Revealing great personal artwork cracks oneself open like an alchemical egg. An incubation of creative magick flows forth like a golden yolk, touching those with eyes to see and ears to hear. This bearing of the soul not only transforms the self inexorably, but also presents the raw power to transform others.
And, it is nothing short of transmutation that we find on the 13 tracks comprising Illuminate, the inaugural release from Paulus. The shadowy figure known for works of pure malice and mystical madness (Rites of thy Degringolade, Amphisbaena, Warmarch, ex-Weapon) has torn himself asunder to release an inner light of ascendance. Completely recorded and performed individually, just accept that you are simply unprepared for the potency that awaits on this conduit of spirit! Please, willingly fly too close to this sun and burn up in its holy fire.
Paulus’s personal songbook falls somewhere at the crossroads of ecclesiastical neofolk, raucous chantey, bombastic ode, and operatic hymnal – all with a sensibility never heard in this kind of music before. Any semblance of loaded tradition or style is razed in favour of a completely personal, singular approach. Of course, there is a darkness that weaves its way through the layers of unbridled triumph, touching sentimentality, and joyous defiance more prominently on display. As the shadow side can never be silenced, it is heard loud and clear throughout the entirety of Illuminate.
Above all it is the voice that commands centre attention in this perplexing procession. At times it dramatically and audaciously orates, blasting bewildering operatic lines and declarations; and, at other times, it expresses a depth of inner honesty so rarely heard, especially from a voice so literally rarely heard on recording until now. Each annunciation carries a visceral potency that drives its message directly into the heart like a blade of will.
Paulus’s music will undoubtedly appeal to fans of Death in June, Current 93, and Cult of Youth, but there is a deeper dimension here that simply has never been breached until now. It is a singular sound as such that sets the soul ablaze and immolates doubt and stagnancy. Forget all you know and set thyself free, for the time to act is NOW!
Available now digitally through Covenant Records on all streaming sites and through the Paulus bandcamp page.
Evolution often comes gradually but sometimes a sudden spark can ignite a drastic change within an instant. Crowhurst’s newest release III is a drastic departure from previous work presented in a tragic tale of lust and failure. We have seen the progression of Jay Gambit’s noise project morph into black metal, but a change this drastic is unprecedented, yet welcome in its brilliance. Described by Gambit as the album “he’s always wanted to make”, III is a gloomy and gothic introspective look into intense obsession and depression. Melodic yet intense, the album has an epic orchestrated sound to it drawing from an almost innumerable amount of influences, defying any set genre while doing so.
The opening track, “I Will Drag You to Hell”, opens with a choir backed by an opulent cacophony of black metal riffs and blast beats played at breakneck speed. It is a fitting opener to set the stage for a bleak journey into the abyss of the human psyche, yet incredibly jarring given the pace of the rest of the album, thrusting you into despair with a daunting momentum. The final lyric “into the earth with lust”, piques your interest into where it will go from here, but does not devalue the melancholic refrains to come.
The song “Self Portrait With Halo And Snake”, is a soothing refrain from the previous violence. With clean guitars over doomed vocals, it recalls the stylings of The Fields of the Nephilim, containing a traditional gothic flair but not without a southern rock influence. The song is a contemplation of the need to dive into despair when all seems to come to dust. The lyrics: “Enraptured, unravaged, falling forever into lust, you are the mirror I stare into, the distant reflection,” commandeer an acute feeling of longing, grasping for an escape from the pain that is ultimately seeded in nihilism. What sticks out here is when Gambit cries “I’ll be twisting my limbs, I’ll be waiting for you,” and “I’ll trade it all away to never see the light of day again”, furthering the theme of isolation, placing all hopes on obsession of salvation from another human being, all while diving into the darkness unabashed.
The next track “The Drift” takes on the form of a more traditional shoegaze sound, guitars drifting and dancing like waves, composed ingeniously. Drifting and glazing over you while you drown in madness, reinstating the delirium of intense depression, driving you insane. The lyrics “A face you can’t remember”, and “walls are stretching, writing on the walls”, bolster the aura of delusion, while the guitars endlessly layer over each other creating an orchestral composition, adding grandeur to sickening hysteria. The lyrics “The watching void, can you hear the whimpers, I will die under you”, drive home the mania, and the song ends in radiant backing vocals as you drift further and further with the song.
“La Faim”, French for “the hunger”, is initiated with a guitar tone that is all too familiar to anyone who is a fan of Celtic Frost, with vocals reminiscent of Glenn Danzig. This is another shining example of III’s shapeshifting form, all while maintaining a consistent theme and mood. The doom inspired riffs are marred with continuing themes of hopelessness, which fits utterly. Lyrics like “I will never know tomorrow”, and “No one will ever want me, No one will ever need me”, convey the acceptance of true loss while contradicting the theme of the hunger, ever wanting more, as is the self obsessed plight of the human being. The droning doom riffs are abruptly cut off by harsh noise breaks, evoking Crowhurst’s vast noise library, once again demonstrating their mastery of refusing to blend into a single genre. Jay Gambit stated in his interview with bandcamp “… Genre really isn’t a thing. Everything is a little bit of everything”. This is apparent in all Crowhurst releases, but III is the truest demonstration of the phenomena.
