Monday 28 November 2011

KRISIUN – Combusting Execution

Brotherhood of blood, metal and an uncompromising attitude is what defines Brazilian extremists Krisiun. The Sao Paulo-based trio, which has continued its crusade of brutality and terror for over twenty years, has just produced its eighth full-length "The Great Execution" for Century Media. After two straight up death metal records, "AssassiNation" (2006) and "Southern Storm" (2008), the band delivered much more diverse material with mid-tempos, loads of groovy riffing and developed arrangements. Krisiun's drummer Max Kolesne talked to We Wither about the course of its creation, his home country and first steps behind the drum kit.

What is the difference between "The Great Execution" and the previous album, 2008's "Southern Storm"?
We wanted to do something different on the new album and didn't want to repeat the same old formula once again. We added some variations to our style. Playing fast songs is in our blood and it's still present on "The Great Execution", but this time we tried some new tempos and rhythms. I think you can hear the influence of Black Sabbath, Judas Priest or Mercyful Fate.

The new album is your most progressive record to date with no track clocking under five minutes. Did you plan to do such a complex record or did it simply come out that way in the process?
It's definitely our best recording session to date. We naturally wrote really long songs but we didn't plan it, they just came out like that. We jammed and shared the ideas for the new material and for some reason we wrote longer tracks than before. They are catchier than our old stuff but Krisiun remains the same death metal band.

Was the new album fun to write?
Very much! We have the right chemistry in the band. We understand each other very well. I'm sure this is the best time for us so far. We feel really comfortable with what we do at the moment. Writing and recording "The Great Execution" was a lot of fun. It was a natural process. With no compromise. We used a bunch of analog equipment in the studio, that's why it sounds natural. The important thing for us is that we didn't overproduce this material.

You often emphasize your dedication to the underground. You’ve been active for more than twenty years and stayed there for the whole time. Do you feel comfortable with where you are?
Our music is underground and we are a 100% death metal band with underground roots, so definitely yes. That doesn't mean we don't change our style a bit from time to time. I hope what we do can attract more and more people to the underground scene. Every time we tour we meet new fans and that means the underground is the place for us.

What does working with Andy Classen give you? Is he the kind of producer who is almost a band member or rather an advisor?
First I have to say we're a very easy band to work with. When we enter the studio the material is heavily rehearsed and prepared. We don't fuck around and don't waste time. We actually produce the music ourselves but we need a guy like Andy who gets the best possible performance from us. He pushes us to the limits and always delivers the sound we’re looking for. We don't spend ages in the studio. With "The Great Execution" it took us four weeks with a break for a short European tour.

Everybody knows Sepultura and Sarcofago, lots of people have heard of Krisiun, Rebaelliun and Mental Horror but there are not many bands from Brazil that are popular globally. Is the metal scene in Brazil strong at the moment? Do a lot of people come to metal shows?
The Brazilian metal scene is very strong and huge. There are tons of people at shows. It seems that Brazilian people love metal a lot. I think there aren't that many well-known bands from Brazil because it's really hard for local bands to break through. I'd say it's easier for bands in the US or Europe. Apart from the bands you mentioned I'd also add Torture Squad and Claustrofobia. Both bands are around for about twenty years and they are worth of checking out if you don't know them yet.

Rio Grande do Sul, the province of Brazil you come from, is the southernmost region of your country. Is the south of Brazil an easy place to grow up and live?
Actually it's a very good place to grow up. I had a happy and decent childhood, I totally enjoyed it. The good thing about growing up in the provinces is that you're close to nature. We used to spend time at the river or playing football most of the days. In big cities like Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro the pollution is horrific, there's a lot of crime and it has to be tough for kids to grow up in such circumstances.

The stereotype is that music and football are the only options to make a career and a good living in Brazil. Would you say there is a bit of truth in it?
Not at all, it's not true. You can be whoever or do whatever you want in Brazil. It's only up to you and how determined you are. If you're a professional and have certain skills you can be as successful here as anywhere in the world.

Brazil is the fifth most populated and the fifth biggest country in the world. What are the advantages and the disadvantages of living there?
Sao Paulo where we live at the moment is a huge city and the great thing about it is it gives you a lot of opportunities to do whatever you like at anytime you want. There are always shops and clubs open. A lot of things happen in Sao Paulo so it's a good place to hang around. There is a great cultural diversity and the food is awesome. The worst thing about living here is the terrible traffic. You literally waste hours of your time to just travel within the city. There are far too many cars here.
I remember your gig at Metalmania 2004 in Poland, when you recorded your DVD "Live Armageddon", as one of the most crushing shows ever. When you started the band was your goal to become the most brutal and punishing band in the world?
We were young, really pissed off and full of hate. We wanted to play radical music full of brutality pushed to the limits. On our first EP "Unmerciful Order" and the debut album "Black Force Domain" in 94-95 we simply wanted to just destroy everything with our music not as much to compete with other bands. That DVD is absolutely a good representation of what Krisiun and our live shows are. We always play intense and straight in your face gigs.

Drummers have always been my favourite metal musicians. How did you start?

Alex who is the oldest among of us used to be in a band before Krisiun and before he started singing and playing bass guitar he was a drummer. I never thought I could be a drummer one day but I really loved the rhythms of AC/DC songs etc. Moyses, who now plays guitar for Krisiun, told Alex to show me some simple techniques and that's how I started. I didn't have a drum kit so I practiced on the furniture or pieces of wood. I was about 13-years-old. I was only able to repeat some basic easy beats. There was no chance I could even try to play Iron Maiden. I was asking older guys for advice how to play. And then when I listened to early Metallica and heard the double-kick it just completely changed my drumming style. I went crazy for that intensity.

fot. Łukasz Popławski
What is your favourite metal record drumming-wise?
It's easier for me to point to three records that are a perfect representation of what my influences are. They’re "South of Heaven" by Slayer, "Covenant" by Morbid Angel and "Darkness Descends" by Dark Angel.

