Archive for August, 2012

“Words as Weapons”: Raw French Black Metal (The French Black Metal Underground)

Posted in black metal, black metal history, france, underground with tags , , , , , , on August 31, 2012 by blackmetallurgy

**EDITED 9/8/12 because Aosoth belongs with Antaeus more than Merrimack does, and because I have decided that Merrimack really shouldn’t be shelved under raw black metal. Shifting things around a bit. EDITED 6/6/13- Retitled.**

Sunday I started a mini-series on the French black metal underground (https://blackmetallurgy.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/metamorphosis-dissonant-french-black-metal-the-french-black-metal-underground/). I discussed dissonant black metal to begin with, focusing on avant-garde acts Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega. Perhaps the best place to go from there is to the gritty, raw black metal from France. Though these bands tend to be more traditional in their approach, they can still be collectively identified as belonging to the same scene as the aforementioned bands. They utilize some of the same basic musical themes, like the stately, majestic rhythms and particular structure of melodic lines.

“Words as Weapons”: French Raw Black Metal, The Visceral and the Spiritual (Antaeus, Aosoth)

Antaeus are from Maisons-Laffitte, Île-de-France. Their full length releases are fairly few in number, as they have released several demos and splits throughout their career, seemingly a trend in French black metal. Their first full length album was Cut Your Flesh and Worship Satan (which I think is just about the greatest title ever). Antaeus’ early work is raw and grungy, but dissonant sounds and avant garde melodies appear pretty early on.

[That opening is very experimental. Almost industrial sounding]

Their second album followed much of the same approach, with absolutely blistering blast beats and a dissonant turmoil of sound. Notice that although Antaeus is often as atonal as Deathspell Omega, they rarely allow themselves the slow passages that the latter often employs. Even the more mid-paced middle of this song gives little reprieve. This is pure onslaught.

[Also there is some more of that weird industrial finagling at the beginning, and some choral bits at the end]

Antaeus’ last full length album was released in 2006. Called Blood Libels, it was released on Norma Evangelium Diaboli, a small label started by members of Deathspell Omega and MkM, vocalist of Antaeus (we will get to Norma, or what I like to call the greatest little label in the cosmos, later). Blood Libels feels more mature to me; it is still uncompromising in its ferocity, but a little more controlled.

Even though they’ve not done a full length album in six years and have only done one split with Katharsis since then (according to Encyclopedia Metallum; again, let me know if you know this info to be incorrect), Antaeus is not any danger of disappearing, as MkM assures fans that as long as he’s around, Antaeus will also exist in some form or another (orthodoxblackmetal.com). They will be playing at Maryland Death Fest in May, and are one of my main reasons for going.

Also playing at Maryland Death Fest is Aosoth. Aosoth got their start around 2002, when they released a split with Antaeus. Because, surprise! MkM of Antaeus? Yeah. Aosoth is his band too.

[Notice any similarities?]

Aosoth’s work is, like Antaeus’, very chaotic. Blast beats abound, yet Aosoth in their very early work seems to have adopted a more traditional approach than Antaeus. Many of the same chord structures that belong to the Norwegian and Swedish scenes make their way into the early stuff. Aosoth’s sophomore album is called Ashes of Angels, and guitarist/bassist BST claims that this album is less specifically centered on the Order of the Nine Angles (a Satanic organization) than the band’s self-titled debut (masterful-magazine.com).

[These more mid-tempo songs start cropping up as Aosoth matures. Not any less brutal, but certainly a deviation from their early stuff and that of Antaeus]

In an interview with OrthodoxBlackMetal.com, MkM claimed that although Aosoth started off as a side project, it has also carried on where Antaeus left off (after a particularly disastrous tour, MkM decided to stop Antaeus). Though that would seem to be the case, both bands are slated for Maryland Death Fest, implying that Antaeus may not quite be dead yet (holy crap is that gonna be amazing. Mr. MkM is going to be a tired little kitty cat afterwards, though). Aosoth, being later work, draws on all manner of sounds, including more mid-paced songs like the above. Their latest work, III, is a very experimental album that seems inspired by the sounds of their countrymen.

