W.T.C. Productions, 25.12.16
Due to familial reasons, I didn't review anything on Christmas Day. Time is thus overripe to introduce German Paria, and their newest release, the Knochenkamp EP.
The black metal band started in 1995 but only released demos during their first ten years. Ten years ago, they summed up the demo era with a compilation of officially released as well as unreleased demo material, before embarking on an age of studio albums.
After three of those, Knochenkamp was up next, and it's an EP that truly offers bang for the buck, as we receive almost half an hour of evil metal to revel in.
After a sacral intro, consisting of three minutes of semi-dissonant blissfulness, it is ominous tones with a touch of dystopia that's knocking eerily at the door. The music is more unsettling and delirious, with progressive structures, than extreme. The three songs that follow, all have a rabid and deranged atmosphere of mental deterioration, a becoming French whiff of psychotic frenzy, so to speak.
There's intensity in sequences, but although the music has a lovely obscure character, it can scarce be said to be very frantic. It's evocative black disgust we meet face to face through this session of Luciferian liturgy. Eight minutes long Cyclikkch Ovogenesis becomes and remain a favourite, with its gloomy moods. The delightful passage from 2:19 sounds suspiciously familiar, unless it's simply caused by the fact that I've heard Knochenkamp quite a few times over the past two months. I'm absolutely sure I've heard something reminiscent of the eerie descending guitar pitch towards the end of the song, but this is nevertheless killer as hell.
Conclusively, the band offers a idiosyncratic version of Bathory's Call from the Grave.
The velocity is reduced to a black/doom pace, and the Attila-like vocals suits the morbid sepulchral version well.
This week has already received its quota of strong recommendations, but I'm sure you won't mind another one. Rancid as hell!
Good evening headbangers and mistresses, this is you host for the evening. (Now imagine Gorger with plastic fangs and a cheap bat costume). Tonight's feature presentation is brought to you by "Cooper's upside down upside down crosses Ltd – Crosses for any occasion". Crack open a beer and an artery and enjoy and ingest yourself. Mohahaha *cough*
Now, let's roll that tape!
– What do you do when every conceivable controversial aspects of black metal is told and retold through what feels like dozens of documentaries?
– Well, you find a new angles and new stories to tell.
– At least, that's the impression one is left with having seen Blackhearts.
A new angle and movie at any cost, you ask? Well, that's pretty much how it feels.
That of course sounds negative. But a documentary should preferably illuminate something and give increased knowledge in an interesting way, and Blackhearts largely feels like as if it follows fairly random individuals through relatively random events. Of course there are aspects of sensationalism and controversy surrounding these particular characters, which no doubt helped to these exact participants being picked out. Sensationalized controversies that appeals more to nosey outsiders than to anyone in the scene. This is still a film that is more interesting and aesthetically correct than most of the shit you'll find on the telly, not to mention the soundtrack, which is much better!
We follow three bands on their long journey to black metal's Mecca, Norway, to perform at festivals. The questions I had beforehand, like for instance whether the sky-high expectations toward the second wave birthplace was fulfilled, is only partially answered, and the methods to reveal such answer isn't exactly scientific. Only one of the artists have sought permanent residence between mountain peaks, spruce and grey municipal concrete apartment blocks, but not until after the documentary was recorded, and after first travelling home for a while.
I am inclined to agree with Obscedian Claw who utters that snow and spruce is not really all that cool in the long run. It can be a really grey, insipid and politically correct bureaucracy, but you won't get that impression from a few hours at a festival, which was exactly what these fellows got before embarking on the long road home.
Sina of From The Vastland has the most interesting background, which could imply an interesting story, but I know the story to an adequate degree, and I'm not really presented with any new information of vital importance, but as you see from the second and third sentence in a fairly good impression of the album Chamrosh which was released five months ago, I had some questions that's now been answered. As expected, it turns out that the first sentence more or less do address the elephant in the room.
The man hail from Iran, where black metal is regarded as blasphemous, as indeed it is, and thus as illegal sacrilege. He still doesn't fucking give up. In addition to his 2011 debut and sophomore Kamarikan which I approved in 2013, he has released Temple of Daevas, which is my favourite, and the Blackhearts EP, recorded in connection with some documentary. My impression of the EP has by the way improved slightly since first presenting it.
Amongst other, we get to watch excerpts from his very first live performance, which took place at Inferno, and clips from visiting the basement of the infamous Helvete shop, and a road-trip with Obscedian Claw where they meet up with Nocturno Culto for a few minutes of small-talc.