“Ghost Tropic” is the climax of the forlorn trudge, reflecting upon the gruesome sentiments set previously. Commenced by an alluring yet somber riff and the harrowing lyrics “ I will breathe underwater for you, crawling bone fragments hanging, like the trash I have become, cigarettes are burning, bleeding for the white light, lost all sense of purpose. Compromises, second chances, debts are never under stepped”. The lyrics show the reluctance to step back into the light due to the warmth of the void that they have dug themselves into. It breaks mid riff triumphantly into a heavy passage where it is chanted “there is no light here”, over and over , refusing to accept that there is anything beyond the pain that is present in the moment. This is also apparent in the lyrics “I swear I felt it, something warm, chasing a dragon, just a ghost”, and “Must I shed our skin, orgasmic void”, reaching for something non apparent to pull you out of a despair that was created by yourself, a task that is nay impossible. It is finished by Gambit screaming “Turn it off”, again repeated exasperating the intense despair, reaching for something that does not exist and experiencing the pain of the tangible daylight.
The epilogue of the album, “Five Characters In Search For An Exit” cripples you with a deep rumbling bass tone and a fierce guitar riff violently wrapping up a grim and excruciating experience. Defiant to the condition of mankind, Jay shrieks “In a torrent of glory, we will vomit soon, wearing the noose, just to survive, no mercy, we will be forgotten, nothing will change, we rot, broken life of glass”. This refers to the mirror that we have been staring into the whole time, yet shatters it representing how individuality is ultimately the force that causes us all to die alone. The album is forcefully closed shut with an abrasive four minute noise finale over the howls of “There is no end in sight”, leaving you completely broken in the face of complete despondency.
Each track of III is a genre blending triumph, often leading with softer influences but almost always concluded powerfully with pain and strife. With a massive library of over 87 releases, (most of which are noise albums), Crowhurst sets themselves apart with something completely new, shattering all expectations with an amalgam of styles and an austere message. Jay Gambit’s enigmatic place in the global underground scene is cemented in this release, showing that he is unbound by traditions and can explore any number of themes and styles with grace and power.
III is the final part of a three-album-cycle by Jay Gambit a.k.a. Crowhurst. Released on digipak CD and black vinyl by PROPHECY PRODUCTIONS.
The more we delve into the musical genres we obsess over, in search of the most unknown and obscure, there tends to be a subsequent longing for those initial feelings of surprise and unjaded satisfaction that we have all experienced when we first heard a band like Mayhem and were opened up to this depraved world of sonic fuckery, when it was all still so new to us. The nature of time is that the future builds on the past, and the same is true of artistic endeavors, whether conscious or not, and so as we listen to more music, we come to more frequently anticipate its tendencies.
But despite the fatigue that often times accompanies a saturated style, as with black metal, we trudge on like the proper masochist fanatics we are, endlessly anticipating the moment when something such as Dreams Of The Drowned’s debut self titled full length appears out of nowhere to finally break the spell of uniformity with a bizarre inbreeding of styles that somehow maintains all coherency through technical proficiency and palpable emotion.
It seems almost comical to consider how far black metal has come from its inception. From the stubbornly elitist policy of “true cult” doctrine that denounces all beauty and polish, to the hypnotic seduction conjured by Camille, the singular mastermind behind Dreams Of The Drowned. Taking the snarling visage and lathering it with the woeful poignancy of post punk and shoegaze, Camille’s creative breadth expands beyond borders to bring seemingly disparate elements together and weld them into seamless matrimony. It is a marriage as bizarre at times as it is so powerful, which elevates it above any kind of genre ‘mix-and-match’ fad.
Like a siren to a sailor, songs like “Conciliabules” or “Crawl Of Concretes” hypnotize through crystalline guitar tone and dreamy vocals, lulling one into a trance, even as an evidently hateful malice lurks just behind the veil of beauty. That veil, though, becomes compromised, hinting at the undercurrent of ferocity in “The Revolutionary Dead”, in which the gentle voice is equally at odds with that of demoniac abhorrence, made even more so by such a direct contrast. The song also highlights Camille’s expertise at crafting intensely dramatic black metal compositions, with a section that emotes the chaos of being caught up in an Atlantean calamity.
“Real and Sound” deliberately shifts in both instrumentation and tone, trading the sweeping gusts for d-beat stomps as the strings cry triumphant and bright in celebratory spirit. But even in such an aura of harmony, there resides a constant shade of despair to it all, and a sting to the sweetness.