[Really, really great stuff]

I cannot imagine what it will be like to see this in the spring. At least the bands can’t be double booked…

***

Next time I will address Merrimack and Glorior Belli, another MDF band (I’m crossing my fingers for Merrimack as well. They’d be a great choice with a new album out, and we should just have a big French black metal party, I think). Having edited this post to simply address “raw” black metal (and later Aosoth), that post will be more dedicated to themes and variations on traditional black metal. Merrimack is not a raw black metal band, and neither is Glorior Belli. The latter in particular is extremely interesting and odd.

Until next time.

Hagalaz

“Metamorphosis”: Dissonant French Black Metal (The French Black Metal Underground)

Posted in black metal, black metal history, france, musings, underground with tags , , , , , , on August 27, 2012 by blackmetallurgy

As I have watched the list of bands for Maryland Death Fest 2013 unfold, I have become increasingly more convinced that I should go to said festival, even if I have to sell a kidney to be able to afford it. The list is just so good. I mean, come on, Carcass, Pig Destroyer, Ihsahn, VENOM?! (Okay, so Venom was never that good at playing their instruments and it’s doubtful that in the past thirty years they’ve gotten better. Still, seeing “Black Metal” live is a bucket list item, no?) Probably the band I’m most excited about on the bill, however, was Antaeus, a handful of Frenchmen who play gritty, raw black metal. Also, now I see that Glorior Belli will also be playing. My excitement over this prompted the suggestion that I should do a post on the French scene, and I reckon someone should.

I’m kind of unsure how to do these posts. The Swedish black metal one was easy, because I could go off of how it was different from Norway to start with, and then it just blossomed. But the French scene is radically different from the Scandinavian one (for the most part). I suppose I will break it up into genres, and the best place to start is probably Blut Aus Nord, them being early. So here we go…

Metamorphosis- Dissonant French Black Metal (Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega)

Blut Aus Nord is from Mondeville, Lower Normandy, and is probably one of the best known experimental bands in the genre of black metal. They were also one of the prominent earlier bands in the French scene, and one of the forerunners of the more dissonant black metal sound. Though they are always depicted in monks robes, Blut Aus Nord does not play live. Their early material Encyclopedia Metallum labels as atmospheric black metal, and I suppose that is the best way to describe it. It certainly uses a lot of keyboards, which Blut Aus Nord has always used, but it is also very clearly black metal.

[Wait for it…]

And then there are also hints of the more strange ambient stuff that they will do later down the line as well.

[This is what hooked me, initially. So simple, yet powerful]

The band kept with their black metal roots, while transforming into something quite bizarre. You get a hint of that here in this next song, from their fourth full-length, The Work Which Transforms God. The sounds you hear here are sounds I have come to associate with the French scene, namely discordant guitars and effects with wandering, seemingly arbitrary shifts in the beat, and a very stately, majestic feel.

The 777 albums, the latest offering from this unconventional band, continue with the same strange patterns. 777 Sects and the follow-up, 777 The Desanctification, stray even further from traditional black metal and incorporate more avant garde metal with dark ambient noise.

The finale to the 777 albums comes out September 21st, and the teaser trailer sounds really good.

The other black metal band well-known for their avant-garde approach and dissonant melodies (probably the kings of dissonant melodies, actually) is Deathspell Omega. Deathspell Omega is from Poitiers, Poitou-Charentes, and they have never played a live show either. They weren’t always at the head of the avant-garde pack, though; when they started, they played a straightforward black metal.

[Those strident melodic lines have remained, however]

While Blut Aus Nord’s lyrics tend to deal more broadly with individualism and philosophy, Deathspell Omega is staunchly focused on metaphysical Satanism. This focus became more prominent with the release of their third full length album, Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice, the beginning of a trilogy of albums focusing on God, the Devil, and man’s relationship to both, in that order.

[I feel weird breaking this song up from its other two counterparts, but I want to point out the melodies here. They remind me a lot of those in the beginning of the previous track]

As you have probably noticed, things are starting to get a little bit weird, sound-wise. Those melodic lines still punctuate the music- they come soaring out of nowhere it feels like a lot of times- but the melodic structure as a whole is beginning to break down, and the rhythms seem to shift and writhe all over the place.

