, well, it's power metal, so you do have to deal with the light and fluffy pianos here and there, but regardless of these somewhat minor points, you'll be impressed by the level of quality this band puts out. Production wise, everything is clear (except the more "explosive" end of percussion which sounds a little overtly distorted; like maybe the loudest levels weren't backed off on a bit) and you can hear everything so clearly. A great first album for a band that definitely has a future: I for one am chomping at the bit to read the novel!
Contact: Lorenguard Official Website.

MORTAL SIN "Psychology Of Death" (NoiseArt) SCORE: 95/100

Thrash is dangerous once again folks! I remember this Australian band from ALL the way back to the early 80's when everyone raved about their debut release Mayhemic Destruction." This album is SO much more vicious, from the razor sharp thrash riffing to the raspy shouted vocals of Mat Maurer, who would sadly leave the band before the Australian Death Machine decided to call it a day in 2012. Folks, I can't stress this enough, this band KNOWS how to write destructive, vicious thrash in the Y2K era! The title track starts it all off, and though it takes a minute to get going, there's a lot of diversity with faster and slower passages, and the stop/start thrash riffs that don't quit throughout the entire disc! I could name so many great songs, like 'Down In The Pit,' which is a definite working man's 9-5 anthem, and of course 'Blood Of My Enemies,' NOT the Manowar song, but you'll hear some Slayer like tendencies here and there. The lead guitars shred, and they also take some melodic passages which will surprise many for such vicious offerings, which makes me wish the guitarists would show off a bit more! Check out those melodic riffs on the cut 'Kingdom Of Pain,' which gives this an almost 80's power metal feel. One major complaint was with the cut 'Deny.' Everything else was in place, but the choruses were a HUGE letdown after such vicious thrashing heard EVERYWHERE else. 'Doomed To Annihilation' had some ripping percussion as well, the drums here definitely hit mach 10 in some places. Folks, don't think that just because a band was slogging through the underground in the 80's that they are no longer relevant in this day and age, because Mortal Sin will prove you wrong. One of the BEST damn thrash albums that came out in 2011... Still, sad to see them call it quits...
Contact: NoiseArt Records.

MYSTERIARCH "Mournful Embrace Of Aeons" (Razed Soul) SCORE: 97/100

Man, how this band has grown! I recall the first time I saw them live, opening up for Mayhem years ago; what an impression they made on me. And now, with the release of their second full length of grand, epic and majestic symphonic black metal, this North Carolina outfit has what it takes to become one of the best American black metal bands around. The CD starts off with a nice intro, and usually I skip these, but 'Ode To Glorious War' is just that - complete with militaristic and slightly tribal percussion and medieval sounding synths. The CD then suddenly begins to pummel you with the next outing 'Crossing The Primordial Threshold,' and personally I thought they ought to have started their first official "song" on a more midtempo note, especially since some of the faster paced instrumentation was not totally to my liking. It just seems like a rather odd transition. Nevertheless, things soon set themselves right, and right off the bat you'll notice that they have TONS of tempo and structure changes. This is good since most songs easily surpass the 6.5 minute mark. You better keep things interesting, and Mysteriarch has NO problems with this. Lead solo guitar work shares equal time with synthesized solos, and everything just seems to flow. The synths don't ever seem to be just filler, and many times they become the highlight of the song themselves. The guitar work on 'Arcane Ravel' DEFINITELY reminded me of some of Forefather's highlights: not an unheard of thing since that's who they reminded me of years ago when I noticed that particular night live they were without their keyboards. They flawlessly and effortlessly move from faster to slower instrumentation, dark to epic. 'Solace Beneath The Shroud' is one of my favorite tracks, and the faster start belies some rather mysterious and dark passages. I also noticed some death metal styled vocals along with the rather forceful blackened ones, though the majority of vocal work seems to be of the very harsh blackened style. The percussion also seems to take a life of it's own, and I also enjoyed the horn synth sounds. Finally, you may be gasping at the almost 9 minutes in length of 'Paragon Of Forsaken Virtue,' though the last 2 minutes of this song house some of the most epic and emotionally moving synths I have ever heard. Check the passage at around 6:57 to see what I mean. This carries the track out VERY nicely, and I dare say it's my favorite instrumental passage on the disc. (Well one of them anyway). Their structure changes are very numerous and actually hurt them a tad on the followup title track, and you always take a risk when you have so much variation on a song. Still, a 7:24 running time gives you lots of room to play around with; luckily what makes this track shine is the change of moods from start to end. And while 'Labyrinth Of Gnosis' seems to be an almost relentless assault, followup 'Doctrine Of Serpents' contains (out of the 6:19 length) 2 minutes and 29 seconds of some of the most evil and dark malevolent instrumentation I think I've ever heard them use. While epic and majestic is more to this band's forte (even hurting them a tad when they ever so slightly go astray), this track is sheer genius. And of course, the darkness is contained and confined to those first few minutes. Another enjoyable not quite 2 minute "outro" and I am thoroughly convinced that this band stands alone amongst the elite forces of U.S. based black metal. Not only one of their best albums to date, but proving that they are a force to be reckoned with, and I think this is one of the best black metal releases, along with Vesperian Sorrow's latest (see later on this issue for that), of 2012.
Contact: Razed Soul Productions.

PALLBEARER "Sorrow And Extinction" (Profound Lore) SCORE: 95/100

One of the most surprising debut releases in 2012 was this band from out of nowhere with an amazingly beautiful funeral doom release. This band reminds me A LOT of the approach that While Heaven Wept took on the majority of their releases: clean sung vocals ONLY (well, except While Heaven Wept doing black metal vocals on ONE SONG off of "Forlorn Empires). This mix of slow, almost funereal doom and amazingly melodic and beautiful vocals requires SUCH a delicate approach and it's very easy for things to stray if too much heaviness is presented (more on that later). To be sure, the songs are AT LEAST 8 minutes in length, with one topping out at 12 and the other at the 10 minute mark, but man, THE GUITARS!!! Acoustic guitar work starts off the disc with the cut 'Foreigner,' said by many to be a favorite piece. The sorrowful and beautiful guitar work is truly a wonder to behold man... This track especially is quite short on vocals, and at times Pallbearer reminds me of a doom metal "jam band," though it's all very well constructed. If you have the opportunity to see them live as I have, you'll see how it all fits. Heavy instrumentation follows on track 2 'Devoid Of Redemption,' and the vocals start this off a lot sooner than on the previous song. The biggest problem here is with the ultra downtuned riff patterns towards the middle: while interesting, they force the vocalist to rely on unnatural methods of vocal delivery to match the instrumentation, throwing some echoey effects over the almost shouted vocals, ruining their perfect mood. That being said, the slower, almost droney feeling that caps off this track was a nice touch. I did enjoy the fuzzed out guitars on track 3 'The Legend,' and noteworthy for me was the soaring vocals and rather memorable lyrics. And of course you can hear the bass guitars crunch it out on this one, and yes, more instrumental jam passages... The problem that cropped up on 'Devoid...' rears it's ugly head on 'An Offering Of Grief,' it's that "forced heaviness" that is marred by rather odd sounding, fast tremolo picking that really throws this magnificent piece off a bit. Still, the 3+ minutes of great instrumental variation before the first lyric is sung keeps you compelled to listen. And finally, CD ender 'Given To The Grave' (yes, 5 tracks, 49 minutes, that's about the right length for funereal doom metal anyway) starts you off with low bass guitar rumblings, and damn, did I hear a few synthesized passages? There's definitely less vocals here than any other track, and the most beautiful yet sorrowful doom guitars you'll hear anywhere. Get ready, because you've got about 5 minutes of solo instrumentation before the singing comes in. They also prove here that they can craft the most beautiful and emotional music that is also very minimal in it's creation! Folks, Pallbearer decided to do something a bit different with funereal doom metal, and at this tempo you're usually hearing extreme vocal work. Still, those few minute problems are the result of a new band locking into their signature style and sound, but DAMN if those few minutes of awkwardness aren't worth sitting through for 5 tracks of sheer bliss. GO SEE THEM LIVE... And get this record! And let's have the next album sometime sooon please!
Contact: Profound Lore Records.

RUNNING WILD "Shadowmaker" (Steamhammer) SCORE: 32/100

I gotta be honest with you, I have always been a HUGE Running Wild fan. I owned several different versions of "Gates To Purgatory" and "Branded And Exiled," and even embraced their new "pirate" image; touting "Under Jolly Roger," "Port Royal" and even to some degree "Blazon Stone" as containing some of the best modern era Running Wild tunes ever. This album tries to be so many different things, and fails at ALL of them. First off, you'll notice they seem to be trying to capture an 80's "party rock" theme, which to be honest, is quite interesting on the band's opening cut 'Piece Of The Action.' Rolf does weird me out with those whispered vocals at first though, and it seems like the drum machine is back in full force. Welcome back, Mr. Angelo Sasso! Sadly, this is probably one of their best tunes on the record, and vocally I wasn't all that pleased with this track. It sounds like 80's metal, but not much reminiscent of Running Wild. Then some goofy opening guitar riffs, and we have 'Riding On The Tide.' Now, I did enjoy the choruses and prechoruses of this song; heck this coulda been lifted off any number of R.W. pirate themed albums. It does seem a bit too, shall I say, light hearted instrumentation wise tho? 'I Am What I Am....' Damn what do I need to say about just how ridiculous this cut is. Listen to the choruses especially, what are you Popeye now? I noticed a hint of the Running Wild sound in the guitars. 'Black Shadow' is a rather slow cut, and forgettable one at that. We're back to 80's party metal style once again in 'Locomotive,' which has some decent rockin' guitar riffs. The simple, one word choruses do nothing for me though, and the light hearted attempt makes this a weak cut. Finally, something that REALLY destroys this album: The cut 'Me + The Boys.' And this is supposed to be some ultra rockin' "hey we're cool guys" track. Check a gander at the lyrics: "We'll rock you somehow?" In the past they didn't say they'd rock you "somehow," they just DID. "Rock and roll is our choice?" What are you a political statement now? And of course when they say "kick some ass," well, compare this song to the track 'Raw Ride' off of "Under Jolly Roger." THAT song kicked your fuckin' ass and was mean and heavy with SICK rockin' guitar riffs! THIS waste of space? The percussion even sounds like some kinda marching music! This sounds like a pathetic grab for commercial radio play. Alright, thoroughly pissed off now, I wanna end this review here, but I guess you wanna know about the last 4 cuts. Simplistic tune follows (in 'Shadowmaker'). I guess the title track shoulda been something special. Decent guitar leads but once again there's this kinda fluffy atmosphere to it all. Catchy riffs are found on 'Sailing Fire,' and it's kinda piratey, but nothing to fill the void. Another 80's rocker with 'Into The Black,' and the choruses mean NOTHING to me at all. Nothing catchy here. Nice try on CD ender 'Dracula' (yeah, like THAT subject hasn't been explored a million and one fucking times. I guess gone are the days when ol' Rolf would explore obscure subject matter like Tortuga Bay or the Battle Of Little Big Horn. Maybe he's trying to cash in on the whole Twilight scheme/scam). At 7:38 it's just way too long. Nice opening on this though, with the dark acoustics and church bell/storm sounds, but in the end what could have been a nice epic track to end the album ends this whole thing pretty much as it started: a colossal failure. The mediocrity of this whole thing is astounding, and it's not REALLY a terrible album; but when you have that many tracks that are just like "eh?" And when I read the Steamhammer website "tear sheet," and found out that Rolf - and I quote - said "Sometimes it just took me ten minutes, rarely more than half an hour, to compose a song..." Well, that says it all right there folks. You can't write a whole albums' worth of material in 10 minute blocks. Some bands spend months writing and crafting songs. Back to the drawing board you go, Rolf. Finally, YES, I know he's referred to as Rock 'N' Rolf, but trust me, there's NOTHING that really ROCKS on this album. THIS is the reunion we all got so excited for?
Contact: Steamhammer/SPV Records.

SAINT VITUS "Lillie: F-65" (Season Of Mist) SCORE: 72/100

I was excited to see Saint Vitus on the comeback trail, especially since their last full length album came out about, oh, 17 years ago! Now, I don't know why Scott Reagers, the band's first vocalist, decided not to rejoin the band, but since Scott Wino was part of their lineup for some time, it was cool to have him back on board. And he IS indeed the highlight of this band. Still, puzzled I am at the mere 7 songs and a 33 minute running time, which explains a bit of why this album scored as low as it did. Right off the bat, you've got a solid 4 songs to start this doomy affair off, and the opening cut 'Let Them Fall' DEFINITELY has a doomier Spirit Caravan vibe to it. It's quite a good album opener! Now I gotta admit, out of all of Wino's projects, I heard The Obsessed way before I ever heard any Vitus, and most of what I know of Saint Vitus is due to their 80's material (and hearing Church Of Misery covering 'War Is Our Destiny,' one of Vitus' best ever songs, before I heard Vitus do it). I was also more familiar with Spirit Caravan than Vitus as well, so the review might seem a little lopsided as far as my history with all these projects. Nonetheless, I let the music do all the talking. Wino's vocals, you either love them or you hate them, but here it seems like Wino is gunning out for power, especially at the end of this track, hearing his soaring crescendos means that he's lost NONE of his force after oh so many years; in fact he sounds stronger and more focused than I've heard him in quite some time! Cool fuzzed out guitar work continues on with 'The Bleeding Ground,' and if I had heard the song without knowing where it came from, RIGHT AWAY I'd say it was a lost Spirit Caravan song. Especially lyric wise; I wonder how much of the instrumentation Scott wrote? Now here, some of the most insane and wild lead soloing I think I've ever heard blew me the fuck away; as Dave Chandler does this scraping wild solo that has to be heard to be believed. At times I thought I was hearing fast computer beeps; only to realize what was going down. A beautiful set of melodic guitar passages marks the beginning of not only the track 'Vertigo,' but the first instance where I could prove (besides reading the credits) that Scott Wino was responsible for writing the guitar parts here. Though, I do question the inclusion of TWO instrumentals on this very short album, almost an EP really. MY main gripe about this album comes at the expense of some of that same scraping lead work, where Dave overuses (in my opinion) that scraping, echoed, wall of feedback and distortion. Still, this opening of the cut 'Blessed Night' does not betray what soon happens, as this is the heaviest and most rockin' cut of the album! The simplistic choruses and just crushing uptempo instrumentation is what I would have loved to hear a whole album's worth of! Finally, things start to falter a bit, as the opening of followup 'The Waste Of Time' proves. Those really odd, dragging slow doomy riffs didn't sit too well with me, though the vocal work is good, and here the lead solo work REALLY starts to bother me. I'm not as crazy about this cut obviously. Dark acoustic guitar work dominates the first minute and 20 seconds of 'Dependence,' and the slow and dark, doomy vibe continues. Once Wino's vocals kick in, everything's good again, though the odd, scraping feedback mixed with echoed distortion REALLY grates the nerves here. The man has skill, how about some fast lead solos or something? Droney and weird from 4:41 up through another minute or two of this and I'm almost ready to pull the plug on this track. And the CD ender? Noisy scraping feedback and, yeah, you've seen the description already. Except here, 'Withdrawal' is a total waste of 3 minutes and 26 seconds, as all you get is this spacey but noise laced "track," I dare not call it a song. Seven tracks guys? I mean most of the material is decent, but I expected a bit better than this over the length of a very short album. Now, it's still got quite a bit to enjoy, but depending on how much you have to pay for this album may be where the REAL scoring lies. I think I would be upset if I paid an import's price for this album (see the Khors review for more on that subject), but seeing as how Season Of Mist has a stateside setup, you might find more of a value in a purchase price. Me, I got the album for free, so maybe my value system is a bit different from yours. Enjoyable, with some very notable exceptions.
Contact: Season Of Mist Records.

