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  • ANCIENT VVISDOM "Sacrificial"
  • ARES KINGDOM "The Unburiable Dead"
  • AUDN "Audn"
  • CIVIL WAR "Gods And Generals"
  • DANTALION "Where Fear Is Born"
  • DOOM:VS "Earthless"
  • DREAD SOVEREIGN "All Hell's Martyrs"
  • EVOKE THY LORDS "Boys! Raise Giant Mushrooms In Your Cellar!"
  • FINSTERFORST "Mach Dich Frei"
  • FOREFATHER "Curse Of The Cwelled"
  • FROSTBITTEN KINGDOM "The Winter War Symphony"
  • FUNGOID STREAM "Prehuman Shapes"
  • IN AEVUM AGERE "The Shadow Tower"
  • IRON VOID "Iron Void"
  • MELECHESH "Enki"
  • NIGHTINGALE "Retribution"
  • RAISE HELL "Written In Blood"
  • RIGOR MORTIS "Slaves To The Grave"
  • SHAPE OF DESPAIR "The Monotony Fields"
  • SULPHUR AEON "Gateway To The Antisphere"
  • THE MORNINGSIDE "Letters From The Empty Towns"
  • URUK-HAI "The Fellowship"
  • VENOM "From The Very Depths"
  • VENOMOUS MAXIMUS "Firewalker"


  • AUDN


    ANCIENT VVISDOM "Sacrificial" (Magic Bullet) SCORE: 97/100

    Though I am a newcomer to this band, what makes this band unique hit me like a ton of bricks right away. The vocals are very soothing, very melodic and clean sung, sounding like maybe this guy should be fronting a different type of band! On top of that, acoustic interludes aren't uncommon, and catchy choruses breathe of neofolk and simplicity. Yet, for all the melodic and emotional stuff going on, the guitar work is quite heavy, though towards the end of the disc you swear you've heard similar riff patterns. Doom metal is another "side" of this band, as the emotionally charged melodics get slowed down quite a bit from track to track. Yes, you won't find any high speed riffs, and even the lead solo seems suspiciously absent (except for a nice short one on 'City Of Stone'). 'Worm Ridden Skull' should, however, silence all detractors (especially the "elites" on the Encyclopedia Metallum who have decided that 'the VVisdom aren't heavy enough to be considered for the genre of metal). That particular tune has some multivocal shouts in there and the riff patterns are a little bit more uptempo than what the rest of the album contains. One of my favorite tunes (and there's so many, it's really hard to pin down "just one) is 'I Am Your Sacrifice,' where our leader sings in a lower register for the first part of the song, seemingly doing his best Danzig impression. And it was nice to see the rather doomy bass riffs rear up and kick this off in fine fashion. Lyrics border on the occult and what I presume to be nihilism, or just the death and self-destruction of the human race in general (and our favorite dark lord is invoked on many occasions, fun to sing along out loud is the cut 'The Devil's Work.') This is another one of those records that portrays dark and rather sinister lyrics in a melodic and slightly melancholic attitude, making Ancient VVisdom (LOVE the play on letters in the band name) come up more "honest" and sincere than, say, Ghost in their more recent incarnations. There are two instrumentals on the album, one opening the record and one closing it, both with acoustical passages and that killer set of rockin' riffs. There is a plethora of material to enjoy, from start to finish, and if there ever was a disc you could start at track one and enjoy all the way to it's short but finalized end, this would be it. Ten songs clocking in at a mere 36 minutes, there's no complicated riff patterns and thirteen structure and time changes (the longest song here is a mere 5:28), and the simplistic and seemingly repetitive essence of each song means they get in, do their job and get out before boring you to tears. That will never happen here, and I eagerly await seeing these songs in a live setting... Gotta search out their back catalog now! And just when people thought there was nothing left to innovate or do differently in music... I think I'll stop here...
    Contact: Magic Bullet Records.

    ARES KINGDOM "The Unburiable Dead" (Nuclear War Now!) SCORE: 94/100

    Holy shit, where has THIS band been all my life!?? What a crushing assault of death and thrash metal!! Although, to be honest, I don't know if I'd consider the sick vocal work to be true to form death metal; Alex Blume enunciates quite clearly (well, when he's not singing faster to keep up with the frenzied tempo that is) and is a bit higher ranged than your normal guttural death metal vocals. This is such a kick ass release; only 7 songs though and at times seems more like an EP. Right off the bat, starting the disc off you have an 8 minute piece entitled 'Ubique,' which I would say is half instrumental because the vocals don't come in until about 3 minutes into the song. Still, the band does a nice job of building up to the faster and more bludgeoning part of this crushing feast. So though 8 minutes, this song keeps your interest. Followup 'Nom De Guerre' is a mere 3:39, and of course there's a ton of crushing speed at work, though they do manage to bring the tempo down a bit. Folks, there's killer thrash riffs EVERYWHERE on this disc, for sure, and amazingly crafted yet still blazing fast lead solos. One of my favorite tracks is the followup 'Salient And Redoubt,' which features some of the sickest vocal work on the disc. This is a bit more slower paced, which is good because you REALLY hear how out of control and demonically twisted this guy's vocals are! My biggest complaint with this song though is the near minute and 30 seconds towards the end when you have some guitar feedback noise and some barely audible speaking voice... This track shoulda ended about a minute and a half earlier than it did, but I still have to hear it! Likewise, CD ender 'Stultifera Navis' really tests your patience by clocking in at almost 11 minutes. Still, to be honest, you'll find hellacious speedy thrash and your vocal work starts off at about 2 minutes in, but like I said the guys know how to build up to a vicious point. Still, after about 3:45, this song is really done, but there's a couple of different passages though the remainder of this song is all-instrumental. This tune would have been better served split up into two, possibly three tracks, but the fact remains that the band varies their tempo, speeds and structures up greatly from song to song and are skilled musicians. Still, there is a TON of instrumental passages which far outshine the vocals on this disc (there's even a lone instrumental song 'Writhe: Fettered To A Corpse' which manages to keep my interest for the entire 4:36 duration), which in itself isn't a bad thing, since even the instrumental passages absolutely both shred AND thrash! This long standing U.S. death/thrash act should be more popular than they are; hopefully with this disc people will realize one of the best kept secrets in the U.S. thrash metal underworld...
    Contact: Nuclear War Now! Productions.

    AUDN "Audn" (Metallic Media) SCORE: 93/100

    When I first heard of this amazing black metal band from Iceland, I must admit I was somewhat taken aback at how this project actually sounded. At first, I thought this would be a kinda epic, folk oriented or even Viking tinged black metal, but was startled to hear such viciousness and brutality! After repeated listens, though, it all started to come together. This is no mere folk inspired black metal, for all the folkish and epic sounds are performed SOLELY by your standard heavy metal guitars. That's right, no keyboards, flutes, female vocals or jew's harps, just vicious black metal roars and epic guitar work. The CD starts off with 'Klerkaveldi,' and right off the bat there's some dark acoustic guitar notes, which the band uses quite effectively throughout the disc. The heavy guitar work has a folk feel to it but it won't hit you over the head right away. The start/stop instrumentation adds another layer of heaviness to the proceedings, and it's just one of many in the Audn bag of tricks. Slow, dark and haunting is the mood and mode for roughly the first half of the disc. Followup 'Undir Blodmana' didn't kick in with me right away, in fact some of the opening instrumentation I didn't really go nuts over. The ending of this track was much better, however, redeeming itself nicely. Dark and icy riffing opens up 'Sifreri,' and it was cool to hear the title shouted in the rather simplistic "choruses." Some of their fastest instrumentation starts to make a move on this cut, and once again tempos and structures vary quite a bit to make for a refreshing experience. Just when you start to get used to some nice guitar passages they change it up on you, so you don't really have time to get bored. This is most notable on the 4th cut through the end of the disc, and it becomes apparent how necessary this is later on. We're still "grim" and dark, with atmospheric structures, and the viciousness that overlies the whole thing still cannot be ignored. "Swing the mug of mead" tempos are greatly enforced with 'Landvaettur,' and the mix of instrumentation and vocal work is quite crushing, the cold viciousness really hits ya. And with track 6, 'Thjaning Heillar Thjodar' (Yes, I know we're not using the special Icelandic characters, but this is an approximation of how they are pronounced. Deal with it), THIS is what I thought the rest of the album SHOULD have sounded like. This is such an amazingly epic track, that it is my alltime favorite, and I hear, a favorite of a LOT of other people as well. The melodic acoustic guitar work is very nice, and serves as a sort of backdrop upon which the rest of the song is crafted. Such EPIC guitar work and amazingly atmospheric structures! The sick vocal work is like another extra layer added to this, and everything works so well it'll bring tears to your eyes. Even the lead solos are crafted with such amazing melody and precision that you'll be in awe at how awesome this song is! And even with the myriad of tempo and structure changes (it gets amazingly fast near the end, which does NOTHING to take away from the overall mood, quite surprisingly), you'll swear that if the band could have crafted an entire album like this, it would easily be strong contender for album of the year. And in fact, this track alone could have closed out the album remarkably, but instead we get another strong track in CD ender 'Audn,' which is an 8 minute piece (closer to 9 really) that remarkably retains your interest from start to finish, and contains a LOT of instrumental passages that retain an epic feeling. Still utilizing many tempo and structure changes, and even some of what I call "melodic blasting," this band has a CRAZY amount of potential in them, with such great guitar work. I predict even better things for album number two, especially if they take my advice and pour their blackened heart and soul into the album and craft songs like 'Thjaning...' Amazing what a band can do without synthesizers or other "oddities" of folk metal.
    Contact: Metallic Media.

    CIVIL WAR "Gods And Generals" (Napalm) SCORE: 48/100

    I REALLY don't see what the fuss is all about. First of all, Napalm doesn't really have much of a track record when it comes to power metal; maybe they should have just let this one go. Second, three of the members of this band are all ex-Sabaton members; maybe Sabaton let the worst of their musicians go? And thirdly, this somewhat gritty power metal singer kinda sounds like he's just "phoning it in" most of the time: only on the cut 'Tears From The North' do we get hints that he might have a more emotional soaring delivery. This is an album that does have some moments, but frankly, I don't have the desire to spin ANY of these tracks anymore, ever. The best tunes on here are 'War Of The World,' 'USS Monitor' and the CD ending track 'Gods And Generals.' And might I add, those three tunes aren't interesting in doing piano ballad pieces and goofy, bouncy choruses that destroy anything I was even remotely interested in with other pieces. They seem to work best when sticking to a speedier power metal style. 'Bay Of Pigs' is downright uninspiring, especially with those "Barber Of Seville" ripoff opening riffs, on down to the rather awkward choruses where he says "peegs" rather than pigs on severla occasions. 'Braveheart' had those goofy pianos and coupled with those gravely sung vocals; it just sounds wrong. Goofy melodic madness with odd choruses and downright weird synthesized passages. Now I had hope for 'The Mad Piper,' especially with the bagpipes and landscape synths, sounding (for once) like something that might have come out of the civil war. Still, the opening and ending were all I could really care about. 'Tears From The North,' a damn piano ballad with crooned vocals. Shit, it's about my favorite people, the Vikings! Add goofy damn choruses, and geez, don't you think these Swedes could write a decent Viking epic?!? 'Admiral Over The Oceans' as well sounded like it had promise, but god damn those goofy fucking poppy choruses. And seriously, you're going to add insult to injury by telling us "if you don't understand, read your history book?!?" REALLY, Civil War? You know, while we're at it, not much of the instrumentation here even SOUNDS like it would have been at home during the Civil War. And why are we writing about Nazi's, Vikings, and World War II? Shit this album makes me frustrated, as it's a complete mess. A lot of stuff here sucks, but quite a bit of it is just lackluster. After 10 or 15 spins, I STILL don't get it...
    Contact: Napalm Records.

    DANTALION "Where Fear Is Born" (Sleaszy Rider) SCORE: 98/100

    I dunno what it is about this band that they seem to jump around from label to label with nearly every release. This is their fifth full length and brand new home for this young, upstart Greek record label (their fourth label overall), and a change of label is not all Dantalion has been through. There is not only a new vocalist and guitarist, but after their fourth album, the band announced that they were switching to a more traditional style of doom metal! This definitely raised some eyebrows, as it was their incorporation of doom elements to their icy black metal sound that made them stand out in a sea of copycats. Still, that being said, Dantalion managed to retain much of their vicious sound and brutality while reworking the standard doom/death formula to remain a standout in their field. A point off to the start of the album (the track 'Revenge In The Cold Night') which features some odd carnival like synth music. Reminds me of the cringeworthy carnival notes Bishop Of Hexen used on their last full length. That's about my only serious complaint for this dynamic and epic masterpiece (well, that and I thought some parts of 'Lost In An Old Memory' were a bit too straightforward), which starts out at a rather midtempo pace. Yes, the slower elements of doom are present in force, but oftentimes they show slight hints of their past. And the lead solos! Man, when you talk about whether I'd like to hear a blazing solo at 100mph or emotionally crafted notes that evoke feeling, the latter is what I prefer, and Dantalion has it in multitudes of spades. Now onto the vocal work, which this time around is way more death metal oriented, and not quite the torturous screeches that made their way onto the last two full lengths. Still, the blackened rasp tends to rear it's head every now and then, proving that if they wanted to, this new vocalist could very well invoke the Norway... Synthesized passages litter the tracks as well, though you probably won't notice them with the first few spins; so well are they incorporated into the framework. Still, a cut like 'Ravens Dawn' (the Ravens being a popular lyrical thematic of the Spanish doomsters) and also 'The Tree Of Shadows' choose to start their instrumental variations with nice ambient synth passages, and the short instrumental 'Nightmare' (which really doesn't sound very nightmarish at all) was a real beauty to behold, though waaay too short at a mere 1:25 (and I usually skip these mostly useless, short instrumental passages). The lead guitar riffs on this cut are quite stunning. 'Listening To The Suffering Of The Wind' is probably one of their sickest and most vile cuts, though you will hear them dare to change the mood and tempo all in the space of this one song, even throwing in melancholic acoustical passages. And did I mention clean sung vocals?!? They only grace a few cuts ('Tree Of Shadows' and 'Lost In An Old Memory') but are another diverse element. Overall, this is epic doom/death with many angles and elements that will surprise you, even down to the start/stop riffing and almost thrash passages, but if you listen carefully you can still hear some signature Dantalion elements. This is easily one of their best albums; surprising since it seems like such a completely different set of influences (obvious given the new members) is being laid over the older framework. Still, the driving force behind Dantalion are those icy riffs, which manifest themselves in higher ended guitar work and make Dantalion a near impossibility of high quality in a world where the loss of key members and change in style and sound can decimate a band and their career. Dantalion: a band that conquers and survives the tests of time.
    Contact: Sleaszy Rider Records.

    DOOM:VS "Earthless" (Solitude) SCORE: 98/100

    Don't let the few points off fool you; this is so very close to being a supreme work of art as their debut full length "Aeternam Vale." The "side project" of Johan Ericson from Draconian is now on their third full length; proving that the success of the first two records was no mere fluke; Solitude even agreeing enough to step in and become the band's brand new home. And no surprise there; I for one wondered when Solitude would step in and give this band the artist's preferrential treatment. Solitude LOVES their bands, all the way down to servicing press with actual CD's and even pressing them on gold! Anyway, what we have here is a record that incorporates FOUR different vocal styles; though for my tastes one of those styles is sorely under-represented. Solitary piano notes start off the title track, and the title track is a great way to start off the disc. Almost hardcore shouted like vocals can be found on this track, as can a few spoken vocal pieces; the latter are littered across the entire disc but never become bothersome, the former only pop up here and on the last few tracks. 'A Quietly Forming Collapse' surprised me a lot, as the instrumentation strongly reminds me of Saturnus (as will the spoken vocals, Johan is almost a dead ringer for Thomas from Saturnus when he's speaking), especially with the melodic lead work. Fantastic lead guitar work really stands out here. The death metal vocals are very low toned and almost inhuman, but really bring a sense of the otherworldly on this album. Dark and haunting guitar work opens up 'White Coffins,' proving that the mood on "Earthless" is not always melancholic and melodic. Still, the entire mood is not one of a dark and foreboding sinister tone, as Doom:Vs chooses to bounce back and forth on the moods and tones. Right after, 'The Dead Swan Of The Woods' portrays some of the darkest and most sinister guitar patterns on the record; though true to their latest ideologies, it's mixed with a lot of mournful and somber riffing. This kinda brings me to a very minor complaint, because I definitely wanted to hear more of this sinister instrumentation, though Johan chose to tease us with such offerings. And I must say that the alltime best Doom:Vs song EVER written follows with 'Oceans Of Despair.' This has such amazing My Dying Bride like heavy riffing alongside some beautiful melancholic and sorrowful high ended lead riffery. And here, the clean sung vocals FINALLY pole their head in and are done to such an emotional high, once again it's a shame we couldn't have more of the clean vocals. All 4 vocal styles grace this track, and to be fair, I thought THIS song should have ended the CD, instead of followup 'The Slow Ascent' which, while still a good tune, is nowhere near the epicness and majesty of 'Oceans...' Dark and haunting starts this off, and most of the instrumentation sounds rather fast picked and almost post-rock, atmospheric like. Sorrowful and melancholic leads abound, however, and this is the only other song on the disc featuring clean sung vocals, which do a better job of making this track more like a CD ender than anything else on this cut. Pianos end this track and the disc nicely, but many other tracks were also closed out in a similar fashion. Yes, it's a masterpiece of funereal doom/death, and quite fitting on Solitude Productions, where I always though this band belonged... Do I choose this over "Aeternam Vale?" No, they are both equally worthy even if this disc shaves off a few points. Can't wait for disc number 4!
    Contact: Solitude Productions.

    DREAD SOVEREIGN "All Hell's Martyrs" (Van) SCORE: 80/100

    Alan Nemtheaga fronts this rather new doom metal group with a blazing future and some kick ass songs, even if there's a few stumbling blocks... In many of the tracks, Nemtheaga tries a bit to sing in a different way, as if he's doing his best Ozzy impersonation, and I think that's so he sounds different from the way he's been doing in Primordial for oh so many years. And the raging fire and passion that Nemtheaga is known to deliver easily in his many performances shines through here. My biggest complaint though is that there's quite a bit of filler for this 10 track affair, and the opening intro 'Drink The Wine' is not much in the offering, only being synths and spoken word that are nearly inaudible. You've got two more of these very short "intro" like pieces, and frankly I would have liked to hear at least one more great song. Still, the bass guitar is an instrument that Nemtheaga is no stranger to, and he shows us how powerful he can make it on the first "song" on the disc, 'Thirteen Clergy.' His Ozzy impersonation makes for an eerie experience but fits well, and the heavy doom atmosphere is undeniable... A very powerful tune starts this off, and when he says "Fire!" man he means it!! As much as I was looking forward to 'Chthulhu Opiate Haze," this is one of the worst cuts on the disc. At over 10 minutes, it's waaaay too long, and the vocals were rather weak, like an almost attempt at death metal. The odd guitar work I understand was probably trying to create a drugged out horror feel, but all I could get into were the instrumental passages, of which there were a few. Chanted multivocal work (I'm assuming in Latin) started off another great tune, in 'Pray To The Devil In Man,' and the somber tone was really nice. Total heavy doom! 'Scourging Iron' follows suit, another crushing scorcher of a track and total fucking doom, before a 1:20 "instrumental" called 'The Great Beast Speaks.' Is this about Crowley? The spoken word passage should have been more audible above the noise, maybe I would have wanted to hear repeat listens... And then the best fucking doom song of 2014 kicks in, 'We Wield The Spear Of Longinus.' Man, this track SCREAMS with fire and emotion, and right here you can hear on the lead solos and instrumental passages a kind of psychedelic, throwback to the 70's styled heavy rockin' guitar. Trust me when I say, Nemtheaga isn't the only star on this disc. If you don't feel something while listening to the entire thing, man you ain't human... Soaring vocal work and you FEEL the pain and sorrow emanating from both throat and guitar. And if that wasn't enough, then 'Cathars To Their Doom' proves that masterful songwriting is indeed what will carry this band throughout their careers... Killer heavy doom riffs, a sick bottom end that will pin you to the floor, and of course the rest of the trademarks of this promising doom band... CD ender 'Live Through Martyrs/Transmission From The Devil Star' took off several points for much the same reason as 'Chtulhu Opiate Haze' did: odd vocal delivery and rather uneventful guitar work. I usually skip to around 4:51 before I settle in to better singing and amazing psychedelic and trippy instrumentation that carries all the way to the end of this very lengthy 13:20 song!! Now, some took many points off for the rather lengthy piece, but I can listen to the entire instrumental passages that carry from 4:51 through to it's end. Psychedelic and trippy instrumentation abound and are done so well; it sounds like an improv jam session but is written too well to sound spontaneous. There you have it, some amazing kick ass material, though not Nemtheaga's first foray into doom (this band has an EP besides), though it can seem to fall short for merely 5 and a half songs out of 10... Still, you HAVE to own this simply for 'We Wield The Spear...' SUCH a promising act will probably crush it by the time full length #2 is ready...
    Contact: Van Records.

    EVOKE THY LORDS "Boys! Raise Giant Mushrooms In Your Cellar!" (Solitude) SCORE: 88/100

    I was happy to see another full length from the Russian stoner/doom/death outfit. Back for album number three you find the flutes and female vocals are back, continuing on in a doomy Pan.Thy.Monium fashion. This time though eyebrows were definitely raised with track 2, 'Betrayer, Liar,' which started off with a digeridoo and tribal percussion, sounding like a cross between Australian Aborigine tribal sounds meeting up with a Middle Eastern flair! Then they added a Jew's Harp and the flutes; sadly I think they didn't bring ENOUGH of this new sound and influence on this album, as it would have made for a more diverse listen. This is said especially because a few tracks here fall short of what this band is truly capable of, for instance the faster female sung vocals on 'Sky Is Falling' didn't sit well here, especially when they clash with the low toned death growls. Even the flutes were off here, and followup 'Human Thoughts As A Weapon' sounded like they just ran out of good ideas for riffs; these heavy riffs are pretty generic for a band like this. Add too the fact that some of the guitar work is quite odd, though they still can put together a good instrumental jam. And that's one of the strengths of this release; that the almost improvisational instrumental passages are as strong as ever; in fact I dare say that on CD ender 'Time Is A Murderer,' the high ended flute notes are some of the best on the record, maybe their best ever! It's still groovy, rockin' and heavy, and they still have a few tricks up their sleeve (like the instrumental passage near the end of 'World Without Me' slowly speeding up and then dropping right back down to their groovy end flawlessly). Everything is rotated in and out without being overused; the female vocals, the death growls (which seems just as sparse and limited as on their previous release), the flutes and everything else, keeping the songs from becoming same old, same old. Opening the CD with a 7 minute instrumental ('Damn These Deserts') was a risky endeavour, but it's all about the music here and Evoke Thy Lords still delivers a sonic stoned out trip (including a space jam passage on the CD ender), though the blunders here are a bit more damaging than they were on the last full length.
    Contact: Solitude Productions.

    FINSTERFORST "Mach Dich Frei" (Napalm) SCORE: 95/100

    This album COULD end up becoming a contender for black metal album of 2015. I sometime hate to do "best album of" articles, simply because there's no way in hell I get to hear everything that comes out in a calendar year. Case in point: Finsterforst's LAST album "Rastlos," which blew me completely the fuck away, to the point where I was extremely sorrowful of the fact that I received this album long after I had made my list of best of 2012 albums. Keeping that in mind, what I wanted to hear MORE of on the "Rastlos" album, Finsterforst has indeed imbibed me with here: more epic clean sung vocals, more synth interaction, and more of those multivocal "chants." In fact, the first real "song" on the album (after preferring to skip the almost industrial sounding "intro" lasting a mere 58 seconds), features more clean sung vocals and chants than the entire hour and fifteen minute album of "Rastlos!" Once the opening heavy riffs of 'Shicksals' End' kick in, you can DEFINITELY tell it's Finsterforst. The "dark horns," as I call those trumpet like sounds, add an epic feel to this album; the orchestration and synthesized layers are so rich that I guarantee it will take you many spins to absorb all that is going on with this record. Here and there some tribal percussion pops up, and surprisingly some Middle Eastern synth and guitar influences. My biggest complaint with this album is the few minutes of 'Zeit Fur Hass,' those fast blackened vocals sound like he's rapping in German, and the instrumentation somewhat clashed with this. And man, that was a HUGE turnoff for me, but thankfully once you get past this, 'Zeit Fur Hass' turns in a kickass performance. The ending of this track, along with the epic chanting vocals closing out 'Mann Gegen Mensch' and the final minutes of 'Schicksals' End' all could have closed out the album very well! Finsterforst knows how to end a track in epic fashion!'Mann Gegen Mensch,' while I'm at it, starts off with those walkike drums sounding EXACTLY like Amon Amarth's 'Death In Fire,' which I thought was interesting. CD ender 'Finsterforst' was a very risky gamble; right now I will say that as you know, Finsterforst is no stranger to the long song running time. Here, they have crafted their longest song yet, which is 5 seconds shy of 24 minutes! But seemingly this sounds like it could be two songs and they keep your interest quite well, knowing when it's time to shift tempo and structure. Funny enough, this track emphasizes clean sung vocals more than blackened ones for at least the first half, relegating the blackened ones to background status. And the faster blasting blackened instrumentation is out in full force near the end of this massive piece, something that they seldom rely on with this album. This band has a definite signature sound in place, and other than the glaring, and rather embarassing blackened vocals on track 3, this is another great album filled with the "alpine sound" via accordians, flutes, a lot of acoustic guitar interaction, and several types of clean sung vocals. It all sounds very German, and is just as enjoyable as "Rastlos," though by now you've heard a lot of what they do here before. That being said, I highly recommend and enjoy this album. Album of the year contender indeed!
    Contact: Napalm Records.