Cosy and trivial enough, by all means, but I would actually argue that I learned more from an article with an interview that I read in a Norwegian newspaper (VG), than what I pick up from this documentary. A documentary that witness everyday life silently and inactive without asking any questions.
Héctor and the lads from Colombian Luciferian participate in a satanic seance to ask Lucifer, our Saviour for tickets, so that they might be able to go to Norway. A Baʿalanced ritual where we get to be fly on the wall, before heading to Trondheim Metal Fest. The rather unknown band return as heroes after their pilgrimage. As with the next band, all bands are appointed with a “protagonist”, something I don't really see the big point in, as they all are strong individuals who seem to be of equal importance to the respective bands. In any case, we become most familiar with Héctor, who tells his story about everything he has sacrificed for the genre.
Vocalist and bassist Kaiadas has for the obvious reasons been selected to front Hellenic Naer Mataron. Something that is unfortunate, given the fact that he's imprisoned and unavailable through most of the film. The context is interesting from a news perspective, but from an individual metallic perspective, it's tempting to neglect and repress undesirable aspects. Kaiadas was elected as member of the Greek Parliament for the extreme-right party Golden Dawn, not to be confused with the esoteric order The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The party has a bad reputation, and is directly linked to violent episodes. Naer Mataron as a band doesn't want to be associated with political views or be perceived as NSBM, and if one should sympathize with this kind of nationalism, that would also excluded sympathy for people like Sina and Héctor. So from a mere black metal perspective, the vocalist's personal affair can practically be considered immaterial. Kaiadas is in any case arrested, which could lead to reflections around whether political imprisonment really is the right thing to do even in cases of extreme views, and an incomplete band head off to Norway. The remaining two members, as well as the manager, Kaiadas' girlfriend, visit Blastfest at a venue called USF in Bergen. This is the very same establishment where I sit among a sparse audience and watch the documentary that is screened as a form of consolation for the cancellation of this year's festival. A pure coincidence made me aware of this cinematic projection. The band otherwise take a stroll, enjoying the crappy weather on Mount Fløjen, and we get to see them greet Abbath who of course poses generously for the photographers with his usual charm.
We also get to see a lot of Keep of Kalessin, both in terms of live clips and in private, as Arnt (Obsidian Claw) and Vegar (Vyl) are among those who take care of the pilgrims. You go to see a documentary about people who live and breathe black metal, even when at the risk of imprisonment, but you end up seeing a former black metal band that lives average lives and performs Clapton material on Christmas events. Arnt even reveals an affinity for Christmas music that is rather tempting to dismiss as irony. I can understand Christmas Metal, but regular Christmas music? Really? Christmas music? For the love of Satan, Arnt? You can't be fucking serious, mate! Including this into a black metal documentary, is about as wrong as me trying to sell you a collection of soothing lotion and hypoallergenic potholders between the lines of a review. I'm sure the guys are nice persons, but this is rather embarrassing and inept. The whole point is probably to show the contrasts for the sake of dramaturgy, but it is an unnecessary approach. And the blameworthy presentation of the Norwegian black metal scene given by the guide at Rockheim national museum of popular music; now that's an alternative fact if ever I've heard one.
Aesthetically, technical and musically, the documentary is well produced, and as long as the content is related to black metal, there are definitely worse things to throw away about 70 minutes on. But as mentioned, the content feels somewhat random with very low dividend. Experience is the mother of wisdom, but there's little food for thoughts and no lesson to learn here. As such, it kind of falls through as a documentary. Lack of time is the primary reason why I never do interviews, but I'm also hopeless in terms of coming up with good questions. I feel that the film-makers could probably have dug deeper and found answers to more, but I'm not able at putting my finger on exactly what. A partnership with various skilled interviewers could probably have led to many good questions and in return to deeper insights. The documentary is partly superficial. Blackhearts do work fine as pastime, though, but don't really fill any other function.
That the documentary focuses on three different bands visiting three different festivals and ditto venues in the three largest cities in our elongated land, creates a varied distribution. All participants largely appear as very sympathetic and pleasant folks. This is simply a movie where you become loosely acquainted with four bands on the surface. To put it in perspective; there are nearly 63,000 active bands and almost as many with some other status to choose from.
To end slightly positive. Watching a film related to black metal in a movie theatre is of course a pleasant experience, and I regret neither spending money nor skipping one and a half hours from work to see Blackhearts. If I was to choose a highlight of the film, I'd say it comes early, with the moods between 3 and 5 minutes into the film.