STANGALA "Boued Tousek Hag Traou Mat All" (Solitude) SCORE: 94/100

Hailing from the ancient mystic forests of France, these three druids have taken on a very infectious mix of stoner rock and HEAVY crunching doom metal, complete with lyrics in Breton and adding weird flutes and mystical synthesizers. Our journey through the druid filled forests starts us off with 'Doom Rock Glazik,' which is one of the catchiest stoner rock tunes on the disc. It's rather short, but gets right to the point, complete with catchy choruses and some smoking bong sounds (in case you forgot what substances you should partake of while listening to this disc). 'Al Lidou Esoterik An Dolmen Hud' continues things on, and Stangala has a definite penchant for some odd, off the wall sounds, courtesy of your electronic keyboard. This is a VERY doom metal oriented track, however, and the dark and heavy riffing melts alongside some trippy and fuzzed out guitar work. This cut also has some of my most favorite instrumentation on the disc, and they even do a kind of instrumental jam session to close out the cut. 'Kalon An Noz' was interesting, though it's almost 4 minutes of a lone recorder (flute, pipes, whatever these are called, though they almost resemble bagpipes), and not much variety here, though it was interesting; I usually skip this track as there isn't much to it. Odd spoken vocal samples start off 'Sorcerezed,' though the rockin' heavy Sabbath like guitars put you in a good frame of mind. The drugged out, clean sung vocals definitely add an edge here, though it was odd to hear the instrumentation suddenly blaze away at fast speed. 'Deus Bars An Tan' was interesting as well, though mostly just crackling campfire sound and dense guitar feedback. A few tribal drums accentuate the background, and weird whispered vocals make this a track I usually skip, except for the last few minutes of heavy guitar and, get this: sick black metal styled screams, which kinda came out of nowhere! That made this a bit interesting. Another CD favorite was the instrumental track 'Langoliers,' barely hitting 3 minutes and just being a flat out kick ass instrumental jam of crushingly heavy proportions! Most of the rest of the CD follows along these lines, though tracks 8 and 9 are 7 minutes a piece and BOTH instrumentals, they keep things VERY interesting. CD ender 'Mij Dou' is said to have a running time of 17:50, but it's really TWO tracks with a bit of "blank space" in between them. 'Tri Martolod' was the very last piece, mainly just acoustic guitars and clean sung vocals; almost like a medieval pub folk piece, while the cut preceeding ithas some of the darkest and most haunting synth passages I've ever heard; straight out of the deep forest. The doomy vibe DEFINITELY permeates this cut; though once the clean sung vocals kick in the melodic vibe takes over a bit and smooths things out. They have long songs, to be sure, but SO many structure changes and masterful melodic interplay; going from fuzzed out, psychedelic and trippy atmospheres to dark, slow and ominously heavy doom metal is no easy feat for many bands; here Stangala somehow arranges a multitude of different types and structures to create a very fun, trippy and crushing heavy experience. Solitude Productions travels the world over to find great bands, and the Druids from France are NO exception!
Contact: Solitude Productions.

THE GREAT OLD ONES "Al Azif" (Les Acteurs De L'Ombre) SCORE: 91/100

My adoration for the Lovecraft stories made me greatly intrigued by this French black metal band, with hints of doom metal and lots of post rock soundscapes. And it is just these soundscapes that add so much weight to these tracks, which oftentimes give off a more melancholic and haunting feeling rather than a dark and evil atmosphere. The title track starts it off rather oddly, though, taking a few minutes ot really build to form, and sometimes this band's greatest downfall is their structure changes, which occur on just about every track. There are always a few riffs or structures here and there which seem a bit off, but then again, that's a testament to just how good this CD is, that there is so much to enjoy. The melancholic lead riffs serve as their greatest weapon in their arsenal, and nowheer is that more evident than on the cut 'Visions Of R'Lyeh,' hands down the crown jewel in their haunted kingdom. There's just something emotionally crushing about the framework presented within. This is a great soundtrack to the sunken city, which seems like it would have a bit of sadness and loneliness presented; imagine if you were the first and only human to visit this gargantuan underwater city. 'Jonas' presents us with some ocean sounds and an almost doomy structure opening up. The vocal work really stands out against the almost minimal backdrop of sound. Some minimal instrumentation though threatens to destroy the momentum they kept building on; as I said sometimes they are their own worst enemy. 'Rue D'Auseil' follows, a 9 and a half minute piece, and I don't think I have to tell you they let long songs work themselves up on their own. The sorrowful instrumentation here is quite lengthy, and the minimalistic melodic approach added a nice touch, something they would repeat on 'The Truth.' This song spent quite a bit of time in the instrumental department, and the march like atmopshere was a diverse and interesting touch. CD ender 'My Love For The Stars' was a more melodic and melancholic piece, though some of their fastest instrumentation can be heard here as well. The structure change halfway gives the impression of two songs contained within on this 10 minute piece, and you definitely get a sense and impression of loss and melancholy, as if the great ones have faded from all memory. Powerful stuff, though nothing overtly sick and brutal; The Great Old Ones instead playing to your emotions and causing epic concepts to be replayed in your memory, only to sadly disappear from sight and sound. A very inspiring disc, one I hope will be followed up with an even more grandiose recording soon!
Contact: Les Acteurs De L'Ombre Productions.

THE HOWLING VOID "The Womb Beneath The World" (Solitude) SCORE: 100/100

DOOM METAL ALBUM OF 2012, as we have already decided... Ryan has unarguably created his masterpiece with this 4 song, 59 minute affair. It seems like the vocals have taken more of a backseat to the instrumentation this time around, though most Howling Void music doesn't have a TON of vocal work in it anyway. So let's start off with the opener, the 14 minute title track. Synths and acoustic guitars pave the way for some somber, dark, mournful and somewhat of a beautiful atmosphere, and that's all within the first 5 minutes! The simplistic but weighty high ended leads really add depth, and the instrumentation here is simply top notch. There's not a ton of variation from start to end, but you're constantly on an amazing path that you want to never end. Followup 'The Silence Of Centuries' is very immersive and starts off with beautiful yet haunting piano notations. It's 18 minutes long, and the diversity comes into play a bit more frequently here, though it's still rather subtle unless you're deliberately LOOKING for it. And of course, Ryan's amazing use of those choir like synth voices always weigh on you very heavily! And the first thing I noticed here was a sort of "guitar solo," though you won't find 100mph notes in this one. It was nice to hear the guitars shine a bit more on cuts like these, even if I noticed a rather interesting Shape Of Despair influence on the synth lines further down the song, as if they were drawn from their excellent "Shades Of..." album. Synths end this track masterfully and we come to the most amazing and epic song The Howling Void has ever written. 'Lightless Depths,' to me, is the PERFECT track for imagining the underwater city of R'lyeh. Imagine going down into the murky black waters deep below; well, the opening solitary guitars give you a small hint of the extreme black waters below. The synth voices come in yet again and soon the guitar work weaves it's magic. So you're in this city that no human has ever set foot in, and the acoustic guitars and synths carry over a beautiful and sad atmosphere so brilliantly, you're imagining how lonely this "underwater tomb" must be. And the majesty and impressive weight of creation also weighs heavily in your mind, before the deep growl and heavy instrumentation flood you once again, reminding you that there is still danger deep within this alien construct like no other building on earth. That's the best I can describe this masterpiece. The CD follows this massive weighty 18 minute epic with 'Eleleth,' a BEAUTIFUL 8 minute synth instrumental, which closes out the album beautifully, as if you're back home reflecting on the amazing things you've just seen and prepare to rest. It's different, but so masterfully done, and beautiful all the way. This impressive body of work is so picture perfect that I cannot possibly imagine what Ryan could do to top this, but needless to say with three albums in and extremely high marks on all of them, I am anxiously awaiting magnum opus #4!!!
Contact: Solitude Productions.

VESPERIAN SORROW "Stormwinds Of Ages" (The Path Less Traveled) SCORE: 99/100

I've been a fan of this band for quite some time now, and this record REALLY cements just how powerful and dynamic this Texas symphonic black metal band really is (what's in the water in Texas all of a sudden? These guys and the Howling Void?) Starting off the disc with a rather interesting symphonic intro on top of a guy howling "winds!" gets you ready for the assault. And once the title track immediately hits, these guys waste no time in assaulting your senses. The double bass drumming hits you right away, and though there's a real drummer credited, I SWEAR it's inhuman that someone can play that fast. The drums almost never let up on this record, and the synth work adds a definite atmosphere but never really becomes overbearing. This band is truly talented, and what threw me most was the abundance of power metal lead shredding all over the disc! First and foremost, though it IS a symphonic black metal style and sound, it's a HEAVY METAL record through and through, and not many black metal bands can boast that. The guitar work is incredible, just check out the solos on the followup 'An Empire To Mourn.' The structure changes here were performed quite flawlessly, and it is obvious that four records in the band members are masters of their craft. Machine gun fire thrash riffs take me back to the intense chainfire guitar work of Danish thrashers Invocator, while the vocals have a forceful blackened aura of hate to them, while throwing out some brutal death metal vocals here and there. The spoken word passages get to be a bit much, however, and there is a seemingly overabundance of speed, though these are VERY minor points, considering this is an 11 track CD with only one opening intro. The other tiny fault lies with the opening of 'Crown Of Glass,' with the rather odd guitar work to open this track. Female vocals make a surprising appearance on 'Casting Dawn Into Shadows,' one of VERY few places you'll find this, and one MOST surprising "addition" was the guest power metal styled vocals of our famed ex-Watchtower screamer, who adds an amazing amount of intensity with his aggressive yet high toned singing on 'Relics Of The Impure,' making this one of my favorite tracks. Also noteworthy was the cut 'Death She Cried,' which was one of very few cuts to feature a slower set of instrumentation, reminding me VERY strongly of Draconian with the slow and mournful symphonic track and mostly slower to midpaced instrumentation. It's obvious that the American black metal scene still hides many fascinating gems, and I have to consider "Stormwinds Of Ages" one of the best American black metal releases of 2012, right alongside North Carolina's Mysteriarch. DEFINITELY a band going the extra mile to create a unique and diverse masterpiece.
Contact: The Path Less Traveled Records.

WHEN NOTHING REMAINS "As All Torn Asunder" (Solitude) SCORE: 93/100

So you see the record label and then you see the score. Big surprise there, Solitude THIS time signing a band with some rather unusual roots. The Nox Aurea connection I can grasp (as I believe that's why Nox Aurea jumped from Solitude right over to Napalm, due to the somewhat "gothic" nature of their music), but two members of Rimfrost? The vicious Immortal worshipping black metal band? So right off the bat this thing threw me for a loop. Looking at the cover, that's another story, with the somewhat gothic looking atmosphere, and opener 'Embrace Her Pain' seems to exemplify this, with the light and etherial synths and solo piano notes. What REALLY shocks the senses is just how vicious and aggressive the death metal styled vocals really are, and for those who complain about death metal singers sounding unintelligible, hats off to Jan Sallander for being deep, forceful, aggressive, emotional AND you can understand much of what he's growling about! And the other shocker is how great the melodic clean sung vocals of Johan Ericson are, and coming right off the first track! Now, who is Johan you might ask? Well, he is only the frontman behind Doom:VS, and of course Draconian. He also did the mixing and mastering of this album, which was another surprise (though, once the album continues on, it seems like more than an uncanny coincidence. I'll touch on this later). Somber piano notes start off followup 'The Sorrow Within,' and the great doomy atmosphere seems to rely a bit less on synths and pianos to obtain the atmosphere of this fantastic track and indeed one of my favorites. The piano and synth notes are there but they aren't overshadowing the music. Still, this being an 11:41 minute piece, the three or so "structure changes" help this along NICELY, making for a diverse piece full of strong emotional and moving content. 'A Portrait Of The Dying:' Okay, we'll speed things up a bit and add some tempo variety. The killer thrash type riffs were a plus as well (I notice things like this!) And those synth "violin" sounds, I love hearing those and would like to hear more of! This track ends MUCH heavier and darker/sinister than it started, proving that even if you call such additions "gothic," it's still a heavy dark and brooding album. My first gripe here is that some of the tracks kinda just "fade out" at the end; this is way too talented a band to not find some dynamic endings for these songs! Minor complaint though. Now, 'Mourning Of The Sun' would be what I consider the "hit single" of this record, and here I could SWEAR I hear some female vocals on the very catchy and emotional choruses. What's great about this band is that they are kinda the antithesis to the Draconian sound, instead utilizing clean male sung vocals to the female ones that have a strong presence in Johan's "day job" band. I did think 'Mourning' was a little too long at 8:43, especially since you really only hear the chorus a few times in the track and there's a bit too much instrumental emphasis. 'Solaris' is a 5th track album midway piece, at 1:15 it's the shortest track you're probably ever gonna hear from these guys. 'Her Lost Life' kicks back into it, and by now you're probably hearing a bit of Draconian infuence on the album. Some death vocals here didn't sit well with me, and that 4 minute break is kinda awkward, throwing oddities around in the vocals and instrumentation department. Still some moving arrangements here. 'In Silence I Conceal The Pain' definitely reminds of Draconian, especially in the synth arrangements, while the title track, all 13 minutes of it, could have definitely been a disaster. THIS track starts off rather light and etherial, and you've got almost 2 and a half minutes of pianos and synths before the dark and heavy/eerie vibes start to rear their heads. The great emotional contrast will floor you. This track is definitely a funeral doom piece, and it's probably the sickest track on the record. (ALL Johan's projects are like this, with at least ONE track you can say is the sickest, darkest and heaviest on record, and this includes Draconian AND Doom:VS). There's some faster type instrumentation here, and the vocals get crazed and quite intense, almost black metal oriented. CD closer 'Outro: Tears' was somewhat of a letdown: all synths and pianos with clean sung vocals. I just wanted to hear a better closing track personally, though the all-clean sung vocals are good. Nice piano piece to end the track and the album. Yeah, there's a lot going on here, and I hope Johan continues to work with this band, as the clean sung male vocals were effectively utilized. Another great project for the great doom metal label Solitude Productions.
Contact: Solitude Productions.

YGGDRASIL "Irrbloss" (Grand Master) SCORE: 95/100

A lot has been made of mixing folkish instrumentation, singing and/or lyrics with metal. This is nothing new, in fact it seems to be making strong waves here in the States. What Yggdrasil brings to the table is a very harsh and vicious set of scraping black metal vocals, while still utilizing heavier guitar work that still sounds folk oriented. For those who know their mythology, Yggdrasil is very much a Nordic concept, and the band hails from Sweden. Right off the bat, 'Hostmorkrets Natt' gives you a good idea of what to expect from the Scandinavians: violins/fiddles, the jew's harp and some acoustic guitar work set the framework for many a song. The clean sung vocals are just as numerous as the blackened ones, though some do take getting used to (more on that later). The drumming is amazingly tight, and at times gives the majority of impression of speed to these tracks. The chanted vocal work is utilized both male and female, and the number of vocalists creates a very rich tapestry within which Yggdrasil weave their Nordic magic. 'Tokikvad' has some rather rockin' guitar work, and here you have mostly a guitar oriented track, definitely a standout on the disc, especially with the sick blackened vocal work which is definitely up front and in your face. The running times are all over the place as well, though, which shows me that the band is concentrating on the overall craft and care of the songs, since some tunes are as short as 4 minutes, with one track cutting in at 7:10! Incidentally, that 7 minute piece ('Norrland') did have a tendency to repeat passages a bit, though the tempo changes were a bit dizzying. My main complaint comes from the cut 'Skaldefader,' which started off with very odd clean sung male vocals only, and maybe it's just their pronounciation, but it definitely threw me off. There's still a bit to like, but the clean sung vocals here were not to my taste. CD ender 'Kungabal' took a different direction entirely, featuring about 1:15 of nothing but sorrowful and beautiful violin/fiddle (not sure which) notes, when soon comes acoustic guitars added to the mix and finally clean sung female vocals which are quite mellow. No blackened vocal work to be found on this track, though I dare say it's the most folk oriented of the bunch. The black metal vocals definitely add the aggression alongside the heavier guitar work, in fact it's not ALL folk addled on the song 'Uppakra,' in fact some of your darkest guitar notes and slightly thrashy ones too take up residence. If you might complain that the folk oriented metal is too silly or dancey, or maybe even less aggressive, then check out Yggdrasil, because they definitely have the formula down and know how to make good strong songs that leave an impact.
Contact: Grand Master Music.


ANKHAGRAM. Interview with Dead Shinigami via email...

Russia is FULL of great bands... And not all are signed to Solitude Productions! When Ankhagram's album "Where Are You Now" (see issue #52 for details) came out, they were signed to Silent Time Noise Records, a label that DEFINITELY likes bands that have a LOT in common with Shape Of Despair. So I was surprised to hear that not only did Ankhagram have a new album out, but now they were signed to Endless Winter Records! I've received a lot of stuff from Silent Time Noise, but nothing yet from Endless Winter, so we will have to see how that label develops. Ankhagram is full of surprises with their brand new release "Thoughts," however, and if you were expecting another Shape Of Despair clone album, you'll be a little disappointed. That being said, even though Dead disagrees with me, this is a band that has the talent as well as the songs to be signed to a label like Solitude Productions. Read on...

  • With the new album "Thoughts," I noticed that many songs featured very little vocal work... It kinda continues this from your previous album "Where Are You Now."

    I have found that music has the atmosphere regardless of the vocals. With vocals or without - music, pitch, melody, composing has not changed. Sometimes I don't want to listen to the words. The music speaks for itself.