    FOREFATHER "Curse Of The Cwelled" (Seven Kingdoms) SCORE: 88/100

    When I listen to Forefather's seventh album, I am definitely listening to a band who is, at this point, showcasing several ideas and influences from their past 6 albums. That being said, the most influential album on this entire body of works is their debut release "The Fighting Man," most evident by the faster paced blackened instrumentation and tha fact that 90% of the vocals are done in their usual vicious blackened style. Right off the bat, 'Havoc On Holy Island' starts us off in a very dark fashion, seemingly dealing with the original Viking invasion in England. It's a slower tune, somewhat haunting and a bit different from "normal" Forefather fare, so right off the bat they show a willingness to experiment a bit. I absolutely adore followup 'The Anvil,' complete with the atypical battle sounds, and hammer hitting anvil soundscapes that show a bit of sample use. It's of course a more "uplifting" tune, and those leads are fantastic, it's what you'd consider a more "rockin'" tune. I wish Forefather would explore this more "rock" oriented side of themselves, because the other tracks on here that reminds me of this is the cut 'Master Of Fate,' incidentally the ONLY song on the album featuring almost all clean sung vocal work; and the solo leads starting this particular cut off are also accentuated by some landscape like synthesized passages; while 'Rustics To Remain,' a track that masterfully includes the folkish edge to these killer "rock" leads. Sadly, though, my biggest gripe with the album is the almost overabundance of speedier blackened passages, at least instrumentation wise, because Athelstan and company have teased us so mercilessly with very interesting bits and pieces of their experimentative minds. Still, that made the title track one of their least desirable tracks; it's not terrible, but kinda just "out there," starting off in a slower fashion but I just thought this cut could have been more than it should. Likewise, 'Awakened Hate' was more midtempo paced but didn't really strike me either. 'Painted With Blood' started off with some very Scandinavia like faster paced black metal, which was interesting to me as it seemed like Forefather was trying to write instrumentally like Dark Funeral. The twists here are the clean sung vocals on the choruses (something this disc is no stranger to), and the second "half" of this song incorporating more "Forefather" like songwriting, though the clean sung choruses do throw me off a bit. And like with their debut "The Fighting Man," they end the CD with a very folk inspired piece; this time an instrumental ('The River-Maid's Farewell') that held my interest for the entire length. You will hear a TON of influence from "The Fighting Man," and a little bit of "Engla Tocyme" in their use of clean sung vocals. Song structure wise, they borrow a little from "Steadfast" in the way some of the songs have a bit of urgency to them, but overall it's a damn good addition to the Forefather catalog, but I would have liked to see the few okay tracks tidied up a bit and maybe give their experimentation a lot more room to breathe, who knows just how much more astounding this album could have become... I will still be obliged to give it repeated spins, however.

    FROSTBITTEN KINGDOM "The Winter War Symphony" (WormHoleDeath) SCORE: 92/100

    I REALLY enjoyed this 5 track recording, which is being billed as a full length with it's running time of 35 minutes, but it really seems more like an EP to me. Hailing from Finland, this is the band's FOURTH full length, and it seems to me like the band is still relatively unknown... What gets me about this CD is a band that not only has the winter landscapes down beautifully, but also has a rather warlike, barbaric side that interchanges with the wintry atmospherics quite nicely. Melodic pianos start the CD off nicely, with some beautiful synth work and with 'Warfare & Wilderness,' we are on our way. Vicious blackened vocal work makes the assault more potent, but one thing that makes this 10 minute track seem a bit longer is the straightforward and samey approach to the vocal structures... It seems like though lyrically there's a lot going on, the vocals are delivered in the same fashion for quite some time, and this is something that may be hurting the band, especially on a set of long tracks. 'The Battlefront' proceeds to bring out the dark and heavy artillery, and one other noteworthy item is the amazingly skilled lead solos peppered throughout the disc! Vocals again take a rather standard path once again, though followup 'Sentinels Of The Silent Tundra, does bring about a bit of vocal variety, even if I wasn't crazy about the few grunt-sounding death metal growls here and there. Personally, I think they should stick to the blackened vocal work, though I do appreciate their attempt at trying to keep from pigeonholing themselves as just another synth laden harsh black metal band. Followup 'Lost, Forgotten And Forlorn' was one of my favorite tracks, as the acoustic intro here is especially dark; seemingly too dark to be an acoustic piece. This is a sick blackened cut, and the few death vocals work better here in the light of such a brutal track. Some of your fastest instrumentation is presented and it's definitely more warlike. CD ender 'Lucid Nightmares Of Barbaric Brutality' will blow you the fuck away with the amazing skill and technicality of the lead guitar work! They've definitelty mastered the ability to change tempos with precision, and some of these lead solos are the best on the disc. Despite the few flaws, every song here is quite enjoyable, and I dare say this band with 4 albums to their credit have some seasoned professionals in their ranks... Cold malevolent darkness from Finland, do yourself a favor and pick this up, as beautiful icy winters and harsh, barbaric warlike landscapes never mixed so well together.
    Contact: WormHoleDeath Records.

    FUNGOID STREAM "Prehuman Shapes" (Furias) SCORE: 94/100

    One of the most unique and original bands in all of funeral doom metal (hell, just in doom metal in general!) are back after a 4 year wait since their killer "Oceanus" release. The two man duo from Argentina does NOT release an album every other year. This style and sound takes some time to craft, and once again the twosome crafts some beautifully strange and eerie horror filled anthems to our beloved lord and master, H.P. Lovecraft. The bell notes and familiar, almost post rock landscape guitar work starts off the disc ('Great Messenger, Bringer Of Strange Joy') in fine fashion, and sounds kinda, well, "churchey." Like an alien mass to celebrate the strange, inhuman gods of the Lovecraft universe. There are a lot, nay, a TON of synth chants and choirs, mostly used to quite a beautiful effect. This track ends with some "howling creature" sounds and swirling, howling vortex winds, which ends this 10 minute epic piece. 'Holocaust Of Ecstasy And Freedom' follows, and is surprisingly short at a mere 4:31! Melodic piano notes and ambient melodic synths; this is not what you expected I'm sure! It has a rather melancholic and "lonely" ambience, and the pianos are a real highlight. The inhuman, alien slow growls give off a kind of sadness, which was unusual. Then, Fungoid Stream has come up with what I consider their most nightmarish and horror filled track EVER, in 'The Bridges Of Yuggoth.' This cut starts off immediately with nightmarish haunting synths, a scratchy record sound and a narrator telling tales of the old gods, and they are ALL in there, everyone from Shub-Niggurath, Chthulhu, and Azathoth to Nyarlathotep and of course He Who Is Not To Be Named. What's even more frightening is when a strange, warbly and utterly inhuman voice comes in for a few repetitions, and I would have LOVED to hear more of this particular voice throughout the disc. But it only appears here. After a few minutes, the "dialogue" is over, and the heavy one note guitars and slow plodding drums kick in, bringing with it more clean male spoken vocals for a few. Most of these tracks are quite varied for their lengths, so you're not likely to get bored, but I daresay you'll be sucked into the strange alien landscapes. My biggest complaint was with the cut 'Dead, He Waits Dreaming,' the only instrumental on the album. Though it has a lot of background monstrous growling, and dark inhuman synths, it's not a raging favorite of mine, though I definitely appreciate the atmosphere, especially when the synth vocal "chants" bring about a disturbing vibe. Also, some of the odd bell notes on 'In Idiot Vortices' lost me for a minute or so, but it is supposed to represent a strange alien world. I did notice a slight bit of repetition, which is natural since the guitar work is mostly one-note progressions, and the "vortex swirling" sounds occured on a few tracks. Still, what is most surprising about Fungoid Stream is what they bring to the table that you DON'T expect, which makes CD ender 'All In One And One In All' so surprising: a melancholic beauty that makes you wonder just WHAT they are going for. I guess these ancient, strange alien cities also hold wonder and amazement for the first time human visitor, and a rather melancholic beauty permeates. Those opening piano notes say it all, and this is a fantastic CD ending track. Even when the alien, ancient inhuman slow growling comes in, it all seems to fit, in a way that no other band could comprehend. Synthesized passages take center stage towards the middle of this track, and the melodic synth chant like vocals add a remarkable air to the proceedings. I daresay that very few fully understand the strange and beautiful yet haunting and terrifying world of H.P. Lovecraft's creatures, but Fungoid Stream would most assuredly be Cthulhu's house band if he was in a more relaxing and non-destructive mood. Praise be to the elder gods, and Ia! Fungoid Stream!
    Contact: Furias Records.

    IN AEVUM AGERE "The Shadow Tower" (Pure Steel) SCORE: 38/100

    Now, it's no secret I'm a huge fan of doom metal. And so many times I tried to get into what this Italian act is doing. The fact is, the vocalist totally ruins most of this for me. Still can't really put my finger on exactly WHY, but most of the songs here are just lackluster to really bad, and I think it has to do more with the band not writing to the strengths of it's vocalist. After we skip the "gits 'n' winds" intro, we're off... There are some cool and heavy riffs to be found on the record, including some that aren't always so doomy, but more on that later. The title track isn't grabbing me. I think our singer makes these tunes unremarkable. 'Leave Me Alone' follows up with heavy guitar work. One thing I can point to as a positive for this band is the sheer weight of the riffs. Still, the spoken vocals don't work for me either. 'Iniquitous Judgement,' damn those thrashy riffs are a bit too fast for doom! The vocals aren't exactly inspiring confidence. And finally, after 4 blunders I am finally hearing the true potential of this singer. It's more of an acoustical and dare I say, more "mellow" tune (entitled 'The Last Farewell'), but his voice is shaped and emotionally carries in the right way. One of the only tunes on this disc that is tailored to the vocalist's strengths. Soaring choruses prove that for at least 5 minutes, this band has an idea of how to construct a good tune. Sadly, once the melodic approach is tried again on 'Silent,' the vocalist drops back down into lackluster mode. So was '...Judgement' a fluke? The thrash influence rears it's head on 'Act Of Faith,' and I'm going "hmmmmm." Our singer is stifled by the choruses, especially since they're overshadowed by multivocal performances. 'Domino,' in a word, is absolutely horrible. Wretched guitars and a very odd spoken set of vocals, and even the Latin sung vocals are waaay off. Promising doom riffs open up track 9, but overall everything BUT the guitar work fails. I've said too much already. But when the CD's end comes, 'Son Of Unknown,' for some reason it all makes sense. Vicious fast riffing gives way to the thought "This band could have been an angry and rippin' thrash band!" A few doom passages here and there but the vocals FINALLY seem to find a niche! The lower toned singing works extremely well here, giving a slightly menacing tone, and part of me thinks this band could and probably should abandon the traditional doom approach. Even the rough edged menacing vocals (is it even the same guy?) seem to be in the right place. The odd singing here and there mars this though, as if our poor singer hasn't realized yet where his true strengths lie. Abandon all hope ye who pick up this disc; for pleasure is not to be yours this day.
    Contact: Pure Steel Records.

    IRON VOID "Iron Void" (Barbarian Wrath) SCORE: 93/100

    Excellent old school doom metal from these U.K. doom merchants. I AM curious as to why they're not on a bigger label, because the album is THAT good. The first thing that threw me, though, is the use of two different vocal styles; one is a more clean sung tone while the other can be a bit gravelly at times. Starting off the album is 'Tyrant's Crown,' which is a bit more uptempo with crushing heavy guitar work, and they do have some wah-wah effected guitar work on the album. This is one of my favorite cuts, especially for the anger tinged chorus work. 'I Am War' follows and I swear I've heard riffs like this before. Catchy singalong choruses with a war theme. 'Nosferatu' was the first track that kinda disappointed me, though, as it didn't grab me like the other cuts on the record did. It takes on a rather straightforward approach, and seems lacking in the "grab me" department. And of course, though CD ender 'Xylanthia' was a rather short, but hauntingly dark instrumental, I thought the song that preceeded it, track 9's 'The Burden Of Regret,' would have ended the song better, as it is a slow, melancholic and sorrowful doom piece accentuated by the clean yet mournful vocal style quite well. Still, for this 6 minute piece, there were a lot of strange, faster instrumental passages that seemed a bit out of place on this cut, especially considering the lyrical subject matter (about a lost love) and the general overall slower tone of the song. Still, lots of great cuts abound, and the fact that they can take a song like the 5 minute piece 'Black Mirror' and change structure constantly to keep things interesting is a plus in my book. Heavy and dark (like on my favorite 'Outlaw') or slow, melancholic and sorrowful; Iron Void isn't exactly re-defining the doom genre, but that heavy riffage keeps crankin' out from song to song. Surely this is good enough to garner major label interest!? No?
    Contact: Barbarian Wrath Records.

    LUCIFER "I" (Rise Above) SCORE: 91/100

    The band The Oath had a LOT of promise, but came and went just as quickly, for reasons that are still unknown to this day. Nevertheless, Johanna wasted no time in putting together this powerhouse of a band which is a mixture of many different things to complete a rather unique package. Many people are bemoaning the abundance of bands featuring a female vocalist that portray doom metal and what is now being termed "occult rock." What makes Lucifer stand out is their frontwoman Johanna, who has an amazing ability to convey emotion and change her sound nearly at will to match whatever is going on in the songs. And let's not forget the smart move to bring ex-Cathedral guitarist Gaz Jennings, who is no fly-by-night doom metal guitarist; fuck no, this guy performed on Cathedral's epic debut release "Forest Of Equilibrium" and stayed with the band all the way up until 2013, so I dare say he's a pioneer in the doom genre. And his strings melt liquid gold on this album, whether it's bringing up a NWOBHM meets 70's hard rock vibe or just totally crushing dark and malevolent doom metal. And let me be clear, there is a LOT more heavy doom metal on this record than one might think. Our CD opener 'Abracadabra,' sadly being one of the weakest cuts of the 8 track affair, is still noteworthy. Haunting choruses notwithstanding, there is a slight tendency for Johanna to dip into a lower register which, unfortunately, is the biggest flaw with this album I can see. Granted, these passages are few and far between (also popping up on 'Sabbath,' one of the darkest doom metal tracks on the record). Still, Johanna can charm the soul right out of you, choosing to emulate the sirens of folklore with her dazzling repertoire of pitch and tone on followup 'Purple Pyramid.' This cut has an almost psychedelic edge to it, one you will hear often. My favorite tune on the disc (well, one of my faves) is the song they chose to make a video for in 'Izrael,' and that tune has been doing well. Haunting yet beautiful multitrack chants make this one even more (pardon the pun) "enchanting." Church bell notes start off 'Sabbath,' in what has to be one of the darkest and heaviest doom metal cuts on the disc, and no one is gonna deny that. The ending of this cut is great, throwing a little diversity in there amidst all the late-night haunting going on. A "funeral ballad" of sorts caught my ear with 'White Mountain,' and once again the emotional vocal work catches you before the doom gives way suddenly to some faster instrumentation. The 70's rock influence definitely rears its head, and 'Morning Star' continues down the same path. Sick dark and doomy riffs prove that Gaz knows what the hell he's doing here. Sadly, the transition from dark and doomy riffs to a folky 60's Janis Joplin vibe was totally out of left field (on the cut 'Total Eclipse'), almost like a complete 180 after the very minimal instrumentation and "lonely ghost wailing" of Johanna which makes the segue very uncomfortable. Still, it's a great track, though maybe trimming what is unarguably the longest song on the record would have done it some good. And CD ender 'A Grave For Each One Of Us' has plenty of acoustic interaction with Johanna turning in a very mournful and beautiful performance; a great way to end the album. I'm commenting more on the missteps, but really for her first seemingly solo effort, these are all great tunes, and laid out quite well for a bit of diversity. Choosing to pick up roots and influences from the 60's and 70's (how else do you explain the sudden influx of tambourines on 'Total Eclipse'), Johanna has crafted an album that will see your hand far away from the "next track" button for quite awhile, as you become enchanted with everything else. Can't wait to see Lucifer here in the States!
    Contact: Rise Above Records.

    MELECHESH "Enki" (Nuclear Blast) SCORE: 81/100

    A lot of people have said that this is NOT Melechesh's best disc, and I have to agree with them. As an interesting side note, this is another band that does not use the standard 440 tuning (see the Dark Forest interview - Issue #55), and I don't know if it's that or just the way this album was done, but it FEELS very powerful. The vicious blackened vocal work is so dominant and in your face and the riffs are in full force as well. I've noticed some reviews that have problem with the first three tracks of the album, and with such lengthy running times (two cuts are over 6 minutes), the problem seems to me that the multitude of time and structure changes seem a little confusing, especially since on CD opener 'Tempest Temper Enlil Enraged,' the focus is on skullcrushing speed and vicious blasting. It might have been a bit too much, especially when they start jumping around. 'The Pendulum Speaks,' however, reels it all in with some catchy guitar work containing tons of stellar riffs. 'Lost Tribes' follows with simplistic yet powerful multivocal chorus work, and a guest set of shouted vox from none other than Max Cavalera himself, which adds more force and power to an already brutal set of shredded vocals. One of my alltime favorite cuts on this disc is 'Multiple Truths,' and this track grabs you from the opening guitar chords. It's got some killer thrashy skull hammering riffs, and a rather rockin' vibe throughout. Once 'Enki-Divine Nature Awoken' kicks in, however, I see some of Melechesh's best ideas committed to disc, complete with eerie Mid- Eastern folkish flair building up to some crushingly powerful guitars. What REALLY grabbed me was the multivocal chanted passages towards the end of this near 9 minute masterpiece, and I really wish Melechesh would devote more space to this kind of vocal work! Sadly, the album starts to show signs of serious trouble, starting with 'Metatron And Man,' which has some of the worst guitar parts on the album, and sadly they are not just limited to "here and there" status. It's those high ended leads that just sound odd. I do love hearing them blaze away on this cut though, and if they had stuck to that this track would have bene better. 'The Palm, The Eye And Lapis Lazuli' follows and rights the ship somewhat, being not only the shortest cut on the disc but one that rocks in it's own right. It also contains some melodic leads as well, which is nice to hear. 'Doorways To Irkala' was to me a very unnecessary 8 minute instrumental; this should have either been left off completely or shortened a hell of a lot. It's your standard Middle Eastern folkish piece; no vocals, and it is way too long. As is the CD ender 'The Outsiders,' though the first 6 minutes of this cut are sick as fuck, with those blackened vocals kinda sounding like there was a backwards running record recorded over the top of the vocals. It's a slower piece too, and quite hypnotic, but right about the halfway mark the band didn't seem to know how to end the song, with a myriad of quirky time changes, blasting speedy parts and the last half of the song just didn't seem to know what to do with itself. That being said, even some of the lackluster songs I can sometimes sit through just to hear the sheer force and power this band still possesses. Still, you can't expect a perfect album from Melechesh EVERY single time, but there's plenty to enjoy.
    Contact: Nuclear Blast Records.

    NIGHTINGALE "Retribution" (InsideOut) SCORE: 80/100

    The last album I heard from Nightingale was the absolutely amazing "The Closing Chronicles," one of the first few releases I think I ever got from Black Mark Records. This was almost TWENTY YEARS ago, and it still stands as not only the best album (that I've heard) Nightingale has ever made, but it is a very original piece of work, one that defies description EVEN TO THIS DAY... (Read the wonderful interview we did with Dan this issue). That album had a quite dark yet melodic quality that was not only unusual for the atypical type of material that Dan put out (IE: Pan.Thy.Monium, Edge Of Sanity, etc), but also for the unique ability of masterfully mixing dark and lighter material within the same breadth and depth of songs. This album continues on in that fashion, though this might be the antithesis to THAT particular album. Of most important note is how acoustic guitars and melodic pianos start off at least half of the cuts on this disc. The first three tracks, in sequence, are the crown jewel of this record. I personally think Dan Swano is extremely UNDER appreciated as an amazingly talented vocalist; he soars when he needs to soar, bringing a second dimension to songs that might be either light or dark oriented. Opener 'On Stolen Wings' might have been on "Closing Chronicles," and it's point number one that even on not so great tracks (more on that in a moment), Dan can craft catchy and emotionally invloving choruses. Followup 'Lucifer's Lament' is only the third song I've ever heard dealing with the fall of the dark lord in a caring, emotional manner (once again, interview please). This one has heavy and soaring vocal work on the choruses, though catchy and well crafted throughout despite it's almost "ballad" like melodic atmosphere. 'Chasing The Storm Away' had interesting synth interaction; I do believe it sounds like the psychedelic Hammond was utilized... Heavier instrumentation on the choruses gives a bit more ominous feeling at times while still retaining a somewhat bouncy and light feeling to the proceedings (without being "goofy" or "syrupy.") And it's obvious that so far Dan has masterfully crafted varying tempos and emotions to a great deal of success. However, "Closing Chronicles" this is NOT, and the odd passages surface much more frequently here than they did almost 20 years ago. The darker vibe is indeed created with 'Warriors Of The Dawn,' but Dan's attempt at a more sinister singing tone is met with VERY raised eyebrows. Definitely NOT a favorite, but still one has to appreciate the great lead solo work. A very etherial and light feeling follows in 'Forevermore,' though the light hearted pianos and acoustics are almost threatened by odd synths inlaid over heavy guitar work. Still, soaring vocal work and emotionally charged choruses keep this from being a dud. Tracks 6 and 7 ('Divided I Fall' and 'The Voyage Of Endurance') continue Dan's prowess in crafting varying emotions; most noteworthy is on 'Voyage,' where you hear this dark, almost melancholic air of sorrow amidst some sad vocals and lyrics. What really surprised me was the doom metal passage near the ending of the track, where you actually FEEL something in the span of the 5 minutes this cut takes to tell it's tale. Truly Dan is a man with many tricks. Sadly, my least favorite tune would be 'The Maze,' and here the mixture of heavy and lighter passages is too much; it doesn't balance well AT ALL. The vocal work once again steps outside the boundaries of what I would be able to enjoy, yet it seems like the creators didn't set this off well. And CD ender 'Echoes Of A Dream' is a fantastic CD ender, complete with some of Dan's most gut-wrenching and emotional sung passages on the entire disc. This is such a powerful tune, almost poetic in it's approach, and one that you'll have to pause and reflect on before you move onto something else. Make no mistake, Dan Fucking Swano can create music of varying styles and tempos, and though this disc comes up a tad short in the distant shadow of a masterpiece that STILL stands the test of time almost 20 years later, you can't help but marvel and appreciate how Mr. Swano and company can craft everything from metal to progressive rock, gothic and beyond. Nice to have you back.
    Contact: InsideOut Music.

    RAISE HELL "Written In Blood" (Black Lodge) SCORE: 92/100

    "Not Dead Yet" was the first CD I ever heard from this Swedish band, which was probably the right introduction to this ripping blend of blackened thrash metal. I absolutely adored that record despite it's silly lyrics and an almost weird penchant for glam rock lyrical orientation. I had no idea that for their first three albums, the guitarist also served as vocalist, something I appreciate now that Jonas decided to hire a vocalist to concentrate on guitar. And what a replacement? With a somewhat sinister mixture of gritty death and harsh black metal vocals, with an amazing penchant for long winded blood curdling screams of death, Jimmy Fjallendahl is a very worthy replacement! In spots where the band tends to falter a bit, Jimmy will always keep your interest. Well, except for the few times when he's trying to do a bit more clean sung vocal work, most notably on 'Fallen Domination.' Right off the bat, this CD thrusts vicious and thrashy as hell guitar work in your face, from the opening notes of 'Dr. Death' (which is a great album opener), all the way up to the album's 6 minute closer 'Final Hour.' You'd be hard pressed to find a thrash album with this much urgency and face ripping ingredients, but Raise Hell manages to keep your interest and eyebrows raised for at least 8 of these 10 songs. It's hard to pick favorites here, but I REALLY dig 'Bell Of The Reaper' for it's heavy, thrashy and haunting atmosphere. And of course, 'We Arise' has some punishing Slayer like thrash riffs, complete with sick singalong choruses and a bit of haunting sickness. Still, for all the potent atmosphere, melodies break in every now and then; sadly though it's not the band's strongest suit. 'A Blackened Resurrection' is the only track I find myself having to skip through, as the whole package really doesn't do much for me, and the more melodic leads sound a bit off. 'Thank You God' had a haunting atmosphere as well, utilizing a seldom heard dark and eerie acoustic passage but the sick riffs seemed a little disconnected from the rest of the tune. Where their melodic side DOES shine is on the cut 'Demon Mind,' when they mix thrashier riffs with an almost Gothenberg set of melodic riffs, but not ultra high note patterns. These choruses were memorable but simple, and I daresay this is a disc that will give the thrashers much to enjoy. Jimmy is one hell of a vocalist, and I wonder if this album was recorded all in one take with those sick fucking vocal shreddings complete with long, and I mean LONG winded screams! I can't wait to hear how he tackles the older material, 'cause I'm sure live he breathes a new existence to Raise Hell's back catalog. Great effort!
    Contact: Black Lodge Records.

    RIGOR MORTIS "Slaves To The Grave" (Rigor Mortis) SCORE: 45/100

    THIS is the part of my job that I hate so much.
    I've been a HUGE fan of Rigor Mortis since the early 80's when I first got into extreme metal like Venom, Iron Angel, Cirith Ungol, Death and Slayer. When I first heard Rigor Mortis, that self titled album makes the blood boil and rages with such a hellish, fiery inferno. Slayer is aggression and violence, Rigor Mortis is pure, unbridled evil and fucking balls to the wall demonic rage!!! And no one felt the pain of the loss of guitarist Mike Scaccia more than I, for it is his ungodly playing that was one of the cornerstones of the Rigor Mortis sound. So I was extremely delighted that a new album was out, and I know I'm gonna catch flack for this, seemingly unfeeling after his death. The fact remains, this is NOT The Rigor Mortis of old. Obviously. Bruce Corbitt still sounds, well, like Bruce, but the sick delivery to his vocals is not quite there as it was in the past. Frankly, of this 10 song affair, only the cut 'Flesh For Flies' gives me that raging surge of inferno energy like all the songs from the debut release did. So don't tell me that Rigor Mortis doesn't still know how to craft tunes with fire and hellbent fury. This album is a mess from start to finish. Some say the production sapped the life out of these songs, and I can kinda see where that might be the case (similar to how Krisiun absolutely destroys live, but on record they seem so lifeless). Opener 'Poltergeist' starts this off in a head-scratching fashion. Yes, the guitar riffs are furious and fast, but SIX MINUTES? Yes, the last almost half of this track has nice melodic instrumental passages, but the rest of the tune just doesn't grab me. Followup 'Rain Of Ruin' has Corbitt doing a weird gruff singing on the choruses, and it's just wrong. Some of the opening guitar riffs on tracks, though fast, are just really weird, and I'm thinking... Well, I wonder what THEY were thinking! 'Melodic thrash' like on 'Fragrance Of Corpse?' This has a kinda fun, punkish vibe, especially on the multivocal choruses, but it just does NOT seem like Rigor Mortis at all... Goofy guitar riffs open up 'The Infected,' and I have to listen to over a minute of this? This whole cut borders on power metal! Yes, I know they can't craft the same debut album all over again, but surely they could have innovated in a better way (like those sick, insect buzzing like guitars on 'Flesh For Flies.') A 4:22 instrumental in 'Sacramentum Gladiatorum' was a bit excessive, though it does showcase Mike and his more melodic skill at crafting leads. And 'Ancient Horror,' for some reason I'm seemingly able to appreciate a bit more after 10 or so listens. I think it's due to the start/stop, start/stop riffing that the vocals match up to for the majority of the cut. It's probably their second best cut. But the absolute mind fucking tragedy is the CD ender 'Ludus Magnus,' and I hate this track for much the same reason I hated the majority of Mayhem's "Grand Declaration Of War" album: the endless goofy spoken word passages and the forced "military" percussion. This track should have been it's own audiobook, well, if you can get past the cheesiness of it all. NINE MINUTES of this CD ender is just sad, they could have ended the CD in a better fashion... I really don't know what else to say, some of the tracks have potential, but Bruce isn't raving like a demon possessed madman anymore (read the interview we did many moons ago as to how his vocals might have been changed after a weird tragedy). Still, much of the songwriting is extremely suspect, and I could see some experimental changes if Rigor Mortis were to continue to be an active band, but that isn't the case. They should have went out writing many other songs as sick and rabid as 'Flesh For Flies,' at least if they're going out one last time they could have done it with a roar instead of a sad historical footnote.
    Contact: Rigor Mortis.