The juxtaposition of the guitar tone with the overall style of otherwise aggressive play is critical to the character of the album. This clash between strings that would seem more at home from anarcho-punk vanguards like Killing Joke or Amebix or modern dark sounds like Soft Kill or Drab Majesty, and the swirling vortex they are subject to, along with the rhythm section, creates an unreal atmosphere, in which beauty is dangerous. And Camille finds multiple avenues with which to harness his sound, either to bewitch with dark grace, or else utterly stifle the listener with labyrinthine disorientation in “Danced”, which bears relation to a band like Thantifaxath’s penchant for kaleidoscopic insanity.
Camille also pays tribute to one of the old guard in the genre, Dodheimsgard, in covering “Midnattskogens Sorte Kjerne” from off their 1995 debut full length, Kronet Til Konge. But in this endeavor, Camille managed to recruit the original voice of the song, Aldrahn, resulting in a track that is notably divergent from the pack, while paradoxically fitting in so well as a piece of the whole and not falling into the awkward pitfall of misplacement that covers often tend to become on a tracklist.
Dreams Of The Drowned is a feat that undoubtedly would have fallen apart in lesser hands, but through a determined vision of bleak psychedelia, Camille has painstakingly crafted an oddity that delivers on multiple fronts with originality and substance. Dreams Of The Drowned is sure to piss off as many conservative minded traditionalists as it will win the hearts of listeners, and it could be said that the merit of a piece of art can be measured equally by the hate it garners as by the love.
Digitally released by DROWNED ANTHEM RECORDS for the spring equinox. To be released on vinyl sometime this year by DUPLICATE RECORDS (Virus, Organ, Beyond Dawn) and on CD for June 15th by CULT OF NINE RECORDS.
A huge ongoing inspiration for Covenant Festival and this online zine component unsurprisingly came from the incredible work done by Roadburn Festival. Every year the lineup is a multi-faced, eclectically-curated explosion of sonic and visual art. We have yet to be on location for any of these historical events, but, lucky for us, our European (Irish)man on the ground was there to provide a dizzying moment-by-moment account of his experience. While a valiant effort was made to cover the entire fest … it just was not humanly possible. Sadly, our man missed out on some Covenant favourites and hopefuls like Soft Kill, Crowhurst, Molasses, Drab Majesty, Hexvessel, Slaegt, Ulcerate, and Dodecahedron, but it just goes to show how overwhelming the scope of this event truly is.
Drop in to the madness, see through the eyes of an attendee, and take in this rapid experience of one of the world’s most important festivals.
Despite the festival’s reputation for bending and breaking boundaries, the opening night at Roadburn is often an excuse to air some guilty pleasures. With heavy nods to Venom and the earliest of early Bay Area thrash, Hellripper arrive following an epic road trip from north-east Scotland with no intention of incorporating alt-country or jazz into their sound, sticking resolutely to their influences with pummelling effect.
Thursday’s main stage offering begins with the exact opposite: an acoustic collaboration from Myrkur, cellist Jo Quail and members of Heilung. Switching between her own work and Danish folk, the former holds up well to produce an hour of sincere melancholy. Beneath the arches of Het Patronaat church, Vile Creature take the weekend’s doom crown ahead of an extremely competitive field, the drummer’s visceral vocals reaching another level of intensity amidst some truly nasty guitar work. Across the street, Treha Sektori tick the ritualistic and meditative boxes that great dark ambient demands, but the inclusion of live drummers and a stunning video backdrop allows them to avoid the death by boredom that is an occupational hazard of the genre. Lingua Ignota’s cover of Dolly Parton’s Jolene is one of the more leftfield moments of the day, especially when it is overlaid with Aileen Wuornos samples. A barbiturate hellscape conducted in complete darkness save for footage of California wildfires, this is gruelling, phenomenal and the buzzword of the weekend. Deafkids’ slot is a pulsating beast that equally channels Melvins and the psychedelic end of rave, before Heilung dig up a pet cemetery for an unnerving Iron Age tomb ritual in which skulls and bones are the primary instruments. Bliss Signal’s futuristic, synth-drenched black metal and the one-woman siege of Pharmakon close the day in the 013 venue, after which the staid galloping riffs of Malokarpatan fall flat.
Throane are the early talk of Friday but thanks to a local restaurant taking ninety glacial minutes to produce a salad I’ll never find out. Triptykon’s combination with a Dutch orchestra to perform Requiem is thirty years in the making, the middle third written specifically for this performance, but while the orchestra is a nice addition, it feels less than vital. Igor Cavalera’s Petbrick team up with his compatriots Deafkids for a set that builds upon the latter’s set the night before, a drum-heavy hulk that surges and swells and is over all too quickly.
Fresh off a stateside tour with Rivers of Nihil, Conjurer’s neck-snapping morass of sludge, death and hardcore is a discordant joy in the sauna of Hall of Fame. After one of the more ludicrous openings to a black metal show, in which five topless lads throw about feathers and incense, Fauna’s transcendental black metal is captivating, but repeating those rituals before each song saps any momentum they create. After last year’s earth-rumbling collaboration with The Body, Thou team up with Emma Ruth Rundle to present new material that is less than the sum of its parts.
