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Review

BLACK EARTH deliver a Pandora’s Box of torturous perfection on “Gnarled Ritual of Self Annihilation”

Fans of Abruptum and Gnaw Their Tongues take note! Black Earth present us with their sophomore release that can only be described as schizophrenia given form. Densely layered waves of noise, chaos, and pure black ambiance drown us in an ocean of blackest night, this is what a nyctophile’s nirvana sounds like! A Black Earth release is an ordeal plunging head first into the nightmare of a mind long destroyed, and emerging on the other side forever changed, if not gasping for release.

On their debut, this relatively new outfit from Spain had more of a distinct black metal framework from which they wrote their songs, but here we’re presented with a slightly different and broader palette of sounds. The atmosphere is very mechanistic, inhuman, a sort of grinding and hammering intensity that slowly works into the bestial side of your subconscious, as if SPK decided to record their debut using layers of EVP recordings from places better left not traversed.

The opener is a building industrial track that goes from a subtle churning of demonic whispers and growls into a dirge of martial drumming and chaotic wails. Like the debut, one should note this recording is neither for the timid, nor the uninitiated. If you feel an act like Abruptum or Stalaggh is too “unmusical” or extreme for you, you might want to give this a pass and steer your attention to something more palatable. This is for demonic noise fiends of the deepest order.

The crescendo of densely packed nightmares continues on throughout the album while barely giving the listener room to breathe, but there are indeed breaks of atmosphere here and there. The odd warped choir near the end of “Behold the Serpent” over the unnerving hum of some sort of generator, or the deep bassy tones of the ominous tank-like crusher that is “Drowned Under Seas of Coagulation”. Each track delves into a maelstrom of mutated voices, percussion, guitar feedback, mutilated samples and various other instruments jutting like stalagmites out of the fray. Listening to the album through and becoming more familiar with each song, one truly appreciates the attention to detail in putting together this complete work of concentrated darkness. As overwhelming as the style is at times, it is also very much structured and ingeniously each song flows, or bleeds, into the next.

Each listen to this record reveals a new layer previously unexplored. This is more than music, this is a full on exploration of what broken minds hear in their final moments, and this is really only meant for the darkest and most “alone” minds out there. A true zoetrope for demonic noise maniacs, I’m actually excited to see how this unit could take the sound and level of extremity further on future releases. Anyone looking to scour the depths of how far the black ambient genre can be taken should pick this up, now!! You can’t blame anyone but yourself, however, for whatever might be conjured afterwards!


CYCLIC LAW unleashes a CD edition of 500 copies in 4 panel digisleeve, LP edition of 200 copies on black vinyl, 100 copies on clear & black splatter in collaboration with SENTIENT RUIN.

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Obscuritae Review

MEFITIS savagely ambush with a twisted, diabolic campaign on “Emberdawn”

2019 has seen massive releases and live acts of metal titans, such gods as Blut Aus Nord and the highly anticipated release of quickly medaled veterans Blood Incantation, but there are acts slipping through the cracks of reverence within a tightly knit web of excellent releases. For one, the truly underrated Mefitis, from Oakland, California, with an absolutely stunning and transcendent debut that demands all of the attention that it is missing.

It is shocking that this release hasn’t received the deserved recognition. This entity of two complete newcomers to the scene exploded into it with all of the brilliance and veracity of seasoned veterans. Even more impressive is that the debut LP Emberdawn was both recorded and mixed by the two members of the band, Pendath, and Vatha, and the end result is nothing short of excellent. Emberdawn also features art by Turkka Rantanen, evocative of his works on early Demilich and Adramelech, fitting for the dark and twisted sound of the album.

From the very start of Emberdawn, Mefitis erupts a pernicious tide of riffs, bursting like shrapnel from the oppressive gates of the underworld with “Widdrim Hymn”. Aggressive and untamed guitar parts are broken up intermittently by contorted chorales of chaos, like hideous chants of worm winged angels. Each following song is an impressive recitation of songwriting, nothing is out of place or patched together, not written, but composed, each riff folding into each other, where the sum of all of the moving parts gestate miraculously into one bigger picture. Expert use of pedals and effects are spotted between each song, displaying Mefitis’ accomplished understanding of variance and juxtaposition, as surprises like pianos and keys creep in every so often sinking you deeper into the ambiance. The vocals keep things shifting and well composed as well, with varying screams of different styles complemented by the previously mentioned twisted choruses.

Raw and blackened aggression meet strangely beautiful yet incredibly haunting in a blend that completely defies genre, some highlights of this are the rhythmic and capering riff at the end of “Grieving the Gestalt” or the space fueled operatic section near the beginning of “Timeward Tribulations”. “Obliterating I” contains excellent use of classic black riffs, eliciting images of a darkened castle that is to be stormed by the wretched masses; “Heretical Heir” continues similar motifs, repeating riffs from the aforementioned track, adding a progressive factor to the album, adding motifs to their sound.

Although it is never directly stated that Mefitis aspired to create a concept album, all of the pieces are there, the entirely grandiose atmosphere envelops the feeling of a journey through the Hellenic underworld, you cannot help but feel as if a story is over arching over the album. “Kollosos I” leads the duo of intermission tracks with an imposing intro, similar to an epic poem of old, being shouted directly into your brain by the rattled voices of undead thralls. The second half “Kollosos II”, displays the full range of Pendath and Vatha’s chops, in a sprawling instrumental that encircles you in all of the madness and chaos of a fiery uprising. It is unfair to even try to pigeon hole the shifting moods and movements of Emberdawn, as listening to the album is adherent to viewing a painting, not a single part can speak to another, it demands to be heard and its grip will strangle your mind long after listening to it.


The CD version of this obscure slab of menacing, chaos are available now on CHAOS RECORDS.

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BLACK DEATH CULT has manifested the sanity destroying, psychedelic egregore “Devil’s Paradise”

How often does something take you off guard, to such a point that you aren’t even sure you like it or hate it? The very nature of the thing strays from accepted paradigms and into a region of sometimes uncomfortable unfamiliarity, testing you and your taste like an optical illusion tests the eye. Black Death Cult represents one such rarity in music, a faceless entity mashing disparate elements together in the shadows like a mad artisan of eldritch curiosities. 

It seems inevitable, as though by design, that BDC should confuse and, perhaps, enrage the average extreme metal fan who stumbles upon its debut full length, Devil’s Paradise. With a name like Black Death Cult, there is an immediate expectation of what awaits, but instead of murky, cavernous death doom, or frantic bestial violence, we are greeted by a true anomaly of the macabre.

In the opening moments of “Infernal Triad”, as the atmospheric guitar inspires an atmosphere of eerie foreshadowing, there is little hint as to what awaits except for the woeful undercurrent of organ notes. But like an uprising from the depths, that minute organ suddenly becomes startlingly monumental, clashing with the guitar for prominence. As though such overt use of organ pipes weren’t already surprising, given the primitive trudge of the rest of the band, the style in which it is played only inspires greater awe as it begins to steer the drums and strings like a vessel into regions of bombastic, even hilariously over the top drama. But a constant ebb and flow exists throughout Devil’s Paradise, as the traces of classic doom and black metal manage to enforce their presence, taking hold before once again being hypnotized by the gothic spirit that permeates the album.