Krisiun is a true band of brothers. Would you ever consider continuing to play if one of you left the band?
It's hard to say what will happen in the future. It depends on the situation. Probably if we fought against each other we would rather kill the band than continue with somebody else. If one of us preferred to slow down a bit and retire from Krisiun we would probably give it a thought to recruit a new member. But that's only one of many possibilities. On the other hand I can't imagine how Morbid Angel could record an album without Pete Sandoval. His style is an undisputed part of the band's sound and without him it's not the same.

Saturday 12 November 2011

VALLENFYRE - Cryptic Vibe

The new project of Paradise Lost main composer and guitarist Greg Mackintosh may come to some people as a great shock. The man witnessed the loss of his father and turned the devastating experience into fuel for his grim obscure death metal monster Vallenfyre. Greg recruited some notable musicians such as drummer Adrian Erlandsson of At the Gates and Paradise Lost, guitarist Hamish Glencross of My Dying Bride, bass renegade Scoot of crust punks Doom and guitarist Mully, Greg's close friend. Released at the end of October 2011 Vallenfyre's debut "A Fragile King" offers a tribute to the old school sound of harsh and raw uncompromising beating. Songs such as "All Will Suffer", "Ravenous Whore" and "Humanity Wept" are just what death metal was originally all about. Greg talked to We Wither about how the record came to life.

If not for the death of your father, would you ever have started Vallenfyre?

Probably not. Death of my father was the thing that made me do this record. It's been therapeutic to me in that sense. It gave the spark to creation of the music. About seventy percents of the lyrics are about my father's death and my grief. For last three or four years I have been listening to my favourite old death metal again and the idea was somewhere there but it wasn't channelled.

As far as I’m aware, it’s the first time a Paradise Lost member has teamed up with a My Dying Bride member. Both bands have been compared on numerous occasions in the past. How much did Hamish influence the shape of the band?
He didn't much but it's only because he joined the band when about seventy five percents of the record were already written. He definitely added his touch in the studio, he brought in some ideas for production and his playing style was important to the fact how the album sounds.

You have written all the music for “A Fragile King” but what did other guys bring in to the band?
The whole idea for Vallenfyre was to bring back and recreate that old school vibe that we have in a band because we are all been in the scene long enough and we come from the same background musically. Adrian is Swedish but he's been living in London for a decade now. That vibe and understanding are more important to us than anything else. We have this feel for how death metal should be and it's quite an opposite to how modern death metal bands sound, often overproduced.

Could you tell me more about the writing process? How long did it take you, what did you experience during that time?
It was happening in a couple of stages. The first one was just after my dad died. I started writing down my thoughts and feelings. These ideas turned to music later on. When you stay alone with such emotions they might become pretty self-destructive. I didn't really have anybody to talk about it. That's why I spoke to Hamish and the guys to join me in a band. I had a bad thing turned to a good positive thing at the end. I spent almost the whole 2010 writing the material and then we were in a studio between December 2010 and April 2011 with a few breaks for our other bands. I noticed one thing. When death metal bands speak about ripping people to pieces it's just fine but when you come up with the real experience of death suddenly people get frightened and don't know what to do with it.

It's quite easy to guess which old school death metal bands are your favourites but do you check out younger bands? Did anything released in the last decade get your attention?

I do listen to modern bands but not really to a lot of death metal. I prefer other forms of extreme metal, things between hardcore/punk and metal like Tyrant, Black Breath, Nails, Trap Them or Coffins. I somehow lost interest in death metal since nowadays it's usually too technical, too clean in production and actually with no soul.

Could any of the Vallenfyre songs fit on the early Paradise Lost records?

Possibly but only rather more doomy songs like "Seeds" or "The Grim Irony" since the majority of the album would be too aggressive.

You have written all the lyrics for Vallenfyre, while in Paradise Lost it's Nick Holmes who writes the most of them. Was writing these lyrics easy for you?
It was bit difficult I guess. I wanted to write them in an interesting way for the listener. I was looking for the cryptic feel and atmosphere. I had lots of inspiration and experiences of sadness and mourning and put them into words. Probably the first few lyrics that I wrote, which were "Desecration", "Seeds" and "The Divine Have Fled" became a fundament to what I wrote later on.

What are the chances for another Vallenfyre record?
It's too early to talk about it. I don't have such plans at the moment. I'm not looking so far into the future. It may happen later but I don't know. For the moment we some shows scheduled for next year. We as well released a video clip to "Cathedrals of Dread", which is a song about religion and how people are told what to do and are brought up in sheep mentality of the followers. It's got some aggressive feeling, it's dark and edgy.

Will what you do with Vallenfyre influence the next Paradise Lost record?
Not at all. Quite the opposite actually. I draw a fine line between what I'm doing with both bands. The new record, which we will be recording very soon is more melodic than our last album "Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us". It's going to be a blend between classic metal and gothic style with a lot of lead guitars but no keyboards. We are going for sort of retro production. We are working with Jens Bogren again and the record should be out around March 2012.

You have been playing heavy music for more that twenty years now. Did this lifestyle turn out to be the thing you always wanted and wished it to be?
Yes and no. When we started the band we didn't even expect to do a proper record or tour etc. What I like is that we always kept the things the way we wanted. Of course we witnessed some shitty music business stuff but overall I enjoy this lifestyle much more now than in the past. I keep myself busy all the time. I write music at home when we're off tour. Then we record and go on the road. It all happens in 2-3-years circles.
fot. by Daniel Gray
Where is Paradise Lost at the moment? After twelve albums and some ups and downs what is ahead of you?
I'm quite sure than our new record is as good as anything we released in the past. It's relevant to what's happening in the scene today and we still have a lot of fun writing and playing music. We feel creative and are eager to stay around for some time. At the moment we have a very good relation with our label Century Media. Those people understand where we come from and it works just great.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

AZARATH - God-crushing Hammer

While Behemoth took its compulsory year-long break due to the band leader's illness, the unstoppable drummer of the Polish blackened squadron, Zbigniew “Inferno” Prominski, used the opportunity to complete the fifth Azarath full-length. The group, which delivers raw, vulgar and violent death metal, produced their strongest offering to date. "Blasphemers' Maledictions", released by the Witching Hour in June 2011, is a furious leviathan packed with outrageous tempos, an annihilating wall of brutal riffage and church-burning profanity. Inferno, much respected for his über-human drumming skills, spoke to We Wither about the new line-up, underground ideals and his hometown.

