Archive for the featured artist Category

Band Spotlight: Shape of Despair [Funeral Doom] (Finland)

Posted in band spotlight, doom, featured artist, finland, genre troubles, underground with tags , , , , , , on February 23, 2013 by blackmetallurgy

So I know I just did a doom metal one of these, but I’ve been intending to write up a special on Shape of Despair for a while now. I first learned of Shape of Despair last year, when Jamie picked up their album Angels of Distress at the Underground Rock Shop in Newton, IA (which I am told recently moved to Des Moines).

Quite simply, Shape of Despair writes the most heart-achingly depressing stuff I have ever heard. (And I listen to DSBM regularly).

[Complete with an image of a young woman crying on a rock]

Ahem. Anyway, Shape of Despair started off as Raven in 1995, founded by guitarist and keyboardist Jarno Salomaa and bassist/guitarist Tomi Ullgrén; they changed their name to their current moniker in 1998. Salomaa is the mastermind behind the band in terms of musical direction- a direction of which no one seems to be much sure. There is much debate as to what kind of music Shape of Despair is; it’s clearly metal, it’s clearly depressing, but it’s clearly not DSBM. It waffles, I think, around on the edges of gothic and funeral doom, although it does some strange things sometimes that don’t seem to fit in either category. For the sake of clarity, I’ll refer to it as funeral doom; it has that stately feel I associate with the genre.

[Shape of Despair’s early work under the moniker Raven has been released on a CD called “The Eerie Sampler.” This is not that; it’s the first track from their first album, which is pretty much the earliest thing I could find on YouTube]

Shape of Despair seems to have two vocalists at any one time. Vocalist Natalie Koskinen joined the band in 1998, just as they were becoming Shape of Despair, and has been a steady member of the band since. The male vocalists, however, have been less steady, changing  up every album or so. Despite this fact and some rotation in the drummer’s seat, Shape of Despair has had a remarkably steady line up for an extreme metal band.

[You can hear both vocalists here. N. Koskinen’s vocals are incredibly haunting]

Encyclopedia Metallum describes Shape of Despair’s lyrical content as concerning “misery, pain, and loneliness,” which I would say is a pretty accurate description. As I mentioned earlier, this is some of the most depressing music I have ever heard. It’s lovely in its dreariness, but it isn’t something I would recommend if you’re struggling with depression perhaps. Lovely, though, for some late afternoon Void-gazing.

[My god that is wretched]

Unlike a lot of bands, Shape of Despair did not release any demos or EPs before their first album, Shades Of… This is probably because the band operated under the name Raven for the first couple of years, and there was a couple of Raven demos that later became the CD referenced above (as well as an unofficial demo). Instead, the band’s compilation came out in 2005. After that they laid low for quite a while, releasing the Written In My Scars EP in 2010 and a 2011 split with Before the Rain, a Portuguese doom band. They don’t seem to have done much recording since, although they are playing Huntfest in Tallinn soon (with Metsatoll and Finntroll, haha, what a contrast!) and have recently re-released their first two albums on vinyl.

[See what I mean? You think you’ve got these guys figured out, and then they do something different. That beat in the beginning is faster than normal]

[Here’s another one off Illusion’s Play. I love the beginning, and once again the tempo has picked up a bit. This is positively joyful for them]

Although the theme is often the same- slow to mid-tempo, stately, eerie, somber doom- you can hear the variation in the band’s approach in the samples I’ve posted here. It’s good to know that they are still together, and hopefully we will get some new music from them soon. As always, if you like what you’ve heard here, support the band. Shape of Despair is the perfect soundtrack for post-Valentine’s Day (ha) and bleak winters.

[Shape of Despair’s cover of Lycia’s “Estrella,” from their 2011 split with Before the Rain]

[I can’t even imagine what it would be like to actually see them live. This is crazy]

-Hagalaz

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Band Spotlight: Ubi Sunt [Funeral Doom] (United States)

Posted in band spotlight, doom, featured artist, underground, united states with tags , , , , , on January 17, 2013 by blackmetallurgy

**A note: Skip down to the bottom of the post to listen to Ubi Sunt. I’m not sure how to embed individual bandcamp songs**

This band spotlight is probably going to be a fairly short one, since there doesn’t seem to be much information out there on Ubi Sunt. But in terms of awesome new things that came out in 2012 that I missed, Ubi Sunt’s album I is one of them. Typically I like my funeral doom more European, but Ubi Sunt’s brand has a special twist.