Saturday at the Het Patronaat is given over completely to Dutch black metal, beginning with Witte Wieven, who haunt and hypnotise even the church’s stained-glass priests. Laster’s avant-garde black metal is anchored by a drum performance that whirls dervishly beneath the thunder. Having made an appearance here in 2016, Laster are truly one of the most important bands in contemporary black metal. In the less sinister surroundings of a skatepark, lo-fi pairing Doodwens deftly summon classic Darkthrone to create the perfect Barrier Kult soundtrack. Multi-faceted Gothenburg unit Agrimonia is one of many that curator Tomas Lindberg has herded south from Sweden for the weekend, their seamless crust/death metal crossover with some gothier and post-punk touches being displayed to a much smaller crowd than it deserves. Bellrope smash through their savage, progressive sludge that makes metronomes of onlookers’ heads, before a ‘secret’ skatepark set that sees Thou run through a raucous, riotous forty-five minutes of Misfits covers.
To Sunday and the noise rock of Daughters is cut through with a post-punk hint and ends dramatically with the vocalist flailing himself with his own belt. Grey Aura respectably nod to polka and Nusquama solemnly perform their last record to round off a successful weekend for a highly productive Dutch black metal scene, while Bismuth rain feedback upon the skatepark stage. The main stage is a sardine can for the second Sleep set of the weekend, their monstrous riff wall having a tidal effect on both the audience and the smoke cloud above their heads. Imperial Triumphant have been open in their admiration of the visual aspects of inter-war American city life, with overtures to the Rockefeller Center and Metropolis a constant presence in their artwork. Musically, the jazz influences come through mainly labrynthine drum patterns and film noir-style muted trumpet segues, welded onto overpowering, angular blackened death. A bootlegger-hunting wayward detective stumbling upon a Crowleyite ritual at a Manhattan high society ball would make for the perfect video, but for now Imperial Triumphant have to settle for the midnight mass at a converted church in front of several hundred newly-baptised disciples.
Sanguinary Trance first emerged out of Vienna, Austria in 2013, taking several years to carefully craft their sound into the dissonant, black metal barrage heard on their first release in 2018. Aptly titled Wine, Song, and Sacrifice is the soundscape of a profane odyssey steeped in ritualistic expression. The band itself is a one-man project lead by an anonymous mastermind and featuring guest musicians including guitars credited to Lanz and session drums by S. Spulak. Each of the three tracks constitute a unique offering, bound together by a dense atmosphere and traditional black metal style. What then sets Sanguinary Trance apart is the drive and ability of the project to weave sparks of the baleful, grotesque, and sometimes mystical, into the energy of each track for a visceral listener experience. The music of Wine, Song, and Sacrifice has the depth to be both felt and believed.
Like much else on this release, the vocals take the form of shrieks and occasional growls that respect a second wave black metal methodology. Chimes are featured throughout the first titular track and then again in a haunting regression at the end of the final song. Their lilting clink serves as a secondary percussive focal point, while contributing to a looming atmosphere of unholy reverence. Abrupt silence, flickering pauses, and slow points sometimes whittling down to a single note are used to build tension- to great effect- before plunging back into a dizzying fray with a fresh sense of gravity and trepidation.
The opening track is a monstrous horror in excess of thirteen minutes, providing an epic showcase of what Sanguinary Trance are capable of. Sinister droning melodies wax and wane, dragging onward through a progression of riffs each more pernicious than the last. Then, “Carvings”; One word, conjuring quivering imagery from the fleshy to the earthy. At under six minutes in length, this track signals a return to a comparatively more traditional song structure without relenting the rabid ferocity on display thus far. The riffs to be found here are spindly, spiraling, and precise, creating a mood of apprehension and dread while unwinding towards a fated, inevitable peril. Beginning with its title, “The Dionysus Whip” establishes a duality between indulgence and discipline that is reflected throughout the song. Chaos blends with interludes of structure and repetition, then layers and expands in a cyclical return to turmoil.
Sanguinary Trance has succeeded in crafting a fiery innovation of violence and fervor, heightened by unrelenting tangles of atmosphere and melody. Wine, Song, and Sacrifice establishes Sanguinary Trance as a name to watch out for – and has all the makings of a foundational predecessor to great and wicked works yet to come.
“Wine, Song and Sacrifice” was crafted between late 2017 until mid 2018, and is available via the band’s Bandcamp page. The sole member behind Sanguinary Trance prefers to remain anonymous.
Kollaps have returned to resurrect the ancient apocalyptic ethos of industrial music that nowadays was thought to have long been buried under mountains of overproduced kitsch bands, gimmicks, and subgenre-conventions of hollow form over substance. In more ways than one, Mechanical Christ is a revolt against the conventions and complacency of the modern world.
