As we reach the end of another year, I can’t help but enjoy myself with telling people their year-end lists suck. It’s not (entirely) why I say it; honestly, everything is entirely subjective and I don’t care if you like an album I don’t. That’s not (entirely) how I judge you as a person. But watching people get defensive about what they do in their private time is usually pretty satisfying, though this year it’s more just a symptom of how the country is since it’s been revealed a lot of men’s private time includes taking out their wrinkled pecks.
I’m free-forming this whole thing, so bear with me.
2017 has been a very disruptive and transformative year; exactly what you’d expect after the 2016 election cycle. I can sense a portion of the readership getting tense already. While you might be waiting for NSBM to take on the new uniform of a white golf shirt and khakis with a Chinese-manufactured hat, you’d be remiss to notice that throughout the year there’s been dozens of stories of sexual misconduct in all aspects of culture. Sadly, in this we’re no different. The big story has been Decapitated’s (alleged) kidnapping and rape of a fan and while this in itself is fucking disgusting, I think the worst part of it has been watching the reactions in various comments sections. Some of your opinions are fucking knuckle-dragging to an embarrassing degree, like wearing a fedora with your socks and sandals. The degree of victim shaming because it involves a band you like is, at best, sycophantic, and, at worst, a display of dangerously stunted socialization. And this is just one story; if you listen in on a local level you’ll notice there’s a cornucopia of this kind of behavior; from greasy promoters to shitty bands to just local assholes who you see at shows moistening up the place. If there’s one positive to this, it’s caused a lot of men to examine their own behavior. I know that I’m not innocent of making crude remarks or not calling out friends when they stepped over the line in the past. It’s behavior I can’t apologize enough for and I know there are others who are making this kind of self-examination as well. It’s obviously not enough, but hopefully it’s a start. We can all do better.
The other big topic in metal this year has been watching overly vocal sides of the political spectrum enter the culture war with varying degrees of success and failure, mostly failure. Before I spend an unnecessary amount of time on the negatives, I’d like to focus on one of the successes: the election of Danica Roem to the Virginia House of Delegates.
Besides teaching her opponent the meaning of irony, she’s also passionate about metal which helps lend credibility to the idea that this can be a genre that elevates intellectual goals. On the flip side, I’ve sat and watched the “progressive” left eat itself this year. As to be expected, the left was energized by the results of the election and went into fight mode, which really seemed to work at rallies and parades but shit the bed in the spring elections when people forgot to vote because they were too busy cursing at people on Twitter. On more than one occasion I witnessed someone trying to be an “ally” to progressive causes get shut down because of their background. I watched the left form itself into bunches of fragmented microcosms while the right pulled itself together. This is how we get shit like Roy Moore. This is how we get months afterwards of people being stupefied as to why people like that get elected. Beyond infighting, I’ve seen vocally progressive bands who spend their time criticizing bands for promoting “toxic masculinity,” then hop on shows with those same bands, because it’s a good career move. I don’t begrudge anyone trying to be successful but I hope it tastes a little bitter the next time you chastise anyone for their principles.
Music happened in 2017 as well! I almost forgot that aspect. This was the first year I really found a lot to enjoy in a very long time. Some of it even made it onto our Year End List, which was a pleasant surprise. Black metal was shockingly strong in the U.S. this year in all colors of the spectrum. Multiple fests happened without a hitch, my favorite being the Red River Family Fest in Austin, which was the moment I realized I was actually enjoying music again.
There were also some hilarious blips like the Louisville fest where the promoter fucking vanished leaving behind a trail of excuses that somehow got more and more feeble as they went along. Death metal showed great vibrancy through the shepherd that is Dark Descent Records. I don’t listen to much newer doom but Cavernlight was definitely my pick for most dismal record of the genre this year. I’m sure shit happened in thrash metal but I don’t have time for pizza parties and waiting in line for Reeboks, so congrats to all involved, I suppose.
Like I said, USBM had a strong showing this year regardless of what flavor your choice is. For me, I’ve been hooked on new material from Yellow Eyes, Vanum, newcomers Entheogen and the long-delayed Eschaton Memoire by Chaos Moon. I suppose I should show transparency by saying Chaos Moon’s creator, Alex Poole, is a longtime friend and collaborator, but I’m not a journalist so I’m not beholden to those sets of ethics, just ego stroking.
As the Chaos Moon LP is a late entry into 2017 I didn’t really have time to speak anywhere with Alex regarding this complex and resonant record so I figured I’d ask him some questions here. Firstly I was curious as to why this record took so many abortive steps backwards before becoming a reality.
“Artistic vision and the complexities of creating are not always transparent, so it’s difficult to say,” he offers. “Artistic integrity and honesty are the most important elements in my eyes, no matter the success of the end result. The Chaos Moon record was a nightmare because the honesty wasn’t there. It was okay musically, but there was an intense frustration every listen back. After the recording was completely mixed/mastered the first time, I realized that nothing was going to fix it, it didn’t feel genuinely complete; like an album filled with B-sides. During that period of trying to convince myself to submit the album, I was demoing some ideas for a proposed split. It clicked; this is what I wanted. I sent the demo riffs off to Steve (Blackburn), he matched them with equal quality. An album was created very quickly that was filled with far more life and ideas than the 2+ years I had spent on the previous version.“
Considering Chaos Moon is one of the bands, like Blut Aus Nord, that is pushing black metal into uncharted territory, is the original idea of black metal a dead one?