“Double Monolith”, for instance, opens with a straight and narrow plummet into the abyss, characterized by the vocals’ hauntingly claustrophobic rumble and the ignorant bashing of the rhythm section. But like leathery wings unfolding, the music takes wind on organ piped notes, and we find ourselves in the midst of a visceral black mass ritual that suddenly devolves into an insane, tribal dirge as the vocals become possessed with otherworldly fervor. 

Such a conflict forms the foundation of nearly every track along Devil’s Paradise, giving it a wholly unpredictable aspect, and yet all the while an overarching continuity is maintained. 

Evoking the mood of a fell church congregation in the midst of a Hammer horror film, BDC walk dangerously on the line between unnerving atmosphere and Halloween campiness. The result is a sonic aesthetic reminiscent of the visual style found in archival photos of 1970’s LaVeyen Satanic practice, or that of Aleister Crowley, where the tongue in cheek aspects mingled with undercurrents of occult darkness and tripped out psychedelia. That is to say that BDC revel in the fun that morbid darkness provides, alongside its many mysteries and horrors.

If each song on Devil’s Paradise is thought of as a ritual, then surely the presence of synths represents the hallucinogenic component, which begins to take greater effect toward the latter half of the album, coming to a head in the closer, “The Unnameable”. 

Words spoken through a haze of LSD, siren like drones rising up out of the murk to signal the end, all while the band seems to spiral downwards, dragging you alongside them on a nightmarish trip that finally ends in an airy realm of ethereal synths. 

The key to pulling off what BDC attempt in Devil’s Paradise is simply balance. With such strangely juxtaposed elements, balance is everything, or else it all falls apart and is nighe unlistenable. The fact that such a travesty never comes to fruition is credit to the songwriting genius/insanity behind BDC, but even more so in arguably the strongest point on the album: “Nightside Of The Pyramid”. 

Exacting a dangerous alignment of atmosphere and heaviness, “Nightside Of The Pyramid” eschews the organ and Hammer horror aesthetic in exchange for John Carpenter – esque synths that speak of the towering mystery of the Egyptian monument. The moment of wonder and beauty is ended as a threshold is crossed and the wrathful spirits of the dead vocalize in swirls about the listener as they descend into subterranean vaults.

“Nightside Of The Pyramid” alone constitutes a journey well worth taking, amidst an even greater whole. This is Black Death Cult at their strongest.

To fully appreciate Devil’s Paradise requires many replays, and a willingness to shift one’s expectations and perceptions. If you’re going in with a need for the kind of cathartic bloodletting that Teitanblood or Death Worship provide, then you are definitely looking in the wrong place. It might be uncomfortable to embrace a somewhat satirical and even comedic aspect to an otherwise humorless area of music that is extreme metal, but that’s what makes Black Death Cult so unique and why Devil’s Paradise deserves to be heard.


This twisted mess is available on tape and shortly on DLP via SERPENTS HEAD REPRISAL at debut gigs with REVENGE:
November 1st, Calgary, Dickens Pub
November 2nd, Edmonton, Starlite Room

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PETER BJÄRGÖ goes beyond melancholy into the dust of ruin with “Structures and Downfall”

Peter Bjärgö is a household name to anyone worthy of calling themselves an underground music fan. A name that hearkens back to a vibrant and very exciting time in music, where artists on the fringes of the metal, goth, and industrial scenes sought out labels like Cold Meat Industry and others to produce some of the most creative and unique milestones of dark ambient, post-industrial, and neoclassical darkwave.

These sounds called forth the legions of outsiders who wanted dark music without the rules, fashion, stereotypes, and restrictions that had begun to plague major underground and alternative music subcultures. His musical ventures matched the eclectic mindset of the era, whether it be with his dark apocalyptic Swedish death metal unit Crypt of Kerberos, or ventures into medieval romanticism with his most famous project Arcana, and his excursions into powerful martial industrial hymns with Sophia.

Though criminally underrated some of his strongest works were his less-known solo albums. This began with his powerful darkwave/dark ambient masterpiece Out of the Darkling Light, Into the Bright Shadow, a collaboration with Lithivm’s Gustaf Hildebrand, to his many subsequent works of slow, atmospheric darkwave. His solo efforts are usually much more personal and provide a contrast to his more grand escapist compositions with Arcana. With previous solo efforts Peter Bjärgö, had focused a large part of his work on melancholy and beauty, appealing to followers of acts like Dark Sanctuary or even Sopor Aeternus, culminating in the heart-breaking epic work Animus Retinentia.

By contrast, his latest offering Structures and Downfall is much more withdrawn and desolate sounding. The style is very similar, yet the tone and atmosphere here tend to veer away from the warm gothic-sounding melodic pieces, and into something along the lines of wandering through ruins of a half-remembered life, with a layer of dust and time obscuring the features and details of old paintings. “Inner Cathedral” welcomes us to a warm plot through the desert of existence with Peter ‘s distant chanting vocals providing a bleak narrative on the things seen and places revisited. The feeling on longing and emptiness is really a strong player on this album – a faded gallery brought to like through distant acoustic instruments, piano, and percussion that acts like a gateway from one place of remembering to the next.

Towards the second half of the album, the feeling of being alone begins to weigh down on the listener and a sense of tension and fear begins to creep more gradually into the remaining tracks, foreshadowed by the eerie haunting intro to “When Thoughts Become Your Enemy”. With acoustic guitars over cloudy ambient drones, “Dreaming of Some Purpose” brings to light the urgency of an encroaching menace, while “Disintegration of the Mind” impresses upon the listener the futility of existence and the embrace of impending inevitability, as “Winter Song” finally takes us into the quiet night, leaving our mind an empty blank space where thought and memory previously was, giving us the relief of oblivion. While it may not be quite as powerful or entrancing as The Architecture of Melancholy or Animus Retinentia, this is very much a natural progression building into the cycle set forth by those albums. A mesmerizing voyage into decay and nothingness, and the serenity of being released from the flesh. Best listened to as a whole piece of work, on a rainy autumn evening gazing out at the steel grey skies of solitude and losing yourself in nostalgia.


CYCLIC LAW will release Peter Bjärgö’s next opus on CD and LP formats, along with selections from his back catalog.

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UNDEATH ooze out two demos to redefine the death metal retro resurgence

Within the realms of death metal there are bands that represent the gravely serious depth of darkness to the gut wrenching, puke inducing gore fests, but there must come an entity that blacks out your conscious and sways your body in a violent hysteria. Undeath from New York touts a tight and technical mastery of uniquely New York death metal, relentless and nefarious. Seldom do we see metal acts that genuinely make you excited to listen to music, the kind of stuff that makes you grip your heart and pound your neck, meticulously crafted to suit your primal urges.

