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Review

COVENANT Magazine’s Favourite Aural Abominations of 2019

One of the greatest things about toiling away in music is the privilege to be exposed to such a colossal amount of record releases up to the minute. A single glance at Covenant’s musical activity over the years reflects a diverse juxtaposition of genres and sounds. Our greater collective and associates are an eclectic bunch. Between the festivals and magazine, we try to keep a keen eye (and ear) on everything under the umbrellas of extreme metal and goth music of all kinds. Though the sounds vary, the essence remains the same.

It may be indulgent, but since we added a bit of value to the world of music journalism this past year, we are also contributing our voices to the surmounting lists that attempt to summarize the last 365 days in music. Our overall top 10 is an attempt to be objective, as it represents just about everything we could all agree on. Below that we asked our staff and various members of the greater collective to lend their individual voices. The results are about as wildly diverse as it gets.

Let us collectively banish the year that was 2019 by celebrating the fruits it produced, and look toward the future of greater things to come!


1 // Blood Incantation – Hidden History of the Human Race

Surprised? Of course you aren’t. For most bands, touring with Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, and Immolation would not only be high points of their year, but would most likely go on to define their careers. For Blood Incantation, it will probably go down as a foot-note of their 2019, right under the part that says ‘released Hidden History Of The Human Race‘. It is that grandiose of an accomplishment, and a couple paragraphs here cannot hope to begin to encapsulate the grandeur it holds, or do it justice. It enters a rare pantheon of modern records that will be enshrined as all-time classics.

Read the FULL REVIEW

2 // Volahn – El Tigre Del Sur

If a band ever needed a strong statement to not just return to the forefront of attention, but to also crush the lies of doubters and naysayers, it was Volahn, and they have done just that with El Tigre Del Sur. The fact that it is a powerful and proud Zapatista declaration that is so passionately Mexican and anti-colonial makes it very easy to lose sight of perhaps the most important factor when observing this as a recording of music: it is their best material to date. Overflowing with beautiful melodies of blatant Latin influence that are rarely heard in metal music, it often sounds more like the score to a Sergio Leone film than it does to what we think as being “black metal”. Complete with athletic and bombastic drumming, and a brilliant ending that will be remembered for all time, El Tigre Del Sur stands triumphant against all who would attempt to besmirch his name!

3 // Ioanna Gika – Thalassa

Sometimes a record honestly comes out of nowhere and blindsides you like a wayward sucker punch. Thalassa was an unexpected game changer: A shadowy siren from a foreign land with a name that’s even hard to pronounce, crafting a genre that practically doesn’t exist. Ioanna Gika creates a stunning blend of sounds that defy absolutely any categorization. Wavey, ethereal pop that contorts into a fractal of stunning beauty. Certainly not your usual scheduled programming. Hers is a voice from another realm of existence, and the echoes that remain resound through the chamber of your very soul. Keeping up with this album is an exciting exercise, as practically no two moments sound the same. “Interesting” is a cruel understatement. “Masterpiece” is closer to the mark.

4 // Misþyrming – Algleymi

Discarding the melancholy and mystery of 2015’s Söngvar elds og óreiðu, Iceland’s most depraved return on the infamous Norma Evangelium Diaboli label with the indeed orgiastic and ecstatic Algleymi. For a band who had so quickly announced themselves on the world stage with a powerful album and performances at esteemed festivals such as Roadburn just 4 years ago, it is startling to see them kick in to an even higher gear, and return with such vitriol. The future of Misþyrming is all at once a promising and intimidating prospect!

5 // Funereal Presence – Achatius

An archaic crypt flung open earlier this year and the miasma of Funereal Presence enveloped us all once again. The solo project of Negative Plane’s batterer crafted a timeless piece of timelessness. Finally the project fiercely declared independence and boldly stepped out of the shadow. As a tandem release between two of the most clandestine forces in black metal, Sepulchral Voice Records and The Ajna Offensive, the stage was already set for something potent. The first since 2014’s The Archer Takes Aim, the next chapter Achatius dove deeper into a unique sound that manages to amalgamate everything magical about 80’s black metal. An infectious dose of marathon length songs comprising swirling, subaquatic guitar tones, echoing pounding percussion, shimmering leads, and a folkloric spectre ever looming.

Read the FULL REVIEW

6 // L’Epee – Diabolique

Fall back into a twisting, psychedelic void. A wormhole directly back to an imagined 1960’s where devilish French women sing you songs of danger, lust, and abandon. Psyche garage rock never was so delicious. L’Eppe is a combined project featuring the mastermind behind Brian Jonestown Massacre, the husband and wife juggernaut The Limiñanas, and the perfect voice of Emmanuelle Seigner (better known as Green Eyes from the film The Ninth Gate). Imagine the lush tapestry of The Velvet Underground with the indulgent pop sensibility of Serge Gainsbourg and the bouncy irreverence of the ye-ye movement. Now turn it up to a soul-rattling volume as you drive headlong into a night-cloaked desert. You have some idea of what Diabolique feels like.