This is not merely an artistic tribute to the style the godfathers like Throbbing Gristle, SPK, and Einsturzende Neubauten created, but takes that influence on to a new hammering visceral directness that continues the themes explored on their previous record, Sibling Lovers. In some ways, parallels to early Swans can be felt in how the percussion and feedback seem to hammer out chunks of discordant rhythm and sound that almost seem to stretch on into infinity while forcing the listener to submit to their will.
Simplicity and atmosphere are two major components of their formula that seem to work so well in conjunction and give each song its own direct flavor and identity. The album begins with an ominous plodding processional march and film sample before leading into their first full track, the piston fire rhythms and cavernous caterwauling of Wade Black that characterize “Crucify”. Though already by the time “Fleshflower” kicks into high gear, we hear a distinct stylistic shift towards a gattling gun pace with bass guitar noise fighting its way into the fray.
A large portion of this album is vocals, bass, percussion and screeching, rumbling unnerving noises, though the variety of textures and moods this album explores is quite remarkable. The album takes on a journey through many different styles with a bleak shadowy post-industrial wasteland serving as the backdrop as we navigate through the scrap metal labyrinth towards the echoes of a final desperate cry. “Lights out…….” The title track churns on in its own sickly way as the cancer of hopelessness spreads slowly to the brain.
There are times when the tragic post-punk elements of their debut EP are brought back, and create a sort of formula that brings to mind some of Chu Ishikawa’s outings with his past band Der Eisenrost, or the work he’s done on various soundtracks, but taken to a much darker level. In some ways, the visceral imagery surrounding this offering does conjure up imagery of an old black and white dystopian body horror films such as Tetsuo: The Iron Man, or Eraserhead.
This release is the sort of harsh realism this world needs, as a perfect expression of rebellion against modern soul decay, and the sanitized and filtered picture of culture we seem to be almost force-fed at times. Mechanical Jesus rises as a caricature of the sterilized spirit of man. This record is an expression of cold, apocalyptic, mechanical machinations of death orchestrating a soundtrack of your life gone wrong and decaying emotionally day by day, a dirge of the voluntary slave state we submit to in our every day lives. Cold Spring have definitely struck gold with this act we can only expect great things from.
Kollaps’ Mechanical Christ is available on all formats and merchandise from COLD SPRING RECORDS.
Whether you look to the ancient or modern, Greece has been a near constant source of fascination in the way of culture. Whether it be in the perpetually inspiring pagan mythology that continues to influence fresh works of art, the stunning architectural feats, or underground black metal, the Greeks are undeniably eternal in the world culture throughout time.
By way of Law Of Seven Deaths, Akrotheism lay glorious tribute upon that altar of Greek metal extremity, which has likewise beckoned the classic works of bands such as Rotting Christ and Varathron. It also begs consideration of how much one’s environment influences their art, as Akrotheism’s music seems rife with ancient drama and monumental scale that has come to define both Greek history and its polytheistic mythos.
As though breaking through from some plane out of time, the sonic tribulation of Law Of Seven Deaths is experienced through a gauze of antiquity and distance, instilled through the drawn out echo laid upon the vocals and drums, suggesting a vast scale that encompasses both space and time, the foundations of which are made to tremble under the booming of decisive drum hits in the dirge-like crawl of “Desmotropia”, or flurry into a maelstrom of ethereal blasting and double bass in the merciless opener, “Typhonian Serpents”.
The vocal duality that Akrotheism flaunt makes up a critical portion of the album’s character. An ever shifting conflict between the bitter screams and more woeful bellowing results in a schizophrenic air that electrifies every track, and compliments the instrumental elements, which themselves are invested in a back and forth shifting between operatic melody and a more visceral nature.
The archaic lathering over the music is only further cemented in the guitar tone, which is roughly distorted as to sound encrusted with layers of ancient dust build up, and which scrapes and grates fantastically in the midst of Akrotheism’s masterful compositions.
“Typhonian Serpents” opens the album, at once crafting dense atmosphere without wasting any time before a swift descent is undertaken into the recesses of Hades. But, as with nearly every song, the raging nature is intercut with wonderfully dynamic sections of a more sentimental disposition, emoting tragedy and woe that impacts tenfold through that aura of deep time that Akrotheism perpetuate.
But the band’s songwriting chops manage to surprise in the turns they take, as in “Manifesting Tartarus”, with a deceptively stagnant opening that gives no warning as to the haunting chase through black underworlds that the listener suddenly finds themselves invested in. The intricate stringwork manages to effortlessly penetrate the psyche to implant an impressively hypnotic mood that goes beyond what any solid riffing could do. That being said, the band still know how to write a solid riff section. “Virtue Of Satyr” is proof of that, with an opening section that feels infused with the spirit of Tony Iommy’s guitar style, and which only stands as further proof of the band’s talent at circumnavigating expectation.