  • Speaking of the new album, I noticed that you are on a different label now; you were on Silent Time Noise Records, which I thought was a perfect label for this band. Why the change of labels? It seems like you have had a different record label for each album!

    Silent Time Noise is a good label. All the labels I've worked with were great. I just want to try different things.

  • So I'm seeing some of the details for your earlier albums like "Neverending Sorrow" and "ReANKHarnation," and the running times on most of these songs is a lot shorter...

    I can not really answer that question. When I write a song, do not know how long it will last.

  • How is the music scene in Russia, especially the doom metal scene? It seems like Solitude Productions has become one of the best doom metal labels in the entire world, spawning many fantastic and memorable bands from around the globe, not just in Russia...

    To be honest, I'm not really familiar with the Russian scene. There are a few bands that I've identified for myself sometime. For example, no longer an active band Quasar. Solitude Productions (is) a great label. They have a very serious approach to their work.

  • I always thought that Russia had a favorable environment for not just black metal, but doom metal as well. Everyone always associated the icy guitar tones of black metal with the cold and harsh Scandinavian landscape, but truth be told, Russian winters are even more brutal and at the same time I'm sure you have many more miles of majestic mountains and snow covered forests...

    Russia is rich in nature. Many people (are) just inspired by nature. But I live in a small town where (it's) not so nice. Personally, I am inspired only by my own experiences, thoughts, (and) relationships. Although, what I would not give to live half a year in Iceland. I think there is a perfect depressing atmosphere.

  • I was really intrigued by the album "Where Are You Now," as it seems to have a huge Shape Of Despair influence to it. I'm assuming that's one of your favorite doom bands?

    You're right. Shape of Despair - this is my favorite band in doom metal. When I first heard their songs, I thought "This is it, this is exactly what I want to hear in my music." But still Ankhagram is independent music, which at one time appeared under the influence of Shape of Despair. Currently, the album "Thoughts" - to compare with Shape of Despair is not entirely correct.

  • I have never heard of the band MGMT, but the cover you did was extremely well done; I'm curious about why you chose this band to do a cover of? I saw their video on youtube and it was pretty frightening!

    I like to listen to different music. MGMT is one of those bands that I listen to sometimes. And yet, I like to play unusual covers. I like their song "Kids." It partly reflects the idea of the album. A cover version of the song ends the album perfectly.

  • So is there any chance Ankhagram performs live? Maybe you've done some concerts outside of Russia?

    Life is very unpredictable. But at the moment I have no plans for live performances. There are several reasons. I do not like to be on stage. I have no time for the stage, and no money for stage equipment. Although, sometimes I really want it.

  • A lot of other bands have come out of the Ukraine as well. Acts like Nokturnal Mortum and Khors have done very well for themselves. I am aware that The Ukraine was formerly part of the Soviet Union but was always trying to establish their own independence, even though they were one of the founding republics of the Soviet Union. How do you feel about Ukraine these days, are you fans of any bands coming out of this region?

    Ukraine is a wonderful country. There are many fans of Ankhagram (there). But, as I said, I'm not really familiar with the Russian scene, and post-Soviet scene.

  • I am kind of surprised that Solitude Productions hasn't picked up on your band as of yet; especially "Where Are You Now" would have fit perfectly with many of the other bands on the label.

    Solitude Productions has very high standards for sound quality. Unfortunately, I can not afford professional mastering. (It) just seems to me that Ankhagram (is) still very far from such a label.

  • A lot was made during the late 50's and early 60's about Communist influence in American every day life and politics, however I have learned about how the "red scare" was trumped up by powerful politicians to spy on it's own citizens and remove their opponents without due process of the law. How do you view Russia's history with Communism today; I know personally I have many allies and friends in Russia, and it seems to me like our own government has covered up many details about their "secret dealings" with other countries.

    I am very far from politics. It never interested me. All that was between the two countries - is history. The most important thing now is friendship.

  • I've read a lot about the history of rock music in Russia; I'm not sure if you're aware of all it's history but I did find it interesting that for a time, the government decided to sponsor and fund Russian rock music which had to draw suspicion from the people! I do know that once Communism fell, it seems like much of the music from outside became more readily available... Especially underground music...

    I do not know about the political component of rock music. But thanks to the Internet, I learned of a great many Russian bands in different styles of music.

  • So this latest album "Thoughts," the opening track probably caught some people unaware as it has a lot more melodic and ambient moments, however there are still lots of keyboards and synth passages; in addition there are also some tracks like 'Don't Feel This Life' that are perfect dark and heavy masterpieces so I guess the newer influences don't totally overshadow everything else.

    (The) "Thoughts" album isn't difficult to understand. This new road + experience. Ankhagram moves on, using past experiences. (I) do not want every year to give the same material. But the past can not be forgotten.

  • I'm curious as to the theme of the album "Thoughts," however, as I know on the cut 'Lost In Reality' there seems to be this high speed train, or subway, ambience that takes up most of the song. Any lyrical ideas, thoughts, or subject matter you referenced for this album?

    The train, subway - is part of our life. Boarding the train is like the beginning of life. You go to the train and see another life, how other people live their lives. You look out the window. When (you) arrive to your destination - life ends. Other lives have not changed. That's what I was thinking when I wrote the songs for "Thoughts".

  • So finally, as we wrap this up, I'm curious if you think the doom metal genre has "run it's course," so to speak. Even though lots of doom bands come out and release great albums, it seems like it gets harder and harder to come up with something new or groundbreaking within this genre. Of course, it seems like that for all genres of underground music, though metal seems to have a "revival" stage every ten or 20 years or so, what with thrash making a comeback and newer bands incorporating styles and sounds from the 60's and 70's...

    Doom metal is a very highly specialized genre. As is black metal. It has not changed (in) over 20 years. There are new bands that play the same old black. Thousands of them. I think this is a dead end. With doom metal the situation is repeated. It's necessary to bring something new to the genre. And most importantly, we must try to understand the new.

  • Something I always wanted to ask someone from Russia... In Scandinavia, the government supports musicians and will help pay for rehearsal space, recording time, etc. and the schools over there have kids as young as elementary school learning the guitar in school. Plus, English is taught from a young age, so it seems a lot of Scandinavian bands speak better English than us native born English speakers! How is education in Russia and does the government support musicians or bands?

    Good question. In Russia there are music schools paid for children. The state supports only classical musicians, music students of academies and colleges. Still, there is support for only those musicians who can take part in local and regional competitions, and as a victory for their cultural institutions sector employees get bonuses. Most of these musicians are small orchestras, choirs, and Russian folk singers. Rarely - very young rap artists, and kids. If you can agree, the state can provide space for rehearsals in a smoky basement, and they may even give the recording studio. The sound quality is just awful.
    In our country we are taught several languages. Just a lot of people still have the old Soviet education that says "why should my child learn English?" I think that this is not correct. English language is the international language and to know it is necessary. If you want to play music in Russia, prepare for the enormous difficulties: Money, place, and attitude.

  • Are you working on songs for another full length? Any song titles, ideas, influences or album themes you want to tell us about?

    Yes, now we are working on new tracks. And it definitely will not be doom metal. Working on a project "THE FUTURE." This is an instrumental audio-visual project in the genre of ambient/post-rock. Tracks are available for free download on the official site. Watch the video on YouTube channel. It is planned to release a full-length post-rock album. The timing still is not known, as well as the title of the album. I hope this year to succeed.

  • If there's anything else you want to mention or talk about, that we didn't cover, now is your chance. Thanks again, and I look forward to hearing your next full length!!!

    I want to thank all the fans of Ankhagram. If it were not for your support, it would not make sense to play the music. Many thanks for your donations, which are very helpful, and thank you for your interest in Ankhagram. When it all began, in 2005, I could not imagine that we would have Ankhagram fans. And we could not even dream of full-length albums released on CD. I never thought of Ankhagram music as good. Yes, I'm too self-critical. Thank you very much for the interview. I was very glad to answer your questions.

    COVEN. Interview with Neal Babbit via email.

    Crazy as all get out, everyone should know about the Seattle, Washington 80's metal masterpiece "Blessed Is The Black." Oddly enough, I never got around to checking out their other two albums "Death Walks Behind You" and "Boneless Christian," and sadly, by the time the 90's rolled around, Grunge had snapped the Seattle music scene in two, and Coven were no more... But fear not! Interest in great heavy music never dies, and Coven are re-ignited once again! I spoke with drummer Neal Babbit, who had LOADS of great info to share about "the old days..." All the cool stuff about the wacky song titles like 'Iron Dick' and 'McDonaldland Massacre' is brought before you and dissected right in front of your eyes!

  • It's interesting to note you guys hail from Seattle... I know that your area was considered the birth place of the whole grunge movement; did that have a lot to do with the band's demise in the early to mid 90's?

    Yes the Grunge thing just drained the whole Thrash crowd away. The shows we were playing... just crickets chirping, nobody would show up. It was the equivalent of the great depression for every other type of music. That combined with the personnel problems we were having, it became impossible to continue.

  • When I look back on "Blessed is the Black," it's interesting to note songs that have a thrash approach AND a somewhat early power metal attitude. Was this intentional; what were the goals as far as style and sound for this earliest of releases? Was the variety in style and sound done so as not to pigeonhole the Coven "sound" early on?

    The songs were a reflection on our earlier influences such as Judas Priest and Black Sabbath and the progression we were going in towards Slayer and Exodus etc. Songs like 'Sign Of The Southern Cross' and 'Beyond The Realms Of Death' among others were big early influences. We just started recording everything we had and ended up releasing all of it, first as demos then a full album. You can see the direction we were trying to go with Death Walks Behind You.

  • So how was the recording process done for "B.I.T.B."? It seems like nowadays albums can be made at home on kids' computers; of course back in the day to get good clear sound it almost seemed like studios were a necessity...

    Little rooms with lots of nasty old carpet, sounded like shit so no wonder the recording sounded like shit! There was an old mixer board that would crackle, buzz and hum then the engineer would hit it to stop the hum! Pretty fucked up but we were a bunch of ignorant kids we trusted that the engineer knew what he was doing.

  • How does the album "Blessed Is The Black" stand up to you in this day and age, realizing these songs are over 20 years old!

    We were never happy with the sound we ended up getting in the studio, it was just the best we could do with the resources we could come up with. Mace and The Accused recorded there and they were the closest thing locally to what we wanted to do so we said if it was good enough for them then it should work for us. What we wanted to sound like was more like Iron Maiden or Judas Priest though.

    To us our live sound was always what we were trying to capture and never came anywhere close to getting. 'McDonaldland' seems to sound pretty heavy to me. 'Burn The Cross' is good but it would be hard to screw that song up, it's written very well. I think the ballads sound good more or less. 'Blessed...' sounds kinda heavy but the sound we got on 'Creature...' was a huge disappointment because that was and still is one of our very favorite songs to play live and one of the first songs we wrote. It was so hard if not impossible to find anyone who knew how to record fast and heavy music back then, you just booked a cheap studio and hoped for the best. We recorded the songs 3 at a time so we could afford it so that was another problem, each time we'd go in we'd try new recording techniques.

    "Death Walks Behind You" should have sounded great: it was a studio Queensryche was recording at, at the same time but the engineer didn't get what we were trying to do either... all that 80's plate reverb. What we needed was a cleaner, flatter sound. I think "Boneless Christian" sounds comparatively great; the studio and engineer were very good and knew what Coven was trying to do and how to get that sound. Unfortunately I didn't play drums on it even though a lot of the parts were mine. Doh! We play songs from the album live now though.

  • Jay Clark handled vocals for you for the majority of your recorded releases; how in the world was he able to sing with such power while still utilizing harsh vocal styles? And whatever happened with him, I noticed that he is no longer with the band.

    It was just his natural singing style, full voice and from the gut. He was really the only person we could find who could really sing. He did have an extremely powerful voice, you don't find singers with that kind of power too often, He is pretty much one in a million. We were trying to get him to scream like Tom Araya and Paul Baloff but he never really liked that type of music. I think he was mostly doing it because we were getting a lot of attention and it was pretty exciting. He doesn't sing too much anymore and he is playing bass in an upcoming kinda grungy band called Klover Jane.

  • Lyric wise, for Blessed Is The Black, it seems like there were a LOT of anti-Christian themes, even though some were rather tongue in cheek. It was a theme that seemed to carry on to other albums like "Boneless Christian" and "Death Walks Behind You." I'm assuming you guys were serious haters of Christianity (kinda like myself). Are those feelings still prevalent in the band members today?

    It's the hypocrisy combined with the blatant ignorance it just never gets old! Yes especially with the new lineup! Our new singer Jamie Carter was raised a Mormon so he has some good history and experiences to draw from.

  • So what's on tap for Coven in the Y2K era? Any plans to do another album? Maybe garner some record label support?

    We are having trouble finding time to record and write new material with everyone's jobs and our other band projects we have been previously involved with tying us up. As time goes on we will find a routine to do it with. We have had offers for distribution etc. Dean and I have few songs we have written over the last several years so we will be reworking those with the new band.

  • While on that subject, I see that Coven has been doing some live shows as well, what is a Coven show like these days? What are some of your most requested songs live? I can only imagine that people probably still want to hear 'McDonaldland Massacre' and 'Iron Dick.'

    People seem to want to hear pretty much everything. Of course those songs (Iron Dick & McDonaldland Massacre) but everyone has their own favorites they have been waiting years to hear. 'Succubus' (off D.W.B.Y.) is in my opinion the "TRUE COVEN" sound. 'Burn The Cross,' 'Creature Of Duty,' 'Ted Bundy,' '6669,' 'Silent Night Violent Night,' 'Fuckin' A Nun,' 'Satanic As Hell'... All trademark songs and always in our set.

  • The cut 'Iron Dick' is hilarious, though I'm not really sure if I want to know the inspiration behind the lyrics... Although I do remember one weird movie one of my ex's got me to watch where this guy had a possessed dick or something... It was pretty strange... Can't even remember the title now...

    I think they had a news story about some animal porn thing and we were talking about it and joking around saying what if one of the women got pregnant?!!! Of course that's impossible but we are kids joking around. So her baby would be half horse and have a huge dick and be pretty fucked up mentally! We actually wrote a song about Iron Dick's father "Weiner Horse" (The Ballad Of Lucky). This horse's owner is an evil twisted fuck who cuts his legs off then sells him to a circus where he escapes to find fame, fortune and love? As a famous animal porn star.

  • 'McDonaldland Massacre' was a rather interesting topic as well, in fact that song reminds me of a sort of punk influence the band obviously had at some point. Just so you know, 'McDonlandland Massacre' gets quite a bit of airplay down here at 91.1 FM, WREK in Atlanta!

    That was a conscious effort to write about current events and...well, you know with our twisted sense of humor, we just can't be serious! LOL

  • Now, I never got to hear "Boneless Christian" or even "Death Walks Behind You," so how do those two albums differ from the style and sound on the debut?

    As I said before it was a natural progression getting more heavy and precise and sicker lyrically. I was around on the writing of some of it (What became "Boneless Christian") then we stopped playing together. We were doing all kinds of projects and the other guys were working with different musicians and drummers. It was talked about that I would play on it ("Boneless...") but they also told other drummers they could play on it so... it was kind of a mess. "Death Walks Behind You" was the fully-formed "THRASH" Coven. We knew what we wanted to do pretty much musically... at least until we were actually recording it. Then several of the songs started getting rearranged and re-recorded and we went over budget. Most of us I believe thought that wasn't necessary. Certain personalities were getting out of control on ego and drugs.

  • Did you ever get to hear any of the other Seattle metal bands around near that time, like N.M.E. (who Euronymus from Mayhem was said to be extremely fond of), Culprit, or Forced Entry? I know I was a huge fan of Forced Entry's bludgeoning style of thrash metal...

    Culprit was an influence on us just before and when we were first getting the band together. I saw them a few times locally, they were very popular. I remember seeing N.M.E. once and thinking they were cool. There really wasn't anyone at that show; I don't think they were popular at all while they were actually a band. I think it's like some kind of legend, with him killing his mom and all.

    Forced Entry were very good friends of ours and we lived and practiced a block apart. Dean and Tony were in the same grade and started learning guitar at the same time. They played in their first bands together. Before they were Forced Entry they were called Critical Condition; I filled in for Colin at a couple of shows. We all worked together at the same pizza place, the majority of our local shows we played we played with them. Brad played the solo on 'Burn The Cross' on "Blessed..." Dean and Paul used Brad's G & K amp to record all of "B.I.T.B." Brad is currently playing in newly reformed fellow Seattle band Sanctuary. The bands Coven played with mostly were Forced Entry, Bitter End, Death Squad, Saber, MyraMains, Panic, Lethal Dose and a few others.

