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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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Interview

TO END IT ALL reveal the morose & mythical machinations behind their fresh Hell

Evading the specific confinements of any genre, To End It All are often described as death industrial, though ex-classical, dungeon synth, and harsh noise all make their appearance as well. After a pleasurable haunting by their performance at Covenant Festival V, we decided to reach out to see what’s behind the enchantment. Joy Von Spain and Masaaki Masao’s 12 year relationship as collaborators allows for a beauteous synthesis of artistic vision and aural inspiration, while maintaining distinct individual contributions.

I was fortunate enough to Skype with Von Spain and Masao of To End It All, based out of Seattle, Washington. What follows are segments from the transcript of this real-time dialogue.

Indu Iyer: Seattle is so renowned for grunge and rock, like Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Nirvana –  is there any influence there for you? 

Joy Von Spain: Not so much for me. I actually moved to Seattle in 2004, and I was more involved in the electronic and noise scene there, and you [Masao] were making electronic music mostly. I feel like there’s definitely the ghosts from the 90’s around, but like any city that has a lot of new people moving there all the time, the face of it changes every few years. 

Masaaki Masao: I’ve lived in Seattle for 21 years and did listen to some of that music, but I don’t know how much of that has influenced what I’ve ended up making. I was making Noisy Drum ’n’ Bass when I met Joy.

JVS: I was doing a lot more synthesizer oriented music [when we] started playing together. At some point I started doing some vocals which I hadn’t done for a really long time. I would say that there’s another vein to the Pacfific Northwest, extending down to the Bay area. There’s a whole Vancouver-Seattle-Portland-Oakland-San Francisco connection of harsh noise, experimental, industrial. We have more influence coming from that kind of scene. 

II: Do you feel like the weather and the climate have any influence over the type of music that’s come out of this region? Compared to the rest of the US and Canada, it’s just so grey, so dark.

JVS: Absolutely, but I don’t know if it’s necessarily a matter of influencing from within. I myself was attracted to the place because of that. [Masao’s] basically from the desert, I’m from Florida originally, so we kind of gravitated here because of the climate in some ways. And that’s why we stayed…there’s something to be said for the actual sound of the rain in the Northwest in that it creates this wash in the back of your mind.

**

I consider the difference between growing up nestled in a suburban cul-de-sac, versus the bustling mainstreet where I currently dwell, and the constant sound of traffic is akin to Von Spain’s rain-wash. The Pacific Northwest, though renowned for its scenic beauty, is known by locals for perpetually monochrome seasons and drab vibrance, something akin to London greyness. The dense forests have allowed it to be a hub for forestry, and its various waterways allowed for many port cities and trade centres. Noisy places of industry. Just as environment influences sound, environment influences economy, which links back to sound. Informal instruction from the world.

**

II: What’s your background with music and art? Do you have formal training, did both of you study music by yourselves, a bit of both? 

JVS: We definitely both have a background in studying instrumental music. I studied voice a little bit and I did some theatre when I was younger.  A little bit. I feel bad even saying that [laughs]. I studied music composition and theory mostly, big nerd on that front for sure. It’s kind of nice because when you learn the language of rehearsal as a young person, it makes it so much easier and faster to communicate and collaborate with other people in that environment. I don’t think it’s necessary because people have many different ways of communicating. [Masaaki and I] had enough of that background where it’s just easy for us to communicate our ideas quickly and try a lot of different things, than to try and reinvent the wheel.

II: Language of rehearsal, that’s interesting. I feel like intuitively I know what you mean, but how would you describe it?

JVS: Being able to try many different things in a short amount of time, or repeat the same thing. It’s kind of like a scientific experiment, you keep repeating it to see if you could get the same result, or if maybe some new information comes to you.

II: It requires a lot of openness and experimenting. You have to be willing to throw out an idea even if you like it, to cooperate a bit, things like that.

JVS: I think that’s definitely one side. Another side is the ability to not be irritated or upset in the repetition. I think that’s the discipline of the rehearsal. The language but also the discipline, both of those together are necessary. 

**

I have flashbacks of navigating creative terrain in theatre school, largely similar for any collaborative process: the frustration when others denied the necessity of repetition, or the shame when I looked lazy in thinking five from the top’s were enough. Then the shock and awe when improvised bullshit actually turned out better than anything rehearsed to supposed perfection. Honing the ability to move from dog-and-tennis ball type focus to open receptivity is but one challenge of the artist.

**

II: What do your lives look like as artists? Is all your work in music?

MM: Pretty much [laughs]. That’s all we do.

JVS: We have to make money with jobs, but then after that, there’s usually rehearsal a few times a week. We’re totally engaged in writing, performing and rehearsing, and going to other people’s events as well.

MM: It’s basically working on music for a few different projects and then going out to shows and then figuring out other aspects like videos and the visual element. 

JVS: We’ve also worked a lot with Butoh dancers. About 11 years ago, we started working with Vanessa Skantze, who’s a very interesting movement performer who has studied Butoh extensively and works with other practices as well, so some of that is present in our work. I did a modern dance minor when I was going to school, but I was mostly focusing on the collaboration between choreographers and composers and how dance and music work together. The field of study of dance expresses the same kind of emotions that we are doing with To End It All. 