    SHAPE OF DESPAIR "The Monotony Fields" (Season Of Mist) SCORE: 100/100

    If I had to guess what record label would come up with doom metal band/album of 2015, most would probably have thought Solitude Productions, or even Firebox Records! Still, most surprising of all is that it's actually Season Of Mist that will probably run away with the award this year, especially given the fact that for ALL of Shape Of Despair's full lengths prior to this one, they were signed to Spinefarm Records. This is such a masterful record that invokes many shades of their previous efforts, and even though their debut "Shades Of..." was one of my favorite albums of theirs of all time, this album has easily surpassed it and blown it out the water. No mean feat since I STILL listen to that album all the time. The beautiful female vocals courtesy of Natalie have gotten stronger and more dominant since her debut all the way back in 2000, and on many songs she has become a highlight. Still, I do miss the flutes (from "Shades Of...") and the violin pieces (from "Angels Of Distress"), but the synthesized passages are done up wonderfully. Right off the bat, we're treated to THREE 10 minute songs, none of which will bore you in the least. Still, the band takes their time in setting up the mood: oftentimes vocals won't come in until around 2 or 3 minutes in, with some piano or synthesized passages to do a rather slow buildup. Still, everything moves at a graceful pace. CD opener 'Reaching The Innermost' brings about slow, ambient synths and gives you a ton of solo instrumentation. This track seems less focused on the death growled vocals, which this time around are being handled by Henri Koivula, which surprised me GREATLY because Henri is none other than the sole mastermind behind another favorite band of mine in Throes Of Dawn. He handles the growls adequately, but where he REALLY shines is the first time he tackles *gasp* clean sung vocals! These first make their appearance on 'Descending Inner Night,' and are a wonder to behold. It makes me think that Shape Of Despair held off on trying to incorporate clean sung male vocals in their repertoire until they could find a decent clean singer. And don't think Henri's influence is only limited to his vocal work, because on track 2, the title track, the instrumentational passages definitely have that Throes Of Dawn vibe working for them. Melodic, dreamy and heavy are the underlying themes, but don't think for a minute that Shape Of Despair forgot how to be HEAVY, even with the eerie, dark and mellow synths opening up 'Descending Inner Night.' Sadly, there was not nearly enough of the clean sung male vocals for my taste, and hopefully the band feels more comfortable venturing out further in this area. When we get to 'In Longing,' the 6th track on the album, I am absolutely floored. Dark and eerie guitar notes do NOT betray what is to come next, and that is quite simply one of the most powerfully emotional songs Shape Of Despair has EVER written. Natalie's vocals are beautiful, haunting and extremely emotionally sad at the same time, and the instrumentation (guitars and synths) will absolutely FLOOR you. This is easily the best Shape Of Despair song EVER, and Natalie is most definitely the highlight of this track. Song six could have very EASILY ended this album, but there's two more tracks for your listening pleasure. 'The Blank Journey' has very little in the way of variety but still manages to hold your attention, and you'll hear a lot of solo guitar interaction. And it seems like EVERYONE in the band lends their clean and growled vocals to round this out. CD ender 'Written In My Scars' does end the CD nicely; this band could have ended this album with just about any one of their last 4 songs. Apparently this was a re-recording of their EP title track from 2010; here it does a good job of portraying that heavy and sad, emotional beauty this band is known for. I love how the instrumentation has a sort of "winter" feeling to it; especially with the piano notes opening and ending the track. Folks, I doubt we'll see a doom metal disc come out this year that will top Shape Of Despair's masterful epic, and believe me when I say EPIC is probably not doing this disc justice. It's sad that it took the band 11 years to craft another album but believe me when I say that this must have took years to craft, as it's an absolutely perfect gem, and I daresay I don't know HOW in the hell the band will EVER write two amazing albums as good as this one and "Shades Of..."
    Contact: Season Of Mist Records.

    SULPHUR AEON "Gateway To The Antisphere" (Van) SCORE: 98/100

    I am not a huge fan of death metal, I will admit, but when it's done right, it can be a delight to the senses. Although "delight" is not the word that many would utter upon hearing this album, which hails the elder gods of the Lovecraftian universe, which piqued my interest just from that alone. Let me be the first to say, the musicianship is absolutely INCREDIBLE. I rarely ever talk about percussion on albums, but let's just say I think "D.", our skin pounder, would quite possible give "the human drum machine" Gene Hoglan a serious run for his money. Even on the slower passages, that monstrous double bass pedal action seemingly never stops! And when your intro and outro are crafted with detail and atmosphere, well, let's just say we have a supreme winner on our hands, and so far no one looks to be able to touch it for death metal album of 2015! 'Devotion To The Cosmic Chaos' starts things off with a bit of an almost Middle Eastern flair, and those inhuman, monstrous roars of death could be mighty Chtulhu himself howling out his madness. This entire album has a very massive and almost viciously oppressive sound to it; I daresay Sulphur Aeon could very well be the "house band" for the great old ones. There's a bit of a thrash like element in the riffs as well, and some downright evil riffery at work. What really grabbed me were the melodic, almost sorrowful and beautiful leads that pop in here and there. Sadly, there isn't much in the way of lead solos, but when they appear, they add such a massive weight that you're just like "Damn, an even deeper layer than what appears on the surface" for this band. The title track is easily the best cut on the album, where one of those amazing lead solos occur, but what was odd was the sudden "rock" sounding guitar work of the followup. My main "concern" with this album is the almost overabundance of vicious speed; it permeates the majority of tunes on this album, and 7 out of the 11 tracks clock in at over 5 minutes each. If it wasn't for the expert skill this band utilizes in crafting the atmosphere of these tracks, the overabundance of speed would indeed make the almost hour in length rather difficult to reach it's conclusion. Still, they're at their best when you can feel the weight and evil horror of the songs; my favorites are cuts like 'Seventy Steps,' where the almost march-like percussion and riffery sound literally like step-by-step wanderings down colossal steps into the supreme blackness of ultimate evil and horror below. And of course 'Onwards... Towards Kadath' does a great job of bringing about such an insanely weighty feeling of supreme cosmic horror beyond anyone's wildest nightmares. 'Into The Courts Of Azagthoth' was most surprising of all; besides housing one of the rare times when an amazingly melodic lead solo was crafted on this disc, the melodic lead guitar work reminiscent of a bit more downtuned Iron Maiden or Priest brings up a very icy cold atmosphere. I cannot really say enough great things about this disc; suffice it to say that I was so impressed and nearly crushed by the sheer massive force and weight of this disc that I'll be damned if I didn't do more to support this band! So go enjoy the interview and be sure that I'll be dying to check out their first full length, which many say is even more amazing than this masterpiece.
    Contact: Van Records.

    THE MORNINGSIDE "Letters From The Empty Towns" (BadMoodMan) SCORE: 79/100

    This is such a strange record. Needless to say, I have been a fan of this Russian band ever since their debut release, and absolutely loved "Moving Crosscurrent Of Time," an album that stayed with me for some time... Sadly, this band has been tagged as a clone of old Agalloch and Katatonia, which is highly unfair to say the least. With full length number 3 (does the 3 song "EP" in "Treelogia" really count as an album?), it seems like The Morningside is trying very hard to forge an identity outside of it's sphere of influences, and the result is VERY unsettling. Mastery of melodic riffs and incorporating some relentless and HEAVY thrashing is what this band has in spades, yet they seem to be trying to bring in some outside influence with the more post rock, alternative styled guitar work which REALLY grates the nerves on the CD opener 'Immersion.' If the whole album had been like this one track, it would have been all over but the crying; this being the absolute WORST track on the album and one that is a somewhat embarassing stain on their otherwise commendable career. Still, with the awful guitar work (which clashes horribly with the vicious raspy blackened vocal work this band does so well), there are moments of sheer class here, especially amongst their trademark melodic leads. Still, there's too much uncomfortableness to keep me from coming back. And still, those leads permeate just about every track right up until the 7th track. But they are limited to a single instance or two. That being said, the next 3 tracks are very enjoyable, right down to the rockin' instrumentation of the interestingly titled 'Sidewalk Shuffle.' Fast and heavy instrumentation also comes out on 'On The Quayside,' however this is another cut that REALLY bothers me, mainly due to the somewhat alternative clean sung vocals that they use in abundance here. It's a big clash with the heavier instrumentation and there are even some jangly weird acoustic riffs; frankly this tune is very puzzling. And the longest cut here is the 8 minute piece 'Ghost Lights,' which has an insane amount of amazing guitar work; astonishingly, it's the song that is the most consistent from start to finish! It ends with an interesting English spoken set of dialogue that sets the tone and mood of the album. This track could, and should have, ended the album, but instead we get an acoustic "ballad" with nothing more than the alternative clean sung vocals again. It's not a terrible piece, but I really didn't want the album to end on a moody "chick ballad." Still, the heavier guitar work comes in and is quite wondrous to behold, making the latter half of this song very enjoyable. Still, there's so many annoying moments, but the trademarks this band has built on remain very solid; just be aware that if the "weirdness" had permeated this album further, I would be ready to call this the catastrophic failure in this band's catalog completely. Not my favorite disc for sure, but still worthy of a place on the shelf.
    Contact: BadMoodMan Music.

    URUK-HAI "The Fellowship" (Metallic Media) SCORE: 90/100

    This isn't my first encounter with the Austrian ambient masters, as I have a split CD of theirs with Vinterriket of all bands. Creating synthesized landscapes dedicated to Tolkien's works, this CD is very engaging, but it is also quite long, a near overkill of material! This CD contains 14 songs clocking in at 78 minutes, and it can be a little daunting getting from start to finish all in one sitting. Further compounding matters is that the last 4 tracks of the disc comprise the longest running times of nearly all the tracks; that being two 6 minute tracks, one 8 minute track and one 7 minute cut. That being said, however, this is a GREAT early morning disc, as the synth passages are quite melodic and there are a lot of what I call "crystalline" sounding notations. The percussion is very heavy and militaristic sounding; at times it seems to be at odds with some of the quieter passages, but it adds a diverse element. 'The Red Dawn' starts it off and ambient landscapes sound like, well, an early morning sunrise. 'Mordor Coldness' was an interesting track; mainly because I don't really associate cold with the land of Mordor, but once again those light, beautiful and serene landscapes are hard to fathom in the land of Mordor. The great thing about Uruk-Hai is on many of these pieces, especially ones that creep past the 4 minute mark, is they usually have quite a bit of variety to keep things interesting. Sometimes they don't though. It's important to try and retain the listener's interest from start to finish, and I can definitely say that most of these songs have their own unique and individual identity. Only on the 6 minute 'The White Tower' can I say that I heard a sequence on another track. Synthesized voices and synth chants make this a worthwhile listen. That being said, three tracks I have to say I don't much care for, and the reasoning behind two of them ('The Wars Of Beleriand' and 'The Great Battle,' oddly enough they follow each other) is that the blackened vocal work tends to disrupt the melodic and atmospheric feeling this disc has going for it. You hear less of it on the latter track however. And 'The Stone Of Erech' is just plain goofy. With a weird carnival like set of synths and very odd piano notes, this 3 minute piece is rather grating on the nerves, and I'm not sure what kind of vibe was intended. Still, there's lots of tracks to get behind, and I'm sure that those who appreciate good, deep and rich ambient music will find much to love here. I could name drop great tracks but I will choose to let you hear them instead, so head on down to the soundfiles page and let your mind wander to Middle Earth with these well constructed pieces. Great to see a U.S. home for this band.
    Contact: Metallic Media.

    VENOM "From The Very Depths" (Spinefarm U.K.) SCORE: 95/100

    One thing about Venom is, they pretty much know the formula and stick with it. That's not to say that Venom has no variety, but after 13 records, Venom has crafted a record that, while rather simplistic and catchy, throws in a few surprises and is a bit more varied than "Resurrection," which was one of my favorite modern era Venom records and still gets heavy rotation. What's surprising to me is that out of 14 songs, 12 manage to hold my interest beyond one or two spins... Giving the 'Interlude' and 'Ouverture' a near miss (though the latter utilizes dark acoustics so well, you might wanna hear it a few times my friend), it definitely has more good material than "Resurrection," though some of the best songs here (just SOME) aren't quite as furious and vicious as the best cuts on "Resurrection." They bring back some of the punk vibes and also some NWOBHM, not to mention a healthy dose of almost funeral doom, proving that these "old dogs" can perform new tricks. 'Evil Law' surprised me greatly, as the aforementioned funeral doom arrangement sees Cronos growling his lowest range yet... Punishing dark and evil creepiness soon gives way to some faster thrashing guitar work, as they decide not to get stuck on any one mode for this tune. Easily one of Venom's most punishing. 'Stigmata Satanas' was a punishing thrasher as well, with a slight Ministry vibe for some reason, and of course any tune mentioning the dark lord has to be sick! 'Smoke' is this album's 'Firelight' (from the "Resurrection" album), though without the electronica; being a slower tune with Cronos coming dangerously close to actual singing, though in his own way... And it works just fine, adding a touch of thrash to become a "ballad" like piece. 'Long Haired Punks,' 'Grinding Teeth' and of course, 'Mephistopheles' are just fun, hard driving, and kick ass tunes, with 'Long Haired Punks' bringing a bit of punk fury into the thrashy cesspool. I did take some issue with the goofy lyrics on 'The Death Of Rock 'N' Roll' (Kid Creole? Really), but it still holds down a headbanger's air... The CD ends off on a brilliant note, in 'Rise,' complete with metalhead lyrical dominance, crowd noise, and a general metalhead's anthem... The whole CD is great, to my ears, though a bit experimental and certainly no complicated affair, but at the end of the day, sometimes you just wanna put on a CD you don't have to skip around for a few songs. Venom brings you that snarling viciousness and raging fury for 12 songs, what more could you ask for? Venom still knows what the FUCK they are doing...
    Contact: Spinefarm Records.

    VENOMOUS MAXIMUS "Firewalker" (Shadow Kingdom) SCORE: 81/100

    "Beg Upon The Light" was a great first album from the Texas metalheads. Picked up by Napalm Records for the release of their 1st album, things seemed to be going great, the band having done a few tours even down through our neck of the woods... And then, followup album "Firewalker" ends up getting released through Shadow Kingdom Records. After seeing them on tour, and hearing how Napalm just basically ignored them, I approached this record with some trepidation. The first thing you notice, right out of the gate, is our vocalist Gregg singing in a different register. Higher much of the time, and it almost sounds like a different singer. At times I prefer his more controlled, lower toned vocal style, but this is a MUCH different album from "Beg Upon The Light." Let's skip the rather noise laden "intro" and go right into 'White Rose.' Some really rockin' guitar riffs await you on many tracks, but the whole afair sounds kinda laid back and a bit too straightforward. The opening guitar patterns remind me of the slightly choppy riffing to open up Running Wild's "Gates To Purgatory," and there is no shortage of NWOBHM song structures and tons of riffs that, while cool sounding, definitely keep things in check. His high range does grate the nerves in a few spots, and gives 'Through The Black' a few points off. And even though they're listed as a heavy metal band with doom influences, you don't hear all that much of the doom. With 'Dark Waves' and 'Fire In The Night' though, the doom influence rears it's head on these two more than any other. There are quite a few songs that hit the 5 minute mark, and to me it seems like some of these songs could have been shortened a bit, since many of them have very little structure or tempo changes. Even some of the lyrics tend to get drawn out, especially on the album's closer 'Take On The Grave.' Choruses too aren't as bombastic and memorable as on the previous album; it's almost like they took a laid back approach to the album. Still, that being said, there's no real "awful" track, well, except for the 'Firewalker Theme,' where there's this awful "aaaah, aaaah, aaaaah" for vocals and nothing else, though the instrumental passages are fine. 'My Machine' is easily my favorite track on the disc, though, as the stop/start riffing and emotionally soaring vocals add a little punch to the proceedings. And gritty edged vocal work on 'October 14th' make this cut a tune to catch as well. I still prefer the debut over this, but due to the decent amount of catchy riff work, this album is definitely one you have to spin repeated times to "get it." Heavy but still projecting a laid back vibe. What will album 3 sound like?
    Contact: Shadow Kingdom Records.

    Interview with via Nathan email.

    One thing that upsets me about this band is their repeated non inclusion into the Encyclopedia Metallum's archives. It's not merely "occult rock," or "neo folk," or whatever else you care to label this as. There's definitely some doom metal influence but that's not readily apparent from the first few listens. I think the ultra smooth, melodic vocal work hinders this band from gaining the metal recognition I believe they deserve; many have agreed that this album is more metal oriented than many of their past releases. But then again, I digress: I've disagreed with many of the elitist decisions that the site has made in the past. One thing that struck me about the band is the somewhat spiritualistic approach in the lyrics, something that I resonated with INSTANTLY... Another insightful interview with a very "with it" guy.

  • One of the things that bothers me most is, I believe this is your second or third full length release, and being a bit more metal oriented than the rest with your new album, the Encyclopedia Metallium STILL won't put you in their "archives." I definitely hear some doom metal, and of course the lyrics are definitely more metal than what you would hear in other genres of music!

    "Sacrificial" is our third full length for Ancient VVisdom. My first release was a split with Charles Manson also LP format but not a full length. If Encyclopedia Metallica don't want to categorize me or archive us, that's absolutely fine with me. I have no connection to them what so ever any way. I appreciate the concern though. I keep things in my own small circle. I only tend to the things that concern or interest me. That's why I'm doing this interview. Sure we have a doom or doom metal undertones. Lyrically I never stray from my path of destruction.

  • I definitely dig how two v's spell out a W... :) But seriously, when you speak of Ancient Wisdom (the concept, not just the band name), I hear a bit of philosophical insight and research into ancient civilizations and cultures. Besides what the bible tells us about humanity's origins, the Sumerians were one of the first recorded peoples on the planet, yet the "good book" mentions NOTHING about them at all. What ancient civilizations do you draw from for inspiration and knowledge?

    Our name separates us from everything and everyone else. You can pronounce it VV with an accent if you'd like. We don't. That "good book" ain't so good. Responsible for war and genocide. Devastation of ancient cultures and civilizations. Full of lies. Rewritten and passed down. I'm inspired by life and existence now, although I find it important to reflect upon our ancient past. Sumerian, Mesopotamian, Aztec, Mayan, Roman, I mean the list goes on. There are countless civilizations now barely mentioned in our day and age. For me it's even more powerful this way. Let the people forget. I will remember and gain the power within the secrets they held sacred.

  • I'm convinced that some of our ancestor's ancient teachings have become somewhat lost due to man becoming increasingly more dependent on technology and losing the magickal essence of what man used to be...

    Good. Like I said before, let the rest of the world forget the secrets of the past and the teachings of the occult. They don't deserve them anyway. It's irrelevant to me what the rest of the world does. I can't relate to most things these days.

  • So the new album "Sacrificial" starts out, and the first non-instrumental song we hear is 'Chaos Will Reign,' which to me has some heavy METAL riffing in it. But anyway, chaos, entropy, and disorder seems to be a recurring theme (besides 'Sacrifice,' which we'll get to in a minute), so I'm curious how the lyrical content here ties in with your personal beliefs. Do you really feel that humanity is hopeless, or a lost cause? Is there anything redeemable within the human race?

    I write from a place of death as the great observer of the world. An entity manifested in time that will reveal itself to all of us. Humanity never had a chance. We have been witnessing the end of days since the beginning of existence. That's why we are all so fascinated by it. It is real. We can never escape it. Acceptance or denial? Either choice the answer is still the same.

    Reality is a lucid form we tend to mold to our own warped reason or perspective. Humankind, generally speaking, has a skewed sense of what's happening in the world. Our own ignorance taking on many differing forms. Pushing each other further from the truth of the matter, that we are all heading toward extinction.

  • And of course we get to Sacrifice, which seems to be not only a central theme of the album, but a very important one as well. In the spiritual field I find myself studying more and more, sacrifice is an important "law of living" in a way; we sacrifice every day for our highest "good," if you will. So I'm curious what your ideology behind sacrifice is; in one sense it kinda sounds like Jesus' shedding of his blood for humanity's "sins," but of course here in this context it sounds different from what most people might be thinking.

    We all sacrifice to do the things we love. I sacrifice myself for this music, for these words, because I believe in them. I believe that they have power and that one day we will need this power to push ourselves beyond. To know that this mind is capable of anything. The sacrifice is in reference to what ever we put into our passions and our goals, our sacrifice must be true. My struggle comes from an honest place. I've never been a privileged kid. But I fought, and worked hard and did whatever I had to do to put myself in the path of the righteous. To walk to paths of the ancient ones. To see beyond the day to day routine of everyday life. These words inspire me to learn more, to question more, to experience more, but to do that one must ultimately...sacrifice.

  • But some people have a very negative view of sacrifice, which in basics really just means to give up something of a lower nature to receive something of a higher nature. Like when people think of sacrificing animals, it's not just blood thirsty barbarians who like to spill the blood of innocent creatures, it's because animals were very valuable to ancient cultures not just as a food source. It kinda ties in with gratitude, being grateful for what you have and showing appreciation, especially to the gods they worshipped...

    Well, sacrifice comes in many different forms. In a sense we all must sacrifice something of ourselves when we go to work. We all have bosses who we need to make sacrifices for to keep our jobs. These things also pertain to the other side of life, working within the arts. We make a sacrifice by putting our hearts on paper and showing the entire world to criticize us for risking everything we have to be an artist. It's all one big rat race. I refuse to take part. But it doesn't always have to be taken in a negative connotation. Sacrifice most of the time is done out of love.

    We do Roast goats, speaking of blood sacrifices. It's usually a night of music, spirits, great food and an actual goat sacrifice. We eat everything. Nothing to waste ;)

  • So what exactly is the "Devil's Work?" And of course I'm speaking on your personal beliefs, not necessarily what the lyrics convey. I hear the bringing about of chaos and decay, which seems to point towards the hastening of man's demise.

    The devil's work is done every day. I put these words to music to convey this message of evil to the world about how I feel about the dark side of life. It isn't always pleasant but it is the path I have chosen. Where some might find the ways of the "devil" evil, I find them to be fun and enjoyable.

  • Many bands I listen to speak of Satan as a redeemer of sorts, showing man the way to his own strength and rejecting the cruel and murderous demands of a jealous and sadistic god that merely demands our lives in servitude and really doesn't offer any incentive to "love and worship." How do you see Satan, as I know there are two trains of thought on Satanism: One is total devotion and worship to the fallen angel, whereas the other sees Satan somewhat like Jesus: mainly an acolyte, or a mere figurehead if you will, pointing the way to a certain path and not necessarily demanding or even wanting worship. I mean, after all what most people REALLY know about Satan is rather limited to what's said about him in the bible, and who knows how accurate THAT is... :)

    I am an acolyte for myself and the ones I love and respect. The philosophy I gravitate toward is satansim not because of the double bass, riffs and odes to lucifer, which I do enjoy as well, but the ideology of acceptance to everyone around you. It's amazing to have differences but when those differences starts causing conflict then there is a problem. That's one of the reasons why I am how I am, I accept people for who they are and what they do. If it's something I feel strongly against then I disconnect, it's as simple as that. I try and keep an open mind and see other people's views on things. They don't necessarily need to know about all of mine, because that would just put a blockage between me and them and then I don't get out what I want from it. And really that's all that matters to me. I want to enjoy my experience and get what I want out of them. If you want to call that satansim, I just call it living.

  • 'Blind Leading The Blind' is definitely one of my favorite songs; those amazing vocal harmonies and great riffs remind me a bit of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal from the late 70's and early 80's. A band like Gaskin comes to mind where they have such amazing vocal melodies, great harmonies and catchy choruses + fantastic song structure. Many of your songs are like this in fact but that's one of my favorites... (Probably along with 'City Of Stone.')

    Thank you. Yes, I too enjoy that style of music and that's why I wished to incorporate that into our sound at times. It's quite melodic and energetic. It translates well with our content and with avv's sound.

  • While on that subject, 'Blind Leading The Blind' and 'Worm Ridden Skull' seem to deal with (the latter rather humorously) "stupid people," or just those who foolishly allow themselves to be mislead. Just the imagery behind 'Worm Ridden Skull' brings a smile; like these people are so brain dead that worms ate their brains!

    Yeah it's about people without a thought with some sense of entitlement because they have a voice that shouldn't actually be heard but it is because of the goddamn internet. It's all bullshit really, the shit people say, the lies people post, the pictures to prove nothing. It's all a waste of time. It's unfortunate that's how it is but I'm glad it's so shitty, that means change should be right around the corner. Let them dumb everyone down and lead each other off cliffs. I'll be standing on the side lines laughin my ass off.

  • I'm curious about where 'City Of Stone' takes place... Sounds like a guy wandering through a ruined civilization, I would guess someplace like Rome, Italy or maybe ancient Greece... One of these days I would love to visit the Pyramids of Egypt, or those ancient fjords, forests and mountains of Norway.

    Yes exactly. I was in Scotland with integrity playing drums, and I took a train from Glasgow then a ferry through plush green islands peaking out of the water to Dunoon. We then took a bus to the end of the island to the toward castle eh oh dates back to the 15th century. We walked around the property until we came upon the ruins of the actual castle. It was breath taking. We shot some video and explored around. It was straight out of the travel channel or a history channel special on Scotland. We had to hitch hike back to the ferry because the last bus already ran. We got a ride and as we pull up to the dock the ferry is pulling in. We take the boat to the train station where we rush onto the train, run from the train to Ivory Blacks where we were playing as they are setting up my drums on stage. Haha. We had a legit adventure and everything went awesome at the show. It inspired me, that day, walking around such a special place that I felt I should write a song that payed tribute to the ways of old.

  • Now I recently was rather sad, after I found out you wouldn't be finishing your U.S. tour with Solstafir from Iceland. I was anxiously awaiting you to play Atlanta, what happened exactly?

    It's quite a personal thing to discuss which I don't care to go into details with. I can say Solstafir are great guys and I wish then nothin' but the best.

