Categories
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
Festival Review

COVENANT FESTIVAL V RETROSPECTIVE: Congregation of Timeless Deathcraft

You see them. Your people. A few on the bus, all exit at the same stop, start the walk up the hill. Hoodies with patches adorned, the tell-tale scrawl hieroglyphics of black and death metal bands. Long, long hair. That calm yet commanding demeanour of metalheads and those of similar ilk. Feels like a pilgrimage. It is. But there is nothing holy here; I am no virginal disciple. I am a heap of rotten flesh stuffed into a young body-bag, flailing frantically to find the zipper and release the truth of what I am: putrefact. This gathering is the hand that reaches around, finds the pull and undoes the row of meeting teeth that hold you together. Welcome to your wretched undoing. Welcome to Covenant.


COVENANT V – NIGHT 1

The moment I walk in, I can’t stop smiling. Perfection chants in my head. This is perfection. A long rectangular hall, stage at the far end. A woman stands on stage, screaming. Not hysteria but perfect control. A focused scream. Perfection. The hall is gymnasium style, flashbacks of grade seven dances certainly tenable. But that is utterly forgotten. Smoke floods the space, ghosts of incense commemorate the evening. Everyone draped in black, a band shirt plethora, the visual currency of outcastery. There are generations here: some white beards dyed only by decades, some soft faces newly escaped from the Mordor of adolescence. Whatever it is that births people like us, the millenial age and the tech revolution have not destroyed it.

Vendors line the hall, lamps shining onto the desecrated objects for sale, be it esoterica or band merch. In this unworldly marketplace I feel as much awe as I have at the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, or the crowded markets of rural Kerala. I have taken the bus 20 minutes but may as well be abroad, and surely there are stranger objects here: animal skulls, books on alchemy and dark magick, human ribs and vertebrae. You forget it’s a warm summer evening in an expensive city populated by hipsters and rich yoga moms. In this relaxed air, people are at home. We cannot separate the sameness of opposites. In sacrilege we find the sacred. Pilgrimage indeed. Whether you know it or not, you yearn for this.

The vocalist on stage keeps screaming, the accompanying keyboardist devout. They have ended my enshacklement to the tedium of the everyday. I surrender to the Truth of Howl. Oh to hear a woman scream. I mean this with affection for her sacrifice, not sadism for her agony. She screams on my behalf. The vibration is intense, my neck shakes, and is sliced. Ah, she screams. We share an aural umbilical cord and she’s voicing all my horrors. The beautiful smell of smoke, the candelabra on stage aside the singer glowing, ah. Eventually, her voice becomes operatic. The lyrics love is disillusion singe the air. My throat is tight. A synth organ sounds. This music wouldn’t be out of place in a cathedral. Isn’t that the Wise Hall tonight? Cathedral Damnation. The Covenant flag hangs humble behind the performers. How is it one feels so at home amid terror and darkness than pop melodies and sunshine? The Mother Tongue of so many strangers: screams.
*
They finish. I make my way to the washrooms. I worry my festival bracelet absorbs a drop of piss as I pat myself dry. Well, Hail Satan. I open the door quickly, surprising a beautiful bald woman, face luminous as a full moon, she smiles in surprise. The smile of this she-devil is glorious.

A new act. This is seduction. This is a lovers tongue entering your dark rose-wet cave. Yes my friends, music can feel like this. They collectively caress that clitoral audience before them, rhythmic bodies shaking with the songs they have necromanced. The ground reverberates beneath me. Another feeling emerges, one of pride. I look upon these creatures, grown men, so committed to their craft, smiths forging gold from their own turbulent viscera. I am swept away on the wings of these dragons, I am riding through the sky. Cerulean world abounds, coniferous forest beneath.
*
Someone throws a can into the bin beside me. He walks over to check that it didn’t ricochet onto the ground. I am touched. Who says social degenerates aren’t considerate? I look across the crowd, faces entranced, death disciples receiving condemned communion. Brilliance.