Blackhearts is no mandatory film, but despite critical comments, I've been considering giving it thumbs up, for it's perfectly fine as leisure activity if you have no expectations other than seeing your occasional black metaller do their daily thing. If you have an interest in it, I think you should just see it. The easiest and cheapest way is by streaming it of VG-TV. I hope it works out of Foreignia, where you live, as well. Nerds can read film technical info over at the production company Gammaglimt, and you can visit the film's website.
Remember popcorn and beer, and have a pleasant time.
Oration Records, 20.02.17
Live albums have largely outlived their usefulness, just as compilations have lost a lot of their magic over the years. This is nevertheless a particularly honourable exception. Oration is an Icelandic festival organized by Oration Records, started in 2016. The 2017 edition of the festival, or Oration MMXVII, was arranged over three days and held last weekend.
The live document we are to take a quick look at here, are recordings from last year's Oration MMXVI:
12 bands, 12 songs and 85 minutes of pure black metal.
Icelandic Azoic and Abominor* kick of the show violently before Mannveira offers more murky tones. Wormlust becomes a bit too much chaos, but German Shrine of Insanabilis* makes everything alright again with a song from their awesome debut.
A new session of Icelandic band follows. Svartidauði* offers Venus Illegitima from their first EP, while Nyiþ delivers nearly eight minutes of ambient ceremony with 40 seconds of cacophony right in the middle. Almyrkvi released their first EP last year and delivers the gods in this black mass. Misþyrming* performs the longest song of their red-hot debut, before it's once again time to let foreigners get a few minutes of fame.
Mortuus Umbra come all the way from Israel and released their first single and EP in 2015. The song Holy Procreation is taken from the single of the same name, and leaves me thirsty for mores. Iceland has one more band on the agenda. Sinmara brings the song Teratoid Crossbreed from their claustrophobic debut before Ireland make their contribution with Malthusian* who reel off a prolonged song of their first demo.
The songs of course come even more to their own on the respective releases, but that's just the way it goes with live recordings. The rating is a wee bit gentle, but for being a live compilation with 12 different bands, this release must be said to be damn solid, as ten of twelve songs are fucking killer. The material, largely kaleidoscopic black metal, is virtually unrivalled. One thing that could have made this release a notch better, is to get it served on DVD (or Blu-ray, of course). Press the bc logo to go to Bandcamp, where you decide the price.
Terratur Possessions, 20.01.17 Sinmara and Misþyrming are beyond question two of the best bands to follow in
Svartidauði's kaleidoscopic footsteps. Iceland, in Norway also known as the saga island, have rapidly become
shrouded in a thick layer of infernal volcanic ash, and now emerge more like a nightmare island bathed in the red
hot light of hell firing thunderclouds.
Today, a live album from the first edition of the Icelandic Oration festival is being released, something I promise
to come back to, but first a quick report from a short and succinct split, released on the day a month ago.
Sinmara, which debuted with the tremendous Aphotic Womb in 2014, have guitarist
Þórir Garðarsson in common with Svartidauði, thus making it somewhat misleading
to say that one band follows in the other's wake. They open the split with six minutes long Ivory Stone,
which show no signs of mercy. The music could hardly become more claustrophobic than what the band already have achieved,
but the frenetic intensity of the sound doesn't just create anxiety, it also offers sonic torture. As expected, the song
is solid as hell, but it takes some time to get used to the sound and let the song sink in sufficiently. The sound is
like needles in the ears, and don't provide quite the same constant ominous feeling of rumbling caves, but rather a harsh
feeling of absolute disgust.
When Misþyrming launch more than seven minutes long Hof on side B of the vinyl, released
in 1000 copies, it quickly becomes clear that their sonic changes is going to be an even tougher nut to crack. The band
released their first work, utterly delightful Söngvar elds og óreiðu almost exactly two years ago. The album was
an echoing inferno of disharmonic and esoteric uproars from the purgatory. Hof doesn't change the expression from a resounding maelstrom to a razor-sharp frontal attack. They
retain the dark appearance, but emerges as more mat in the paintwork. The music is intense and threatening, and sometimes
more psychedelically atonal. Hof is admittedly not as good as the material from Söngvar elds og
óreiðu, but that was also one hell of a roaringly diabolic album. It should also be said that Hof
is still very good. The song is structurally unsettling with its various passages and downright oppressive moods.
Ivory Stone / Hof is about as mandatory as 13.5 minutes of music can be.
The split EP is not 100% perfect, as neither band outdo previous feats, but it's still pretty damned killer.