THE BEST OF 2013 AND THE END OF 730 DAYS

Beginnings and ends. This time it’s more about the latter. Although year 2014 is just a crying newborn, I’m standing more around graves than cradles. The paper version of Kaleidoscope is lying already in hibernation, and now it’s time to drag this blog into the realms of sleep too. I have gone through all the old issues and also published lots of interviews from Imperiumi.net too, so I don’t have any actual material left in my sleeves – and same time I don’t have enough time and interest to create new things. Therefore, by this article about the pinnacles of 2013, I’ll say farewell but leave the door ajar for the possible inspiration to come. Thank you all – about 37 400 views so far, by the way – we’ll see somewhere in the future.

About the year 2013: many “good old bands” didn’t do the trick but to counterbalance this I found many new bands and even new genres that gave me new angles and ways to see this abstract and infinite world of music. So an interesting year in general. And it was also a happy thing to see that I had interviewed all these bands in my top five. So instead of actual reviews (let the music do the talking!) I pinched a word or two from those interviews – these bands have both music and words in aces.

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TRIBULATION: The Formulas of Death

- When we started getting somewhere with the album, we decided not to check how long the songs were, it seemed limiting at the time. This wasn’t the album for that kind of thing; we wanted this album to be as “free” as possible from all of that crap. Another thing we agreed on early was to shut the world out from this album; hence, we couldn’t have cared less if someone felt that it was too long. It could have been a three hour album, and it could have been half an hour. If anything, some of that has come to me now that the album is actually recorded, but I still don’t feel that it’s too long; it is what it is. We didn’t make the album to sell records, we made it for ourselves. If someone likes it, then that’s great I think, but I really can’t see how I will get affected by people who don’t. We left some material out, but no complete songs. It could be a good start for our next album; we actually have even newer material as well. That creative spark still lingers. (from Kaleidoscope #14)

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BÖLZER: Aura MLP

- The guitar riffs are obviously an essential part of our atmosphere and it is precisely because I am alone in the string section that the riffs are large and evocative. I have a lot of space to fill so there is much emphasis put on the depth, breadth and tonality of the guitars. The dynamics find their roots in the riff writing process but really come to fruition when placed over HzR’s monolithic beats. I find our style of writing quite reserved, compared to a lot of other technical acts at least, so it is not too difficult to maintain an ordered overview. (from Kaleidoscope #17)

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PAAVOHARJU: Joko sinä tulet tänne alas tai minä tulen sinne

- There’s always a primordial, elemental vision behind good music. Music is the saliva of God, and the person who’s trying to make truffles out of that saliva by rolling it in the dust, isn’t really capable of making a difference between an arp2600 and a lyre. (from Kaleidoscope #7)

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COSMIC CHURCH: Ylistys

- When you are solely responsible for every detail of the album and play everything yourself (with length and amount of different instruments as this) the amount of physical and mental stress is (at least for me personally) huge. I would also like to deal with recordings as fast as possible, but in this case I had to record the album in small pieces over the period of half of a year, which left me a lot of time to lay awake in my bed at night and have thoughts like “is it good enough, should I re-record the whole thing or just dump some songs or do something else” and I had major stress about these issues all the time and nothing was really proceeding, as I always had to fit my schedule together with the recording guy, etc. Finally in January 2013, we had everything ready from my part and I can say that I am happy if I never need to go through this kind of process again. (from Kaleidoscope #15)

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CONVENT GUILT: Convent Guilt MCD

- As much as I like women, whisky and wild nights in the city, I really don’t feel the need to write yet another song about those topics. There is definitely a serious side to Convent Guilt. We’re not ‘preaching’ or trying to send a message to our listeners, but we try to craft dark and powerful stories, often with an influence from Australia’s history. I love the dark obscurity of ‘70s Judas Priest lyrics, the Irish pride of Thin Lizzy’s finest moments and the sleazy, cheeky wit of ‘70s Aerosmith. I try to bring a bit of all those elements to Convent Guilt. (from Kaleidoscope #14)

…And to keep things going to the last breath, these albums also get my honourable mention:

THE RUINS OF BEVERAST: Blood Vaults

LANTERN: Below

ULVER: Messe I.X-VI.X

PESTE NOIRE: Peste Noire

RUGER HAUER: Ukraina

SUMMONING: Old Mornings Dawn

CATHEDRAL: The Last Spire

THOU ART LORD: The Regal Pulse of Lucifer

SOKEA PISTE: Välikäsi

CULTES DES GHOULES: Henbane

VENEROR: Percussimus Foedus cum Morte

NATIONAL: Trouble Will Find Me

SPEEDTRAP: Powerdose

KNOKKELKLANG: Avgrunnens Klangverk MLP

THE CHOSEN THREE: NOVEMBER 2013

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As you can see from the picture, the first snow has arrived and all this whiteness gives me a feeling that maybe everything is not going to land on my shoulders and crush me to the ground. The stress from the work made even this month’s The Chosen Three a hard task to execute, although I have had time to enjoy musical delicacies (mostly b-grade heavy metal and Finnish melancholic rap) now and then. Well, luckily something new and something special has arrived to my record shelf after all – here they are.

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ATLANTEAN KODEX: The White Goddess (20 Buck Spin 2013)

This German cultural barbarian metal group shook my inner metalhead with their debut album The Golden Bough (2010) and this second offering doesn’t leave me cold either. The White Goddess is maybe even more about Bathory (Enthroned in Clouds and Fire for example) and Manowar than rocking heavy metal so you get lots of epic rumblings and monumental riffings. The shadow of death is present too, so The White Goddess isn’t just gleaming in power and glory but dwelling in longing and sorrow too – and these both sides go hand in hand very well. Lead guitars paint the skyline golden and blue, for example.

Three short instrumentals and five long (usually over ten minutes) actual songs tell you that this album is a whole; a journey through different cultures and their views on war, death and afterlife. The Golden Bough’s weakest link, singer Markus Becker, shows improvement on this one and he can build his voice as rough and earth-shaking as the music itself rather well. This album truly needs more listening in my end, but after this short acquaintance I can say that this is a fine metal album.

Sol Invictushttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0KYpbiatcI

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BEASTMILK: Climax (Svart 2013)

The second coming of postpunk – how ambivalent thoughts I have about it. When a few bands manage to achieve that cold and pulsating feeling, it’s almost too easy to just sound good although the songs are full of (negatively) hollow pounding. Beastmilk is one of the better bands, and already their first releases – two seven inches from 2012 – showed that they can rock and they can also freeze their own and also listeners’ souls. Also the vocal delivery from Mat “Kvhost” McNerney and the fact that I liked the mastermind Juho Goatspeed’s previous band Spiderpact (and Seed Saw too) were strong arguments in  my book.

Now the debut album is here, with the hype. Produced by Kurt Ballou and getting recognition both in underground and mainstream, Climax is an easy target for nitpicking: “the songs are each others’ clones, the hooks are too cheap, the production is big but soulless…” Yeah, release the vultures when there is a fat catch available. Well, I must say that Climax isn’t so impressive than Use Your Deluge EP for example. Although the album isn’t so long, the songs tend to get mixed in their similarity now and then. Only the closer Strange Attractions stands up properly, but on the other hand isn’t that a closer’s job after all? Okay, I have to give credit to Ghosts Out of Focus also, its mellow but chilly atmosphere really got under my skin. Buuuut I must say also that the production is a bit too safe here – the rough edge of the EPs is missing.

But if I just think this as a piece of music without any connections to this or that, Climax delivers fine songs that have loads of passion but also desperate atmosphere. This is music for nuclear nightclubs and desolate discos, and the whole band does a great job, driving recklessly without any hope for the future. Some songs like Death Reflects Us are a bit too Editors/Interpol-like (or do you remember Thine‘s In Therapy album?) but I like all of those bands so I can live with this.