  • How is your deal structured with Magic Bullet Records? I had never heard of them until I got the promo of your latest album, and it seems like the label doesn't have any more copies last time I checked. Are you still signed with them? How did you come to their attention?

    I've known Brent Eyestone from Magic Bullet for a long time, he runs a great label and is very selective with his release which makes me appreciate working with him even more. He put out our vinyl for "Godlike Inferno" and also "Sacrificial." He has also close ties with a lot of close friends. Our deal is simple, no contracts just our word. Which to some people even if you have a record contract, don't mean shit. But to us, my friends, our circle, our word is everything.

  • So when I think of ancient knowledge, I spend a LOT of time reflecting on the Library Of Alexandria in Egypt, which stored a lot of the old world's known information. It's a damn shame that it was destroyed twice by the christians, further proof that religion cannot stand in the face of science and fact. In fact (pardon the pun), I am convinced that if Jesus was really as portrayed in the bible, he must have at some point studied the knowledge contained there, which may explain how some of his "miracles" could have been performed. (For instance, Tibetan monks knew how to slow their heartrate down to almost nothing, which would explain how one could feign the appearance of death).

    There have been countless civilizations that worshiped similar idols or gods. Thousands of miles away from each other that have no connection to each other, other than the undeniable link, that is the higher power. Humankind has this inherent need to know or convince ones self that this higher power exists. Does the god make the human or does the human make the god? The answer is all humans created all the gods. There in the mind of every man, woman, and child is the same god that that someone created who is poisoning the next generation. There is nothing sacred with religion only bloodshed. With this found "god" they make their cause a "capable of anything" entitled, human being given a false sense of strength yet they still crave the knowledge that is hidden from them. The more they look to god for answers the more their god becomes a reality to them. Thus making that god a real existing thing in the real world. If we did not mention the names of these gods, the gods would die and we would then find a reason to create new gods to supplement that missing ego, where "we are right" and "we know the truth." Knowing damn well we don't know.

  • I've been asking a lot of bands this question, and I feel it's somewhat appropriate as it seems this album focuses a lot on the downfall of man: Do you think there is some kind of existence for man after his death? I know there are many different theories, from the Hindu belief that man reincarnates to another "life form" on earth, to of course heaven or hell depending on your "deeds," maybe even existence on another plane of existence without a corporeal body.

    Death is the great equalizer. It is the end of everything. There is nothing left beyond death. No spirit form or after life or alternate dimension where we go to party for eternity. It is the end. Death is eternity just not the eternity that they teach you in Sunday school. There is nothing in this world that can save us from death. Once it happens we cease to exist. Our mind sits off, the body losses mobility and we begin to rot.

  • Any chance you might be working on another album? Any themes, song titles, lyrical content or philosophical ideologies you might be able to tell us about?

    I am working on a new album which will be on Magic Bullet records. I have everything sorted with writing as I usually do and I'm going to begin recording when I feel the time is right. Another inferno from the depths of the abyss to your stereo. I will keep you updated then I might be more willing to leak information regarding the albums content. I can assure you it won't be pleasant...

  • I'm curious about what books you might have read, authors or "teachers" you might have gained insight from? Personally, I have found some remarkable individuals that I have gained some insight and wisdom from: people like Bob Proctor and Mary Morrisey, Napolean Hill, Raymond Holowell, and other like minded individuals.

    There are plenty: Anton Lavey, Joseph Campbell, Manly P. Hall, to name a few. Anyway there aren't too many I am open to so I keep to my favorites and leave it at that. I think the mind can get too cluttered with other people's writings and opinions that we forget to make our own writings and form our own opinions.

  • If there's anything else you want to mention or talk about at length, feel free to use this space here! Thanks again, and I really hope you will come down to Atlanta and perform live someday.

    Thanks for the interview. We will see where the left hand path takes me. The rest is up to you.

    Interview with guitarist Adalsteinn Magnusson via email.

    It's not every day we get to interview a band from Iceland. I must admit I don't really know a whole lot about Iceland, save for the few things I've read here and there about their financial collapse, the active volcanoes that would scare the hell out of most people, and of course the fact that there's a few great and legendary 80's metal bands in our classic albums archives that hail from there. But I'll let Adalsteinn explain things a bit more in depth. And of course there's the obligatory Viking musings as well...

  • I listen to your album and of course there are many melodic parts intermixed around the heavier chaos of vicious black metal. Of course, sometimes I hesitate to use the term "melodic" when describing extreme metal; some people might get the wrong idea!

    Yes it's true we have melodic elements in our music although we've never really linked ourselves to the term melodic black metal. We as songwriters and musicians all come from different backgrounds music wise and that mixture of styles, I believe that is translated through our music in various forms.

  • Your debut album was definitely NOT what I thought it would be: atmospheric and melodic (there's that word again, lol) hymns and tributes to your native landscape. But mostly what I got was well played and vicious black metal in the Scandinavian style! Was there any thought to what would influence you to write mostly harsh and heavy music?

    Right from the start we set out to create epic yet harsh meaningful music, something with heart and thought put into it. While our influences of course come from our roots of listening to heavy music, they also come from the nature that surrounds us. Iceland is a cold and dark place most of the time and it is transmitted into our music.

  • When speaking about black metal, one can hear in bands like Dissection, Emperor and groups like that the love and reverence for their home country and landscape; the fjords, mountains, and ancient forests that are usually depicted on their album covers. How would you describe what Iceland's landscape is like? I'm sure there are many mountains and much ice and snow!

    Like I mentioned before Iceland is a cold and dark place... During most of the year we have little sunlight; during the darkest months we have as litle as 4 hours of sun and the little sun there is doesn't really count because of the clouds that cover the sky. Our landscapes are lava fields and barren wastes, great glaciers and waterfalls. Forested land is scarce and it is these images that shape the way we live and our music. Last winter we literally had to cancel a lot of rehearsals because the mountain pass from Reykjavik the capital to the town where we rehearse was closed on numerous occasions.

  • It's absolutely amazing to me how black metal has evolved in the 15-20 years it's been going on now. Of course, black metal is also still quite misunderstood as well. How do you see black metal's evolution? Many people who consider themselves to be diehard black metal fans swear that the bands should stay true to their roots rather than experiment and try out new concepts and ideas, even though the second wave of black metal's founders very quickly realized that black metal would stagnate and die like every other genre of music unless they continued to push the boundaries.

    Black metal has to evolve like everything else; no one wants to hear the same album over and over again although they claim to. There will always be those who fear change but those people will fade away with the music they cling to. Music is a flowing form and as a musician working with a group of other musicians we strive to make things interesting instead of getting stuck in a rut writing the same songs over and over again. That being said maybe labels are the issue if it's trve or not, if our music isn't trve then call it something else. We as musicians have never cared for labels and like to keep things open. I think that is the general concensus amongst black metal musicians although it might not be the same according to the fans.

    Take every old black metal band for an example, Darkthrone are not making "Transilvanian Hunger" over and over again, Satyricon are not making "Dark Medieval Times" again anytime soon and so on. With new genarations come new influences and opinions on what is trve; we'll see after another 20 years what remains.

  • I must say it's an amazing world we live in when a new, up and coming band from Iceland can release an album through an American record label. It's as if the internet has made everyone, everywhere in the world suddenly reachable and connected through our computers, even though physically we're hundreds, even thousands, of miles away.

    It is indeed a great time to be a metal musician at least in terms of connectivity. Record sales are of course on the downside because of pirating and streaming services but metal fans support the bands they like by buying their merchandise. We were really surprised by the attention our music was getting from people all around the world; if you compare it to the tape trading of the 80's we get a chance to discover so many good bands that otherwise would completely go under the radar and never be heard.

  • I have been reading recently about a shrine to the Norse Gods that has popped up in Iceland recently. Which, considering myself somewhat of an Asatru Warrior, is fabulous! Of course, I wish one would be built here in America, but the christian majority will try and keep that from happening. How do you see the building of this temple; does it bring back paganism to the land and are you into Viking/Nordic concepts?

    Although most people in Iceland are christian I believe most of us are proud of our heritage as Vikings. Although we the members of Audn care little for religion of any kind the Norse and other heathen religions are mainly focused on the forces around us and characterizing them and if there is any religion worth preserving I believe it should be those who do not impose their views and rule over others. The temple will definitely help preserve that heritage and I for one am proud of that although it does not affect me directly.

  • So how did you come into contact with Metallic Media here in the U.S.? Is this just a distribution deal for you or are you actively signed to the label?

    It started when "Lillian Evil," a Youtube user, contacted us wanting to upload one of our songs on her channel; we allowed her and then got in contact with a few minor labels offering various deals of which we decided to go with Black Plague Records/Metallic Media that contacted us with a production deal which stated that they made the album for us free of charge and gave us our percentage in copies of the album, which we agreed upon. We are still in contact with them regarding production of a re-release but remain unsigned in that sense it is only a production relationship.

  • Now that your debut release is out, I noticed that a ton of people really seem to find the track 'Thaning Heillar Thjodar' as one of their favorites. (Excuse me for using the phonetic spelling, as I don't have the special Icelandic characters installed on my system). I think people were really blown away by that song, as it is a bit different from most of the rest of the album. Are there any plans to explore that side of the band further?

    That song was the first song we released along with 'Sifreri' in demo versions which are still up on youtube I believe and has been ours and many of our fans' favourite song since then. 'Thaning Heillar Thjodar' is an example of different backrounds colliding in our music; the band is always evolving and that side and many others will be explored for sure.

  • And while on that subject, if it hasn't been mentioned already, do you have any plans for another album? Anything you can tell us, like song titles, themes, lyrical concepts, etc?

    We have already started writing lyrics and composing songs for our next release which will cover more ground than the last one. The new album will be longer and more diverse that is all I can tell you at this point.

  • So of course I am a huge fan of the band Tyr from the Faroe Islands, and I read where that particular island was one of the last Viking settlements untouched by christianity. I know a lot of times the Viking lore and stories sometimes get mixed in or retold with a christian slant, but I was always wondering how well Iceland kept the sagas and the legends and lore of the Norse gods? Did a lot of people in Iceland reject christianity and how is the old christ cult doing in Iceland today?

    The old stories are still taught in schools and the Icelandic sagas and old language is maintained very well. Our language is the most like the old Norse the Vikings spoke, we can read the old texts as well. Iceland has been a "christian" country for about 1000 years now although christianity in Iceland got mixed with traditions from Asatru... To name an example it was forbidden to eat horse meat, that never stopped and we still do that today.

  • I am a huge fan of 80's metal, always discovering new bands from that era I never knew existed... Two Icelandic 80's metal bands I know of are Bootlegs and Flames Of Hell, the latter being probably one of the earliest examples of a mixture of black and thrash metal. Any other obscure 80's metal bands from your area that you know of? Did you know any of the guys in those two bands?

    Bootlegs are actually making a comeback...they have a show in a few weeks. Another old band that is legendary in Iceland are HAM which are still going strong; although not Black Metal they are extreme and pound out some eerie melodies which are definetely worth checking out. And Potentiam featuring Eldur from Fortid and Thule from the early 90's and last but not least Icecross which are from the 70's.

  • I read once that your banking system was completely overhauled in the wake of it's collapse in 2008. What was amazing to me was the thorough investigation that landed many of the businessmen and bankers in prison and ordered them to pay fines and damages! When I see how corrupt our financial system is here in the U.S. you have to applaud the citizens of your country for taking a stand and dealing with the problem head on!

    Sadly the image of the economic recovery isn't completely true only a handful of bankers went to jail and not the "big" ones. People's mortgages are still a mess in most cases and the financial system is a mess: it's all a scam from the government to make Iceland look good abroad. But everything is not all that bad, the economy is making a turn for the better because of tourism and foreign currency coming into the country. The people of Iceland are still pretty fucked when it comes to the financial system. It won't change anywhere in the world I believe until we change the systems that govern money.

    When you think about it you have to be a pretty rotten person to take interest in the economic system to begin with. So when you have a system that works around making people slaves to money we all have a problem.

  • I remember the volcano eruption in 2011 which forced many planes to divert travel away from the region! It seems pretty scary that Iceland has a bit of volcanic activity; I know it would be hard to evacuate everyone completely in such an event in a short period of time! Do the volcanoes worry you?

    We grew up with the threat of volcanic activity, our home town where we rehearse is a geothermal area with lots of hot springs and cracks caused by earthquakes which are pretty frequent. People seem to forget there is any danger from the volcanoes though, every few years there is an eruption. Most of the time it doesn't affect daily lives but when it is an eruption like the one in 2011's Eyjafjallajokull it's going to get messy. There is still ash that comes with the wind from the highlands after that eruption. There was ash everywhere: imagine grey snow and complete darkness surrounding the mountain. To sum it up you can't live this close to volcanoes without fearing them but you can't live in fear either so when between eruptions people don't think about it that much.

  • Finally, what is the music scene in Iceland like? Do many bands from overseas play often in your country?

    The music scene is great for such a small country. We have a lot of bands per capita but many bands feature the same members playing different instruments in various projects. We have some great Death Metal bands as well as Black metal; Severed, Ophidian I, Shrine, Dynfari, Mysthyrming, to name a few. The music scene is constantly evolving; a few years back everyone was playing Death Metal and Tech-Death Metal and now Black Metal seems to be more dominant. As for foreign bands, most bands that play here either come for a single show or are making a stop either going to europe from the USA or the other way around. Also with the emergence of music festivals such as Eistnaflug we are seeing a lot more foreign bands coming to play.

    Interview with the band via email.

    A band influenced by the likes of the mighty and cult status revered Pan.Thy.Monium? Yes, please... All fucking day long... This Russian band made me a big fan with their "Drunken Tales" album, due to the stoner rock and doom metal influences, complete with the FLUTES, man!! Their newest release continues down the path forged by the left hand of doom, but evolving ever so slightly to bring about an album that has a few new twists to the tried and true sound... This is an interview we have been after for a long time, and of course they're signed to Solitude Productions, so I probably don't need to say much more about this band.

  • I have your first CD "Escape To The Dreamlands," and it was cool to hear the Lovecraft influences and lyrics on that record. I'm guessing you decided to not go that route lyrically by the time "Drunken Tales" came around?

    Yes, "Drunken Tales" has another concept and themes, both in music and lyrics. We left the Lovecraftian themes just after the "Escape...". The lyrics in "Drunken Tales" are some kind of monologues or talks inside the mind of a man. Something like a mid-life crisis in a meditative way, if you know what I mean.

  • The two records "Escape..." and "Drunken Tales" are quite different stylistically; one could say that "Escape..." has almost a gothic doom/death feel to it, whereas "Drunken Tales" is more of a psychedelic and slightly melodic atmosphere?

    Sure, the music is very different in these two albums. We name this our own way of progress... or regress). It depends on your point of view.

  • So I'm curious if you guys have ever listened to the band Pan.Thy.Monium? Because I absolutely LOVED the "Khaoos And Konfusion" record, and the first album I ever heard from you guys ("Drunken Tales") reminded me SO much of that record, especially with the flute sounds. Of course, it's less chaotic and more, shall I say, "controlled" that Pan.Thy.Monium? Were these guys an influence? Maybe the band name Evoke Thy Lords "evokes" influences from that realm?

    Of course, we listened to Pan.Thy.Monium, but as for influences from their realm? I don't think so. Anyway, I need to listen their records again. Thanks, you reminded me about the band.

  • Your first album came out on Stygian Crypt, and now you're on Solitude Productions. How did that whole deal come about? I know Stygian Crypt is a rather small label and your first album is difficult to find nowadays...

    It's not a big problem, we still have some copies of our previous works and "Escape..." as well. So if some good guys want to have this, they can send us email ( or order CD's via our bandcamp page.
    Well, about labels... Stygian and Solitude work well, we can't say something negative about either of them. And we haven't released "Drunken Tales" via Stygian, just because our music has changed. Solitude specializes in these genres so we have released the record via Solitude. By the way, besides Stygian Crypt and Solitude we have also released our second work - the "Twofaced" EP via a Mexican label called American Line.

  • As of this writing, I see you have a new album out, with a rather odd title "Boys! Raise Giant Mushrooms In Your Cellar!" Tell us how different (or how similar) this is to your previous albums?

    Maybe it's right to call it a missing link between our other albums. The music has a groove and death metal elements as well. There are some tracks with female voices again and with flute, of course. You can listen to it on our bandcamp page. The album name is an allusion to Ray Bradbury's novel. We think the atmosphere in the story is very similar to that in our album.

  • Going back to the album "Drunken Tales," there's less of a female vocalist presence than there was on your first album. I did hear some female vocals, but they are scaled back quite a lot and not as operatic. Did people respond well to the operatic styled vocals on the first record?

    Yes, the words of people who like that music were quite positive about a female voice on "Escape...". But, as you said, we had some changes in female vocal parts. This type of a female voice is closer to our music and ourselves. It's more live, realistic and emotional, I think.

  • Tell us a bit about the lyrical themes on "Drunken Tales." I love the picture of an astronaut in what I guess is a space bar? I know Sleep had a similar thing going on with having an astronaut on the moon with a bong hooked into his jetpack; Seems like you normally wouldn't find an astronaut "on the job" either drinking or smoking weed; considering how dangerous his job in space can be!

    Your words are so poetic, thanks. It seems, people make suggestions in the light of a visual component, and art is more than lyrics or interviews. As I say, the lyrics on "Drunken Tales" are more about thoughts of a man rather than open space and cosmonauts. The artwork shows an astronaut in a usual bar... I don't know... a wrong man in the wrong place maybe.

  • Solitude Productions has a TON of great doom bands on their label; they seem to sign so many amazingly talented and quality bands from all around the world! I particularly love The Howling Void, Ea, of course you guys, Mournful Gust, Shattered Hope and quite a few more! Who are some of your favorite artists from that label?

    You must listen to Station Dysthymia if you like funeral doom. These guys are our neighbors and they are great. What about other Solitude-released bands, I don't watch them closely. But I remember Heavy Lord from the Netherlands, it's an awesome band.

  • Are any of you guys a huge fan of stoner rock? I know some people say the genre is a bit oversaturated, but there are some great bands in this genre; such as Kyuss, Dozer, Gate 9, Natas, Acid King and more.

    We like a lot of bands in stoner rock and stoner doom metal also. I saw Acid King on Hellfest in 2014 and they were awesome. Same words I can say about other great bands on that stage, for example Clutch and Electric Wizard... Fantastic music and fantastic gigs!

  • Does Russia have any kind of stoner rock scene at all? I know that black metal and doom metal are probably two of the genres that Russia has an abundance of, but I've never heard of any stoner rock bands coming from here...

    Sure, our country has stoner bands too. A short time ago we played with the band Weeduza in Tomsk, Siberian city, and these guys were very good. Their music is strongly influenced by Sleep. And in our city we know To Have Balls band, they play very tasty stoner/southern riffs.

  • While on the subject, any of you fans of black metal at all? I know most people think of Scandinavia when they think of black metal, especially with the winter landscapes, but I know Russia has probably harsher winter climates and probably just as many vast forests and glacial mountains...

    And you think we must love black metal because we're from Russia, don't you? So, you're catching the very core - EVERY Russian loves black metal, it's truth. But some of us are uncomfortable to confess to it, as an elephant in the room - you know, for example, all these grandmothers with grandchildren, common people, authorities, society - so, we all just look the other way and put the best face on matters.

  • So just curious if you know much about the history of Rock Music in Russia. I have a very interesting book I have read about the history; it's interesting to see that the government was actually interested in sponsoring Russian rock music. To hear about bands like Time Machine and the like; it must have been a very interesting and challenging time in Russia for young musicians...

    Talking about that, it's necessary to keep in mind that a huge number of bands playing Russian Rock music don't play rock. I guess, it's some kind of substitution, and Russian Rock doesn't mean a Russian version of world rock music. This music has much more in common with guitar poetry than hard rock or something. As for me, in the USSR these bands had more of a social nature than a musical one. And now this genre doesn't relate to any heavy or underground scene and it's a part of show business, maybe with very few exceptions. But I have never heard about government sponsoring of any rock musicians in our country.

  • We've heard quite a bit awhile back about Vladimir Putin censoring "swear words" and music that reflects these have been on the chopping block as well. What are your thoughts on this; surely this is something that the Russian people could not be happy with? I also learned that Cannibal Corpse albums are not permitted in Russia these days...

    I think it's kinds of political games. Most people in Russia have heard nothing about Cannibal Corpse and those bands.

  • Finally, I always enjoyed the flute in doom metal, but felt it wasn't heard enough. Granted, bands like the aforementioned Pan.Thy.Monium, and also Shape Of Despair and Cathedral's first album, utilized this to great effect, but I rarely ever hear it anymore... Will the use of flutes continue on with Evoke Thy Lords?

    The flute is the part of our sound, so don't worry, the flute will continue to play in our music.

    Interview with Henri Kanervo via email.

    Take a look at the album cover, and you're probably thinking melodic black metal with maybe some synthesized passages, maybe folkish influences? The skill these musicians possess is actually not the only surprising thing about this band. And they're not newcomers to music either, having already put out a few full lengths. From the land of the ice and snow, we present to you the band Frostbitten Kingdom...

  • I was actually surprised to see how many recordings you had that you released yourself! Why do you think it took 4 recordings before "Infidel Angel" was picked up by a record label?

    Well, we actually didn't even try to get a deal with the two first recordings. They weren't on a professional level in any sense and we just pressed a couple hundred copies of them by ourselves. We were pretty young at that time and we didn't have any solid plans to get a deal right then. "Obscure Visions Of Chaotic Annihilations" was actually the first recording we did send to labels. We got good feedback from it from the media, but labels were not interested. By the time we were recording "Infidel Angel," No Sign Of Life contacted us even before the recordings were finished. We did not hesitate to sign a deal with them.

  • Now I noticed that "The Winter War Symphony" was actually released as a demo before it became a full album; with the same number of tracks and running times! What are the differences between the album and the demo?

    Our previous label No Sign Of Life was sold and shut down a bit before "The Winter War Symphony" was released. That's why we published the demo ourselves to send the album to labels and media. We got signed by Wormholedeath few months after that.

  • I must admit I was expecting something quite different when I first heard your album: I was expecting more melancholic and melodic icy winter landscapes, but you definitely have quite a bit of almost warlike brutality in the songs! Usually with a winter theme it's mostly melodic and atmospheric with only the vocals giving the harsh edge.

    That's interesting to hear. We think the album is melancholic and melodic, and we definetely agree that it includes warlike brutality. But maybe you are right - the name Frostbitten Kingdom might sound more black metal than our current music, for example. We are huge fans of Dissection and Immortal, so we naturally think that icy winter landscapes in metal are fucking awesome. Anyway, we have never seen ourselves as a black metal band, so the name might give one a bit too evil or freezing picture of our current music.

  • The Encyclopedia Metallum lists you as a mixture of black and death metal though I hear much more blackened influence and not as much of the death metal stuff. How do you see your sound?

    Like I said, we have never seen ourselves as a black metal band. I think the essence of black metal is more about philosophy and religion than about the actual sound of the music. That's why we see ourselves definitely as a death metal group - I think in death metal the actual sound determines the genre, and in black metal it isn't as simple as that. I told you earlier that we are big fans of Dissection and Immortal. Those two and Emperor, for example, have had a huge influence on our music. When it comes to death metal, Children Of Bodom, Death and Wintersun (to name a few) have had probably even bigger influence to our current creations. So even when it comes to the sound, we see ourselves closer to death than black metal. In "The Winter War Symphony" one might also hear the influence of classical music of the 1800's and even nuances of glam metal.

  • Though the icy landscapes and dense forests are typically seen as a Scandinavian trait (and especially since black metal [the second wave anyway] originated in Scandinavia), it's interesting to see how the Ukranians and Russians have taken to icy and melodic black metal; also embracing some of those aspects to create wintery doom metal as well. SO much raw talent comes out of Russia these days!

    I think black metal in general has become a more global phenomenom after the millenium, so I am not that surprised that great bands come out from Russia and The Ukraine as well. Of course there were bands outside of Scandinavia already in the 80's and 90's, but it seems that the scenes might have grown stronger in many parts of the world in this century. When it comes to Russia and Ukraine, maybe Nokturnal Mortum's growing popularity has something to do with new talented bands. And there's nothing wrong with that, Nokturnal Morum is fucking amazing!

  • So I heard from several interviews in the past that many Scandinavian bands had the support of the government to help finance albums and pay for rehearsal spaces and the like: Is this still true today? I don't know what Finland is like for musicians...

    Well, we have never got a penny from the government. But what you said is partly true. For example Swallow The Sun got some money from the government to fund their recent North American tour. Also bigger cities offer free rehearsal spaces to teenagers. I haven't heard about government funding to finance albums. All this naturally considers only Finland; I have to say that I don't know how these things work in other countries of Scandinavia.

  • The guitar work on this album is absolutely amazing, and even though you guys have 4 albums in, surely your guitarist has a long history playing with other bands! Is M. Vainio well known in or outside of Finland?

    Thanks man, I appreciate that! I try to rehearse guitar 5 hours a day and have a university degree of music. It sure as hell is always positive to hear that the hard work is paying off. When it comes to M. Vainio, "The Winter War Symphony" is the first album we have made with him. Half of the solos are by him and the other half are by me. M. Vainio has been in lot of bands, but all of those bands - like Frostbitten Kingdom also - are small underground groups. So I dare to say that he is not well known outside Finland, as none of us are. Every now and then someone recognizes one of us in the street, but that's basically it. We aren't well known even in Finland.

  • A lot of people say that doom metal thrives very well in Finland because of the many hours of darkness and also because of some Finnish citizens suffering from depression issues; how do you see this? I know the state of Alaska has similar issues; there are long dark winter months and some times of the year when there are very long periods of daylight.

    Well, Finland is a pretty grim place when it comes to that. Like you said, we have lots of depression issues here. We also have lots of alcoholism and high suicide rates. That sure as hell has something to do with the darkness, but I would also blame Finnish people; even though there are A LOT of good things in Finnish people, the stereotype of angry, bitter and mean Finns with alcohol issues is not always that far away from the truth. A part of Finns have unfortunately always been like that. But when it comes to doom metal, that might be good news. Swallow The Sun was at the top of the charts a while ago. How fucking random is that? A fucking death doom band makes an album that goes to #1 at album charts? That's only possible in Finland. Also Archgoat had their album in Top 10 a while ago. And it goes without saying, that every Children Of Bodom and Nightwish album gets always to the top of the charts in Finland.

  • Let's say a traveler wanted to spend some time in Finland; let's go a step further and say they wanted to see great fjords, ancient woods and ice covered mountains... Where would you recommend someone visit if they were newcomers to Finland?

    In that case I would recommend them to travel to Norway, as there isn't fjords or ice covered mountains in Finland. But we have woods everywhere. And of course Lapland in northern Finland would be a great place to go. You can see the monumental aurora borealis there in the dreamlike winter landscapes. That's pretty fucking awesome.