The difference between listening to metal live versus recorded is perhaps a greater gulf than any other genre of music. It is a corporeal genre. Feel. Feel. To know you are real requires being physically moved. This is why abuse is often preferable to solitude. Here, instead of harm, instead of drawing blood, it is kept inside and rumbled with sonic waves. I press my body against the stage. The drums play me.
*
I blink. It is late. I work in the morning. I am back in the world, the fluorescent lighting of a city bus guiding my eyes around the normalcy. Someone yells out the window at a pedestrian. A hunched over man in a camouflage bomber jacket eats Doritos out of the bag. He has worn out Coach running shoes that scream stolen. The world where I return.
*
COVENANT V – NIGHT 2

Before the music, people chat, shop the market. Yet many stand facing the stage, just waiting. Such obedience in such a defiant culture. In the end, I suppose it’s just choose your altar. A woman paints on a canvas propped on the stage as a band plays. An eye? A volcano? The minutes upcoming will tell. (Isn’t that all Time does: tell?) Performers are blindfolded with black gauze/mesh. Though the painting has evolved, the surroundings could be lashes or shrubbery. It is an eye or a mountain? Mountains, the earth gazing upwards to the stars. Are mountains not the eyes of the world? (Am I really this pretentious?)
*
I step outside for fresh air and remnants of light. The walk up to the Wise Hall is one of my favourite parts. Apt that it is atop a hill, the urban coven a little removed from busling hippie streets of this neighbourhood. At the park a block down, children and parents play. It is strange to think of childhood, a time before the life that mutilated me. Run, sweet gremlins, run now in your gleeful play, laugh and be free, because one day this ends. Lifes’ fire will disfigure you. And maybe then, they will join us, will they play on the Wise Hall stage at Covenant XVI? I end my demented musings and head back up the hill, the sky turning amethyst. “He puked on the painting.” someone says, walking out of the hall. Eye or mountain, I will never know.

The night gets going with the second act. Killer drums is the first thing you notice. Pearl kit, a cinderblock affront the main drum. I feel the tormented corpse in me awaken, this dancer on coals, she moves through me and I am ignited. The inner realm is vast and though our own, always needs initiation from an external summoning. Only the stage holds to magic to unblock my dark channels. Beside me, an ocean of delicate, appreciative head nods, quite different than headbanging.

These are sorcerers admiring skilled incantation. The guitarist plants his feet flat, he does not move or shuffle around. Absorbing power through rooting himself to the altar. The guitar ceases to be separate from the musician, and he sings with his hand and metallic vocal chords. He has a face-mouth and a hand-mouth. The incense begins to burn. Covenant V is getting closer to its zenith.
*
Summoning ancestors, ancient tongues. What a gift. A group which summoned itself back from near disappearance. Communion with the audience, inviting, sharing, feeding us hungry souls the spoils of their tilled and stolen soil. Audience yells “time for another album.” Everyone basks in affection.

Again, smiths at the forge, male bodies electric. Violent, tantric, you are with devil spirit. They come from caves with armies, soldiers rhythmic assault. War and orgy. A mucosal feeling in the crowd, in that we are brought together in some mordial ooze. There is fucking inside your heart, your heart pounded upon by phallus of collective creation. Somehow, you feel hands caress your face. The chest cavity shakes. Then the ground like a death rattle. If this is death, let me transcend. Sweat soaking their hair, the scent fills the hall, merges with incense.

I move from the front to the centre of the crowd. They look calm yet possessed. Ascended disciples. Darkness enshrouds each player, emitting not light, but something as visible and entrancing.
*
There is something undeniably tender in all this. Family coming home.
*
I am beheaded over and over again, my body command a head grow in order to enjoy the honour of decapitation. Suddenly the sensation transforms: now swords push through my neck and body, I am kept in tact, but spliced from many angles. To be stabbed again and again, yes, we can enjoy pleasures of the flesh without the physical harm – only metaphysical harm. But it is not harm. How can destruction make you feel whole?

The clink/chime of cymbals are as though pins pushed into you, perfect sharpness. Nothing is blunt, mutilation is perfection. Easy peasy. Pins. Voices are duct tape over your eyes and mouth. The relief from the senses! Instead, only shock. The shock of experiencing the bellowing bowels of another. Rollercoaster of intestines. We become shit and are grateful, because it is greater than the singular quotidian bodies we regularly are.