As you can guess from all these vague comments, I haven’t listened Climax enough to give a firm opinion about it, but now you have something to relate to. The next thing is to listen to a song or two and make up your mind.

Love in a Cold Worldhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwQIlW14aRc

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AKITSA AT BLACK FLAMES OF BLASPHEMY FESTIVAL

The fifteenth of November was the date when Akitsa performed for the first time on the European soil. The place was Nosturi, Helsinki, and the ritual/festival/happening was Black Flames of Blasphemy IV, the last real tour de force from Kold Reso Kult, a Finnish gig organizer. The whole two-day set was full of good shows, but in this case I’d like to give Akitsa the first place, because rarely you get dragged through a so primitive performance. And when I’m talking about primitive, I don’t mean rat carcasses, bloody corpse paints or hissing/buzzing lo-fi noise, but a solid, almost blunt music that doesn’t make any compromises. As you all maybe know, Akitsa is about simple repetition and hard-hitting riffs, and although I can’t name any of this Canadian band’s songs, I recognized a lot of them in their set – tells something about catchiness, or?

And the performance itself, with a small and simple drum set and somehow vapid guitar sound, this quartet just threw everything over the audience, like a new-born baby, naked, bloody and – dare I say – innocent. No gimmicks, no speeches, no costumes – just the songs and O.T.’s tormented voice which transformed to a football community singing here and there. I must say that the audience didn’t seem to know what to do with the music like this: also personally, in one moment I was ready to dance, in one moment I just stood and stared, and in one moment I was stomping my foot and banging my head. And at the same time I felt weird pride, or deep understanding… Hard to verbalize this feeling. But it was something different and honest, and I liked it.

Le Soleil Noir (live): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esescLAV824

NEVER SAFE: LIFELOVER

Sometimes you say more when you don’t say anything. I guess this was the case with Kim Larsen and Lifelover in this interview. In these short, bored answers lies maybe a truth about Lifelover’s situation back then – maybe all this gloom and nausea became too high and exhausting for Larsen to handle, and when a member B deceased about seven months after the release of Sjukdom, it was just a relieving reason to end the band logically. Or maybe I’m wrong. But Kim Larsen in this interview is another person compared to Kim Larsen in my Hypothermia interview from 2007, that’s for sure. 

So, Lifelover is dead and buried, but Hypothermia is rising its wings slowly. Also Larsen’s other creation, a band called Kall is finally getting something done. Let’s see what happens next. I hope we haven’t heard the last words from this cold, bloody and cold-bloodied Swede yet.

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(Originally published in Imperiumi.net 2011)

You have climbed higher and higher during your career, and the labels are bigger and bigger: Konkurs was released by Avantgarde, Dekadens by Osmose and now you are under the wings of Prophecy Records. What does this ascent tell about Lifelover and about this world in general?

- As we evolve as a band it’s only natural that we’re not staying at one label for our whole existence.

I find it a bit weird that a band which is so radical, which is singing about anguish and suicide and has included pills to their earlier albums (I have still that pill left!), is now so famous. Okay, we have Marilyn Manson, Slipknot etc. but you are still more realistic and therefore more serious with your thing in my opinion. Do you find any reasons behind this maybe your bittersweet style to combine catchy pop melodies and terrifying lyrical themes or something else?

- I see nothing weird or terrifying about anything we do. We are still calm, we’re just getting started… The reason for our way of creating songs is simply because it’s what comes as natural for us.

And is one of your goals to be a big band commercially? For example, would it be cool/shameful/something else to be worshipped by thousands and get news about people who have committed a suicide inspired by Lifelover?

- Anything can be considered success depending on what associations anyone may have to this word and how you may define it. Any of what you mention could be considered success while I honestly don’t care. We will continue to do what we feel like regardless of being in a studio or on a stage, no matter if it’s for many or few.

Your new album Sjukdom will be released among other versions as a limited boxset which includes a razor, a syringe etc. This reminds me of Watain’s decision to include tarot cards and candles to the special version of their Lawless Darkness album: after that they got accused of commercializing magick and occult. Are you doing same thing to suicidal topics or is it this just sick humour?

- Perhaps a little bit of both and something more. Or maybe they just like us or our label felt like including something that some of the listeners would have use for in their every-day life in relation to the kind of music and message they support by purchasing the product.

Well, let’s talk about more earthly topics next. You released three albums in three years, then an EP but after that there was more than a year of silence. Did you suffer of inspirational vacuum or what was the reason behind this silent year? Was Sjukdom a difficult album to write down and record?

- We strive to evolve and to do this naturally we can’t let something like time affect anything we do. Creating an album can take anything from days to years regardless of inspiration.

How do you see the nature of making albums for yourselves in general: is it easy, painful or maybe just necessary to get the songs from your hands?

- It’s all of this and much more.

I listened to Sjukdom in two different situations. At first I was going to my workplace, it was a beautiful morning and everything was fine this time I didn’t get about anything from the music. The next time was when I was returning from a bar at night I was drunk, it was cold and there were noisy and annoying people around me – this time the songs hit me harder and I found some sort of a contact with your music. So, do you think that Lifelover’s music needs a certain atmosphere? And what kind of an atmosphere fit with Sjukdom best?

- Any situation got its soundtrack, it’s as simple as that.

How about taking risks in making music? Although there have been slight variations between your albums, I find them all quite similar in the end. So what kind of experiments did you make when writing/recording Sjukdom and is progressing and variations important or necessary for Lifelover at all?

- I neither see any risks or experiments as what we do is somewhat experimental by nature while doing what we feel is right. We always find new ways to create songs even if it might not be very clear for everyone it will be evident with time. Of course progress is important.

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It would be easy to see that Lifelover has also socially critical aspects how this society is living half-life filled with affectation and hidden nausea. Also some of your album titles mainly Konkurs, Dekadens and Sjukdom can be seen descriptions of the world’s state today. Do you try to say something about this world with your music, or do you create music just for/about yourselves?

- It’s a yes to both as we’re reflecting about what we feel, experience and what is around us.

For us Finns Sweden is a land of softness easy Ikea life, not any real problems, princes and princesses with fake smiles on their faces… This kind of softness can be a double-edged sword after all though: when the majority lives their life like zombies, the renegade souls like you can turn this all to hate and disgust and power. How do you see your home country and its affection to your music?

- I don’t want to talk about this.

If we take a look on the previous big news from Sweden, one of them was about this guy who raised fear by shooting people in Malmö. Another is the suicide bomber with Islamic background. These happenings tell us that no one is safe anymore, not even in Scandinavia. So we are heading to darkness, but is this a right direction in your opinion?

- No one is ever safe, sometimes people just get reminded by this as most people prefer to forget reality. You are never safe and you will never be.

And so we can end this interview to a worn-out topic perhaps: your band’s name. Like I mentioned in the previous question, mankind is pushing itself over the edge, and therefore it feels that celebrating death and the total extinction is maybe the best option after all – more life means more suffering, more idiots and more useless continuation on this shit planet. So is it suitable to love life anymore, or should we take your band name ironically and turn its meaning upside down?

- You should do anything you want with it and make the most of it. There is meaning for anyone to find in what we are and what we do. There are endless scenarios that can be adapted to this. Celebrate anything you want.

THE CHOSEN THREE: OCTOBER 2013

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It’s just so enjoyable to see how bizarre these trios come in the end. Like this one of October: Paavoharju and Ulver go quite well together but then there is this German bastard ripping everything apart in the middle. And that’s how it must go: you always go through different phases, feelings and states of mind, but in the end everything is in their right place – and usually there is always a song or two to give a decent soundtrack to every moment. Therefore I’m quite satisfied with my music taste and my iPod, which gets me through my daily bus trips (40 minutes) to my workplace and back. It’s not maybe the right thing to strengthen especially negative feelings by listening music that fits that feeling before going to work but whatta hell – if there is a chance to fly in the air or dwell in the abyss, I’m ready for it. You can find me from the both ends of the line.