  • So while I usually don't ask about band origins in interviews much anymore, I am curious to know what sort of music the band members grew up with and were influenced by, since you have a somewhat ballad track with 'Another Life,' and the punk/hardcore styling on 'McDonaldland Massacre,' had anyone ever played in any punk and hardcore bands? It always amazes me just how many thrash metal bands started life in hardcore and punk groups, especially in the U.K.

    Paul had that Guitar part for 'McDonaldland...' for awhile, it was just kinda this annoying little riff Paul would play. I called it the buzzing bee part. Every time he would play it I would say we need to use that! He would say, no it sucks but I would keep bugging him to do something with it. Dean bought this little 4-track recorder and as a joke Dean and Paul wrote that song and would play it as a joke... they didn't want to use it as a song but I said if enough people think we should then we should use it since we need more songs. Everyone who was asked said yes play it so...

    When we were younger we liked bands like Devo and the song 'Blood Stains' by Agent Orange was a big influence but mostly it was bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Dio, AC/DC, Saxon, early Def Leppard, Twisted Sister then came Slayer! Exodus, Megadeth (It took us awhile to get into Metallica) SLAYER was the big one! That was IT! We went crazy!! That was what we had to do; they were writing the book as far as we were concerned.

  • So after Coven broke up, what did some of the members go on to do? Did they still actively participate in music?

    Yes most of us have kept in music even if it's just playing covers or other people's projects.

  • What finally brought the members of Coven back to the table to active status?

    Dean and I have been trying to put it back together for several years but the other members weren't into it and we didn't think the fans wanted to hear the band with so many changes. We found a really good singer and started working with him. He had the ability but not the desire so that was frustrating for quite awhile. One day Jamie just popped into our lives he had been a huge Coven fan so he knew all the songs, we knew right away we could actually make this happen in REAL time! That was about February, I think and this is October so we are moving forward getting more comfortable playing together and making Coven stronger and better than ever.

  • I'm curious if you have been approached by any major festival promoters like Wacken, or even the Keep It True festival over in Germany...

    We have had a couple offers but nothing serious. We have to get enough money to make it happen for real. Plane fare, food, accommodations, it's not cheap especially in this economy. We have only been back together for a few months and are working on some things; given time and opportunity we can make something happen. We have fans all over the world (Russia, Bolivia, Israel, U.K.) I chat with online on Facebook, Youtube etc. so we want to get all over to perform for them.

  • It seems like themes of death also kept running throughout many Coven songs and even albums... What do you think happens to man after death? Is there "another life" we pass onto after this physical body expires?

    It would be nice but I'm pretty sure we are all worm food, the big sleep. Dean and I were taught the whole Heaven thing, we were raised Lutheran which to me always meant tell it straight, a decent enough religion as far as religions go but as far back as I can remember, I was thinking what a bunch of crap! I must have been about 3 years old! LOL

  • Finally, I would love to hear about any funny tour stories and who you played live shows with in the 80's... Did you ever make it overseas or out of the United States to play?

    We had some fun shows in Canada in the 80s but never made it overseas. We did a short tour with the Mentors (Dean later wrote and recorded El Duce's "Slave To Thy Master" album with him) ending in a show in Phoenix with Testament, Sacred Ryche (Reich? - Ed.) and Violence. We got bumped from the bill at the last second but the Mentors played. That was disappointing especially since they rode the whole way on our bus! I did get to hang out with Testament on their sweet bus though. It was a great show to watch.

    We were actually supposed to get the recording deal Violence got so we were kinda bitter about that. We were told we had it already because there was buzz from "Blessed Is The Black"” being already released. So our second album would come out on that label. Then we were told they are considering this "New" band Violence. We had more of a name so they weren't being seriously considered, then they got it! We were like WTF! We didn't have any kind of real management though and I've heard Violence had one of the best managers around at that time so there you go. We have always been the "Underdog" band and done everything ourselves. We just keep going for the people who like what we do.

    Several years back Dean got an email from a fan's family asking where to get a copy of “Blessed”. He had died tragically in a head-on-crash. He had made them promise in the event of his death they would play 'Another Life' for his ceremony. The CD he had, he was actually listening to when he died and it was destroyed, So Dean sent them a copy and they played it. How can we NOT play when we have fans like that?! So many people share our music online... if they didn't we would have hardly any fans in my opinion because of such limited pressings of our material. Our fans are like us, broke-ass metalheads with a sense of humor and tons of heart...they are world-wide!

    EVADNE. Interview with Albert, vocalist, through facebook...

    Now, you hear me rave on and on (and fucking ON) in damn near every issue about how great the doom bands on Russian label Solitude Productions are, blah blah blah right? Sadly, we were supposed to have TWO interviews from Solitude artists, but one hasn't answered my emails in over 4 months... That being said, Solitude isn't content to just bring the world Russia's best artists: The best doom metal album of 2012 comes from Texas, USA of all places! THIS particular band hails from Spain, and besides Dantalion, is one of the only other bands I know that hail from that region. This is only their second full length, but so worthy of being on one of the best doom metal labels on the entire planet... No matter what anyone else thinks. The English was a bit rough on this, so I tried to correct things as best as I could, and hopefully the band's proper meanings come through on this interesting chat with a band that surely has a bright and long future ahead of them.

  • I think it's obviously a good thing to see you on Solitude Productions, they obviously search the entire planet for great bands, some coming from as far away as Greece, The United States and Brazil... How did you come to be working with Solitude Productions? And what is your contract with them like?

    After the recording of the album, we sent a lot of copies to magazines, radios and labels and Solitude offers us just what we are looking for, and we decide to go with them because it was a good arrangement for both parties. For the moment we have a release contract for "The Shortest Way."

  • I saw where you had already released "The Shortest Way" before Solitude Productions picked the album up... Was there anything done differently from your original version? IE: Maybe it was remixed, remastered or recorded differently?

    The first release we made was a promo edition without booklet and only 150 units, the release with Solitude is a normal CD with booklet, this is the unique difference.

    03. What would you say are the differences between your first album "The 13th Condition" and this new record? Did anything change stylistically or in your approach? The major difference is the sound, that now is really what we want and the second may be that the band is now more mature and you can feel it in the compositions.

  • There's a span of about 5 years between the two albums; why was this? Is there any chance that "The 13th Condition" will be re-released by Solitude? And how hard is the album to obtain today?

    You can get the album In the Solitude Productions webstore, in ours and in some catalogues, I think it's not difficult to have. The span between one disc and the following is because we recorded the disc twice, first with the man that we recorded "The Shortest Way" and after a time we decided to change and start again with (the) other.

  • Tell us a little about "The 13th Condition," I know the cover art is rather striking... Dunno if I'd want to eat an apple full of worms!!

    It was our first full length and we are happy with our work but not with the final result of the sound. With that album we learned lots of things we made bad to not make again. (???) The apple full of worms is a metaphor about the paradise we have nowadays. Nobody wants to bite the reality!

  • It's amazing to me that Dan Swano got involved in the production of your latest album; how did that come about? Did you find that working with him was a great benefit to your sound? I take it he understands doom metal pretty well.

    For us, Dan gave us the heaven after our stay in hell with the production of "The 13th Condition." He understood what we are looking for as perfection. He is a great professional and we think that was one of the best ideas we had as a band. It was very, very easy to work with him.

  • Being from Spain, there's not too many doom metal bands I know about, however the few I do know of are of high quality, like Dantalion, who are one of my favorite bands from there. Their unusual take on doom and black metal has been quite impressive over four albums. What other bands from Spain could you recommend, whether doom metal or otherwise?

    Inside the doom metal scene in Spain we have very few bands as you say. I can name 4 or 5, no more: Helevorn, Autumnal, Onirophagus, In Loving Memory or Tears Of Martyr and black metal bands like Down Of Tears, Foscor, The Heretic or Vidres A La Sang.

  • What sort of metal scene does Spain have at this moment? Cities, venues to see live music in, etc...

    I think that we have a lot of good bands but what we don't have is media support, all the mags and all the radios are more interested in bands out of Spain than in looking what we have here. We have very good venues for metal music in Barcelona, Madrid, Bilbao or Valencia, but they're only full when bands play from other countries.

  • So looking at your latest album, I'm intrigued by some of the song titles, in particular the track 'Gloomy Garden,' which to me the music seemed to fit the song title. I imagined a landscape that is mostly a black and white one.

    Yes, that is what we want to transmit. Gloom, Loneliness, and desperation are essential parts in our work and I think that 'Gloomy Garden' is a perfect example of our intentions.

  • Have you seen any press for this album? I'm wondering what people are saying about the record; for the most part it seems pretty positive, but it's hard to find good metal magazines to read anymore.

    The album has received lots of good reviews all over the world in magazines, radio shows and webzines; we are very happy with this. And if it's easy to find good metal magazines this can't be underground, and it's HERE where we feel confortable.

  • Tell us about your first band Hexenprozesse. That's a rather unusual name for a band; did you ever record anything under this name, and what was the style and sound like?

    The style was death metal mixed with doom and a bit of black metal, basically the same as nowadays but changing the portions of each one. We never recorded anything under this name because we changed the name a few months before starting the demo recording.

  • Now that the album has been out for some time, is a new album being worked on? Any themes, song or album titles or anything else you can tell us about?

    For the moment we have 4 songs shaped and we are now working in more new material for the forthcoming album. We have no titles at the moment.

  • What bands got you into doom metal? I know I loved early Candlemass, and of course after discovering Trouble and St. Vitus, I later discovered Pentagram from right here in the U.S. who have been doing doom longer than any other American band.

    The band that most influenced me in the doom metal scene probably should be My Dying Bride, but there's lots of bands that influenced me more or less like Anathema, Shape Of Despair, Katatonia, Saturnus or November's Doom.

  • Have you had any live appearances? Does Evadne play out live often and what is a live show like? Any chance a stateside tour may be in the works?

    Yes, we play often and our shows are full of energy, I think a bit more than in the album. The past month we stayed in Italy and Malta and here in Spain showing our new album and shortly we want to play more gigs in Europe and Spain.

  • Finally, I recently read a quote saying that "Man is the only animal on the planet that knows it is going to die." Obviously, some of us would like to avoid that fate altogether, what do you think of this? And what do you suppose happens to man after death?

    I'm convinced that after death there is nothing but it's a nice thought and a good story about what could happen if I'm mistaken. Dreams are cheap (for the moment!)

    LORENGUARD. Interview with drummer and fantasy author(?) Brady via email.

    Yes, folks, you heard that right, drummer AND author of a book by the same name as the album title. I first saw this amazing power metal band, decked out in some wild looking medieval costumes, opening up for While Heaven Wept at Hoyt's Pathfinder Metalfest in Marietta, and was absolutely blown away at the power of the songs, the incredibly tight and talented musicianship, and a host of other things. Now, say what you will about power metal, these guys (and gal) put the POWER back in heavy metal! And with a seemingly successful fantasy novel by their side, Lorenguard has so far garnered NO bad press. I dare say you'll be hearing about some record label picking them up before long...

  • The first thing you notice with the album "Eve Of Corruption" is it seems like EVERY single member of the band has done some time with other projects due to the high level of professionalism each member exudes. Any background history you can give us on the members?

    Well, we've all definitely had our own projects, and some of us continue to pursue other musical ventures. As far as myself and my brother (Adam, bass), we have always been in bands together. We started touring seriously with an Indianapolis band called Autumn's Descent, and created Lorenguard during the tail end of our time with that project. We've been musically focused on Lorenguard ever since, although we have various other pursuits such as designing tabletop games for the hobby market.

    Robb Graves began singing in a Pennsylvania progressive power metal band called Winterfell, which he toured with and released a full-length album ("Veil Of Summer," go check it out!). He also performs with our other vocalist (his wife), Amanda Wells — who also has a long-lived solo career, focusing on acoustic folk music.

    Our guitarist Christopher Cruz is always embroiled in musical projects, as he is constantly upgrading his home studio. He's a multi-instrumentalist with diverse musical tastes that he is always tinkering with. Dave Schneider, our other guitarist, is also involved in other projects throughout the Indianapolis area, in addition writing his own guitar-driven music. Alec Biccum is probably one of our busiest members. In addition to pursuing his Master's Degree in medical physics, he is involved in an infinite number of projects, playing keyboards, guitars, banjos, you name it! One of his other bands shared the stage with us at Pathfinder.

    With all the band members currently spread across the U.S., we all need to keep ourselves busy with whatever projects we can, until such time as we've resolved our logistical constraints.

  • Now I know that some Lorenguard members were in a black metal oriented project known as Castlevania; what ever happened with that band, because I don't see any demos or recordings listed...

    This is probably better answered by Chris, but I'll do my best! Several of our former members were from Castlevania (T.J. Hunt, David Russell), however Chris is the only permenant member of Lorenguard that was also in Castlevania, for which he played drums for. The project was relatively short-lived, but made a splash in the Indianapolis local scene. The band broke-up over musical differences, as I know Chris was very much looking to move over to guitar (although he continued playing drums in Demiricous).

  • And while we're speaking of past projects, is there any chance Winterfell will be reactivated? I see where a full length and an EP were released; how does this project differ from Lorenguard?

    Robb still owns the rights to Winterfell, and it was a huge investment of time and money for him. He has no current plans (that I know of) to resurrect the project, but it would be within his power to do so if he ever felt the urge. With his involvement in both Lorenguard and Amanda's solo music (in addition to all of his other commitments), he keeps himself busy enough for the time being!

  • The first time I saw the band was at the Pathfinder Metalfest, was that the first opportunity the band had to travel and play an out of state show? I would like to hear your thoughts on that event, any stories or unusual events happen, and did you have time to check out the other bands?

    Pathfinder was our first out of state show to promote "Eve Of Corruption." Years ago, the old Lorenguard lineup traveled out of state to play smaller venues several times, but they were definitely not high caliber shows like Pathfinder. We had a great time making the trip down there and the show itself was very well put together. It was a logistical nightmare for us, since we had to bring all of our members into Indianapolis (myself and Adam from Minneapolis, Alec from San Diego, and Robb and Amanda from Pennsylvania). We were all out of practice and had only a week of rehersals to prepare ourselves for the stage. And to top that all off, we had a warm-up show in Indy just 2 days before our appearance in Atlanta. So it was quite the experience, but we all really had a good time, and I think it paid off with how well of a turnout Pathfinder had.

  • So I'm sure some are curious: The novel or the album? Which one was conceptualized first? And when did you realize you wanted to write a fantasy novel?

    The very early seeds of the novel were in my head before starting the band. I had turned to fanasty literature while I was kind of "soul searching" for what I wanted to do musically. Having spent most of my early drumming years playing Metallica and Megadeth, I felt I needed to find a more modern form of metal to attach myself to. I discovered more than I could ever want in European power metal. This type of music really rekindled my childhood obessession with fantasy, games, and everything I strayed away from in high school to avoid being a "geek." I returned to this stuff full-force when I got into power metal, and that led me to apply one of my natural talents (writing) to my passion for creative story-telling and world building. This is when I started working on the idea that would evolve into the Days of Astasia story.

    That being said, the album and novel were really developed alongside each other. Every new song we would write would influence how I molded the story, and each new chapter I wrote would give me new ideas for songs that I would bring to the rest of the guys. It was a very organic evolution for both book and album, and it's one of the most interesting creative processes I've been involved with.

  • Now that "Eve Of Corruption" is out, are there any plans to try and get a movie deal or TV series made out of it?

    We wouldn't turn them away, haha, but it's not something I've been actively pursuing. I'm definitely focusing on the next entry, as book 2 will probably be almost twice as big and epic as "Eve Of Corruption." Meanwhile, the rest of the guys are focusing on the logistics involved in making the next album happen.

  • I'm sure there are plans for other novels to come out, as the ending narration on the CD seems to hint that there is more to the storyline to come.

    Definitely. I'm not entirely sure how the release schedule will work, but we hope to release future books alongside the future albums. Currently "The Days Of Astasia" is a planned trilogy, but these things can always change!

  • Onto the album, I was rather surprised that though I don't usually listen to a whole lot of power metal (the cheesiness of it and the kinda fluffy atmospheres, if you know what I mean), there's still a lot of real HEAVY metal in the record! Especially tracks like 'Upon The Burning Isles' and 'Secret Of The Spires,' they definitely surprised me as to just how heavy they are.

    Yeah, as a power metal fan myself, I definitely know that it's a genre of music that's not for everyone. There is cheese everywhere, and many times it's done to be silly. At the same time, I take pride in the fact that Lorenguard does not use the fantasy theme as an afterthought or sort of "gimmicky" aspect like many other power metal bands do. It's something we take very seriously, as we are all fans of games, stories, movies, and other forms of entertainment that use fantasy in a creative and mature way. That's not to say that we're pretentious pricks that think all other uses of fantasy are "wrong," haha, but we do take a different approach and I think that appeals to a lot of people who would otherwise write us off if we just sang about elves and trolls for the sake of it.