Ubi Sunt plays traditionally sludgy, dirge-like funeral doom, only they blend it with Renaissance-era music. Their songs are based upon the compositions of Thomas Campion, a composer, poet, and physician who lived in Elizabethan/Stuart England. Also an influence is Solage, a late medieval French composer. The music from these periods is often quite simple and has stately feel, which is kind of cool considering how technically tangled a lot of extreme metal is. As a result, Ubi Sunt escapes any sort of over-complication in a way consistent with traditional doom, but presents a new way of imagining the funeral doom genre.

[After all, what’s more funeral doom than the Middle Ages?]

One aspect of doom metal that makes it so interesting to me is the way the genre incorporates both harsh and clean vocals. Ubi Sunt’s use of harsh vocals is really cool as it brings in something for the very traditional sounding music to grind against and merges these two temporally separate genres of music. I also like how the guitars and horns kind of blend together; it reminds me a little of the above Solage song, in which the vocals at times imitate stringed instruments. The same feel is being recreated in Ubi Sunt’s music, only in a different way.

[We’ve had banjos, accordions, and mouth harps- someone needs to find a way to incorporate the lute into black metal]

The name Ubi Sunt comes from a Latin phrase that means “where are those who were before us,” or “where are they?” It was a common way to start poems in the medieval period, which, of course, is referenced by the band’s music. Rather than something nostalgic, however, the phrase is intended as a comment on mortality and the brevity of life. This reference is then a very apt one for a funeral doom band, and for anything that references a period of time when plague was rampant (plague was a common problem throughout the early modern period as well as the medieval. I could go on about this all day).

Ubi Sunt has a bandcamp page where you can purchase I for a price of your choosing, and I highly encourage it. Though the album only contains four songs, those four tracks comprise over an hour worth of music. Plus, they are an up and coming band you can help out! Like with most bandcamp bands, you can listen to Ubi Sunt’s music on their page as well. Well worth a listen!

-Hagalaz

Band Spotlight: Hypothermia (Sweden)

Posted in band spotlight, black metal, DSBM, featured artist, sweden with tags , , , , , on December 2, 2012 by blackmetallurgy

Well, it’s that time of year again, in which it gets dark (at least here) at 4:30 PM, the sun is about to go away for the next three months, and everyone’s suffering from seasonal affective disorder. The perfect time of year, in other words, to listen to some DSBM.

Hypothermia from Jönköping/Gothenburg, Sweden, is pretty much perfect for winter. Started in 2001, Hypothermia’s long, drawn out, droning masterpieces perfectly suit the lethargy of the season. Hypothermia is one of the multiple projects of Kim Carlsson (along with Richard Abrams and Carl Ulvinen), probably best known for his work as () with Lifelover. Don’t be fooled though; featuring lots of clean guitars layered on distortion and comprised mostly of epic 15-20 minute long pieces, Hypothermia is a completely different flavor than the more post-rock inspired Lifelover (although I do think they complement each other well).

[From their first demo Saphien Irretable (2003). This is a shorter piece, and more up-tempo than some of the later material, but the repetitive feeling is definitely there]

One of my favorite aspects of Hypothermia’s music is the vocals, which I know I have raved about on here before. Although perhaps not the best or most listenable of vocalists, I find Kim Carlsson’s agonized shrieks and screams to be perfect for Hypothermia. They are stark and ugly and alarming, as he really does sound like he’s in a lot of pain, and alongside Hypothermia’s actually quite pretty passages, they create a really appealing dissonance. “The coldness of winter is always inside my mind,” Kim told Kaleidoscope Magazine in an interview, and for me, nothing says winter quite like tortured screams over repetitive stillness. It’s like the wind howling, but after the snow has fallen.

[Probably my favorite Hypothermia song. There’s a good range of vocal techniques in this track]

Another signature technique of Hypothermia’s music is the repetitiveness of it. In the same interview with Kaleidoscope Magazine, Kim claimed that the repetitiveness was due to the meditative state that he slips into while composing, and the music does have a kind of calmness to it. It also carries forward a long tradition in black metal of this drawn out, atmosphere-creating sound. However, as Burzum proved back in the early 90s, there is a particular way to do atmospheric successfully, and Hypothermia certainly has figured it out. Although droning and repetitive, the music contains just enough subtle shifts that it never gets boring. It is stylistically simple, but there are layers to the music as well.

