(NCS writer BadWolf interviewed Neill Jameson of Krieg and Twilight, whose third and final album is due for release in a couple of weeks. To say it’s a wide-ranging, no-holds-barred discussion would be an understatement. You don’t want to miss this.)
When it comes to the US Black Metal movement, few individual musicians have made as much of a splash as Neill Jameson. He released his first demo tape as Imperial in 1995—just a year after Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. In the nearly twenty years since, Jameson has produced raw and honest “bedroom” black metal as the sole member of Krieg. Many consider his 2004 LP The Black House to be essential USBM listening. There will be a new Krieg album this year on Candlelight, but first Jameson needs to live through the press cycle for the third Twilight album, III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb.
Jameson had his hands full recording III, dealing with a rotating cast of characters. Twilight has been blighted by negative media attention since the arrest of founding member Blake Judd (also of Nachtmystium). Judd is now out of the band, but Thurston Moore of esteemed noise-punk outfit Sonic Youth is in. Alongside them stands super-producer Sanford Parker, as well as Stavros Giannopoulos of The Atlas Moth and Wrest of Leviathan. These five musicians are giving Twilight the swansong the project deserves.
Jameson took time out of his busy schedule as proprietor of a record store (the man’s Facebook posts, often putting his own customers on blast, are among the funniest you’ll read) to talk with NCS about the tumultuous story of Twilight, from beginning to end.
(NCS contributor KevinP somehow convinced Theoharis (above, middle), the guitarist and vocalist of one of my favorite bands, Hail Spirit Noir, to talk to him. Maybe all he had to do was ask? Having read the interview, I’d like to request a round of applause for both of them.)
K: You, Dim, and Haris are all in Transcending Bizarre?, whose last album was in 2010. You formed Hail Spirit Noir in 2010 as well. Is the timing of this a coincidence?
T: Haris actually had the idea for some time before 2010. What happened was that one of TB?’s members and a really good friend of ours, S.A Akis, died right in the middle of the recordings of the third record. We completed the record but the whole thing just took a lot out of us. Once we were done with that, Haris presented to Dim and me demos for what would become Pneuma and the whole thing got started. So, I don’t know if that counts as coincidence.
K: Transcending Bizarre? is not standard black metal, but I wouldn’t call it “off the wall” by any means. Hail Spirit Noir is a much further ‘left turn’ compared to what you were doing. What made you come up with this unique hybrid sound?
T: Haris wanted to pay tribute to all the prog rock he was listening to and the atmosphere of the 70s horror movies. But with a more sinister twist and a sound, that despite its roots, being in that era would sound up to date. In simple terms the original combination was late 60s/70s prog rock+ black metal+ horror movies. But it all ended up with our combined influences a lot weirder.
This round-up of news and new music is skewed toward the especially dark, depraved, nihilistc end of the extreme metal spectrum, hence the name “Shades of Black”, even though only two of the bands march under the black metal banner.
Once you’ve seen Jef Whitehead’s cover for the new album by Chicago’s Lord Mantis, you really don’t forget it. I splashed it across the top of our site when it became public about two weeks ago, though back then I hadn’t yet heard any of the music from Death Mask. Now I have, and man, it makes a scarring impression, too.
The song that premiered last Friday is the album’s searing opening track, “Body Choke”. Three things about it stand out. First, there’s the visceral pounding of the rhythm section, with Charlie Fell’s bass and Bill Bumgardner’s drumming interacting like men at work on a demolition project. Second, there are Fell’s vocals, which sound like a man drowning in sulfuric acid. And third, there are the doomed, devastating, degraded riffs; they create a choking, noxious atmosphere.
You will want to headbang. You may also want to open a vein.
(DGR wrote this review of the new album by Sacramento’s Alterbeast.)
Alterbeast are a group who have been rapidly moving through the Sacramento music scene for a while now, previously operating under the name Gary Busey Amber Alert (G.B.A.A. for short). Anyone who has ever had the opportunity to catch them live over the years could’ve told you that they had huge potential to go places — at the very least to escape the confines of this cowtown. Seeing the group live was like witnessing a controlled series of explosions through a tech-death lense. Thus it was that the group’s signing to Unique Leader came as no shock; the only question was whether the band could capture the intensity of those live performances on a disc.