**

I gasp at the mention of Butoh, and we share a moment of enthusiasm for having found fellow admirers of the avant-garde Japanese dance tradition. Butoh emerged post-WWII, and it’s founders  Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno sought to rebel against the subtlety of traditional Japanese dance forms like kabuki and noh. Though very diverse in how individual practitioners personalize Butoh, it is often performed in only white body paint and a loincloth, and involves a juxtaposition of slow, delicate movements, accompanied by sudden bursts of wild energetic displays. Thematically, Butoh explores the grotesque and taboo, something very inline with To End It All’s interests.

II: How about Scourge of Woman? It has such an amazing title and album cover, very evocative to the experience of being a woman, and has really powerful, visceral song titles like “Burning Rapists” and “In Cases of Incest and Rape.” Where does the conceptual side of things come into play? 

JVS: I write lyrics or snippets of things, and a lot of things can’t be expressed properly with our other band, Eye of Nix. It needs a different kind of intensity that’s a lot more personal, or even political in nature. There’s many, many, many things that we’re extremely enraged about, and have been our whole lives, so when we see these same things coming up over and over again, I don’t really know what else to do about it. Those are the sort of pieces that we’re reflecting with this music. With the album art for this particular album, I worked with Anima Noctura, who’s an artist who we work with a lot for album art and photography. We would just listen to the music and then look at the imagery we had created, and this was the perfect expression. It was like the Cassandra myth from Greek mythology. She could see the future, but no one would believe her. I feel very close to that story, I think all of us women do.

**

Daughter of the royals of Troy, Cassandra was gifted with clairvoyance by Apollo, on the agreement to be his. Shortly after being bestowed with Sight, however, she revoked this promise, and he cursed that her prophecies never be believed. The story is told as betrayal on Cassandra’s part, but who knows. Perhaps Apollo had a Weinstein streak, and merely used Blue-Balls rhetoric to silence a woman.

**

JVS: A lot of us have grown up with [beliefs like] we have the right to reproductive freedom, we have the right to autonomy, and to go around saying  “hey, if you don’t do this, or if you let this happen, this is what’s gonna come come next. I see the future.” Then, to not be believed. That was her curse. I feel like a lot of us walk around in our daily lives in that state. People, regardless of their gender, if they happen to be identifying as male or happen to be identifying as female, feel the same way. The alliance that we create together in our anger can be expressed in the sound, can be expressed in the visual representation of it. That’s the long answer of it.

**

Clearly moved by turmoils of the American zeitgeist, and by the private witnessing of the world around them, To End It All takes the scum of sexism and creates a bizarre yet resilient paste with which they mold meaning. The long answer is great. 

II: And what is it like for you Masaaki, what’s your experience or perspective as a male working with what Joy is talking about?

MM: I just try to support what she’s trying to say and get out there, and I completely agree. I try to be there to support the art of it. 

II: One thing I’m curious about is what it’s like to collaborate. Joy, do you strictly do vocals, and Masaaki, you strictly do the instrumental side of things? What’s that process like for you, do you both direct or influence each other?

MM: We definitely work together on all the music, but she comes up with all the vocals by herself. We talk about deciding which types of samples and how it’s going to be played, so we collaborate on music. All the keyboard parts.

JVS: Sometimes he’ll be delving for sounds out there in the world, and I’ll hear something and then want to record it, or he’ll hear something and go “oh we should use that sound.” Then we go to the rehearsal space and figure out how this sound is best showcased to be the meat of this piece. And then our keyboards are kind of … the supporting role a lot of the time. I feel like a lot of the time [Masao’s] doing the whole rhythm section and at times creating a whole environment. Then the voice will be one character walking into this whole space.

**

There is a theatrical quality to their sound, and it makes sense when considering this perspective on their work. The variety present in a set is like watching Chekhov: First Masha enters, then Olga, then Irina, each with their own worries, frustrations, sorrows. A single voice plays many characters, while still being part of a greater story-line. 

II: Something that struck me most was the vocal variety. Plain speaking, operatic singing, screaming, everything in between. What inspires or necessitates this?

JVS: It’s impossible to stick to one range, to one formula. It doesn’t seem possible to fit what we’re hearing in our minds into one cube.

**

Instead of a cube, a multifaceted crystal. To End It All is the kind of salt-of-the-earth artist that often gets lost in pretension and self-importance that contaminate the creative sphere. Articulate, passionate, and completely committed to their craft. If there was any hope to end Cassandra’s curse, this is it.


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GRIDFAILURE moans of a thousand encroaching illnesses with “Sixth Mass Extinction Skulduggery I”

Gridfailure is sickness given aural form as the experimental project of madman Dave Brenner (ex-Theologian), and marks a departure from his death industrial treatments in favor of hallucinogenic sound collages bringing to mind legends like Nurse With Wound, early Current 93, or a number of experimental film soundtrack composers from Japan or Italy. Compared to his first album however, Sixth Mass Extinction Skulduggery I takes on a much more straightforward, vocal industrial noise approach with a general emotion of hatred and bitterness pervading the record.

Conceptual in approach, this record is meant to be the first in a series of albums exploring a pre- and post-apocalyptic reality based on humankind’s current trajectory, and includes a wealth of guest contributors, with many of the tracks having been written at different stages in the past, including before the project’s inception.