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Ulver: Messe I.X-VI.X (Jester 2013)

These wolves seem to change their fur with every release. If the latest offering before this, The Childhood’s End was a dark hippy retrospective to the sixties, this time Ulver team up with Tromso chamber orchestra. Music is flowing from two different sides – electronic and classical – and they create a well-working dialogue where neither overshadows other. Vice versa, these sides hum and wave, like a sea or a mass (hence the title of the album?), with silence and a voice. Messe I.X-VI.X is mostly instrumental, which just adds the effect of this weird atmosphere, and there is also enough variation to keep things interesting. While a few tracks sound like modern classical music, you can also find nods to Tangerine Dream’s hypnotic monotony or Ulver’s own electronic pulses. Yes, this album is still an Ulver album despite all these new spices and solutions. Very good, atmospheric music for this autumn.

Shri Schneiderhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxwiotbnJUU

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Beyond: Fatal Power of Flesh (Iron Bonehead 2013)

This German gruesome group flashed their potential on their demo and seven-inch earlier so it was only logical to create a full-length assault next. Beyond’s brutal, chaotic but still quite dynamic death metal worked very well in these smaller doses, so it was interesting to see how they managed to run through a longer amok. Well, don’t worry: although the album loses its focus now and then, the band combines quite well the traditional elements of death metal to the more twisted and darker sides of death. For example you can get messy bludgeon which crushes you totally with its power but then the band can also throw a very simple mid-tempo section after that. It’s like floating on a stormy sea: sometimes you’re helpless and almost drowning but then you find a piece of rope which gives a second to take breath – and then another leviathan strangles you with its tentacles. 49 minutes of this kind of struggle is a lot, but still Fatal Power of Flesh keeps its charm quite well and possesses you to come back to it time after time.

Appearance from Beyondhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcURYmVfMrg

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Paavoharju: Joko sinä tulet tänne alas tai minä nousen sinne (Svart 2013)

Paavoharju was known as a lo-fi electro folk group, which had interest in lowlife lifestyle, death, God, Devil and so on. Especially their debut Yhä hämärää (2005) was a canvas of sounds, scratches, stitches, ether and so on. Now they are here again, but new things are crawling from the shadows of dirty shelters. Drum machines. Lazy beats. Hiphop. Triphop. Rap. Paavoharju has taken a daring step and created a monster that includes the organic and obscure main character of the band but also rhythmic touches, especially in the form of a performance of rapper Paperi T. Finnish verses full of biblical references, grotesque details and pure blunt depression give the whole thing a very interesting atmosphere which might sound a bit too “out there” at first but at least in my case the whole thing started to work better and better with time. And those lyrics… I think that the line “Lempi-ihmiset ovat alastomia tai kuolleita” / “(my) favourite people are either naked or dead” includes more evilness than countless preaches of black metal. Add a few really tender moments, a couple of performances from a long-time collaborator Joose Keskitalo and a hint of apocalypse, and you are there. Under everything.

Patsaatkin kuolevathttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pzPiwNys08

KILL WITH POWER: ATLANTEAN KODEX

Can you feel the breath of the White Goddess on your neck? Well, it’s (about) time to raise your sword once again and face your destiny – and get another lesson about myths and metal from the one and only Atlantean Kodex. This band really hammered their way to my mind with their debut album The Golden Bough in 2010, bringing back the power and glory of epic heavy metal. And the crows are whispering that the long-awaited second album The White Goddess will crush your skull even more brutally. To celebrate this battle, I dig up this great interview I made with Manuel Trummer in 2011 for Imperiumi.net that all you non-Finnish bastards can read these words of wisdom too.

But before this, a little moment with the recent happenings. According to Trummer, The White Goddess is about death and downfall and the power to face them. But as a well-known expert of different cultures and myths, which culture’s view on death and afterlife does he find most interesting and inspiring?

   – I really dig the way some ancient Greek philosophers handled the question of death. I’m talking about the founders of the hedonistic principle, for instance Aristippos or Epikur. They basically told you to live your life to the fullest, enjoy it as much as possible, because one day you will die. Stripped down to the basics, it’s a “no future” mentality, which inspires you to live for today as good as you can. That’s a motto I can really relate to: death as the driving energy behind your life. This is also the idea behind The White Goddess.

   – Other than that I find the way the so-called ‘Celtic’ people integrated death into their perception of life. They didn’t have a clean line between life and death, but rather thought of it as intertwined, different forms of existence. When you died, you just moved on to another place. I think you can draw a lot of strength from this idea.

LogoVektor(originally published in Imperiumi.net 2011)

So, let’s start this interview with a basic question. The album The Golden Bough has been out for some time, so I guess you have now some distance to observe it with different angles. How have your opinion and feelings about your debut album changed during these months?

   – Can’t really say that my general opinion about the album has changed during the course of the last few months. We were pretty convinced that the album was outstanding and we still are. The surprising thing though is that the album was able to break into mainstream territories as well. We thought at first that The Golden Bough was solely an album for a special “underground” group of people, but obviously it’s sort of attractive for the wider crowd as well. This was probably the part which astounded us the most.

Before The Golden Bough you released many demos and live albums. Did you approach this process – making a full-length I mean – in a different way, and did you have any special pressure if you compare it to making a demo or releasing a live album? I guess these demo tapes pave the way in many ways…

- No, we approached it in the same way as the Pnakotic Demos in terms of recordings and mixing it. But you’re right about the “special pressure”. I had the impression that due to the success of our demos the expectations had risen to an almost unfulfillable scale. We could definitely feel the pressure and knew we had to come up with our very best. This was a different situation compared to the time when we recorded our demo. But in the end we did the album mainly for ourselves, so I can’t say we were frightened or nervous or anything.

The Golden Bough is a monument of music; it reminds me about a massive Antique statue or a temple, and this image gets me thinking about Plato’s thoughts about the statue’s idea hidden in a rock – you know, how a boulder of rock already contains the statue, it just have to be revealed. Could we use this thought to describe Atlantean Kodex’s creative process: you have musicians, instruments, riffs and sounds, and you transform these to music to reach the primal idea? Or do you go through jamming, create from a scratch?

- That’s an interesting thought. I can speak only for myself, but I certainly DO have that ideal picture of a song in my mind. In the most times I know exactly, what I want a song to be and try to break through to that ideal song in my mind by recording it. Sometimes it turns out to be almost the perfect realization of the song in my mind (like the ending of Fountain of Nepenthe) something it turns into something completely different, especially when we jam on our ideas in our rehearsal space.

- Speaking of Plato’s Idealism: there’s another point which I find striking. He was also writing that our souls have already been to that perfect place of ideas and will return there after we die. This means all our souls are already familiar with all the ,perfect’ ideas of songs out there. Do you know that feeling, when a song or a part of a song really overwhelms you? Not in terms of “Wow, that’s an awesome riff!”, but in terms of totally moving you, sending shivers down your spine and sounding like it was made especially for you? Like it has touched your very soul? I think moments like these are proof that your soul is already familiar with that special song, which means that its composer has achieved to break through to the realm of pure ideas and managed to realize a ,perfect’ song or part of a song in our material world. Otherwise it wouldn’t be able to move your soul so deeply. Only a “perfect” song can do that.

The main focus of The Golden Bough is in these long epic songs. How do you create these colossuses – do you have a clear vision from a start or is it more like hopping from an idea to another? Do you have to concentrate on details more or do you use a bigger brush in these 10-minute songs?

- We don’t really know. The songs evolve by themselves and suddenly they’re 10 minutes long. I guess it would be harder for us to do a short song. Regarding the process of composing it sort of flows in our rehearsal space where we put the general ideas together. As soon as we think a song has that special flow, we start working on the details.