The group’s name change came with a lineup change as well, meaning that Alterbeast and their new disc Immortal feels almost like the launch of an entirely new band. We at NCS waited eagerly to hear what would be captured on the album, as Immortal remained in the forge for some time — being hammered out at multiple studios, including familiar names like Mayhemness in Sacramento, Castle Ultimate (who have recorded multiple Sacramento groups — you’ll recognize Zack Ohren’s booming drum recording instantly), and Augmented Audio out in LA.
With Immortal still a couple weeks out, we finally got our grubby, disgusting hands on the album and we can confirm for you this much: Alterbeast have themselves one of the strongest launch discs in some time, a relentless, quick, calculatingly violent mix of the current tech-death metal scene, brutal death, and even some of the dark, heavy groove sounds that bands such as Black Dahlia make their trade on.
Possession’s 2013 demo, His Best Deceit, stirred up a buzz among underground aficionados of black/death bludgeoning, but this Belgian band’s forthcoming 7″ EP, Anneliese, should stoke the buzz to deafening levels. My only regret is that it’s only two songs long. Today, we’re giving you the chance to hear one of them in its entirety.
Possession achieve the kind of sound and aura that many newer bands strive for but few achieve as well. It’s the sound of primordial death metal, rising from the ooze and radiating an otherworldly malignancy. It’s rough and raw, but there’s a lot more to its appeal than feral ferocity: Possession write some delicious riffs that are as infectious as they are morbid.
The gut-punching drum beats and reverberating chords that form the intro to the title track tell you that something wicked this way comes, but you may still not be prepared for the driving rock rhythms, slashing guitars, and feral howls that follow it. It’s an immediate headband trigger, and if you don’t get a charge out of the grinding bass solo in the song’s back half, there’s no hope for you. The horror-filled atmosphere of the song’s down-paced finish makes a killer of a song all the more lethal.
We discovered Kaunis Kuolematon last August through their release of a striking song named “En Ole Mitään” (I Am Nothing) — so striking that it was the only track we named to our list of 2013′s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs that didn’t come from an album or EP. That song was the advance guard of the band’s full-length debut album Kylmä Kaunis Maailma, which will be released through Violent Journey Records on April 25, 2014. Today we bring you the premiere of another song from the album — “Kivisydän” — plus a few words about the album as a whole.
In a nutshell, Kylmä Kaunis Maailma is just as striking as that first advance track that captivated us last year. Kaunis Kuolematon (“Immortal Beauty”) aren’t the first Finnish band to deliver melodic death metal drenched in doom, but they are one of the few to do it this well this fast. Blending gargantuan heaviness with a panoply of wrenching melodies, they’ve recorded nine powerful songs so well-written that they all have the capability of getting stuck firmly in your head.
The music is almost entirely mid-paced and almost entirely somber in its emotional atmosphere, yet the songs never lose their tight grip on the listener’s attention. Apart from all those reverberating melodic hooks, the band are masterful in their creation of contrasts. They juxtapose jagged, jabbing riffs and booming bass lines with rippling lead guitar instrumentals that shimmer and soar. They’ll hammer your head like an anvil and in the next moment pierce you right in your anguished heart.
(In this post our friend and well-known Eli Manning apologist KevinP interviews Ed Warby, who’s a fixture in a plethora of strong bands, including The 11th Hour, Demiurg, Ayreon, and Hail of Bullets — whose most recent album we reviewed here.)
K: Now that we are about 5 months post release of Hail of Bullets’ third album, III: The Rommel Chronicles, and you’ve had some time to reflect, how do you feel about it?
E: To be honest I haven’t listened to it in a while, but I feel good about it. It’s as good an album as we could make. Reviews were great again, the “best album yet” far outweighed any “not as good as the debut”, so that’s fine with me. When I look back I see three slightly different albums that form a cohesive body of work, pretty much the way we envisioned it when we started.