The first track “Sandy” introduces us to the barrage of bile and hatred starting this album off, with David’s heavily treated vocals flooding a storm of different organic sound sources, eerie bells, and harrowing wails having that same chilling effect as a tornado siren in a grey dismal afternoon in an abandoned park complex….. much of this recording is executed with real instruments used in unconventional ways, creating the feeling of different fragments of dreams. The found sounds left untreated sprinkled throughout the recording seem to root us to a foundation of mundane reality and the feeling that what we are hearing is happening in real-time.

Each track is meant to reflect a different stage in the decay of the human race, realistically reflecting the current events facing humanity today … our economic crisis, political chaos, rampant racism, religious terrorism, raping of resources and destruction of the planet leading us to a seriously fatal collision with reality, and collapse of the human civilization. The truth is out there, the clock on humanity is running out, and it’s far too late to reverse the course. This adds a very welcome element of diversity to the recording as it truly feels like a story unraveling, though the tone is very much consistently dark from the very beginning of “Sandy” up to the inevitable cliffhanger “Exsanguination of the Utopians”.

This recording only leaves me curious as to the further development as this post-apocalyptic saga unfolds.


New York hostile alchemist Gridfailure will launch the extensive Sixth Mass-Extinction Skulduggery concept album series through NEFARIOUS INDUSTRIES.

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NOCTURNUS AD reanimates in the coldest reaches of mind-bending space with “Paradox”

The journey of the protagonist, in the song “The Antechamber” seems to parallel that of Nocturnus founding member, Mike Browning. Just as we descend into the deep recesses of ancient Egypt to awaken unearthly forces and their bizarre machinery, so too has Browning revived the corpse of his past work in Nocturnus to forge yet another chapter of the occult, interdimensional epic that he first began back with 1990’s The Key.

Enter, Nocturnus AD, a true titan reborn from out of the sands of time long after having irreversibly influencing the death metal genre, steering the minds of both contemporaries and successors alike toward forbidden, interplanar vistas in both subject matter and mind bending instrumentation. The Key undoubtedly helped set the standard for what would come to be modern technical death metal, which has blossomed into a mass tangential limb of musical style, which makes it only more momentous that Nocturnus AD have re-emerged onto the scene that it helped define in the form of the band’s debut full length, Paradox.

The opening track states plainly Browning and company’s intention in “Seizing The Throne”, which seems to have broken through from decades past with an unflinchingly old school sensibility that colors the whole of the album, but with a blistering intensity that defies any epoch, cutting to the primal core. The initial seduction of chimes and synths fills the airwaves before Browning’s double bass emerges at a slow march and guitarists, Demien Heftel and Belial Koblak break out into their definitively chaotic stringwork, which whines and screams like stray stars flung across galaxies. But like a mechanism that has been long in disuse, the pace of it all feels at first strained, struggling, even. But like a cruel tactician, Nocturnus AD are only playing at weakness to lull the listener into a state of false expectation before revealing their true face. That mid tempo trudge is suddenly crushed beneath the awakened vigor of Nocturnus AD as they grab the listener by the throat and force them into submission. Thus marks the beginning of a glorious return to form from out of obscurity, bringing with them visions of trans-dimensional horror and cataclysm.

In the course of Paradox’s nine hulking tracks, the listener is rendered into a sponge into which Browning instills scenes of cosmic horror and monumental sci-fi conceptions steeped in the scale and lack of boundaries that defined the genre in the 70’s and 80’s, while the unhinged instrumentation acts as a vector through which these alien visions are communicated. In this way, Paradox is a double-pronged attack of equally striking music and lyrical content, giving the album a twofold weight. While the majority of death metal vocalists use their voices more as an instrument, Mike Browning’s is primarily a tool of narration, which would most likely be a detractor for a style such as this if the stories weren’t as great as they are. The lyrics invest the musicality of the band with an added meaning as their playing and the lyrics themselves mutually feed off one another’s power.

c. 1990

The esoteric energies that characterize the forbidden symbol in the Lovecraftian tale, “The Bandar Sign” are manifested in Josh Holdren’s aeriform keyboard play. The subsequent tampering and invocation of these powers builds to an eventual overload at the midpoint of the song, infecting the keys and other instruments with an uncontrollable spasm that perfectly captures the scene of a misguided human tearing open doorways to unfathomed horrors.

Nocturnus was one of the pioneering forces in death metal to introduce keyboards into the mix, and it shows all throughout Paradox in how perfectly Holdren’s playing blends into and elevates every song, never feeling too pronounced or disruptive, and lathers the brutality of a song like “Precession Of The Equinoxes” or “Apotheosis” with a sense of orchestral grandeur.

As if Mike Browning were not already preoccupied with orating the return of forgotten alien gods to our native dimension, the man somehow keeps up the Herculean feat of his drum performance, a gauntlet which rarely ever eases back, and emotes the tectonic weight inherent in a song like “Paleolithic”, which catalogues the metamorphosis of the ancient world throughout the ages.