Well, it’s obvious that the word “epic” represents quite well your music. But “epic” is just a style to picture different emotions – it can be a glorious feel of victory, or a wide longing for the lost ages. What kind of an emotional palette does Atlantean Kodex have in your opinion?

- First and foremost: Power. Music which doesn’t communicate “Power” cannot be Heavy Metal. You get a good impression of what we’re aiming at when you take a look at our cover artwork Die Toteninsel. It really communicates very well what our songs are all about. Feelings of loss, nostalgia, melancholy, but also triumph, glory, strength and catharsis. The songs are both about leaving it all behind and going to a better place, but also about kicking ass in the real world.

atlanteankodex_cover

And continuing with this “epic” theme… I see that you Germans have a tendency to be epic in your roots, if we look back to Wagner, Beethoven or Goethe… So does this epic touch come from you naturally, and is there ever a danger that it turns out to a dull and hollow exaggeration?

- I wouldn’t call Goethe epic, but you’re certainly right about the German love for Pathos. I think it comes pretty natural to us. Like I said before, it is harder for us to write a short, catchy song. We always come up with these epic 11 minute behemoths quite naturally. It’s indeed a small line between “epic” and “Kitsch”. You need to be careful not to overdo the emotional part of the songs, you always need to stay rooted in pure fist-raising heavy metal enough to balance the melancholic and nostalgic parts in the songs. Of course it also depends mostly on the listener and how he perceives the music. What is “epic” for one person may already be “Kitsch” for another listener.

Besides being epic, Atlantean Kodex digs deep into the world of myths, legends, history and culture, and your approach is quite far away from the basic and somehow superficial way of many metal bands – “yeah, I read one Conan novel and now I can write my own heroic sagas”… On the other hand I find your music a perfect soundtrack to bang my head, drink my beer and loose my primal instincts. So is Atlantean Kodex beer drinking music or thinking man’s music (and this doesn’t mean that you can’t both think and drink, heh)?

- Both! Our music is pure, serious and absolutely un-ironic Heavy Metal first and foremost. If you ever attend one of our liveshows you’ll see that the songs are perfect for getting hammered, headbanging, raising your fist and screaming along. But on album we try to create a ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ with fitting lyrics, an cover artwork which can communicate the feelings and atmosphere we aim at and an interesting lyrical background the listener can explore. This way we can give everyone his own. Beer-drinking, fist-raising anthems for the people who don’t care much about lyrics, but also some thought-provoking stuff for the people who sit down and read the booklet while listening to an album. We can take everyone on a trip of his own, haha…

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But that’s for sure that Atlantean Kodex is pure sterling 100% Metal! So let’s throw a wide question: what is heavy metal in your opinion? Is it connected to music, attitude, the whole concept or something else – or maybe to all of this? What does make Atlantean Kodex a heavy metal band?

- Power! Once again. Heavy Metal is all about power and the will to stand defiant. Heavy Metal should be an alternative to the polished, McDonaldized-crap we’re surrounded by day after day. It should make people get up and tell their bosses, their teachers, the industry, the politicians: “Fuck you! I won’t live by the rules you’re trying to impose on me.” It should make you go out and drink beer and break shit. It should help you go on a trip and show you the world from a different angle. If music doesn’t do that, it’s no Heavy Metal.

Let’s go back to those tales of magic and myths you create in your lyrics. Usually these themes are seen as a tool of escapism in heavy metal music, but how do you see this thing? Do you write about old legends because this modern world is so dull and uninspirational, or are these legends and stories mirrors and metaphors of the modern world? You give some answers in a foreword found from The Golden Bough’s cover sheet but open this topic more please!

- I’d rather not. It would take away some of the magick in the songs. I find every listener should explore the lyrics for himself and interpret them as he sees fit. In the end it’s not about what we had in mind when writing the songs, but what the listener makes of it. The possibilities are infinite. I can only say as much that we are heavily influenced by European mythology and the local folklore of our home region the Upper Palatinate. We feel that the mythology shared by the peoples of Europe is proof for their common origin somewhere in the depths of history. By invoking this share mythologies in our songs, we might help to show the Europeans of today their collective identity, but also where the borders of Europe lie. So all in all you can interpret our songs both as mere ancient sagas, but you can also adapt them to political issues of today. It depends on the person listening to the songs what he makes of them and how he uses the lyrics for himself and his needs.

You mentioned in one interview that the world of Dungeons & Dragons and role-playing in general isn’t totally unknown to you, and this comment got me reminisce my own youth: about 17 years ago me and my friends were playing Rune Quest and other role-plays and entering same time to the world of heavy metal by listening to Iron Maiden, Manowar and Helloween. Years have passed but still I get some kicks from Kings of Metal or Robert E. Howard’s novels – but in a different way. You aren’t the new kids on the block anymore so it’s suitable to ask what do you get from mythologies, fantasy literature and also heavy metal in an older age?

- Heavy Metal for me is still a way of life and a way to stay critical about the manipulations of the industry,  politicians and the like. It gives me strength when I need and it opens doors when I’ve had enough of the bullshit surrounding us. Mythology on the other hand is a much deeper issue. It shows us where we come from and thus forms both our collective and individual identities as Europeans, but also as inhabitants of our local home regions. They give us orientation and a fix point in these times of constant change, we’re living in today.

So let’s end this interview with a glance to the future. The debut album has been released, a tale of Atlantean Kodex has got a new important chapter, there will be some live annihilations in the horizons… Is now the time to take breath and scheme new war plans or the time to just rage on without mercy and find out where you find yourselves next?

- At the moment we’re catching our breath. The past few months were pretty intense, now it’s time to focus again. There are a couple of shows in planning and maybe another album on the horizon. We’ll see.

THE CHOSEN THREE: SEPTEMBER 2013

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The Finnish summer has started fading away, so it’s time for the Finnish autumn – and Finnish music. It’s quite unbelievable how all these albums are coming out almost same time, and same time there are also a few other Finnish albums twisting my mind like Jumalhämärä‘s Resitaali, Ranger‘s Knights of Darkness or Pyhä Kuolema‘s Kevättuulisormi. And all these artists walk more or less their own road, so that just shows even clearer how fine is my home country’s situation nowadays. Of course some of these releases get a bit subjective bonuses from my direction but I’m sure that if even you’re not familiar with these bands or their music, you would like them too – at least some of them. So autumn, come forth and show your beautiful decadence – I have enough songs for it.

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COSMIC CHURCH: Ylistys (Kuunpalvelus 2013)

Finally it’s here, officially. This album has walked a long road, and when you wander through the every minute of its 75 minute length, you understand that this is a monumental album, a true church of Isaac. However, it’s interesting to notice how fluent and natural is the stream of music on Ylistys. This album truly flows, with long songs, wailing and cinematic guitar leads and repetitive tempos. There are changes – from peaceful moments to blastbeats, as in Kätketyn Tulen Vartija – but the main core of this album lies in melancholy and devotion.

I would even say that Ylistys is a combination of modern Finnish black metal, epic touches of Austere and wideness of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Luxixul Sumering Auter, the sole priest of Cosmic Church, paints touching landscapes with his guitar that aren’t so far from the shivering nature of post-rock. But still, the anger is there, as is sorrow – listen to those anguished shrieks of L.S.A. if you don’t believe me. And while talking about the vocals, L.S.A. has a supportive liturgist, Atvar of Circle Of Ouroborus (okay, now I lost my objectivity…), whose performance in the end of Täydellisen Valon Äärellä is simply astonishing.