“This isn’t for me or anyone else to decide,” he tells me. “Black metal isn’t a tangible object or something that is subject to the rules of mortality. Has it changed? No doubt, everything changes. Can people who have no contribution to the genre troll YouTube videos of bands they think violate their sacred day-care and make proclamations that the genre is dead? Yeah, of course, but it’s only the romanticized image of what you believe the genre represents that has ‘died’. Yet, these people never seem to move on. They continue to live in a fantasy and exploit their contrarian behavior. When they do move on/grow out of it, there is a replacement around the corner. It’s a deeper personality trait. Stick that person in a different setting, they’ll whine about their erotic My Little Pony fan-fiction being overrun by the Care Bear scene.“
Earlier in the year, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rob Miller, who many know as “The Baron” from Amebix—inarguably one of the greatest bands of all times, regarding his newest band, Tau Cross, and their album Pillar of Fire. This record has remained in high rotation here at Kamp Krieg and I wanted an excuse to chat with Miller again, so I fired off a few more questions and he was gracious enough to respond:
So how does he feel now that it’s a few months down the road since the record came out?
“To be honest, I feel that we rushed things a bit here. A lot of enthusiasm off the back of the first album created this frenetic storm of writing activity that ended with a ton of songs just needing to be birthed, so we simply approached it the exact same way as the first: drum studio in Montreal and home recordings in the U.S and Scotland, blend and mix together, add a little sauce and there you have it.. It is a good album; now we need to take a breath and work towards a studio recording together and concentrate on the continuity. The S/T was really 3 years of bottled up songs and anger/frustration on my part, which was why it took off straight out of the gate. We need to contact the source again, make the third a real beast.”
The last time we had spoken it seemed like the world couldn’t become any, for a lack of better words, more of a toilet fire than it was, which was almost instantly proven wrong. What’s Rob’s take on the world of 2017?
“Oh man, I really don’t know what the fuck is going on anymore. I was enjoying the consternation caused by Trump’s election for a while there, it did give me secret pleasure to see so many right on people losing their minds, but now it is becoming apparent that the guy has no idea at all of how to interact with anyone on any level close to normal, he seems like this cartoonish buffoon that is being wheeled out as the front guy for something else, which is what I am still trying to decipher. I think his people simply court him as a mouthpiece whilst there are things afoot beneath the surface. This claim of draining the swamp seems to be largely false at this point, and the dealings with Saudi/Israel are going to be the real test. They want a war with Iran and if he sells America into that, then the whole charade has been business as usual.”
What is 2018 shaping up to look like for Tau Cross? For Miller himself?
“Well, as I said earlier, we are taking some time over the next move. I would like 2018 to be a time of gradually piecing together the next TC album ideas with a view toward recording after that point. It would be good to get out on the road again, even for a couple of weeks, but we may have left it a little late to organise things, we will see. We have to play the UK, as there is a lynching party being assembled for us if we do not.
“For myself, I am busy making swords, surviving the harsh Scottish winter months as best as possible, and always looking forward to the promise of Spring, if we can make it that far.”
For most of 2017, I’ve personally become passionate (obsessed) about dungeon synth, much to the chagrin of people following my Facebook feed or anyone unfortunate enough to hang around me long enough for me to talk. While I’ve covered this elsewhere a few times once again I need to hold up Tour De Garde, Out of Season and Hollow Myths as labels whose DS releases are excellent, worth a blind buy if you haven’t had a chance to listen to them, and who all exude excellent service when given your “hard-earned” cash.
My favorite record of the year should not come as a surprise to anyone: Integrity’s Howling, For The Nightmare Shall Consume. A genre-defying record filled with a lot of surprising turns that come on the back of the complex and seriously fucking dark Suicide Black Snake. I took some time to bother Integrity’s frontman Dwid Hellion and ask him to reflect on 2017 and the seismic impact Integrity has had.
He responded “I am glad that people seem to be enjoying the new album. This reaction has been welcomed and also rather unexpected. I am proud of Dom and Josh and the album that we made together. Proud to be working with such a phenomenal record label as Relapse. Proud of the Decibel cover story. But most of all, I am proud of my friends and family, and all that they have achieved this year. I have witnessed a lot of greatness from my friends and family in 2017.”
2017 seemed to be the year where a lot of veteran musicians really shed their skins and pushed themselves with the vigor artists half their age couldn’t keep up with; does Hellion feel that everything he’s accomplished this year is just a stepping stone to something even greater?
“Honestly, I approach each album with the intention of entertaining myself and exorcising my own personal demons,” he offers. “It is also a great reward when others feel a connection or appreciate the recordings. I appreciate the sentiment, and I look towards the future hoping to make each album more interesting than its predecessor.”
How does Integrity follow up a year like this?
“Well, we are wrapping up the recording for our upcoming split 7-inch EP with Krieg,” Hellion says. “We have also began writing our next album for Relapse. Writing and recording is a very exciting and consuming process for me. I enjoy being submerged in imagination and creativity. We also have several live performances scheduled for 2018, which we are looking forward to.”
One such appearance is at our Decibel Metal & Beer Fest, so that’s something to look forward to.
There’s plenty to look forward to in 2018 actually. I’m most excited for the new Extinction of Mankind record, the long-rumored (the infamous) Gehenna record and whatever musical obsession I latch onto next. I’m also excited to see any plot twists in these final seasons of the United States, which concert Antifa tear gases next, and what bloggers and metal Twitter users decide to lose their shit over. 2017’s been a memorable year, even if a lot of people are celebrating unmemorable records, and I’m optimistic 2018 will be another dumpster-sized shitfire but with a (hopefully) killer soundtrack.