You started as a really deep underground band and made it to the death metal premier league. How much has changed since 2001’s “Demon Seed” album?
Our approach, values or ideas didn’t change even a bit. I’m glad to say that they are getting stronger and stronger all the time. We have progressed musically and you can clearly see that when you look at Azarath today. There is a new line-up, a new label and finally a new record, which raise a lot of sometimes radical reactions and emotions. They are right and if you also add our satisfaction to the scheme, then everything seems to be going in a good direction.

“Blasphemers’ Maledictions” is a big leap forward even in comparison with the great sound of your earlier albums “Diabolic Impious Evil” and “Praise the Beast”. How was this possible?
There are a few elements that are important in that context. One is the opportunity to work with some new people. Witching Hour gave us a chance to choose the studio to work at with no exact time limit. Second is Necrosodom, who puked out all the lyrics and some guitars too. Third is a cooperation with the great graphic artist Zbigniew Bielak, who did the cover art. Having the time off with Behemoth, I fully undertook the whole process of production of “Blasphemers’ Maledictions”.

Do you think Azarath contribute a lot of new elements to the genre or are you rather a homage to your death metal masters?
If you do your thing honestly with authenticity and total sacrifice, it automatically becomes an original and contributing act. We never wanted to stand out because of originality. The genre’s parameters are pretty much defined and leaning out of them would be out of order and a desecration. I don’t mean limiting ourselves or anything like that. Simply there are things Azarath will never do and I assure you we will never compromise. We stay loyal and faithful to the ideals of true death metal.

The new guitar player and vocalist Necrosodom and the bassist P. joined the band recently. Did they creatively contribute to writing “Blasphemers’ Maledictions”?
We wrote the whole album with the other guitarist Bart. Necrosodom is responsible for lyrics and vocal arrangements. He’s a wild animal in both the studio and on the stage and absolutely lived up to the task. His creativity and passion were very inspiring. I can’t imagine anyone else in the band instead of him. P. joined us while we were recording and his stage debut took place on September’s tour with Bulldozer, Witchmaster and Deus Mortem.

fot. by Aga Krysiuk
In spite of being involved in a lot of other bands, you have managed to produce five regular records in ten years. Is writing for Azarath that easy for you?
We write and record when we feel like it but once we decided to treat this band seriously we wanted to offer new material in regular spaces of time.

What was the impulse to form Azarath, what did it look like in the beginning?
The main motive for starting Azarath was my short break from Behemoth. I met Bruno, who I previously knew from another band – Delerium – we played with in the 90’s. Then we brought in Dlugi who played guitar in Cenotaph. We started practising the discipline of music and alcohol. Eventually Bart of Damnation joined too and that was the moment we actually became a regularly functioning band.

In September 2011 you played a nine-date tour in Poland with Bulldozer, Witchmaster and your new black metal project with Necrosodom called Deus Mortem, where you actually play guitar. In the previous years because of your commitments to Behemoth Azarath was usually performing with ex-Lost Soul drummer Adam Sierzega.
We have changed about three-quarters of the old live set. We mainly focused on songs from “Blasphemers’ Maledictions” and “Diabolic Impious Evil”. We had a new stage design and our shows were filled with brutality and mysticism.

fot. by Aga Krysiuk
Does Azarath give you more artistic satisfaction than Behemoth?
Yes, it does and I don’t think that’s anything shocking or difficult to understand.

Do Behemoth fans talk to you about Azarath when you meet them on foreign tours? Are they aware of Azarath at all?
We will very soon have an opportunity to properly introduce ourselves to a foreign audience because in December we are playing the Hatefest tour with Triptykon, Marduk and Kataklysm and within almost three weeks we will visit Germany, Austria, France, Belgium, and Holland.

Is drumming for Azarath and Behemoth different in any aspect?
The emotions and fatigue are pretty much the same. It’s tough at times but adrenaline helps me to get through the set with no problem. When I perform with Azarath, I’m sometimes pissed off with myself because I have written such sick and breakneck drum parts. On the other hand when I listen to our records I’m really proud and satisfied because I know that’s how it should sound.

In “Terrorizer’s Readers’ Poll of 2009” you were voted the drummer of the year. Does that mean your work on “Evangelion” is your top effort to date?
I don’t believe so. I think what I did on “The Apostasy” was way more difficult and demanding. I wouldn’t be able to entirely repeat those tracks at the moment. That session was one of the most murderous and exhausting experiences in my life. Plus I had a spine injury that wasn’t helpful at all.

fot. by Aga Krysiuk

You come from and live in the city of Tczew, which is located in Eastern Pomerania and has 60,000 inhabitants. Is it easier to keep a healthy perspective distance from a so-called career there?
I generally keep a very big distance from everything around and from myself as well. I’m aware of what I do and living in Tczew is no problem for me. Actually, lately I enjoy spending time in the outdoors more and more. I go to the forests of Kashubia whenever I have the chance and time to do so.

Saturday 1 October 2011

1349 – Unholy Radiance

Coming out of the filthiest holes and gutters of Oslo’s burning inferno, 1349 unleashes the new plague. In contrast to the Black Death, which actually spared some survivors in the great epidemic more than six centuries ago, the band doesn’t take prisoners. With drumming maestro Frost of Satyricon nailing the most annihilating blastbeats and vocal leviathan Ravn, the group raises the grand shrine of beastly and volcanic extremity. The furious albums “Hellfire” (2005) and “Revelations of the Black Flame” (2009) established their status, but the band’s fifth full-length “Demonoir” (2010) takes them to another level of abysmal necromancy. Frontman Ravn answers the questions of We Wither.

