We received this email from the mysterious Oonagh in regards to the Winterfylleth interview that was published a couple of months ago. It's an interesting look at one of the frequent woes and more irritating sides of black metal. Things that distract from the music more than is acceptable. I'd like to take this opportunity to state that LURKER does not necessarily agree with the opinions that the band stated but, being British ourselves (and enthusiasts of history), to an extent we can understand where they're coming from. For my part, I don't think black metal has anything to do with nationalism, pride or cultural identity at all. Rather quite the opposite, and it is a way of looking at the world that I have zero interest in. But it is down to individuals to give their music whatever leaning they so wish, and if I enjoy how it sounds, I will listen to it. I won't go into a response much further than that. To listen to black metal is also to be aware of how fickle and naive the community can be, and picking out flaws in a music and ideology that is some times flawed by definition will often have an amusing outcome. But Winterfylleth's dedication to preserving Britain's historical identity is certainly admirable.
What do other lurkers think? Here is the email as it was sent to us:
"So, where does Black Metal lie in relation to this bending of the consciousness toward return? I ask as a novice.
After reading your highly articulate and interesting article something struck me as somewhat amusing upon the first seconds of listening to Winterfylleth for the first time. It has nothing to do with the music itself, which is epic, nor the intelligence of the article, the clear logic of which helped me understand something of Black Metal more profoundly than I think ever before. It was perhaps the true clarity of your voices which struck this funny bone upon the musics raucous outbreak. Such powerful sentiments of a return to a British identity, such reverence for a deserved mythology and such a disdain for the ‘tyrannical EU’, which destroys a ‘sense of unique national identity’ enslaving people under a global regime. These notions swimming round my mind contrasted with the musical onslaught which struck as a notably un-British experience. In the sense that if you hear a tabla drum or sitar you know it’s Indian, a fiddle and bodhoran drum you’d know you’re witnessing Irish roots, bagpipes etc. It could seem a funny choice to express a reverence for British heritage through a medium that is not recognizably British. In fact a medium that is more recognizably European, or Nordic. Considering the distaste for a unifying international banner destroying individual identity the choice to use a decidedly international genre might seem counter intuitive perhaps. No? I cannot stress enough that I do not pose this as an attack, merely as a musing spawned by a mysterious giggle.
The point itself serves to highlight one glaring statement by Winterfylleth that Britons have lost their identity. The obvious lack of an internationally recognised musical tradition to return to, that is not an imposed Christian hymn, is highlighted further by this observation. So, I suppose the question is how do we search out a gentle and loving nationalism from the global chaos of modern culture? Indeed how can we salvage a vestige of a human identity which encourages a reverence toward the heritage of the land? Toward a stark respect for history and where we come from? Do we reject other forms of national identity in this act? Is punk, baked beans and multiculturalism not as much a fact of Brit identity as warlords and medieval bards?
Allow me one more indulgence to ask and what of a woman's outrage? The story of Bodecia (Boudica), as you mentioned, being emblematic of us all; daughters raped, men dead, honour and respect denied, right over body and land rejected, left with nothing but rage and violence, only power left that to take her own life. Submit, or rage and die? As it is said in legend her battle cry to her troops was to die in the quest for vengeance rather than submit to their oppressors, "This is my resolve, as a woman - follow me or submit to the Roman yoke." How should this identity be respected, revived and honoured?
How do we rekindle an identity so skewed, that of being British, woman, man, human? Crowing its pride? Screaming and lamenting its loss? Keeping the stories alive? Why not. I’m loving it (Mmmm-so to speak). But, among laptops, Nutella, Hollywood and the papal visit, the gulf between that which is celebrated and that which is lived remains. And how is it that transnational sounds of distortion bring us closer to that identity - is it another formula of distraction?
I have only recently been really getting into Black Metal, so excuse the rantings of a novice. Sometimes the observations of an outsider have a fresh and curious clarity dusted in amongst their ignorance, something interesting to an insider. And sometimes the observations of an outsider are just a bit misguided and far from the point. Who knows which these mental wanderings are. I write because I enjoy thinking aloud, I hope you don’t mind me taking up your time. Your article and music have spawned a torrent of musings and conversation, the fruits of which I offer you with thanks for the inspiration.
Where did you want to take your music following the dissolution of maudlin of the Well? In other words, how did Kayo Dot’s aims differ?
There wasn't really an intended difference in terms of ethos.. just in process. I basically became hyper-aware of unnecessary or lazy repetition in rock/metal, and thought it'd be worthwhile to try to create something that was more like through-composed rock/metal. That was the basic difference at that turning point... a lack of riffs and a focus on gradually developing ideas. Starting from that very simple idea led to a great deal of inspiration.
Can you shed some light on your composing methods? I recall watching some Kayo Dot live performances where each member was reading notation. Are all Kayo Dot pieces notated before they take form?
Hasn't always been that way, but I notate stuff more frequently these days for efficiency and to minimize the need for rehearsal time. Since the music is pretty abstract, though, a lot of it isn't really communicable on paper, so I use the manuscript as a starting point and we work it out as a band off of that. Since the music is also generally non-repetitive and the songs are long, the musicians tend to need the sheet music for performances simply because there's just too much to remember. You may notice though, that I rarely use the sheet music onstage for myself... having written it, I pretty much already have it memorized before we even start rehearsing it. However, i would like to point out that that has nothing to do with composing in regards to this band. The sheet music is only used as a way of communicating parts that have already been composed (in my mind or what-have-you). For my compositional methods, it's basically a combination of trancing out with an instrument, obsessive memorization of these trance sessions, and painstaking editing of the ideas. I tend to work really visually as far as that goes, too... I see musical ideas as forms and relationships as can be rendered by dimensional graphs or drawings, or lines of prose. I would suggest to you guys to also check out the chapter I wrote about this in the book, ARCANA IV: MUSICIANS ON MUSIC.
