By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, listenOn: Monday, December 15th, 2014
“Pale Pretender travels heavy hearted through ominous landscapes in a world where more is not enough,” says Callisto vocalist Jani Ala-Hukkala.
Finns aren’t the most talkative of peoples, so it stands to reason Ala-Hukkala is letting the gravity of his statement (and the “Pale Pretender”) do most of the talking here, which is fine for us, ’cause “Pale Pretender” is massive. From the initial deluge to the last killer motif, “Pale Pretender” moves like a glacial monster, lumbering to and fro with purpose.
The last time Callisto blessed the world with its mammoth post-metal was on 2009′s Providence effort. Fast forward five or so years and they’ve returned with Secret Youth, a natural extension (more refinement, actually) of Providence. In Secret Youth, Callisto find themselves at the apex of the genre, able to communicate emotional heft with single strums or vocal movement. They’ve come out of their proverbial shell on Secret Youth, and it’s no less impressive than the catchy echo-plexing post-apocalyptic dirges present on Providence.
It’s always Monday somewhere. Today is Monday. Let Callisto reinforce that it’s Monday with “Pale Pretender”.
** Callisto’s new album, Secret Youth, is out January 30th, 2015 on CD, vinyl, and digital on Finland’s Svart Records. It’ll be available for pre-order shortly. In the meantime, head over to the Svart Shop for some killer tunes on killer formats. Click HERE.
Steffen Kummerer is better known for his stupidly good guitar and vocal work in the obscenely great tech death outfit Obscura. But Kummerer has a dark side. One that harkens back to the mid-’90s, when Swedish death metal tyrants Dissection reigned the cold winds of nowhere and drank, with pure joy, night’s blood with Elizabeth Bathory.
For the better part of two albums, both adorned in Necrolord Blue, Kummerer and Thulcandra created the best Swedish black/death since Dissection went on hiatus. While there’s a certain level of homage to Thulcandra’s music and visual aesthetic, there’s no denying the magic in albums Fallen Angel’s Dominion and Under a Frozen Sun. Thulcandra are able to get the right vibe, the right sound, and make it (somewhat) their own.
Well, new album, Ascension Lost, continues the Munich-based outfits descent into hells of hell. In short, it’s another fantastic entry, still in Necrolord Blue, by a band that shows no signs of lessening their homage to Dissection and a sound, a Swedish sound, that’s all but lost today.
With great anticipation, we bring you: “Exalted Resistance”
** Thulcandra’s new album, Ascension Lost, is out February 10th on Napalm Records. It’s available HERE as a limited edition digipak. This is a pre-order.
Some of us recognize Jeff Tuttle as a recent guitarist with the Dillinger Escape Plan, where he tore ears and brain matter from 2007 until 2012. Jeff has also been active as a filmmaker (see his new-ish video for a new Child Bite song here) as he continues his musical pursuits in Old Gods and Malo Konjche. He has launched a killer website that unifies his work in multiple media, which you can check out here: http://malokonjcheindustries.com/
Tuttle’s colorful rock entity Malo Konjche released a new 4-song EP this month, called Eudaimonia, the lead/title track of which you can check out right here at the Deciblog. Nothing on the record gets too metal, but it’s all based on loud, noisy rock textured with keyboard accents and a punk edge. Eudaimonia is a lot of fun to listen to, and at a bite-sized 13 minutes you can spin it a few times back-to-back in less time than it would take you to listen to half of one of our revered doom albums. And find out what Jeff himself thinks of all of this by reading our interview with him (below the music player).
Can you talk a little about how you first got involved in the various things you create (film, music, etc.)?
I can’t say for sure how I started down the artistic path. I suppose it’s all very metaphysical and those kinds of things just “spoke to me.” In a very pragmatic sense, I’m drawn toward the challenge of imagining something and actualizing it. If I have tune in my head, I love figuring out how to arrange it. If I envision a monster, I love figuring out the best way to film it. But in a deeper and more encompassing sense, I especially love the therapeutic outlet these mediums provide. Jeff Buckley and Cameron Crowe make excellent clinicians.
How do you go about making contacts for the professional film work you’ve done?