  • While on the subject, I had a music magazine editor friend of mine from my area (Atlanta, Georgia) move to Finland: He used to run the Lamentations Of The Flame Princess music magazine before moving over there. Would it be hard for a U.S. citizen to come to Finland and make a new life for him/herself?

    Well, people come from beyond our borders to Finland to work all the time. I don't know the details, but it is easier if you have a job here waiting for you. Of course it takes years to get the citizenship. And naturally you can't just come here and decide to stay. You need a residence permit (visa) to stay for a longer period. I think there are seven different kinds of visas in Finland, and each of them have different terms and conditions. So it isn't a simple manner, and I might be the wrong person to answer to this in detail. But yes, of course it is possible to come to Finland and start a new life here. It happens all the time.

  • What would he need to learn first and foremost to adapt well to life in Finland?

    Are you planning to move to Finland, man? If you do, visit me, I'll show you places. Actually, I don't know what's the most important thing to learn first. Most people - if we don't count senior citizens - talk at least a little English, so I wouldn't rush too much with the language. Especially as Finnish is one of the most difficult languages in the world - it's pretty normal that even natives without higher education write it incorrectly.

    I guess I would recommend to prepare for cold winters. Even in southern Finland there might be -20c in winter. On the other hand, it is normal that we have +30c in the summer. Also, Finnish people aren't as social as people in the States. We don't talk to strangers in streets or buses for example. Anyway, most of the foreign people find Finns very friendly. It's a cultural thing - we keep our distance, but when you get to know us, we are not that bad.

  • How do most people view the United States in Finland these days? I know that (and you can be as brutally honest as you can about this) a lot of people overseas have a very negative view of the U.S., especially when it comes to our president and some of our involvement in foreign policies... I know also that many times American black metal is viewed as somewhat of a joke, especially since it really took 10 to 15 years for black metal to really take off here in the U.S.

    I think people in Finland don't have that negative view on the U.S. anymore. When Bush was president, the view was much, much more negative. I guess that ain't a big surprise. I guess it depends on the president a lot. In Finland a president doesn't have as much power as in the States. So in Finland the image of a U.S. president correlates a lot with the image of the U.S. in general, if you know what I mean. That probably has lot to do with the Finnish political system; here actually the prime minister and government have more power than the president. As we know it isn't the same in the U.S., we more or less think that U.S. policy equals U.S. president. So when Bush was president, the whole image of the U.S. was darker to Finns. I think Obama is pretty popular in Finland, so people don't have as much negative thoughts of U.S. in general any more.

    When it comes to black metal, I don't think American black metal is a joke in Finland. For example, Absu is really popular in underground circles. Like I said earlier, black metal has become once and for all an international phenomenon in this century, if not even earlier. It is only natural that the scenes have developed more slowly outside Scandinavia after the second wave of black metal. That doesn't make scenes of US or Russia jokes, for example. At least I haven't heard much of that kind of thought.

  • If you had to pick one band to do a "cover song" of, what band would you say most represents your style, sound and ideologies?

    We have previously covered Death, Dissection, Emperor and Manowar in our live shows. Nowadays bands closest to our style and sound might be old Amorphis, Children of Bodom and Wintersun. That's a tough question. I can't name just one single band.

  • So how has Wormholedeath been for you as a record label? It seems like it would be tricky dealing with a label in Italy; can you mention anything about the contract you signed with them? (How many albums, is there tour support, merchandising rights, etc?)

    I have nothing bad to say about Wormholedeath. They're located in Italy, yes, but we haven't had a single problem with them. We earlier had a Finnish label, and everything goes as easy with Wormholedeath as it went with No Sign of Life. I am in contact with Wormholedeath on an almost weekly basis. They are easy to reach, as they answer their mails in time, hell, propably more in time than we do, haha. We have a simple one album deal with them, where we own the merchandising rights. When the next album is ready, we'll see what happens then.

  • As you know there has been much press in the past about the church burnings and murder in Norway over the black metal scene. Did you know any of the members of Norway's black circle? And what do you think of black metal today? Has there been any trouble like this in Finland?

    No, man, I don't know any of those guys. Norway is 500 kilometres away from my hometown and I was a little child when the church burnings and murders of the 90's happened. In Finland there have been a few church burnings and murders related to black metal, church critique and/or satanism, but it has definitely not been the same kind of phenomenom as it was in Norway in the 90's. I have to say I don't listen much to the new black metal. I mainly prefer Norwegian and Swedish bands of the 90's.

  • I'm curious about the title, it seems like a great war is being fought from the lyrical standpoint, though I can't tell who is in battle with whom? Is it just a general description of warfare in the frozen battlefield, or is there a specific set of enemies?

    The album is based on a Finnish novel called Korpisotaa by Finnish author Pentti Haanpaa. Roughly translated Korpisotaa means Forest War. The book is based on an actual historical event called Winter War, which was a war fought between the Finnish and Russians during the World War II. So the great battle in The Winter War Symphony is a portrayal of an actual historical event called Winter War.

  • While on the subject of warfare, when I hear about Vikings and their struggle with christianity, it oftentimes centers around Norway, Sweden and to a lesser degree, Denmark, but rarely is Finland mentioned. Was the Viking presence strong in your country? I know there is definitely a resurgence in proud Nordic paganism; I also count myself as an Asatru warrior with reverence for the Norse gods.

    No, man, the vikings were generally from Norway and Sweden, like you said. Likewise, the Norse mythology didn't have a strong foothold in Finland. I think it is great that people like you try to revive Norse traditions. Finland has it's own strong pagan traditions, which are definetely related to the Norse traditions. As you are interested in topics like this, you should definitely explore The Kalevala, the Finnish national epic. It includes creation of the world, battles, creed and magic, for example. It features also an equivalent of the devil, Louhi, who is a mean old witch. She holds this amazing artifact called Sampo, which can create all kinds of treasures out of nothing. Ironically, the good guys try to rob this device from her. Kalevala is definetely worth checking out, as you are interested in mythologies and Finnish culture.

  • Anything else you want to mention, feel free to do so here. Thanks again for your help and support!

    Thank you, man! This must have been the most interesting interview I have ever done. You don't ask the most usual questions, which is great. To the readers, be sure to check out "The Winter War Symphony" by Frostbitten Kingdom. Not your average metal album, it will fucking rock your world. Listen to it loudly!

    Interview with Paul Gaskin via email.

    The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement is obviously one of the cornerstones of all that we hold dear in metal today. To deny that is to deny truth. Many great examples of the NWOBHM movement are still alive today; in fact, a few bands are among the most popular and successful examples of heavy metal still going strong today. But for every Iron Maiden, Saxon, Venom and Diamond Head, there were countless bands that never got the recognition they so rightly deserved. Many still had only a few 2 or 3 song seven inch releases to their name; very few were able to go on and record several full lengths throughout their careers. Gaskin, however, were one of the rare breed of NWOBHM bands that were able to record full albums to their credit. Soldiering on through these many years, it was nice to have a chat with one of the soldiers in the front lines of heavy metal's "war" against mainstream music. Read on!

  • When I listened to your latest full length "Edge Of Madness," I was thrilled to hear the sweet melodies on the choruses and some heavier NWOBHM styled riffing, especially on the opening cut 'Damnation' and 'Heart Like Thunder,' but there is also a predisposition for a lot of more melodic type songs on this record. What was your goal when writing this record; did you try and incorporate more hard rock sounds into some of the songs, or were you going for a mix of NWOBHM like the old days and newer influences?

    Our goal was to just get another record out. It had been a long time since "Stand Or Fall," and quite a long time since David (Norman) had rejoined the fold. I had some old songs that I wanted to use ('Damnation' and 'Heart Like Thunder' had been around for some time, but I'd never used them), and some I wrote while we were making the record, like 'Bedlam' for instance. I make no conscious decision to incorporate this type of song, or that type of song; I write what I write, and then we record them. Melody and harmonies are usually in my songs: I grew up in the 60's, so I was used to hearing harmonies back then.

    We did have the intention of making a 16 song album though, and having a double vinyl LP, but the record company wouldn't go for it, so we left 6 tracks off. It would have been a lot more varied, with some very light and almost folksy songs among them. A bit like "Physical Graffiti" (Led Zep), would be the nearest I could describe it. As for "new influences," I don't really have any. My influences are all old school like they always were; I developed my style, and it pretty much hasn't changed since we started.

  • Lyrically, it seems like the topics are more heavy metal fare; especially a cut like 'Wake Up Dead,' 'Edge Of Madness' and 'Damnation.' What drives the lyric writing process on this album, and is it different from the way songs were written "back in the day?"

    I don't know if Heavy Metal fare is the right way to describe them, but they came in the main from a very dark place. Shortly after "Stand Or Fall" came out, my marriage broke up, and I had a very bad emotional time of it. I was homeless for some time, and bad though it was, I used the time to document the experience in lyrics. Might as well make use of the time eh? Haha! 'Wake Up Dead' is a short (true) story of how I left the nut ward that I had booked into voluntarily, and loaded with pills and booze, went off to top myself. I woke up in another ward, and was sectioned for some time till they felt I was fit to rejoin society. It may seem odd to be able to talk about such dark stuff, but to be honst, it feels like it happened to someone else now, and I am merely an observer. People are scared to talk about mental issues, but depression is a very common occurrence. I was lucky, I had people who loved me who got me back on my feet.

    Anyway, to get back to the lyrics, the ones to 'Damnation' I wrote when I was about 14, it was about the hypocrisy of people who claimed to be good religious pillars of society, but were bad people in real life. I'm not sure why I hadn't used them before. 'Edge Of Madness' was also written in what I like to refer to as my "nutty period" lol! I turned to drugs for a release, but they only pushed me into darker places. The lyrics to 'Bedlam' happened shortly after a dream I'd had. I dreamt of the chorus (I want you back, I don't want you back... etc), so I ran down the stairs to get my guitar, and found the chords to the chorus, then proceeded to write the words; "It's 5 in the morning, and I awake to another dream of you..." etc. pretty much say what you see as it were. You never know when the "muse" will hit you, or what it will give you, but I never force things out, they have to come to me. The only difference between "back in the day" and now, is that back then most of the songs were flights of imagination, whereas now, they are mostly experience led.

  • I'm curious about the single 'Mony Mony,' as it would be the last thing Gaskin would record until your followup 18 years later with "Stand Or Fall." Was this intended to be a showcase for new material you would be writing, or to garner interest for a new record label?

    Well mate, that's simple. It was a pure, undiluted, no apologies crack at the popular radio market. We didn't intend to be an underground cult band, we wanted to be mainstream and huge and very rich... Well, that didn't work did it? It did get played on all our major radio stations, and it did make a dent in the rock charts, but we didn't go global! The trouble was, our record company/ management, hadn't a clue how to promote us. They only knew how to put records out; well, that was never going to be a hit combination. We recorded it at the same time as the rest of "No Way Out," but weren't going to put it on the album.

  • And while on the subject, what happened in 1982 that caused the split of Gaskin and your eventual fade into the background until 18 years had gone by?

    Musical differences is the old and hackneyed phrase I believe. Gaskin was Dave and I. Other people came and went, but it was our vision. It was he who came up with the idea of naming the band Gaskin, we were called Sceptre before that. However, in the beginning, I had all the songs, with Dave chipping in with the odd lyric here and there. All was good, but then he wanted to write his own songs, (and some were quite good), but they weren't in the same mold. I wanted to get heavier, and he wanted to go more mainstream pop rock. Something had to give. While working on his ballad 'Say Your Last Word,' and working closely with Robert John Godfrey of the Enid, he kept us all out of the studio unless we had to record our parts, so he could play it to us as a finished song at the end... well that was a bit weird. Bren and I bonded, and decided it would maybe be an idea to jump ship and start again with fresh players down in London. So, the making of the follow up album was the beginning of the end really. While in London, we were offered another deal, but as it was yet another independent label, I turned it down. Maybe the wrong idea, but hindsight is such a wonderful thing.

  • Now, I would like to know about "Stand Or Fall," as I have not heard the record, how does it compare to your latest record "Edge Of Madness?" I see that you were on Edgy Records, which was a U.K. label that saw newer releases from a lot of older NWOBHM bands before the label itself closed shop.

    Well back in the early 90's, my friend had some dealings with a guy called Tony Leonard, who was the original drummer for the Glitter band. He had a studio out in the wilds near Lincoln, and he said I could use the studio when he wasn't using it. So for 4 or 5 months, I came and went and recorded what was to become "Stand Or Fall." It was really a solo record; I played all the instruments myself, and had a couple of guests in to do a guitar solo and a bass part. Tony helped me do the mix down, then it was left for some years while I was busy doing other things. Several years later, that same friend had dealings with Jess Cox, and happened to mention that there was a Gaskin recording unreleased. Jess took a listen to it and released it in 2000. It is a lot rawer than E.O.M., the guitars are more "in your face," and I think the vocal sound is better, but like I say, the main difference is that it's not a collaboration. I love some of the songs on it. There are some killer riffs. 'Breaking My Heart' is still a stage favourite.

  • So I am curious about those early NWOBHM days; it seemed like there were hundreds of bands that recorded maybe a 2 song seven inch (or two) and then faded into obscurity. Very few bands actually got to record a full length album and carry on for a few years; you guys actually recorded TWO full length albums and still managed to put out a few 7 inch records! What would you say was the difference between you guys and the hundreds of other bands that just never could secure that full length album?

    I'm tempted to say luck, because there was an awful lot of bands about like you say. We did have a certain polish about us though, that a lot of bands didn't. When we made our demo in 1980, the producer, Roy Neave, was really impressed with our sound. Def Leppard had been in there beforehand to record theirs, and he thought we were on the same kind of level. Witchfynde had just recorded their debut album in there, so Roy put us in touch with their label. This was on the Saturday (we recorded and mixed all 4 tracks in 10 hours), and I went over to see the guys on Monday, and was more or less offered a deal straight away. Now (again) in hindsight, we should really have hawked it around the major labels first to see if there was any interest, but when a deal lands on your lap like that... well, we took it. A lot of bands (like Iron Maiden for instance), had no finesse, they seemed to me more like the punk bands that had come before, but with more playing ability. I liked light and shade, and that's what we gave people.

  • Like Def Leppard, many bands in the NWOBHM scene tended to change their style and sound once Def Leppard achieved huge fame and worldwide success; particularly in America. How did you guys react to all that, because Def Leppard's earliest works are pretty rockin' before all the glamour and glitz albums like "Pyromania" and "Hysteria" made a huge impact on the music scene here in the States.

    I disagree: I thought Def Leppard always had the same style and focus, they just honed their skill in the studio, and were helped enormously by having a million pound producer in Robert John "Mutt" Lange. I thought Joe Elliots' voice was squeeky; I saw them when they were still doing Thin Lizzy covers, and thought "They'd be quite good if they changed their singer." But, hey, Mutt got the best out of him, and they didn't do bad did they?

    As for everybody else, when you first go into a studio, you usually can only afford a day or two, so you have to get things down the first time; hence the rawness of the recordings. When you have a bit more time on your hands, you can refine things, and the longer you play, the more you want to expand your style and make it more professional. Maybe that takes some of the rawness off the recording which appeals to some fans.

  • Tell us about some of your live shows; I'm sure you played hundreds of legendary gigs that are probably only now alive in memory. I'd love to hear some funny tour stories, bands you played out with, etc. Did you ever get a chance to tour beyond the borders of your home country?

    We have played in Europe, but sadly have never played the States or Japan, both of which I would still love to do. I'm tempted to say, if you remember the old gigs you didn't live them lol! My memory is a bit sketchy when it comes to the old days. Dave has the photographic memory, I tend to remember the groupies and the parties. When we were on tour with Wishbone Ash, we had an old tour bus with a door up front, and one in the middle. Well we travelled, ate, and slept in that thing, though it kept breaking down. Most of our gear was in the very rear of the bus, but Dave had a gong stand that had to be kept in the well of the middle door. I was glad for that halfway through the tour, as going up a motorway somewhere, I was sleeping the sleep of the drunk, when I needed to go pee. I came out of our bed area, and went straight for the middle door; if it hadn't been for the gong stand I would have been on the motorway, so I just pissed in the stairwell!

    We weren't huge practical jokers, but when we were touring with our stablemates Witchfynde, after we had done our sound check, I went over to Montalos' guitar, and detuned his top E string. When they opened up the show, the riff was ok, but halfway through he did his lead which ended up on that string, it was Sooo flat haha! His face was a picture... Sorry Trev.

  • Heavy metal owes a HUGE debt of gratitude to the bands that paved the way, like Iron Maiden, Diamond Head, Venom, Saxon, and the like who all came from England. Not to say that other areas didn't achieve success (black metal from Norway, Tampa, Florida and Stockholm, Sweden for death metal, etc), but we all know it started pretty much with Black Sabbath in the very early 70's...

    As time has gone on, so much is made of the NWOBHM, like we were all pioneers. For all those who lived it will tell you, we were all copyists. The REAL metal was forged in the 70's by the bands we all listened to, Sabbath, Purple, Budgie, Zeppelin, UFO, Priest etc. When I first saw Iron Maiden tour with Judas Priest, it was like watching Priest and their Mini Me's. You could hear the influences in each band. To me, Sabbath made Metal.

  • So now that the album "Edge Of Madness" has been out for a few years, are there any plans to work on a new album? Any song titles, themes or ideas you can tell us about?

    I have got a few ideas that we might expand on and turn into songs, but everybody else in the band has other projects, and Gaskin seems to be on a back burner for them. If they spent as much time on this as they did their other projects, we could've done a hell of a lot more. It got to the point, that I just lost interest. I am at the stage again now, that I would very much like to work again on Gaskin material, but we will see if the other guys are up for it.

  • I look back at the 80's era of metal and I remember the demo tape trading days, which seemed to be more of a thing in the late 80's than the earliest of days. Did you ever take part in trading demos around? I always wondered what NWOBHM bands did as far as spreading their music around; I know there were some music magazines at this period but they were few and far between: of course, we all know about "Sounds" and Geoff Barton.

    I think when we made our demo, we only had a few cassettes made up. One we sent to Neal Kay at the Soundhouse, and that became a regular spin, and made it into the Sounds Heavy Metal charts on a regular basis. In fact, I think that's what we did. Any venue that put charts into the magazines were the places we sent them. The Bailey Brothers did a chart, and we sent them one. It was mainly the London bands that did well out of the scene though, as the journalists wouldn't venture out of London to revue gigs. Other than that though we didn't trade tapes, no.

  • I remember the first track I ever heard from Gaskin was 'I'm No Fool' off the "New Wave Of British Heavy Metal '79 Revisited," a compilation album put out by none other than Lars Ulrich from Metallica (who often cite Diamond Head as one of the reasons they decided to play music to this day). Were you ever in contact with Lars, or anyone at Metallica for that matter? I know it was great to see Lars give these bands and music widespread attention. (Sad though I am to see the direction Metallica went on so many of their more recent albums).

    Not personally. When I heard that Polydor was putting together this compilation and 'I'm No Fool' was to be on it, I went down to their offices to make sure they had the right version; I didn't want the album version to be used. I needn't have worried: Lars had been sent the album version, but said it was the demo version he wanted, so all was good. I still only have a cassette of this. I didn't have a CD player back then (they were quite new), so they gave me an LP and also gave me Metallica's Black LP as well, and I left them under me seat on the tube home!!

  • I heard a lot of 80's metal bands say they wish they had the very powerful resources of the internet back then; some think they would have been a lot bigger than they are today. Is this something you agree with? I love the ability to email a band over 5,000 miles away and get a reply back within hours instead of waiting for days, sometimes weeks, for a reply.

    The Internet has been a two edged sword. I love the fact I can get in touch with people I had previously lost touch with, and being able to put your product out without the need for a major label is good, but it has its bad side too. You can listen to practically anything for free now, and it's a lot harder to make a living from selling your songs. That has changed things for the worse in my opinion.

  • And while on the subject, it also seems like technology has gotten so cheap that bands can record albums in good quality on computers at home. Of course, that changes the landscape a bit because now you can listen to music from hundreds, even thousands, of artists around the globe.

    Recording at home is great; I have no problem with that, but as you say, you can listen to so many bands, the market is saturated.

  • If you could look at all your albums today, what would you say are some of the best songs you have written? Me personally, I really think 'Sweet Dream Maker' is one of your most exceptional songs, a perfect example of what the NWOBHM movement was all about. Especially those amazing harmonies on the choruses! I also dig 'I'm No Fool,' (as I'm sure everyone else does), and I must say 'Heart Like Thunder' could have been on any of your earlier releases! I even dig the more melodic tune 'Man's World;' it actually surprised me how much I dug that tune.

    I like different songs for different reasons. I love the early tunes, but I hear a young guy that hasn't learned his craft yet. A perfect, well crafted metal song for me would be 'The Contract,' I'm very proud of that.

  • So many bands are going the "do it yourself" route these days. If there's anything you could talk to young bands about to help them on their way, what would you tell them?

    If you are serious about getting anywhere, get the best management team you can find. We can all go it alone and find our own gigs etc., but if you really want to be serious, get a hard hitter to fight your corner for you.

  • Did you ever do any interviews for any music magazines? Any memorable press you can remember? I'm sure you may have done interviews for Metal Forces or possibly Sounds magazine, since those were both based in the U.K. Metal Forces was one of my favorites; I still have a lot of their older 80's issues!

    I've done loads of interviews. I used to keep them all on my old computer, but it died.

  • Finally, if there's anything else you'd like to mention or talk about, feel free to use this space here. Thanks again for putting out some killer tunes!!

    And thank you for still finding me interesting enough to talk to haha! I would just like to thank the army of fans that have stuck by us through thick and thin. I'm sorry we haven't put out quite as much material as we would have liked, but real life kept getting in the way. If you need to find us, we no longer bother with a web site, but have a group on Facebook that you can comment on. Thanks again.

    Interview with Jonathan Seale, Steve and Damien via email.

    I really dig interviews like this! Basically you got all three members of the band giving their comments and different perspectives on various topics. I realize these types of interviews are harder to conduct, mainly because I'm sure everyone's time frames are different, but this doom band seems to have their shit together, and we even reviewed their latest full length in this 'mag! Hailing from England, they're one to watch out for, so enjoy our first official chat with the doomy lads!!

  • I find it interesting that your first official release seems to be a live album! Most bands usually start out with a demo or album release and are established some time before a live release surfaces!

    Jonathan "Sealey" Seale: Yeah, it was entitled "Live 2008," recorded live at The Leopard, in Doncaster. It had a photocopied inlay and a hand written CDR, really lo-fi and we gave limited copies of it away at gigs and sold some through small distros like Black Tears. It also included a cover of the Saint Vitus classic, 'Born Too Late.' The main reason we released this as our 1st demo was for financial reasons. We wanted to record a demo but we were all broke at the time. I think the live recording cost us £30, we bought plastic sleeves and CDR's, then just photocopied a load of inlays! It served its purpose, we were able to book shows off the back of it and it got our name out there at the time. I'm personally a little embarrassed about it looking back as my vocals were nowhere near as good as they are now but I'd not been singing for very long when it was released.

    Steve Wilson: The Leopard was a local pub that was still putting on quite a few metal gigs at the time. The sound engineer had a live recording business where he offered bands discounted recordings of their gigs. We decided to get one done, and seeing as we didn't have a demo we used that. We have improved a lot since then but it gave us some recordings to put online and we managed to sell a few copies of the CDR.

  • It seems the band started out around 1998 but you guys broke up in 2000 before you released the live album. Why so long a period of inactivity? It seems like something would have been recorded about this time.

    Sealey: Iron Void was originally formed by myself and Andy Whittaker (current Solstice guitarist, ex-The Lamp of Thoth) way back in November 1998 in order to create an old-school Doom Metal band. The original line-up split after a couple of years (1998 – 2000). Following this, I played in several bands over the next seven years or so, including Tomb (featuring Jamie "Boggy" Sykes of Burning Witch/Thorr's Hammer), Black Maria (Sludge), Sermon of Hypocrisy (Black Metal) and Scion (Death/Thrash Metal). I wanted to improve my playing and I was into Death Metal since I was a teenager. However, my heart lies in Doom Metal and I longed to play this style again. I joined Steve's band, So Mortal Be, in 2007 on bass initially. The line-up was unstable for a while but when Diz (original Iron Void drummer) joined on drums we started to play some old Iron Void songs again as well as a couple of So Mortal Be ones and we just agreed to change the name to Iron Void.

    We released our first official demo in October 2008, entitled "Live 2008." This was followed in 2010 by the EP "Spell Of Ruin," released on Steve's (current IV Guitar/Vocals) label, Doomanoid Records. This was re-released in 2012 with two bonus tracks via Doomanoid once again and Barbarian Wrath recently released our self-titled debut full-length.

    The current line-up consists of myself (Bass/Vocals), Steve Wilson (Guitar/Vocals) and Damien Park (Drums).

    Damien: I joined the band in 2012, when I heard from my friend, Dan Mullins (My Dying Bride & Thine Drummer) that they were looking for a drummer. He knows that I have an understanding for heavy music, plus he couldn't commit due to other bands he is in. But thanks to him I got the opportunity to play a different style of heavy music compared to my other band and it gives me the freedom to try new things in music that I like.

  • So how did you come to be on Barbarian Wrath Records out of Germany? Was there any other record labels interested? Surely being from the U.K. I would have thought Rise Above Records would have been interested...

    Sealey: We toured with Arkham Witch in 2013 and we played a show in Erfurt in Germany which Hart (owner of Barbarian Wrath) and his missus, Cheryl attended. Arkham Witch had released "On Crom's Mountain" on Barbarian Wrath and they suggested we approach them about releasing our debut full length via the label, which we did. We did send promo CD's to other labels, including Rise Above but we didn't get a great response which was disappointing. Hart offered to release the album so we jumped at the opportunity and agreed to release it via Barbarian Wrath. We have since left the label and we intend to release the follow-up album via Doomanoid Records, which Steve and I will be running jointly moving forward.

    Steve: That was pure chance. Hart and Cheryl were at the second show of the tour in Erfurt, Germany basically to meet up with Arkham Witch as well as check out us and Hooded Priest. We'd had a late night in Austria the night before (at Doom Over Vienna fest). I'd drunk too much and missed my chance to shower! I felt exhausted but the promoters had laid on free beer and I made use of that and managed to muster up the energy to play. It ended up being one of the best sets we've played. The crowd knew our songs and were really enthusiastic. I remember telling Hart that our album was mastered and ready to go with artwork, just to let him know the cost to his label would be minimal. It didn't do any harm in getting it released.

    As Sealey said, he and I will be teaming up for the next album and on at least some of the future releases. Working as a team makes it easier to get CD's and vinyl pressed as there is more than one person investing in them. There's less pressure and risk if things don't sell and it's less work.