7 // Drab Majesty – Modern Mirror

The aliens have landed again and this time they brought us another gift from the cosmos: A shady synth pop observation of modern decay. Whereas the universally adored The Demonstration presented delightfully infectious darkness and melancholy, the lens through which Modern Mirror gazes is one of brighter optimism. The hooks are diabolically addictive and the melodies are nearly parasitic. Deb Demure proves once again to be one of the most accomplished songwriters of our age – the arpeggios, the dense layers, the driving rhythms, the sorrowful vocals. Yet in this iteration, Mona D makes his full presence known, taking lead vocals on the album highlight “Oxytocin”. Perhaps slightly less of a heart-wrenching, life-altering affair, Modern Mirror provides a more whimsical exploration, but has launched the space invaders to another level of successful infiltration. A masterful concoction such as this proves that it doesn’t take a human mind to craft a perfect pop album.

Read the FULL REVIEW

8 // Superstition – The Anatomy of Unholy Transformation

Death metal is in a serious renaissance. Superstition is at the vanguard. With a sound that we have championed from the earliest murmurs, Superstition finally struck the essence of pure old(est) school death metal with their first full length. The Anatomy of Unholy Transformation is an endless smothering flow of forgotten ideas channeled straight from the late 80’s Floridian swamps and New York back alleys. Somewhere the disembodied brain of Mike Browning is emanating riffs and structures to a demented quartet in the deserts of New Mexico. It can be the only feasible explanation for a sound that is so wholly unique and realized while also being a perfect homage to an earlier age. So rarely have an absolutely barrage of riffs marched on the listener in all out spiritual attack formation like this. It’s well-worth the possessing enchantment!

Read the FULL REVIEW

9 // Bolzer – Lese Majesty

With the release of Bolzer’s Lese Majesty, we have seen the band through their social media outlets begin to refer to their discography in a different way. Instead of reflecting on it as a demo and two EPs that gradually paved the way for Hero, which indeed at the time did seem like the long awaited full length offering, Bolzer has began referring to each release as an album. Indeed, this may seem bizarre to many, but for a band that has such a concise, quality, and meticulously controlled output- a band that did indeed rise to notable prominence off of the strength of a 15 minute release – it provides a unique lens to look at the band’s discography. This latest release is their second longest, clocking in just under 30 minutes, and it is the the sound of a more mature Bolzer. The scathing black metal of Zeus, Seducer Of Hearts is at the forefront, the muscular death metal of Aura and Soma are omnipresent, and of course the progressive nature and booming clean vocals of ‘Hero’ are applied all at once freely and with a tactical caution. For the past 8 years, we have all witnessed a band gestate and try new ideas while all at once stay within their egregore. Now it is time to witness that band arise to their height.

10 // Camp.30 – Eyes Only

Having risen to notoriety through his work on the enigmatic PLAZA’s Shadow EP (perhaps the single best dark R&B record of all time), Camp.30 is a man unhappy with thought of resting on his laurels. While that project takes what course it might, Camp.30 has branched out and shown that he is capable of the same, if not even richer atmosphere without any vocalist. Eyes Only is rare melody after rare melody, strange harmonies aplenty, and a level of production in electronic music that we at this publication believe is unparalleled. Somewhere between that late-night Toronto r&b sound, and a deeper, more sinister and introspective dark ambient sound lies Camp.30’s magnificent Eyes Only.

Read the FULL REVIEW


COVENANT STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS

Doomscribe

  1. Drab Majesty – Modern Mirror
  2. Pissgrave – Posthumous Humiliation
  3. Teitanblood – The Baneful Choir
  4. Funereal Presence – Achatius
  5. Cerebral Rot – Odious Descent Into Decay
  6. Witch Vomit – Buried Deep In A Bottomless Grave
  7. Yellow Eyes – Rare Field Ceiling
  8. Departure Chandelier – Antichrist Rise To Power
  9. Devil Master – Satan Spits On Children Of Light
  10. Blood Incantation – Hidden History Of The Human Race

Colin Scott

  1. Blut Aus Nord – Hallucinogen
  2. Diocletian – Amongst the Flames of a Burning God
  3. Formless Master – First Strike
  4. Abysmal Lord – Exaltation of the Infernal Cabal
  5. Deafkids – Metaprogramação
  6. Peter Bjargo – Structures and Downfall
  7. Undeath – Sentient Autolitisys
  8. Baneblade – Oblivion Death March
  9. Mefitis – Emberdawn
  10. Bolzer – Lese Majesty

Loke Atropus

  1. Black Earth – Gnarled Ritual of Self Annihilation
  2. Aesthetic Meat Front – Essence of Rituals
  3. Trepaneringsritualen – ᛉᛦ – Algir; Eller Algir I Merkstave
  4. Teitanblood – The Baneful Choir
  5. Nordvargr – Daath
  6. Halo Manash – Unetar
  7. The Caretaker – Everywhere an Empty Bliss
  8. Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio – Let’s Play (Two Girls & a Goat)
  9. Sopor Aeternus & the Ensemble of Shadows – Death and Flamingos
  10. Rattenfanger – Geisserlieder

Ana Krunic

  1. Schammasch – Hearts of No Light
  2. Thee Oh Sees – Face Stabber
  3. Lingua Ignota – Caligula
  4. Tomb Mold – Planetary Clairvoyance
  5. Sunn O))) – Life Metal
  6. Vitriol – To Bathe from the Throat of Cowardice
  7. Yawning Man – Macedonian Lines
  8. Russian Circles – Blood Year
  9. Mgla – Age of Excuse
  10. Vastum – Orificial Purge

N.H.