  • I thought the Game Of Thrones series on HBO was superbly done; in fact I keep thinking this was probably how The Lord Of The Rings series should be done. Of course, you probably couldn't do this in a movie series; otherwise we'd still be waiting for part 4 or 5 of the first Rings movie!

    I have to agree. I was introduced to the Game of Thrones books by Robb (vocals), and I became a huge fan in college. I watched the development of the series for almost 5 years and I was not disappointed with the outcome. What a fantastic show!

  • I kinda thought 'Black Sails And Phoenix Flames' was a little too light hearted considering what seemed to be going on lyric wise in the storyline.

    That's understandable. However, while the story is definitely bleak, the song was intended to have a triumphant/hopeful vibe to it to reflect the heroic quest that becomes the result of the tragedy befallen on Celendas. There is a constant dichotomy to the songs to reflect corruption and purity, order and choas, etc. So that can be a bit jarring, but it's something that was premeditated from a songwriting approach.

  • I'm rather surprised that there hasn't been any record label activity for you guys yet! I'm thinking Napalm Records would be a good label to put this album out.

    We have reached out to a few different labels, but have yet to find a lucrative deal that offers us something that we cannot offer ourselves. We are a unique project that has a lot of stability on our own. We would love the distribution and support of a label, and we are always on the look for the right one — send them our way! :)

  • What power metal bands do you enjoy? I know when it comes to power metal styled bands, I used to enjoy Rhapsody (now known as Rhapsody of Fire), and some of the early 80's metal power outfits like Fates Warning to a degree.

    I "cut my teeth" on all the traditional bands, such as Gamma Ray, Rhapsody, HammerFall, etc. These days, I'm a little more eclectic with my listening. I still enjoy stuff like Dragonland and Ancient Bards (2 of my current favorites), but I also listen to the radio more often, and way too much children's music (being a new dad and all).

  • Any details you can give us about the next album? (songtitles, themes, album title, etc?) Will the next novel come out before the album is released?

    Well, we haven't yet released the name of the next book/album, but we hope to in the very near future. I can tell you that I am aiming to release them both at the same time, but if they aren't released together, I'd expect the album to be available first with the novel not far behind (much like "Eve Of Corruption" was released). I can't give any specific dates, but it's my hope to have the next album out before or by this time next year. This all depends on logistics, which is always a challenge for us!

  • Finally, are there more live shows in the works? I remember seeing you guys at Pathfinder, your guitarist was very animated, and smiled a LOT... I definitely think you should release a DVD of footage from Pathfinder if anyone shot any.

    I think it goes without saying, we are a unique group of guys, haha. We love playing shows, and it is our goal to resolve our current logistical problems so that we can tour more often and release stuff like DVD's of our shows. This is a huge project for us this year, so watch our website for developments!

    NECROPOLIS. Interview with original vocalist Keith Charron via email.

    The Atlanta metal scene certainly had it's share of artists in the 80's that probably aren't well known outside the metro-Atlanta area. Hallows Eve was probably one of the first though, and probably the one who gained the most fame and, dare I say, "fortune." Keith and I shared a common band mate, though that's later on. The one and only Necropolis 80's metal release "Contemplating Slaughter" seems quite chaotic and sick, twisted thrash with death metal traces, but it's much more than that. It was such an honor to track down a legendary member of the Atlanta area 80's metal scene, which unfortunately I arrived too late to witness in all it's primal glory. But, history is what it is and probably for good reason... Read on...

  • I don't usually ask the whole "origin of band" question, but I am curious how you guys met and got together, and what drove you to start Necropolis?

    I met Keith Eppinette when he stopped by the practice space of a cover band I was singing in, Phylon. Eppinetter played bass in a local glam metal band, and were like big rivals of Phylon, who were not at all glam. Eppinette's band wore black eyeliner and all that shit. He walked in to our practice space one night to pass out flyers for a Hallows Eve show that was coming soon. Lane Brown, one of the Phylon guitar players, and I were throwing darts at each other from across the room. When Eppinette entered I threw a dart that landed inches from his face. Eppinette wasn't in Hallows Eve, but that band name is important, as you'll see. Mel Ballard and I met at one of Phylon's shows. It was a two night gig at Math Field in Griffin, Georgia. His guitar playing reputation was huge in the area. I met Dave Randolph the night of the very first Necropolis practice.

    Eppinetter and Mel knew him from the Atlanta music scene, which I wasn't a part of (too many local drugs to do). So that's how I met the other members. Here's how it all came together... Around 1985 or so Phylon split up. Our drummer, Pat Callocchio, joined a band called Vigilante. Vigilante was: Pat Callocchio (drums), Mel Ballard (guitar), Keith Eppinette (bass), and Rico Parijan (vocals). Lane Brown and I started hanging with them. I guess we were their roadies. After a while, and several memorable gigs and tours, they dwindled away. One day Lane Brown approached me and said that Keith Eppinette had formed a band with Skullator (early Hallows Eve guitarist) and Dave Jackson (drums). And they needed a vocalist that could scream. Well, honestly... A beautiful singer, I am not. But I could scream like hell. So we formed Ogre of Death. Around this time I started moving away from Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest, and started gravitating towards Metallica, Slayer, Venom, Hallows Eve ('Plunging To Megadeath'), and the like. This is the direction Ogre of Death was headed... all originals, and blistering fast and deathly heavy. O.O.D. wrote and recorded one song, 'No Room In Hell.' The music was written by Skullator, and the lyrics by me. The song was arranged by O.O.D. It was 16 minutes of insanity. O.O.D. never heard me sing/scream a single line until the engineer hit record at the studio for that one song demo.

    Here's a very early basement 4-track Necropolis version of No Room In Hell:

    Well Eppinette and I decided we needed another guitarist. For the great song writer and black metal craftsman Skullator is, we felt we needed more thickness and faster insane leads. So we begged and pleaded with Mel Ballard to give it a shot. At the same time Dave Jackson backed out. So our first official Necropolis practice was with Eppinette, Dave Randolph, Mel Ballard, Skullator, and myself. Well Mel is a diva and doesn't play well with other guitarists so we were given the choice of keeping Mel or Skullator. We chose Mel and Necropolis was fully formed and on it's way.

  • I saw some photos of you guys at the Metroplex. Now, I've only lived in the metro Atlanta area for about 13 years, so unfortunately I never got to visit the 'Plex. Many people from here talk fondly about the place, so I'm curious about some of your fondest memories; shows you went to there, etc. I know Tommy used to tell me about legendary shows Hallows Eve played there.

    The Metroplex was the first place Necropolis ever played I believe, so it has that sentiment for me. The place had a crazy vibe to it. Maybe it was the skinhead movement going on at the time, but that place always felt to me like it could erupt any second. Now, I wasn't the scene person Mel, Dave, and Eppinette were, so, although I’d seen my share of shows there, they've seen many, many more than I. I would have to say it wasn't the bands as much as the people that really stick in my memories. Skinheads rumbling, throwing bricks on cop cars from the roof. I think a gist tumbled down the steps and ended up dying. I will say Dave Mustaine is a dick. Opening for Suicidal Tendencies was awesome. Those guys were really cool and way wasted. What went on in the dressing rooms, stayed in the dressing rooms. Oh yeah, Eppinette fucked my girlfriend at our first show there. He's a whore like that.

  • We kinda had a mutual band mate in common, as I was reading Skullator used to play with you guys in Ogre Of Death. (I was in Hallows Eve, briefly). I still see Skully at metal shows here in Atlanta from time to time...

    I love Skully with every fiber of my being. He is a master creator. I can only dream of where we might have taken O.O.D. if we stuck with it.

  • Now, tell us a bit about your album "Contemplating Slaughter." I know it was released on Bomp Records, which surprisingly is still around as a label, though you had to have been an oddity because I don't think they signed many metal bands. How did you come to their attention and what was your record deal like back then? (IE, number of albums to be released, did you get tour support, help with recording, etc)?

    Dave Roandolph was our PR whore and shopped our demo tape everywhere. We actually were offered a deal with Metalblade IF we would change the name of our band because there was already a band called Necropolis from North Carolina or some shit. Of course, in true metal fashion, we said fuck you. The true details of our Bomp record deal are a mystery to me. Sure I signed the contracts, but I didn't read that thing. I don't know if any of us did, besides maybe Dave. All I know is we were going to record for free and an album would come out. I'm not unintelligent, I was just really high. So apparently we recorded in the Quadraphonic Studio at the same time as that band Cameo. I remember a gold or silver or whatever record of One Tin Soldier (ya know from the movie Billy Jack) was hanging on the wall. Oh, and the board we recorded through was the same board The Who "Quadraphenia" was recorded through.

    Interesting Facts: The snare track on our entire album is from the overhead microphone. We lost the entire snare track off the entire 2" tape somehow. It was depressing. Interesting Fact 2: I was given one night to lay down all the vocals. If you listen to the album from front to back, which is the order they were recorded also I think, you can hear that my voice is absolutely shot by the end.

  • The cover art for the record was very cool, tell us a bit about the artist. I do miss the days of vinyl when you held a very large and cool piece of artwork that you could almost hang on your wall! Especially cool were the vinyl foldouts, and colored vinyl too was neat.

    Woody (Arthur Woodall) did the album art. I didn't know much about him. I like the cover well enough. I would have liked something more brutal and violent though. More along the lines of Slayer's "Reign In Blood!"

  • Now, you guys were listed as a thrash metal band, but I heard remnants of chaotic speed metal, a little bit of power metal (vocal wise), and slight touches of death, how would you describe your sound?

    I would call it death based speed metal. To the untrained ear it sounds like thrash, and maybe there's thrash in there. But it's absolutely very precise stuff. There isn't an unplanned note anywhere in a Necropolis song. We practiced for soooo many hours to get as tight as we were. The music... well the primary music writers were Mel and I. Now when/if you listen to Necropolis (the music of it) if you approach it knowing what was in our heads you can really see the insanity that was going on. Both Mel and I are wicked classical music lovers. So a lot of the riffs and rhythms in the music are very highly, and in some cases directly ripped off, from classical composers. Where I loved Frans Joseph Hyden, Mel loved Dvorak, and we came together in the middle with Paganini, who we both greatly admired.

  • Was there any particular lyrical themes you touched on with these songs? I know without a lyric sheet, it seems like you guys had plenty of "themes of death," though a song like 'Waters Of Lathe' was interesting; reminds me a bit of the mythical waters of lathe, where you drink and forget your past. So maybe there's a story going on here?

    The Lyrics... Eppinetter and I shared lyrical duties. Some songs were a combination of both of us, some just him, some just me. We wrote very similarly. I don't think you can really tell between us. I think that may have been me conforming to Eppinette's lead on themes. I say that because when not under his influence my lyrics go way beyond sick and twisted. Eppinette was my throttle for story telling or else there would have been a ton of fuck Jesus and eat dead babies songs. I'm a shock-a-holic in that respect. Death was certainly a popular lyrical theme. Anything aggressive and violent or scary. 'Waters Of Lathe' is my baby. I wrote the entire song. It was a death ballad of sorts. If anything, musically, it was obvious that a less talented guitarist wrote it. Lyrically it was exactly as you provided above. A person tormented by his past seeks to drink from the waters of Lethe in order to forget and survive. I think 'Waters Of Lethe' was a real life prelude. I knew Necropolis was traveling down a dark path and that I might one day seek to drink from these waters for all I have done and written about.

  • So what eventually led to Necropolis' breakup? Any chance there might be a reunion in the works? Would you welcome the opportunity to play out live again? Many Atlanta bands have reformed like Hallows Eve, Lestregus Nosferatus, and the like.

    The original Necropolis broke up just as the album was released. I think frustration and boredom caused it. It took a long time for the album to finally come out. In that time Dave Randolph had found love and lost interest in maintaining our brutal practice schedule. So we kicked him out of the band. Mel and Eppinette pretty much made the decision and had me do the dirty work. We lost a lot of the aggressive musical drive of the band without Dave. He hit the drums HARD and was blazing fast. I think we wanted some Dave Lombardo style double bass moving forward, and Dave either couldn't or wouldn't do that. So when he started not wanting to practice hard, because he didn't want to get hot and sweaty for his girlfriend, we just thought we could find someone else. Probably the biggest mistake Necropolis ever made.

    Necropolis part deux came about shortly thereafter. After trying to straight up replace Dave we almost gave up. Then Mel met up with Scott Waldrop (bass) and they gave me a call. Eppinette had found love by this time and wasn't interested in reforming (he got pussy whipped if you can imagine that!). So I called Lane Brown and he got us in touch with his old drummer from his high school days, who was a HUGE Neal Pert fanatic. Scott Bruce soon took over the drums. Scott Bruce is technically amazing, but it took a long time and many arguments to get him to throw down Necropolis style. We lost the aggressive, high speed, insanity of Dave Randolph, but gained a very technically brilliant drummer that could double base like hell. So we went from two Keiths, to two Scotts... funny! Our music pretty much completely changed at this point.

    Although we still kept playing the old stuff, and still kept writing fast insane music, it just wasn't the same. We lost a touch of evil in our sound. But we gained a touch on complete insanity. We recorded a second Necropolis album that was never released, and was only played live a handful of times. We fancied a reunion, but it just never materialized. One problem was that Scott Waldrop doesn't play bass any more. So we contacted Eppinette and he actually went out and bought a bass rig for the project. But, I think Scott Waldrop was the uninterested party. I guess Mel, Eppinette, Bruce, and I could still do it, but the five of us would be more appropriate. Randolph lives out of state, so he was out of question. I'm really not sure I could handle those vocals any more though.

  • Speaking about the vocals, man they were absolutely INSANE. I always wondered how the hell you were able to rave about like a madman and then belt out some almost power metal like vocals! Did you go through any vocal warm-ups or anything? How did you NOT strain your voice?!?

    LMFAO!! Well... we practiced no less than five days a week, and often seven. I would just full-out scream through every practice. The vocal chords get used to it after a while I guess. I had to stay in practice though. If I didn't practice for a week I knew it. It was certainly rough on my vocal chords. It was rare that I played live and wasn't already over exerted even before the show. In the later shows, the drugs absolutely did not help... especially the cocaine. For the album I hadn't practiced for a week or so. So having to do all the songs in one night was horrific on quality. I think I did maybe one or two songs full-out before I started cracking. From then on it was, sing a line, rest for 5 or ten minutes, repeat. Our manager and tech didn't care. They were just like... keep screaming it sounds great. I knew, but there was nothing I could do about it. We only had a short time in studio.

  • Were you ever a visitor to WREKage? I know when I first started guesting at WREKage, I do remember the old studio fondly, though now the studio is a bit smaller and in a different location entirely. WREKage seems like an Atlanta institution for metal, and still draws many listeners and bands visiting the studios.

    Aaahhh WREKage! I loved that show. I remember when I first heard one of our songs on there. I was floating on hellish clouds. I remember having friends call in and request Necropolis songs. I remember going there, but the rest of the band wouldn't let me talk because they thought I would snap and say some crazy stuff. It was fun being there though. What I remember most is roaming around and checking out the electronics in the other rooms.

  • Now, I'm a huge 80's metal fan and collector, and have heard a TON of rarities that most people who are die hard metal fans never got to hear. Were you into the whole demo tape trading scene back then, and do you have any favorite 80's metal bands you think most people might not know about but should?

    Rigor Mortis and Scarlet Bride were the only tapes I had that no one ever had or heard of at the time. When not cranking the Slayer, I spent a lot of time listening to classical music. You may be thinking of the peaceful symphony or quartet with people sitting about drinking tea, but it wasn't like that. I like my music aggressive, and classical music can easily satisfy that need.

  • I am curious if there's any chance you guys have plans to reissue the album on CD format? I think I saw the Bomp website still has a few vinyl copies left for sale.

    LOL!!! Yeah, you can even buy a copy of it in Japan for like $1.13 or something like that. I don't have any plans to reissue. I do know that someone ripped MP3's of the entire album and has it up on Youtube.

  • How do you see metal in this day and age? I think it's great that metal is still going strong, and it seems like more bands from overseas are touring here today, bands I thought I would never see in my lifetime unless I moved over to Europe. I especially love black and doom metal and have been able to see some killer bands.