In many ways, “Skeptomorphes (The Origin Of I)” is a culmination of Law Of Seven Deaths, most obviously in its length, being the longest track on the album at over 12 minutes, but that time is not unjustified. Akrotheism plumb the depths and reach to Olympian heights, seamlessly going from soaring flight to earthbound violence. Akrotheism explore a varying sonic landscape and bring to bare all the strengths they have thus far exemplified throughout the album into “Skeptomorphes”
In considering the sound of Akrotheism’s music, as well as the place from which they come from, the two appear inseparable, with the latter begetting the former. For any number reasons, the musical aspect of Law Of Seven Deaths feels intertwined with the pathos and glory that Akrotheism’s homeland symbolizes.
The Law of Seven Deaths, which will be released under the auspices of OSMOSE PRODUCTIONS on ALL formats.
Obscuring Veil emerges like an apparition seen through a thick haze: A haunting specter of dreadful paranoia looming at the boarders of insanity. This mysterious entity comprised of some of black metal’s most innovative and demented artists has brought forth an offering of true psychotic pandemonium. Featuring the minds that brought us Aevangelist, Wormlust, Gnaw Their Tongues, and Urgehal – among a plethora of other top tier bands – Fleshvoid To Naught is a horrific manifestation straight from the depths of the abyss.
The album begins with “Abstraction,” a bone-chilling piano intro with a creepy vintage phonograph tone. “Do You Want To See The Knife I Used?” kicks in with the mind-altering cacophony of layered guitars, as fans of Aevangelist know all too well. Mid-paced riffs provide a foundation as the guitars paint brush strokes of chaotic disharmony. As the rhythmic pulsation holds your attention you begin to feel your own pulse quiver under the weight of a suffocating dissonance. Demonic whispers and ghoulish wails echo like the screams of tortured souls; creating a simulated paranoid schizophrenia, like the voices in your head you aren’t sure are real. “Obfuscation” is a horrifying descent into psychosis. An ambient collage of maddening sounds, like haunted winds signaling the bells of Armageddon.
“Spirit Me Away, O Murdered Star” contains some of the best riffing on the album. Maintaining the album’s chaotic dissonance, this song stands out by incorporating charging riffs that hook you in and get your head banging. It eventually returns to utter madness as the suffocating layers of dissonant guitars and mournful wails drag the listener closer to the crumbling cliffs of their fragile sanity. The song concludes the album with a hellish ambience of tortured moans that reminds one of the legendary Stalaggh Projekt Misanthropia album. The drumming stands out as one of the main highlights of the album. It remains simple at times when the music needs its space, and carefully selects the most perfect of moments for intricate cymbal work and precision drum fills.
This album is a diabolical masterpiece. Like being trapped in a Pentagonal prism (prison) of fractured mirrors, reflecting abominations. More details are revealed with each listen as the sonic illusions begin to become more and more vivid. If you’re looking for an album that will deliver the psychological torment of a bad acid trip, Fleshvoid To Naught offers an aural razor blade to sever your connection with sanity.
I, VOIDHANGER RECORDS is proud to present Fleshvoid To Naught on Digipack CD with an 8-page booklet, limited to 300 copies.
Old demons die hard. Deiphago makes a triumphant return from the underground in a blaze of astral glory with I, The Devil. Long time Filipino-cum-Costa Rican miscreants have an impressive roster under their belt, hailing as early as 1989, but often go unnoticed despite their uniquely blistering sonic assault. Often caught between renowned producers, many such as legend Colin Marston have struggled to properly encapsulate such a dense and chaotic sound, but have found a proper balance in the hands of Kurt Ballou. Instantly recognizable brutality is brought to new highs with a sound that’s appropriately powerful but not obscured in the murky darkness that Deiphago generates.
I, The Devil wastes no time brutally assaulting you with the first track, “Quantum Death”. It opens with a primordial scream from the stars and quickly makes you recognize the depravity and filth you will quickly drown in. The first thing to notice about any of these tracks is Erick Mejia’s completely psychopathic drumming ruthlessly dispatched in a flurry of blast beats and schizophrenic fills. This is perfectly complemented by flesh rending vocals and implacable riffs that hail down like demonic meteors. Each track is permeated by a dissonance that keeps you guessing throughout; not one riff is predictable.
Even with tracks like “Deus Alienus”, which has a classic punky thrash influence, you are always kept on your feet by the insane pace of cosmic insanity. Each solo on the album represents a demonic wormhole that tears away at your epidermis in the fiery rift of Satan, both intensely technical yet enveloped in a swirling chaos that challenges you with teeth bared. Songs like “Chaos Protocols” and “Anti-Cosmic Trigger” delve into the a progressive realm with a longer and connected form, displaying Deiphago’s technical songwriting prowess while never dropping a beat in the eye of the massacre. The final track, bearing the albums name, is a twisted culmination of all the agonizing motifs previously set in place, resulting in a blazing spectacle that leaves you exhausted after your mind has been ground to dust.