The guitarwork of the duo, Heftel and Koblak is nothing short of treacherous in its ability to hypnotize and overwhelm. The descending chords on the monumental sounding,“The Antechamber” mimic the subterranean journey beneath the sands of Egypt, towards that hidden resting place of those ancient alien entities. Heftel and Koblak’s chaotic soloing bursts forth like arcs of crazed electricity born from the unearthly mechanisms, and just as was emblematic of The Key, it is this manic play style that gives Paradox an aura of otherworldliness.

When a band as legendary as Nocturnus AD returns from such a long hiatus, there is a great risk of the titans of yesterday falling short of present expectations, only to result in a disappointing, and likely final entry into their discography. However, Nocturnus AD stick the landing with an album as much built on their past work as it moves them forward into a new future as a band. Offering atmosphere and complex songwriting compositions, all of which is bound together in some fun as hell stories that feel straight out of Weird Tales Pulp and Heavy Metal Magazine, Paradox is the whole package.

Welcome back from death, Nocturnus AD.


PROFOUND LORE RECORDS will release Nocturnus AD’s first opus on all formats. This will be Mike Browning’s first music under the Nocturnus banner in almost 27 years!

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EPECTASE revise the black metal paradigm on the perplexing “Astres”

In a realization that is as arcane as it is superterestrial, the French band Epectase – comprised of two musicians known as Vague and Avitis – is set to cast forth their inaugural album Astres. Across five tracks and 63 minutes, Astres is a fully crystalized and monolithic vision exploring themes of opposition and polarity in both sound and philosophy.

The horrors of the cosmic unknown and the deep void of the human psyche emerge as intrinsically linked macro and micro perspectives, with the external veiled universe acting as a symbolic inverse to the internal veil of death itself. Thematically the first two songs center around travel or transition, highlighted by the action verbs of their titles- running/entering. In contrast the final two tracks reference metaphysical destinations of Maze and Sea.

Musically, Astres is a release rooted in black metal with plenty of dissonance and frantic, anxious riffs however these elements work in tandem alongside clean grooves and complex progressive bursts. Catchy, repetitive melodies invoke ruminative effects, expanding on the depth and feel of a riff until the listener is fully immersed. Drums represent significant variation, from relentless crushing blows to spacey clicks and sizzles, or even ceasing entirely to emphasize minimalistic ethereal moments.

The first song “As He Runs Towards the Stars” is a mad dash towards the wicket potential of both the cosmic and inner void. The track snakes between raw black metal and smoother prog-influenced sections, that at times glimmer with a cosmic wonder and at others ring out a sickly warning tone. Next, “Entering the Domain of the Solar Sovereign” is a chaotic nebula of dissonance and floating melody with some of the most memorable and jazzy riffs of the album. Echoed whispering, squealing guitar sections and aggressive low growls give shape and dimension to the sovereign’s epic presence.

Identified as the climax, the middle track “Solar Winds” is highly ambient with half-whispered spoken word lyrics and notes that twang and warble as if warped by the flow of celestial currents. Building to its own apex, droning riffs layer upon lower, denser tones, eventually joined by sibylline clean vocals.

The conclusion of Solar Winds signifies a transition from English to French and to a faster, harsher sound. “La Dédale des Astres et des Âmes” is manic and claustrophobic, it’s peaks of aggression inciting anticipation and terror with every twist. The vocals grow in intensity as growls rise to panicked shrieks drowning in anguish and straining against corporeal decay. “La Mer Pourpre” begins with tidal riffs that rise and churn, slowing to an isolated guitar melody that like mist over still water. The tenuous calm is abruptly broken as turbulent layers return, accompanied by a grim vocal chant.

Astres is exceptionally successful at crafting a bold synthesis of styles, suspiring life into the cosmic and psychological aspects of the album’s vision without relenting the finely wrought threads of existential dread that lie within.


I, VOIDHANGER RECORDS will unveil Epectase’s debut on digipak CD with slipcase.

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Covenant Records Premiere

PAULUS conquers inner landscapes with “Illuminate”: Full Album Debut

Revealing great personal artwork cracks oneself open like an alchemical egg. An incubation of creative magick flows forth like a golden yolk, touching those with eyes to see and ears to hear. This bearing of the soul not only transforms the self inexorably, but also presents the raw power to transform others.

And, it is nothing short of transmutation that we find on the 13 tracks comprising Illuminate, the inaugural release from Paulus. The shadowy figure known for works of pure malice and mystical madness (Rites of thy Degringolade, Amphisbaena, Warmarch, ex-Weapon) has torn himself asunder to release an inner light of ascendance. Completely recorded and performed individually, just accept that you are simply unprepared for the potency that awaits on this conduit of spirit! Please, willingly fly too close to this sun and burn up in its holy fire.

Paulus’s personal songbook falls somewhere at the crossroads of ecclesiastical neofolk, raucous chantey, bombastic ode, and operatic hymnal – all with a sensibility never heard in this kind of music before. Any semblance of loaded tradition or style is razed in favour of a completely personal, singular approach. Of course, there is a darkness that weaves its way through the layers of unbridled triumph, touching sentimentality, and joyous defiance more prominently on display. As the shadow side can never be silenced, it is heard loud and clear throughout the entirety of Illuminate.