„Demonoir” was released more than a year ago. Are you satisfied with the feedback from the press and fans? Would you say it’s 1349’s best effort to date?
I will say without a shadow of doubt that “Demonoir” is our best effort to date. I am especially pleased with the way the energy and feeling from all our previous releases are captured and added up and became this monster of an album. It gives me the feeling of the past and the future meeting and creating a black hole in between them. Feedback from the fans has been fantastic and we still get feedback from people that say they discover new things every time they listen to the album. As an artist you can hardly get a greater compliment than that. Regarding press, the feedback has been positive but I am of course biased and would always expect more. After all, we released the best album in our career so far, so we want only the best for it. Hence we will in most cases want more of everything when it comes to press and the day we are satisfied I think it will be a sign of stagnation. As long as we are hungry for more we will continue to develop and grow as a band.

fot. by Martha Lewicka
You don’t seem to waste time. Since your debut “Liberation” in 2003 you have released four more albums. What makes you write so fast?
I don’t think this is fast at all and wish we could have had more albums out but one needs to tour also and this takes time, plus it gives us a natural break between albums so one can gather new inspiration and get feedback from the fans. After all, it is the fans buying the albums that is the main reason we are able to release new albums, so one needs to let the circle complete before starting a new one. “Liberation” was actually written and recorded in 2001 but to finish it and get signed took a bit of time, so “Beyond the Apocalypse” was already in progress when it first got released.

You worked in the studio with Tom G. Warrior on “Demonoir” and “Revelations of the Black Flame”. He doesn’t produce bands very often, so what happened that you got him to work with you? How is he to work with?
Tom is a close friend of mine and, actually, the same day as I was to ask him if he would consider working with us, he asked to work together, so it was a mutual wish of both of us. Working with Tom is a very creative process. With his background and knowledge you have a huge resources for how to produce a dark and heavy album, and also as a musician he knows when to interfere and when to let the band unfold. He stated from the beginning that he was not there to change the band or its sound. He was there to ensure we kept and developed what we already had established and that we used this to the max to bring the band forward.
fot. by Rob van Wilgen
How do you work in the studio? Do you record hundreds of takes until you find the perfect one or do you rather record quickly and spontaneously?
We do both actually as we believe that our form of music needs room to develop and live on its own. So in a studio situation and the rehearsal leading up to it we always leave some things to develop in the studio. The core is there and is often recorded in a short amount of time. Like we set the schedule for drums to record a song a day, but it always ends up with two to three songs, same goes for guitars and bass. When all this basis is recorded we start to relax more in the studio and the fills and extras start to develop and the album starts to take its form. Several times it is art-by-accidents that leads to the big differences and makes a riff or a song stand out. We have always felt that 1349 is a force on its own and we as musicians are its tools and have learnt to let go and let it guide us. Vocals have always been recorded last and I have always felt that this is the right thing to do, as it lets the album take part in me and my job to lay vocals much easier when it comes to unite the vocal side with the musical side of the album. Finally, it is mixing time and that’s when the mayhem starts. Getting everything together in the right way and, at the same time, creating the final atmosphere of the album is just as rewarding as it is exhausting.

Frost is a permanent member of 1349 but due to his commitments to Satyricon he has at times been substituted by Tony Laureano. How does it work and is anyone able to repeat Frost’s inhuman drumming?
As I mentioned above, 1349 is like a force on its own and this helps a lot when it comes to session members in general. I bet Tony can verify this as well, as he is the one that has been doing the most gigs with us and at one point we had done more shows with him on drums than with Frost. But of course every drummer has his own style and brings different elements into the band. Nobody can replace Frost, but to repeat his drumming is possible. We have had two other session drummers and they both managed to pull off 1349’s music. The difference lies in style and execution. Every drummer likes to add their touch on things as well, but as long as the basis is there I feel this artistic freedom just improves playing in the band. The fact that such extreme music can be performed by different drummers proves my point about 1349 as a force of it own.
“Demonoir” is totally packed with ultra fast and fierce tempos. Are speed and wildness synonyms for black metal?
“Demonoir” has its fair share of this, yes, but also slows down and attacks in different ways also. In order to get the sense of speed one can add a slower part for reference, so people can reflect on the speed and grasp it. I have always stated that black metal is an art form where primal feelings and emotions are best used as inspiration and mindset. Today’s society, heavily infused by religions, rejects this natural primal side and uses this to separate humans and animals. Therefore, all primal instincts are used as an inspiration in our black art.

A few years ago, you made an intense and raw video clip for “Sculptor of Flesh” from the “Hellfire” album. Do you have plans or ideas for a video for a track from “Demonoir”?
Yes, there are plans and actually work in progress. It has been in the planning for a while but we needed to find the right people to work with and now that we have done that we hope to see at least one video out soon.

fot. by Martha Lewicka
Poland is a very conservative country with statistically 90% of the population declared Catholic. When Gorgoroth recorded a live DVD in Poland, the media were going out of their minds. When cinema shows a movie critical of the church, people start protesting. At the moment, Nergal of Behemoth is public enemy number one. How does the Norwegian media and public react to the open anti-christianity and nihilism of bands like 1349?
Normally not much. Most Norwegians are not fanatic when it comes to religion and we are mostly spared from the big fanatic demonstrations and such narrow-minded behaviour. Things have changed in regards to black metal in Norway and more and more people start to respect it for its global influence and skilled musicians.

Oslo has a lot of great metal bands. Do bands hang out with each other or is it every man for himself?
I don’t know if there are a lot of great metal bands in Oslo, as I don’t pay much attention to the metal music. 1349 was formed because I disliked the direction black metal was heading in and after that I stopped paying attention to new acts. If they are good enough, they will come to my attention. Everybody was hanging out at the Elm Street in the ‘90s but this faded away with the new millennium and what is going on today is not of big interest to me. Sometimes it is better to let the past become just that.

Have you seen Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2009 film “Valhalla Rising” with Mads Mikkelsen? I’m very curious about your thoughts on it?
I do know of Mads Mikkelsen and have also briefly encountered him on a couple of occasions but this particular movie with him I have yet to see.