Undeath released 2 demos this year, one simply titled Demo ’19 and the other, Sentient Autolysis, and both are justly impressive, although the latter shows a more permanent grasp on their sound in such a short timeline. Immediately the stand out feature of Sentient Autolysis is its soiled tone, distinctively ripe with foul sludge and the stench that comes with it. The vocals are reminiscent of John McEntees signature tone of otherworldly hate spewing from the mouth of a corpse. Undeath revels in the inspirations it takes from rather than recycling their styles, improving greatly upon precedents set. The demo pounds your consciousness from front to back, each song is completely uncompromising and holds your excitement and attention, never dropping a beat for a second.

Aforementioned influences show their faces briefly throughout each track, recalling on why Undeath’s sound is so unique to New York death metal. Descending hammer on riffs on “Enhancing the Dead” and “Phantasmal Festering” are representative of Cannibal Corpse, while the acute and expeditious licks on “Pursued and Consumed” are reminiscent of early Suffocation. “Pursued and Consumed” specifically is the masterwork of the demo, thick with the atmosphere of unrelenting fear. True to the title, the song fabricates an air thick with horror and brutality, making your heart race as if you were chased down by an amalgamation of gore, there is no escape. Sharp grinding guitars near the end of the song signal your inevitable capture, as Undeath masticates your every muscle fibre, the ecstasy of bereavement overtakes you in a haze.

Demo ‘19 is not to be overlooked as well, as it contains the same competent song writing and fire of Sentient Autolysis. The major difference happens to be the production, which is more soiled and raw, but doesn’t detract from the intensity of each track – as the sheer brutality of each song carries the raw nature of the sound. “Unadorned Coffin”, is Undeath’s first act of cruelty on the demo, interweaving melodic leads and technical chugging, breaking up each short moment of atmosphere with blood spattered atrocity. “Ineffable Tumult” continues the unwavering assault, not letting a moment go by to spare your mind from cruelty, until your left with a moments peace from the velocity of Undeath with “Perverted Self Reflections”.

 Do not be fooled; the doomy searing riffs creep slowly, but its foul limbs clamber towards you briskly as the song goes on, forcing you to face the unavoidable aberration of human nature. A sinister keyboard break leads into the full force of the demos wrath, “Archfiend Coercion”, where the songwriting later displayed on Sentient Autolysis comes into its own, each riff curdling together like the remains of human effluence. As the primordial ooze fully ferments itself towards the end, your heart will be gripped with fear, sweat will coat your palms, and the primitive beating will stay compounded in your brain until you listen to it again.


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Interview

OF FEATHER AND BONE complete the feral metamorphosis

With the American death metal renaissance in full swing, it seems that at every moment a new band that one cannot afford to miss arises immediately to the forefront of the scene. With intuitively anthemic songs, exciting merchandise options, and legion of adoring fans, these bands seem to wield a growing notoriety that you would expect of old veterans.

With more interest in the genre, and specifically subgenre, than in many years, it often looks from the outside that a measure of success in this field is nearly a predetermined act of cause and effect simply through starting a grimy, slimy, crawling, drooling death metal band within the USA in this interstice.

One band uncomfortable with resting on their laurels is Denver’s Of Feather And Bone. The band has taken the professional and stoic stance of remaining suspicious of their own achievements. Born through years of musical gestation, independent touring, hard-grinding work ethic, and strong self-belief, the trio has gone from being a rising prospect to a legitimate contender. In what seems like short order, but after this simple conversation with frontman Alvino Salcedo, you will be convinced otherwise in no time at all.

We interviewed Salcedo in the weeks leading up to Of Feather And Bone’s first European tour as a death metal band, under the venerable Killtown Bookings banner, and alongside Ritual Necromancy, a favourite at the Covenant HQ, and Tomb Mold. Encapsulated within are the words of a band on a rapid upward trajectory.

ORIGIN EVOLUTION

At this point it should come as no surprise that Of Feather And Bone started off as a more hardcore/punk oriented band that would slowly morph into a death metal band over the years. This has left many people not knowing the band’s origin story or finer details. For a genre’s fans that are historically obsessed with detail and factoid, this is an extreme rarity indeed. With a blank slate situation before us, we prodded Salcedo to provide us with an explanation of this often controversial origin story.

The assumption that the band took up death metal overnight is patently false. Of Feather and Bone has been a band since 2012, and at that younger stage they presented a sound was very rooted in grind, crust, dbeat, punk and even death metal and black metal. Alvino claims, “We learned very early that it was hard for us to completely immerse ourselves in any scene. Hardcore hated every second of us. Again, we have always played blast beats and that always went over poorly.” However, the band continued touring, knowing that if they were to be respected it was going have to be in the live arena. Of Feather and Bone had to prove that they, “aren’t a flash in the pan or to be taken for granted,” with what they do best.

Having first cut their teeth in the Denver metal scene, audiences stood up and took notice of their talent, live shows, drive, and intense motivation. Their specific sound became irrelevant in a scene as diverse as Denver’s, with no two bands sounding the same. He adds, “that diversity and openness made it easier for us to ease the transition of the new material.”

Up until that point, he continues that the earliest material was written in a, “formative period of the band where we were still figuring out where this band would play its role in all of our lives. We were still getting used to writing with one another for a style we were trying to form. By the time all of the old stuff and even the first LP was readily available to a larger audience, we had written those songs so long ago. We sat on those recordings for over a year. Then it was finally released and we had to tour on them.”

Not writing was not an option. The gears started to change and an evolution was afoot. “We were already in the skeleton stages of writing the Pious Abnormality demo. We were tired of playing the style we had. We evolved, which honestly, if anyone can’t understand that evolution aspect as an artist, then it must be a charmed life being born with Altars of Madness in your hand as you came out of the womb,” Alvino admonishes. The man has a strong point. In this light, he argues, the band has never disrespected death metal in any way. Rather, as he continues, “we have had to scrape from the bottom of the abyss to be where we are. We put our own take on a genre that can very formulaic and obsessive with a classic sound. We just want to play the music we like to listen to.”

ACCUSATIONS & NON-APOLOGIES

It’s eternally important to give a platform to the accused. Let the individual argue his case and let the chips fall where they may. Witch hunts have run amok lately, and the importance of putting a stop to an unjust one cannot be overstated.

There has, of late, been a large sample size of bands that formerly played hardcore transitioning into playing death metal, with varying degrees of both sincerity and success, of course. People who are deeply bothered by this could be accused of gate-keeping, or having a “nimby” attitude. There’s something legitimate to wanting one’s food to come directly from the source, and not from a processing plant catching on to the latest trend.

With the hot seat light on him, Alvino answers without apology, “I guess a lot of people could throw us into there if they wanted to. I understand wanting to keep your music genre community elite.” Understandable indeed, but he continues, “when one or a few bands are insincere in their motives, I feel that can leave the impression that all bands doing the jump to the next trend are also just looking to get popular or whatever motive they may have. I think I leave it all to the substance of the band. The caliber of playing and the creativity of the songs and riffs and structures. These true aspects can’t be hidden.” No they cannot.