  • On to the full length album. Right off the bat the first few songs are definitely of a bit faster tempo; it seems a lot of doom metal oriented bands have no problems cranking out a couple of faster tracks. Still, the guitar work is quite vicious, so maybe doom retains a certain style or sound instrumentation wise?

    Sealey: We're definitely not shy of upping the tempo in some of our songs. I personally don't feel that Doom has to be slow all the time; bands we've been influenced by such as Sabbath, Pentagram and Saint Vitus all have up-tempo parts in their songs. Plus, we'd be bored as hell if we played at the same tempo all the time!

    Steve: All of our influences have gone into the sound. I grew up on Iron Maiden and Metallica and discovered Sabbath and heavier bands like Pentagram and Vitus through listening to and reading about Cathedral and Electric Wizard in the late 1990's. When I started listening to Wino's other bands (Spirit Caravan and The Obsessed), I started hearing what could be done in terms of singing and playing guitar at the same time. I learned a lot from his style.

    Damien: When I was young I listened to bands like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne and Metallica. Then when I got older I started to discover more extreme music and to this day, it's the type of music that influences me to try new tempos in the songs we have. You need to have variety in the music you create in terms of different tempos and the use of dynamics or it gets boring very quickly.

  • I noticed on the cut 'Own Worst Enemy' that the vocals take a bit more of a harsher tone, which I was somewhat surprised by. Kinda reminds me a bit of the band Roachpowder, dunno if you've heard of them. Any plans to incorporate harsh vocals on the next recording?

    Sealey: I've heard the name but not really checked them out to be honest. It's just one of my vocal styles really. I have that raspy tone on some songs and then others, such as 'Necropolis C.O.T.D.,' I sing using a cleaner tone. It just depends on what suits the song really.

    Steve: That song came from a Judas Priest style riff that I came up with in the practice room. Sealey finished it off and added the middle riffs. We liked the idea of coming up with an old school Heavy Metal song that wasn't 12 minutes long, just for a change! It could have been a 7" single if we'd had the chance but it worked as an album track.

  • Speaking of which, have you any plans for a future recording? Song titles, themes, album concepts or anything you can tell us about the next full length.

    Sealey: Yes indeed! We're recording the follow-up to "Iron Void" in early March at Skyhammer Studio (LOVE the name - Ed.) with Chris Fielding (Electric Wizard, Moss, Conan, Napalm Death, Serpent Venom, Wounded Kings, etc.) at the helm. The album will feature 11 tracks, which consists of a mixture of new tracks and some old, previously unrecorded Iron Void classics, some of which date as far back as 1998 and will be entitled "Doomsday," named after the opening track. The track listing is as follows: 'Doomsday,' 'Path To Self-Destruction,' 'The Devil's Daughter,' 'Lost Faith,' 'Gates Of Hell,' 'Eye For An Eye,' 'The Answer Unknown,' 'Colosseum,' 'Fire Nerve,' 'King Of Utopia' and 'Upon The Mountain.'

    The lyrical themes for the songs range from the end of the world, addiction, Countess Bathory, losing your faith in humanity, ritual sacrifice, the 1st time I took acid, gladiators in ancient Rome, anger at stupid politicians and The Epic of Gilgamesh. It's quite varied in terms of themes and tempos, as always but I think this album will be heavier and more Doomy than "Iron Void" was.

    Steve: The older songs were dropped from our live set during line-up changes. We've changed drummers and guitarists twice since "Spell Of Ruin," going from a 3-piece to 4-piece and back again. We had to rehearse the self-titled album tracks when Damien joined and some of the others were forgotten for a couple of years. They will be new to a lot of fans but people who've followed us from 2010 or earlier on will recognise them. It will be interesting to hear them with full studio production. All the new songs were jammed in practice with Damien. I was keen to get him involved and hopefully get a more "doomy" Bill Ward feel to the drums and it seems to have worked. It will definitely have a heavier production than "Iron Void" but it will still have our trademark sound. I'm using a little less wah on the solos this time round too but I still use it on a couple of songs.

    Damien: We have been practising hard getting these songs tight and ready for when we go to the studio to record the album. I’ve tried to put my own input into the new songs we've written. As for the old songs, I have kept the drumming just about the same. With me on the kit I intend to give it more feel and power, making sure we sound like we are crushing in your heads in! (Laughs). I am really looking forward to recording "Doomsday."

  • Are you guys a fan of death or black metal? I know doom metal incorporates quite a bit of death metal in the way of vocals; not so much with black metal but I do hear a few things here and there that mix harsh doom with the blackened style.

    Sealey: Yes, absolutely! I've been into Death Metal since my early teens. Some of my favourite bands include Autopsy, Death, Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Deicide, Obituary, Entombed, etc. I do like some Black Metal too, obviously the original bands such as Venom, Bathory and Celtic Frost and second wave bands like Mayhem, Darkthrone, Emperor and Immortal, too. It does have some influence in some of our melodies I guess but we're pretty old school other than that.

    Damien: Same here! Like Sealey, I got into extreme music in my early teens. Bands like Napalm Death, Carcass, Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, Morbid Angel, Emperor, Mayhem, Celtic Frost, Anaal Nathrakh, the list goes on.

  • The track 'Outlaw' had some nice bass guitar opening that up. Do you think the bass guitar is a somewhat buried instrument these days; especially with bands that play faster music.

    Sealey: Yep, totally. You can't hear the bass on a lot of stuff these days and it's a very important instrument, especially if you want to sound heavy. I always go back to Sabbath, Geezer's bass was always almost as loud as the guitar, which really fills out the sound if you're a 3 piece band like we are.

    Steve: If we can get that Gates Of Slumber kind of effect with the bass high in the mix but not distorted, so every instrument is clearly audible, I think we'll be on the right track. The mastering will play a part as well but we will be able to mix things the way we want them before we get to that stage.

  • I love the way the album starts out, with the cut 'Tyrant's Crown.' I always saw the Christian god as somewhat of a tyrant, as a "do as I say or die" kinda thing... I don't have lyrics but I assume when you mention man's temples falling to ashes, it means pretty much all of man's self-made religions.

    Steve: The song was written around 2010/2011 when British media was bombarding us with stories of the upcoming royal wedding. It just struck me as a massive waste of money and a non-event really. I'm not a fan of royalty and inherited privilege at all. The tyrant's crown represents royalty. The lyrics evolved out of the realisation that in the UK, we can't really rebel against it. It's just there and we can't reform things or move things on. The last verse was written at the last minute before we went into the studio.

    The phrase "default condition" comes from a book I read around that time about the way the idea (of) aliens or UFO's are portrayed in the media and popular culture. If I remember rightly, it was "the default condition remains one of ignorance" (Brian Appleyard, "Aliens Why They Are Here") or something similar. There's a feeling of futility. If you speak out against an institution that powerful (be it a government or monarchy, or a US example would be the cost of health care), you risk being either ridiculed as a conspiracy nut or attacked but you're most likely to be ignored. Aside from the lyrics, the opening riff was loosely inspired by the Penance song 'Crosses' from the "Parallel Corners" album. I always get the title mixed up with 'Words Not Deeds,' but 'Crosses...' is definitely the riff that got lodged in my head. It's not that riff, but it's definitely that style. You can always tell when bands lift riffs straight off old Black Sabbath records. I only ever go as far as adopting the same style or technique.

  • I know a lot of metal bands started out lyric and thematic wise rebelling against Christianity. Still, even though that anger and hatred may be a good starting point, I guess as time goes on and we get older, maybe there comes a point when we stop "rebelling" and just want "the truth," or plain old answers to many of humanity's burning questions: IE, where do we go when we die, is there really a "god," what's the point of these religions, etc...

    Sealey: There are good and bad things about every religion in my opinion. I feel that everyone has a right to express themselves and explore their own spirituality without being told what is wrong or right. We do write about Satanism occasionally and sometimes reference the bible in our lyrics but as far as we're concerned as individuals, none of us follow any particular religion; we're pretty open minded people in that respect. Steve and I are definitely interested in different religions, mythology and astral theology to a certain degree. We are also interested in ancient alien theories and conspiracy stories too.

    Steve: I starting reading about the occult through conspiracy theories and the Zecharia Sitchin books led me to Ancient Sumeria and Egypt. I'm not sure how much of their work is actually correct but it did get me into ancient history and comparative mythology. I love reading about megalithic religious sites and how they used astrology/astronomy as part of their beliefs and life. I don't "believe" it literally, in fact I sincerely doubt that there was even an historical Jesus to be honest. The farther back you go, the more the same solar deities (the Moses and Horus figures) appear in older guises with different names.

    I was given a free choice of what to study for the end of my Open University degree a couple of years ago and I chose Myth and Reason in the Greek and Roman Worlds to get out of doing a year of Shakespeare! That furthered my interest in mythology and from there I attempted to read "The Golden Bough" – I got about halfway through but I hope to get the time to finish reading it soon. I'd already read Manly P. Hall's "The Secret Teachings Of All Ages" which is a massive book covering Freemasonry, Cabalism and ancient mystery schools. I've read it twice and there's still a lot of things in it that I haven't understood.

    Getting back to your point, I've always been interested in these questions that probably can't be answered. Doom metal seems to be either strongly religious (i.e. Place Of Skulls), completely anti-Christian (Solstice) or atheistic (Cathedral, despite the band name!). We're occupying a middle ground and admitting that we don't know. We're open to the truth, but what it is remains a mystery. There is a lot of high level secrecy in the world, and not just in the UK and USA. There must be reasons for that. Why would the universe come into existence just so that humans could eat cheeseburgers and watch TV? There seems to be a lot of surplus space out there for things to be that simple.

    Damien: I personally don't believe in any religion or Gods as such, but I do believe when someone you know passes away (family, friends), I believe they do watch over us. Now and again, I have this feeling that I am being watched over when I am playing with these guys and also sometimes in everyday life.

  • To me the lyrics kinda make this seem like a "philosophical" record. I guess there's only so many times you can sing about death, satan and the usual metal topics...

    Steve: We have the occasional Hammer Horror themed songs, such as 'The Mad Monk' and 'Necropolis C.O.T.D.' We're just writing about the things that interest us. I've been into songs that ask deeper questions since listening to 'Infinite Dreams' by Iron Maiden. It's a recurring theme in a lot of my lyrics. Can we ever be sure?

  • So on that note, I know that most of what we THINK we know about history was told to us in school, and through our history books. But like the concept of this one true god, and even the life of Jesus himself, I wonder if we can TRUST our human history? One of my arguments against the bible is that we weren't THERE when it was written, so how do we know the true intentions of its writers? Furthermore, how can we even be sure the original wording wasn't changed by those who felt it gave too much power to the ordinary people of the day?

    Sealey: I think you may be right. Even with legends such as Robin Hood, his character was changed to suit the audience of the time. In the late Middle Ages, he was no longer a Yeoman, fighting for the rights of the underprivileged as he appeared in the early tales, he now had a noble background so that the audience of the day could relate to him. I believe the same thing probably happened with the Bible. As time progressed, it may have been altered and amended to serve the interests of those in power. The same thing is happening now with the internet. Our whole history could be re-written instantly and because there's less and less physical evidence these days to support this, such as books, our descendants would never know any different. It's a pretty scary thought really.

    Steve: I was given one Christian view of the world at school as a kid – nativity, singing hymns in assembly and I think we used to have prayers as well. It's about 30 years ago but I remember it vaguely. I was in middle school before I had any real exposure to other beliefs, Judaism, Eastern religions. We didn't spend much time on it but I remember there was little or no mention of Islam. I've heard more about that in the last 15 years than I ever had before. I did have proper science lessons, though. I didn't go to a religious school or learn Creationism or anything that bad.

    It's an interesting idea – Revisionism – the digital history can be changed and edited at will in the absence of printed evidence to the contrary (should the old books be destroyed or lost/suppressed). It's like George Orwell's 1984 where the history books are constantly edited and updated to suit the needs of the ruling Party. I hadn't thought of that! The bible comes from older texts, the Hebrew Torah and going right back to Mesopotamia and oral tradition that pre-dates writing. A lot of the themes in the bible as it is today were around in the pagan past, particularly the flood myth. The 'original' version? I think we'd be hard pressed to find any authentic text that had survived for that many thousands of years so it's hard to tell. Maybe there's a copy in the Vatican library, but we're not allowed in!

  • So here's a question I posed to the band Nightingale. When do you think "true darkness" started appearing in music? And I don't necessarily mean "evil" or any of its human definitions. Like to think Pentagram being a U.S. band and playing such dark and heavy music at the beginning of the 70's, is truly mind boggling... And of course Robert Johnson supposedly "sold his soul" to the devil to create some haunting blues tunes in the 20's and 30's...

    Sealey: I think darkness, or whatever you want to call it has always been prevalent in music from day one: it's part of our psyche, it cannot be denied. I think it probably started to appear more in mainstream music towards the end of the 60's, when Coven released "Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls" and Black Sabbath's 1st album too. Although, in the 50's Chuck Berry was sometimes referred to as "The Devil's Music" and yes, there are those infamous stories of Robert Johnson selling his soul at the crossroads too.

    Damien: For me personally, it's to do with the sound you create in the music you play and what type of genre and possibly the environment you are in. Of course Black Sabbath's first album has a dark tone, but thanks to them there are other bands that went to new levels to create something that is dark, or something that really sounds inhuman. For me I like to find bands that have very unique sounds that sound dark or just soul crushing. Bands like Celtic Frost, Godflesh, Sunno))), Neurosis, Emperor, Anaal Nathrakh.

  • There is a growing fascination with many of the older religions and myths of the world that have since been thought to have been abandoned. For instance, I consider myself somewhat of an Asatru warrior, and many here have gotten into the Norse gods; hell, the band Nile seems to understand and have thorough knowledge of Ancient Egypt with its pantheon of gods. How do you see all this, after all, as far as religions on the world scale goes, Christianity, or this whole "belief in only one god" thematic is rather a new phenomenon when we consider the thousands of years of history earth's people actually have...

    Sealey: I'm personally very interested in ancient Sumerian mythology and texts. They speak of many Gods, not just the monotheistic God and these Gods were made of flesh and blood, much like you and me. I believe many of the modern religions copied these original stories but re-wrote them in their own interpretation, often changing the names of various Gods. I believe there are many different races of sentient beings in the universe and I do believe in "God," if you will, but to me it's more akin to "The Force" in Star Wars, rather than it being some omnipotent being. That's my belief but I try to keep an open mind about these subjects, you never know if you're "right" and I don't think we ever will know this.

    Steve: The Egyptian pharaoh Ankhenaten who ruled for a few years in the 1300's BC was known as the first monotheist. He introduced sun worship (known as Atenism) and made that the one true god of his age. After his death, Egypt went back to a polytheistic system and reinstated its old gods. His approach seems quite similar to Christianity, with the sun at the centre of things, worshipped on SUN-day (Ed - This approach seems consistent with the revelations at the Council Of Nicaea made through the Emperor Constantine, who was a supposed worshipper of the Sun god).

    The modern Christmas Day is on the 25th of December because on that day every year, the sun moves one degree higher in the sky and this foretells the onset of spring; something very important to our ancestors who would have been freezing all winter. It seems to have worked its way west and mixed in with the pagan gods and solar observations that were already in place at sites like Stonehenge. I think the reality is is that most people nowadays just don't care either way and would be happy to live without religion and the strife that goes with it. I don't expect everyone to read up on it like I have because there's not really any need but it does help to keep an open mind and be objective.

  • Doom metal is a genre that has been around for quite some time; these days I find that some of the best doom bands right now are signed to Solitude Productions out of Russia... Bands like Ea, The Howling Void, My Shameful, Who Dies In Siberian Slush and Evoke Thy Lords are some of the best around! Firebox Records too also has some great bands, but I hear so much emotional doom coming out of Russia these days... What are some of your favorite bands and labels?

    Sealey: I'm going to have to check out some of those bands you've mentioned! I've never heard of any of them, I only really know of Scald from Russia. Some of my favourite bands currently are Serpent Venom, Witchsorrow, Uncoffined, Forsaken, Orchid, King Heavy, Goatess and Pilgrim to name a few. In terms of labels, Rise Above has really gone downhill in recent years. They used to release some classic Doom albums back in the late 90's/early 00's but it now seems to just champion female fronted Occult Rock bands and hipster shit; it's such a shame. Church Within is a good label and back in the day I used to love everything that Hellhound Records released. Someone should bring it back, that would be fucking cool!!

    Steve: I think Sealey has just about covered them all! If Rise Above had signed Jex Thoth when they were new, that would have been quite good for them but I can't get into all the watered down Blood Ceremony clones that are going around at the moment. The challenge for Doomanoid Records will be finding doom bands that are exciting but not so unfashionable that no one buys them when released! A lot of the good ones are already taken. We might get lucky though. I agree with Sealey about those Russian bands. They've all passed me by too up to now.

  • Candlemass seems to be on a lot of people's minds lately. I love the recorded output with Robert Lowe from Solitude Aeternus, but sadly he is no longer with the band, due to poor live performances. From what footage I've seen, it's almost like he didn't want to learn the songs from their past!!

    Sealey: I have to disagree, I saw Candlemass at Roadburn a few years back with Rob Lowe on vocals and he absolutely killed it, he was awesome! I really dig the ‘Hammer Of Doom’ song and I've been a big fan of Solitude Aeturnus for years, so I guess you're asking the wrong guy! (Laughs).

  • Where do you see the doom metal genre in 10 or even 20 years from now? Is there really any innovation or new concepts left in the field of metal to discover? Or is it right now just taking different styles of metal and blending them together, which seems to be where metal is right now?

    Sealey: I can't see Doom progressing too much to be honest. The way I see it, it's like the Blues or Classical Music: it's a style of music and it doesn't change that much. There don't seem to be as many bands playing the "Classic" style like we do these days, there seems to be more and more Sludge bands popping up all the time. I doubt this will last though, something else will become popular, it always does! One thing I do guarantee though, Doom will still be here in 20 years, there's no doubt in my mind about that.

    Steve: In the last couple of years, I've found myself losing touch with the music scene in terms of new bands and drifting into bands I've gigged with or ran into through Iron Void as well as falling back on classic albums. I can see doom regressing back to its classic roots again as trends die out. The early Sabbath influence will never go away and the dedicated bands will carry on. I'm getting to an age now where it doesn't really bother me what trends are passing through. It's not as if I'm going out night clubbing every weekend with kids in their teens. I'd put my money on Doom carrying on regardless!

  • Finally, anything else here we failed to talk about or mention, feel free to use this space! Thanks again for your help and support!!

    Sealey: Many thanks for the interview Steven! We've got a busy year ahead planned, you will definitely see the release of the next Iron Void full length in 2015 and we have some festival appearances and a tour planned for the end of the year with our buddies in King Heavy which will include UK and European shows. See you on the road, DOOM ON!!!

    Steve: Thanks for the interview and for asking us some unusual questions. Recording the new album is next on the list for us. We're doing a one-off festival appearance in Edinburgh, Scotland next month and recording either side of it during the rest of March. We will start writing new material again later this year for what will become album number 3 as well as rehearsing a new set for the Autumn tour and festival shows. It will be good to get back to Europe!

    Damien: Thank you for this opportunity to be interviewed. This year will be a busy one, recording the new album ready to release later in the year, plus one or two festivals we will be playing and then another tour to end the year with King Heavy. So watch out Europe... you will be Doomed!!!

    Interview with Dan Swano and lyricist Erik via email.

    We've interviewed Dan Swano in the past (all the way back to issue #17), and have been wanting to chat with him again for some time... One interesting note of this issue is there are at least three interviews with questions being answered from multiple perspectives: unbeknownst to me bassist Erik was responsible for writing the lyrics for the newest Nightingale album, which I didn't see coming! And like the Paramaecium interview, this album focuses a bit on "The Closing Chronicles," the second album made by Nightingale that was not only the first one I ever heard, but an album that truly transcends all boundaries when it comes to genre description and/or classification. That album is 19 years old, and is STILL an enjoyable listen to this day. A feature interview in ANY music publication, Dan Swano can still write great and memorable songs no matter WHAT the genre.

  • The new album sounds really good, but also seems a bit heavier and somewhat less dark than the album "The Closing Chronicles," which is the only other album I've heard from Nightingale besides "Alive Again." It seems there is a slight metal influence on some tracks, but realistically, it kinda follows the style of past releases...

    "The Closing Chronicles" was a very strange album to put together because I had completely lost track of what I wanted to do with the project. I was dead-set on only releasing one Goth-rock album under that moniker, but we all know I failed at 1. making a pure goth album 2. making only 1 album :). My brother and I always joke around how "T.C.C." is our "Sad Wings Of Destiny" because of the somewhat darker aura around that whole album.

    But still, there are some lighter moments on that one too, but I admit that the later Nightingale albums have definitely a wider spectrum of outside influences which can make it a bit more "metal" at times. 'Warriors Of The Dawn' is inspired by bands like Alter Bridge that uses the 1 string drop tuning, in our case we drop the lowest string all the way down to G# making it more like a rubber band than a string...but I believe that song is a metal as we'll go... since I have other outlets for things heavier than that and my brother isn't the biggest fan of heavy metal. He loves his 70's hard rock, but metal...not that much :)

  • I hevan't heard much of the debut record, but I do know it was a somewhat gothic oriented release, and I have a pretty large history with gothic and industrial music; even at the earliest days of the music magazine, I was hanging out in goth/industrial nightclubs, so I became VERY familiar with Sisters Of Mercy, Bauhaus, Two Witches, Rosetta Stone, The Mission U.K., etc.

    Around 1993-94 I was open for anything new to spice up my music life and I heard some pretty commercial (and also some horrible) goth music at the right time, stuff like Rosetta Stone and the more commercial tracks from Sisters. I loved The Mission since long before, but got hooked on them for the "Carved In Sand" and also the "Grains Of Sand" albums and there's not that much goth going on.

    In fact, the whole basic vibe of Nightingale is a combination of the song 'Belief' from The Mission (Nightingale using that title later on is a hint and tribute!!) and the song 'Night Comes Down' from Judas Priest. I imagined a musical child of those 2 tracks, and out came 'Nightfall Overture' in like 15 minutes!! Then I remembered that I was supposed to make a goth album and turned on my "Rosetta Stone" mode and wrote stuff like 'Sleep...' and later in the session "A Lesson In Evil."

  • What was it about gothic music that appealed to you? Nowadays I see the term "gothic" being thrown around in a VERY incorrect manner; it seems to mainly refer to metal bands that have female singer that usually incorporate an operatic range. Of course, we both know what true gothic music sounds like and oftentimes it is NOT the "pretty, flowery" kind of female attributes...

    It was new to me, and much like I got caught by the "thrash, black and death bug" in the fall of 1988, I had a similar epiphany with goth rock but it lasted a lot shorter than the evil bug that I still have ;) Somehow I liked that there was kind of a dark beauty in there and this deep singing style of Andrew Eldritch and company was something I could do, and pretty well too... but after I did a few songs with the drum machine and stuff I got tired of it and revisited it shortly for a bunch of cover tracks done as Nightingale, around the summer of 1996 ('Return To Fantasy' - Uriah Heep, 'Before The Dawn' - Judas Priest and ;C'est La Vie' - Greg Lake). I still love listening to my own personal selection of The Mission and The Sisters and "Leave Me For Dead" with Rosetta Stone is still a timeless Goth hit!

  • I want to talk a great deal about "The Closing Chronicles," because to me that was such an AMAZING record, that it really transcended all boundaries of what I thought metal musicians were capable of doing. It had a quite dark tone despite many of the cuts being piano and lighter instrumentation pieces, and you can't REALLY call it hard rock, or even 70's styled hard rock, or even progressive rock! What really grabs you are the soaring emotional vocals and rich instrumentation that really makes this album scream to life...

    Thanks!! It's really uplifting to hear this since it's almost 20 years ago it was written and recorded. There is some stuff on there that was actually written for Unicorn, like the main part of "Alive Again" and also "So Long." It's the kind of Post-Prog that I grew up on. The kind of music the Prog-bands played in the early to mid 80's when they wanted to have a hit and more females in the audience (and backstage!)

    I had troubles recording the vocals for this one since I woke up deaf on my right ear one morning and it took a long time before I could hear properly again. It was really difficult to hear if the pitch was right for the vocals and that led to a lot of insecurity, and that has never been a good "sound" in a vocalist. After a few songs it worked out better and I think there are more cool that embarrassing vocal moments on that one.

  • If I had to find fault with "Closing Chronicles," with as much as I enjoy this album over and over again, I must say that a few of the heaviest parts of the record don't always seem to fit really well, like the ultra low toned spoken dialogue (about "he is my son", etc) on the CD's ending track. After listening to this record and digesting it over the years, is there anything different you'd do to the album if you had a chance to do it all over again?

    Well... there's tons of stuff I'd do differently with the sonics, the arrangements etc. But it is what it is, and often when I had out a really soft song on there and a kind of grunge/goth song turned radio-rock in 'Steal The Moon' - I felt that I needed to make it a bit "evil." And that whole end bit of 'Alive Again' is maybe not my fave part, but at the time it made sense, and there's a lot of that dark, evil voice of the 1st record, so I wanted to reconnect a bit with that one...

  • One other thing: the song 'Steal The Moon' I used to think that solo keyboard part was a little too "bouncy" I guess; maybe too upbeat for the mood and tone the album set. However, after many years, it actually now seems to "fit," in one sense it provides a little bit of "cheerfulness" to the otherwise mysterious and haunting presence some of the songs have.

    It's our Santana tribute part. There's an amazing hammond solo in one of the tracks from "Marathon" and I wanted to try something similar. However, on the remake there is no hammond solo since I believe it didn't really turn out all that awesome...but I am happy that you eventually overcame your issues with it ;)

  • And 'So Long (Still I Wonder)' has to be one of the most amazing songs on the disc. The synthesized passages and vocals only give this a really strong feeling, and those last few sung lines give me the chills at how emotionally powerful and soaring the vocal work is... I daresay that when I listen to this song I think Mr. Dan Swano might be one of the most criminally underrated vocalists in all of metal, and indeed music history!

    Thanks! Really! It's really a cool song, intended for use with Unicorn, but around that time it felt like Unicorn would never get its act together again, with members spread out all over the area (Hah, if we'd only known back then that in 2015, for our short reunion, we'd be separated by 15 hour drives!) Any how. The material I had written for NG was too short and we needed more stuff, so I "stole" 'Alive Again' and 'So Long' (The 'Still I Wonder' addition to 'So Long...' is our secret MOXY tribute!) from "intended Unicorn material" and borrowed Dag's old Tom Nouga song 'Fontan' and made it into 'Intermezzo.' 'Steal The Moon' was an old indie/shoegaze song I recorded one day when I was bored, in 93 or 94...can't remember, but once I tried it in a bit more "rock" vibe, me and my brother decided it worked well enough to be on this album...