Monday 19 September 2011

MORNE – Untold Weight of Grief

The Boston-based quintet has been feeding the audience with the riff-ridden force of anguish and depression since 2005. Their debut “Untold Wait” and the follow-up “Asylum”, that hit the streets in May 2011, offer vast landscapes of sonic, crusty post-metal hardcore introduced in lengthy monuments of an overwhelming isolation. Morne’s veteran guitarist Jeff Hayward, whose legacy with Massachusetts sludge doom legends Grief and such records as “Come to Grief” or “…And Man Will Become the Hunted” speaks for itself, spoke to We Wither about his present and previous band.

You went for a month-long tour in Europe in June and July 2011, which included more than ten countries. How satisfied are you with it? Did it make you stronger as a band?
I do believe the tour was successful. We played thirty something shows and only a few were lousy. Got to see many friends along the way and make many more. Plus with the second record just being released we felt it was important to hit the road. Also I do think it made us stronger as a band. It was the first tour with this line up and I think it's important for bands to tour and come together. Five weeks is a long time and obviously there are stressful moments but you work together to get through them. At the end of the day we all had a great time.

Your success is a style that combines different heavy sub-genres but it’s actually quite hard to label. How would you define your sound and aspects that make Morne what it is?
Not exactly sure how to label our band. We're just trying to write music with feeling. It's more than just down tuning and playing loud. We try to create music that is heavy but also has emotion. I believe we're heading in the right direction as far as where we want to be but not quite there yet.

Is there anything that Morne stands for, a theme or a thought that you would like to be its keynote?
As far as what we stand for, not really sure. Maybe Milosz has some thoughts about that, the band was his idea before I even knew him. I guess I would like the band to be known for creating heavy powerful music.

fot. by Slawek Rzewuski,
There are long instrumental passages in your music since Morne is based on the guitar force in the first place. Would you consider doing a full instrumental record?
Doing an all instrumental record… not sure. It's nothing we've ever discussed. I could see us possibly writing an instrumental song but probably not an entire album.

Are you devoting 100% of your time and efforts to Morne at the moment? Does it allow you to be a full-time musician without a contract with a major label?
Musically I dedicate myself to Morne 100%, but not 100% of my time. I work a full-time job putting in about fifty hours a week. As much as I love the band I certainly cannot make a living and support myself from it. Maybe someday but I'm not holding my breath.

How much did Morne grow from what you were doing with Grief? Do you think both bands have something in common?
I think the stuff we're writing with Morne is more involved than the Grief material. Especially since the addition of the keyboards, really trying to create atmosphere. The Grief material was more primitive, a little more straight forward. The bands are a little similar as far as both being heavy and slow but Morne will never be as slow as Grief.

You played with Grief in the nineties and recorded five studio albums that earned you a lot of respect in the scene. Was shutting the band down and establishing Morne like going back to basics? Was it the same sort of challenge with Morne as you had with Grief back in the day?
When I joined Morne they were already a band. They had already recorded and released the demo on CD which had created a little buzz about them. Morne has achieved popularity much easier than Grief did, we really struggled back in those early years.

Grief released splits with such cool bands as Corrupted, 13, Soilent Green, 16 and Dystopia. Did you get to know them and tour with them first and then decide to do something together or did it happen the other way around?
All of those bands with the exception of Corrupted we knew personally, I never had the opportunity to meet those guys. The 13 and Dystopia splits seemed fitting to do. We all knew each other and played similar music. The 16 split came about because both bands were on the same label. The Soilent Green one, don't remember how that one came about. Back in the early years we played many gigs with 13 in NYC. Played also with Dystopia when we toured the west coast and also played with them here on the east coast when they were touring. We did two tours with 16, one on the east coast and one on the west coast. Back in 1995 while on tour here with Extreme Noise Terror we hooked up with Soilent Green for about a week. Had some great times playing with these bands and made some great friends also.

How did it work in the early nineties when you started? Did anyone understand what you were doing? What bands in Boston were you hanging around with?
Back in the early 90's people in Boston didn't get what we were doing. There were some but for the most part we would play shows and nobody would show up. I think part of it might have had to do with the fact that four of the five original members were also in Disrupt. Maybe people were expecting one thing and got the complete opposite. Or Boston back then was a very hardcore city as far as music goes and we went a different direction.

Boston is quite well-known for its hardcore scene and such bands as Slapshot, Gang Green, Blood for Blood or SS Decontrol. Did Grief ever play for hardcore crowds?
No, back in the day we never really played for hardcore crowds. Also never played with any of those bands you mentioned. After the first few years we stopped playing Boston entirely. We were not well received here back then, we had more success playing out of state.

What records, events or experiences influenced the heavily slowed-down style that you created with the early Grief albums? Which extreme doom metal bands did you know in 1992-93?
We all listened to different types of music. Before Grief we all played in either a punk or metal band. I think that after Disrupt broke up we were looking to do something completely different from what we were all doing at the time. Just wanted to play slower, heavier music. Back then I personally was influenced by bands such as Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, EyeHateGod, Sleep, Buzzov-en and 13. There are probably more but those were my favourites.

What do you consider a highlight in Grief’s history?
A highlight in Grief's history, that's a tough one. There were many highlights over the eighteen years the band existed. To pick just one is difficult. Let me put it another way, being a part of Grief is the highlight of my music career. We had our share of good and bad times but it's nice to know that after so many years people still appreciate the band and the music we created. I spent half of my life dedicated to Grief and I'm very proud of that.

A commonly cited reason for Grief’s break-up was “the hostile environment for doom metal bands”. Do you think you were ahead of your time?
Well that quote didn't come from my mouth. But in a way it rings true to a certain extent. I wouldn't say ahead of our time, there were doomy bands around back then. I just think doom metal in general really caught on and started getting very popular in the later part of the 90's. For me personally a big part of the band ending was the continuous line-up changes. It seemed every couple of years we had a different line-up. After a while it just starts to wear you down. It was like two steps forward one step back, over and over again. When it was all said and done at the end of 2008 I was the only original member left from when we started back in 1991. At some point you have to call it's quits and move on and it just felt like the right time for me.