The shock of being saved when you didn’t expect it, it didn’t realize you needed it. Projections, cloaks, green, camo, where am I? Where are they? Like being launched into space, and through suffocation, a part of you breathes for the first time.
*

COVENANT V – NIGHT III

Tonight is different. The creature has emerged from the mucus fully formed, like Saurons’ Uruk Hai, ready to be harvested and summoned. But we are not warriors organizing ourselves for battle. Mundane daily life is the battle. This is congregating after the fact to honour the sacrifice and celebrate the spoils. Less and less, this feels demonic. Or my flimsy idea of what demonic is no longer serves. Such comfort among the citizens of this underworld. The benefits of a small city, a small scene, but also I think a universal understanding exists in metal and underground: the genres are universal orphanages. We know each other.

The long slow rousing drum, vibrations lull you, walking, wading into still water. We stand and dark liquid envelopes us. Body temperature, you can barely tell that you’re surrounded. I wish I could be set afloat on this strange river, the birthplace I never knew I had.
*
Discoballs, chandeliers, fernels. String lights.

Young women ponder buying human bones. I fear such an investment myself, who knows whose they were, how they died. I do not need a vertebrae or jaw at home resenting me. My own flesh bears enough hatred.

Backstage. I have never seen drummers warm-up. It’s a beautiful thing. A large bald man in a wife beater closes his eyes and drums in the air. Later I see him with a small drum pad. He is serene, the focus of a child, the focus of a master. The champion shadow boxing before the bout. This is human worship at its finest.
*
Oh, backstage is backstage. Theatre or music, high school or professional, it’s the same. My heart explodes. Chatter, anxiety, flirting, chips, mismatched tables and cabinets, an old piano, stacks of chairs, coats and bags flung around, an ocean of instruments, half-empty cans, a mini fridge, dressing mirrors, always the same.

This abrasive music has the comfort of a warm bed and soft sheets. Why does it feel like love?
*
They are a crucifix for us upon which to nail our horrors. Thank you.
*
Appreciation. Flawlessness. The cervical vetebrae of the hall undulating like a pendulum. Megalith of sound. Genuine cadence, the architecture of velocity, rage, and chaos, all these elements compliment by discerning choice. Dew of morning.

Backstage. Surprising absence of coffee, a few takeout cups on the table. They emit their beautiful scent, couvetted elixir brought forth from scalding water and crushed powder of earth pods. Is this not art, not music, the scalding passage of time extracting from us something bitter yet valuable? I scan the green room. Some organizers take a well earned selfie. The room itself is nearly empty. Beyond the wall, the ceremony endures. Sagging leather couches, bottles, cans, chips, amps, guitars that have travelled the world, tables pushed to one side. Backstage is backstage.

Near the end, I am overcome with sadness. Dead Congregation instills the lifeforce with stamina, whereas each day in the office, on the train, in the true dead congregation of society at large, we must endure our corpse laiden lives. Bursts of death-life of black metal amid quotidian decay. I must wait another year to breathe. The ultimate mediation.

Yet sadness is given comfort in knowing I can keep this moment inside of me, the sealed sarcophagus of Covenant, until again revived. This is beyond a good memory. I can hold the very thing itself precious and dear.
*
Applause, smoke, the peeling away of the event at large. All I am left with: gratitude.


Observed, written, and wordcrafted by Indu Iyer – Homepage | Instagram
All photography by Chelsea Mandziuk – Homepage | Instagram 

Categories
Review

SUPERSTITION contort the spiritual & mental with ancient forces of death on “The Anatomy of Unholy Transformation”

Beyond the dark caverns of death, the dark and flesh like caves of disease that prevail in death metal as of now, a new ferocious form of bereavement dawns over the blood red sky. This spectre goes by the name Superstition, a powerful apparition that brings plagues by a fiery wind that peels flesh from bone. Instead of relying on the grimey, bass-infused style of death metal, Superstition assaults you with a blackened thrash attack that carries the stench of burning flesh and earth.

Each riff on The Anatomy of Unholy Transformation is a transcendent dance of violence, constantly weaving in and out of a storm of chaos that evoke images of grand war. Unholy Transformation is a fitting title for this absolute monster of an album, as Superstition transcends into a new territory of mastery all their own. Remaining ideas from previous release Surging Throngs of Evil’s Might can be heard, but are vastly improved upon as the riffs are now majestically braided together distinctively to create a punishing atmosphere. Not only has the playing improved drastically, but the production shines with a crisp and clear sound. Shedding the murky demo-like quality of previous albums, (although a sound that can be desired), the cleaner production ultimately aids in the cutthroat riffing and razor sharp delivery.