[An unreleased track that was supposed to come out on a split with Woods of Infinity. One riff; fifteen minutes. I love the “accidental” tempo shifts]

Hypothermia has hours upon hours of recorded material under their belts, and most of it in the form of demos and splits (which means that I will not even be able to barely make a dent in recording it here). Though the music is plentiful and each of the releases brings something special to the table, their extensive catalogue seems to be characterized by mostly mid-tempo, repetitive tracks incorporating Kim’s signature tortured screams. That’s not to say that it is not all interesting stuff; Hypothermia just tends to stick with a certain theme.

[In my opinion, it’s great, and I’m personally happy that there is probably a couple of days’ worth of this stuff that I can listen to]

Hypothermia is also the reason why I wrote that post a while back complaining that the metal scene in the U.S. doesn’t have a good support system. They wrote on their Facebook page several months ago that they’d never tour here because of expenses, and that sucks. So, if you do like what you’ve heard here today, get thee hence to their website. I believe you may have to write them at their email address to get physical copies of things, but their prices seem more than reasonable and they take PayPal (seriously. I know I bemoan the loss of the tape trading and letter writing days a lot, but the internet makes some things really really easy. Like sending money and having PayPal convert to the correct currency for you. Oh yes). There are also a couple of downloads available on that website, including the new one, Skogens Hjärta, a 1.6 hour long epic instrumental that is absolutely lovely.

[Coffee and Blood. Sounds like grad school! (I wish I was joking. But seriously. This is awesome. Admit it)]

Also on their website are links to images of Kim’s artwork, some of which can be purchased in prints (and there are even some originals available). The man really is a genius. So get excited, because there is A LOT more where this has come from, and if you like the music, please please please support the band. They are pretty far underground, and they make a lot of their shirts, cassette labels, etc., so clearly they put a lot of time and care into everything they do.

[One more! This one is a demo version]

Happy Winter, everyone. Black metal season is upon us again.

-Hagalaz

Band Spotlight: Melechesh (Israel/Netherlands)

Posted in black metal, featured artist, israel, the netherlands, underground with tags , , , , , on October 18, 2012 by blackmetallurgy

Melechesh is another of the bands I will be seeing live tomorrow night, and that I am completely stoked about. I have been a fan since Pandora randomly played them for me one fateful day, and I can’t wait to see them perform live. So without further ado…

Melechesh, which means “King of Fire” in Hebrew, got their start in the holy city of Jerusalem in 1993. Now, if you’re like me, you appreciate the irony behind a black metal band from Jerusalem. Nothing seems quite so cool to me as the thought of black metal from the Holy Land. Unfortunately, not everyone thinks like I do, and according to Encyclopedia Metallum, Melechesh, due to problems with the religious authorities and with the deeply religious people of their hometown (as well as “personal and professional reasons,” of which I can’t really comment on as I know nothing about), actually packed up and moved to the Netherlands, where they currently reside. In the words of Nathan Explosion, “now that’s brutal.”

[From their first album, As Jerusalem Burns… Al’Intisar. Melechesh, from their early days, incorporated Mediterranean melodies into their black metal]

Melechesh got started in 1993, and released their demo As Jerusalem Burns… in 1995, after which they were apparently accused of alleged “dark cult activities” in Jerusalem and Bethlehem but were later cleared (NuclearBlast). Their debut came out a year later under the title As Jerusalem Burns… Al’Intisar, and contained the same tracks that appeared on the demo as well as several others (the above is one of the tracks that appeared on both). From the beginning it was clear that Melechesh would not be your typical black metal band; they call themselves “Mesopotamian metal” and incorporate a lot of Middle Eastern melodies in their work, a breath of fresh air in a black metal scene that was increasingly starting to all blend together.