    I've been in a strange place musically. After Necropolis I never joined another band. I did start getting into computer created music. So, right now I'm listening to some strange stuff, and you may well puke when you hear some of this. I like some Bjork, some very intense dubstep, Ludacris, and my metal needs are met by Slipknot. I haven't really searched out new metal very much. I have friends that bring me stuff, and I like it well enough, but nothing has really grabbed me the way Black Sabbath first did, and then Slayer after that. Slipknot has to be the closest thing. And not just "Slipknot" and "Iowa," which are very aggressive works of art, but "Volume 3" and "All Hope Is Gone" particularly drew me in. If you listen to the last stuff Necropolis did, 'Human Butcher' and 'Thought About Death Lately,' we swing from heavy to softish. I feel like Slipknot went where Necropolis was trying to go. I know how people feel about them and all. But they are absolutely brilliant.

  • Did you ever get any press or promotion, or do any interviews when Necropolis was active? I'm wondering if you maybe got some ink in Metal Forces Magazine or something.

    I think Creative Loafing is the only place we ever had a write up in, as far as I know. (Actually, for what it's worth, Martin Popoff reviewed the album some time ago for his Collector's Guide To Heavy Metal: The 80's Volume 2. I believe he rated the album a 3 out of 10 - Ed.) They referred to me as Joey Ramone on helium! YAY!

  • Finally, looking back at the album, how do you feel about it these days? Best and least favorite songs? Anything about the album you'd like to change?

    "Contemplating Slaughter" is what it is. I would like the snare track back, and to do all the vocals over again. I don't think it's anything special. I do enjoy listening to it now and then, if only to try to figure out what the hell I was saying. When we were considering a reunion, trying to figure out my own lyrics was a big deal for me. I'm happy we got the opportunity to do it, I just wish we would have had more time. If you listen to the later stuff you will see that we had time to be more creative and experimental. And I had time to do vocal tracks, not just 10 songs in one night.

  • Final words are yours, sir. Thanks again, MUCH appreciated!

    Necropolis was fucking awesome. It was a few kids getting to play metal Gods for a while. We worked hard, played hard, and got some recognition for it. People around the world still know Necropolis, and that amazes me. From what I had heard Bomp sold out everything they sent to the Netherlands (which could have been five albums for all I know). The really deep Norwegian black metalists (Varg Vikernes and that whole scene) may have been influenced by Necropolis. They may have our album in their collections. I don't know that I'm proud of that, being what some of them have done, but it really trips me out to think about it.

    Finally... If any aspiring musicians are reading this, I would like to send one message to you guys. It has to do with something that really sucked about the Atlanta metal music scene back then. Everyone seemed to be in competition with one another. There seemed to be a lot of jealously and contempt. Like no one liked each other across bands. Maybe arrogance and attitudes? Hell, I noticed this all the way back to my cover metal band days in 1983. I hated it. If we went to a big metal show all the bands were there, but no one spoke. I don't think I've ever said a single work to Stacey Andersen (Hallows Eve) in real life. He just never seemed approachable, and maybe I didn't either. Same with Nihilist and all the others. That part of it kind of sucked for me.

    On the other hand... My wife is a very very good blues singer. I spent several years following her around the blues scene. I was always jealous of the relationship between musicians in that community. They loved and respected each other enormously. Everyone played with everyone, which I realize is tough in all original bands, but still.

    So, future metal bands... don't be dicks to each other. Don't be arrogant and unapproachable. It will be more fun.

    RAVEN. Interview with John Gallagher via email.

    You know, I never really listened to much Raven back in the day. I don't really know why either, though the most I remember about Raven is their appearance on the Ultimate Revenge 2 videotape back in the 80's, performing alongside Forbidden, Faith Or Fear and Dark Angel. They were definitely the odd man on the bill... Oh yeah, I remember why I didn't listen to them much: I preferred the heavier and sicker thrash and death metal that was rearing it's ugly head "back in the day." That being said, I have recently come to appreciate the band more now with a little age and wisdom, and not to mention that a few months before this interview was done Raven was announced to be making a headline appearance at the Pathfinder Metalfest here in Georgia. And you all know another band who's debut stormed the Pathfinder fest and became a talked about sensation! (IE: Lorenguard, in case you missed their interview and review above!) Now living stateside, there was MUCH I didn't know about Raven, so unfortunately my ignorance shows through in a few questions, but HEY! Even doing a music magazine for over 21 years I STILL don't know everything! Read on about someone who DOES know everything Raven...

  • I found out recently that the band had relocated to the United States from England? When did this come about and why? I would think the metal scene would be a bit better overseas than here.

    Actually we have been over here since Jan of 1984!!!! We came over with the intention of getting a major deal & major agency and by the end of that year had gotten both... So without actually saying "we are gonna live in the USA" it just sorta... happened! And yes, now the scene is better elsewhere but what you gonna do...!

  • It's amazing to me to see that you guys formed in 1974, but didn't put out your first single until 1980, with 'Don't Need Your Money.' Was it due to all the lineup changes? And what was the band like in the earliest of days? Had you an idea of how the band was to sound?

    Well, our 1st gig was in 1975... half originals & half covers, and on those originals you can hear the seeds of what we would become. We changed drummers every week it seemed until 1976 where we had Mick Kenworthy & got to play all the working mens' clubs in the North East... he left & we got Sean Taylor, and then lost Paul Bowden on guitar... and Sean... & got Rob Hunter and went on as a 3 piece - critically changing our sound! All of a sudden Mark had room to grow, and Rob and I could go crazy filling the hole left by "no rhythm guitar"!

  • It seems like two singles was all it took before you scored a record deal with your first full length "Rock Until You Drop." I suppose we can assume that the deal came about due to the strength of the singles? How did you come to the attention of Neat?

    We played a small gig in Newcastle and The Tygers of Pan Tang & their manager came to see us... he came up afterwards & said "how would you like to do a single on Neat?" and we were off and running... Due to horrible money issues with Neat we held off with the album but eventually went ahead with it.

  • Though I have only heard the first two full lengths, many say that those two albums are the best; in fact Martin Popoff rated both albums very highly. How do you feel about the rest of the albums in the catalog?

    Ouch! There's about 15 others for you to catch up on!!! With the exception of the popper "Pack Is Back" I'd reckon you'd enjoy them all!

  • I wanted to talk a bit about the Atlantic Records years, how did that all come about? Because it seems to me like some say the band took a different turn at the "request" of Atlantic, also I think I read somewhere that the tour you were on with Anthrax and Metallica resulted in all three bands being signed to the major label deal.

    We wanted a major deal - and when we got it forces behind the scenes wanted to market us as some sort of Bon Jovi/Kiss hybrid. When you are living on $30.00 a week and are young, impressionable & broke, you kinda go along with stuff. So one album in particular is very commercial. We woke up after this and said we'd rather stand or fall on our own music & direction... Actually we had Metallica as our opening act in 1983, and Anthrax in 1984, so we wanted to do a big New York City show, and had them both open the show at Roseland in '84 which ended up with all 3 bands getting deals.

  • While on the subject, I always thought it was interesting that you had a song "Live At The Inferno" before the actual live album with the same name came out. Where exactly did this live recording take place, and what do you remember most about the night?

    well, we had the song & it seemed a fitting title for a live album! I believe a lot of the stuff came from a Chicago show... but the funniest thing is a guy came up to us back after the release of that album... with an album by an American blues-folk band, called Raven. The album was a live album called "Live At The Inferno!" done before ours and it floored us as we had no idea this other band existed!! Bizarre!

  • The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement saw countless bands come and go with barely a 2 song 7 inch release between many of them. I know bands like Triarchy, China Doll, Air Borne, and Bleak House had very little to their discography, and very few put out a full length album, let alone survived for more than a few years. Why do you think this is? Do you ever wonder what would have happened to Raven if all you had released were those two singles in the earliest of days?

    Who knows? It's all chance and capitalizing on opportunity at that phase.... we were in the right place at the right time I guess!

  • While on the subject of that time period of the late 70's to early 80's, what NWOBHM bands did you really enjoy, and play live with? Tell us about some cool tour stories and bands you were into at that time.

    I liked the early Def Leppard stuff. Iron Maiden was a band we opened for in London. Dianno nicked our gas money out of my coat that night and we had to beg, borrow & steal to get back home... Charming! We did a few dates with Whitesnake and got to meet our heroes Jon Lord and Ian Paice. Gary Moore was to be the opener and had cancelled at the last minute, so we got the shows... The intro was "Gary Moore cannot be here tonight - here's Raven!" so THAT was fun!

  • I was surprised to hear that Joe Hasselvander is playing drums with you now; it seems like in the beginning you had a bit of trouble keeping the drum seat warm. I know one of Pentagram's heaviest and best records "Sub Basement" had Joe on it, so I'm wondering how you hooked up with him and if he had any input on your latest releases?

    Yeah, Joe's the "new" guy here... only, what, 24 years now?!!! He joined in 1988 and is a big part of the band. As you mentioned "Sub Basement" on which he did everything but the vocals. Joe is extremely talented, plays great guitar AND bass & brings many ideas to the table!

  • You've been considered, alongside Angel Witch, innovators and pioneers in speed metal, which I can totally see as far back as the debut album. Of course I have read that you simply consider yourselves "athletic rock."

    We are a metal band. Neat coined the "athletic rock" thing and that's cool... We were one of the first to really "rev it up" I guess!!!

  • You know, it's rather funny to see that VH1 movie about Anvil, and how after 30 years or so their popularity has soared. Did you ever wonder why Raven wasn't able to garner huge successes like say, Metallica or even Slayer? And do you think there was ever a point in time where Raven might have had their shot at huge popularity? For some people it's all about the music, though so many bands stuck to what they were doing for many years without realizing "overnight success."

    As far as financial success, that's all business and we have either had bad people handling us or have made bad decisions. That's usually the difference between a successful band and one that's not so successful. I'm sure you'd agree there are some really shitty bands that do very, very well - unfortunately it's not all about being talented. So where we have fell behind in that manner, we have grown from strength to strength in our music and performances and over the last few years have really moved forward. Mark's accident in 2001 was a blessing in disguise as we had to regroup and rethink what we were doing.

  • Looking at heavy metal through it's evolution, it seems like metal got more extreme over time; in fact it's funny to think the term black metal meant something COMPLETELY different in the 80's from what it means in this day and age (IE, it meant occult or satanic oriented lyrics ala Venom to a style of metal defined by icy, raspy vocals and guitar tones). Did you ever get into black metal at all? Doom metal has always been a favorite of mine, but what did you think of other styles of metal (doom, death, speed, thrash, etc).

    To me, it's either good or its not. All these catagories are ridiculous... for example Raven is a RAVEN style band. I don't wanna be in a box!! I do not like the "cookie monster" vocals which are favored by a lot of bands, and I actually enjoy melody, so "extreme" is not always good... I find it difficult to distinguish many of these bands as they all sound the same!

  • It's fun putting together a set list - we try to cover all bases. A few new ones and a good mix of the old stuff. We basically go out & go CRAZY! 110% every show... the only way we know!

  • Speaking of live, I remember seeing the energetic performance you guys put on with the Ultimate Revenge Two tour many years ago. It did seem to be a rather odd billing, pitting you alongside heavyweights of thrash metal like Dark Angel, Forbidden and Faith Or Fear. What do you remember most about that show; I know I read somewhere that many people left before Raven came onstage.

    Yes, that was the record company's idea. And at the time it appeared trendy to put us down, so a few 'journalists" were extremely biased in their reviews - for example, many people did not leave... there was not that many people there to start with!

  • When you look at the process of recording albums today as opposed to how it was all done in the early 80's, how do you see all that has changed? I know nowadays it's easier for kids to come up with quality recordings on their computers in the comfort of their own bedrooms...

    To a degree it's great - you can do great demos and if you happen to have the chops yes, you can do an album in your bedroom. But it's a sticking point: Back in the day you had to learn your craft onstage AND in the studio... to do an actual record was a huge accomplishment and now it means nothing. And with Pro Tools the drums can be time corrected, the vocals auto tuned, pieces cut out and rearranged flawlessly. Great tools for sure, but a young band that creates such an album... how on earth can they perform close to this?

  • Finally, as we wrap this up, if you were to have the opportunity to give advice to metal musicians starting up in this day and age, what would you tell them?

    Learn your instrument - play with other like minded people that you are good friends with - get out & play live... And HAVE FUN!!!!

    SWORD. Interview with Rick Hughes via phone.

  • SWORD!!! Many people may not know this, but I have been trying and trying for many years to track down SOMEONE in this amazing Canadian traditional metal outfit, just for the sole purpose of talking about one of my favorite 80's metal records of all time in "Metalized." Now, granted, when I first heard "Sweet Dreams" was coming out (back when I was still buying cassettes) I HAD to purchase it the day it came out. And I listened to it several times, but it just didn't grab me like "Metalized" did. Granted, there were a few good songs, but the cohesion just wasn't there. After "Sweet Dreams," Sword of course split up, until about 3 or 4 years ago when I heard rumblings, mostly from my overseas friends, that Sword might become active once again. And yes, there IS a new Sword album in the works, so it was a downright HONOR and I could hardly contain the emotion in my voice as I finally, after being a fan for YEARS and even seeing Sword on MTV of all places, got to talk to the man with the amazing voice, a voice that was a HUGE inspiration to me on my path to trying to become a frontman. Read on, it's one of our feature interviews this issue.

  • I wanted to talk a little bit about the early days. I remember when "Metalized" came out in the 80's, and it's one of my favorite 80's metal albums of alltime. Now I know the album came out here in the States through Combat, and I think in Canada the album was released through GWR, so I'm curious about how your album deal was structured?

    It was mostly word of mouth. We were in the studio preparing a demo for record companies, and the demo was never sent out, because there was a guy in the studio taking pictures, and he said "hey, there's a guy from a record company looking for a metal band right now, and you'd be perfect." So the next day the guy was in the studio and he flipped. We were recording 'Where To Hide,' 'Stoned Again' and 'Dare To Spit,' you know about 4 or 5 songs. And we NEVER finished that demo; we went right into the studio and took like a month and we recorded "Metalized."

  • So how long were contracted for? Did you have any tour support, or anything like that? I know you only did the two albums.

    It was a bad time to do metal for French speaking bands back in the 80's. At that time, the only bands who could make a living doing metal were the bands from California, Seattle... Mostly the West Coast. There were a LOT of great Canadian metal bands, and they kept on but to what price. When we split back in 1990, it's because we HAD to split. I had my daughter in '99, my son was born in 92; all the members of the band became fathers at about the same time! From 85 to 90, we toured EXTENSIVELY with Motorhead, Metallica, Alice Cooper... So the tour bus thing, with the sex, the drugs, all that shit... (laughs) Been there, done that... In and out you know?

  • What was funny to me, in that era right after "Metalized" came out, you actually had a video on MTV; I remember watching Headbanger's Ball and I'm thinking "Wow, Sword's on MTV..." That should have propelled you guys a lot further.

    Yeah, very true. But still, you know, why do people decide stuff? It was all personal decisions on everybody's part. Remember, back in 1989, the metal genre was really splitting apart; you had the death metal, the thrash metal; there was no more traditional heavy metal like Iron Maiden, Sabbath, Zeppelin, Deep Purple stuff... Now we were going into the harder stuff and the grunge stuff, and that wasn't my scene at ALL. I'm from the school of metal singers; I'm a Robert Plant pupil! Around '92 there was plenty of work here in Quebec, I worked as a hired gun doing LOADS of stuff. Like jingles, TV shows, etc. I made a good living out of singing but I stopped touring and I could be here for my kids. And it's kinda funny because I'm all grown up, my KIDS are all grown up, and we're picking up the Sword again (laughs).

  • Now the debut album I thought was a LOT heavier. I liked certain songs off of "Sweet Dreams," I have favorites off "Sweet Dreams," but it seems like the album bounced around a bit, like different songs had different influences. For example, 'Life On The Sharp Edge' sounded like it had a bit of blues influence. It definitely didn't have the cohesion like "Metalized" had, like you guys were experimenting a bit.

    True. But you know it's a classic. We had 5 years to put together "Metalized" you know? Without a record label, we wrote 'F.T.W.,' 'Stoned Again,' and all that stuff. And then you get the record deal, and on the record deal it says once the first album comes out, you have a year and a half to release the second album. When you think about it, we were pushed in the studio, we were pushed into recording even when we didn't want to record an album. To me, "Sweet Dreams" IS a good album, but you're right, it's very different from the first one. Now this third album we're doing is going to be different from both "Metalized" AND "Sweet Dreams." Because of the fact that we're all grown up; I mean we love it LOUD and HEAVY, but who knows how it's going to sound at the end of it all!

  • I was always curious about what drove the lyrical writing process. Even on Sweet Dreams, the songs kinda sound like... Well, I don't wanna say "Songs from the streets," but I dunno, songs about life? 'F.T.W.,' you know, I always thought "why don't they just call it 'Follow The Wheel?'