Sunday 28 August 2011

KRALLICE – Progression Through Blackening

In only five years since establishing the band, Krallice has released three ground-breaking full-lengths: a self-titled album in 2008, “Dimensional Bleedthrough” in 2009 and finally “Diotima”, released in 2011 by Profound Lore. Gathering extraordinary musical talents, Krallice produced a unique and surprising style of monumental riffs drilling across the stratosphere. Long instrumental passages, supported by relentless and machine-like drum beats, create the perfect soundtrack to climbing the highest mountain. The New York quartet combines members of Dysrhythmia, Behold… the Arctopus, Bloody Panda, Angelblood and Astomatous. Bassist and vocalist Nicholas McMaster explains matters to We Wither.

Recording and releasing three full-lengths in four years means you’re a really productive bunch, not to mention that you’re all involved in other bands too. Is writing for Krallice that easy?

I wouldn't say that…but something to consider is that all of us write. Many bands really break down to one songwriter, so that person has to do a ton of work writing for his/her bandmates. We are lucky to have strong synergy between members and sometimes I can't wait to write a corresponding part to demos that my bandmates record, and this back-and-forth produces rapid results. Many hands make light work.
photos by Samantha Marble
You have created your own original style and sound, but the media still call you black metal, which in my opinion is a senseless labeling. Are there words to describe what Krallice is?
Black metal is a somewhat convenient label because the original intent of the band was to make music influenced by the usual second wave bands. But I feel like bands often start as a sort of collage of their favorite artists and then, over time, move into a sonic realm all their own. Hopefully this is what we have accomplished, or are beginning to. I am content to call it metal—that much seems indisputable.
“Diotima” seems to develop your style to its limits. It’s very hard to imagine what you could do better on the next record. Do you feel you have reached the sky?
The nice thing about being in a band is that when you feel tapped out creatively you often can get an extra kick from the other people around you, and that can push you forward into musical realms you wouldn't have discovered otherwise. It's worth noting that as I write this we have about an hour of demos for the fourth album and perhaps an EP. It's also worth noting that we're not a band that feels we necessarily have to change greatly on each record—it's perhaps desirable but not something to force for its own sake. Look at Darkthrone, or Graveland: they've put out a steady stream of records, demonstrating, at least to me, that they are simply in love with the act of creation. The sound may only shift very slightly from album to album but over time, as the world and the artists themselves develop, the changes are enormous.

photos by Samantha Marble
What is your main goal with “Diotima”? Where can this record take you?
For me personally the only goal was to develop the compositions to a point where they felt complete, and to record strong performances of them. As I outlined in the previous question, taking “Diotima” to its endpoint allows us to move to the next natural stage as songwriters.

Would you say Krallice is a difficult band to listen to? The structures, the tempos are far from orthodox metal.
"Difficult" is not necessarily the word I would use. There's no desire to be obtuse; it's music, after all, and is supposed to provoke an emotional response. But we have to balance that with a desire to engage the mind, and to make something that remains interesting past the first listen. So the structures reflect a desire to make metal that sounds fresh and can bear the scrutiny of repeated listens.

You have quite a few very long songs such as “Aridity” or “Litany of Regrets”, for example. Is performing them live physically demanding?
Yes, but practice makes perfect!

Is it actually tough to memorize the Krallice songs? The number of riffs, breakdowns and speedups appears to be a massive challenge.
It can at times be challenging. Some progressions stick in the mind easier than others. But taste comes into it. Music that you really like is going to be easier to remember than music you don't. This is also a style developed over time, and something that is a reflection of us as musicians, so it plays to our strengths. Someone coming to it cold would probably find aspects of the music that I think are difficult to be easy, and vice versa.

“Dimensional Bleedthrough” has fantastic cover art. Could you say something about the idea itself and the artist you hired?
I actually made it. After the first record we wanted a figure, as opposed to a kind of atmospheric background. We were thinking of the cover of Incantation's “Mortal Throne of Nazarene” as  a kind of guide and I hacked it together from a number of paintings.

Do you think the sub-genre called US black metal has anything to do with European bands such as Mayhem, Satyricon, Immortal or Enslaved? Isn’t it only a marketing device?
Some bands referred to as US black metal are closer to the bands you name than others. I think that the term is honest in terms of who a lot of these bands are drawing inspiration from (Krallice included) but influences are subjective. Something I make with certain bands in mind may not remind listeners of those bands at all.

photos by Samantha Marble
Where did the band name “Krallice” come from?
Mick made it up. He often invents words for his band names and song titles.

New York City has an awesome extreme scene. Does being there make it easier for a band to get an audience and publicity?
I would say so, yes. There is a decent amount of people interested in this stuff, so when you play shows, even as a new band, you can get the invaluable feedback that comes from playing to an engaged audience. Then, there are a lot of bloggers, photographers and videographers here so things that happen here go online quickly and are disseminated across the world. There's also a lot of good bands, as you said, so I think there's a pretty high bar for quality, and people really bring their best, writing- and performance-wise.

What extreme bands do you see as a leading progressive force in today’s scene?
That would be Portal, Wold, Ulcerate, Gorguts.

Saturday 27 August 2011

EXTREME DOOM PART VIII: Brendan Roache of Mourning Beloveth

This is the eight part of the series of short interviews with prolific and notable extreme doom metal musicians. They were all asked the same questions to see the different perspective they have for specific aspects of the genre. I spoke to Brendan Roache, bass player for Irish doom warriors Mourning Beloveth. Such records as “Dust”, “The Sullen Sulcus” and “A Murderous Circus” established them in the underground. “A Disease for the Ages”, their fourth full-length released in 2008 is another epic slab of the finest funeral doom mastery. The band is currently working on its follower. Brendan answers the questions about doom.