In fact, there is a weakness that prevents true sincerity from ever shining through. “A lack of absolute and true visceral passion and sacrifice to this [music] is not for the weak. When those who seek to exploit don’t receive immediate praise and ‘hype’, it’s off to the next trend”. Essentially, the argument is that the scene should organically weed itself out. That’s the theory at least, and it’s a powerful one at that.

THE SUBSTANCE

After giving the man a chance to fight back against the accusers and state his case, we are more than satisfied. So it’s time to move on and let the music speak for itself. The band’s seminal death metal debut, Bestial Hymns Of Perversion, was met with a rabid out-pour of support and has become an immediate favourite in much of the underground. It finally let the band do, “what we have wanted to do for so long. We wanted to just write punishing and unrelenting songs with a touch of somber and sad tones”, he tells us. Mission accomplished, as the album is intense, utterly merciless, and completely unforgiving, yet it remains difficult to place one’s finger on exactly what makes it so interesting.

What ingredients exist in the formula that  made this take on a classic sound as potent as it is? Alvino responds, “the record is raw because that’s how we approached it. Just a blast of everything we have held in. We got criticized for the album being too blast heavy. Not enough dynamics. Not enough absolute cave man shit. We succeeded at what we wanted. We want people to feel uncomfortable while they listen to it. We don’t want to give gratuitous groove to anyone. We want you to stand there and become exhausted.”

Right, right – and it shows! Where does this rageful inspiration come from during this process, we wonder. There has to be a specific source feeding this beast. It’s always interesting to understand a band’s melting pot of influences specifically, but more so how it interacts with the artistic process.

Alvino indulges and reveals that, “if I had to say anything or anyone in particular; we turn to Temple Nightside, Impetuous Ritual, Portal, Dead Congregation, and Morbid Angel to name a few.” Really there should be no surprise there, however, more than just emulation, “it involves referring to them as a whole and how they tend to write.” Are there specific songs you can cite that speak to you? He mentions, “when it comes to writing lyrics or trying to do different dynamics with my voice, I do refer to songs such as “Serpentskin” by Dead Congregation (editor’s note: nice job, Tim!), “The Cornucopian” by Abyssal, or “Entrantment of Evil” by Incantation. It’s mainly the way the syncopation of the vocals to, in particular, blast and fast parts help me to try and stay creative and ensure not every blast section has the same type of vocals over it.” After a quick check of our recent playlist, yep most of those are there. We’re in good company.

RIDING THE WAVES OF DEATH

In an effort to touch on something earlier mentioned, we push to dissect how fever-hot the American revival of nasty, rotting, OSDM is right now. It seems every couple of years there is a certain sound that takes the epicentre of extreme metal focus. From the shuffling hordes of Incantation clones in the late aughts; to the swirly, technical death metal craze influenced by Gorguts, Deathspell Omega, and Portal; to the utter tsunami of so-called Nidrosian black metal sound-alikes, all micro-movements have yielded particularly potent results. It must be thrilling and challenging to be a band at the forefront of this movement at any given time.

Alvino echoes that sentiment, “some of the challenges of course are being under an intense scrutiny of every action you make. The music you write is under strict review in every action from tone, to approach, to arrangement, to every little bit of it,” he states. Nearly sounding exhausted already, he reveals, “You can kind of get lost focusing and thinking when you approach writing that you may want to write to cater to such punishment from people who aren’t even in bands. But with that said, it’s a centering feeling. It helps you remember why you started writing and playing in a band.”

Undoubtedly the benefits outweigh the hardships. Any band is lucky to be mentioned in the same breath as the greats, and this is not lost on Alvino, “we have made a name for ourselves and the people who do truly like us and follow us will hopefully be excited to see us evolve into new material. The support up until now has been amazing and we couldn’t be more grateful.” There’s a reason for this. He chalks it up to the fact that, “we try to define our own take on a genre that is being defined, so maybe one day someone looks back on our band and appreciates that we did it our way and brought a flavor to it that wasn’t typical or cliche or boring.”


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Interview Spirit

ANATHEMA PUBLISHING shines light into the uncoloured spaces

As admirers and readers of the work released by Montreal based Anathema Publishing, it was a long time coming to finally form a friendly relationship with the man behind the operation. What started as a social media video on the Covenant Instagram to show off the utter brilliance of one of the PILLARS journals, developed into a correspondence and ultimately into this interview you see before you.

Gabriel McCaughry is a man of many, potent words, who publishes the works of other men and women of many, potent words. His small, but fierce, publishing house works with esteemed authors of many paradigms. The talismanic, ornate nature of these books often are the first telling signs that you are indeed holding an Anathema release.

Through the course of questions between Gabriel and Covenant’s Thor Dehr, we received more insight than we could have imagined! There is a deep wisdom to his words that feel beyond his years. We are privileged to preserve most of the conversation below. Steady the senses and dig in …

INITIATION

Origin stories are as varied as the individuals behind them. Nothing could be more true in the context of a small-batch publishing house dedicated to obscure tomes. To dig into the grassroots of Anathema’s manifestation, we prod McCaughry to divulge the spark of his fire. Consistent with our metaphor, he explains, “I’ve always been one to fan the flames of my creative impulses, and I’ve always enjoyed following my passions wherever they lead me.” Unrestricted to just the medium of publishing, this level of abandon extended to all areas of his becoming; whether “starting a metal band, designing a product, planning events, or rallying people around a certain plan or idea,” he carries that same passion. In that same vein, Anathema Publishing also came to be.

The whole idea and impetus behind Anathema really felt like answering a certain ‘call’ as a ‘duty,’ less so than just another pastime, or artistic project.

After several years of playing in extreme metal bands, beginning with Unquintessence and Trails of Anguish in the late nineties and early 2000’s, and touring intensely with Ion Dissonance and Vatican, Gabriel soon realized that as fun as it was, there was a creative and spiritual void that needed to be addressed. “Since I’ve always been hugely fascinated by the mysteries, I decided to start investigating the occult in a more serious manner … Enough so that years afterward, I was able to share my findings, deductions, and to a certain extent personal practice via articles I wrote between 2008-2009.” 

This formative exploration culminated and exploded into a three-month trip throughout Asia Minor to discover first-hand the power behind the mysteries in their place of origin. “The circumambient spiritual quality of the place truly impacted me,” he reveals. “Then everything came together: the name, the intent behind it all, and the main seal/symbol I would end up using — everything.” Returning home, the work to bring it all to life began.

A sincere love of quality books has followed Gabriel throughout his life. However, the jump from book-lover to proprietor of fine pieces of literary art was another step entirely. Things had to start small out of necessity, “I had no clue how to start any business by myself, and knew relatively few people with relevant experience; I had no resources but my own to invest. However, what I did have was experience as a graduated and professional graphic designer by trade who’s worked in the pre-press field for over 20 years now,” he tells us. Not a bad start at all. Add in a fiery passion for collecting limited edition printed books, rarities, and beautifully bound books, and the path was cleared for his developing endeavour.