  1. Consummation – The Great Solar Hunter
  2. Antichrist Siege Machine – Schism Perpetration
  3. Trench Warfare – Hatred Prayer
  4. HAR – Anti-Shechinah
  5. Deathspell Omega – The Furnaces of Palingenesia
  6. Bolzer – Lesse Majesty
  7. Ares Kingdom – By the Light of Their Destruction
  8. Kapala – Termination Apex

Jon Krieger

  1. Abigail Williams – Walk Beyond the Dark
  2. Schammasch – Hearts of no Light
  3. Mgla – Age of Excuse
  4. Misþyrming – Algeymi
  5. Feif – V
  6. Ultar – Pantheon MMXIX
  7. Zuriaake – Resentment in the ancient courtyard
  8. Aoratos – Gods Without Name
  9. Obsequiae – The Palms of Sorrowed Kings
  10. Falls of Rauros – Patterns in Mythology

Shawn Hache
(Mitochondrion, Auroch, Night Profound)

  1. Rome – Le Ceneri di Heliodoro
  2. Funereal Presence – Achatius
  3. Chthonic Deity – Reassembled in Pain
  4. Ioanna Gika – Thalassa
  5. Blood Incantation – Hidden History of the Human Race
  6. Dreams of the Drowned – S/T
  7. Warmoon Lord – Burning Banners of the Funereal War
  8. L’Epee – Diabolique
  9. Fetid – Steeping Corporeal Mess
  10. Ateiggar – Us d‘r Höll chunnt nume Zyt

Sebastian Montesi
(Mitochondrion, Auroch)

  1. Volahn – El Tigre Del Sur
  2. Blood Incantation – Hidden History Of The Human Race
  3. Ioanna Gika – Thalassa
  4. Camp.30 – Eyes Only
  5. Bölzer – Lese Majesty
  6. Freddie Joachim – Beyond The Sea Of Trees
  7. Misþyrming – Algleymi
  8. Deiphago – I, The Devil
  9. Nile – Vile Nilotic Rites
  10. Totaled – Lament

Zack Chandler
(Auroch)

  1. Witch Vomit – Buried Deep In a Bottomless Grave
  2. Nails – I Dont Want To Know You
  3. Downswing – Frequency
  4. Boy Harsher – Careful
  5. Aphex Twin – Peel Session 2
  6. Suffering Hour – Dwell
  7. Drab Majesty – Modern Mirror
  8. VR Sex – Horseplay/Human Traffic Jam
  9. Mgła – Age of Excuse
  10. Morrissey – California Son

Ian Campbell
(Crooked Mouth)

  1. Drab Majesty – Modern Mirror
  2. Lankum – The Livelong Day
  3. By the Spirits – Visions
  4. Destroying Angel – Making Beds in a Burning House
  5. L’Acephale – S/T
  6. Kinit Her- Fire Returns to Heaven
  7. VR Sex – Human Traffic Jam
  8. Witch Bottle – Forest Spell

Xavier Berthiaume
(Gevurah)

  1. Drastus – La Croix de Sang
  2. Blut Aus Nord – Hallucinogen
  3. Teitanblood – The Baneful Choir
  4. Deathspell Omega – The Furnaces of Palingenesia
  5. Mayhem – Daemon
  6. Vargrav – Reign in Supreme Darkness
  7. Departure Chandelier – Antichrist Rise to Power
  8. Krypts – Cadaver Circulation
  9. Blue Hummingbird on the Left – Atl Tlachinolli
  10. Mgla – Age of Excuse
Categories
Interview

GENE PALUBICKI (Angelcorpse, Perdition Temple, etc): Antichrist Victorious! Full Video Interview

Needing very little introduction, Gene Palubicki stands upon a great legacy of black/death metal supremacy. Founder of the almighty Angelcorpse, Gene has since been responsible for a constant track record of total savagery with his current band Perdition Temple and past and present projects Blasphemic Cruelty and Apocalypse Command. The binding force in Gene’s body of work is utterly uncompromising consistency and mastery of a razor sharp sound. Having just wrapped up a massive tour opening for Cannibal Corpse, Gene is atop the world of extreme metal as a legend in his own right.

On October 30th, Covenant Magazine had the pleasure of sitting down with Palubicki after Perdition Temple opened for Cannibal Corpse at the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver. He spoke about his past and present dedication to death metal, plans for future domination, as well as his growing film career.

Watch the full interview:

Or listen in higher quality audio:

PERDITION TEMPLE
ANGELCORPSE
BLASPHEMIC CRUELTY
APOCALYPSE COMMAND

Categories
Review

BLOOD INCANTATION create a monolith to outlast time as we know it with “Hidden History Of The Human Race”

The proximity and motion of cosmic forces can be sensed in the works of human artists. The lesser brain functions of a slave species picking up wayward traces of unfathomable happenings taking place behind our dimensional curtain. But with a bold mission statement like, Hidden History Of The Human Race as an album title, Blood Incantation have dared to expose the truth that has been shrouded in secrecy for so long, translating the chthonic gibberish ramblings of astral broadcasts into the more familiar dialect of death fucking metal.

Starspawn left in its wake a population of rabid, newborn fanatics and a formidable standard for any sophomore record to supercede, but evidently no match for the earth shattering power of Hidden History Of The Human Race.