Above all it is the voice that commands centre attention in this perplexing procession. At times it dramatically and audaciously orates, blasting bewildering operatic lines and declarations; and, at other times, it expresses a depth of inner honesty so rarely heard, especially from a voice so literally rarely heard on recording until now. Each annunciation carries a visceral potency that drives its message directly into the heart like a blade of will.

Paulus’s music will undoubtedly appeal to fans of Death in June, Current 93, and Cult of Youth, but there is a deeper dimension here that simply has never been breached until now. It is a singular sound as such that sets the soul ablaze and immolates doubt and stagnancy. Forget all you know and set thyself free, for the time to act is NOW!


Available now digitally through Covenant Records on all streaming sites and through the Paulus bandcamp page.

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CROWHURST eschews genre completely with the emotive power of “III”

Evolution often comes gradually but sometimes a sudden spark can ignite a drastic change within an instant. Crowhurst’s newest release III is a drastic departure from previous work presented in a tragic tale of lust and failure. We have seen the progression of Jay Gambit’s noise project morph into black metal, but a change this drastic is unprecedented, yet welcome in its brilliance. Described by Gambit as the album “he’s always wanted to make”, III is a gloomy and gothic introspective look into intense obsession and depression. Melodic yet intense, the album has an epic orchestrated sound to it drawing from an almost innumerable amount of influences, defying any set genre while doing so.

The opening track, “I Will Drag You to Hell”, opens with a choir backed by an opulent cacophony of black metal riffs and blast beats played at breakneck speed. It is a fitting opener to set the stage for a bleak journey into the abyss of the human psyche, yet incredibly jarring given the pace of the rest of the album, thrusting you into despair with a daunting momentum. The final lyric “into the earth with lust”, piques your interest into where it will go from here, but does not devalue the melancholic refrains to come.

The song “Self Portrait With Halo And Snake”, is a soothing refrain from the previous violence. With clean guitars over doomed vocals, it recalls the stylings of The Fields of the Nephilim, containing a traditional gothic flair but not without a southern rock influence. The song is a contemplation of the need to dive into despair when all seems to come to dust. The lyrics: “Enraptured, unravaged, falling forever into lust, you are the mirror I stare into, the distant reflection,” commandeer an acute feeling of longing, grasping for an escape from the pain that is ultimately seeded in nihilism. What sticks out here is when Gambit cries “I’ll be twisting my limbs, I’ll be waiting for you,” and “I’ll trade it all away to never see the light of day again”, furthering the theme of isolation, placing all hopes on obsession of salvation from another human being, all while diving into the darkness unabashed.

The next track “The Drift” takes on the form of a more traditional shoegaze sound, guitars drifting and dancing like waves, composed ingeniously. Drifting and glazing over you while you drown in madness, reinstating the delirium of intense depression, driving you insane. The lyrics “A face you can’t remember”, and “walls are stretching, writing on the walls”, bolster the aura of delusion, while the guitars endlessly layer over each other creating an orchestral composition, adding grandeur to sickening hysteria. The lyrics “The watching void, can you hear the whimpers, I will die under you”, drive home the mania, and the song ends in radiant backing vocals as you drift further and further with the song.

“La Faim”, French for “the hunger”, is initiated with a guitar tone that is all too familiar to anyone who is a fan of Celtic Frost, with vocals reminiscent of Glenn Danzig. This is another shining example of III’s shapeshifting form, all while maintaining a consistent theme and mood. The doom inspired riffs are marred with continuing themes of hopelessness, which fits utterly. Lyrics like “I will never know tomorrow”, and “No one will ever want me, No one will ever need me”, convey the acceptance of true loss while contradicting the theme of the hunger, ever wanting more, as is the self obsessed plight of the human being. The droning doom riffs are abruptly cut off by harsh noise breaks, evoking Crowhurst’s vast noise library, once again demonstrating their mastery of refusing to blend into a single genre. Jay Gambit stated in his interview with bandcamp “… Genre really isn’t a thing. Everything is a little bit of everything”. This is apparent in all Crowhurst releases, but III is the truest demonstration of the phenomena.

“Ghost Tropic” is the climax of the forlorn trudge, reflecting upon the gruesome sentiments set previously. Commenced by an alluring yet somber riff and the harrowing lyrics “ I will breathe underwater for you, crawling bone fragments hanging, like the trash I have become, cigarettes are burning, bleeding for the white light, lost all sense of purpose. Compromises, second chances, debts are never under stepped”. The lyrics show the reluctance to step back into the light due to the warmth of the void that they have dug themselves into. It breaks mid riff triumphantly into a heavy passage where it is chanted “there is no light here”, over and over , refusing to accept that there is anything beyond the pain that is present in the moment. This is also apparent in the lyrics “I swear I felt it, something warm, chasing a dragon, just a ghost”, and “Must I shed our skin, orgasmic void”, reaching for something non apparent to pull you out of a despair that was created by yourself, a task that is nay impossible. It is finished by Gambit screaming “Turn it off”, again repeated exasperating the intense despair, reaching for something that does not exist and experiencing the pain of the tangible daylight.