    Well, you said it, songs from the streets. My brother and I come from a background of broken families. So we had to quit school really young in order to make a living for ourselves, because there was nobody waiting for us. The school of life for sure. When I picked up the microphone my brother bought a drum, and we started to jam... It really saved our lives; I was 16 and he was 17. It was either rock and roll or we became criminals (laughing). Lots of times we joke about it but at that time we struggled. We were street boys.

  • You had some INCREDIBLE high notes, you were one of my influences as a singer. Of course you never did any low toned stuff. Can you still hit all those high notes today like you used to?

    Ha ha! (slight pause here). Go check out Sword live in Quebec City. We played with Anihilator last year...

  • Oh, you mean the U.K. Anihilator?

    Yeah. We played with them and it's on youtube. A lot of people dig the stuff, and the comments are, for some people, that my voice sounds better today than it sounded then. And we didn't change keys; everything's in the same key as we recorded it back then. Oh, yeah, I still hit the notes, so to answer your question: Yes. (laughing).

  • Now how did you take care of your voice? I know you said there was probably a lot of drinking and smoking going on back in the day, but I'm sure doing shows night after night, is there anything special you have to do to prepare for it; do you sing everyday? I'm kinda going through the same thing now myself.

    First things first: if you want to be a good singer and last for a long time, then you cannot drink alcohol. Number two: you cannot smoke. Number three, you have to have a steady girlfriend! (laughing again).

  • Why is that necessary? (laughing here).

    Because with a steady girlfriend, you don't hang around with the boys that much. Hanging out with the boys means... (thinking for a second here). You know what's the number one enemy to a rocker's voice? It's the laughter! You know when you go out with your friends and you're a rock and roll singer, you've got a very important show the next day, and you say to yourself "okay, tonight I'm going to take care of my voice, I will not drink a lot, I will not smoke a lot and I will go to bed early." Well, if you do ALL of that but you laugh all night because your friends make you laugh and they just goof around, you know how our voice can be when you're together? That's the number one enemy of the singer. Outbursts of laughter! And you don't realize it but this takes a toll on your voice. Your voice is a muscle, so if you laugh too much it contracts, contracts and contracts.

  • So do you sing everyday when you're on stage or not? I kinda got to a thing where I wanted to sing everyday no matter what.

    Yes, I sing everyday. At home I have a piano, and guitars. Every weekend I'm doing shows. When you called me yesterday I was about to go onstage for a rock and roll concert back in Quebec that had been sold out for months. But like I said, I don't drink alcohol anymore, I don't smoke. And with the girlfriend, it means I go to bed (laughs).

  • Now you said you've been playing a lot of shows lately; have you ventured outside Canada, or get to the States?

    Not the States, but we played the Keep It True festival in Germany. That's on the 'net. I know we did a version of the song 'Evil Spell,' if you wanna hear how I do the high notes (laughing). We toured Europe and had offers to do some more shows, but we had to refuse because we knew we'd be in the studio for October, November, December AND part of January of the album is not finished by them. We're going to go to the United States Of America in 2013.

  • I gotta ask you about Keep It True, because it seems like every 80's metal band at one point or another plays that festival. How was playing that because I talk to 80's metal bands who say it's like being at the height of your popularity all over again. Those fans are nuts and there's thousands of people in the building.

    EVERYTHING went well, EVERYTHING. We played on Friday, and we were supposed to be the headliner, but finally they put Mystic Force as a headliner and EVERYBODY regretted the move, even Mystic Force said we should have headlined. Man, there was a LOT of people waiting for us back there! We didn't know that! As a band first, we haven't traveled in like 20 years, so just being the four of us back in Germany and doing this, if you go check out on the 'net you'll see the reactions of the fans, it was AMAZING!! We signed autographs for at LEAST an hour! It was fans from ALL over Europe that drove down just so we could sign their albums. Lots of people said "Man, I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would see and hear Sword live." Now with the internet people can reach you, so there's a lot of fans that found me, and they blunt asked me the question "Will you EVER sing with Sword again," and all the time I said "No, Sword is finished." Everybody's doing something else, and we did two albums, and that's it. Forget about it. The fact is the record companies NEVER stopped pressing the albums.

    Two years ago, Mike Plant and I... I was singing a gig on New Years Eve with Mike; we never stopped working together on different projects. He said to me, "Hey Rick, I wanted to talk to you about something. Remember when we went and had a couple of songs we put on ice?" He gave me some song titles that I had written but I didn't remember them at first. He said "Well I've opened the vault and I got the songs out and listened to them. Listen. We've really got some good songs!" So I asked how many and he said more than a couple. Okay, so let's have a meeting, and I went to his house the next day and we listened to the material. And I said man, that's something to start with! So we found the other guys; my brother was easy to reach. It was the bass player that we hadn't talked to in a couple of years. And we talked to everybody and arranged for our first session: that was two years ago. So we just jammed for like hours and hours and we listened to the songs I was talking about. And from that, now we're in the studio doing the pre-production.

  • Now, are any of those early songs going to turn up on the record or is this going to be all new material?

    It's all brand new material but there is some old ideas that we had to keep because they're too good.

  • Any song titles you can throw our way or are we going to have to wait for the new album?

    Yeah, ha ha, you're going to have to wait until the album is released.

  • Well, are you playing any of these new songs live? I'm curious what you're playing live these days.

    The sets we're doing right now is only stuff from the two albums. We're not doing any songs from the new album at all, we're keeping that very secret. We really want it to be a surprise, you know? I don't want to oversell it with one song, I want people to make up their own minds about it. Of course there are some Sword fans from way back that HOPE that we haven't changed, not even a BIT you know? But it's impossible, think about it. Any artist that has stopped doing music for 20 years, and 20 years later decides to redo a song, it's gotta be an evolution; the song will be different, that's for sure. But, the people close to us that have heard the new songs... Because right now we've got 16 songs and we're working on 4 more (Damn! - Ed.) We're gonna have 20 songs and we will be deciding on 10 songs to put on the record. The close friends of ours that love metal, that have heard those new songs, they go "man, I wouldn't want to be the guy to have to decide because they're all good!" Now, let's hope they're being honest with us! (laughs)

  • I dunno, just to me 4 months sounds like an AWFUL long time to be in the studio!!! I'm guessing maybe you're just doing weekends and an hour or two here and there. That just sounds like a long time to lock into a recording session!

    Well, right now the studio is in a building that we have, and we built a studio IN that building. We're re-recording the songs to make sure that once we hit the studio... Like back in the 80's, it's not going to be like with today's technology, where you cut and paste, no no, we want to do a REAL metal album, where it's the real thing. In order to do that, we've got 20 years of catching up to do. So EVERY night we're here, and the building we're talking about, we all live not even 5 miles from the building. Listen, right now I'm here, and I don't know if you hear the guitars, but here's a new Sword riff right here...

  • (A pause, and I hear a KILLER heavy guitar tone drenched in effects!> So obviously the recording process has changed a lot in the last 20 or 30 years, what do you find is so different about recording this album compared to recording albums in the mid to late 80's?

    Aw, man, everything's different, everything's better. Before, there was all this tape, and you needed engineers, and you needed assistants and what not. Now, all you need is a good program, a laptop, good microphones and you're off to your pre-production. It's REALLY cool.

  • I know a lot of people that say when you record digitally, it takes away some of the warmth... There's still artists that record in the analog formats because they like the warmth, the organic sound. Some even say when you record metal digitally, it kinda sterilizes it. I remember how 80's metal albums sounded back then; I mean you could hear stuff but digitally you really HEAR stuff nowadays, because you don't lose a whole lot. When you hear a cymbal hit, you REALLY hear the intense, crisp highs of the cymbal. You don't lose a lot from having to downgrade it and downsample it, and convert it to a different format. There's pros and cons to both ways of doing things.

    Of course, of COURSE. It's all about the MUSIC, you know? Sometimes people are gonna go "Ah, this song doesn't sound good because it's not recorded the way it used to be." No, that's not the reason the song doesn't sound good. It doesn't sound good because THE SONG'S NOT GOOD! (laughs). You know? And sometimes they try to hide it, because they're gonna overproduce a song that's not good to start with. And they'll put 4 guitars, and double the bass drums, and amplify the screams. And not good songs will always remain NOT GOOD SONGS. Right now, I'm talking to you and I'm listening to what Mike's recording. FUCKING killer riffs man, killer songs! We won't have to put synthesizers, and three guitars... No man, it's gonna be one guitar, and one bass and one set of drums and one voice and it's gonna be in your fucking face, the way Motley Crue did it, and what Metallica did. It's ALWAYS about the music. Just think about Led Zeppeling I, it was done in 40 hours, Jimmy Page recorded the drums with one microphone in a room and one overhead and a couple of microphones on the toms? Can you think of a better sounding album than this one?

  • Have you kept up with a lot of the new stuff? Because personally, I really enjoy the Norwegian styled black metal. I just like the energy and intensity of it. Death metal to me just got goofy and tried too hard to sound unintelligible. And then when black metal came around, it took me a little while to get into it, but to me it was just more emotionally intense. It seemed like the music had a lot more going on, and the vocals are just sick.

    For myself, I'm a true music lover; I love all kinds of music. I like jazz, death metal, thrahs metal, Voivod, Johnny Cash, Robert Plant... ALL kinds of music. As long as it's well done and the songs are good. If the song is a death metal song and it's good, then it's good. The subject is right, the delivery, the intensity, everything's RIGHT. Very few bands can achieve that.

  • Now I know there was a GOOD metal scene in Canada during the 80's, I would have LOVED to see some of those bands like Razor, Piledriver, Exciter... I've seen Voivod a few times, that's about it. I know Slaughter came from that area. You know, the THRASH band Slaughter!

    We did a gig with Voivod this summer. It was amazing! They have this festival going on now here, called Heavy Montreal. They're doing Heavy Montreal and Heavy Toronto. So they asked us to do a show with Voivod, and that's the only show we did in Montreal. We've played in Quebec, and a couple of towns outside of Montreal, but we refused to play Montreal, because we wanted to play Montreal WITH an album. But Heavy Montreal came to us about doing a gig with Voivod and they're close friends of ours, so we said yes. Again, don't you get out on the internet, it's out there. Just go "sword, heavy montreal."

  • Well, is there anything else you want to mention before we wrap this up?

    Yeah, make sure that you tell the fans to go on our Sword facebook webpage, and do the like thing. That way, you'll get the new pictures, the videos from Heavy Montreal, and all the visuals.

  • It seems like you're pushing the facebook page pretty heavily, is it just an easier way to keep up with fans, do you have some kind of promotion deal with them or what?

    Because the album is gonna come out in 2013, and it gives us plenty of time to get a fan base. As soon as the album is ready we can catch the fans. In the 80's and the 90's where it's all the record companies that made... I was gonna say made the money, but everything is so expensive doing a record that before you start making money, it takes a very, very long time. So this is our way of sticking it to the man, you know! (laughs) We're self producing our album this time around, and we're going to own EVERY right to the Sword music, so we want to make sure that our fans are connected to US!

  • I think it's pretty ambitious man. The business model for music has DEFINITELY changed. I mean the recording industry is in trouble, labels aren't investing in bands' careers anymore. That's why I hate shit like American Idol; it's all about this one hit wonder crap where he wins a little deal, you give him an album, and two years later you never hear from this cat again. It seems like gone are the days when labels invest in an artist's career. An artist's career is an INVESTMENT. You can't just throw an album out and expect it to sell gold; that's what we do; we do the interviews, the reviews. And you have to send an artist on tour. It seems like labels are just trying to find the fastest way to cash in.

    Exactly, they want to control everything. But not Sword! They won't control us, that's for sure! (laughing)

    VESPERIAN SORROW. Facebook interview with Subverseraph...

    It's been a LONG time since we chatted with Vesperian Sorrow, in fact, it was issue #31 when we last discussed many things, most notably their newest release at the time was "Psychotic Sculpture." THAT was in 2001, and the interview was done RIGHT before we drove up to New Jersey to see them (and videotape them) at the New Jersey Metalfest. Fast forward 11 years later, and Vesperian Sorrow has released one of the best American black metal albums in 2012. Sad to say, I didn't get to speak with any of the veteran members of the group, so many of my questions went unanswered, however Subverseraph has been around AT LEAST since their last full length "Regenesis Creation." He didn't have much to say, so enjoy what's here from a very talented Texas band...

  • So I gotta say, WHAT The FUCK is in the waters in Texas these days? First The Howling Void gets signed to a Russian record label and releases the BEST doom metal album of 2012, and now 6 years after your last record, 'Stormwinds Of Ages" is one of the best black metal albums released last year?!?

    Thank you for thinking so. Can't speak for any of the other bands, but for us it's probably the self-imposed isolationism. Not very many bands down here that do what we do, so we've always been a stylistic anomaly keeping to the fringes of the Texas scene, doing our own thing. Allows us to stay focused.

  • Whatever else can be said about "Stormwinds," though most are calling it symphonic black metal, first and foremost I see it as a HEAVY METAL album, as the riffs are heavy and the influences almost seem like they're added afterwards. Someone said in a review that "Stormwinds Of Ages" is really symphonic black metal for people who aren't totally crazy about symphonic black metal." Which I thought was interesting.

    I can agree with that. Especially since we detest being categorized as "symphonic black metal." That term just has the worst connotations, as probably 8 out of 10 bands considered "symphonic black metal" are your typical CRADLE OF BORE-GIR clones. I believe I can say with confidence that we are much more than that and that we most assuredly have a sound of our own.

  • So why was the wait between your last album (which unfortunately is the only album of yours ["Regenesis Creation"] I never got to hear) and this one so long? Was it due to label issues; it seemed like you had shorter release times when you were signed to Displeased Records. Or was it just due to trying to perfect the songs?

    We are definitely perfectionists, but that's not the sole reason as to why it took so long. Including several lineup changes, much went on within the band and in our personal lives within the time between the 2. Also, we're not a Cannibal Corpse or a Belphegor in that you can't expect a new album out of us every 1.5 years. Our music's neither the simplest to write nor perform nor record, especially since we're practically completely D.I.Y.. To do it right this shit takes time.

  • American black metal has come a long way since the earliest of days; it seems like we have some really talented acts and some that have been around for quite some time. I was reading somewhere that American acts have become more prolific than their Scandinavian counterparts, and many are just as sick and/or brutal (bands like Kommandant and the like).

    Most of it still blows, especially all that boring-ass "Cascadian" bullshit, but there are a worthy handful, yes. Ceremonial Castings rules, Plutonian Shore; Absu's as strong as ever, Realm's Deep, Hymns, Veneficum (though I'm not so sure as to their status); and of course, the almighty Inquisition (who I saw just about upstage MARDUK last night in San Antonio).

  • So tell us a little bit about The Path Less Traveled Records, because they seem to be rather new with only a handful of albums under their belt. How did you come to work with them, and what is your contract structured like? (IE, number of albums, do they offer merch/tour support, help out with press, etc).

    Tour support? What's that? Our contract with T.P.L.T.R. is a distribution one. They go through SONY/RED Music/Plastichead, and that pretty much solidified our decision to collaborate with them, and they've been great.

  • It was quite interesting to hear some female vocals, though they seemed to be relegated to choruses and a few background lines. Will you ever incorporate these again? I know past albums have seen you use a few different "session" female vocalists.

    I'm sure we will. The female vocals were performed by Erika Tandy (Morgengrau/ ex-Ignitor/ex-Autumn Tears), a very talented and experienced vocalist and great friend of mine.

  • And while we're on the subject of "session" singers, that one track 'Relics Of The Impure' you guys made a pretty bold move by utilizing Jason McMaster to do some amazingly powerful vocals! In fact, I can feel the blood boiling when I hear him sing, it just takes the heaviness factor and amps it times ten! This is a move I'd LOVE to hear repeated on songs in the future! How did you come to work with him? Will we hear more of this in the future?

    Hopefully. He's a friend of ours as well, and we've always had the utmost respect for him and his bands.

  • So how have press reactions been for Stormwinds? It seems like there aren't many major metal publications around anymore since Metal Maniacs folded. I think Sounds Of Death and Decibel are catering to underground metal, and maybe even the Grimoire Of Exalted Deeds (though that 'zine seems more intent on being a joke publication, getting laughs out of the metal scene than really helping and exposing bands to newer audiences.)

    Press reactions have been mixed, but the majority of them have been quite favorable. Can't please 'em all, and we don't formulate our music according to trend anyway. To the corduroy or skinny-jean-and-plaid, or youth-large-shirt- wearing, beardo, Baroness-worshipper shall we ever be antithetical. Hipsters... FUCK 'EM.

  • I dig the title "Stormwinds Of Ages," what is the theme behind the album? It sure seems like the U.S. has had lots of brutal storms, floods and hurricane weather in the past few years, devastating much of the country.