Deserved of Kurt Ballou’s signature noise level, Deiphago finally achieves astronomical greatness with the never ending search for the perfect production that compliments their unrelenting sound. Each fragment of bedlam is flawlessly delivered with keen methodology that separates veterans from fresh faces. The final flourish is how an album with such ferociously ridiculous concepts are treated with grave seriousness, allowing you to suspend your belief and dive deeper into the rift. It’s time to recognize Deiphago for their years of dedication and clandestine adherence to their diabolic art, as I, The Devil cultivates bestiality to new levels.
HELLS HEADBANGERS is proud to present DEIPHAGO’s highly anticipated fifth album, I, The Devil, on CD, vinyl LP, and cassette tape formats. The album shall be released on the symbolic date of April 30th: Walpurgisnacht.
In recent times, few places in the world have been as misunderstood as the Balkans. Centuries-old ethnic tensions, war, and general indifference from the West have all contributed to this. Historically, its mountainous geography has often meant that its cultures were fragmented, while simultaneously its physical position has meant that different influences were constantly coming through. The country of Serbia is indicative of this, having been inhabited since the paleolithic age, its history showing itself in the plurality of the cultures, religions and historical sites found within.
While the eyes of the West pointed mostly elsewhere, the music and old traditions of the region rooted and flourished. Traditional folk music is still very much a part of the culture in the Balkans as well as many practices that exist as relics of the pre-Christian era. Some of these have been twisted into regional Christian customs, as has happened with pagan cultures around the world, but they’re still very recognizable as indigenously Slavic. Magic and mysticism find prevalence in rural villages, faded but holding fast.
In 2017, a group of friends in Serbia’s capital city of Belgrade came together to create music for a conceptual performance and realized they had far more to create. Brought together by an interest in folk music from around the world, Slavic paganism and spirituality in general, main instrumentalist and drum crafter Siniša Gavrić and sisters Ivana and Aleksandra Stošić, both versed in traditional singing created core of the project that is now Vartra. The group has extended into more of a collective, with many contributors adding instrumentals, costumes, dance and visuals to every song and live show.
“When Siniša came back here from living in Canada, we had to come up with a concept for this audio/visual performance. Myself personally, I’ve always been interested in world music and world instruments, also having sung with my sister in the local cultural association growing up,” describes Aleksandra. “We all come from totally different places with the music, meeting in the middle with our common interest for a tribal, neo-Slavic folk sound. The dominant sound is definitely Balkan because of the vocals but if you listen to the music it’s all over the place. Especially the little doom flair that Siniša likes to add in there, that’s where I completely check out,” she laughs. “This whole project is really a result of us constantly clashing. The darker that Sinisa goes with this project the harder I try to make it more bright. Where we do come together is really in our pathos, and in those musical moments of catharsis.” Ivana adds, “It’s a bit of a musical battle honestly. Our writing process is literally just building something and destroying it and then building it back up and taking it apart, and so on until we finally have a song that we agree on.”
Vartra is heavily inspired by the indigenous cultures of the region, with a lean towards the hermetic Vlachs who are predominantly found in Eastern Serbia. Much of their lyrics stem from old Slavic mantras locally known as “bajalice”. These are used as incantations or spells for things like healing, love, good harvests, and luck as well as curses and getting rid of them. The inspiration for their first song came about when they found a video filmed by ethnomusicologist Paun Es Drlić. This video depicts a Vlach shaman – a woman, as are most shamans in the culture – in the Majdanpek region of eastern Serbia ahead of the springtime holiday of flowers (now Palm Sunday in Orthodox Christianity). In the video, she dances and sings a song in Vlach to invoke a trance in which she is said to be convening with the “demons of destiny” who give her access to premonitions about the future of the village and region. The song that she sings would eventually become “Flori”, their first piece and the first song on their debut album Rošu Čera.
“This first album is mostly sung in Vlach,” says Aleksandra. “Then we went for a wider scope, looking for other bajalice – and if you look around, some people have made collections of these on the internet and you notice that the same ones exist in different regions throughout the Balkans and other Slavic countries. They’re all variations on a theme, they may not be exactly the same but you see the same motifs throughout. So a lot of our lyrics aren’t completely of our own creation, rather motifs that we’ve taken from all over. “Luna Nuoa” is a Vlach incantation for good health: ‘my moon, we give you this bread, please give us good health instead’. “Vartra” is our made up incantation for love, one of the more commonly used kinds of bajalice. We twisted it a little because the motifs we use in the song don’t really have much in common with actual love spells.”
“All around the world in shamanism and spirituality you see the same motifs and rituals. While they do vary they’re all at their core very similar. So for us all of this fusion in our music really makes sense,”
– Ivana Stošić
While dwindling in the face of modernization and globalization, these incantations are still used to this day, and regional cultural norms and customs are still influenced by these spiritual beliefs in rural areas. Shamans act as healers for many and combine bajalice with traditional remedies for mild ailments as well as less tangible ills. “A really banal example is that of one of my friends in the south of Serbia, who had a doctor tell them to go to one of these women to get rid of a wart,” says Aleksandra. “The point is a lot of these things have stuck around for so long and haven’t gone away, maybe they’re dying off now that we’ve become more scientifically literate and rational. It seems more and more unlikely to people that these things will actually cure you,” she says. “Today in Serbia there are still women that continue to practice the oldest traditions we have here – ancient Slavic traditions and specifically Vlach ones,” says Ivana. “I mean really, they’re all over the country. In a lot of places you go to the doctor for some things and to these shamans for others. Now they’re not of the mind that you shouldn’t seek out medical professionals at all, obviously some things require a doctor. But for problems that have more to do with the spirit then only they can help you.”