The epilogue of the album, “Five Characters In Search For An Exit” cripples you with a deep rumbling bass tone and a fierce guitar riff violently wrapping up a grim and excruciating experience. Defiant to the condition of mankind, Jay shrieks “In a torrent of glory, we will vomit soon, wearing the noose, just to survive, no mercy, we will be forgotten, nothing will change, we rot, broken life of glass”. This refers to the mirror that we have been staring into the whole time, yet shatters it representing how individuality is ultimately the force that causes us all to die alone. The album is forcefully closed shut with an abrasive four minute noise finale over the howls of “There is no end in sight”, leaving you completely broken in the face of complete despondency.

Each track of III is a genre blending triumph, often leading with softer influences but almost always concluded powerfully with pain and strife. With a massive library of over 87 releases, (most of which are noise albums), Crowhurst sets themselves apart with something completely new, shattering all expectations with an amalgam of styles and an austere message. Jay Gambit’s enigmatic place in the global underground scene is cemented in this release, showing that he is unbound by traditions and can explore any number of themes and styles with grace and power.


III is the final part of a three-album-cycle by Jay Gambit a.k.a. Crowhurst. Released on digipak CD and black vinyl by PROPHECY PRODUCTIONS.

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SANGUINARY TRANCE etch an indulgent path directly to the Devil with “Wine, Song, and Sacrifice”

Sanguinary Trance first emerged out of Vienna, Austria in 2013, taking several years to carefully craft their sound into the dissonant, black metal barrage heard on their first release in 2018. Aptly titled Wine, Song, and Sacrifice is the soundscape of a profane odyssey steeped in ritualistic expression. The band itself is a one-man project lead by an anonymous mastermind and featuring guest musicians including guitars credited to Lanz and session drums by S. Spulak. Each of the three tracks constitute a unique offering, bound together by a dense atmosphere and traditional black metal style. What then sets Sanguinary Trance apart is the drive and ability of the project to weave sparks of the baleful, grotesque, and sometimes mystical, into the energy of each track for a visceral listener experience. The music of Wine, Song, and Sacrifice has the depth to be both felt and believed.

Like much else on this release, the vocals take the form of shrieks and occasional growls that respect a second wave black metal methodology. Chimes are featured throughout the first titular track and then again in a haunting regression at the end of the final song. Their lilting clink serves as a secondary percussive focal point, while contributing to a looming atmosphere of unholy reverence. Abrupt silence, flickering pauses, and slow points sometimes whittling down to a single note are used to build tension- to great effect- before plunging back into a dizzying fray with a fresh sense of gravity and trepidation.

The opening track is a monstrous horror in excess of thirteen minutes, providing an epic showcase of what Sanguinary Trance are capable of. Sinister droning melodies wax and wane, dragging onward through a progression of riffs each more pernicious than the last. Then, “Carvings”; One word, conjuring quivering imagery from the fleshy to the earthy. At under six minutes in length, this track signals a return to a comparatively more traditional song structure without relenting the rabid ferocity on display thus far. The riffs to be found here are spindly, spiraling, and precise, creating a mood of apprehension and dread while unwinding towards a fated, inevitable peril. Beginning with its title, “The Dionysus Whip” establishes a duality between indulgence and discipline that is reflected throughout the song. Chaos blends with interludes of structure and repetition, then layers and expands in a cyclical return to turmoil.

Sanguinary Trance has succeeded in crafting a fiery innovation of violence and fervor, heightened by unrelenting tangles of atmosphere and melody. Wine, Song, and Sacrifice establishes Sanguinary Trance as a name to watch out for – and has all the makings of a foundational predecessor to great and wicked works yet to come.


“Wine, Song and Sacrifice” was crafted between late 2017 until mid 2018, and is available via the band’s Bandcamp page. The sole member behind Sanguinary Trance prefers to remain anonymous.

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KOLLAPS rage against the malaise & disease of our current reality with “Mechanical Christ”

Kollaps have returned to resurrect the ancient apocalyptic ethos of industrial music that nowadays was thought to have long been buried under mountains of overproduced kitsch bands, gimmicks, and subgenre-conventions of hollow form over substance. In more ways than one, Mechanical Christ is a revolt against the conventions and complacency of the modern world.

This is not merely an artistic tribute to the style the godfathers like Throbbing Gristle, SPK, and Einsturzende Neubauten created, but takes that influence on to a new hammering visceral directness that continues the themes explored on their previous record, Sibling Lovers. In some ways, parallels to early Swans can be felt in how the percussion and feedback seem to hammer out chunks of discordant rhythm and sound that almost seem to stretch on into infinity while forcing the listener to submit to their will.

Simplicity and atmosphere are two major components of their formula that seem to work so well in conjunction and give each song its own direct flavor and identity. The album begins with an ominous plodding processional march and film sample before leading into their first full track, the piston fire rhythms and cavernous caterwauling of Wade Black that characterize “Crucify”. Though already by the time “Fleshflower” kicks into high gear, we hear a distinct stylistic shift towards a gattling gun pace with bass guitar noise fighting its way into the fray.

A large portion of this album is vocals, bass, percussion and screeching, rumbling unnerving noises, though the variety of textures and moods this album explores is quite remarkable. The album takes on a journey through many different styles with a bleak shadowy post-industrial wasteland serving as the backdrop as we navigate through the scrap metal labyrinth towards the echoes of a final desperate cry. “Lights out…….” The title track churns on in its own sickly way as the cancer of hopelessness spreads slowly to the brain.