As the name would suggest, Hidden History Of The Human Race encompasses an odyssey that unfolds on multiple fronts. Narratively and musically, Blood Incantation violently jerk the listener back and forth between past and future, primitive and cruelly labyrinthine in seamless succession. 

Every attribute that composes the Blood Incantation sound has been dialled up in its extremity in order to capture the magnitude of their message. The speed of drummer, Isaac Faulk’s feet and dextrous flourishes along the kit have become noticeably augmented with an added lunacy, suggestive of physical mutation initiated by consumption of alien knowledge. 

Playing the middleman between Faulk’s tectonic performance and the transdimensional projections of Paul Reidl and Morris Kolontyrsky’s guitar work, bassist Jeff Barret’s playing seamlessly balances the thunderous impact of the rhythm section, while somehow also complementing the Demilich-ian discordance of the guitars. The result is a band acting on multiple levels simultaneously. Even when reaching for the heights of technical prowess in order to sonically describe the visages of four dimensional God beings in ”Awakening from the Dream of Existence to the Multidimensional Nature of Our Reality (Mirror of the Soul)”, there remains a deceptively brutish foundation beneath the chaos. Likewise, even as “Slave Species Of The Gods” hammers the listener with stone age weaponry, an aerial network of bizarre chord progressions can be heard just out of reach. 

In this way, Blood Incantation’s music becomes overarching in its appeal, never dedicating themselves completely to a particular sub-genre faction, but encompassing them in opportune moments to create such a varied tapestry that this story requires. Because underlying the slobber-inducing moments of Gorguts and Morbid Angel worship, there remains a stalwart narrative heart at its center.

©Alvino Salcedo Photography

Even within an individual track like, “The Giza Power Plant”, there is constructed a  journey traversing mood, tempo, and whole genres. What begins as a bizarre shock of discordant guitar and airy drum patterns embodying a generator coming back to life, quickly builds to a crescendo of unbridled magnitude, leading to a cataclysm that breaks into a long sigh across middle eastern deserts. Mirage-like notes resurrect long lost empires amid the Egyptian sand wastes, while intimidating chords of doom-laden melody wordlessly infer the magnitude of unearthed mysteries coming to the fore.

The final chapter in this whole forbidden production, “Awakening from the Dream of Existence to the Multidimensional Nature of Our Reality (Mirror of the Soul)” is several songs in one, a compact opus spanning nearly 20 minutes. But in breaking the whole down into written description, one almost certainly will find themselves reduced to overlong rambling and doing the song a disservice. To put it simply: following its predecessors this grand finale feels like an ultimate destination, reflecting all the traits of what has come before it, but merged into a megastructure of bizarre architecture that supersedes them in sheer scale. 

©Alvino Salcedo Photography

Ethos has been vital, if not definitive, to Blood Incantation from the start in every way. Specifically that of ancient aliens, eastern mythology and conspiracy, to scratch the surface. Not only has it helped the band stand out by having such magnetic and culturally embedded keystones behind in their concept, but it seems to have given them an anchor of sorts to latch onto in songwriting. Blood Incantation take hold of these thematic reigns more than ever before to deliver an awe inspiring journey through time and space in Hidden History Of The Human Race

Even before its long awaited release, it appeared that many fans were content with placing Hidden History Of The Human Race on their album of the year lists. That confidence looks to have paid off in a big way, as this is not only a serious AOTY candidate, but is likely to go down in the annals of death metal classics years down the road. 


This massive beast is available from DARK DESCENT RECORDS for North America and CENTURY MEDIA for the rest of this doomed planet. All formats are available … support or die!

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Categories
Interview

HISSING disavows catharsis to embrace suffering

Modern death metal has gone through yet another resurgence of heightened invigoration in the last few years, with a particular concentration of perpetuating and reimagining ‘old school’ elements, and to magnificent effect. When death metal fans look back on these years, the likes of Necrot, Superstition, and Blood Incantation will likely ring true, but as this tempest of content rages, there are those bands who dirge in the abyssal regions of taste and experimentation, and who shunt away the spotlight in pursuit of the depths that creation can reach. 

One year following the release of their debut full length, Permanent Destitution, Seattle sound violators, Hissing remain one of the most subversive and flat out difficult acts in modern death metal. Emulating the anxiety – inducing nature of a Pollock painting, smearing and splattering with raw waste in place of paint, it isn’t all that surprising that the band haven’t been as concentrated on by the masses as their label and genre counterparts have been. 

And that is entirely the point.

To be honest, the music was consciously written to be as unpleasant as possible. – Z, Hissing bassist/vocalist

“It’s actively antisocial. Our guiding impulse was climax denial, I suppose. If something ever felt too satisfying or resolved too well, we would go back and “fuck it up”. We would add or remove measures or beats to make things more frustrating, but if it felt too “prog”, we would add something stupid and sloppy after to deny it a “technical” label. We wrote parts that were immensely difficult to play and we had parts that were frustratingly dumb and repetitive.”

Upon first listening to Hissing, Permanent Destitution in particular, the listener is placed in a position of abject discomfort. Nothing feels right. Constant shifts in tempo and chord progressions pull at them from every direction like a wanting crowd, while all the while they struggle to maintain their footing on a ground coated in filthy production. But given Z’s comments, the murk becomes a concentrated ray of intention and inverse vision. Much like the Dada movement of the early 20th century, in which creatives strove to avoid the shackles of sense and structure as a mode of defiance and exercising pent up rage, Hissing have built on a foundation of punishment and cruel deprivation.