SEEDS

Before any beginning, there is a blank canvass of potential waiting to be painted by a wide range of influential colours. With any individual involved in matters of the spirit, the inevitable question arises: What brought your curiosity to the subject of the occult as a point of practice and study? 

“This may sound a bit dry, but often people are interested in knowing how it ‘starts’ rather than how things evolve, which I usually find more interesting; one retroactively embellishes and romanticizes how his relationship with the occult actually started to make it sound more epic than it truly was. This is something I’ve been guilty of doing more than once.”

It is true that most interviewers seem to want a list of arcane secrets and wild personalities to lump the practitioner into a neat compartmentalization. In fact, anyone can certainly name influences that made an early impact, although “for the most part, I probably have moved away from them as things unfolded and as my understanding of the material evolved”, he says. 

Unsurprisingly, we find that some of the texts and authors that first left their indelible impression were “Andrew D. Chumbley’s corpus of work, Crowley of course, various classical grimoires (such as the Grimorium Verum, of the Book of Abramelin, etc.), some theological work by Blavatski, mystical poetry à la Rumi or Omar Khayyam, Gibran, various classical Alchemy works (Flamel, Paracelsus, Agrippa, etc.), numerous Gnostic texts (which I study to this day), along with Robert Cochrane/Evan John Jones/Shani Oates and the Clan of Tubal Cain’s material (which lead to me publishing Shani, of course).” Not so secretly, we wanted to be indulged with such a list, and after this revelation we know we’re in very good company.

SONAR SECRETS

Of course we require Gabriel’s take on the role of music in occult study. There seems to be a growing schism with some specific currents intertwined with musicians trying to distance themselves from music as a tool in ritual praxis. Meanwhile, other prominent writers have literally written grimoires with companion albums or expand their messages into specific albums themselves.

His opinion is just about as expected: “Music is an integral part of life, and quite the primordial tool for opening minds — which ties in to the importance of experience in the world of phenomena. Certainly, music has been a great passion of mine for years”, he explains. As the frontman and lyricist for many musical projects over the years, McCaughry sees music as “a vehicle moving emotions back and forth, and intuiting (or pointing towards) certain doorways warranting further investigation.” The musician can channel this energy in a very primal, quasi-shamanistic way to great effect.

… as a ritual aid, certain types of music can help regulate breath, help to focus during contemplative work (so long as one is able to sweep aside the imagery that may unfold during the listening of music), and in certain specific — dare I say radically-challenging — ritual works, music can enhance the overall ambience to a point of saturation, thereby strengthening one’s resolve to a breaking point and then bringing forth a subsequent clarity.

It is a very primal tool that we can see from the ancients, to the so-called primitives, to modern practice of all sorts. This is most readily found, “with certain drone-like rhythms of handmade drums, bells, singing bowls, liturgical chants, and the repetitive uttering of mantras, or galdrs (throat vibrations in specific words, runes, or ‘keys’), performed around a fire during a ritual.” Gabriel seems to speak from experience.

And your listening habits as of late?

“Personally, I have my favorites which I will listen to during times like my morning meditation. But these are neither required per se, nor do I necessarily advocate such a practice as being mandatory by any means. If it works for you, fine; if it is in any way distracting, perhaps it’s best to avoid it altogether.

Ambient music and some instrumental folk seem to be particularly conducive to proper mind states. I very much appreciate the work of: Sounds of Isha, Arktau Eos, Alone In The Hollow Garden, Sacra Fern, O Saala Sakraal, CHVE, and Visions.

Now, when it comes to music which can take you to distant lands, engages the very root of imagination, and stimulates inspiration (music I will often listen to during writing process, for instance), I very much enjoy the work of: Ulver, Goran Bregovic, Hexvessel, Cities Last Broadcast, Levon Minassian, Atrium Carceri, Gurdjieff/De Hartmann, Érik Satie, Beyond Sensory Experience, Marconi Union, John Coltrane, Death & Vanilla, L’enfant De La Forêt, and Wardruna… but admittedly these days I do listen to quite a lot of podcasts as well.”

Let’s not dance around the elephant in the room here (after all this is primarily an extreme metal music zine), and Gabriel gets us back on course. “It would be somewhat disingenuous of me not to mention black metal, or metal in general, since I’ve been part of that scene and have been very fond of since I first heard Necrophobic’s Nocturnal Silence in 1994.” Now we know we’re in even better company.

“My view on it, however, has changed through the years. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been part of bands that have toured extensively, recording numerous records in the studio, travelled and ‘lived’ off music for a while, etc. A couple of years back, I would’ve probably gone on and on about the revelatory aspects of music and of performing live.

But as things progressed, and my occult, or contemplative, practice developed, deeper considerations altered how I viewed metal music in the regard. The raw immediacy and sharpness of it all is quite efficient as a wind blow/breath enlivening the flames of Nigredo. And so, with proper technique and dedication one can use this art as a catalyst for ‘surviving’ the Calcination process. Of course, a lot of people get wholly consume by the flame and are bound to remain at this Nigredo level, but that’s another story in and of itself.”

Anyone interested in this wider world of oddities, spiritual conduits, and dark delights, usually can trace a path back to a teenagehood of heavy metal, industrial, goth, or punk worship. We love what we love, and we always will. Though we need to be realistic here, and Gabriel again brings us down to Earth:

“[L]et’s face it: most ‘occult-looking’ bands out there are just plastering symbols they do not fully understand one on top of the other. They present a facade of esotericism which is quite superficial at best, and plain fallacious at worst. That does not mean their music is not masterfully executed – and the whole aesthetic is pleasing to the eye, in a very idiosyncratic way.”

“But nonetheless, for younger people this music can open their eyes to the possibility that there is something more out there in the wild that is worth investigating further. For this reason, it’ll take more than engaging with the music or the imagery, or even starting your own project; it’ll require you to completely rehaul your life, re-evaluate your values, and push against your limitations — even outside of your ‘comfort zone’ of Metal music (or any kind of music or art done for the sake of enjoying art).”

Well said.

At the moment Gabriel is the vocalist of BLIGHTa black metal band who has recently finished recording a new album entitled Temple of Wounds – a direct conceptual continuation of his first book h)AuroraeThe record will ultimately bridge to what will be a second book, currently in progress. Something to keep a keen eye on.

ERECTING THE PILLARS

Anathema Publishing perhaps is best known for the unparalleled journal series PILLARS. Currently, the first issue of the second volume has been released, with the first volume having three issues itself, and each issue thus far having many different contributors. Each issue selects a greater focus topic and prompts writers to deliver their submissions free of restraint, be it time, opinion, or paradigm. It is a swarm of ideas and opinions from many of the most prominent, challenging, and unique voices in the occult zeitgeist.

With so many different minds approaching similar subjects, the clash of ideas must be inevitable and cause conflict on some level. The widely different viewpoints next to each other for the reader’s context is curious.

“I’d say that precisely the whole pointy of this exercise is to have a meeting of minds, which can harmoniously tie to one another — or clash and create an interesting dichotomy when exploring a particular facet of the Arte Magickal or mystical inquiry.”