There are times when the tragic post-punk elements of their debut EP are brought back, and create a sort of formula that brings to mind some of Chu Ishikawa’s outings with his past band Der Eisenrost, or the work he’s done on various soundtracks, but taken to a much darker level. In some ways, the visceral imagery surrounding this offering does conjure up imagery of an old black and white dystopian body horror films such as Tetsuo: The Iron Man, or Eraserhead.

This release is the sort of harsh realism this world needs, as a perfect expression of rebellion against modern soul decay, and the sanitized and filtered picture of culture we seem to be almost force-fed at times. Mechanical Jesus rises as a caricature of the sterilized spirit of man. This record is an expression of cold, apocalyptic, mechanical machinations of death orchestrating a soundtrack of your life gone wrong and decaying emotionally day by day, a dirge of the voluntary slave state we submit to in our every day lives. Cold Spring have definitely struck gold with this act we can only expect great things from.


Kollaps’ Mechanical Christ is available on all formats and merchandise from COLD SPRING RECORDS.

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VARTRA channels the world’s music into a pastiche shamanic current

In recent times, few places in the world have been as misunderstood as the Balkans. Centuries-old ethnic tensions, war, and general indifference from the West have all contributed to this. Historically, its mountainous geography has often meant that its cultures were fragmented, while simultaneously its physical position has meant that different influences were constantly coming through. The country of Serbia is indicative of this, having been inhabited since the paleolithic age, its history showing itself in the plurality of the cultures, religions and historical sites found within.

While the eyes of the West pointed mostly elsewhere, the music and old traditions of the region rooted and flourished. Traditional folk music is still very much a part of the culture in the Balkans as well as many practices that exist as relics of the pre-Christian era. Some of these have been twisted into regional Christian customs, as has happened with pagan cultures around the world, but they’re still very recognizable as indigenously Slavic. Magic and mysticism find prevalence in rural villages, faded but holding fast.

In 2017, a group of friends in Serbia’s capital city of Belgrade came together to create music for a conceptual performance and realized they had far more to create. Brought together by an interest in folk music from around the world, Slavic paganism and spirituality in general, main instrumentalist and drum crafter Siniša Gavrić and sisters Ivana and Aleksandra Stošić, both versed in traditional singing created core of the project that is now Vartra. The group has extended into more of a collective, with many contributors adding instrumentals, costumes, dance and visuals to every song and live show.

“When Siniša came back here from living in Canada, we had to come up with a concept for this audio/visual performance. Myself personally, I’ve always been interested in world music and world instruments, also having sung with my sister in the local cultural association growing up,” describes Aleksandra. “We all come from totally different places with the music, meeting in the middle with our common interest for a tribal, neo-Slavic folk sound. The dominant sound is definitely Balkan because of the vocals but if you listen to the music it’s all over the place. Especially the little doom flair that Siniša likes to add in there, that’s where I completely check out,” she laughs. “This whole project is really a result of us constantly clashing. The darker that Sinisa goes with this project the harder I try to make it more bright. Where we do come together is really in our pathos, and in those musical moments of catharsis.” Ivana adds, “It’s a bit of a musical battle honestly. Our writing process is literally just building something and destroying it and then building it back up and taking it apart, and so on until we finally have a song that we agree on.”

Vartra is heavily inspired by the indigenous cultures of the region, with a lean towards the hermetic Vlachs who are predominantly found in Eastern Serbia. Much of their lyrics stem from old Slavic mantras locally known as “bajalice”. These are used as incantations or spells for things like healing, love, good harvests, and luck as well as curses and getting rid of them. The inspiration for their first song came about when they found a video filmed by ethnomusicologist Paun Es Drlić. This video depicts a Vlach shaman – a woman, as are most shamans in the culture – in the Majdanpek region of eastern Serbia ahead of the springtime holiday of flowers (now Palm Sunday in Orthodox Christianity). In the video, she dances and sings a song in Vlach to invoke a trance in which she is said to be convening with the “demons of destiny” who give her access to premonitions about the future of the village and region. The song that she sings would eventually become “Flori”, their first piece and the first song on their debut album Rošu Čera.

“This first album is mostly sung in Vlach,” says Aleksandra. “Then we went for a wider scope, looking for other bajalice – and if you look around, some people have made collections of these on the internet and you notice that the same ones exist in different regions throughout the Balkans and other Slavic countries. They’re all variations on a theme, they may not be exactly the same but you see the same motifs throughout. So a lot of our lyrics aren’t completely of our own creation, rather motifs that we’ve taken from all over. “Luna Nuoa” is a Vlach incantation for good health: ‘my moon, we give you this bread, please give us good health instead’. “Vartra” is our made up incantation for love, one of the more commonly used kinds of bajalice. We twisted it a little because the motifs we use in the song don’t really have much in common with actual love spells.”