I strongly believe that good things happen to those who make them happen. Moreover, if you surround yourself with likeminded people and work to make something you believe in, you will continue meeting likeminded people. Making contacts is as easy as that. If you try, you may result in failure. But not trying at all only has one outcome. You are the only one stopping you. PMA, man. Get with it.
How would you characterize the time in your life that you were in the Dillinger Escape Plan?
My time in Dillinger was one of the most amazing rides I’ve ever embarked upon. I did so many things I never thought I do, I went to places I never thought I’d see and met so many people I idolized (and continue to idolize) as a kid. In the end, it was clear that it wouldn’t be the creative outlet I wanted it to be, but nonetheless a time I will never forget… mostly because my bones still hurt.
Would you say that, right now, you’re more focused on music or filmmaking?
I’d say I’m more focused on being creative and productive, in any fashion. I feel like studying film and filmmaking has drastically impacted me as a musician and lyricist. It’s been a whole new well of inspiration for me to draw from. And likewise, the deeper I dig into the depths of music, the more I see how these two mediums are connected. Making music videos has been the ultimate combination of my two favorite things in this world. What more could you ask for, besides pizza?
What impulse drives Malo Konjche’s music?
I feel there’s a musical void that lay somewhere between over-produced radio bullshit and under-produced garage rock. Where’s the happy medium? Where’s the huge radio rock with the DIY ethic? When you listen to the classics, most all of them not only lived in this void, they fucking reveled in it. Malo Konjche has a goal: to revel alongside the music we grew up with on a prime piece of real estate in that empty span of nothing.
I’d like to take this opportunity to nip something in the bud: Cambridge, Ontario’s Greber is in no way associated with, saluting, paying homage to, or actually even really aware of, former NHL goaltender Martin Gerber. The first indication should have been that the moniker as selected by the two-man sludge/doom monolith is spelt completely differently than the former Mighty Ducks/Senators/Maple Leafs/Hurricanes/Oilers netminder. Topping that off is the fact that the band has gone on record numerously saying their chosen handle is made up and means absolutely nothing.
Anyhow, Greber’s formation comes at the hand of friendship and geography. Bassist/vocalist Marc Bourgon and drummer/vocalist Steve Vargas are based in Cambridge, but play in Ottawa’s Fuck the Facts and Montreal’s The Great Sabatini, respectively (Vargas also plays in Biipiigwan, which is based at various points between eastern and northern Ontario). The two used to be in a band called Tugnut and amidst that band calling it quits and the long distance relationships with their other bands, the two joined forces to live out their fantasies of playing a ridiculously bottom-heavy racket in crusty rehearsal rooms and any shitty basement that’ll have ‘em. After a series of splits and EP’s, they’ve recently issued their debut full-length, Kiln Hardened Psalms via Handshake Inc./No Why/Sludge Hummer Records. Below, Bourgon introduces the band by answering some of my boring questions in his not-so-boring style.
Let’s get the introductory crap out of the way: hit me with some band history?
We were in a trio years ago and when that band ended we figured it would be fun to keep on playing music together. We’re good friends and just needed an excuse to hang out. Seems legit right?
Since this is your first time on the Deciblog and given the millions of bands out there these days, what do you feel has Greber standing apart from those millions? Why should a dude think twice about spending his beard shampoo money on a Greber record or gig?
Depends on the beard shampoo, I suppose. We are doing something that NO ONE has EVER done before. Just bass and drums you ask? That’s right! Name one band off the top of your head that has only bass and drums. Didn’t think so. Our past musical endeavour was pretty far out so coming off of that, we were just out to make some heavy shit that makes you laugh at how ridiculously crushing it is. Hopefully we succeed, but if not, it’s a great release for the both of us and it’s something that we’ll continue to pursue. If you decided to grow a beard, which shampoo would you use? Damn dude, you could be the next Frank and Oak model on the Lambgoat ads! (I’m serious, let’s talk)
Were there ever any initial reservations about limitations or restrictions in deciding to a two-piece band? What have you found to be the more salient pros and cons of Greber vs. Fuck the Facts/The Great Sabatini?
It’s a different beast entirely. A ton of time and scrutinization goes into what we do seeing as we only have one melodic instrument and to be honest, we’re still figuring it out. With only having two members it’s easier to decide on something during the writing process, but at the same time, having only one other person to bounce your ideas off of is a limitation as well. With FtF, everyone’s opinion gets factored in which takes a lot longer, but in the end the songs are something that not one of us every pictured. It’s pretty sweet. So, I guess the pro IS the con, if that makes any sense. The songs we write take less time to finish but they undergo less of a transformation. Oh shit, and loading gear. That’s fun with just the two of us.