The freedom given to authors must be a refreshing blank-slate. Gabriel further elucidates that, “the idea is not to direct the minds, nor to have a single viewpoint,” in fact, because of the general nature of the theme, “it is explored via the different lenses of the individual authors and artists, who of course distill a theme through their perceptual and practical filter: i.e. tradition, lineage, system, and philosophy”. Even among perceived duality and ‘clashing’ viewpoints, often there is a singular thread running across the whole, and further points of connection are made or realized.

MATERIALISM

Even in a niche subculture that attempts to shatter the ego, the lure of materialism and stamp-collecting is all pervasive. The world of 2nd hand rarity books has only expanded more aggressively as time goes on. On one hand, it seems some people see higher prices on used books as a signal of that specific publication’s Gnostic value and usefulness, while others see it as a source of profiteering.

In Gabriel’s opinion, the idea that higher cost could be indicative of a ‘greater’ Gnostic value is a sad thing to even discuss and wholly ridiculous. He tries to help us understand the ‘collector’s impulse,’ and, in fact, he is even guilty of “paying extraordinary amounts of money to complete a collection, or acquire a specific, hard to find tome. But of course, the second-hand market is often out of control and makes no sense whatsoever.” It’s based upon a rabid, all-too-human impulse perhaps. 

Yes, beautifully bound books in small-run batches, with incredible materials and design, will fetch higher prices by default — these are harder and harder to make as time goes by and as printed and properly bound publications go out of style in the general populace. It is what it is, and should not otherwise impact primary or secondary markets, but in the Occult world it verily seems that presentation is often mistaken for quality of content as well.

To a publisher like Gabriel, both are equally important and should be complimentary. Prices often need to reflect production costs and support future projects. It’s as simple as that. The disrespect of reselling a piece of art for nothing more than profit affects the producers in the first place and the genuine seekers as well. Quite often this is case with books that are not even sold-out and still available from the publisher or first-hand distro. To him, this is a much worse practice.

What do we do about it? He tells us, “to eradicate this problem, buyers should go about truly researching more if ever they want to acquire a specific title and check with the publisher first if they know of a certain place where they can acquire it at a relatively fair price.”

INSPIRING IDEAS

Running a publishing house must be an incredible way to open the self to a stunning array of different esoteric influences, origins, goals, ritual settings, and so on. We are curious if this time and dedication to Anathema has altered Gabriel’s own path by showing him something he may not have otherwise seen.

“Absolutely, and irreversibly so, yes.” Having been in a sort of metaphysical isolation in Montreal, Gabriel as a self practitioner remained “singularly alone in having this deep interest and propensity for the mysteries and for esoteric studies.”

(h)Aurorae by Gabriel McCaughry

“Via Anathema, I was able to connect with much more knowledgeable characters as I ever was, and this ‘association’ (and given the fact that I often incorporate new material into my own), has propelled my writings and inquiries much further — deepening my devotion to a considerable degree as well.”

His pursuits were refined – sharpening the blade so to speak. “Being shown different methodologies, points of view, and philosophies, [revealed to] me that, in essence, specialization trumps generalization, but that at the most subtle levels, all such dichotomies and distinction vanishes — only language at the surface is different, and even then — but the ground of reality is verily all-encompassing and all-emptying.”

The opposite must be true as well. With such a flood of ideas and submissions of text, there must be a number of red flags that one knows to avoid.

In fact they are, “too numerous for me to list here. I get all sorts of manuscripts in the ol’ inbox, ranging from the purely fantastical, to the outright insane, but mostly, and sadly, they are just unprofessional and unfocused,” he reveals. “Which, at least, as a silver lining, makes it a bit easier to determine those that are genuine and interesting enough to warrant publication. Alas, these are very few and far between.” The cream always rises to the top.

To maintain a certain level of commitment to quality, whilst working on fresh material and finding new authors and illustrators to work with, is a struggle. It’s a challenge, but a welcome one, Gabriel insists. “As time flies by and the reputation of Anathema grows, then new exciting projects can emerge, and new relationships can develop.”

TALISMANS

One of the best advantages that the small, passion-driven occult publishing house has is often a higher quality: clothbound hard covers, beautiful and simplified artwork, hand numbering, and other traits to make long-lasting, personally valuable works, let alone the actual content included. This must be a thrilling and daunting process. How on Earth do you keep up this high standard of quality?

Time is of the essence, money is always a stress and a gamble, delays are enormous, and every step of the way, whether it be editing/correcting, layout and design, revisions, proofing, artworks, promotion, events, all of it needs to be meticulously addressed whilst maintaining due course ahead, and making everyone engaged in the process (readers/customers included) happy and calm.

With each release potentially being a make-or-break situation for the company, every product requires the extra mile, the sleepless nights, the needed moments of meditation to stay sane, and the utmost high standards – that goes without saying. The catch 22 is that this required attention to detail is what makes it all the most challenging.

It sounds like a dangerous dance of balance that Gabriel masters tome by tome.

TRADITION

All currents have quite clearly defined methodology: days of the year, ingredients, mantras, formulas of calling, and so on. With these workings becoming more widespread, a person in Canada for instance, may not be able to gather an ingredient only found in parts of Africa or small parts of Europe in the original intended tradition.

With the opportunity before us, we ask Gabriel if he believes that magical traditions should hold fast, or is there room for development beyond the constrains of strict boundaries.

My opinion on the matter is quite irrelevant as I do not hold the ‘truth’ in the palm of my hand when it comes to such specifics. I do have a practice which encompasses various elements some people would agree should probably not be mixed, and yet I prefer holding a viewpoint that is perennial rather than believe in the degradation of the source by the very act of it passing through different vessels. But that matter is entirely personal for now and what matters for me is how the results shape and manifest in my life.

When it comes down to it, Gabriel sees all of these as, “equally superfluous as they can be most important — context often determines the angle of observation.” Overall, he tells us that, “I am more interested in the roots of it all — or rather rootlessness of it all — rather than seeing the mysteries through a certain lens. That being said, I have chosen to express the mysteries in a language which resonates with me at a deeper level, that is: Alchemy, Hermeticism, and Luciferian Gnosticism.” He stresses that these are not closed circles, and in fact, they are transparent systems, which in themselves have the capacity to colour the world with light in a myriad of ways. Similar to a prism. Without making claims of support to a particular tradition over another, he prefers to bring the whole of the work down to the direct experience level, to observe the spontaneous unfolding and outpouring of reality.

“In the words of the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, ‘to witness and accomplish the miracles of the One thing.'” Amen.


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CROOKED MOUTH descends from the mountains to embark across the sea with “Coastal”

An ever enigmatic character, forging a singular path, living and breathing the land, Crooked Mouth is the contemporary bard we dearly need in our sterile age. Somewhere between the mountains, forests, and sea in a liminal place between places, the sound of Coastal crashes upon the rocks of spiritually-dead modernity to cleanse a moment in time. Open your ears to the next chapter in the journey.