Superstition commands ideas previously set in place by bands like Aura Noir and Voivod and dispenses them like a stab-wound full of cruelty and malice. Each track melds into each other judiciously, broken up by uncanny keyboard dirges, invoking the spirit of wicked mutation metamorphosing the album into a grand opus of pestilence. “Torn in the Outer Lands” and “Unreclaimed Blood (Phantom Swarm)” are both stand out tracks, one not complete without the other, though despite clocking in at just over 4 minutes each lock you into a trance with a maze of guitars, transforming a relatively short journey into what seems like a 20 minute epic as you get lost and remain dumbfounded by the barbarous incursion.

Superstition’s own transformation is unprecedented, commanding your attention to recognize them as one of the leaders of the genre. It’s almost hard to believe that they are even the same band as they were just one year ago. Kyle Morgan and crew bring past prowess of black realms from foregoing projects Ash Borer and Vanum, two bands at the forefront of the American black metal scene, and infuses it with death metal sensibilities like descending hammer-ons a la Cannibal Corpse, and an impeccable thrash metal punch. To understate it to such simple influences is a distortion of their true might, as Superstition will quickly find their way to the spearhead of death metal as a whole with a completely unique sound that cannot be ignored.

The black winged messiah spreads their wings over the putrid wasteland, and a sky stained red with flames will echo with the sounds of Superstition.


20 BUCK SPIN unveils the debut LP from New Mexico-based death metal entity SUPERSTITION, confirming The Anatomy Of Unholy Transformation to the world on June 21st.

Be sure to catch Superstition’s devastating presence at Covenant Festival V this summer in Vancouver!

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Categories
Interview

KYLE MORGAN: nomadic maniac behind ASH BORER, SUPERSTITION, & VANUM pushing American black & death metal into the next frontier

Ash Borer is a name that seems to have been lurking through the Pacific Northwest for an infinitely long time, with appeal and demand for booking from all corners of the regional heavy metal world, and even beyond.

It should come then, as no surprise, that the mind behind Ash Borer is one capable of great and intriguing variety, from punishing black metal, to meditative soundscapes, to introspective cascadiæ, caustic death metal, and even releasing as art.

Having twice welcomed Kyle Morgan to Vancouver in both Ash Borer and Superstition, we figured it was time to better understand the influences and aspirations behind one of the leading minds and one of the most prolific people modern American metal.

Kyle: no one seems to really know where you are from- or at least I can’t tell anymore. Can you settle this for me, and give a brief timeline of where your projects have been situated? I feel like my chronology is all kinds of fucked up.

I’ve moved around the country at a maddening pace for the last 10 years or so, with projects arising in every location. Between 2007 and 2012 I was in the upper reaches of the California Coast working on ASH BORER and CEREBRATE. Since then I’ve primarily been haunting Northern New Mexico other than a brief relocation back to the Pacific Northwest in 2014-15. PREDATORY LIGHT was formed in NM in 2013, though has partial membership in the PNW as of 2014. VANUM was conceptualized as early as 2010, but materialized in a more physical capacity in 2014 with myself in the PNW at the time. SUPERSTITION is the newest project that I’m involved with, formed in 2017 in New Mexico.

In 2016, Ash Borer released The Irrepassable Gate to the all but unanimous consensus that the band had released its masterwork. Now, with two years to reflect on the album, and the fall out there from, did the album complete its desired effect?

I am extremely proud of that release – it is the culmination of everything we have wanted to do as a band since we formed nearly a decade ago. Compared to earlier works it is a bit of a shift in tone towards a more overtly malevolent din, without sacrificing the explosive, dynamic nature that has always defined our sound.

When we started the band, most of us were in our late teens or early 20’s and in some ways lacked clarity in terms of what we were hoping to accomplish with the project, which served us just fine at the time, as what we lacked in vision we more than made up for in feral intensity. Which in my opinion is what makes our very early releases most successful (of course, there are some good riffs there as well!). However, over time it becomes necessary to distill this huge range of influences and ideas to its essence, which in my opinion is what The Irrepassable Gate is. It is the sound of Ash Borer: what we were chasing all along.