    There actually is no theme, per se, behind Stormwinds. It's not a concept album like "Regenesis Creation" is, and it surely has nothing to do with any of the natural disasters of late.

  • Any chance we might see you tour down here in Atlanta? I don't think you guys have ever played live here. Maybe you could get a slot on that 70,000 tons of metal cruise, I've heard many people say good things about that yearly event.

    Playing 70,000 Tons would be a dream come true. (You got a hookup?) We were going to play Atlanta while we were out on our last East Coast tour, but that gig fell through, and I forget why. Next time we hit the road I wouldn't mind as long there's a worth-a-shit promoter we can work with. Got a handful of friends down there from going to Dragon Con.

  • Now that "Stormwinds" has been out for awhile, any plans for future songs or album titles/themes you can tell us about?

    I can tell you that we have plenty of material for the successor to "Stormwinds," possibly an EP as well even, but as far as titles and themes go, nothing concrete. Yet.

  • Listening to the track 'Eye Of The Clock Tower,' it kinda reminds me of the Lord Of The Rings with that whole Eye Of Sauron thing. Did you get a chance to watch The Hobbit yet? I enjoyed that movie as well, though I think it was a bit odd that they're going to stretch the storyline out over 3 movies. Still, adding parts from Tolkien's other works to bridge the storyline was an interesting move.

    My parents and little brother came into town to visit me over the holidays, and we saw it together. I enjoyed it immensely. There are several sequences throughout that are "metal-as-fuck."

  • Finally, as we wrap this up, if there's anything else you want to add, feel free to do so. Thanks again, and we hope to see you down here in Atlanta someday!

    Interview appreciated. Cheers.

    ZUUL. Interview with Bobby via email.

    Sounds like an 80's metal band. Actually, their vocalist reminds me a bit of the Swedish 80's metal sensation Axe Witch, but not totally. They have released their second album by the time you're reading these words (I mean, it has been over 6 months since we interviewed them), and I highly suggest you check them out... They're heavily into the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement, which YOU KNOW makes for interesting interviews...

  • I hadn't realized this, but prior to your first album release, you had a single release covering the NWOBHM band Crucifixion, and then later on you did another single covering the NWOBHM band Badger doing 'Over The Wall!' I guess it's safe to assume you're a huge fan of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement, especially since those two covers are among the least known of the movement! What other NWOBHM bands are you fond of? Personally, I always liked Triarchy, China Doll, and Geddes Axe.

    The lot of us are fans of the NWOBHM style and sound and there a lot of bands that we have covered and listened to, but I wouldn't say we are huuuuge fans (as some people are of this era) and collectors of the new wave shit. There are so many bands from that time that it would almost be a dedication of time and money to track a lot of it down. I don't really listen to music on my computer, so not a lot of that rare stuff makes it my way. I was completely blown away by the first new wave stuff I heard. Bashful Alley, Virtue, Blitzkrieg... so many great singles were released that I immediately was all about (it). Then, for a while, I started buying some full length albums by some of these bands, and a lot of them were not so good. So much album filler and slow, almost radio friendly, pop metal songs totally boring out an album. But it's not the bands fault they made a bunch of was the 80's. I've never heard of those last three bands you mentioned...maybe I'll check them out. I do think there should be more and more new wave compilations.

    I grew up listening to a lot of early Oi music because of all the great comps that were released and always filed near the current punk stuff. Comps are a good way to leave off past band's turd songs. The best of the rest of that moment in time.

  • One thing that struck me about the debut album is how at times the band reminds me of a Swedish 80's metal band I was a HUGE fan of, and that was Axe Witch. Have you ever heard their "Pray For Metal" EP, or subsequent albums "Lord Of The Flies" or "Visions Of The Past?" The track 'Warriors' REALLY reminds me of this, and at times the vocals are slightly reminiscent of main singer Anders Wallentoft.

    Never heard of Axe Witch. I really just try and find current bands to get into, which for quality, is slim pickins. But that's okay, 'cause I have thousands of records, CD's and tapes to listen to. I'll always give something a chance, maybe two listens through to really make an impression. But if something doesn't grab me by the balls, fuck it, I'll put on a Zeke CD that I know kicks ass.

  • Reading the lyrics to some of these songs was cool; I expected songs about, well, warriors and epic battles, but the song ideas are quite diverse. Especially the song 'Ride Ride,' and of course the song 'Air Raid' which reminds me of the depictions of the Nazi bombing raids over England during the war.

    Well our vocalist, Brett, loves war and women. Probably the two most prominent topics on his mind at most times. Brett successfully brings together his love of Iron Maiden type of metal, with his gross passion for bands like L.A. Guns and the Bulletboys. And deservingly so, he takes a lot of shit for still digging the hair metal scene. But he could care less, which is cool; he really brings his influences to the songs, just like the rest of us do. Mike would never write a (positive) song about a girl, and Brett would never write a death metal guitar riff. But somehow (me) it all balances out for the better of Zuul.

  • That front cover was kick ass as well, it reminded me of the style Omen used on their "Battle Cry" release. The artwork would look great on a T-shirt! Tell us a bit about the cover; I liked the way it emulates the vinyl format on the CD booklet wrapping around from front to back so when you fold it out it's a rather lengthy piece with more to it than just what you see right away.

    The cover art from "Out Of Time" is really cool when the jacket is opened up, and its amazing to look at the real painting done by our friend and drinking buddy, Brad Moore. That art had a little nod to every song in the painting, as subtle as some images are. Brad also did the art for "To The Frontlines" and it's just as cool. This time we didn't incorporate every song into the art, we kind of let Brad run free with it. We gave him the title of the record, and song titles and he whipped up, in 8 months, a great cover.

  • You seem to be releasing quite a few singles, is there another full length album in the works? I know it's probably a lot easier to come out with a song or two for an EP or 7 inch rather than having to do a full album. If there's any song titles or album themes you have done, I'd love to hear about it!

    Well "To The Frontlines" is our second full length, to be released on December 14, 2012 by Planet Metal and High Roller. We have done 4 singles and 1 album up to this point. The debut single and the Warriors (demo) single were just demos that we recorded ourselves, not a whole lot of work was put into them, and they were actually just intended to be MySpace tracks, but our labels had interest in releasing them. The 3 songs that became the "Howl Of The Wolf" 7" and the Bible Of The Devil split were all recorded in a legit studio in Indiana, post- "Out Of Time," with the intention of making two single releases. I like making singles in between albums; it keeps fans following you and there are always songs that are written during the process of recording an album that we can't use at the time, so we are eager to document them as well. The idea of Zuul making a concept album, just makes me think of the 5 of us in a room arguing about the direction of things. I don't think a concept album, other than "this album kicks ass," will ever be planned out.

  • Speaking of vinyl, being a fan of the 80's metal as you obviously are, I see a TON of record labels pressing vinyl again, some even going so far as to do colored vinyl again, and some bands are putting out amazing multicolored formats! The newest Inquisition record is absolutely amazing with the blue and red splatter cover, even going so far as to laser engrave the back side of one of the records!

    Fuck yeah! Making cool looking records is one of the top 5 reasons to be in this game. There are so many cool looking records and jackets being made right now. Check out the Imperial State Electric 7" that our label, Onslaught Of Steel, released earlier this year. It'll blow your doors off. Along with laser etchings, you can also silk screen art onto blank sides of vinyl which is pretty cool.

  • The track 'Executioner' reminds me a lot of the death scene in the HBO mini series Game Of Thrones, where Ned Stark is executed by the King. Have you seen this show yet? It's kinda like Lord Of The Rings but has a very interesting format to it, where they take one novel and break it up into 10 one hour episodes covering pretty much the entire novel! I thought maybe Lord Of The Rings could have been done this way and maybe getting more of the books into the screen...

    Game of Thrones is totally bad ass! I actually have the song title 'Winter Ain't Coming' in my head after watching the first season. The title works for down here where we have ridiculously hot summers (spoiler alert: see 'Smoldering Nights' on the new album).

  • How did you come up with the band name Zuul anyway? I did like the way you used skulls for the umlaut's above the letter u...

    Yeah we thought that we were the first band to do that with the skulls being the (unnecessary, but metal as fuck) umlauts.... then our world was brought down to see that Motley Crue did the same thing with their "Dr. Feelgood" logo. Mike threw up in his mouth a little when we realized that. I don't mind... yeah I'll say it... Crue rules.

    Zuul as a band name, kind of a mishap that had resulted in people asking us if we like the movie Ghostbusters. Of course we do. Is our band all about Ghostbusters, hell no. The gist of it is that we wanted be at the end of everyone's collection, only to be followed by ZZ Top, and preceded by Zeke or Warren Zevon.

  • While we're talking about the album "Out Of Time," I was curious about a few songs, especially 'Darkness On The Ice.' It seems like I've seen some sci-fi or horror movie where the aliens are chasing a semi truck down the highway, though I can't remember what movie... What sort of creatures are these? I just know I'm gonna kick myself when you reveal all...

    The frame of reference is a little more obscure than a movie on this song. Morgan (drummer) had this girlfriend who's mother is an author. She wrote a novel about vampires in Alaska, that's it. We didn't read the book or find out any specific details. Ain't we deep songwriters?!? I had this guy at a party recently want to shake my hand "from one songwriter to another," I was like, dude I don't think we write the same kind of songs. Now shove that acoustic up your ass man.

  • It's definitely great to see that heavy metal has been around and thrived for so many years, I mean even the rise in popularity of rap and grunge wasn't enough to kill off metal completely, and now some of the bands that were around in the 80's are back recording albums and doing tours...

    Yeah fuck them, they couldn't hang through the rough times, so why should we accept them when there's some more popularity to this kind if metal. Way I see it, if you are in the re-recording of old songs business, fuck off. If you are the only original member left from the hey-day of the band, fuck off. If you only play these big festivals making it near impossible for us newer bands to get some wide recognition... guess what... fuck off. Not many of these old dogs are doing tours either, they might do short runs in safety zones, they aren't really trying to make new fans. Am I bitter about the older bands clouding up the current metal scene... a bit yeah. But whatever.

  • Are you still with Planet Metal Records? I had never heard of the label until you had your full length on it, tell us about the album deal and what sort of contract you signed with them?

    Planet Metal is run by Chris Maycock of Superchrist, Pharaoh, High Spirits, and Dawnbringer fame. Planet Metal is mainly a record distribution label, as well as a record label. Chris has been with Zuul from the beginning. He's an old friend of Mikes and I met him once in the past as well up in Chicago. From the start, Chris knew the 5 of us had something good going, even if we didn't realize it ourselves. He has helped release us, book us gigs, get us exposure and has always been a helping hand in the final production of our albums. Great guy, totally professional and he releases some really good albums. Our contract's with him licensing our recordings for production for a certain period of time, 2-3 years. We make a commission off of each unit made... pretty standard for our level. With High Roller, our contract is by the pressing, not a period of time.

  • I noticed that the band uses Stonecutter amplification. I can't find any info on that anywhere on the net (the myspace page for them is down), what can you tell us about their amps? I know a lot of stoner rock bands love the Green/Orange amps, some even preferring the Sunn sound, while others usually go with Marshall and what not.

    Stonecutter Amps is a business venture by our drummer, Morgan Demling. He began making hand made copies of Marshall heads and now he's made a bunch of different styles of amps. They have a mighty sound, they are road durable, and we have an on hand technician with us. We also use Marshall and Orange gear as well.

  • Finally, the one thing about the record I noticed is the song format: Nowadays of course extreme doom metal bands have songs running easily into the 7 to 10 minute range, but many of the tracks on your full length stay around the three or four minute mark! Was that a conscious decision, I mean a song like 'Executioner' still takes time out for some sweet guitar solos and melodies!

    You need to hear the new album. We branch out into some longer songs and they are definitely the highlight of "To The Frontlines." There are also shorter songs than we have ever wrote. "Out Of Time" basically had a consistent vibe throughout the whole album, with the exception maybe of 'Air Raid.' "To The Frontlines" is all over the place but it's still a Zuul album in feel and sound. Just wait, it's gonna hit hard.


    Yet another lengthy delay in getting issue #53 out the door. Almost a year has went by since the last one, and I nearly considered throwing in the towel. We are short about three interviews, nearly four (thankfully one sent the finalized interview to me THREE WEEKS before this issue went to "press.") One band I sent questions to said, yeah, they'd do it, and after 5 months and an email once or twice a month, I finally gave up. The other band waited 3 months to get back to me, only to finally tell me they wouldn't be able to participate because of English to French conversions and "busy with other things." I didn't want to put out an issue with very few interviews, so I unfortunately had to delay the issue while I found willing participants. So that is some of the story of the lateness of this issue. That, coupled with a re-examination of what I've been doing this music magazine for for 21+ years now with NO pay and even the other incentive (free CD's) being constantly reduced month by month. Although, you WILL notice the labels that are sending me CD's are getting more coverage, with Solitude Productions getting the most coverage of all. That will CONTINUE with each and every issue, so if all you ever offer is digital downloads, please keep in mind you might get one or two CD's reviewed in each issue...

    Just wanted to clarify something I think has been sorely needed in these reviews for quite some time. In this day and age of digital downloads, some people out there (myself included) still find it relevant to own the actual CD copies these songs sometimes get pressed on. The CD is not a dead format just yet! With that in mind, many reviews in this issue reflect the fact that yes, I still get CD's and digital downloads for free, but what REALLY matters is the value for the price you pay for a CD. For instance (see the St. Vitus and Khors CD reviews this issue for more detailed examples), if I get an 8 track CD for free that has 3 or 4 great songs, it's still got some value TO ME, because I have 3 or 4 great songs I didn't pay for. But I have to factor in the buying public along with my own opinion. Furthermore, many of the discs I'm reviewing are difficult to obtain except as pricey imports, which further complicates things. That "3 or 4 good songs" CD might be too expensive at an import's price, but if obtainable domestically for a lower price, it might be more feasible to seek it out, even if you know you're not going to enjoy ALL of the tracks. And then there are some albums that are worth owning no matter what the cost! This is all reflected in the reviews, which are still rather long winded. I have tried to make an effort to cut down the length of some of the reviews, but I still like the idea of giving track by track rundowns, just to let you know that I "did my homework."

    Finally, I don't want to make a lengthy editorial section, so I'll wrap things up by doing our first ever best of 2012 list. Only a few categories in here, so things will be kept brief.

    VESPERIAN SORROW "Stormwinds Of Ages"

    The only category where you'll see a 2nd place entry, and that is because the two are amongst the elite of American black metal releases in 2012, though what's even more surprising about Mysteriarch is, while being a somewhat new band, they'r eonly on their second full length, while Vesperian Sorrow is a veteran band with almost 15 years of history and 4 full length releases.

    THE HOWLING VOID "The Womb Beyond The World."

    There's not even a close 2nd place album behind this one folks. There's been some great doom metal albums to come out this year, but the Russian label Solitude Productions does it again with an emotional, masterful piece of work from a band hailing from Texas of all places! So Texas grabs top American black metal band AND top doom band all in one swoop.

    AETERNAM "Moongod"

    Symphonic folk/death metal... That right there says it all, in a genre I'm normally not a huge fan of. In and of itself, this album came to our attention towards the end of last year, and I really didn't get around to it until mid to late January. There almost wasn't a death metal album of the year, but this album is head over heels better than 95% of the death metal bands out there. Read the review and check out the soundfiles if you wanna know more about this astounding album from this Canadian band who has a very intense understanding of Middle Eastern, Arabic and Egyptian ambience...

    PALLBEARER "Sorrow And Extinction"

    I know this isn't how we worded this category in our facebook page, but the criteria for this is simple: The band cannot have released a full length - EVER!! Though a demo or two I suppose is fine... :) Pallbearer reminds me a LOT of While Heaven Wept, and they haven't been around for more than a few years. Even seeing them live was a real treat, and we hope to be interviewing them for our next issue... Though I've said too much already!

    And finally...

    We received an advance copy of a brand new band on the scene from our partners at Northern Silence Productions in December of last year. The band hails from Salt Lake City, Utah, and they are DEFINITELY going to give Summoning a run for their money. Symphonic black metal that incorporates everything you love about Austria's Summoning, including LOTS of clean sung vocals. This one even revolves around a series of fantasy novels written by Steven Erikson. That being said, my prediction is that Caladan Brood will probably end up being considered THE best black metal album of 2013, if not one of the best. Of course, it's also been said that Summoning will release a new full length in 2013 as well... Grab your crystal ball and remember these words in 2014!!

    Thanks for sticking it out with us through this extremely lengthy delay. Now we can get to putting up some new classic album titles, re-remastering some of the older ones IN the archives, and working on issue #54... HOPEFULLY by the end of 2013 at least you'll see this one!