Stand on the beach on a grey morning in the Pacific Northwest, gaze out across the rolling waves, and imagine a sound. Crooked Mouth’s latest is the closest approximation of the melancholic, crisp freedom that exists nowhere else but here.

Replete with the elements as expected: a driving 12 string acoustic backbone, tinkling bells, obscure strings, dense layers, and that unmistakable soaring voice. Although, always one step ahead, the dreary tones on display push the lush darkfolk sound to another level entirely. Folk traditions meet shades of post-industrial darkness colliding with early Sub Pop sensibilities, in an aural tapestry that is quintessentially bound to place.

Always infused with an esoteric nature, the music of Ian Campbell’s Crooked Mouth is the result of an adept balance between the deeply spiritual and the utterly personal. The essence of Coastal takes on an even more internal journey, using the map of the British Columbian wilderness to chart the inner being. A man torn between the light and the dark – not unlike wandering the impenetrable coastal forest.


Recently released by the perennially unique BRAVE MYSTERIES RECORDING CO., Coastal is now available on digital and cassette format.

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BLUT AUS NORD contort into another unheard of epoch on the grandiose “Hallucinogen”

When it comes to blurring the lines between genres Blut Aus Nord are no strangers to the concept. Setting the bar quite high for themselves with the 777 Trilogy, their newest release Hallucinogen is a step in a new direction and a valiant attempt at a reinvention of their own sound. Blut Aus Nord are veterans at walking to the beat of their own drum.

Hallucinogen wants to be a complete departure from the past and reinvention of sound, and according to the band is best described as, “a new stage in our process of perpetual regeneration”. Nevertheless, old habits die hard and fragments of the bands former self still shine through the cracks in French outfit’s most recent endeavor.

Shedding their religious themes for a slightly more ambiguous approach, Hallucinogen is beyond a doubt an atmospheric interpretation of the psychedelic experience, more often than not swapping dissonance for soaring melodies and atmosphere more akin to the likes of Mgła or, dare we say, Wolves in the Throne Room.

The album’s first track “Nomos Nebuleam” acts as a soft introduction to the deliberate change in direction the band has chosen to take with their latest release, an atmospheric and instrumental journey into the band’s new sound reminiscent of the aforementioned Poles. The album really comes into its own with tracks like “Anthosmos”  and “Mahagma”, an interesting duo more reliant on melody and emotion than anything we’ve seen from the band thus far.

At this point the album really seems to be developing towards some sort of grand climax, a pinnacle that we unfortunately find ourselves still grasping to reach at the conclusion of the album. The final two tracks, “Haallucinahlia” and “Cosma Procyiris” both have high potential, but in the end seem a bit jumbled and spontaneous, giving the impression that the band could not reach an agreement on the proper atmosphere for the end of the album, instead drawing on influences from all parties, leaving a bit to be desired in conclusion.

Halucinogen is a strong release and a welcome departure into unknown territory for Blut Aus Nord. That being said, it feels like this new soundscape they have so intricately crafted is unfinished, and there’s still a fair amount of room for growth in this medium. Perhaps a breath of fresh air for fans of Blut Aus Nord, but overall it still feels more like the first half of a two part album, a beautiful blend of melody and chaos that still allows for a great deal of development. If Blut Aus Nord decides to follow this with a sequel in the form of an epilogue, none will be the least bit surprised. The record just begins to scratch the surface of an ocean of untapped potential and a new, audible identity for the French master.


Hallucinogen will see release on digitpak CD, 2xLP, cassette, and all digital formats worldwide through DEBEMUR MORTI PRODUCTIONS. The vinyl edition will be available in four variants; black vinyl, a Debemur Morti exclusive variant, a North American exclusive variant, and a Season Of Mist exclusive variant.

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VASSAFOR walks an endless sinister path from unbeing to manifestation

Vassafor have been at the forefront of NZ Black Metal since their return in 2006 with the 7″ Southern Vassaforian Hell which was shortly followed up with self-titled EP Vassafor in 2007. Both releases broadened the band’s exposure and established them as fixtures within the underground. Since then, the output has been prolific with the release of several splits, a live album, and two acclaimed full lengths, the 2012 monolith Obsidian Codex and 2017’s Malediction.

Covenant caught up with the founder and creative conduit VK to discuss the history of the band, the driving purpose, and their forthcoming full length.

SINISTER ESSENCE

Founded in 1994, Vassafor has existed in numerous forms and iterations for over 25 years. 1997 saw the release of Demo I, subsequently after the band disappeared into obscurity and aether for a further 7 years.

“Those first demo songs were initially only shared with friends and allies as dubbed tapes. Then subsequently it got to people either we came in contact with or who were given it thru those already infected. Certainly, it was primitive and made with terrible gear, but it was an eruption of our ideas of BM that was already completely out of step with anyone around us. As for the break, it was only due to no other suitable members around me after DL and I were in different cities. Only a handful of people here in NZ seemed actually interested in non standard BM back then and half of us already hated each other. Not so different from today in some ways.”

Vassafor’s purpose is blunt and singular “To presence the sinister and venerate our Patron.” Driven as a conduit to and the fulfillment of sinister vision, the channels and methodologies for evocation have continued to evolve. VK recalls these foundations and the path tread thus far…

“Vassafor is still driven in the same direction as always, which is to be an offering and gateway/conduit, but it definitely has a more focused path now than any time previously. Like any art or skill, practice makes perfect. We are here to presence the sinister and do it as best we can.”

“From first encounter to today, the progress is clear and building on itself as an egregore gaining more and more mana as it is conjured from unbeing into reality, from the void-soaked sunya existing between the Aethyrs. It eternally IS, we just had to develop eyes to see and ears to hear.”

EMANATION AND CODEX

Delving further upon the discovery, inspiration and initiative which caused the band to materialise…

“I wanted to do my own thing not long after I first started playing in bands. Everything I wrote was Black Metal, but I was playing in a Death Metal band and a Rock band not a million miles away from Birthday Party type stuff. So even though I would write a bit in these bands, I was writing a lot of music which didn’t really suit the bands I was part of.

VK Recalls “People here in Auckland in the early 90s wanted to play like Carcass or a heavier thrash style for the most part. I was obsessed with the tapes that came via the mail and the BM records that would turn up in the record store in town that would stock extreme metal imports, and getting records like the Incubus 7” or the Necromantia, Samael, Masters Hammer LPs were massively influential in the early period of Vassafor for me and my bandmate DL who was literally the only other person in Auckland I knew into that style of dark, evil metal.

One of the defining characteristics Vassafor is their elaborate composition style. Typically drawing less from the conventional structure of modern music, their tracks are known to become formidable, manifold beasts changing and mutating throughout. VK considers the impact from atypical influences, how they have shaped his compositions and the organic metamorphosis Vassafor’s music has undergone as it forms and maintains its own identity.

“I’d grown up with classical music and 70s rock like King Crimson/ELP etc so I was familiar with symphonic length pieces of music or album tracks that might be 20 minutes long, and that was probably a subconscious influence on not having to be constricted by 3 min song lengths or a verse, chorus songwriting paradigm. But certainly currently, and for a long time, we have less external musical influences and more literary or artistic influences that refract internally to set tone or mood for material. If that makes sense.”