Both Cold Of Ages and The Irrepassable Gate have titles with an almost onomatopoeic effect in regards to the sound. COA is severe, cutting, (obviously) cold, and with a very shrill tone to it. TIG, on the other hand, has a majestic, deep, rich sound, and an ominous overtone that definitely makes it feel like there is no turning back. Talk to me about what happened between these albums that allowed, and made way, for the differences between them.

I tend to think of Cold of Ages as our “true” black metal record. Earlier releases had explored a more melancholic and hazy sound, still rife with harrowing darkness but not as an exclusive focus. When writing for COA we were more interested in exploring and expanding upon the darker, colder aspects of the band, as well as to deny ourselves the pleasure of easy musical payoffs to some degree (in terms of warmer passages and huge dynamic shifts primarily). It was also written and recorded during a particularly bleak winter, which certainly forced its way into the songs themselves.

For most of the members of Ash Borer, the 4 years or so between COA and The Irrepassable Gate were heavily focused on touring as well as seeing many other projects to fruition. Going back to the previous question, while focusing on so many other projects slowed the writing process down a bit, it also contributed to the distillation of the Ash Borer sound. Certain sonic characteristics, types of riffs, chord progressions, etc. couldn’t just be lazily thrown into the mix to provide us with enough material for an LP, instead we had to really spend time thinking on what makes Ash Borer “Ash Borer” beyond just a collection of riffs and drum patterns. This process necessitated a longer gestation period for the album as we have no desire in rushing things or putting out an album that we aren’t 100% satisfied with.

In terms of the sound of the records differing, we have always demanded of our recording engineers that an album’s production suits the atmosphere of the material, and have in depth discussions as a group about the more esoteric end of sound prior to beginning tracking, even if that results in an unorthodox sound compared to whatever production trends are in vogue at the moment. As you mentioned, the material on COA is sharp and severe, so it required a matching production, while TIG has what is essentially the opposite approach to production, again matching the material. We avoid working with engineers who have a specific sound associated with them, preferring to work with individuals who can also immerse themselves in the material and make calculated production choices that fit the music. No discussion about this end of the band (or any of my projects really) would be complete without raising a glass to Andrew Oswald who has recorded most of our material, as well as Randall Dunn who recorded TIG.

Going a little further back in time, the Predatory Light full length was released shortly before that to a great reception as well, but the band didn’t seem to capitalize on that wave of momentum with festival appearances. Were you busy with Ash Borer during this time?

We did do a fair bit of touring around the release, though limited only to the Western US. There was a small DIY tour of the SW/Southern California/Mexico, followed by a performance at Eternal Warfare festival and a short tour back through California with Mortuary Drape. We’ve since done another small tour of the PNW and a festival in Texas as well. All performances were well received and the MD13 shows in particular were insane.

While we have not managed to do very extensive touring outside of the Western US, the project isn’t going away any time soon and will continue to tour and release new material as time and logistics allow.

What is going on with Predatory Light now?

We’re (slowly) working on material for a new release. No specific timeline exists for that as of now but based on the rehearsals we’ve had I expect this to be the most psychotic and psychedelic material to date!

Another horribly demented project with which your involved is Vanum. There is a lot of ways to approach questions regarding Vanum, but I want to spend some time on the lyrics here. Whereas Ash borer’s lyrics are not easily available, and Predatory Light’s are heinous, short, punishing vignettes, Vanum’s lyrics and grand, verbose, and bearing an almost royal majesty to them. What is the essence channeled in to Vanum, and what are the influences (music or beyond) that are exclusive to Vanum, and left from your other projects?

As opposed to other projects which all have their own lyrical/thematic focuses, the lyrics for Vanum are meant to be victorious and empowering, rather than dark/frightening/evil. They focus on the individual’s place and potential within a world where myth still lives. A huge range of thematic influences exist, but Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell are two writers that are frequently referenced. It’s also worth mentioning that I am not the primary lyricist in Vanum so for a much more in depth look at Vanum’s lyrical inspirations and the philosophies behind them there are several other interviews out there with Michael Rekevics that explore this more fully.

Musically, Vanum is heavily influenced by the more triumphant and tragic sound of early black metal, with an emphasis on exploring the melodic commonalities that tie so many of our favorite records together, despite them coming from different places and different times. The early Hellenic sound, Bathory (Blood Fire Death in particular), and early Eastern European cults all share similar melodic sensibilities to my ears, and are the primary music influences on Vanum, at least in terms of other metal bands. That said, I rarely sit down with the goal of writing anything that sounds specifically like any of that, my goal is always to write a song that sounds like Vanum,but those are common points of reference for what we’re doing.