75 minutes is quite much, and it becomes clear that Ylistys tends to be a bit dull now and then. Also all the changes from a part to another inside these long songs don’t happen without collisions every time. This makes me wonder how Cosmic Church would nail a short and striking 4-minute song with this recent style… Let’s see if we can witness this in the future. But in general, Ylistys lives by its name: this is one wide praise to gods out there and gods inside of us. Massive and intimate at the same time.

I asked mr L.S.A. if he wanted to tell something about one particular song, but as expected, it was hard to cut up one tile from this church:

   – Personally I see the whole album as a description of a spiritual journey; the first song being the creation of the “Foundation” to which everything can grow & develop and the last song being the end of the path, “The Absolute Light”. I believe the key to this album lies as much in these beginnings and endings as during the journey, which is as important as the destination. Lyrically these two songs are the ones which speak to me the most, but I see Ylistys as a whole; it is Apotheosis, Eulogy, Adoration, Praise, Veneration and yet these are just plain words for something far greater beyond any words, and the album has been created from my own limited perspective trying to adore and praise these great, magnificent and eternal cosmic forces.

Two songs off from Ylistys: https://soundcloud.com/kuunpalvelus

W.A.I.L.: II (Ahdistuksen Aihio 2013)

W.A.I.L.’s second full-length is also monumental, and well-thought. This Finnish band’s death/doom metal has very traditional roots, but all the interesting ideas and arrangements make this album a piece of art which needs lots of listening and concentration. And by this I don’t mean that the music itself would be somehow difficult or too artistic: actually it’s quite easy to dive into these crushing riffs, majestic guitar leads and mellower moments, but same time you have to understand how much vision and work all this must have demanded – especially in the lyrics.

So what you get is grotesque and robust metal songs that create strong images like the best modern “dark death metal” bands do nowadays. But this album isn’t only about heaviness: W.A.I.L. also operates in the field of silence creating piano songs and even jazzy and hazy jamming. Also the instrument arsenal is impressing, from that before-mentioned grand piano to violins and even didgeridoos. But everything is here to serve the cause – the band’s attempt to show how both negative and positive sides are just one grand form of existence.

The songs are strong, the band plays with talent and with heart, and in general the album has an eerie atmosphere. But sometimes I wonder if less would have been more. These experimental interludes (well, they can be considered real songs) are good as themselves, but for example this jazzy song called Abyss breaks the picture a bit too much in my opinion. But this is just my critical mind talking here. W.A.I.L. has improved from their debut and although they salute the gods of death/doom/black metal now and then, they also stand on the ground of their own.

Let’s continue the theme in these questions and give the floor to A.E. to explain the story behind Abyss:

- The Abyss passage was inspired by the sea and more broadly, by the element of water. I and S.F. wrote the music for it and we both have grown up in a small wooden town called Kristiinankaupunki which stands by the Gulf of Bothnia so as long as I can remember the sea has been a part of my life in many ways. I still remember this certain vibrant, mysterious and also somewhat ominous feeling it evoked in me as a child, especially when I was watching the waves float by at the evening, and this was the feeling I originally wanted to capture when I wrote the riff for Abyss. Only afterwards when I started to create the concept for this full-length came the historical background story and the ideological blabbering. Don’t get me wrong though, the conceptual idea in which this final passage of the whole first song is supposed to represent the state of total hopelessness i.e. “floating on the waves of madness”, is also surely important but it’s not really something I think about a lot when listening to this piece as it is at its core even more personal for me.

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MÖRKÖ: Itsensänimeävä (Vaticanian Roadkill / Ahdistuksen Aihio 2013)

And the weirdest bunch comes the last. Mörkö has been sometimes doomy black sludge, sometimes minimalistic black metal, but now they take a more sophomore road. Itsensänimeävä (‘Self-titled’ – a great title, eh?) is still dark, obscure and deranged but stylistically this album is very close to Norway’s Virus: jazzy and tangling riffs that drive this experimental black metal truck forward, multileveled vocals which can be hazy poem reading in one point or insane shouting in another, top-notch musicianship that really takes risks etc. There are even a few free jazz moments if I interpret those chaotic blastings right.

This all may sound quite unfocused but Itsensänimeävä is still a very dynamic piece of work. The drums and the riffs go well together, and also the bass guitar is in a big role which isn’t quite rare in black metal. The songs take twists and turns but the movement is always forward, or at least something important is happening all the time. The slowest and most peaceful moment is in the middle of all this, when Kosmoksen huhmareessa (a 13 minute long behemoth) eases down to an improvised (?) guitar picking in the end. A very natural and very effective solution.

As in both cases before, it’s quite hard to say concretely what is wrong in Itsensänimeävä, but I think it’s something about the general character of this music: this is artistic music, made by artists with a strong vision, so it’s not always easy for listener to get into this a bit introverted world of Mörkö. But it’s not a big deal. Stand aside and just listen to this album and feel how brilliantly Mörkö is fucking with your head.

I asked Jari-Matti Nurminen about the ending of Kosmoksen huhmareessa and the role of improvisation in Mörkö and got the answers – and much more.

   – The role of improvisation in making of Itsensänimeävä was quite small, perhaps even more so than in ‘normally functioning’ bands (meaning jamming out ideas at the rehearsal and then developing those into songs).

The whole thing began in the spring of 2009, when I got some ideas for new material. IV pretty much wiped the slate clean and for a year there was no idea where to go next. So, then an idea came to have songs and riffs and vocals and all that avantgarde stuff, you know. Then I started to make some riffs, but at the same time a growing interest toward systematic composition was forming in my being.

This lead to new perspectives on how to make songs out of few riffs. For example set theory I found very interesting, combined with basic variation principles. This is basically quite simple and can lead to interesting findings:
First you have a Riff. It’s important to have some substance from which you generate the material so you don’t end up with an empty form, that just resembles music. This is always a danger in composition.

You take the Riff into its pieces; basically you look at what’s there, which notes are used and what kind of rhythmic shapes? There you have material. You can turn the riff backwards, or inside out or reverse the intervallic movements, but this is classical stuff. You can also just keep the rhythmic vibe and use the same notes, remove some, add some, transpose the basic material to create tension and so forth… Maybe even have an idea how these will develop during the piece, for example beginning with two notes and ending up with ten, that’s rock’n’roll entropy there!

You don’t have to use variations as they come but to just find new ideas and make the ideas into new Riffs. It might be helpful to put this on paper. Standard notation is very practical since guitar (and keyboard) is an equally tempered instrument so you don’t get much out of using a weird system of your own. Probably no one will have any idea what’s been written (including yourself, after a few months, been there). So, this ”old world” -technique makes it possible to share your ideas with your bandmates. At some level, this is about communication, isn’t it? Might sound a bit gay for all the record releasing misanthropes, but let’s face it.

You can also skip the fancy pancy notation stuff and just check the notes and make a new Riff from the notes, relying on your music instinct. It might be even better. This you should do even if you end up writing it down. Without pen and paper you have to memorize it, and that takes a lot of resources at some point.

The point in all this is to maintain coherence throughout the song – or even an entire album – by this quite simple technique. It allows you to make very different things, still maintaining ”the feel” of that same music. I like to think of it as a ”chaos bathysphere”; the better the construct, the deeper it will take you and if things go well you’ll come back with a broader consciousness and more stable groundings of your being. And that can give you strength that’s real, but it’s a long process and takes a lot of ups and downs. And you don’t need drugs for that, unless you want to ”enhance” things a bit as some of us do. Music is a true path to understanding reality more deeply, but you have to take it seriously and really devote yourself to it. That’s what black metal is for me. It’s ”just” a style of music, but that doesn’t make it any shallower. To me some random pub rock with some naughty words in the lyrics is false black metal, whatever to poorness of production values might be. Where’s the striving? Jump in the fire and burn, I say! Look the thing in the eye.