K: So has the recording process changed since the last album?
E: Dan Swanö did visit the studio this time to help set up the drum mics. But otherwise it was done just like On Divine Winds: recorded at my place, mixed by Dan (in Germany, he’s moved). The mixing took a few weeks and we’re constantly in touch about every detail.
K: Was there any consideration of NOT using Dan this time around, just to be different?
E: None. He did an early test mix for one song and it was dead on, so there was no reason to try something else.
Masha Scream, photo by Greg Shanta
Russia’s Arkona have completed a new album named Yav. It will be released on April 25. I’m very interested in hearing it, not only because I’ve enjoyed previous recordings but also because I’ve enjoyed the hell out of the two live Arkona performances I’ve seen so far in Seattle. The frontwoman Masha Scream is a force of nature on stage, in addition to the fact that she has a great dual voice (both harsh and clean).
I’ve read that for the new album she wrote almost all of the music and almost all of the lyrics, which was the first time it dawned on me that her role in Arkona goes well beyond that of vocalist and magnetic stage presence. But this post actually isn’t about her, or anyone else in the band. It’s about Gyula Havancsák, the Hungarian artist who created the artwork for Yav.
In addition to creating the album cover, which you will see in a minute, he also created pieces for each of the album’s 9 songs. Beginning last week, Arkona began posting the song illustrations on their Facebook page, along with poetic translations of the Russian lyrics into English. So far, five of the illustrations have appeared, and they’re very cool. You can see them next, along with the album cover. To hear a teaser of the new music, go to this location.
I’m still catching up on news, new music, and video premieres that I didn’t have time to write about late last week while I was on the road for my day job. In addition to what I pulled together yesterday, I’ve got the following four items to recommend.
Khonsu is the Norwegian band started by multi-instrumentalist S. Grønbech. We wrote about Khonsu frequently in 2012 during the run-up to release of their debut album Anomalia (which was reviewed here by Andy Synn). On Anomalia, Grønbech was joined by his brother Arnt (aka Obsidian Claw, guitarist/keyboardist for Keep of Kalessin) as well as Keep of Kalessin’s vocalist Thebon. I hadn’t heard much about Khonsu since then, but last weekend brought a flood of news — and yesterday brought a new song and video.
The news is that Khonsu will release a new full-length album this fall, and a new EP entitled Traveller will be released for download on March 22. Beginning yesterday, and on each Saturday through that release date, Khonsu will add new songs from the EP for streaming on YouTube. There are five in total, including new versions of two KoK songs originally released in 2003 (“Traveller” and “Ix”), a cover of “Army of Me” by Bjørk, and a purely electronic version of “The Malady” from Anomalia. But the first song released yesterday through a music video is a new one that will appear on the forthcoming album: “Visions of Nehaya”.
In my last stream-of-consciousness post I explained that I spent the last three days on the road working. I was able to spend some time conducting my usual surveillance of the interhole in an effort to find new music, but didn’t have enough time to do much actual listening or writing. Instead, I added to my ever-growing list of things to check out later. I made a small dent in that list this morning and came up with some discoveries I thought were worth passing on.
Eskhaton are based in Melbourne, Australia. They released a debut album named Nihilgoety in 2012, which I haven’t heard (it’s available on Bandcamp). Their second album is entitled Worship Death, it features killer cover art by Cesar Valladares, and it’s due for release by the dependable Chaos Records on April 21. Last week a song from the new album began streaming on Eskhaton’s Bandcamp page, and I’ve got it for you here.
“Skeleton Shrine” is a goddamn vicious rampage of bestial blackened death metal. Subtlety and nuance are not the hallmarks of this style of metal — you go to it for the electric jolt it puts through your brain stem and the malevolent destructive force of its atmospherics. “Skeleton Shrine” delivers all that, and the flamethrower burst of the guitar soloing plus the complex tumbling of the drumwork put the icing on this poisonous cake.