On a related note, with your being separated from your other bands/band members by geography, aside from the obvious ability to spend more face-to-face time in Greber, what does this band offer to you that you other bands don’t? Was there a particular “a-ha” moment when you realised you were on to something with Greber?
I think that we have practice with Greber as much as we practice with Fuck the Facts/The Great Sabatini, respectively. We’re always pretty busy practicing for our other bands and it’s usually only before shows/recording that we get to bang out the hits together.
The new album was pieced together over the course of a year or so, was it not? Walk us through the creative/writing/recording process, if you could be so kind.
It was actually pieced together over the span of four years. We suck. We wrote the songs over a few years, recorded the drums a few summers ago, and then finished with the bass/vocals/theremin/turntables this summer past. The next one won’t take as long hopefully. Manowar wrote and recorded Kings of Metal in under a year. Fucking gods right there.
When you look back on the creation of Kiln Hardened Psalms, what do you wish had more time to do/could have done differently/avoided/etc.?
Nothing. I’m stoked on how it came out. Wish it was done sooner but fuck it, it’s done now and I couldn’t be happier. Ask me in a few years when I think it sounds like shit and the songs are lame.
What’s the story behind the album’s title?
Just based on an old story between friends. Nothing too deep. A sort of trial by fire at the risk of sounding lame. Ahh shit, too late.
Is the CD really limited to 50 copies? Sure, creating demand is one thing and CD sales are down, I’ve been told, but that hardly seems like a financially swift plan. What gives?
Fuck it, we don’t want to be looking at the damn things for the next five years, so we figured do a limited run of them to bring on our east coast tour. We’ll have a butt ton of vinyl that we are releasing through No Why Records which is a new label run by our good friend Mark McGee. Should be available soon.
How difficult is juggling the recording and touring schedules of Greber and your other bands and the rest of your life when, at best, your musical endeavours are breaking even?
It’s definitely tough, but that’s the gig. Is it worth the cost of travel, lost time from work, eating plane ticket costs etc.? Absolutely! I suppose if I can find a legit job that I enjoy doing as much as this music bullshit I would do it in a heartbeat. But as of right now, KNOUPE. People will always tell you how hard it is to do this underground band thing and they’re right. That being said the rewards outweigh the bowls of shit you eat to get them so I guess that makes it just about even.
What’s been your sketchiest tour experience of the last calendar year?
When I was in Mexico with FtF some huge skinhead dude was trying to get me to show him my passport. He looked like Bane with a sloped forehead. Nothing came if it and that was pretty much it. Tough life, eh? I think I saw Bill from The Acheron there handing out flyers. I might have been drunk. Hey Bill, did that happen?
What does the new year hold for Greber?
We’ve already got most of a new album written and we are going to be recording some new material for a split with Anthesis (who I would recommend checking out). When all that will be out, I do not know. Steve is expecting his first kid in January as well as heading out to Europe with The Great Sabatini in the spring and FtF will be busy with exotic high-roller touring plans and getting our new full-length out so Greber might not be doing all too much. We’ll see, maybe I’ll grow another arm.
Order shit here
Watch some beer-soaked shenanigans:
Welp, Raiders fans: I hate to say it, but I think I’m going to be retiring Oakland Raiders talk for the rest of the season. With three weeks left, and teams fighting for their playoff lives, I don’t see how a two-win team could be worth mentioning. That said, I’m going for one last dip in to the Black Hole this week. What better man to lead me in one last time than heavy metal legend Scott Kelly?
If you don’t know who Kelly is, I don’t know why you’re reading Decibel. He and his band Neurosis are probably one of the main reasons this publication exists. Neurosis are one of the most influential bands in underground heavy music. The John Madden of metal, if you will. I caught up with Scott on tour with his new supergroup, Corrections House. He was still riding the high of the big Raider win over the San Francisco 49ers the day before, which Scott explains is as big a win as Raiders fans could have hoped for.