[Still great for the ears. Can’t say much for trying to wrap your brain around it]

The previous track is from Fas- Ite, Maledicte, in Ignem Aeternum, the second album in the trilogy. This next one is from the album that seals the deal, Paracletus.

[This was my first DsO song. I was frightened away by it. Eventually curiosity won out, and now they’ve won me over. I quite love them]

Deathspell Omega released a new EP (apparently a follow up to the trilogy) called Drought this summer with very little fanfare (in other words, I knew because I was paying attention and looking in the right place at the right time, but they didn’t exactly announce it). It has been very well received, as far as I’m aware, and DsO is getting *just* big enough that people are perking up and saying “Oh. My. What… Um.” Because admittedly that’s the typical first reaction.

And then it grows on you.

[“The Abrasive Swirling Murk”- it’ll grow on you (if Deathspell Omega had any need for a kitschy slogan, that would be it)]

Both Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega have had tremendous influence across the black metal scene. The discordant melodies and stately feel that both bands draw on have filtered into many scenes beyond their own, but they have also strongly taken root in the French scene. Next time I will talk more about the French scene, though which aspect even I am not sure of yet (there are a couple of places I could go with this).

Until then…

Hagalaz

Oh no!

Posted in black metal, france with tags , on August 26, 2012 by blackmetallurgy

Well, alas. I just hammered out the finishing touches on a post, but I’m not done with the link hunting yet and I have to get up early in the morning. So you will have to wait until tomorrow. I will, however, leave you with a preview of what is to come…

Great Stuff You (May) Have Never Heard Of

Posted in black metal, black metal history, blackened death metal, death metal, doom, norway, sweden, united states with tags , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2012 by blackmetallurgy

So today I’ll be writing this up at the last minute, because I promise I have been working hard on my Burzum post but my friend Jamie told me to stall a day or two because he’s going to do one as well. I know we have fairly different views concerning the matter (how we approach material by artists who offend us with their personal views, or offensive material in general), so that will be a kind of cool thing and I’ll link over to his blog once they are both posted. I do plan to continue working on material and keeping this up to date over the next few days, which means I plan a new post for Sunday as well still. I start back to school in about a week and I’m hoping I can still do the two a week thing, but I may have to go back to one. We’ll see. That’s later.

Now I want to introduce you to a few bands that you may not know. As someone the other day said, “so many of the bands on Encyclopedia Metallum are bands that released two demos in the 80s and then broke up.” That’s true, but a lot of those bands were actually pretty good, however they have faded into obscurity because demos don’t do much for ya in this day in age (now, let us observe a moment of silence for the tape-trading days).

This is really one of my favorite parts of reading The Slayer Mag Diaries– getting to look up and find on YouTube these obscure bands I haven’t heard of before that kind of faded away, and figuring out what they sound like. And some of them really were important. Like:

Mefisto (SWE)

Okay, so if you’ve read my blog you know I like Mefisto, but they never don’t deserve a mention on here. It’s not black metal, really, more like a weird conglomeration of black, thrash, and death (you can hear some Venom and Bathory-esque stuff in there). And pretty melodic openings.

[Maybe a young Jon Nödtveidt was listening to that intro? Reminds me somewhat of the acoustic bits in Dissection]

They were good at that. Mefisto came into being in 1984, and were a big influence on Swedish death metal while not ever really taking off themselves. Probably most famous as Morbid’s biggest rivals in the early underground Swedish extreme metal scene, I’d say the two bands probably kept each other in check in the best way possible; that is, by making really incredible music.

[Creepy little kids. That first scream raises the hackles, no?]

Winter (US)

Winter is a death-ish doom metal band from the US (represent) that split up fairly early in 1992. Like is unfortunately so often the case, no one much cared until they weren’t making music anymore, but they seem to have developed a bit of a cult following.

[There’s not much of a bottom to it, but that is some heavy stuff]

Someone on YouTube commented that Winter sounds kind of like Celtic Frost, and they kind of do. Their vocalist certainly sounds a lot like Tom G. Warrior. It reminds me a little of this song.

Either way, Winter is exactly what you would want from an old-school doom band. Slow, grinding riffs with a coldness to them that leaves you feeling like you’re staring into the abyss. And of course, the harsh vocals are nice- they mix things up a bit. This is no Candlemass.