    I think I recorded the vocals chronologically, so by the time that one was up, I had grown into the "tracking vocal" role and also became more accustomed to the Digital 8 tack recorder Roland VS-880 that I just had bought (and it was the hottest shit at the time!!) to record stuff that worked better digitally (vocals, some keyboards etc.), while the rest of the album was tracked analog to a Fostex E-16 on 1/2" tape. The fact that I had written the track on piano, for Unicorn, and also then sung to it, may have something to do with the slightly better performance than on the other songs, since they were all "un-demoed" and most the time, what ended up on the album was the first or second time I ever sung that line!

  • You've sang on death metal records, done guest vocals for Therion, did Edge Of Sanity for awhile, had a key role in Pan-Thy-Monium, and of course now producing and even guest starring in other projects! You have accomplished so much in the world of metal, hell; even MUSIC. After all this time do you still have goals that are yet to be reached? Or do you feel you've done so much that there aren't many other places left to go?

    Thanks! Well, there are still some goals to reach. I'd like to finish the Second Sky album and make it into the wonderful thing I know it can be, as long as I get my skills together! I am almost there ;) I still have a lot to learn from vocal techniques to have greater stamina, better instant pitch etc. but the way I work, with only me present in the studio, it's my own "problem" that I sometimes have to sing a line 20 times, and put a perfect take together from all these takes. It's still me, nothing I didn't sing. I just didn't sing all in one take ;)

    I could also practice more drumming, to be tighter to the click. But as long as there's a possibility to piece together takes, and move some misplaced hits a bit. I will spend my time writing material... and shape up my own performances as a part of the performance. So I guess I have found a formula that works... but it won't stop me from wishing I could nail stuff better, faster... So that is kind of a goal... but to reach it, I have to work hard...and I am lazy ;)

  • Speaking of Pan.Thy.Monium rather briefly, I really love the "Khaoos And Kon-Fus-Ion" record that Relapse put out. I know that was the last thing that Pan.Thy.Monium put out; did you feel that you had done everything there was to do within that band? I guess a similar parallel would be when Hellhammer became Celtic Frost because Tom Warrior felt that there was nothing else he could contribute to the evolution of that band. Personally, I would LOVE to hear another Pan.Thy.Monium record...

    Me not :) Not really a fan of anything we put out except the first demo and the first EP. There are some good moments here and there on the 1st and 3rd album, but to me, PTM kind of ended after the EP, and once we had to fill albums worth of material, the awesomeness was a bit thinned out. I think we could have put together a really awesome EP out of the material for the 1st and 3rd album, but fleshed out to 40-45 minutes of total playing time, there is just too much padding and dead passages for me, to truly fit the magical superiority of the demo and the EP.

  • Now I definitely want to talk about the new record, because what's really surprising to me is how Black Mark Records had been your home for SO long, what with the Edge Of Sanity releases and many of the first Nightingale Records. You are now on InsideOut Music, which strangely seems like a fitting label for you, considering what they have released in the past. Why the disassociation with Black Mark after all these years?

    Well, the reason why they put up with Nightingale, was because they always hoped I would do Edge Of Sanity stuff, and in hind-sight, I did. I doubt "Crimson II" would've happened if I hadn't done other stuff for the label. But once the E.O.S. ship had sailed I felt that it was about time to start looking for a proper home for Nightingale and other future projects, and once there was a request from Century Media back in 2007 (I think) I made sure to have had myself written out of contracts etc. with Black Mark so I could sign with C.M.. But around that time my father died and I just felt very uninspired for a while and the material I had intended to "sell" myself with, to C.M., never really materialized.

    So the C.M. deal was postponed and in the "label-less" times I did stuff with VIC Records like the Odyssey re-release, Total Terror and stuff like that...I am eternally grateful for what B.M. did for me and my career but they would never have signed a band like Nightingale if it wasn't for the fact that it was done as a "side order" to my E.O.S. contract. So I felt, that in order to take the band beyond what happened to "White Darkness" (a.k.a. pretty much nothing) we needed to be on a label like Inside Out. And now we are! Awesome!!

  • After so many years in metal, where do you see metal's evolution in 20 or 30 years? I think the saddest thing is the fact that a lot of our favorite metal musicians are passing on, and I wonder if kids in 50 years will even care about heavy metal, or even know of the songs that were written 50 or 100 years before their time?

    I often thought about that when I had the studio next to an "old peoples home" and saw them singing "spiritual songs" together with some friendly dude with an acoustic guitar. What will it be like when my generation grows old? Will we sit there 90 years old and nod along to 'Nothing Else Matters'?? But one thing is for sure, metal will survive everything. There is a kid hooked on metal and hard rock every minute and there is a need for this kind of music, and luckily enough is there enough high quality timeless sounding metal and hardrock (and prog and AOR) to last 'til the end of days...and them some :)

  • I remember seeing that Nightingale performed live at ProgPower here in my hometown of Atlanta. I really wish I could have seen that! Does Nightingale play out live much anymore? I remember seeing that you had printed lyrics in front of you because you stated at that time that Nightingale didn't play out much. What do you remember of the ProgPower appearance?

    It was a cool gig. I don't remember much at all, since I was in a Jet Lag bubble from when I got off the plane in Atlanta until a few days after we got home. I have some kind of stage fright that completely blanks my mind from stuff I haven't learned by heart years and years ago. Some stuff is there, like the lyrics to 'Nightfall...' and 'Black Tears' and stuff like that... but some newer tracks, I don't even have to try.

    I just won't remember stuff. I never really had to remember lyrics in the old days since I had a lyrics sheet behind the drums, and once I became an "in the front" performer, I just couldn't remember the lyrics and play guitar at the same time... these days I have a teleprompter, and it looks a bit more professional :)

  • Now I know you hail from Sweden, and sometimes work with black metal as well as death metal; what are your thoughts about the whole incident with the band Mayhem and the murder of Euronymous? I've read the book "Lords Of Chaos," and while that book tended to paint Varg Vikernes as a liar, interviews with several band members I've done seem to point to the opposite at many points. I know some who thought things went way too far, and of course it got black metal the interest and attention the scene innovators were wanting...

    I was looking at that whole "thing" from afar. I knew many of the Swedish persons involved in this stuff and I know that Varg once drove thru Finspang (my old hometown) on his way to Stockholm where he said he would "do stuff" to some life metal people... apparently he showed off lots of "sharp weapons" in his car trunk to some of my friends, so I guess he meant business, but nothing really happened ... I think...

    I remember hearing about Dead's death and also about Euronymous' death, and it was just a bit hard to grasp for someone more into the death/black stuff for the music, than the ideology behind it. Some great music came out of all this stuff anyway and I was lucky to be a part of that!!

  • Are you into Viking culture and lore at all? Here in the States, I know it must sound odd for an American to be totally into the Norse Gods and the legends and lore behind it, but then again, I have hated christianity for as long as I had realization of it's despicable and deceitful past... Still, there's something admirable about our ancient ancestors, and what I find comforting was that the Norse warriors saw the gods as friends to mankind instead of jealous manipulating tyrants that were like "obey me or die..."

    I love this stuff and I could probably sink my teeth into this stuff way more than I have done, but with bands like Amon Amarth kind of "copyrighting" most of the cool Viking stuff, I see no real reason, since I only let my time be spent in the name of research when it can become awesome lyrics.

    Tom wrote a great piece on vikings with the 'Warriors Of The Dawn' song for Nightingale. Me and my wife enjoy the TV series Vikings and are eagerly awaiting the new episodes. I believe the first one was aired on (the) History Channel in the US like 19th of Feb. But not here in Germany... I checked...

  • Finally, how would you describe Nightingale's sound to someone who hadn't heard any of the music? A true mark of an album's lasting monument to time is an inability to precisely describe what is obviously a work deserving of a definition all it's own. It obviously can't be pigeonholed into only one or even two genres!!

    Really a hard one to answer, since we cover so much musical ground from the 1st album to "Retribution." I guess a band like Nightingale finds its fans by a similar taste in good music, over a wide span. If you like a bit of Journey, old Judas Priest, mid period The Mission, All "flavors" of Rush, Spock's Beard, early Dream Theater, U.F.O./M.S.G., all the Rainbow albums etc. I assume you will find "goodies" in the Nightingale catalog. I don't except everyone to like all songs on all records. Hey, not even I do. But if you have an open mind, and share the same "Melody tree" like me and the guys in the band, chances are, that you will be hooked!

  • Anything else you want to talk about or add here that we didn't cover would be awesome... It has been a very special privilege and honor to do another interview with you for our publication! (Our last "chat" was all the way back in issue #17!)

    I could mention my wife's Merchandise business that specializes in all things Swano reacted at this stage. So far she's printed shirts with Pan.Thy.Monium - "Khaooohs & Kon-Fus-Ion" (The original pre-digital FX album cover motive), Edge Of Sanity "Purgatory Afterglow (with the real logo, original made from the original DIA scan) Nightingale "Retribution" Cover shirt (Soon also hoodies), and Witherscape "The Inheritance" cover artwork shirt. 2 different E.O.S. beanies, and there's stickers and soon also EOS patches!!

    Check it out on and also, if any one wants to have their album mixed or mastered by me, just get in touch. I work with everyone as long as they pay ;)

    And here's the final part of the interview done by Erik which focuses on the lyrical content of the new record.

  • The new album opens up with the cut 'On Stolen Wings,' and the first image that springs to mind is Prometheus, and how he stole the fire from the gods to give to mankind. It leads it's way to the second cut on the album (which I want to zero in on with my next question), but it reminds me of how I usually view the christian god, as a rather jealous and murderous tyrant that doesn't really seem to have ever had man's best interests at heart, especially in the old testament of the bible. Especially the part about where he drowned the world in a flood, even though animals and plant life had never done anything near as bad as what man through sin could have done... I could go on and on about this topic but I wanted to pick your brain on this matter for a second...

    The story behind 'On Stolen Wings' is actually several stories: the vampire figure is a mix of different persons that all have that same little habit of living on the work from others, stealing ideas and suggestions claiming it to be theirs. And just like a vampire they "suck the life energy" from you figuratively speaking. The line "feeding his heart with your fear and pain" is influenced from an old Stephen King short story about an evil librarian who scares little children and feeds on their tears and fears!

  • And now onto 'Lucifer's Lament,' because you are one of only two other bands I know that have ever touched this topic. We all know about 'Sympathy For The Devil' by the Rolling Stones, but Abdullah had a song called 'Lucifer In Starlight' where as a human, we really have to see the plight that maybe he's really suffering. After all, if we believe biblical accounts (which I certainly do not), then Lucifer is going to at some point be destroyed by god for his misdeeds and surely some compassion can be mustered.

    The thing that inspired the lyrics for 'Lucifers Lament' was a line that Dan sang on the demo version of the song. In the soft part of the song, when the vocal starts, he sang "I've been dreaming in a fire place..." or something like that. I thought that was kind of funny and got all sorts of images in my head. We had discussed that one of the songs could have a mythological or religious theme and after some thinking it hit me that there is a well known figure sitting in fire and thinking (dreaming, mourning etc...). I thought it would be interesting to tell the story from his perspective, a victim of someone else's decision: I don't think he saw that coming, a severe punishment for just speaking his mind.

  • Still, I believe most people see Satan as this ultimate horrible evil though I have read NOT ONE instance in the bible where Satan ever destroyed or killed anyone, where we can read hundreds of instances where god incited his followers to destroy whole towns, armies, and even murdered newborn babies (Egypt), and sent horrible plagues and sicknesses upon "his people."

    Now, I'm not a very religious person but if there really is an almighty God and the story about Lucifer is true then it must have been the plan from the beginning: God needs a really dark and evil opposite so that he can come through as even more good!

  • So I'm curious if there is an overall theme tying these individual songs together? I kinda see where the first two songs go, but then it seems like 'Chasing The Storm Away' and 'Warriors Of The Dark' kinda go together...

    When I wrote the lyrics to (some of) the songs on the album I didn't have the intention to tie them together to a certain theme or to the lyrics from Dan and Tom: every song had it's own story to tell. But it's fair to say that they are written in that special vibe and mood that, at least in my mind, makes Nightingale kind of unique. Perhaps that is the same for Tom and Dan and therefore there is some kind of subconscious underlying theme to the songs!

    'Chasing The Storm Away' had a completely different storyline from the beginning. Dag presented the song a couple of years ago and it was one of those songs that you immediately get hooked on and I had an idea for the lyrics that was about a young person who was living his or her life through computer games like World Of Warcraft and Counter Strike: an absolutely anonymous person in the real world but a ruler of empires in the cyber space. I called it 'The Grey King' but couldn't get the real feel for it so I dropped that idea (maybe I'll use it later). Then when the work on the album began I already had a more or less finished lyric to the song. It was called 'Inner Storms' and was quite introvert and dealt with the topic of inner emotional stress. But then we decided that the lyrical topics on the album should go in a completely different direction. At first I thought I had to throw it all away but then I realized I could keep a lot of the original lyrics and turn the focus from "the inner world" to how I, when I'm at my most dystopic mood, feel about the state of our planet. In my opinion this song could also have been titled 'Retribution'!

    PARAMAECIUM. Interview with Andrew Tompkins via facebook.

    After seeing an article about the "Ten Greatest Doom Metal Albums Of All Time," an article written by Christopher Jennings for the website, I decided it was LONG overdue to have a chat with the Australian doomsters. You see, one of the things that was a bit of a standout was their christian themes and unusual approach to the doom genre, incorporating flutes and female opera styled vocals to a tried and true method of doom/death metal. I had no idea that after "Exhumed Of The Earth," which is now (as of this writing) a whopping TWENTY TWO YEARS OLD, the band would later pen a few more albums and even take part in an overseas festival. Discussing older albums is something we're doing with this issue (witness the Nightingale interview), apparently, so you might as well jump on board and discover what all the fuss was about...

  • I first thought about you guys when reading an online article that mentioned some of the most influential doom metal albums of all time! Were you surprised that people remembered your album, I know you released your first full length before the rise of the internet as we know it today...

    That was truly incredible when I first saw that. We're just a little band from Melbourne Australia and we made that album in our early twenties. We barely knew what we were doing and everything was recorded to tape. We didn't have digital editing for that first album and we were very green in some respects. So for the album to be remembered as influential is really an honour.

  • What was really odd to me about "Exhumed Of The Earth" was that you just went ahead and released it yourselves, and a year later TWO record labels stepped in to pick it up: Witchhunt Records from Switzerland and R.E.X. Records here in the States! How did you come to be in contact with those labels and how was it working with two different labels?

    At that time we had a great response to our demo tape and the industry was dominated by large labels and fanzines - remember those? We had a good network of contacts and were getting lots of mail - you know "actual letters" - from around the world even before the first album came out. We knew it had to be special but because the style we were pursuing was so different to the demo tape we released, we didn't feel we could approach labels with that. So we begged and borrowed money on credit cards and from friends and family members to finance the recording and the first pressing of 1000 CD's. Some distributors started ordering 50 or 100 CD's at a time, so we were able to pay our debts within about 6 months and it kind of took off from there. That's when the labels started approaching us. The guy who ran Witchhunt was great, a one man label but he liked an eclectic group of bands and worked hard for them. I had many phone conversations and he's always call me Anthony. After a while I just stopped correcting him 'cos it was kind of funny. Then REX were faxing us license agreements and we were faxing back requested changes to the terms which I've since learned is usually frowned upon but I guess we lucked out and they really wanted the album because they agreed to a lot of the changes.

  • When I look at the bands that were signed to Witchhunt, groups like Anathema, Sadness and Celestial Season had doom metal albums that came out right about the same time as yours! What made you decide to perform this style of doom metal? What bands influenced you to play this style of music?

    Anathema were a great influence and having been on Witchhunt before us we felt that might be a good stepping stone to larger labels. My Dying Bride were a big influence too but the biggest at the time was probably Cathedral. We weren't trying to be like those bands in particular but that was what we were listening to when Jason De Ron and I started writing.

  • When your next record came out 3 years later, I am surprised that neither Witchhunt or R.E.X. decided to re-sign you! Why is that? Was it due to lack of sales, interest, or were those companies hard to reach from where you were located? I would assume that maybe you had a contract for only one album with both labels, which in the early days of the industry were almost unheard of; bands usually were contracted for several years and/or albums.

    We decided to license the album to the labels because unlike a standard recording contract, we'd already created the album and the artwork. They really just wanted the rights to manufacture and distribute in their part of the world so that's what we did. When the second album came along, I think by that stage R.E.X. had folded or was on the verge, and we didn't approach Witchhunt for Europe. I did have a phone call with Markus Staiger about releasing the "Within The Ancient Forest" album on Nuclear Blast but it wasn't what they were looking for at the time. But they were happy to distribute it if we could manufacture in Europe. So we ended up with a smaller but quite active Christian label in Germany called Pleitegeier Records who were able to use Nuclear Blast for distribution.

  • I must say that in the early 90's, those who wanted to listen to metal but wanted their bands of a christian origin were somewhat limited, albeit VERY limited, in their choices. Personally, some of the most extreme and dare I say "original" christian metal musicians (and even some not quite metal) could be found on R.E.X. and Intense Records. It seems like R.E.X. had a pretty unique vision for christian artists who wanted to make heavier music.

    They were the two main labels. I don't think we hit the radar of Intense Records, but R.E.X. Music seemed keen to take a risk on us. Not sure any major label had sold Christian doom up until that point. It did get us solidly into the general market in the US - that was a condition of our license agreement with R.E.X. - we didn't want to give them the rights to North America and then find out it would only be in Christian stores.

  • "Exhumed Of The Earth" was pretty brutal for it's time; in fact people I have played your album for had a hard time believing that this could possibly be the work of a christian oriented artist! Still, for a doom/death metal "blueprint" if you will, there were some surprising twists that most people wouldn't expect to hear on a death metal record, like flutes and female opera styled vocals. Did you feel you were doing something completely original, and did you ever think those extra influences would catch on and become more popular?

    I don't think we were the first to do it. Maybe we were the first with flutes. I don't know. It didn't seem strange to me at the time but a lot of people mention the flutes now like it was some incredible vision. But it really wasn't like that. The reality is that I used to play flute and I thought, this song might sound better with flutes so we tried it and it did. We had a lot of freedom because when we realised we could raise the money and record without a label attached, we also realised that we could do whatever we wanted. We didn't have to stick to the rules of one style, we could mingle things, be experimental, try out things that may or may not work.

    And my background wasn't solidly in metal - I grew up listening to a lot of seventies prog rock like early Genesis and Pink Floyd and these were experimental bands as well and the great thing is that I was working with Jason De Ron and Jayson Sherlock who were also up for trying something completely new. Maybe if I'd suggested using a xylophone I would have been given the "xylophones aren't very metal" talk, but it turns out flutes and harpsichords and sopranos were completely fine.

  • A lot of people thought your 17 minute opener from "Exhumed" was a bit excessive. Personally, I liked the idea of the female vocals, but the overtly high pitch operatic style was not to my taste, I find that most high pitched female vocals aren't my thing, and sometimes they can sound a bit annoying. Was that a reaction you got from a lot of others as well?

    I actually haven't heard that before. Having female vocals wasn't a new thing even back then but using an operatic soprano style was an attempt at adding some kind of theatrical or ethereal element to the song. It just so happened that one of our friends was a soprano and a violinist and so we got her to do both those elements on the first album.

  • Nowadays, songs clocking in at longer than 10 or 15 minutes are rather common in doom metal, but a 17 minute piece is still seen as a bit excessive by some.

    We didn't plan to write a 17 minute song. It was actually one of the last songs we wrote for the album and it combined a lot of riffs from each of the three of us that just kind of worked together. It wasn't really a song that was planned out but it kind of just evolved as we were writing and rehearsing it. It didn't occur to us about how long it actually was until we were recording it - we just let the music dictate how far it would take itself. It's not really a song written for radio play, but then it was actually played on the radio a fair bit at the time - maybe for the novelty factor. I remember going to an independent radio station here in Melbourne. The host started his metal show by putting that song on. Then he locked up the studio and took us to get coffee. The song was still playing by the time we got back.

  • When you look back at "Exhumed Of The Earth," which is now a whopping 22 years old, how do you feel about that album? People are saying it's quite unique for it's time, but nowadays doom bands like Shape Of Despair, Swallow The Sun, etc. etc. are utilizing those elements in their music...

    I'm kind of amazed at the attention it received and I still get a lot of contact on Facebook about how well it was received, particularly in northern Europe, the US and Central America. Because our money was limited we recorded the album over two weeks, and there was no budget for fancy mastering so where we got to in those two weeks is what you hear on the album.

  • Just out of curiosity, how does the Witchhunt version of your album differ from the R.E.X. version? I have the R.E.X. version, and it seems like the label drew more attention to your faith, especially in the liner notes with all the bible verses and the quotes and what not.

    I'm not sure the liner notes were any different at all. Witchhunt used our original cover photo which had the angel and the cross, which was different from the REX version, but I'm not sure Witchhunt cared about the Christian aspect so they probably just printed it as is. We included a lot of Bible verses - references to complement the lyrics - so the lyrics would make sense to someone interested enough to investigate the Biblical context. We also wanted our work to be "descriptive" instead of "prescriptive." We were really focussed on "not" telling people how they should live their lives - unlike the turn or burn brigade that dominated bands on Intense Records for example. We just wanted to explain what we believed and listeners could take it or leave it. That attitude seemed to earn us a lot of respect with other metal bands we played with around Australia.

  • I was rather surprised to find that Paramaecium had released quite a few albums before calling it a day? I never got to hear any of your later releases, but I was most curious about your "Within The Ancient Forest," which sounds like a title of a Scandinavian black metal band's album! Tell me about that release, because what was interesting was when I found out there was a book to go with that? And looking up the book, it's incredibly expensive and hard to find!

    Yeah, we sold a lot of those books but I still have boxes of them. I'm planning to get the book on the Kindle store soon so it will be more accessible. I wrote the book and the album at the same time over the period of about 10 months. So some parts of the story are only in the lyrics and some parts are only in the novel so they do kind of go together. The story is an allegory in the style of 'Pilgrim's Progress' about my own journey to seek spiritual truth. That album was probably our most mature work and it was very well received but it is markedly different from the first album. Grander and more ambitious. More female vocalists, more instruments such as cello and piano and harpsichord and just generally a more interesting album to listen to than "Exhumed..." to my mind.

  • It seems that as time went on, the lyrical content changed significantly, especially on album number two. Though you were labeled a christian metal artist, was that important to "channel" if you will through the music?

    I liked the idea of a more narrative approach on the second album. Some Christians criticised us at the time for trying to hide our Christianity in stories, but it was really an attempt to challenge myself to write a different lyrical style and attempt a literary approach to the story telling. Like I said before, we never felt compelled to blast people with our beliefs but we enjoyed the idea of exploring different ways of explaining what we believed and making it more accessible.

  • Nowadays christianity comes under fire a lot, especially here in the States, where it's people usually attack those who have different standards or don't believe as they do. Are you still a practicing christian?

    I think freedom of religion is an important principle and attacking someone for holding a different view than yourself is not very dignified. I've always felt we need to respect differing views even if we don't agree with them. As to whether I'm a practicing Christian, I usually tell people that I'm a practicing Christian but not a believing Christian. I still hold to the core morality of Christianity, but whether or not the New Testament is the inspired Word of God doesn't make any sense to me. The New Testament is a collection of writings that someone many hundreds of years later - and for effectively arbitrary reasons - decided some writings belonged in the Bible and some didn't. The writings that did get included, reinforced the prevailing mythology of the early church. The writings that were excluded were excluded because they didn't fit that worldview or their "supposed" writers weren't connected enough to Jesus in person. My current moral views are probably more Cartesian, more based in logic than in the dogma of a faith.

  • Australia is quite isolated, and I sometimes wonder if that's the reason that Australian bands aren't as well known as I thought they should be. Still, Australia had great thrash and death metal bands from the 80's on up, I know Hobbs Angel Of Death were one of the pioneers alongside Mortal Sin. Also, there are some great black metal bands there as well, like Destroyer 666.

    Australia primarily has a coastal population and cities are usually about 10+ hours drive apart and so touring can be quite expensive and very time consuming. So it's hard to support a release with a national tour particularly when you're playing such a niche style. Also, over the years the clubs that identified as metal venues kind of evaporated through the 90's and so everything became a lot harder and in the grand scheme of things we really didn't play a lot of live shows. Maybe 20 to 30 in total over the years. We considered touring through Europe or the U.S. as largely out of reach, particularly without the support of a label.

  • So what happened to Paramaecium? I know you changed the band name in 2006, though InExordium didn't seem to do much.

    After completing the fourth album "Echoes From The Ground" I contacted Jason De Ron to see if he wanted to work with me on a fifth album. We had always had a brilliant working relationship and our styles of song writing and individual sensibilities really complemented each other as we're quite different people with quite different musical tastes. So we started putting some songs together and then after a while it seemed like the songs we were writing weren't really doom but fit more into a traditional death metal style. It seemed wrong to release a different style of music under the same band name so we decided to rebrand.

    Around that time, Jayson Sherlock had contacted us about working on the new material with us, and we were also offered a headline spot at Nordic Fest in Oslo. We had been offered that spot a couple of years earlier but I declined as I really had no lineup. But now with the original cast back together it was completely doable. So we decided to head over to Norway, do one last show as Paramecium and then launch inExordium after that show by playing three of the new songs to showcase the style change. It was well received and we came back to Australia to produce our first album but after that, Jason De Ron left the band, another amazing guitarist was hired and then almost immediately fired by Jayson which was truly bizarre, and then Jayson and his second new guitarist left to form another band which was incredibly disappointing given the enormous time commitment we'd all made to work on the new material for a second album. I didn't feel confident to continue InExordium on my own and so that work is effectively done.

  • If fan interest was high, would you ever reconsider putting Paramaecium back together again?

    No. I'd be happy to work with Jason De Ron again in the future because he is really an incredibly talented and professional musician. But I couldn't work with Jayson Sherlock again unfortunately. We reside on different planets now. Also, it would be disingenuous to write a Paramecium album given that my faith has changed so dramatically. The previous work only represents my firm beliefs at the time that I wrote those albums. I'm still enamoured of writing doom and may go back to that at some point, but it won't be under the Paramaecium banner. At this point, I'd prefer to collaborate on projects with other professional doom musicians around the world.

  • I remember awhile back getting into Vengeance Rising, one of the first Christian thrash artists I ever heard. Roger Martinez was pretty extreme with his lyrics, vocals and his ministry work, however not long after things fell apart and Roger became a Satanist! Did you ever hear about this, and if so how did you see that whole situation?