“Beating San Francisco this week was everything [for the Raiders] besides getting a chance to keep San Diego or Kansas City out of the playoffs. This could actually fuck San Francisco’s year. We’ll see how it shakes out”
I immediately jumped on Scott about Jim Harbaugh potentially taking the Raiders coaching job this offseason.
“I don’t know. I’m kind of on the fence about it, seeing how his team has declined this season. You start to wonder if what they say about him is true: that he’s got this really small window period of winning before he starts wearing people out. San Francisco looked like shit, and they shouldn’t have. They have a lot of great players. There’s no way we should have beat them yesterday, but we beat them pretty soundly. Our rookie quarterback carved them up. I’m actually still in shock over it.”
It’s so odd that the Raiders could have willed such a huge win this week when the prior week they got blown out 52-0 by the St. Louis Rams. Scott actually brought an interesting explanation for that one-sided loss to the table:
“Given the cultural situation of what was going on in St. Louis that particular week, it makes sense. I played football for seven years. I know what football is like. If you come out and you are really focused, you can kick the shit out of a team up and down the field in all facets. I do think the Rams are better than us, but they’re not 52-0 better than us.
I probed deeper about Kelly’s football history.
“It’s a really emotional game. Momentum is everything. My last two years of Pop Warner, I was on an undefeated team. We’d just go on these rolls. Sometimes we’d win big. Other times we’d be down, and something would happen: a hit, a turnover, or the other team would just start collapsing from the pressure. You’d feel the tide turn. Just as clear as I could feel music now, I learned how to feel the tide turn in a football game.”
Probing deeper into Kelly’s football upbringing, I quickly found out that he actually was born and raised in my hometown, Chicago, and gravitated towards the Oakland Raiders organically before, ironically enough, setting up shop in Oakland years later:
“I was actually a Bears fan first. And then I fell in love with the Raiders in Super Bowl 1977. I saw them. I was 10 years old, and I was like, ‘Fuck, man.’ It was like one of those weird moments, like the first time I heard Black Sabbath. Then strangely, my life led me to Oakland, which is odd.”
Multiple times, I’ve seen Scott Kelly rock an Oakland Raiders jersey on stage while performing live, which I always thought was super cool, especially since late guitarist Slayer Jeff Hanneman used to do the same.
“What it really had to do with was practicality. If you’re on tour and you’re in a van, you can rinse a jersey and dry it easily between shows. I liked that. The next logical thing was to get a Raiders jersey, because I’m a Raiders fan. Somebody else pointed out the Slayer connection somewhere down the line, which I thought was pretty cool. Hanneman always wore it with pride, like me.”
It was a blast talking to a legend like Scott Kelly, picking his brain about a sport we obviously both love, and hearing about the time he smoked weed with GWAR and Raider tight end Todd Christensen (but that’s something you’ll have to ask him when you run in to him on your own time).
Check out Corrections’ House new cover of Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer” here, and catch them on tour in the U.S. now!
Birdshit (Cindy Lauper Edition)
Philly lost to Seattle in a great matchup this past Sunday, and I noticed a few things about these great clubs.For one, Eagles coach Chip Kelly is getting bummed because he can’t get off as many plays per game as he’d like to, even though his team runs about 60 per game already. In order for a play to get snapped, the game’s refs needs to fully set and line up. Frankly, their fat asses aren’t getting to the line of scrimmage quick enough to start the play. I caught Kelly chewing out a few refs last week for not lining up quick enough.
I love the Eagles to win the division, and possibly even get the second bye behind the Packers. From there, it’s hard for me to think that they won’t get upset by a scrappy team in the playoffs. Their unique style of football is still in the incubation stages. I also question whether Foles or Sanchez is the right QB to run said offense. What about getting RG3 cheap this off-season and working him in the mix?
As for the Seahawks, their defense is booming right now. They haven’t allowed a touchdown since Nov 16, which is pretty staggering considering they’ve played the Eagles, 49ers and Cardinals in that stretch. Another thing is their quarterback is back to being the smartest player in the league again. Russell Wilson knows his defense is clicking on all cylinders now. They will subdue the other teams’ offenses to the point where literally Wilson just has to not make mistakes and they will win.
For example, Wilson threw the ball away to avoid a sack upwards of a dozen times this past Sunday. Throwing the ball away to avoid a loss is one of the smartest plays a QB can make. Plus, Wilson knows how to do it with receivers in the area, so intentional grounding penalties aren’t called on him.