Mortem (NOR)

Mortem is a really cool band. I knew that some of the guys from Arcturus were in a death metal band at the same time that they were in Arcturus, and I knew that band was called Mortem, and I knew that this Mortem was from Norway, but I did not realize that they were, in fact, the same Mortem until recently.

That was a mouthful. Ahem. But yes, Mortem is important because these are some of the same guys who brought you Arcturus. Yes, that’s right. Arcturus.

[Obviously ICS Vortex was not in Mortem. Carry on]

Mortem was born in 1987 (like me, yay), and was never Arcturus. The two bands were completely different projects, and Mortem also had a revolving door of musicians (though they did share musicians with Arcturus. Hellhammer was in Mortem at some point for sure, though I’m less sure when those points were). Apparently they even got a new line up together in the mid-nineties and jammed around a bit; alas, their 1989 demo Slow Death is their only release (at least that I know of. Please feel free to correct me if I err here).

[Even though the bands are two completely different styles, I feel like you can feel some of Arcturus in here. It’s got that weird carnival beat they play around with so much]

Mortem seems to have been most famous for their vocalist, who screams like the worst of the monsters you feared were hiding under your bed as a child.

***

Well, this post is getting a wee bit long- I was going to do five bands, but three is a good number too. I will finish up the Burzum post and post it along with a link to Jamie’s post, and then I will cook up something cool for Sunday too. And don’t think this will be the last of these posts- I am formulating a list of bands to look up while I’m reading The Slayer Mag Diaries, and I will keep posting cool ones I come across as I find them in hopes that other people like listening to this obscure old metal as much as I do.

I will send you off with a random thing that popped up on the black metal reddit the other day. I don’t know what this is and have never heard of Checker Patrol before, but apparently Necro Butcher and Euronymous from Mayhem both played in this band. So have fun with it. It sounds like they did.

And have fun hearing that guy from Mortem in your dreams.

Sleep tight.

-Hagalaz

More Updates to the Battle Jacket

Posted in battle jacket, black metal with tags , on August 19, 2012 by blackmetallurgy

Well, I’m currently working on a post concerning Burzum and moral dilemmas (namely, my own), but it’s still very rough, and I’m not going to post it here until I’ve puzzled over it some more. In the meantime, I’ll show off what I’ve been doing with the battle jacket, because I’ve been working hard on it the last week or so (I don’t have much to do right now).

First of all, I finally got my DIY Funeral Mist shirt patch on. It’s huge! But it looks awesome.

It takes up the whole back almost! But there’s still room for me to put patches along the edge of it if I need to.

I’m so proud! *sniffle*

So, now Arioch can get recognition for his hard work, and I get a Funeral Mist back patch featuring his own design work. Oh. Yeah.

The next step was putting on my Morbid patch. I decided to put it over the right hand pocket, and though I sewed the top pockets shut, I wanted to keep the ones near the bottom of the jacket (gotta have someplace to stick your hands when it’s cold out).
It was tricky, but I managed without too much trouble. After a bit it got easier.

Morbid!

…and the pocket is still there. Yay!

Then I decided, what the hey, might as well do the Gorgoroth patch too. I settled on putting it on the right shoulder. There is still enough room to put a patch roughly the same size directly to the right of it.

The front, currently.

And that’s all the patches I have right now! They look very scattered at the moment, but that’s because I need more to put on! Hopefully that will happen soon. I would love Melechesh and Inquisition patches, and since I plan on seeing them in October hopefully I can get some. I’ll also probably order more online (although the guy I have bought from in the past on eBay seems to have emptied his stock, sadly), but first I need to get a paycheck. More later this week, when I’ve sorted that other post out a little better.

-Hagalaz

Review: Watain- Opus Diaboli (DVD)

Posted in black metal, Reviews, sweden, videos with tags , , , , on August 16, 2012 by blackmetallurgy

Well, this one is long overdue. However, last night the Void compelled me to watch Opus Diaboli again, and I thought “Well, there. Yes. That is what I shall write about for Thursday.” So here it is, the long-awaited review of Watain’s new movie.