“In post-production we added in additional harsh sounds at particular frequencies if a part felt too groovy after we tracked it… I don’t even know why we did some of the things we did, they just felt right.” Z adds further. “The entire project was driven by disdain and malice towards our listeners. Extreme metal is and should always be an inherently abrasive medium.”

Running parallel with their approach to sound, Hissing’s visual and lyrical representation is a conscious step away from what is commonly associated with extreme metal. The name, Permanent Destitution, alone speaks volumes to this fact. Rather than painted visuals of horror phantasm or the systematic narration of a body’s colorful violation, Z and his bandmates aim to conjure an aura of panic and trauma via alternate arteries of inspiration. 

“The word “destitution” can mean a lot of things, and it isn’t meant to mean one thing here. The album deals with various manifestations of insanity, abjection, failure, things that I think are not only integral to life but are perhaps it’s only actively defining characteristics. Starting with the macrocosm of the failure of history and narrowing scope to the microcosm of the slow disintegration of the human mind subjected to the trauma of existence. A reversed Maslow hierarchy, perhaps. Humans fail to remember history and repeat the same wars and genocides. Humans love to distract themselves with garbage pop media spoonfed to them. Humans create great mountains of garbage. Humans act on their base desires without understanding why. Humans abuse the power they’re given without consequence. And in the end, human minds degrade and lose touch with reality and it was all for nothing. The more you understand the way human civilization has organized itself the more you find just how cold and ugly it is from top to bottom and the inevitable conclusion becomes that we are, in fact, in Hell.”

In his phrasing alone, Z reflects the spirit of Hissing: one of vitriol and loathing for the human being and/or being human. It is a conflict only as old as its sole combatants, and especially in times such as ours, Hissing’s well of inspiration seems limitless.

“The miasma of the human hive in the city we live in. Rather than active human malice and cruelty, I think we’re more interested in the dull violence of tedium, the slow corrosive way that modern life saps your passion and vitality day by day and we let it happen.” Z states, immediately bringing to mind the nature of our current, social media, mass marketed, politically correct and thought policed society. 

“If death metal is about horror, in my mind there’s nothing more horrifying than simply being alive. Beckett, Bernhard, and Céline are some reference points for styles of expression. One of the songs on the record was deeply inspired by my brief obsession with Andrea Dworkin’s “Intercourse” – a truly bleak take on human desire. Sometimes I take lyrical fragments from lucid dreams and misheard sentence fragments. The subconscious is powerful and sometimes reveals the things we don’t dare think in our waking lives. I firmly believe that every human around me is silently screaming in buried psychic rage and our true selves come out when we find these moments of lost control. “Sanity” is a prison we have built around ourselves to maintain what we call civilization, where a few rich sociopaths profit off of misery and genocide. I don’t think we hold any naïve hope for a better world. Our music and lyrics are simply a natural reaction to the one we have been thrust into.”

So soon after the release of Permanent Destitution, Hissing stand on the verge of yet another release that, albeit of a smaller scale, represents a considerable turn (or return?) into the realm of industrial noise in Burning Door, which drops on November 22nd, on Utech Records. 

“[Burning Door is] quite different, in that it was a much more consciously anti-musical project than before.” says Z when asked for some updates on the new EP. “We had ideas and reference points for what we would do, but it was assembled slowly using several months’ worth of improvisations and experiments in sound, as well as incorporating sound fragments leftover from the recording of Permanent Destitution. In my mind it’s more of a tangent than a continuation of the narrative of Permanent Destitution. I would urge uninitiated listeners to take it in as less a musical narrative as with our record, and more a psychedelic experience. I realize how pretentious this sounds, but the point is, it’s not a structured musical statement and if you go in expecting that you’re going to be angry at us and write pedantic, whining reviews on the internet.”

It’s sad that such a disclaimer is so necessary nowadays.

While Burning Door is a deliberate departure from the full length, the industrial realm is in fact rooted deep in Hissing’s origins.

“Two of us met at a Morbid Angel show through mutual friends and discussed wanting to start a project that ideally would have some longevity and potential to explore a variety of things that we were interested in. We initially were writing sort of pained, dirgey stuff with a drum machine in the style of Godflesh but found ourselves lacking the momentum we wanted so we added a drummer and suddenly everything became faster, more chaotic…[We] have been making noise music for years, although I only recently started actually playing it live and releasing it, partially because I used to live in a small town where no one cared and now live in a city where a few people care. Noise music (in the broadest sense) has influenced and been a part of every project I’ve been involved with, even my shitty high school grindcore bands. Rock music has always bored me, I’ve learned to enjoy “classic” rock and metal bands in recent years but for the longest time I disavowed anything I found too cathartic. No pain, no gain.”

Z went on to divulge his own feelings of appreciation for the less corporeal modes of sonic artistry:

“Improvised noise music can elicit some of the most pure, exhilarating audio stimulation if done right. There’s a kinship between noise acts like Incapacitants and jazz, where you’re creating something constantly unexpected, and your brain is being forced to try to make sense of something when it is being fed only disconnected scraps of rhythm, narrative, meaning. When you have three or four different layers of this musical anti-narrative happening at the same time, the result is overwhelming and powerful, like staring off a cliff into the ocean. There’s a project called Mastery from San Francisco that I think perfectly translates this dialogue between randomness and order into black metal form. Conversely, true industrial music emphasizes the machinic through endless repetition, pounding a single rhythm into your skull until it becomes all-consuming. Instead of the otherworldly, it creates anxiety, the existential misery of reality. Swans’ “Greed” – particularly the song Bastard (Time is Money) – has been a longtime influence and example of this.