“All around the world in shamanism and spirituality you see the same motifs and rituals. While they do vary they’re all at their core very similar. So for us all of this fusion in our music really makes sense,”
– Ivana Stošić

While dwindling in the face of modernization and globalization, these incantations are still used to this day, and regional cultural norms and customs are still influenced by these spiritual beliefs in rural areas. Shamans act as healers for many and combine bajalice with traditional remedies for mild ailments as well as less tangible ills. “A really banal example is that of one of my friends in the south of Serbia, who had a doctor tell them to go to one of these women to get rid of a wart,” says Aleksandra. “The point is a lot of these things have stuck around for so long and haven’t gone away, maybe they’re dying off now that we’ve become more scientifically literate and rational. It seems more and more unlikely to people that these things will actually cure you,” she says. “Today in Serbia there are still women that continue to practice the oldest traditions we have here – ancient Slavic traditions and specifically Vlach ones,” says Ivana. “I mean really, they’re all over the country. In a lot of places you go to the doctor for some things and to these shamans for others. Now they’re not of the mind that you shouldn’t seek out medical professionals at all, obviously some things require a doctor. But for problems that have more to do with the spirit then only they can help you.”

“Since bajalice have been carried on through oral tradition, they’ve been scrutinized as something that’s perhaps evil or forbidden – witchcraft. When essentially they’re just pieces of knowledge and belief that have been carried on through time since before Christianity. From a cultural standpoint I find it really interesting and that’s part of why it’s a big element of our music,” says Aleksandra. “Because to be frank, the last generation that had comprehensive knowledge of these things was the generation of our grandparents, even our parents’ generation belongs to a more modern time. Not to mention the effect the communistic period had on these things. During that time even Christianity was looked down upon so you can imagine that any kind of magic or witchcraft went even further underground.”

In addition to the incorporation of these traditional aspects, Vartra’s musical vision is imbued with a primal, organic sound that people around the world might find something familiar in. Best described as doomy neo-Slavic folk, the sisters’ vocals float above the tribal beat of Siniša’s handmade drums and rattles as well as less traditional elements such as the saz, guitars and ambient synthesizers.

The animal-skin drums are a pulsing, hypnotic undercurrent throughout Rošu Čera and give the music a deeply resonant heartbeat. “When a shaman uses these, it’s supposed to be punch through and be heard on other planes of existence. We use them for musical purposes though, they have a soothing sound that at the same time awakens something in people,” says Ivana. “The tone they have, the frequencies are completely different from modern-style drums,” adds Aleksandra. Sinisa uses animal skins from all over the world, combining indigenous North American and Nordic drum making techniques as well as crafting the more regionally familiar tarabuka. “Animal skins obviously sound way different from plastic and metal,” says Siniša. “And every animal skin has its own unique sound and energy. When I play a bison drum it gives a totally different energy to a song than when I use a deer skin drum. Every drum I make is unique and has its own special quality.”

Aleksandra and Ivana’s vocals are the other half of Vartra’s distinct sound. Their strange harmonies add more magic to the music, bringing the incantations to life. “The way that we sing in our music is tempered, which is to say it’s sung using modern scales when before that, our folk music would have been sung a bit off of the keys we’re used to to day,” says Aleksandra. “So that would be the big difference between the modern folk vocals you hear now and the way these things were originally sung. And really because of the fact that we are going for that tribal ethno-sound we want it to be as simple as possible. We want to attain the simplicity of those ancient times – hopefully one day we fully succeed and write an untempered song. To try and sing in that old key and take apart the concept of the modern equally tempered scales. Which would be really ‘sexy’ but the reality is if you hear that in our current songs it’s probably because we were a bit off,” she laughs. “It all plays into the same idea – we’re not going for virtuosity. We’re playing on more basic, primal frequencies and sound. While a lot of our music isn’t exactly soothing and there’s a lot of intense moments, and however much of a dynamic thread exists in our music, we’re always floating somewhere in those middle frequencies. When we do use things like electric guitars and synths they’re more atmospheric than anything.

Their live shows are like a cleansing ritual, casting out whatever one might need to cast out. Dressed in costumes and augmented by entrancing visuals and dance, it’s an all-encompassing experience. “What we’re trying to do with our lives shows is to loosen those people that are used to going to a show and just watching a band – without having a real connection to what is happening,” says Ivana. “We want them to ease up and let it carry them, we want to draw them in a bit further. We want people to participate in the atmosphere that we create. Because spectators aren’t there to just listen to us produce that sound and atmosphere, we want them to be part of that bit of magic together with us. For everyone to enjoy it in their own way – sitting if they want to sit, standing if they want to stand, dancing if they want to dance without even thinking about whatever the person next to them might be thinking. Like a kind of group therapy for us and for them.”

Playing neo-folk or world music leaves a lot of room for experimentation, which also means more opportunities to blunder. The problem there being that unlike in a lot of other genres a common thread in the sound is harder to pin down. “I think the problem is we’re constantly trying to figure out some kind of core to our music. But I don’t think that exists,” says Aleksandra. “Just like over history, cultures have been created by all of this movement and mixing around, for better or for worse, it’s hard to pin down something that hasn’t been created like that. It’s really hard to define what’s ‘really’ Serbian or what’s ‘really’ from somewhere else, and that’s what you can hear in our music. You hear that ethnic sound that you can say is old Slavic, but different people hear different things because it’s really a mixed bag. Especially when we play around quite a bit with Eastern sounds as well. In some sense it’s a kind of pagan cosmopolitanism.”


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