I made it pretty clear last week that Seattle is about to go 3-1, if not win out to close the season. Huge win for Seattle, resulting in them now owning a tiebreaker over Philly.
Cut the Fat/Return of the Mac
I don’t care what anybody says: New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is the most overrated coordinator in the NFL. He actually has decent personnel on his defense. Yet every week they struggle. They are currently the 31st-ranked defense in the NFL. It’s also super annoying when they actually have a defensive stand and Ryan goes crazy, like his great football mind willed it. I can’t even begin to tell you how insanely horrible their defense looked in the most important game of the season this past week against Carolina, losing 41-10 (giving up 17 points in the first quarter). When Rex Ryan became a head coach five years ago, the league was looking to fast-track Rob Ryan into the head coaching mix. Not now. He will be fired at the end of this season, and be on the fast track to being a singer in a Bob Seger tribute band.
The best coordinator in football, as much as people don’t like to admit it, is New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Props to McDaniels for being run out of Denver in 2010, after trading away Jay Cutler, Tebow, and other messes. McDaniels is only 38 years old. He is maybe an offseason away from another head coaching try, and this time it’ll be permanent. I think he’ll be a great fit in San Francisco. McDaniels is going to be a MONSTER head coach one day.
Did anyone notice something weird in the Rams/Redskins game this past week during the coin toss? My ex-roommate Mike Buha emailed me that Jeff Fisher sent out the six players the Rams acquired and drafted in the RG3 trade a couple years back to to take the opening coin toss. Total dick move by Fish. However, does anyone else think this is badass?
Rams: keep this guy. He’s out of his mind, and has the kind of George Costanza insanity that could lead you to greatness.
The Rams are literally one player away from being a top five team in football next year. The only problem is that one player is the hardest position to fill in all of sports. You guessed it: tailback.
Vikings Fan Kills Himself, Can’t Stand to See Blair Walsh Attempt Game-Winning Field Goal (Video NSFW)
Ampere — the band featuring Will Killingsworth of much-celebrated Amherst, Massachusetts scream-y, powerviolence-y trailblazers Orchid — is back with a new split on No Idea and, as the super-intense, raw-as-fuck exclusive stream below will surely attest, the band has not missed a single goddamn step…
Here is what vocalist Stephen Pierce told Decibel about the lyrics and more:
It’s called “Parallels,” and it’s a long time in the making — we began recording these songs in 2012, not too long after the release of Like Shadows. It’s one of three songs that will be on a split with our overseas buddies in long-running DIY H/C band Raein, from Italy, who we met on our first European tour with Sinaloa, playing together in Montbrison, France. We later toured Japan with La Quiete, who share members with Raein, and have ended up crossing paths more than a handful of times since. To say that we’re excited would be an understatement! The artwork is by Meghan Minior, our bassist.
“Parallels” is pretty straightforward: It’s about growing up and away from what defined you as a younger person, but hanging onto what’s important & the lessons learned there. Applying that drive, that dedication, that heart to everything you do. A lot of the best folks I’ve met through punk rock aren’t necessarily still active in bands or labels or whatever – maybe they’re parents now, maybe they’ve pursued some other goal – but, at least in my experience, they all seem to bring that same urgency and sincerity to general personhood beyond the limitations of a diy punk rock community. Basically, growing up is a weird & hard thing, but can be done gracefully and while preserving the ideals and integrity of our maybe more radical years.
There’s also a little lyrical nod to our buddies Daniel Striped Tiger in there, too. You know, cuz those little kids are all growed up now too, and doing so very well!
Primordial dropped its eighth LP late last month, another stellar entry in an already impressive oeuvre. To celebrate, frontman Alan Averill (aka A.A. Nemtheanga) sent us a playlist that, as he describes, “might be something a little different.” After perusing his picks, it’s hard to disagree. We’ll let him take it from here: “I always think too hard about lists, I think it’s the rainman in me that gets caught up in too many permutations and the maths can make me dizzy. Then I always leave something out that comes back to haunt me. Or I spend hours deliberating on which Holy Terror track to choose from which album and why. I’ve done loads of metal lists before, so I thought I’d write about ten non-metal albums that have influenced me and mean a lot to me over the years.”