“Hissing exists somewhere in a liminal space between these two ideas, the sublime chaos of improvisation and the ugliness and misery of repetition, vacillating in and out as needed.” 

Going off of the topic of Hissing’s sense of belonging, when asked where he thought of the band’s existence within the current metal scene, even over email, Z’s shrug and sigh was almost tangibly evident.

“People don’t seem to know what to do with us. Either they get it or they don’t. Some seem to think we’re “hipsters” intruding on the war metal scene or whatever. I’ve heard that we’re too “artsy”. I don’t know what to make of all this, and the older I get the less I care. There is a small contingent of similarly unorthodox black/death bands like Suffering Hour and Succumb in the States that I’ve been discovering over the years and making friends with because I imagine they get the same stupid treatment. But honestly, the bottom line is: we’re not here to recycle Obituary riffs for you and sell beer. If you don’t like it, then fuck off.”

Categories
Review

TEITANBLOOD signals absolute Armageddon with “The Baneful Choir”

A society is reflected in the artistry it yields, and thereby we are sometimes able to see its face more clearly than any government or social movement could ever encapsulate. Like a mirror into the fragmented soul of mankind, the works of countless minds, each maddened to a greater or lesser degree, whisper hidden truths back to us. In this way, the obscure cult of daemoniac Spaniards, Teitanblood, have resurfaced with little warning to remind us of the species deathwish that mankind harbors for itself in The Baneful Choir

From their inception and debut full length, Seven Chalices, which gnawed at the seals of apocalypse, Teitanblood have become sacrosanct through their awe inspiring mastery over absolute aural hell. With every subsequent work, these anonymous toilers at the edge of oblivion define further aspects of the elemental chaos. Both Seven Chalices and Death illustrated a flaying tempest storm that hung above the dredging abyss of bemoaning death/doom, manifested in Accursed Skin. But as we approach the end of yet another year along our world’s disastrous course, Teitanblood converge their past works into a lethal speartip, in what feels like a culmination piece to honor an imminent end that we have yet to be made aware of. 

Upon first experiencing it in full, it is unquestionable that The Baneful Choir is the product of minds brought to the apogee of human capacity for vitriol. The cup runneth over, spilling along a narratively protean structure that simultaneously reaches further in every direction that Teitanblood have previously striven. 

The incensed bellows, spastic abuse of stretched skin percussion, and foaming riffage that normally are let loose upon the first second of a Teitanblood album are, in The Baneful Choir, restrained beneath the ominous, “Rapture Below” and its immediate counterpart, “Black Vertebrae”, which draw a dagger of icy discomfort along the listener’s spine. Bone chilling strings wine out across vast leagues of polluted air, and the looming shadow of an approaching giant is silhouetted starkly against it as it appears to march exhaustively on tired feet. The sheer weight of the thing finally causes it to crumble into superheated dust, giving way to the inevitable ravaging of “Leprous Fire”. 

The mounting, even sluggish beginnings of The Baneful Choir do nothing but augment the terrible shock that its inner meat afflicts upon the listener. Few songwriters are able to incite the involuntary seizures akin a possession, but Teitanblood are irrefutably born of that depraved genius. 

It is only once “Ungodly Others” discharges its black seed into your head that “Leprous Fire” seems like a comparatively kind induction to The Baneful Choir’s sickening ferocity. A deceptively simple riff and drum pattern characterizes “Ungodly Others”, returning several times over with the decimating trauma of infernal artillery salvos. The listener is immediately addicted as Teitanblood stomp them into the dust, disgusted and hate – filled, but all the while unfathomably catchy in their delivery. 

Perhaps better than ever, the band balance the suffocating stream of bestial black metal with that more primitive, lumbering death metal sound. And while the Slayer influence has been evident from the band’s start in their manic soloing that borders on the absurd, a more purely defined moment of Slayer worship surfaces early on in “Verdict Of The Dead”, as though the band are, for precious moments, musically reminiscing on a song like “Postmortem” before quickly abandoning any such reverie and continuing along their own path of slaughter.

While fleeting, it’s these moments of unexpected divergence (I’m looking at you, “Sleeping Throats Of Antichrist”) that have only further raised Teitanblood above the masses. Moments of what sometimes feel like homage, but in such a way that it is never anything but their own. 

Blackened death metal is a style that is simultaneously one of the most intensely hard hitting sub – genres to come out of the extreme underground and one of the most incredibly difficult to properly play. But Teitanblood are among the upper echelons for a reason. Not only do they formulate one swirling bedlam after the next, but they smartly intercut these with patient treks across quietly evocative atmosphere (ie. “Insight”,“Of The Mad Men”, and “Charnel Above”) and a central mount of despair built on foundations of the deepest doom in “The Baneful Choir” itself.

The album’s namesake track is not only the longest, but manages to stand alongside its shorter lived, more abhorrent kin by offering something more. “The Baneful Choir” harbors a different shade of darkness than any other song, trading barbarous violence for a sweeping air of absolute sorrow. The guitars drone like that of gigantic locust wings, while the rhythm section digs fruitlessly into the ground, unable to go anywhere, unable to escape the coming end. In some ways, “The Baneful Choir” is the most apocalyptic track of them all.