What was your first experience with extremely slow doom metal?
Besides the likes of Black Sabbath, probably my first experience with extremely slow doom would have been the early 90’s explosion with the likes of Cathedral, Anathema, Paradise Lost, or My Dying Bride. The Peacevile revolution I guess you could say. I was only a young teenager at the time, well into the likes of Obituary, Morbid Angel and Bolt Thrower and all the big death metal bands of the time. Those days were obviously well before the internet and discovering new and more obscure underground stuff, whatever the sub-genre of metal it was supposedly belong to, was a time-consuming, sometimes frustrating, but altogether a much more satisfying experience. Most of my discoveries were from word of mouth of friends, distro lists, zines. Black Tears distro being of particular importance to me. There was no magic mouse click to bring all the information you wanted up on a screen in front of you. A major amount of time and effort was required to find out even the most basic info on any band in the underground, where ultra slow doom most defiantly belonged back then. But as with everything in life, the more you put into it, the more rewarding each new find was. All that is gone now I think…

What inspire you to play such music?
Easy. The first time I ever heard “Turn Loose the Swans” by MDB. It was on double LP and it was in my friends house. It belonged to her older brother, and to say it knocked the socks off me would be an understatement! Its impact on me was second only to discovering heavy metal in the first place, several years previous. As I’ve already mentioned I was a committed death metal freak and that whole scene was so overtly macho, all satan, gore rape etc. The very first time I heard that album it struck me that here was this monumental piece of work, that not only abandoned that macho ethic and image but blatantly shat on it. Here was this guy singing, actually singing about stuff most teenage lads would be mortified to even admit feeling in private, never mind actually sing out loud, and lay bare on record. On a metal record for that matter! It was brave, dangerous, heartfelt, intelligent and most of all, honest. That’s the one single thing that struck me the most. The absolute honesty of the whole thing. Not only in the lyrics, but the structure and atmosphere of the music too. It was everything I never knew I wanted from metal music. There was no bravado in the songs, everything was there simply to compliment the songs themselves. No insane blastbeats for the sake of it. No demonic shredding solos. Just feeling, atmosphere, purpose and deliberate intention. Take one element of all that away from the record and it fails. It was to me the first truly complete record I’d ever heard. I fucking loved it. And I wanted to meet people who heard what I heard in that record too. That was 18 years ago.
What is the most important in Mourning Beloveth – is it the heaviness, the atmosphere, the lyrics or maybe something else?
The most important thing for me is the people involved in the process of creating what everyone else hears in our records. Without those people, it simply wouldn’t be Mourning Beloveth, weather your talking about the classic line up responsible for the first three albums, or the current line up, knee deep in writing the next record as I type. How we interact with each other, interpret each others ideas, how we argue and disagree and how we eventually pull it all together at the very last minute. It all stems from these five very different individuals. How we trust each other to do what needs to be done. So all the heaviness, atmosphere, lyrics, concepts all come from within us as a band.

Do you see your music as a very demanding one for the listener?
I hope so! But a question like that can’t really be answered by any one person. It’s all completely subjective. Every person that hears any of our songs is going to have their own opinions on it. And for that person, that’s the correct opinion. At the end of it all, once we put our music out there to the public, it doesn’t matter what we think. All we can really hope for, or expect, is that people spend some time with it, digest it. Its not pop music, it requires more than five minutes of attention. The biggest compliment we hear from people is that they spend hours, days out of their very finite existence listening to our music. Because each of our albums represent years out of our very finite lives to create it. Once it goes public so to speak, everyone’s opinion is as valid as the next. And we don’t pay attention to any of them.
Is extreme/funeral doom metal more over the top and extreme than super fast grindcore in your opinion?
Hahaha, who honestly gives a flying fuck? I like what I like, whatever genre purists would label it. Fastest, slowest, heaviest, most insane, most over the top are accolades only people that can’t write a good song are concerned with. Let them have their awards. We have the songs.

Is doom metal a state of mind or just another sub-genre of metal?
Speaking only from my own point of view, it’s a state of mind, a personality. Anything that is genre is by extension generic. I prefer music or any form of art or expression to be honest, without playing for the gallery so to speak. When we plug in, we play what we feel. It mostly happens to be doom, but that’s just what comes out of us. And you can really tell when something is done from the heart. Everything else is a waste of my time to consider.
Did you ever feel like a misfit or a reject in the metal scene?
Not in the least. I have a life. I have a circle of friends who I happily share a drink with and trade insults and occasional punches with. I play in a music group of my peers who I respect and feel privileged to be a part of. That group has no constraints or limits except for ourselves. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.

Can you relate to escapism?
Oh course. I feel sorry for those that don’t or can’t. I don’t dwell in some fantasy or make believe world. What flies around in my brain on a daily basis is what keeps me amused and entertained while doing what needs to be done to put food on my table and beer in my glass.

Saturday 20 August 2011

EXTREME DOOM PART VII: Anders Eek of Funeral

This is the seventh part of the series of short interviews with prolific and notable extreme doom metal musicians. They were all asked the same questions to see the different perspective they have for specific aspects of the genre. I spoke to Anders Eek, a drummer and the only original member for legendary Funeral of Norway. Since their debut effort “Tristesse” in 1994 these doom dinosaurs have been delivering the most haunting and depressing sounds in the metal underground. Records such as 1995’s “Tragedies”, 2006’s “From These Wounds”, 2008’s “As the Light Does the Shadow” or “To Mourn is a Virtue” released on Solitude Records in May 2011 defined the band as one of the pioneers of extreme doom. Whole new album by Norwegians is coming out later this year.

What was your first experience with extremely slow doom metal?
I was heavily into tape-trading and got hold of the first Cathedral demo, the first Thy Grief Eternal and some other obscure bands and it instantly blew me away. Prior to this I had been a huge fan of Candlemass, Black Sabbath, Paradise Lost and was really taken by the atmosphere of dirge that they presented. This really gave me the spark I needed to form Funeral and our goal was to take the extreme doom metal to new heights (or lows rather haha).

What inspire you to play such music?
Everything really. I wanted to create the perfect music to a funeral. In my view both sad, beautiful and aggressive, thus the band-name really fit our style, I think. Of course being a miserable bastard also led me into this slow, self-pitying music.