As outsiders, there is perhaps some confusion, or at the very least association, in many minds between Psychic Violence, Vrasubatlat, and Fallen Empire. Can you walk us through some history and context?

Psychic Violence started in 2010, initially with the sole intention of releasing the debut Ash Borer record on tape, as we were not affiliated with any outside labels at the time. Of course it has grown since then, and now is somewhat active on a consistent basis in order to showcase the exploits of like-minded conspirators and collaborators. This year we have released music by Vilkacis, A Story of Rats, Turia, and Sanguine Eagle, with more to come relatively soon.

R.F. of VT is a close friend and bandmate in one project, and Michael from Fallen Empire is a personal friend as well, but on the label end of things VT/FE/PV don’t have much to do with each other outside of the odd split release or performance in which bands from both rosters play together. One exception is that recently Fallen Empire has been brokering records at a pressing plant in the US, we’ve gone through them for a few releases now (as has VT I believe), but that’s a business relationship rather than an artistic or esoteric one.

Psychic Violence has an impeccable look and feel, clearly releasing only high quality, and carefully curated releases. Tell us what you look for in a project before you put your name on it.

I don’t take submissions and tend to only release music created by a small number of friends and collaborators. If a project is going to be of any interest to me in terms of releasing their music, it is created by people I already have a close personal bond with, and who’s music I have already expressed interest in. In terms of the aesthetic, I have fairly uncompromising (also limited) aesthetic interests when it comes to this sort of music, so I choose to work with artists who share a similar vision and don’t mind me being involved with the design end of things, as it is important to me for my releases to have a fairly consistent appearance, with respect to different artists of course. I stay out of the way in terms of guiding anything sonically as I respect my artists’ musical process and wouldn’t be working with them if I had any doubts about the quality of their output.

One of the worst kept secrets in the metal underground world is that you play in Superstition. When the demo dropped recently, it fucked MANY people directly in the ass (myself included), and though I try to stay away from blatant comments in an interview, we’ll just go ahead and call it a masterpiece. Let’s really zoom in on this one- specifically what old school releases are influential for the band (’cause it sounds like it came out in 1988), and what’s up next?

Ha! Thanks (I think). The reception to Surging Throng of Evil’s Might has been overwhelmingly positive across the board, and we’re very excited to continue spreading our plague across the globe with more tours and releases planned for the not-too-distant future.

Our primary influences are strictly limited to very early death metal from the Americas. Specifically, Necrovore, Morbid Angel (mainly Altars/Abominations), Incubus, Nocturnus, Mortem, Sepultura, etc. are major points of reference. For most of us this just happens to be the style of death metal that we’re most interested in listening to, and happens to be one that is hugely underrepresented these days, at least in the US where everyone is (currently) obsessed with mimicking early Finnish and Swedish bands. Of course we are also inspired by the likes of Goblin, Coil, Klaus Shulze, etc. in terms of creating a haunting sense of space for music to exist within, and those projects are hugely influential to the synth/ambient based material on the demo.

As for what’s coming next, we’re intensively writing for an upcoming LP that will come out on 20 Buck Spin. By the time this interview is public there will also be a new promo tape that you can buy of 2 new songs that will be on the LP in non-demo form. Plenty of touring with follow the release of the LP next year.

To close things, could you please tell us what does the rest of 2018, and 2019 hold for a man with so much on the go?

On the creative front, Vanum will have a new full length coming out in the Winter, either late 2018 or more likely early 2019, which will be followed by a sizable European tour in the Spring of 2019, as well as North American performances throughout the year. As mentioned above both Superstition and Predatory Light are writing for future releases that will be out in the not too distant future. As for Psychic Violence, we’re about to send the Sanguine Eagle dual LP releases to press, which are an absolutely monumental pairing of records. Easily some of the best black metal to come out in the last few years. Everything besides that has to stay under wraps for the moment.

Thanks and hails to Sebastian and The Covenant!


ASH BORER

VANUM

SUPERSTITION

PREDATORY LIGHT

PSYCHIC VIOLENCE