Monthly Archives: August 2013

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!

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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/

ALIVE AND STINKING: DEATH BREATH

Death Breath, where are you? Is Scott Carlsson having too fun with those Repulsion gigs? Or is Imperial State Electric making so much money that Nicke Andersson has abandoned death metal (again!)? Or is this zombie just hibernating, ready to strike when we expect it least? Well, the reason can be this or that or maybe there aren’t any reasons to this season of silence, but this Swedish band’s debut Stinking Up the Night was an impressive effort in 2006. Retro – yes, but who cares if you get such rotting, rolling and stinking death metal as this album offers. Robert Pehrsson (guitars, vocals) wasn’t a man of many ,many, many words in this old interview, but I hope you find it a good read nevertheless.

deathbreath_logo(published in Imperiumi.net in 2007)

Well, let’s start from the recent news, which can be described – as on your homepage – as good and bad. First the bad ones: you lost your bass player Magnus Hedquist – how did this happen? You have found a replacement, right?

– We haven’t been searching really. In the studio Nicke can do the bass, that’s how we’re it doing now. And live we’ll have Scott Carlsson anytime when it’s possible. That’s where we are right now and that will work just fine.

And then the good news: you had your first gig some time ago. Could you tell some general feelings about it? Did all go well? Did you get those two other vocal musketeers (Scott Carlsson and Jörgen Sandström) to perform live also?

– Yeah, I was really blown away by the response, we had Scott coming over here to Sweden rehearsing for a week and we had Erik Wallin from Merciless/Harms Way on second guitar. It all worked really well. Jörgen came up and did two songs with us also, and he was superb of course.

What kind of set list did you have? Did you fill the list with some cover songs or was it enough to play songs from your debut album? If there weren’t any covers, what would be suitable songs for Death Breath and why?

– I guess we could have done only originals, but did a bunch of covers, ‘cause we think it’s fun and we like the songs. Here’s the set list:

Death Breath

Chopping Spree

Bodily Dismemberment (Repulsion)

Dragged through the Mud

Coffins of the Unembalmed Dead

Reduced to Ashes

Circle of the Tyrants (Celtic Frost)

Heading for Decapitation (w. Jörgen)

A Morbid Mind (w. Jörgen)

Lycantrophy (GBH)

Maimed and Slaughtered (Discharge)

Black Breath (Repulsion)

Christ All Fucking Mighty

Sacrifice (Bathory)

Well, then to your debut album Stinking Up the Night, which has been one of the year’s best albums for many, although the feelings were quite sceptical at first. So, I guess this kind of fame has been a big thing and an act of power to you?

– We did the album ‘cause we wanted to and didn’t think about expectations and such at all really. I was more concerned with just doing the best I can and that I would be proud of what we achieved at the end. And I am. Everything after that is a big bonus to me, and I’m very happy to see people digging it!

Could you describe how were the first, primal feelings when you were starting to nail down to those songs? Did you start from your old favourites, or from pure booze-laden hatred or just from 100% having fun? In the case of some songs like Dragged through the Mud you don’t have to dig the influences very deep (Autopsyyyy!!!), so there is a spirit of tribute present sometimes…

– We just wanted do a pure death metal album the way we like it. The songs aren’t very different from our first demos to what ended up on the album, that’s just the way we write for Death Breath so that wasn’t hard at all.  I draw influences from those old favourites that I always liked the best. I couldn’t really do it in another way to tell the truth.

Well, in my opinion you got covered quite well all the aspects that are important in death metal. I especially like those humorous moments in lyrics, Chopping Spree and Heading for Decapitation being the best examples. Death metal is not so serious thing to you, right? Does this sense of humour shine also in music (I can feel some ridiculously overflowing massiveness in Cthulhu Fhtagn!…)?

– Thanks! We’re a 100% serious with the band, but of course we want to have some humour in there. I also think some people mistake a good rhyme with humour sometimes.

On the other hand you attack on God in Christ All Fucking Mighty. Does Death Breath have still some serious message? Should the lyrics of that song be read in a Satanic way or as a burst of basic Christ-mocking anger?

– That one is Nicke’s lyric, but I would go for what you mention last.

I had a chat with Repugnant guys some years ago and they said that echo and rhymes are the most Satanic things in death metal. Well, you have at least that latter part in aces, so are you Satanic? What else does make death metal so harsh and gruesome in your opinion?

– They got a good point there. We have to have more echo on the next album! We like it simple and raw, no point in overdoing things.