Here’s hoping to see the Irish quintet on these shores again soon. In the meantime, pick up a copy of the excellent Where Greater Men Have Fallenhere.
Wovenhand–Consider The Birds (2004)
Consistently my favorite band over the last decade is Wovenhand, to the point I even followed them around on tour a few years back for a weekend. The stark orthodox and unrelentingly dark aesthetic seems to resonate with many black metal people. In Europe it’s been something of a given in the scene people know about Wovenhand. Hard to categorize, bleached black old testament folk americana which warns us all to repent!
The Cure–Pornography (1982)
An album I heard back in the ’80s but only returned to a couple of years ago. Not weighed down with any expectation of hits, this is The Cure at its darkest and most bleak. “One Hundred Years” for example has a claustrophobic grimness most black metal can only dream of.
Dead Can Dance–Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun (1987)
One of the first bands I gravitated towards in the early ’90s outside of the metal scene. A band my teenage ears couldn’t really fully grasp in its entirety but all I knew was it was something of staggering beauty. Part goth, part medieval choral music, it was the stepping stone towards accepting other forms of dark music into my listening tastes.
Leonard Cohen–Songs Of Love And Hate (1971)
A tape trading friend back in the early ’90s sent this to me and as a 15 year old I became obsessed with this album. It superficially appeals to that teenage sense of being misunderstood by everyone and sundry, but it’s stood by me over the years. “Famous Blue Raincoat” is still an achingly beautiful song and taken on far more meaning the older I’ve got.
Bohren & Der Club Of Gore–Black Earth (2002)
Something new that has been with me only a couple of years but has been the accompaniment of many 4 a.m. moments staring at the ceiling or watching the sun come up. Black jazz they call it, imagine some kind of doom slow satanic film noir.
Townes Van Zandt’s “Waiting ‘Round To Die” (from 1968′s For The Sake Of The Song)
Again something new but a very powerful conduit for me over the last couple of years. TVZ is the real deal, something so organic, raw and passionate. Some of the footage of him playing this song in a cabin filmed for a documentary on him is one of the most powerful things I’ve ever seen. Proper country!
Johnny Cash–American IV: The Man Comes Around (2002)
Any of the Rubin produced albums that reinvented Cash could be here but I guess this one is the most iconic. A snapshot of the final years of a real musician’s life, in the true old sense, a proper rebel from another age. That body of work still slices through the mediocrity of modern society like a knife. Sagely and forewarned.
Klaus Schulze–Blackdance (1974)
I could have picked Tangerine Dream but to be honest I think Schulze nails something darker on this solo album. Trance-like ’70s electronic music that was the soundtrack to many a troubled mental state over the last few decades. I have Euronymous to thank for the recommendation!
Arditi–Omne Ensis Impera (2008)
I’ve always had an interest in the martial/neo folk scene and having played four times at Wave-Gotik-Treffen and many friends in that scene, Arditi has become the de facto soundtrack to that interest. Rousing and reflective of an older, idealized Europa!
Clint Mansell (with the Kronos Quartet and Mogwai)–The Fountain: Music From The Motion Picture (2006)
I could have picked several other soundtracks but this is the one I turn to the most. An odd, confusing, at turns amazing and then preposterous movie that at the very least makes an impact. Meditative and moving on an epic scale.
*Order a copy of Primordial’s Where Greater Men Have Fallenhere
I consider Botanist to be one of modern black metal’s great “projects.” Germinated by a solitary San Franciscan named Otrebor, it’s a band whose music is both utterly bizarre (floraphilic paeans from a misanthropic hermit, rendered only in drums, voice and hammered dulcimer) and emotionally devastating. This is all to say that when Otrebor tells us that the Australian black metal brood Pestilential Shadows is one of his favorite bands, we listen to what he has to say about them and their new album Ephemeral. And then he interviews the band. And then we run the interview on the Deciblog.
Australia’s forceful black metal mark was made in the trenches of war and speed metal. Sadistik Exekution, Destroyer 666, and Bestial Warlust were figureheads of the sound and fury, suggesting that the Land of Oz was a very rough land with very rough dudes, whose frenetic, chaotic music should be high on the list of any metal fan seeking the vibe of barbarism above all else…and often at the expense of anything else.