Now, this can lead to interesting results, but a compositional technique is not a ”song automaton”. You still have to decide how you variate your material, now you just have a clearer area in which to work, so that allows the resources to be directed into other aspects of the music. This helps to take things deeper.

So, in the early summer of 2009 I had the first (Ruumis loi itsensä omaksi kuvakseen) and the last song (Nesteen luo) written down and we went to our rehearsal place with Heikki (Kivelä, bass). It was easy to share the ideas also on paper, since Heikki has very professional skills in these things. The basic structures and order of the parts were pretty much already organized. The amount of repetition was found together by playing the songs a lot during the next few years. Heikki’s precise arrangement work with the percussion had a big effect in the dynamic formation of the songs. And that really makes the difference. The two songs in the middle were composed about a year later and the additional guitars and bass were arranged bit by bit with the vocals during 2010-2012.

The material in the ending of Kosmoksen huhmareessa is composed but its final execution is improvisation-like. The different parts were ready, but the amount of repetition or the dynamic relations were found ‘improvisationally’ in the moment of recording. This take was chosen to be kept on the album due to its spontaneous nature.

Thus the answer to your question is ”yes and no”.

The whole album, it’s here: http://morkomusic.bandcamp.com/album/itsens-nime-v

THROUGH THE CURRENTS OF EVOLUTION: ACHERONTAS

Acherontas has really been active during the last years. We were about to recover from the impact of Vamachara (2011) but now these Greeks are kicking our esoteric butts again with split albums and this year’s Amenti full-length. However, I’m quite surprised that I haven’t checked this latest offering yet, because Vamachara was a stellar piece of work (and one of my favourites from that year): quite traditional black metal but still veiled with mysticism and a strong aura of magick and incenses. Actually the trick was to make music that it’s so traditional that it sounds original – if you get my point.

But this interview… Well, I guess there was a language barrier between us so please forgive the “too mystic” vibe of this conversation. Or then I’m just not deep enough in the dark arts than I thought to be. Still, this all indicates how penetrating the world of Acherontas is.

Before the actual interview, here’s a sneak peek to the current situation of Acherontas. If progression is one of the key elements of Acherontas, what kind of a step is Amenti? A fresh answer from Acherontas V. Priest:

   – The lack of evolution is regarded as stagnation for us. A form of Death. Every step we take with our creations in musical and spiritual level is a very important goal that we set and strive to succeed. Every work of Acherontas is an expression of Esotericism. Thus, Amenti was a step deeper and closer to the very quintessence of our art and spirituality. We are most satisfied with the musical and philosophical work that took place and manifested through the final result of Amenti. It was a challenge for us or better, a test of will to manage and ”give flesh” to our spiritual experience through art… We never create without the need of expression of our inner void… Our mission is one and clear for those with eyes to see behind the veil of matter…

   – The upcoming album is entitled Amenti. By this name we wanted to charge the release with the vibrations of a glorious Egyptian symbolism , to denote the route of the work and reveal one more element of the coven’s quintessence. The Halls of Amenti were a vortex of unlimited energy according to the Papyrus of Ani , the center of the world. A place of judgement and deliverance.

   – The Drakkonian Force reigns supreme to offer to those with the potential a touch of initiation in her waters.. The catacombs bare a strong symbolism, the great spiritual ascension, the forging of a God. The halls are judging, allowing only to those spiritually ascended to proceed and unite with the omniscience of the Ancient Gods. Within this meaning we can find the essence of Amenti, as this album crowned an ascension for the coven and a huge step, a passage to a higher level which is baptized and celebrated with this opus of musical, lyrical and philosophical work. I will reveal no more though, as this album should be regarded as a journey that the listener should make and discover the essence of the album, to dive into the Stygian waters and witness the mysteries. The halls of Amenti are now open for Those of the Blood… A call for the Individual to be Initiated or a poison to the ignorant.

acherontas_logo(originally published in Imperiumi.net 2011)

So, Acherontas V. Priest, your latest album is called Vamachara, which can be translated as ”a left hand path”. What kind of a step is this new album on your own path? Are you achieving some goals already with this full-length, or are there still many miles to go?

- The creation of an Acherontas album is a rather spiritual process. It is a creation evolving from raw fragments which mature as it is being fed with our own poison.  The first step into the Abyss was to establish the lyrical concept and the Acausal Current upon which Vamachara with emerge from. Then we gave a skeletal form to the album with the addition of the sonic element, to emerge its dissolving beingness after the production was completed. An Offering to the Dark Gods! Evolution is very important for us in our lives in all the ways..

Acherontas’ lyrics always get me thinking about the differences between poetry and sermons. How much of your writings are pure liturgies of magick and how much your own personal views and figments of the imagination?

- Imagination has strong links with magical activities, but our lyrics are not based in theory. Theory without practice is nothing. The philosophical background of Acherontas deals with our experience in sorcery.

Well, at least there have been many different gods mentioned in Acherontas’ lyrics during these years. Do you see them as separate entities or are they just embodiments of the same force and power? And what could this power be?

- Our philosophy deals with the Draconian current. Many archetypes and forces are mentioned in our lyrics.

- Occultism for us is the knowledge, the weapon and the Way to uncover the “Higher Self”, to become vessels of Acausal Drakkonian energy. We, as separate individuals, explore occultism in a different way since the whole alchemical advancement differs among practitioners as the elements differ from each other. Whereas when it comes to Acherontas we all unify into one; one All-consuming  Δρακονιαν flame!

If you think about yourself, what is your and your band’s role in this big scheme? Is Acherontas a vessel or a gate for magickal powers, or do you understand yourselves as more independent actors? I guess Acherontas isn’t “just a band” which makes “just good music”, right?

- Right. As I explain before the members of Acherontas are vessels of Acausal Drakkonian energy…  Our music is a gate for some…. We are real to those with eyes to see… We open links to higher levels for individuals with the potential to embrace the serpent divinity.

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But how well does (black) metal serve these themes and purposes? What are the similarities between the music of Acherontas and occultism in the case of Vamachara for example?

- Vamachara streches back to the buried past, regressing back when the female archetype was worshipped through the Cult of Vama, the falsely so-called excremental, cast-out, leftovers of spiritual practice, labeled as such by unaccomplished followers of the Solar Gods. The lunar waters shall possess the Soul essence with the blood current of Immortality, pushing the Adept towards self excellence through the imbibition of the nectar of Salvation that is Amrita, through ordeals of black Al-Khemy. The vultures on infertile grounds of the desert cry LA ILAHA ILA ANA, and you shall kneel to drink from the cup of the fornications of the priestess-either dust or Fire. Enter the Womb of the Black Moon and be reborn… Let the feathers of Abraxas reflect the function of Samsara.

Vamachara is a very strong album in my opinion. It isn’t the most original album but maybe this is its strength: it bows to the canon of black metal (especially the early nineties’ era) and uses old tricks effectively. Everything flows naturally and every note is in a right place. I guess the originality isn’t the main thing to you, and you are making music that is coming naturally from you, but how aware are you of the music that exists already and you have listened / are listening?

- We create only when we feel the need to express our thoughts and experience through our art… So when purity is the law of creation then you can create something original straight through your soul. Black metal is art. When you are true with yourself, then only art you can create.

One difference between the old albums of Acherontas and Vamachara is that the music and its spices are drifting away from its Greek roots, in my opinion at least. Is there any “Greek factor” in your music (what for example Kawir uses very strong)? And how about Greek gods or pagan rituals, do they have any room in Acherontas?

- Every release of Acherontas as you see has many systems of magick and concept behind. There are no limits in spirituality. In past I was into rune magick and paganism to explore some sides of this system. I don’t know if in future I will write something under a pagan view… It depends from what I practice each period. I am studying the ancient Greek religion till now. There is strong philosophy behind it. I believe ancient Greece and Sumerians were the source of all…

And like said before, the album is like a sermon or a mass, so how would you describe Vamachara’s structure (a song order etc.) from this point of a view? Is it telling a story or is it more like a journey or something else?