[From 2001’s Djinn]

Also in 1996, the band released an EP called “The Siege of Lachish,” after which they stayed quiet for several years, not re-emerging until 2001’s Djinn, their next full length album. In this long span of no recordings, the band played several shows in the Holy Land and in 1998 relocated to the Netherlands. In 1999, Proscriptor McGovern of Absu (from Texas, like me!) joined the band on drums. 2003 saw the release of Sphynx, the cover art of which was done by a guy who does art for Star Wars (and may, perhaps, have been in the band at some point… my knowledge is scant here and I’m having trouble corroborating sources, so feel free to offer the info up if you know it. Either way, there is nothing about any of that situation that is not totally awesome). According to Nuclear Blast, Sphynx was considered one of the top 10 metal albums of the year in 2003, impressive for a band from so far underground (although not, I think, undeserved).

[This one is from Sphynx, 2003. There’s a rock beat under this one, which is cool. Layers upon layers…]

Armed with a North American/Central American distributer in The End Records, Melechesh pressed on, releasing another EP the following year called “The Ziggurat Scrolls.” Their fourth LP, Emissaries, followed in 2006. This album was the first one I heard by Melechesh, and it seems that lots of people consider it to be the pinnacle of the band’s work up to that point (Nuclear Blast). While they have continuously utilized the Mediterranean musical approaches in their scales and drum patterns, Melechesh has always remained fresh and original in their sound. They have not, then, become some kind of novelty act; with shifting tempos and original song structure, they never become boring.

[This was my first Melechesh song. It about knocked my socks off]

Melechesh’s lyrical themes center around Mesopotamian and Sumerian mythology. This focus is a nice shift away from the typical black metal lyrics, as well as fits well with the band’s musical perspective. Also, it’s complicated by the inclusion of some Sumerian symbols and deities in anti-cosmic Satanism, which is cool. I’m not claiming that’s what they are going for; I don’t actually know. However, the connection is there and is interesting.

Melechesh’s fifth full length album, The Epigenesis, came out in 2011, and they have a new EP out this year called “Mystics of the Pillar II.” You can buy their new EP in digital format right here on their official website. Other websites I plundered for the information in this write up are the Nuclear Blast webpage for Melechesh, and of course, Encyclopedia Metallum and Wikipedia. If you get a chance, I highly recommend giving Melechesh a listen. Their songs are catchy and interesting, and it is fun to hear music so radically different than traditional black metal.

[As a Renaissance geek, this title particularly appeals to me. Love the sitar and drums. From Emissaries (2011)]

For me, the best part about Melechesh is the fact that I get to see them tomorrow! I hope they have patches available; I think my battle jacket could do with a Melechesh patch (or any more patches at all! Having skimp on patch buying sucks! Oh well. Financial stability is near, just as soon as I purchase those damned MDF tickets and can stop pinching pennies). I’ll do a write up of the show at least for Sunday, if not earlier.

Stay kvlt.

-Hagalaz

Band Spotlight: Inquisition (Colombia/US)

Posted in black metal, colombia, featured artist, underground, united states with tags , , , , , , on October 4, 2012 by blackmetallurgy

I don’t expect any of my readers to remember this, but in a few weeks (on the 19th) I will be seeing Inquisition and Melechesh, two underground black metal bands that are both really remarkable in their own right (of course, I’ll also be seeing Ex Deo, Krisiun, and Septic Flesh, but that’s like dessert). Since they are pretty far underground, I decided I needed to do features on both these bands leading up to the show. First up, Inquisition, AKA “and you thought US black metal couldn’t be kvlt.”

Dagon, who is originally from the United States, formed Inquisition in 1988 in Cali, Colombia, while he was living there. The band started out as thrash metal, and then in the mid-90s shifted drastically to start playing raw black metal. Dagon moved back to the United States in 1996 in search of a drummer. That search resulted in Incubus joining the band, and thus the Inquisition we have come to know and love was born. Here sixteen years later, the lineup has not changed (Encyclopedia Metallum).

[This is what Inquisition’s early thrash stuff sounded like. This is *mostly* nothing like what they sound like now, but is an interesting artifact nonetheless]

Inquisition’s debut full-length album, Into the Infernal Regions of the Ancient Cult, came out in 1998, after two thrash demos and an EP and split portraying the beginnings of their black metal dalliances. By this point, the band had largely abandoned their thrash beginnings for black metal, though a lot of the riffage in the guitars still carries hints of Inquisition’s thrash background.