If there’s been a second major wave of Aussie BM, it’s been highlighted by forays into more delicate, thoughtful…musical compositions. Elysian Blaze, with its evocative gargantuan monolith Blood Geometry. The further travels down the shoegaze path on the past two Woods of Desolation albums (As the Stars is one of the best metal albums of 2014). Even the one-man black metal landscape has changed importantly, from the iconic rainforest rawness of Striborg to the manicured bedroom-metal perfection of Midnight Odyssey.
Make sure to include Pestilential Shadows in the second wave argument. Yes, they’ve been around for more than 10 years, and they’ve still got one foot in the old-school bucket. But their progressions into that special kind of epic territory -that signals catharsis as much as it invokes misanthropy makes them proof of the health and well-being of Australia’s black metal scene, and also candidates for top 10 black metal album of the year. And that album in this case is Ephemeral, the best record by this New South Wales four-piece since 2009’s essential, underrated In Memoriam, Ill Omen. Ephemeral continues to show that Pestilential Shadows has a knack for writing black metal that seems at home with your favorites of the genre, but with phrasings and expressions that are signature to this band; and with Ephemeral’s steps forward in sound production, Pestilential Shadows’ new-school aspects make them an eminently relevant project for today’s worldwide black metal scene.
Otrebor: Ephemeral may be my new favorite record of yours. It for sure has the fullest and most dynamic sound. What did you learn from previous recordings that you applied to your most complete work to date? What did you do differently this time in recording or production that has marked this change in sound?
Balam (guitar/vocals): Previous recordings were either done by other people or done with outdated recording techniques and equipment. This time I had full control of the recording and some updated equipment. There was still a lot of experimentation with the recording to get the right sound but with time and conviction in the work at hand, we were able to mould not only the music but the atmosphere and sound we were striving for.
In Memoriam, Ill Omen is so unlike the rest of the band’s discography — more mid-paced, less musically familiar within a black metal context. It’s got wonderful compositions and arrangements, and is an album that only gets better with familiarity. Do you look back on that period of the band with any particularly remarkable memories?
It was a time where the previous album, Cursed, felt a little stagnant — a straightforward black metal album with no real boundaries pushed. I thought it was time Pestilential Shadows grew as a musical and artistic entity, journeying outside the confines of regular black metal. More time and more thought was put into In Memoriam to create a more interesting album. Since then PS hasn’t pushed to release an album within a certain time frame but taken time to work on the music, art, structure and concepts to create albums that are richer and more experimental.
What were the toughest periods in the band’s history? And the best successes?
The toughest periods would have to be lineup changes over the years. People would come and go from lack of conviction or sometimes just lack of interest from the band taking so long between albums. Some people just didn’t fit the ideal of the band and were ejected quickly.
There’s no real success in any type of underground black metal so I guess the only success in the history of the band has been the completion and release of the albums over the years.
Ephemeral’s conceptual core is that we are all fleeting, that death will come to us all. Yet the album has quite its share of lively moments to go with the grim heaviness. Could you talk about the album’s greater context in a conceptual and musical way?
Life and death is a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, like the album, but the end game is most inevitably death. The album is bookended by two pieces of ambient classical music we composed (“Throes” and “Expire”) that express the emotion and concept that we were trying to capture.
The Australian scene as a whole made important marks with bestial, raw and war-oriented styles and sounds, but quite a few players are emerging with a more refined, expressive and artistic vision. I’m thinking of Elysian Blaze and Woods of Desolation, and particularly the latter’s As the Stars, as I see some broad parallels between that outstanding work and Ephemeral in how you use guitar riffs, tones and harmonies that evoke bittersweet triumph and a sweeping, epic feel, while still maintaining the harshness and melancholy familiar to black metal. What the public is calling the shoegaze influence in black metal seems to be getting infectious and splitting into new and re-thought variants. Was this so-called shoegaze sound of any interest to you when you wrote Ephemeral? Do you have an opinion of some of the newer waves of Aussie black metal?
I was an integral part of writing, structuring, producing and mixing the new Woods of Desolation album so that might be why some of it sounds familiar! I’m not really a fan of this new shoegaze black metal hybrid, it’s just the way I’ve been writing and structuring songs since PS started in 2003. I’ve always maintained that the bass is an integral part of the music to carry the driving tone and the guitars wash over, usually not even following the bass lines to give that space and atmosphere to the music.