“Since bajalice have been carried on through oral tradition, they’ve been scrutinized as something that’s perhaps evil or forbidden – witchcraft. When essentially they’re just pieces of knowledge and belief that have been carried on through time since before Christianity. From a cultural standpoint I find it really interesting and that’s part of why it’s a big element of our music,” says Aleksandra. “Because to be frank, the last generation that had comprehensive knowledge of these things was the generation of our grandparents, even our parents’ generation belongs to a more modern time. Not to mention the effect the communistic period had on these things. During that time even Christianity was looked down upon so you can imagine that any kind of magic or witchcraft went even further underground.”
In addition to the incorporation of these traditional aspects, Vartra’s musical vision is imbued with a primal, organic sound that people around the world might find something familiar in. Best described as doomy neo-Slavic folk, the sisters’ vocals float above the tribal beat of Siniša’s handmade drums and rattles as well as less traditional elements such as the saz, guitars and ambient synthesizers.
The animal-skin drums are a pulsing, hypnotic undercurrent throughout Rošu Čera and give the music a deeply resonant heartbeat. “When a shaman uses these, it’s supposed to be punch through and be heard on other planes of existence. We use them for musical purposes though, they have a soothing sound that at the same time awakens something in people,” says Ivana. “The tone they have, the frequencies are completely different from modern-style drums,” adds Aleksandra. Sinisa uses animal skins from all over the world, combining indigenous North American and Nordic drum making techniques as well as crafting the more regionally familiar tarabuka. “Animal skins obviously sound way different from plastic and metal,” says Siniša. “And every animal skin has its own unique sound and energy. When I play a bison drum it gives a totally different energy to a song than when I use a deer skin drum. Every drum I make is unique and has its own special quality.”
Aleksandra and Ivana’s vocals are the other half of Vartra’s distinct sound. Their strange harmonies add more magic to the music, bringing the incantations to life. “The way that we sing in our music is tempered, which is to say it’s sung using modern scales when before that, our folk music would have been sung a bit off of the keys we’re used to to day,” says Aleksandra. “So that would be the big difference between the modern folk vocals you hear now and the way these things were originally sung. And really because of the fact that we are going for that tribal ethno-sound we want it to be as simple as possible. We want to attain the simplicity of those ancient times – hopefully one day we fully succeed and write an untempered song. To try and sing in that old key and take apart the concept of the modern equally tempered scales. Which would be really ‘sexy’ but the reality is if you hear that in our current songs it’s probably because we were a bit off,” she laughs. “It all plays into the same idea – we’re not going for virtuosity. We’re playing on more basic, primal frequencies and sound. While a lot of our music isn’t exactly soothing and there’s a lot of intense moments, and however much of a dynamic thread exists in our music, we’re always floating somewhere in those middle frequencies. When we do use things like electric guitars and synths they’re more atmospheric than anything.
Their live shows are like a cleansing ritual, casting out whatever one might need to cast out. Dressed in costumes and augmented by entrancing visuals and dance, it’s an all-encompassing experience. “What we’re trying to do with our lives shows is to loosen those people that are used to going to a show and just watching a band – without having a real connection to what is happening,” says Ivana. “We want them to ease up and let it carry them, we want to draw them in a bit further. We want people to participate in the atmosphere that we create. Because spectators aren’t there to just listen to us produce that sound and atmosphere, we want them to be part of that bit of magic together with us. For everyone to enjoy it in their own way – sitting if they want to sit, standing if they want to stand, dancing if they want to dance without even thinking about whatever the person next to them might be thinking. Like a kind of group therapy for us and for them.”
Playing neo-folk or world music leaves a lot of room for experimentation, which also means more opportunities to blunder. The problem there being that unlike in a lot of other genres a common thread in the sound is harder to pin down. “I think the problem is we’re constantly trying to figure out some kind of core to our music. But I don’t think that exists,” says Aleksandra. “Just like over history, cultures have been created by all of this movement and mixing around, for better or for worse, it’s hard to pin down something that hasn’t been created like that. It’s really hard to define what’s ‘really’ Serbian or what’s ‘really’ from somewhere else, and that’s what you can hear in our music. You hear that ethnic sound that you can say is old Slavic, but different people hear different things because it’s really a mixed bag. Especially when we play around quite a bit with Eastern sounds as well. In some sense it’s a kind of pagan cosmopolitanism.”