While The Baneful Choir is by no means an easy listen, it is perhaps the most fully fleshed, and thereby most accessible work Teitanblood have done to date. In some ways the band have improved upon their past work, particularly in the way of their approach to the slower doom sections, enhancing those aspects that we have come to expect and praise about the band. To hear a group so immensely affecting on all fronts is both a gift and a dangerous rumination on what comes next:

When art such as this so completely encapsulates Armageddon, the true end must be close at hand.


Obtain this audial doomsday on CD and LP via NORMA EVANGELIUM DIABOLI as soon as your fragile constitution permits

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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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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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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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HERESIARCH: No Sanctum

Artists, theologians and philosophers have contemplated belief and ideology since time immemorial. These regimes of truth have been painted for us in many colours but, ideological or spiritual, all ultimately come back with the same motive – domination of the individual. Absolving us of personal responsibility through fate, diminishing the range of our free will through doctrine, eminence through order. 

New Zealand’s Heresiarch explores a chaos world devoid of these bodiless structures, where hope is rejected and the divine is meaningless. “Our scenarios are set in the fray of a power vacuum, amongst the twilight of beliefs, faiths and philosophies which have been made redundant. In their wake a new path is forged, detached from the aforementioned. It is a world of struggle, chaos and lawlessness where force and death reign supreme.” tells founding member and vocalist N.H. “It is situational to a world where the sacred cows have been put to pasture, so to speak. The twilight referenced reduces us to instinctual, animal survival from which an intangible, conquering way emerges as a consequence to this. There is no name or identifying tenets for this other than power itself. As it is far removed and has not yet occurred, it isn’t explored or described further.”

Heresiarch’s vision has honed since their first releases in 2011, a demo and EP (Obsecrating the Global Holocaust and Hammer of Intransigence, respectively). In these early days the annihilation of the gods and the rejection of hope and belief were already dominant themes in their work, drawing from concepts such as Ragnarok and over time fleshing them out further into their own narrative world on later works Wælwulf and the cyclopean sound of their 2017 full-length Death Ordinance. “There’s a continuation throughout which metamorphosises with each release – Wælwulf and Death Ordinance are set 1000 years apart. ‘Lupine Epoch’ references some of the earlier themes but is more solidified in the identity we have forged, which was built upon earlier Heresiarch narratives. Heresiarch means ‘a founder of heresy’ and is reflected through our music, lyrics and purpose. The death and conquest of gods within physical and metaphorical forms is a statement of absolute power. This conquest and murder of gods was built out and emphasised from our relatively primitive foundation, particularly with Wælwulf.”

“There are themes in our music relating to the conflict and balance of individual experience against the wider macrocosm,.” says N.H. “Our most recently released track ‘Dread Prophecy’, is a scenario where two adversaries fight to the death whilst the sun implodes. The outcome is futile but their action and conflict is the paramount objective and central focus. The defiance and conquest of faith, destiny, hope and belief itself is a part of this balance and by extension, struggle. Those phenomena mentioned are viewed as weapons of manipulation and control used against the individual, recurrent throughout history in numerous manifestations, environments and methodologies. Zealotry and wilful ignorance lauded as virtue aren’t exclusive to spiritual realms and are viewed as symptoms rather than the cause. Whether through doctrine, organised religion or other mass movements, people are validated and encouraged to seek refuge from their own limitations. ”

Throughout this time, Heresiarch has morphed slowly into the creature that it is today, under the guidance of N.H., the remaining founding member. “Though I consider the band as an entity outside of myself, it has been under my direction with contributions from key collaborators since formation,” he says. “Throughout, members have come from a range of personalities, backgrounds and perspectives working towards the common purpose and vision of the band. Line-up changes become less of a concern as this vision and identity is further established. Whilst ideas, methods and execution may change, consistency and honesty in the approach is most important. Early on, our music was inspired by the bands we drew immediate influence from, esoteric topics, warfare, mythos and the recurrence of conflict throughout history. Seeing and drawing parallels between those topics built the foundation of our themes which were documented from a cold and detached perspective, presented as timeless and universal, occurring throughout existence and to continue once we cease to exist. Outside sources became less important as the identity and purpose of Heresiarch is solidified and becomes self-propagating.”

© Odin Imaging

“Self-evolution is a part of the journey. Whilst having my own principles, goals and motivations, many of my perspectives and outlooks have changed throughout the years. Continued challenges, trials and evaluation bring about purposeful change and improvement. Heresiarch was my first “proper” band, founded in my late teens so naturally there will be some growth and discovery, the last 5 years have been particularly significant in terms of this.

He continues, “The above is applicable to the creative process as well as individual outlets. The ability to self-assess, critique and identify ways to improve is an important aspect of the band. This is paramount to the creative process, one of the few areas where an individual can truly have some semblance of control over their lives. With that, Heresiarch has continued to evolve with different iterations of members, collaborators and new objectives. To “settle” on our musical output or fall into the trap of absolutist belief, submission and obedience to scenes, ideologues and dogma would be the death of self-growth, stagnating creativity and contradicting the purpose of the band itself.”