Divulging further on musical inspirations which serve the sinister purpose “Hard to separate myself to enough of a degree to answer accurately, but yeah, I think our roots are always fairly recognisable in our style of Black Metal. There’s always that primitivism of old (BM era) Darkthrone or Graveland or Beherit mixed with the pursuit of audial darkness and evil that can take us into many forms. So long as its sinister then it fits the Vassaforian paradigm.”

This dedication to the sinister reveals itself throughout Vassafor with a codified foundation established and fulfilled through music, lyrics and aesthetic. How important are those three elements to galvanise the creative process, presentation and essence?

“To me it’s of vital importance, if it’s your own paradigm that you are codifying. These 3 elements should be a reflection of the spirit of the band and should remain indivisible from it. That’s why when people think of bands “selling out” it generally is a band breaking their own covenant and rings false to people following the band.”

“As for Vassafor each are intertwined enough that a song can be started from any direction. It might be a song title or scrap of lyric, or a concept, or a chunk of music. 1 generally infuses the other if the ideas are strong enough to end up making it to song stage. Plenty of small chunks on rehearsal tapes of part songs of riffs or written lyrics that never developed into strong enough material to become a song. We usually throw away quite a large amount of material, if it doesn’t make the grade then we don’t save it for later, into the bin it goes.”

DIVINATION

Whilst intent has been singular with Vassafor, the bands delivery and tactics can vary to achieve this purpose, a rare feat to achieve whilst maintaining identity.

In May 2019 Vassafor commenced recording their 3rd album. Nearing completion, VK divulges on their forthcoming offering and provides pertinent details of what to expect.

“Yeah smashing through it now. There will be roughly 60 minutes of all new music. It will be released once again by Iron Bonehead who are the perfect label for us. There will be 6 main songs and a few intro and interlude pieces. We are at this time probably 2/3rds of the way through it all. We have a few outside allies involved in the record from the UK and Sweden that should change things up a bit.”

“I guess this record sounds more ancient than usual. The songs are perhaps a touch more primitive than usual in some respects and def more twisted in others. Probably more of our early influences like Temple of Full Moon/Polish BM style in places and in others quite old DM style. It should be completely out of step with current trend based cut ‘n’ paste, quantized click track, metal bullshit anyway!!”

With an impending album due from the eminent Iron Bonehead Productions in 2020, we asked what else lies ahead for Vassafor?

“Most important is the album. And doing a proper local ritual as opposed to gig in a bar supporting an international or whatever. Time for some Bones, Decay and Reverence the Vassaforian way…tentatively we are looking at early summer for it.”

EMANATION AND WILL

In 2016 Vassafor covered MZ.412 for Ancient Meat Revived, a tribute to seminal Death Industrial/Dark Ambient label Cold Meat Industry. Since, Vassafor was invited by the mastermind of that project to present an interpretation of Nordrvagr’s “At the Crossroads of Immortality” which featured on a collaborative album in May 2019

Whilst using disparate methods, it’s clear to see parallels between these entities and their respective genres.

“I’d like to think MZ.412 and Vassafor are essentially the same spirit via different instrumentation. Nordvargr is a total genius and it’s been great to strengthen ties with that conduit. I have always appreciated MZ.412 in particular from that wave of Cold Meat Industries and Death Industrial scene, but BP has come from that background rather than metal so has a much deeper appreciation for the musical sphere. He also has an industrial band he is part of currently that is working on material. That should be well worth checking out as the other guy he’s doing it with is a total maniac for that style as well.”

“These areas of Death Industrial and Black Metal seem to intersect especially when a dark spiritualism is involved. When looking at groups like Phurpa or Shibalba, they inhabit those same crossroads too.”

Audio engineering is another scope which VK operates within, covering his methods and criteria and the satisfaction of contributing to the achievement of a bands vision…

As for criteria for engineering in terms of mixing and mastering, it generally depends mostly on whether I enjoy the music or not, whether I consider it worthwhile & want to try and do what I can to help the vision of the band, but also of course if I have time. Lots of bands I say no to and even bands I’ll start working with and they start talking utter bullshit or want mainstream engineering and I suggest they use others. Plenty of other engineers for that kind of sound. I’m not interested in being associated with that kind of shit. Fuck that. And as a result I’m getting to work with many great bands that I’d be getting the record of anyway, but this way I get to help realize their vision properly. Some examples of recent mastering jobs I got to work on were the latest Hellvetron album and Tetragrammacide compilation LP. Both don’t want clean and nice standard mastering but for the right master to enhance the uniqueness of the bands. I’m totally into working with groups that want to forge their own path. Such as the latest Funereal Presence LP which was killer as he knew exactly what he was after, so I could help nail it down exactly in line with the initial vision. Very satisfying to get these records back and enjoy listening to them on my stereo.”

The involvement within these domains has provided exposure and insight to numerous countries, music and people. We asked VK where the vanguards were and thoughts on global Metal.

“I’ve been able to play a few places in South America and each one has been full of total fucking maniacs. Chile seems especially virulent, as it certainly seems like it has been for many years now. The crowds are absolute die hard metal beasts. Fucking hell, just the range of T-shirt’s in the crowds is fully mental and is full of ultra metal bands playing ugly as hell hateful shit. Perfect!”

“Seems like Asian crowds are super harsh and passionate as well. I’m into the Sri Lankan and Thai extreme metal scenes and looks like India is spawning some monster bands as well. I would really like to visit Japan to either or just see gigs there too…”

Considering the isolation of New Zealand, VK has been involved with several prominent bands within Black and Death Metal spheres across the globe as a live and recording artist. We discussed how these allegiances eventuated…

BLASPHEMY – “This year is my 10th year playing bass in Blasphemy. This came about during my tenure in Diocletian after I had worked out Weltering in Blood for a 7” we did and then sent copies to the Ross Bay Cult out of respect and heard back that they were into it and was in contact from then. Cut to 2009 and for whatever reason they were down to a 4 piece and had shows booked. Next thing I know I’m answering the War Command and rehearsing in Vancouver for a few weeks before Montreal and then Helsinki deathstrikes. And been there for most since.”

SINISTROUS DIABOLUS – “When I was younger, I would play in certain bands as a mercenary session player, but learned fairly early that I don’t belong on a stage if I don’t believe in the material I’m playing 100%. So the bands I’ve played for that I haven’t written or been part of are only bands I respect and will help out. An example is Sinistrous Diabolus who are our oldest and closest brother band to Vassafor. When/if asked to help with a live lineup I would always say yes to that without a second thought.”

TEMPLE NIGHTSIDE – “Since then I have been part of various bands but generally as a full member. One of those being Temple Nightside where I can focus on evil Death Metal guitar and not think of lyrics of vocals at all. TN is gearing up to record our next record which is the first to feature songwriting from all members of the band. So its been excellent going through the writing and demoing process of all the songs for the album. “


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