And just keeping things in Satan: do you think that all extreme metal music has that Satanic vibe naturally, or is this all just result of that trio from Newcastle (Venom) and one hockey-crazy Swede (Bathory)?

– No not really, I’m not the one to say what’s evil or not. Bathory sounds evil to me, but I don’t think Quorthon was the least bit evil in person.

deathbreath3

One speciality in Stinking Up the Night is that aforementioned vocal threesome of Sandström, Carlsson and yourself. How did you share those songs together? And why didn’t Nicke (known of his great performance in Entombed’s Clandestine) join to you vocal orgies? 

– We discussed early on to have a couple of different screamers. We liked Scott’s and Jörgen’s work a lot so we decided to ask them. I think it makes the record better, and it’s a lot of fun working with them. Nicke did try it a few times but couldn’t get the sound right this time around. It was quite easy to hear whitch song suited Jörgen’s, Scott’s or my style the best in the studio.

In my opinion Jörgen has the toughest throat in this album. Was he like possessed in the studio or how did he manage to make those unholy guttural noises?

– He’s just being Jörgen. It comes natural to him.

How it was to work with Nicke? Did you write those songs separately and just gather for the studio sessions, or were there a deeper connection between you two?

– It’s really easy to work with him, he’s got lots of talent and has a lot of experience in every department. As soon as we had decided to do the album we immediately started writing songs, recording them at our home studios and then exchanged them when we met up. Some of the stuff we wrote together, just sitting down with guitars as usual.

People are talking about Death Breath as Nicke’s band but the things aren’t like this. Does it get on your nerves or are you all right with this?

– I’m all right with that, we both knew that would be the case he’s being so much more well-known than me. People who get the record will know there are two brains behind the band.

So, let’s turn the limelight to you then, heh! Tell something about your metal history. What was your first connection to metal music? When did you discover death metal and what were your first thought about it? Maybe Entombed/Nihilist was one of your heroes back then?

– On this record I got to work with a lot of my old heroes. Nicke, Scott, Jörgen and Fred (Estby from Dismember, producer on this one -ed.) are all from bands that I discovered and liked really early on so that is a blast for me no doubt. I went from bands as AC/DC, Maiden, Motörhead, Priest, Kiss etc. to thrash such as Sodom, Kreator and Metallica. Then I think one of the first really brutal bands I heard was Bathory, I immediately bought the record.  A long time ago I was in bands such as Masticator, Runemagick and Deathwitch.

Metal Archives says that Masticator was your first band and you released a demo tape in 1991. Can you recall those feelings having your own (death metal) band, doing that first demo tape etc.? Have you found some of those feelings again through Death Breath?

– Absolutely, I remember it like yesterday. Heavy, thrash, death and black metal were the reasons I picked up a guitar. I never stopped listening to death metal, I just stopped looking for new bands at some point. I have been returning to my old records all the time through the years. I love doing this again with Death Breath, I just never found anyone to do it with in the last couple of years.

Although you had your own role in Deathwitch and Runemagick, you dropped your metal armour and headed to Thunder Express to play some garage rock in 2004. Did you fed up with death metal or what happened? I guess you didn’t turn your back to death metal completely? What else have you done during these years in the music scene?

– I think I answered some of this in the question above. I moved to Stockholm and had started to not only listen to metal and wanted to do something else. I’ve been in a couple of rock bands here since then. Tomahawk, The Preachermen, Wrecks and now Thunder Express. I also write things on my own recording that whenever I have the time.

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And now straight to this moment. Death Breath is alive and kicking, and although couple of the greatest newer Swedish death metal bands (Repugnant and Kaamos, I guess you have heard of them!) have disbanded, good ol’ Dismember, Grave, Unleashed and of course Entombed are raging like 15 years earlier. But what new things will Death Breath give to death metal audience?

– We’ll supply a good healthy death metal injection in the old spirit.

And what about today’s scene, what do you think about it? In my opinion people have become speedfreaks and they just making blastbeats just for speed’s sake and they have forgotten chaotic, slimy atmosphere of Autopsy and likes. 

– I think you hit the nail on its head.

Well, your myspace site is saying that you are already doing Death Breath 10” containing seven songs. (This revealed to be Let It Stink, including four originals and three covers). Can you reveal any facts about it? Will the songs follow the path of your album or are there any surprises? One thing seems to be sure: Death Breath won’t be a one-album wonder, right?

– Yeah we do, doing vocals for it tomorrow. But that’s all I will say for now and you won’t be rid of us for some time that’s for sure.