- It is a dream-like experience…

I guess everybody has noticed that this is the fifteenth year of Acherontas. The compilation called 15 Years Anniversary of Left Hand Path Esoterica was released and you mention this 15 years anniversary also in the booklet of Vamachara. Why is this so important thing to you? It is the number or this specific moment?

- A feast of our existence – nothing more, nothing less…

If you look back now, what have been the highest peaks and the darkest moments of despair in Acherontas’ career? Have you risen higher and higher with every step, or has the ride been bumpier, so to speak?

- I think evolution is our goal. Many difficult states we had passed but all are experiences. Everything in life, even good or bad, depends from the side you see it. Even the most worst experiences – if you embrace them as a challenge and not as a problem then you will get stronger.

And if you think yourself as a person, has your own spiritual growth gone hand in hand with Acherontas? How much Acherontas is you and vice versa?

- There is an invisible web that unites all our experiences in microcosmos outside to macrocosmos… Evolution inside brings challenges and exaltation in all the ways of your living. From Yesod to Malkuth, from Malkuth to Yesod… As above so below my friend…

So this is the end… Let’s close this interview with a high-flying question – if Acherontas ended its path today, how would you like to people to remember Acherontas? What would be written in Acherontas’ obituary?

- Very interesting question! As a link to the astral plane… Our music is not just music for entertainment, but a bridge to connect your ego with your higher self…

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THE CHOSEN THREE: AUGUST 2013

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This time I use my magical editorial skills and give you a glimpse from the future: three coming releases that I have been listening beforehand as promos. Great things on the horizon… Like this latest issue of Kaleidoscope, sweet sixteen it is, out now already… How about a mish-mash consisting of Danava’s heavy rock, Excalibur’s vintage heavy metal, Horna’s raw Finnish black metal, S’s avant-garde clarinet-oriented art experiments and White Medal’s heathen black metal? Yeah, everything is possible in Kaleidoscope! Buy it!

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GEHENNA: Unravel (Indie Recordings 2013)

Gehenna is one of the black metal veterans who have managed to change their style successfully. From the synth-oriented and bombastic black metal of the mid-nineties to the more straight-forward, colder and aggressive punishment, Gehenna has delivered goods every time (okay, Murder was a bit so-so). That’s why it was disappointing to see how the veils of darkness (eh) and silence fell over the band after raging WW (2005), but now Dolgar and Sanrabb are here again to raise the flames.

If WW was like a vision of merciless and blasting war, now we are standing on the grave. The first track is like Neurosis playing black metal: slow, hard and grievous, with Sanrabb’s vocals more hollow than before. Unravel has still blastbeats and aggressive elements but even these are shown in a stale light. Someone could say that Unravel is a boring album but I say that it takes guts to make music like this: no compromises, just simple and primitive bludgeon but not falling into the pathetic “necro” try-hard scene. Actually the production is very plain, without any tricks played. Just the riffs, the songs, the atmosphere – it’s enough. The same careless attitude shows in song titles too, mainly in Nothing Deserves Worship.

What else to say? Unravel’s power is in its simplistic nature: simple riffs, simple drum beats, no any gimmicks (albeit the perfectly timed organ in End Ritual) – this band knows what they’re doing and they do it well.

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THE RUINS OF BEVERAST: Blood Vaults – The Blazing Gospel of Heinrich Kramer (Ván Records 2013)

Is it exaggerating to say that The Ruins Of Beverast has created the style of its own? Monolithic, epic, church-like (you know what I mean) black metal that works well both in slow rumblings and fast attacks, riffs that don’t seem to get you anywhere but still they are building spirals and towers around you… During ten years of existence, Alexander von Meilenwald, the sole member of this band, has showed his talent, and Blood Vaults doesn’t leave you cold either. Mainly breathless.

Again, the songs are massive and long, and the charm lies in slow, repetitive parts that are closer to doom/death metal than black metal. If you spotted that My Dying Bride cover song on Enchanted on Gravemould compilation, you know what to expect. Drum patterns weave their own web, and riffs are floating everywhere hypnotically. Choirs, background voices and echoing vocals create an image of mass where every twisted truth is shouted loud. The Ruins Of Beverast also shines in one thing that I’m always craving for: the quiet parts are really quiet and tranquil but still they hide a seed of ugly things to come.

So Blood Vaults is an album of extremities, and all the parts play well together. It takes time and concentration to dive deep into the world of Meilenwald, but when you reach it, you don’t want to leave.

But was the creative process  of Blood Vaults empowering or destructive for von Meilenwald?

   – It was like it always is, creating music is the most empowering AND destructive process I am able to imagine. Music with a soul and spirit always has a destructive intention, it’s a life essence, it is music’s blood. And the more I have the feeling that a creation of mine can cause collapses, the more empowering that is. But that is something natural and something which I feel since I started TROB, and nothing I detected during the Blood Vaults period.
 
   – The process of creating Blood Vaults is tightly connected to the intensive studies on the Malleus Maleficarum. And despite being a sarcastic mockery, the lyrics – that is the perception of Kramer’s ideas and their transferring into TROBesque lyrics – made me learn a lot about fears, animosities and secrets of the psyche during the medieval isolation, which I take as an enormous enrichment for my way of thinking. Might sound a bit pathetic, but still every TROB-album requires an in-depth occupation with obscure “marginal” issues that have a lot in store for me, for TROB.

Malefica: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtkiAfB1oLk

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TWILIGHT OF THE GODS: Fire on the Mountain (Season Of Mist Records 2013)

Let’s face it: everybody wants to play heavy metal in some point of their life. Now the time has come for members of Einherjer, Primordial, Aura Noir et cetera, so Twilight Of The Gods has risen. As many of you already know, this outfit started as a Bathory tribute band but now they are heading more to the shores of traditional heavy metal. Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Manowar… you know.

Luckily we are not talking about faceless and irrelevant heavy metal idiotism here. The songs on this debut album are enjoyable slow and heavy, although the almost mandatory faster beats burst out now and then. This is pure heavy metal feast: you can raise your hand and glass, pump the air and shout to the night – but still there is a darker and bitterer taste in your ale. Maybe it’s the recognizable voice of Alan Averill Nemtheanga that adds that more serious shade into everything – even while singing about metal phalluses and sons of hammer.

And that Bathory factor? Well, it lies there, in these epic and slow moments that are dragging themselves through the mountains and battles. Also honesty is what both Quorthon and the guys of Twilight Of The Gods share. It’s justified to argue if Twilight Of The Gods is playing too safe with these simple riffs and solutions, but so what – heavy metal is simple, it doesn’t need anything else than flames, spirit and attitude, and Fire on the Mountain can deliver those essential components very well.

The title track, kicks like a war drum: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmtBeUA8cTA

SOLID TO THE CORE: DEAD CONGREGATION

One specific weekend in autumn 2010 was full of death and metal. Helsinki was sliced, beaten and crushed by bands like Sadistic Intent, Necros Christos, Demigod and Cruciamentum. The happening was called Black Mass Ritual Fest III, and although it feels like every daily rehearsal in parents’ garage is called ‘ritual’ nowadays, this feast included bands whose gigs can really be concerned as rituals.

One of them was Dead Congregation, whose most powerful tool is their music. No need for corpse paints, blood, spikes and incenses – just that oppressive wave of noise that pounds you into the trance. And that’s how it went in Black Mass Ritual too. Tight but still raging, like a slaughterer who is doing his job – but also enjoying of it under the surface. And that’s what a ritual is about: it has its rules and formulas but the spirit and devotion must be present too.