I tried to find some info on your lineup, and the best source seemed to be Metal Archives, which lists you as a three piece with no current drummer. What’s the case with the lineup at this time, and will this prevent promotion for Ephemeral?
Somnus and Gaap have been with the band for quite some time and will continue with the band due to their conviction and great songwriting abilities. Our drummer, Basilysk, played also on our previous album, Depths, and is perfectly suited to the erratic time frames of the band. His style and conviction will see him carry through for as long as the band is alive.
What are the challenges of being a non-mainstream band in Australia? Is the continent big enough to support a career? Can you leave the country much for touring?
Pestilential Shadows will never make a career out of playing music. The genre itself is self-destructive in nature and therefore has a limited lifespan. I will continue to make music until I die. Getting the funds for touring anywhere overseas is near impossible seeing as Australia is probably the farthest country from anything. Getting someone to even somehow help fund an overseas tour would be well beyond our reach so it would have to be self-funded. Australia realistically has only a handful of major cities to play so touring usually consists of around three to four shows!
Speaking of which, is Australia its own continent, or is it part of Oceania? There seems to be a good deal of conflicting info on this (I’ve read that technically, New Zealand is also a continent as it’s on its own set of tectonic plates).
Australia is both a continent and a country, part of the Australasian/Oceania region. It is the smallest continent but largest country in the world. New Zealand is classed as three separate islands, not a continent and is part of the Pacific Islands.
What would it take to have your Impaled by the Moon demo re-issued on CD or LP?
Seance Records have plans to re-release some of our old albums and demos on CD and or LP in the near future.
What does Pestilential Shadows bring live that makes it a remarkable show?
It brings conviction in black metal rather than lackluster, pseudo-intellectual black metal that is the fashion these days. We still play black metal in the old way with corpse paint and blood, giving a ghostly atmospheric vision, rather than four short-haired guys with skinny jeans playing boring, technical, over-hyped, business-oriented music.
By: justin.m.norton Posted in: featured, listenOn: Wednesday, December 10th, 2014
Ah, December — the time of the year when everyone puts out their “best of” lists and thinks about albums that will come out in summer 2015. We’re just as guilty at Decibel; our annual top 40 extravaganza is probably on your nightstand.
This would lead you to think that no new music comes out just weeks before the year ends. That’s certainly not the case. Thanks to Greyhaze Records we are streaming the just released album from NervoChaos titled The Art Of Vengeance.
Even better, it’s just the kind of stuff we like: old school death metal and thrash from Brazil, where you’ll still get your ass kicked sideways for being a poseur. Spin it below and get your own copy here — it’s out today.
Also: we’re not sure if the guy in the far right is in the band, a schoolteacher who happened upon a metal photo shoot or somehow related to Jack Owen.
By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featuredOn: Wednesday, December 10th, 2014
Brooklyn might be known for its rather healthy underground metal scene that revolves around more cutting-edge, extreme sounds, but it’s heartening to know that some folks in the borough are flying the old school, “true” heavy metal flag high and proud. The Defenders of the Old Fest has been kicking around the Eastern seaboard for a few years, with its first two fests held in Baltimore. Defenders of the Old Fest III, however, journeys up to the Bell House in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn on Friday, March 13 and Saturday the 14th, 2015, and is set to offer as strong a classic heavy metal lineup as you could ever hope to come across.
Headlining Saturday are Canadian speed metal innovators Exciter, which will feature the original classic lineup of drummer/singer Dan Beehler, guitarist John Ricci, and bassist Alan Johnson performing in the US for the first time in 30 years. Better yet, the set will feature material from the band’s seminal early-‘80s albums Heavy Metal Maniac, Violence & Force, and Long Live the Loud. Meanwhile, Riot V, the band lovingly formed after of the death of Riot founder Mark Reale, will headline Friday. Other noteworthy support acts include NYC metal greats The Rods, San Francisco veterans Brocas Helm playing their first East Coast show, Connecticut speed metalers Liege Lord, as well as three of metal’s better contemporary bands, Chris Black’s great High Spirits, Boston’s Magic Circle, and Montreal’s Cauchemar.