What was the most important in Funeral – is it the heaviness, the atmosphere, the lyrics or maybe something else?
All of the above! I believe in music and the channelling of emotions and I think if you also manage to present a message of some sort I think one has succeeded. Creating an atmosphere of despair really can be quite a good way of getting out different feelings, listening to doom metal makes me happy. Of course this also include playing this kind of music. We really make music that we think is the best but it’s of course flattering when fans say they can relate to Funeral and telling us they feel a sort of comfort from the music.

Do you see your music as a very demanding one for the listener?
Not really. Of course there are a number of details within our songs and we definitely don’t write easy-listening music so this means that Funeral is not for everyone. For me it’s fine. As mentioned above, we really write for ourselves and take it as a bonus if people want to buy our records.

Is extreme/funeral doom metal more over the top and extreme than super fast grindcore in your opinion?
It is extreme in opposite ways. I love it and I listen to all kinds of extreme music.

Is doom metal a state of mind or just another sub-genre of metal?
Music is a state of mind in my view whether it’s metal or whatever kind of genre.

Did you ever feel like a misfit or a reject in the metal scene?
Absolutely! Coming from Norway especially during the black metal explosion really made us a rarity in the music scene, which we never really have been a part of. But that just gave me even more inspiration to do what we felt to, eventually leading us to venture into more obscure experiments, getting a female singer, the use of orchestration etc. And I believe this is the cause of our integrity as a band to this day.

Can you relate to escapism?
Can’t we all? What is escapism? For me it’s a way of forgetting about daily trivialities and just go on a "trip". I always do it, especially through music. both as a listener and a composer.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

EXTREME DOOM PART VI: Lasse Pyykkö of Hooded Menace

This is the sixth part of the series of short interviews with prolific and notable extreme doom metal musicians. They were all asked the same questions to see the different perspective they have for specific aspects of the genre. I spoke to Lasse Pyykkö of Hooded Menace, a band’s mastermind, main writer, guitar player and vocalist from time to time who as well was or still is involved in such creepy death metal acts as Phlegethon, Vacant Coffin, Claws or Acid Witch. Finnish doom metal was always on top of the game and so is Hooded Menace with its heavy rocking mixture of colossal riffage and obscure terror-ridden vocals. Both of their records 2008’s “Fulfill the Curse” and 2010’s “Never Cross the Dead” brought loads of classic doom worship and horror film obsession. They have also released splits with Coffins, Ilsa and Asphyx. Lasse speaks about doom metal.

What was your first experience with extremely slow doom metal?

Teemu, our main contact guy in the early Phlegethon days, got Cathedral demo through tape trading when it was put out. It was definitely extreme doom at the time. Painfully slow and heavy songs with weird sort of an half-grunted vocals. I really liked it a lot.

What inspire you to play such music?
I have always dug the rugged and forlorn vibes of doom. When I heard "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus" by Candlemass for the first time in the late 80’s it blew me away! We used to jam their songs such as "Solitude", "Mirror Mirror" and "A Tale of Creation" at Phlegethon rehearsals. We loved that stuff! So Candlemass and particularly their debut album sowed the seeds of doom in me. Of course we must not forget that Black Sabbath was on a heavy rotation on our record players and tape decks before any other doomy stuff. When I write for Hooded Menace I don’t have to feel desperate or pissed off. Pretty much the opposite actually. I need to be giddy with anticipation and just excited to express these desolate, creepy and menacing vibes. Horror movies and soundtracks are definitely a source for the musical and especially lyrical and visual inspiration but first and foremost the music upwells from the heavy music I grew up with. Albums such as "Forest of Equilibrium" by Cathedral, all the first four albums by Candlemass, "The Rack" by Asphyx, "Severed Survival" and "Mental Funeral" by Autopsy, two first Paradise Lost albums, 80’s Maiden, good old classic and epic Metallica, Black Sabbath classics just to mention a few. I know this might sound a bit cheesy but also wandering in well preserved medieval cities kinda puts me in a doomy mode. Gimme a gothic cathedral and that does it, haha! We should get to record in one of those things, haha!

What is the most important in Hooded Menace – is it the heaviness, the atmosphere, the lyrics or maybe something else?
All together but if I had to choose one thing I’d say soul. Without it you are on a feeble ground and you can give it up already.

Photos by Alex York
Do you see your music as a very demanding one for the listener?
Well, if you are a fan of doom and real death metal then our music shouldn’t be too demanding for you. After all our songs are pretty catchy and memorably. There is diversity in the riffs and tempos. Doom purists might have hard time coping with our vocals but hey, we are a death/doom band so what do you expect? One more Ozzy clone?

Is extreme/funeral doom metal more over the top and extreme than super fast grindcore in your opinion?
I’m not following those scenes much but certainly both are pushing the envelope. Personally I enjoy more grindcore (mostly old stuff and to me that is "superfast" or say fast enough!) more than funeral doom which I never really got into. I do get the point of this style but I just find plain funeral doom pretty boring. I’m a bit behind of the modern grindcore scene and it’s bpm. To me Napalm Death’s "Scum" and "From Enslavement to Obliteration" are still very extreme, chaotic and totally relevant stuff. Yeah, I’m an old fart, tell me about it, haha

Photo by M.Salminen (right)
Is doom metal a state of mind or just another sub-genre of metal?
Yeah I guess you need to have a certain kind of state of mind/approach to play doom. So many metalheads still find it utterly boring music to play or to listen to. Some just cannot relate to the forlorn, rugged and monumental vibes of doom at all. It’s definitely not for everyone which only makes the genre even more fascinating to all us who "get" it.

Did you ever feel like a misfit or a reject in the metal scene?

I have always felt more or less like a misfit in my life. I don’t follow the scene too much. Idiots dwell in every community. You bet I know a tool or two in the underground metal scene that are more obsessed with drama and talking crap about everyone than the actual music. I have my persistently growing connections in the metal scene that I interactive with and have good time with.

Can you relate to escapism?
Sure. With the art comes the relief. It’s an escape from reality which is something we all need every now and then I guess. Let it be music, movies, painting or whatever. It’s not that I cannot cope with everyday life. It’s got more to do with my imagination than depression and such.