Heresiarch’s music is reflective of their thematic universe, titanic blackened death metal bedlam that takes you into a desperate and irredeemable world. Their newest single, “Dread Prophecy” was released through Indian label Cyclopean Eye Productions on Scorn Coalescence to be released in late September by Dark Descent on LP, a vicious four-way split alongside Sri Lanka’s Genocide Shrines and Serpents Athirst as well as NZ compatriots Trepanation. This collaborative effort was conceived on a visit to Sri Lanka and took years to come to fruition.

“I travelled to Sri Lanka in 2016 and spent most of my time with the members of Genocide Shrines and Serpents Athirst as well as meeting the wider Pannipitiya collective,” says N.H. “We’d been in touch since 2011, shortly before the Genocide Shrines EP came out which I’d recommended to Iron Bonehead at the time. As such, we had a strong connection between both bands in our formative years which had strengthened since, so they were always a natural ally.”

“We had been considering putting out a short release of new material at the time to coincide with Death Ordinance planned for the following year. We discussed and agreed on a split release with Genocide Shrines and Serpents Athirst representing Sri Lanka with Trepanation joining us from New Zealand. 4 bands with different timelines didn’t work out as intended, the track we originally recorded was also on Death Ordinance and with shows, touring, line-up changes and other commitments we didn’t get to finish recording until returning from our second US tour in 2018.”

Over the years we’ve seen an influx of impressive extreme music coming from the scantily populated New Zealand. Being physically isolated from the rest of the world comes with its own set of challenges, but has made the sounds endemic to the island nation stand out amongst the crush. “The geographic isolation, relative youth as a nation, the intense nature of the New Zealand Wars (Kai Tangata was a key inspiration for ‘Carnivore’) and our surroundings have all been a source of inspiration,” he says. “How much so is intangible since I can only reference growing up in New Zealand and Australia but the differences are certainly noticeable when travelling abroad.”

“The logistics of touring and travel requires a lot of planning and coordination when looking outside of New Zealand and Australia. Potentially this has improved the standard of bands which have made it out of our country, particularly across Death and Black/Death Metal as it requires bands to be more purposeful, willful and self-determined,” he continues. “Living in Wellington had some more tedious obstacles, especially with forming a line-up to perform and record with. There were very few people interested in this type of music then and it was difficult finding suitable musicians within New Zealand. For the first 3 releases all other members’ lived in different cities to me.”

“Discovering and physically buying music at the time was expensive, having to pay ridiculous prices for imported releases and merchandise from retailers. Eventually I started Internecion Productions and began distributing, promoting and releasing material myself within NZ and abroad. One of the key points I’ve noticed about worthwhile New Zealand bands and people is an initiative to seek out and actualise what we want to happen ourselves.”

© Odin Imaging

The shift in extreme music towards bands having a comprehensive and total vision for their œuvres is not entirely recent, though we have come to see a lot more of this in the past decade, giving artists more of a guiding hand in how their work is taken in and perceived. Heresiarch’s partaking in this kind of artistic direction seems to have been innate, evident in the thread that runs through their music, artwork and presentation. “We are involved with all components of a release from artwork, writing, recording and mixing process. Initially this was with some brashness due to youth, limited reference, perspective and experience. Later this was achieved with a clearer vision and more focus, particularly with Wælwulf, Death Ordinance and material we have written since,” says N.H. “Ideas are fleshed out from the root level with a ‘holistic’ view of all mediums such as the broad lyrical content and narrative as well as delivery, role each instrument plays, atmosphere, aesthetics and how they all interrelate.” 

“Our music is often primitive to compliment the blunt and cruel nature of our topics, and the artwork should represent this on a grand scale. It’s important to envision how each component of the release represents itself, identify the suitable artist and then direct the vision until completion. Whether or not what we achieve is “ground-breaking” is of little concern. We write for our own satisfaction and have control, through that there is honesty and integrity to the vision which is crucial.”

After their performance at Covenant Festival III, Heresiarch’s 2018 US tour was their last stint on the road – besides the aforementioned split, they have been at work forming what’s to come. “We recently finished another split which is anticipated to be released 2020, whilst being true to our sound and delivery this also delves into newer territory for us. We are composing our second album with the conceptual direction and purpose of the release outlined; it will coincide with Death Ordinance but will be more bleak and violent. What we have set as objectives and written to date is a natural progression from previous releases though there will be emphasised regressions as well. This will be our primary focus for the foreseeable future.  South East Asia and Europe have been in our sights for some time, but we won’t be addressing this until after the second album.”

As they continue to dilate the abstract of their work, Heresiarch speaks to the confrontation of the individual against the powers of mass submission, and the many ways we’ve found to obscure true existence – a confrontation that we may never see to fulfillment. 

“Countless slaughters have occurred throughout millennia from those who believe they possessed knowledge of absolute truth and were wholly justified in their means and actions. The control that despots, hegemons and cults had in the previous centuries shattered power dynamics, resulting in myopic perspective, loss of individual autonomy and mass death via their ‘true believers’.” 

“It’s a recurrent theme throughout history and is highly likely to continue. Ultimately we are a Black/Death Metal band documenting the scenarios mentioned previously. Our ethos is much more detached and not directed towards a utopian ideal. As a witness to the last man and destruction of all life; struggle, force and death are the only truths Heresiarch can objectively see.”

“Homō hominī lupus” – Plautus

Daniel Bloxham art

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