[Trve]

Inquisition’s music is characterized by Dagon’s croaky, frog-like vocals and musical cadences that switch from slower, sludgier passages to fast riffing and blast beats. In an interview with ThatsHowKidsDie.com, Dagon claimed that rather than the shrieks that are traditional to black metal, he wanted his vocals to sound more like an inhuman chant. He also added that he was flattered when people described his vocals as frog-like because his goal was for them to be as inhuman as possible.

[You can hear the thrashiness in the riffage here]

Also interesting about Inquisition is their use of corpsepaint, a tradition that has been less prevalent in USBM. The band’s lyrical themes explore Satanism, spirituality, and the cosmos, and Dagon argues that corpsepaint helps them to realize these goals. “[Corpsepaint] represents the fact that black metal is more than music and is a form of magic and ritual,” he claims. “It represents the fact that the spiritual self is unleashed” (ThatsHowKidsDie.com). Corpsepaint then, at least for Inquisition, symbolizes something more than simply a black metal fashion statement. The tiny ritualistic things that enter into black metal performance are fascinating, and one of the reasons why I love this subgenre so much.

[From Magnificent Glorification of Lucifer (2004)]

Another fun and cool aspect of Inquisition is their really impressive album artwork. The artwork is painted by Antichrist Kramer, who Dagon met in 2002 and asked to be Inquisition’s artist. He was interested in having someone do the album covers who was not working with any other bands, and who could evolve as the music evolved. As a result, Kramer has done the last few album covers for Inquisition, surrealist paintings with diabolical imagery (from ThatsHowKidsDie.com). I love that Inquisition has worked with the same artist for so long; as someone who considers the album artwork and liner work to be an essential part of the experience of black metal, it is cool to see a band working closely with a particular artist in the way that Inquisition does with Antichrist Kramer. Kramer’s work really encapsulates the essence of Inquisition, and it is as though the two art forms feed from each other.

[From 2007’s Nefarious Dismal Orations]

Inquisition’s newest album, which came out last year, is called Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm, and it is awesome (and speaking of album art, this is one of my all-time favorites). If you get a chance, you should really try to catch Inquisition on tour this fall. They will be opening on the Conquerors of the World Tour alongside Melechesh (who I will also feature on here soon), Ex Deo, and Krisiun in support of Septic Flesh. Despite the fact that Inquisition has been based in the United States since 1996, this upcoming tour is their first full North American tour. Ever. Now that Inquisition is one of your new favorite bands, you can understand how momentous an occasion this is. So get thee hence and buy yourself a ticket, because this is a huge deal. You’ll be a part of black metal history.

[Brilliant. And tell me that album art isn’t ribcage-tattoo worthy]

[Here’s some old footage, and a preview of what you’ll be missing if you don’t catch this tour]

Check out Inquisition. Stay true. Support the underground.

Until then,

Hagalaz

Band Spotlight: Merrimack (FRA)

Posted in black metal, featured artist, france, underground with tags , , , on August 5, 2012 by blackmetallurgy

So in my effort to hear bands that I see places that I haven’t heard, I one day decided to look up Merrimack. Am I glad I did. The band hails from Paris, France and was formed in 1996. The name “Merrimack” actually comes from an old Celtic language and means “hellpit.” It has nothing to do with the battleship.

Merrimack. (Image from Encyclopedia Metallum.)

The Merrimack (Image from Naval History and Heritage).

So why Merrimack today? Well, they’ve got a new album out, called The Acausal Mass. It came out June 22, and not in the U.S., alas (seriously. Some of these guys need to get U.S. distributers. I mean, we’re just now getting Ofermod’s early stuff. And yes, I know I shouldn’t complain about not getting things in the U.S. considering what all we do get, but I am complaining anyway). The reviewer over at Encyclopedia Metallum doesn’t seem to like it much, but I don’t always agree with critics, either, so I shall reserve my judgment until I’ve heard the whole thing (if I can find a way to get my hands on it).

[Personally, I think this is really awesome.]

Although Merrimack had a few very early demos, one a split with the band Hirilorn , they seem to choose to emphasize 2001’s Horns Defeat Thorns demo as their true beginning, since that is where they really found their feet. And seeing as how Merrimack’s lyrical content made a drastic shift from medieval settings to Satanism at that time, perhaps they feel as though it is a completely different band now. That’s no issue. Deathspell Omega now is a completely different band than Deathspell Omega before Si Monumentum Requires, Cirumspice as well.