And that is sort of what it is. Because Opus Diaboli isn’t like any other live DVD I’ve ever seen. There’s not long segments of the fans milling around out in the venue, there are no shots of the band lounging around backstage, and it really does have somewhat of a narrative, which is what I consider needed to make a “movie” as opposed to simply a live concert film. These parts embedded in the film pretty much are the special features, so don’t expect to find a button for it in the menu. Of course, ultimately Opus Diaboli is a concert film, but the two parts weave in and out of one another to create a tapestry that is 100% Watain.

The live portions of the DVD are amazing; from Watain you would expect nothing less. They sound every bit as fantastic on stage as in the studio, and the pyrotechnics they use are simply mind-blowing. Some personal favorites like “Reaping Death” and “Stellarvore” are on here, and they even threw on “On Horns Impaled,” which is really cool. I do wish that “Four Thrones” had made it onto the DVD, because that one just sounds like it’d be awesome live, although I’m not sure how much of the words the crowd knew based on the CD, so that might be why (you’ve got to be able to chant along, or something isn’t right). “Wolves’ Curse” also wasn’t on there, and I think it would have been perfect, especially right around where they talk about wolves, but you, know…

If the live concert portion of the DVD is awesome, the other parts just make it even better. Interwoven throughout the live show is several interviews with Erik Danielsson (how come no one ever interviews the other guys? And I understand there may be a reason for this, like maybe E is the mouthpiece since he writes most of the lyrics, but I always wondered…), where he explains the symbolism behind images like Watain’s trident and the wolf. He also goes into depth concerning the band’s spiritual message and goals, which I think would effectively shut up those people out there who claim that Watain is just a gimmick. These guys are very, very serious. I think no matter what your spiritual beliefs (or lack thereof), it is cool to see the dedication and the solemnity that the band has concerning these things.

By far the best part of the DVD is the last fifteen minutes or so, when the band performs “The Waters of Ain.” Though Watain puts their all into every song, I’m sure, this finale neatly combines the past hour and a quarter of giddiness-inducing pyrotechnics and solemn spirituality in one final, emotionally-charged performance. And when I say that I mean it- the guy in the front row towards the end of the song with his face buried in his hands, seemingly in tears, is testament to the power of Watain in their element. The ending of the song and DVD is probably the most moving thing I have ever seen from a metal band, and I can’t, and won’t, ruin it for you. Suffice it to say that even the crowd falls silent. BAM. And Hagalaz is sitting on her couch and the dark crying like a little girl because the darkness is beautiful.

The packaging is also the sort of thing that you would expect from Watain- E’s design work is all over it. I ended up purchasing the poor college student edition, so I don’t have pictures of all the awesome memorabilia that comes with the fancy box set to show you. Here are a few pics of the version I have, however.

The front of the poor college kid version.

The back of the DVD (and the back of Watain).

Fire! That devil on the right is like “Aw, HELL yeah.”

The guts. Yes, my coasters have cats on them. Cats are awesome.

Opus Diaboli also comes with a live CD (yes, even mine did!). The CDs are split in an odd way (seven tracks on one, six on the other), thirteen tracks in all. The accompanying booklet is also cool, with posters from throughout the band’s thirteen year career and pictures from the recordings and the road. Its design reminds me a lot of the Morbid compilation that came out last year, which shouldn’t be surprising as E did the design work for that too. The real point is that it is every bit as nice and professional as the Morbid comp; great packaging for a great piece of art.

One of my favorite parts of the design work. Oh, Watain. You guys make me smile.

If you haven’t seen Opus Diaboli yet, I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you just can’t find it, as it was a bit difficult to track down for a while. I expect you to get thee hence and see it, though, or I will chastise you for being silly. Watain has portrayed in their DVD what they claim to be their goal as a band- to give their audience something more than just a show, but a taste of something larger than ourselves. Opus Diaboli is thought-provoking, meaningful, emotionally stirring, and also entertaining, and is a perfect way to commemorate thirteen years of lawless darkness.

Until next time,

“Let us praise the flowering darkness.”

-Hagalaz

Wow…

Posted in black metal, memorial, sweden with tags , , , on August 13, 2012 by blackmetallurgy

So, when I made my post yesterday about Dissection, it didn’t occur to me how timely it was.

Reign in Chaos, Jon. Thank you for the brilliant music.

Photo from MySpace.com

June 28, 1975- Aug. 13, 2006