    I knew Roger and toured with him in Australia in 1991. He was a likeable and very intense guy. But he was plagued with bitterness for the perceived wrongs he'd suffered at the hands of band mates and Christian record labels. I think the whole Satanism thing was a bit of an "up yours" gesture to the Christian music industry after he got fed up with everything. I don't believe he was actually a Satanist but probably did lose his faith. The latest I saw recently was that he had a Youtube channel selling real estate in California which gave me a smile.

  • Finally, before we wrap this up, it seems like gay marriage is now legal here in the United States; interestingly enough it's not the last country to "get with the times." I know a lot of religious people are upset about it, but they have to remember that the government, or ruling body of MEN, make the laws of the land, so in essence certain liberties and freedoms are defined by the people who make the laws. For instance, we enjoy freedom of the press and freedom of speech; however if you are in an ISIS controlled region, you are most definitely bound to the laws of the governing body in power...

    Like I mentioned earlier, if the state or your society is telling you what religion to believe, it is severely broken and at odds with what most right thinking people expect. It is a severe over-reach of the state. On gay marriage, I don't see it as a religious issue and it seems to be a concept whose time has come. Even a lot of conservatives I know in Australia support gay marriage because it's a social institution that contributes to the stability of society. In some parts of the world it will still take generational change to get there, but I don't see it as a religious issue. If your religious belief is against gay marriage, then maybe you should just abstain from marrying someone of the same sex. Imposing that view on a non believer is pretty unusual and conveniently selective since a lot of other religious views aren't foisted upon secular society in the same way.

    RAISE HELL. Interview with Jimmy and Jonas via email.

    Damn, haven't heard from these guys in a loooong time! I thoroughly enjoyed "Not Dead Yet," despite the "cheesy" lyrics. Blackened rockin' thrash, these guys have been through many stylistic changes from start to finish, and I daresay newcomer Jimmy has some of the most vicious vocal work this band has ever had. Read on, as their latest release kicks some serious ass!
    Unless otherwise stated, the interview questions are being answered by Jimmy.

  • It seems like it's been an awfully long time since your last full length! Like 9 years to be exact!

    We released “City Of The Damned” in 2006 and it's very unfortunate that it's taken this long but a lot of things have happened during these years. Actually we started writing new material right after we were done with touring for "City..." but for some reason we didn't get it down right. I think that we were (without knowing it by then) trying to write some kind of sequel to the previous album but I guess we kind of reached a dead end.

    About the same time the fire authorities closed down our rehearsal place, which is understandable, 'cause a fire would've toasted all of us. No escaping doors what so ever! But we'd been talking about getting our own place for a long time and now we were forced to. We found this place with just concrete walls, floor and ceiling so we had to start building it all by ourselves, from scratch. Since none of us had any experience of this kind of construction we googled most of it. Obviously this took a lot of time. Then, a lot of things happened on a personal level. Some of us have become parents multiple times, and if anything is time consuming, that is!

    Unfortunately I've had a lot of people (some really closely related) dying on me during this time, and this is also very time consuming. Our drummer Dennis Ekdahl left the band in the middle of writing this album. This was of course a big deal 'cause he's been a part of this band since the start and it took some time to adapt to the situation. I probably forgot some issues that made this process take all this time but at least you got an idea of what's been going on in the Raise Hell camp.

  • Now, I haven't heard anything since "Not Dead yet," and that was many moons ago. I do have your "Holy Target" full length, and it seems like your style and sound seems to change just a bit from album to album.

    Yes, our albums seem to change character from album to album for some reason. It's nothing that we planned. It just happens! I guess one of the reasons for the change of sound in this new album is that it's been so long since the last one and a lot of things changes in your life in 9 years. Opinions, influences and point of view. I love "Not Dead Yet" but I think trying to make a sequel would just be forcing it. We've never worked that way. It's what we feel, here and now!

  • "Not Dead Yet" was one of my favorite albums; it definitely had that 80's thrash feeling to it mixed with just some heavy, rockin' tunes! Whereas your first full length was more of a blackened thrash variety. Do you still play stuff live from those first two albums? It seems like all except the vocalist are still around from the earliest of days.

    We definitely still play songs from "Not Dead Yet." We're actually having a hard time not to pick out too many of those songs when we make a setlist. I think we can relate to that album more than "Holy Target" these days and that's the reason we play it. But requests for the H.T. songs are pretty common on gigs so we're planning on maybe put in a song or two into the setlist. We have been playing “Beautiful as Fire” and “ The Red Ripper” at some gigs though!

  • Sometimes people are a little surprised when a band announces a vocalist leaving or being kicked out of the band. I guess because the vocalist is usually the "frontman," people not only assume he is the band "leader," but also the one who writes the lyrics and has the general overall ideology of the band's style and sound.

    Yes, a change of a frontman/singer is always a huge deal. And even (more) so in this case. Some have liked it and some have not. Kind of expected! I guess I took over that "frontman" thing but Jonas Von Wowern is still writing his characteristic riffs and melodies and Niklas Sjostrom puts in his very own Raise Hell touch to it so I'm definitely not the only "style and sound" maker here! I write most of the lyrics and song arrangements, yes, but still we're all in this production together and if someone ain't happy with something, we go over it again till it's to everyone's satisfaction. Well... at least we try to!

  • So what was the criteria for searching out a new lead singer? It seems like the latest singer does sound a little similar to past members, and that blackened scream is pretty long winded and potent!

    I guess I should really leave this question to the other guys but I will give you point of my view. It all began a winter day in 2002. I got a phone call from Dennis Ekdahl. We were friends since high school so I wasn't really surprised. I thought he just wanted to small chat and probably some plan regarding snakes. Both him and me were very into snakes at that time. Then he told me that Raise Hell was looking for a new singer. I was kind of surprised so I asked what happened to Jonas. It didn't even occur to me that he was gonna ask me to try it out. I mean he knew that I just quit my last band Driftaway but he also knew that everything I had done music wise had been in the sign of rock 'n' roll. I'm talking about the Guns N Roses, Skid Row, Motorhead, Led Zeppelin kind of style. Yea, you get the picture. So the probability that he was looking for a R.H. singer during this phone call was pretty small. But yet, the question came!

    I thought he was out of his mind but if you know Dennis you know he can talk a snake to change its diet to tomatoes, so a first rehearsal was booked! And here we are!

  • Raise Hell's music has stayed vicious and aggressive all these years; well, as far as I can tell from the first two full lengths and this newest release. Do you still feel the same way about metal as you did when you were younger or first discovered extreme metal music?

    Jonas: Personally, yes and no. When I was younger, and the extreme music was new to me, I listened to a lot of metal genres. It was exciting to go to the record store and listen to all the different bands with cool covers and logos. I think we formed a style that was a mix of everything. We have always listened to a lot of music over the years so obviously it becomes a little different every time we go into the studio. It was noticeable when Jimmy joined the band and the music style developed even more. But I think we have a solid base that comes from the early detection of rapid and raw metal and I really think we present it on the new album.

  • It's funny how some people thought metal was dead in the early to mid 90's, but the truth is it merely went underground, with only a handful of bands remaining "popular" or continuing to hone their craft. It's still here to this day and kicking ass!

    Yeah. It's untouchable. It's too strong and powerful. People need to hear metal and we need to play it to get our aggression restrained. I think Metal was hiding in the shadows for some years because the pop music got too much space when music on TV and radio got so big. It was easy money and easy to sell for record labels. But we're still here and raising hell for sure!

  • So what was the band doing during the early to mid 90's? Grunge was getting a lot of attention here in the States, but I'm assuming Europe was in a different frame of mind, especially since that's when Norwegian black metal was starting on the second wave...

    Jonas: Me and Niklas were about 10 to 15 years old then and had just discovered Metal for real. In the start we were into Punk music and some Grunge, but evolved to more aggressive music since Niklas' older brother had us listening to Pantera, Slayer and Metallica. I also had a neighbor Martin Persson (who later started playing with Dismember) that made me understand the rawness in Death Metal such as Morbid Angel, Dismember and Sarcofago. I was totally hooked and told Niklas; this is the kind of music we're gonna play!

  • While on that note, it is rather amusing to see that Scandinavian black metal as a whole is over 25 years old now! Of course, black metal has about a half-life compared to the traditional metal bands that started in the mid to late 70's, like Sabbath and Priest.

    Black metal is still big here in Scandinavia. But today it's divided into different genres, like satanic, self destructive, and so on. Old school metal is of course bigger as it is more a style for people who just want to listen to hard rock without selling your soul to a certain style.

  • What do you think it's going to take for metal to survive for the next 50 years, especially since the heavyweights are all getting older and passing on? I know it's definitely going to depend on someone to keep things going!

    Jonas: Of course, I think the metal will survive because there will always be people who are experimenting with their dark side and must have a channel in which they can express themselves. I'm sure that as soon as the old Metal Gods die out there will be bands that will take over the throne just as fine. We are one of those bands that honor them and would stand behind when they leave.

  • Now I'm curious why you guys aren't on Nuclear Blast anymore; I know the European office did more to push the band than the U.S. office did. Still, it must be good to know that at least Black Lodge Records is right in your own backyard.

    Jonas: For the debut album "Holy Target" and the following "Not Dead Yet," Nuclear Blast stood behind us with full force. They put us in lots of festivals and tours. But there came a time when N.B. just wanted to focus on bands that sold many records such as Dimmu Borgir and Hammerfall so they got rid of the smaller bands and we were one of them unfortunately. But we looked around and found Black Lodge who wanted to invest and it felt good to have a company that is on the same level and understands the Swedish Death Metal.

  • Raise Hell I always thought was a VERY appropriate name for a band that kicks ass as hard as you guys do. I'm rather surprised the name wasn't already taken by someone from the 80's!

    Jonas: I agree it's strange, but we claim it and are damn proud of it. At first we were called "In Cold Blood," but had to change it because it was already taken by an American hardcore band. I remember I was a bit irritated by it but what the hell I thought... So the name Raise Hell came up and we felt that the name suited us even better as we became more aggressive in our music.

  • So what do you think happens to man when he finally ends up 'Six Feet Under?' You think there's life beyond this plane?

    No way! That's for religious people! We're here for one reason only and that's a chemical process! When I write about the Devil and God, it's only metaphors for all the shit that's going on here on earth right now. I don't believe in God, I don't believe in the Devil and I don't believe in Mickey Mouse!

  • Finally, a lot of bands have a goal of being "popular" or at least being able to play many shows in the U.S., this was especially apparent in the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement, when Def Leppard became overnight superstars in the U.S. and suddenly every NWOBHM band tried to change their style and sound to try and reach our shores. What do you think it would take for Raise Hell to get more attention and notoriety here in the U.S.? I don't think Raise Hell have played many shows here...

    Raise Hell has never played in the US! We had a tour booked for the last album "City Of The Damned" but at the very last minute something got fucked up with the U.S. Embassy so we couldn't go! But I think those issues are solved now so we're very hopeful to do a tour in the USA.
    We also have a distributor in North America now that will help in spreading our music easier.

    SULPHUR AEON. Interview via email with T. and M.

    The Lovecraft influence is strong with the German initiates. One thing about death metal for me is it HAS to have catchy and strong songwriting skills; so much about death metal is lost on me due to the usual suspect of unintelligible vocals and brutality & speed choking and burying any attempts at melody and good riffs. That being said, all things Lovecraft for ANY band perks my ears up IMMEDIATELY, and this band does NOT disappoint... Strong contender for death metal album of the year, take it away T. and M.! (Please note: all answers provided by T. except where noted).

  • After such a great response to your previous album "Swallowed By The Ocean's Tide," it's amazing to me that you were able to create such a masterpiece only two short years later, when other bands spend longer periods of time trying to come up with a decent album. Do you just have tons of ideas going around, or did you have to spend lots of time coming up with concepts?

    First of all, thanks a lot for your kind words on our music! It is much appreciated. Writing new material is something I can not force. It's always a more or less long period of experimenting and riff jamming, until, eventually, there is that one riff that hooks me up and where I can build onto. There was no deadline, so I think it was just a creative time when I wrote "Gateway...".

    I always have some ideas in the back of my head, but not all of them actually work when I try to play them. It may sound cheesy, but there is this magic feeling when I know that a new song works perfectly in my ears.

  • Melodies abound on this latest album "Gateway To The Antisphere." I think a lot of what got me OUT of death metal was just the overt insistence on endless speed, gore and brutality while sacrificing the SONG. It's one of the reasons why I haven't been able to get into much of Cannibal Corpse's last 5 or 6 albums fully, whereas I really enjoyed their "The Bleeding" release. And of course atmosphere is very important when trying to connect the listener to the Lovecraft universe.

    Melodies have always been one of the most important aspects of my musical taste, be it when I listen to music or even writing some. Atmosphere is our highest aim, and therefore we use whatever feels necessary for the specific part of a song. Good melodies, for example, must not lower the brutality of the song. It is about how, where and when they are used in a composition.

    About sacrificing the actual song for sheer rage and brutality, that is what we want to exclude at any cost. We want to write memorable songs with each song having its own character.

  • One thing that DID surprise me was the amazing lead solo on the title track! It's not like 100 miles per hour shredding, but emotionally well crafted and I'm kinda wondering why there weren't more lead solos on the disc? Granted, I know you guys aren't power metal but I always appreciate a well crafted lead solo over the technical proficiency ANY DAY, especially when it carves out such an emotional response and actually enhances the rest of the tune.

    As in every song, I just try to explore what the song demands to become an entity. Concerning this specific lead... it simply felt right at this very moment of the song. I don't consider myself being a good solo guitarist, I see my strength in writing songs, but when a part screams for a strong lead, I'd try my best to unleash a thrilling lead. Technique is unimportant for me; a lead guitar has to create a feeling and substantiate the atmosphere of a specific part or the whole song.

  • So tell us about your fascination with H.P. Lovecraft; the first thing you remember that made you want to read more of his stories and short poems. I know it's amazing to me to realize he wrote most of his stuff in the 1920's and 30's, well before most of the world's most famous and best horror writers were even born!

    M: I've started reading Lovecraft quite late, but when I did, I've read it all within a short time frame. I think the interest arose with the perception of various names from the Lovecraft universe with Cthulhu being the first... or even the "That is not dead..." line. I think the first band that made me really curious about all that was Morbid Angel and several horror films from the 1980's...

  • There have been quite a few bands in this day and age who have made albums dedicated to the works of Lovecraft; although my earliest memory goes back to Metallica with their 'Call Of Kutulu' song and of course one of Obituary's album covers. Maybe you know of some others who might have been earlier?

    For me personally, that particular Metallica song also was the first touch point with H.P. Lovecraft. I'm pretty sure that there were several bands who already used those themes, but none of them appear on my musical roster.

    M: There were quite some bands who have used Lovecraftian themes in their music. Even before Heavy Metal. In the 60's there was H.P. Lovecraft who had songs like "White Ships"... a rather obscure band by the name of Arzachel had a song called "Azathoth", a weird song that kind of sounds like a church hymn. There is also a book that focuses entirely on bands with Lovecraftian themes.

  • Who are some of your favorite bands that have drawn from Lovecraft? Personally, I enjoy the "strange joy" and rather original doom metal influence from Argentina's Fungoid Stream, and Tyranny's "Tides Of Awakening" album is truly a monstrous, evil cult of dark hymns dedicated to the elder gods. Still, it's not like every band out there has their body of work dedicated to Lovecraft.

    I think the most important bands for me, dealing with Lovecraftian themes, are Morbid Angel and Nile, but I also like newer bands like Portal or The Great Old Ones.

    M: Morbid Angel is probably the most important one for me and I also enjoy old Shub Niggurath. There are quite some newer bands with Lovecraftian outputs which I dig. Innsmouth from Australia come to mind who are one of my favourites, perhaps also Portal and some others.

  • Have you seen any of the movie adaptations of Lovecraft stories? I personally enjoyed the movie "Dagon," and of course the "Call Of Chtulhu" movie that was filmed like a 1930's black and white talkie was really good. Some have been hit or miss though.

    These 2 are of course great examples and among the best adaptions there are. But we are also into those classic oldschool gorefests Re-Animator/Bride Of Re-Animator and From Beyond. "The Whisperer In The Darkness" was also very good and not to forget "Die Farbe" from Germany which is based on "The color Out Of Space". There's also a cool short film collection which the H.P.L.S. released which is called "The H.P. Lovecraft Collection" that features some nice stuff. Dan O' Bannons "The Resurrected" is a flick we really enjoyed, it's a really good take on "The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward." From the classic Corman films, "The Haunted Palace" has to be listed. This one also bases on Charles Dexter Ward.

  • Guillermo Del Toro was set to release a movie based on "At The Mountains Of Madness:" sadly, that film has not yet seen production. I was greatly impressed with Toro's work on the T.V. series "The Strain," about an ancient and evil strain of vampirism...

    This was a project we were really looking forward to and we still hope that it will be realized some day. He still wants to make this movie and really wants it to happen.

  • Speaking of The Strain, have you seen it? One thing that was interesting was the master vampire healing completely a dying old man and giving him the gift of superhuman strength and immortality. Sadly, all men will age badly and die; do you think mankind will ever solve the aging problem?

    We haven't seen the "The Strain" yet, but it will hit Germany soon and sounds very promising. About aging, well, honestly I hope they never will solve the aging problem. Personally, I don't want to spend eternity on this planet. Everything has its time and that time is limited.

  • After reading several of Lovecraft's stories, I know some people have complained at how matter-of-fact and "dry" his writing is; though to me it seems like he's telling of this after seeing these entities multiple times. One cannot help but wonder if maybe Lovecraft had the ability to astral project and maybe saw these beings in strange dimensions? Or had some very strange dreams.

    I wouldn't describe his style as dry, but as very detailed, yet vastly open to suggestion and fantasy. That is what makes it so appealing to us. And yes, you always have the feeling that there might be more behind those lines... more than mere stories. I think that's another aspect attracting so many readers to his creation, even nowadays where his style may seem a little old-fashioned compared to modern horror literature. Who knows where his visions were bred, maybe he was even a slight bit insane. He was a strange person I'd say, and a visionary.

  • The song 'Seventy Steps.' I'm kinda curious as to where those steps are leading to! Do you think there's REALLY anything at all to numerology? After all, the numbers 666 and 13 are dreaded by a great many people!

    M: I guess the whole world is mathematics somehow, but the "seventy steps" are simply leading Randolph Carter to the Caverns Of Flame where from he enters the Dream-Lands. The further 700 steps would lead him right into the enchanted wood. 'Seventy Steps' is the first song of a trilogy adapting "The Dream-Quest To Unknown Kadath."

  • So you wonder if Lovecraft would appreciate the realms of death and black metal... I bet he couldn't have known that many years after his death, histories would be set to music.

    Since Lovecraft never really gained any kind of real appreciation during his lifetime, he would feel at least honored, I think. Probably it would even remind him of Erich Zann's music, haha.

  • Hearing the opening track, it seems like this would be a good intro to play before you hit the stage... Are you guys actually a touring/live band? And if so, what would a typical performance be like? Is there an elaborate stage show?

    We are not a touring band, but we play some well chosen shows. About the opening track, you're right. But we have a special intro for live shows which has been created for our first life appearance in 2013. Our bassplayer made it. If you check youtube for liveclips, you may even find that one.

    We don't actually have a real "show." We'd rather let the music speak, accompanied by lighting and stage fog. A backdrop, banners and our stage outfits. Nothing that big, but in this combination well working and effective.

  • It may be too soon after your latest album, but are you actively working on another album? Any themes, song titles or content you can tell us about? I can more than likely say it will be set in the Lovecraft universe once again...

    Not really. I just started gathering ideas again and actually I'm working on the first song. It will definitely be swarming around the Lovecraftian universe/pantheon again. But so far, there is nothing to speak of.

  • From what I can tell, I hear mention of Chtulhu, Nyarlatothep, and Azagthoth, but don't hear any mention of Dagon. Were there certain entities you chose to focus on, and will some of the other elder gods be appearing on future releases?

    M: I really don't know which topics I will circle around on the next album. No thoughts yet on this.

  • Do you think there may be beings that exist outside of time and (possibly) space? I know scientists and astronomers are constantly looking for signs of alien life on other planets, but my thing is: do we really WANT to contact such beings? Especially if they are hell bent on destruction of all life as we know it!

    I am pretty sure that there is life somewhere else in this or another universe and of course I would like to see them... purely out of my own egoistic curiousity, but I don't think that we will necessarily need an alien force to destroy ourselves. We're pretty much on a good way towards extinction...

  • So how do you see the worlds and realms of Lovecraft? I know I have heard different sides to this: sometimes Fungoid Stream portrays the beauty and solitude of the ancient cities; how majestic and massive the underwater city of R'lyeh must be, and of course, bands like Tyranny focus on the ancient, inhuman and monstrous evil that such beings would bring...

    I think our artworks reflect our views on how we imagine the Lovecraftian realms quite effective. So, regarding that, it is kind of a mixture of both. Massive and monstrous, strange architecture residing in chaos, an undescribably old realm, swarming with twisted life is what a place like R'lyeh must be like.

  • Finally, one question I ask a lot of bands: If the elder gods do decide to rise up and destroy humanity, where do you think we will end up? Do you believe there may be something more after this life is done? Personally, I can't fathom the idea of non existence for eternity after death; surely there is an existence beyond this one!

    I don't believe in any form of afterlife or reincarnation, but I have no problem being taught better when the time has come for me to leave this place.


    As it seems to be the norm these days, we seem to be able to only get out one issue a year! Delays notwithstanding of course, it gets harder and harder to just sit down to these albums for the sheer sake of just enjoying them; there's always interviews to conduct or reviews to be written... It seems like there's not a whole lot of time to digest these albums the way we used to in the old days; where we'd read along with the lyric sheets and spend countless hours just KNOWING the songs. One of the reasons there aren't 60 or more reviews in each issue is because I take the time to let these albums get "under the skin," so to speak... If it's an album I love, I'm obviously going to pick it apart, and let's face it: sometimes I think I'm waaaay too open minded to even be doing a music magazine. That being said, I still love hearing new albums and discovering new bands from all around the world that 90% of the U.S. population isn't even clued into (and sadly, many never will). Thus the "work," if that sounds too dirty a word for what I do, carries on...

    Vibrations Of Doom Magazine was in attendance at the Fifteenth annual ProgPower festival this past year, and oddly enough a first time for us. I would like to dedicate this entire issue to the band Falconer, who put on an amazingly brilliant performance at Center Stage this year. One of very few times I had the opportunity to see a band that I could sing just about EVERY one of their songs (yes, even the Swedish sung ones!). The three acoustical numbers were quite astounding, and left no dry eyes in the house... Though Falconer is said to not really be a "live band," I found Mathias' almost actor like stage routines rather fitting, and the whole band seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely! It was very sad when we realized that the entire performance was over, and Falconer would probably never grace these shores again. Still, this is to take nothing away from some of the other bands I enjoyed at the festival: from my first time seeing Anathema in a completely different setting and sound from their earliest of doom metal days, and quite enjoying myself at that, to seeing Saxon again for the second time in my life and realizing that they still kick ass. My first time seeing many bands that day including Voyager (clearly a crowd favorite) and Armored Saint, who I have gotten more familiar with as we got closer to the festival date. We WILL definitely be at next year's festival, which promises to be their best lineup ever! For you 80's metal fanatics, just the prospect of seeing Fates Warning perform the COMPLETE "Awaken The Guardian" album IN IT'S ENTIRETY with none other than John Arch at the helm is enough reason for my tickets to be in hand ASAP! Add to that bill Savage Messiah, Vanishing Point, Freedom Call AND Green Carnation performing "Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness" in it's entirety and there you go!

    I sincerely hope that people are taking the time to listen to the high quality soundfiles that I do for every CD reviewed. I know it seems like the RealAudio format is "outdated," as some would say, but the reality of the situation is quite twofold: First off, the legality of offering streaming audio in this day and age is fraught with peril. Granted, I work closely with a lot of these labels and I'm sure they are on board with what I'm doing, but I've usually noticed that it's the bands, not the labels, that have taken an issue with the soundfiles and/or classic albums section in the past. I've consulted with music copyright lawyers who have confirmed that the streaming RealAudio format is a lot less troublesome than the standard MP3 format, in terms of legality. And the second issue is, quite frankly, file size and space. When you can get great audio quality out of a 5 minute song that barely costs you 3 megs of disk space, then the issue becomes quite clear. That same file, even in the lowest of acceptable MP3 quality (usually begrudgingly given at 128k), is uaually around 5 to 6 megs for the same song length. Granted, it's still almost a tenth of what the natural, uncompressed .wav file is, but when file size and server space are serious issues (not to mention there's over 1,500 full length albums, 7 inches and EP's competing for that same server space), the choice is clear. But as I've stated in the past, we've tweaked the codecs with RealAudio quite a bit and come out with very good quality audio files that rival the MP3 files currently in rotation by many. And we check the links on an infrequent basis, so you'll always know where to go to download the best RealPlayer options. We're still working on the mobile phone issue, but right now there's no better options that the ones mentioned on our facebook pages...

    As a final note, I must say I am extremely pleased with this issue. Taking the time and WAITING until I have a magazine filled with great content is something that will become the rule, rather than the exception, from now on. Yes, there were quite a few reviews I just didn't get around to, and some I wished had graced this very issue. Still, release dates have become somewhat non-important for me as well, since if you read carefully, we have some releases going as far back as 2012 and 2013, and some that have only come out within a few short months of this publication's release. Interview wise, I couldn't be happier, as once again a few interviews drifted in at the final hour, and the Paramaecium interview I didn't think would happen, and now it's one of our feature interviews. Most of the interview requests I sent out absolutely happened as I wanted; no easy feat when bands are hard to reach or always on the road. Still, this issue represents what I most want to see in an issue: intelligent, well thought out and planned interviews with bands that go beyond the normal scope of "every other reviewer's questions." You'll notice I focused a lot on death and the afterlife; no small recognition factor since time and again we hear about more and more of our metal heroes who are passing away. From Paul Baloff (Exodus), Dimebag Darrel (Pantera) and Ronnie James Dio to Juhani Palomaki (Colosseum + Yearning), these people were important in some way to metal's evolution and the world is saddened by their passing. Some truly great and inspiring artists have passed from this mortal coil, never to be seen again. It is my sincerest belief that there is SOME sort of afterlife where these great artists can still hone and perfect their craft and skills. Only the end will tell us for sure.

    On that note, there will be another issue sometime in 2016 it seems... We'll more than likely start putting it together very soon. Thanks go out to all the labels and worldwide readers who continuously supported us. Thanks to Falconer for reposting the few videos I uploaded from the show, it garnered us over 11,000 views and brought us many new fans and faces... MANY thanks to the new record labels we added this year; Odin only knows how many we work with. And I suppose that will be all for now...