The original article in Imperiumi concentrated on the live performances and their ritualistic side and included answers from Dead Congregation, Grave Miasma, Necros Christos, Witchrist and Hooded Menace but now you can enjoy only the words of those merciless Greeks. Sink your teeth into red…

deadcongregationlogo(published in Imperiumi.net in 2010)

So, let’s start with the basic question: what new or special does a live performance bring to your music in your opinion? What kind of new territories you or/and an audience can reach?

- It is a more direct way to connect with your audience since listening to a band’s album through stereo speakers is more impersonal than watching the band perform the songs live. From the band’s point of view there’s a certain energy on live concerts that is very different than when rehearsing for example and it’s something I cannot explain because it’s not a conscious poser show that depends on the audience’s reaction. When Dead Congregation are on the stage the Beast is unleashed and the band members are in trance, not fully aware of our surroundings. You can receive a warm reaction from the crowd or a great vibe from even a still audience that is subdued by your music/art and that certain aura that flows in the room of a live concert is absorbed subconsciously and is what triggers the manifestation of the forces within.

One interesting point in live performances is that the band brings their personal creation audible for the other people, which are some sort of outsiders after all. So, music as a personal and intimate creation and on the other hand as a shareable experience – do you find any contradictions in this?

- Creating music IS personal in the sense that honest bands/musicians compose without keeping in consideration what others will think of their Art, they just do what comes from their hearts and soul. Nevertheless, bands do want to share their Art with others and that’s why we record our compositions, make them available to the public and play live. Whoever claims that doesn’t care at all about others might as well remain in the rehearsal room and never share their compositions with no one than the band itself, right? Speaking for DC, the best for us would be to share our intimate creation not with many outsiders but with people who have a clue about the essence of our music. That’s why we always choose to play gigs with our peers and why we refuse to sign to any big label.

Usually in occult death metal and black metal people are using a word ‘ritual’ to describe their live performance, and well, this upcoming festival is also named as Black Mass Ritual… How do you see the ritualistic side of your music – the sinking into a trance, performing a mass to an audience, using the ritualistic props, tools and decoration…

- I believe I explained that on the first question. Death and black metal is spiritual music above all, there are far greater things in the mould than riffs, drums and vocals. Some need tools to achieve the higher state of trance, some don’t but in the end it’s all about letting go and leave your inner forces guide you when you perform otherwise it’s just fake.

When talking about live performances the usual topic is the contact between the band and the audience, but I’d like to discuss about the other contact – the contact between the band members. How would you describe the dialogue and connection between you and the other players (and the importance of it)?

- That is a very important factor indeed, there must be a strong bond between all members so that the band is a unity that works effortlessly. There should be no explaining in the band about obvious matters and dialogue on stage should be kept to the minimum. Dead Congregation is a solid to the core and not a gathering of session musicians.

IMG_0132 Dead Congregation @ BMRIII. Picture by A. Klemi

And when you go to see a metal gig, what kind of things do you demand from a band? How would you describe a good live performance, and of course if you can tell something about the most memorable gigs you have witnessed, we are all ears!

- I expect honesty from the band, seeing them perform with hunger that comes from within and not simply posing to satisfy the crowds. It’s not about how great you perform and how skilled you are as a musician, everyone can become good by practicing countless hours but if there’s no spirit and atmosphere in the performance then it’s just an empty show. Most memorable gigs the past few years are Autopsy and Suffocation at Hole In The Sky this year, Grave Miasma and Cruciamentum every time I see them and to my great surprise Metallica at this year’s Sonisphere! I cannot pin-point what it was that made those gigs special other than seeing bands performing with integrity and PASSION! Ok, Metallica also had a great stageshow and the best live sound I have ever heard in my life, haha.

So, after a couple of weeks you are climbing to the stage in Helsinki. What kind of expectations do you have for this festival – are there maybe some bands which you are waiting eagerly? And what kind of a gig can we expect from Dead Congregation?

- We never have any expectations beforehand regarding the moment we perform, once we plug in and start the first notes of our set things go to another dimension and it’s out of our hands really. You can expect a no-gimmicks, no-frills, only DEATH Metal with spirit performed in your face with passionate intensity.

- Regarding the festival in general it will be a nice gathering of friends and I definitely look forward to ALL the bands actually, the line-up is just incredible!

THE CHOSEN THREE: JULY 2013

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Now I have reached the point where I’m feeling guilty of records I don’t have time to listen to. Yes, it’s weird: I keep buying records but besides a few exceptions – see below – they end up to my shelves to collect dust – and stare at me accusation in their eyes. Damn I hate this feeling: I love music but I just can’t find enough time to concentrate fully on every purchase. Another problem is the space: sometimes it feels like I’m sailing in Bermuda triangle of vinyls, CDs and tapes, where every format is fighting for its space. Add lots of toys, lots of books and some sort of a urge to keep my house cosy and classy and here you go. First world problems. At least this world creates good albums, like these three.

pestenoire_album

PESTE NOIRE: Peste Noire (La Mesnie Herlequin 2013)

The twisted and tormented mind of Famine has spawned another album. 2011’s L’Ordure á l’état Pur was a total mind fuck with some unexpected elements but when you just opened your mind to the music, the whole picture revealed to be quite unified and strong. This eponymous album, however, seems to be even a more dynamic and striking experience.

Peste Noire has created the genre of their own. It includes raw black metal, aching melodies, street aggression, background noise, accordion, visiting vocalists and an atmosphere that you could meet in a medieval countryside pub: rowdy-like, even chaotic but also somehow carnevalistic. The songs are almost collapsing with their twists and turns but somehow the band manages to keep everything together – I could even say ‘in order’, but these songs have always a surprise factor waiting behind the corner. Again some moments are a bit offensive like the rap-like speech in Niquez vos Villes but in this context this turns out a strong, aggressive manifestation.

And again, if you dig deeper, you find brilliant riffs and melodies which could get tons of praises if the execution was more traditional. But Peste Noire don’t want to be traditional – but they aren’t modern either. This album is a wind from the past but in this modern world it doesn’t feel dated but irritatingly old and honest.

A total earworm, La Blonde: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcLM8R6SNp8

Black_Sabbath_13

BLACK SABBATH: 13 (Vertigo 2013)

Another form of blackness. 13 is maybe one of the most anticipated and controversial comeback albums, especially when you add the drama between drummer Bill Ward and other members of the band – and I think that Ozzy Osbourne’s role as a MTV dad doesn’t help the situation either. Therefore it’s good to notice how Black Sabbath concentrates to do what they can do best: groovy doomy heavy rock.

You could say that Black Sabbath is mimicking Black Sabbath on 13, but they do it well. These songs use all those tricks and elements that made you love Black Sabbath in the beginning, but in these hands – and I mean the hands of Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi – these tricks don’t sound childish and plastic. Every rocking mid section, every wailing guitar solo, every simple slow beat – they all are full of force. Of course 13 turns out a bit repetitive in some point and you can’t find a total mind blowing hit song from this, but it’s just amazing how this band can make an album like this in 2013.

One of the doomier tracks, Damaged Soulhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=asivU6XpK4E

peligro_album

PELIGRO!: Peligro (Discos Enfermos 2011)

Black Sabbath meets Poison Idea.” That’s how one member of this Spanish band described their style at Puntala-rock punk festival in July. And I’m not here to argue against him: this tight group grooves with speed and rocks with bluesy doom, and although this kind of a concept could be even more experimental and daring, Peligro! definitely has good things in their hands to rock with. Unfortunately their gig at Puntala-rock was a small disappointment: singer Adri didn’t take the stage but the ground by the alcoholic rage, and in one point his heavy shouting became drunken growling. The other guys of the band were a bit frustrated of all this and the gig ended a bit short. Well, now I have the vinyl so I can experience it all as how it should have sounded (although they were tighter live than on this record) – how about you?

Listen the whole album: http://somospeligro.bandcamp.com/

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