[From the Horns Defeat Thorns demo]

Their first full length was Ashes of Purification, which also came out in 2002, following a split with Sargeist (now I didn’t know that. That’s cool). Since then, they have recorded an EP and a compilation, as well as three more full-lengths including the new one.

[Black metal]

Merrimack’s sound was originally straight up black metal, nothing very special although certainly enjoyable (see above). Over the last couple of albums, however, they have cultivated a sound all their own. It maintains the stately feel that I have come to associate with other French black metal acts like Blut Aus Nord, Deathspell Omega, and Antaeus, but the melodic parts are often more highlighted in Merrimack’s work than in that of their contemporaries, suggesting that they have also taken influence from the Swedish scene (and, having toured with Marduk and recorded their newest album at Necromorbus Studios, that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise). The result is a sound that certainly places the band in a specific section of the black metal regional sound Venn diagram, but allows them room to maneuver and create music unique to them.

[This one’s even got a bit of a rock feel]

Perversifier is the mastermind behind the band, having been there since the beginning. Although former vocalist Terrorizt was a long-standing member, all other current members of the band besides Perversifier have only been in Merrimack since 2010. Nevertheless, they have developed a strong sound (as is evident on the new album, which I have been listening to as I type this. I adamantly disagree with that reviewer- just on a first listen I’d give it an 8/10 easily).

[Listen to that!]

Over the past few months I’ve become quite a fan of Merrimack, and from what little I’ve listened to it I am ready to place The Acausal Mass as one of the albums of the year. Merrimack is a fun band because their sound has shifted around so much, but they seem to have finally found a niche and I look forward to hearing how they cultivate the sound they have embraced. Give the new one a listen (and the old ones too, while you’re at it), and I’ll work on churning out a review of the new Nachtmystium, which I finally managed to get a physical copy of.

Later,

Hagalaz

Up and Coming/ Local Legends: False (Minneapolis, MN)

Posted in black metal, featured artist, local, new artist, release info, underground, USBM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2012 by blackmetallurgy

Great news, everybody! The greatest band you’ve never heard of is going back on tour! False is an excellent little black metal band from Minneapolis, MN, and I have never managed to see them live so this news is great for me. They were supposed to open for the Wolves in the Throne Room show that was cancelled in August last year, so I missed them then, and then I had planned to see them in Oklahoma while I was home for the holidays and never could get the address in time (I had communicated with their drummer online but between them being on tour without internet access and me unable to leave to make it to the venue in time it didn’t happen). Just recently they opened for Negură Bunget in St. Paul, and neither me nor my friend Jamie knew about it (they weren’t listed on the bill). So FINALLY, I will get to see them.

False is straight up, underground black metal. They follow the Wolves in the Throne Room method of really, really long songs, and their self-titled EP, which featured two of them, was no. 14 on Decibel’s 40 Best Albums of 2011.

[This is one]

False is determined to maintain the DIY and underground ethic, too. Their albums are only on vinyl for physical copies, although I downloaded the EP online for $5 (which you might can still do as well. I do plan on getting the vinyl sometime, maybe when I see them, and *hopefully* get it signed. I think it’d be great to have a piece of local lore like that, especially from a band I love). They have been playing primarily DIY venues, so they can be hard to find sometimes. They also don’t publicize well, so I had no idea they were opening for Negură Bunget. I suppose, however, that will just make seeing them in August that much sweeter. I’ve been waiting for this for a year now.

[When they opened for Negură Bunget. Yes, their vocalist is a tiny girl. Which is AWESOME]

False has a new song out on a split with Barghest through Gilead Media that you can listen to at good ol’ Decibel. The split (on vinyl only) will be available in August, but it looks like you can pick up False’s EP from Gilead Media.

Give False a listen (and then get thee hence and to the nearest date to you!). Trust me. You won’t regret it.

Later,

Hagalaz

[Also, if you enjoyed my post on black metal lyrics (or even if you hated it and completely disagree with me), my friend Jamie posted a response on his blog. You can find that here: http://jimmymacworld.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/metal-lyrics-and-authorship/]