How does a Kayo Dot song come into being?
How will Stained Glass differ from previous Kayo Dot releases?
Stained Glass is another example of a piece I wrote that didn't have a home or identity (I mean, I didn't write it specifically as a Kayo Dot song). Much like "Coyote," initially, it was intended for a smaller ensemble, and as time passed and I had an opportunity to work on the piece on a grander scale, it was adapted for Kayo Dot. Already, then, it differs in terms of initial planning. The main instrumental trio of "Stained Glass" features vibraphone, an instrument that isn't even really available to Kayo Dot as a performing ensemble, so I already knew that if we were going to go ahead and have this be a Kayo Dot piece, it would only really be able to be performed live locally, where we had access to a vibraphonist and his instrument. Therefore, presuming that "Stained Glass" would exist primarily as a studio composition, we took unrealistic liberties in overdubbing, ha ha! Musically, it's really pretty and discomforting; some may call it ambient, although there is mostly a very apparent pulse... let's see.. we have a guest guitar solo on it from Trey Spruance, so that's new. And, we recorded some of "Stained Glass" at Zing, where we did the MOTW albums, L..L..Library Loft, Choirs of the Eye, and Dowsing Anemone, but I also recorded most of it myself at home, because there was virtually no budget from the label for this recording. In that sense, it may have a little bit of an intimate bedroom recording vibe, I don't know. In preparing for that, though, I was listening to some contemporary four-track geniuses - Burzum, Islaja, Metallic Falcons. Let me add that also, the drums on "Stained Glass" are barely there.. virtually no cymbals were used, the drums' job is not to keep the rhythm.. all of that is because we were restricted to home recording by the lack of funding.
From Blue Lambency Downward onward, Kayo Dot made a stylistic leap from the dense heaviness of Dowsing… and Choirs… Why did you choose this point to depart from your metal background?
I think it's not accurate to present that as a "choice;" I know that there must be some bands or musicians who think that metal is some kind of musical adolescence and they want to move away from it to prove their maturity... but that's not how it is with me, at all. Basically, I'm just interested in exploring different instrumentations. At the time of BLD, I was interested in using a lot of woodwinds, which i thought expressed the lonely emotions of those songs better than layers of guitars could. And, most of the time when saxes are mixed with metal, it sounds LAME! Anyhow, in subsequent compositions, you know, some of the things that interest me most about music are the adventure, exploration, and discovery. When I write new music, I'm wholeheartedly embracing those notions. I just don't see how pointlessly attaching oneself to an identity (you say metal, in this case) is a good thing at all. I'm just interested in music.
What’s your opinion on the state of modern metal?
I haven't been paying attention to it, for the most part, so I can't say I really have an opinion about it.
What are your favourite bands? Are their any musicians in particular that have shaped the way you compose?
This always changes! I'm not sure this question is really answerable. I don't think of things in terms of "favorites" any more. And everything I hear shapes the way I compose, even stuff I don't like.
How would you pinpoint the musical differences between your projects?
Maybe Maudlin of the Well was a specific group of people. Kayo Dot seems a little more open to going in any direction. Kayo Dot's writing is more advanced than MOTW's, but both share aesthetic points (and discrepancies, too!) Tartar Lamb's music is based on a specific theoretical concept.
Maudlin of the Well had an incredible roster of musicians on board. How did the band get together?
MOTW started just as a four-track recording project between Jason Byron and myself. Each of us had been making songs on our own, but we put this MOTW thing together because we really liked TIAMAT a lot, and wanted to create some music that was kind of like theirs. I remember discussing it with Byron... I said something along the lines of "why should we just sit around and wait for TIAMAT to put out another album? Let's just make one and listen to it!" heheheh.... and the rest is history, I guess. So, we created a couple tunes on the four-track, getting Greg Massi involved to do some solos, and then when I went away to college, I started using the college's studio to work on new songs. Since Byron and Greg were both out of state, I got my musician friends at school to play on the recordings and help me develop the songs. Eventually a performing band came out of it.
Was composing with Maudlin of the Well more a collaborative effort than it is with Kayo Dot now, or did you still have ultimate control over what went in?
Yeah, it was certainly more collaborative. We basically assumed that lyrics were Byron's job, leads were Greg's job, riffs, chord progressions, song skeletons and structure, etc etc were my job, and Terran wrote all his keyboard parts and a lot of the woodwind stuff... those delegations carried over into Kayo Dot as well, and we still kind of work that way (Terran still writes a lot of keyboard parts, and "Stained Glass" was even more collaborative in that Dan wrote his sax parts, Bodie wrote his drum parts - kind of a first for us), but I guess I would be considered the "producer" or the "artistic director" as well as the primary composer.
Maudlin of the Well’s Part The Second was entirely funded by fan donations. Since then you’ve also started a Kickstarter project for Tartar Lamb II. Where did the idea for this come from? Was it difficult to obtain label backing for your releases?
We decided to do Tartar Lamb II this way because, yes, getting label funding is getting more and more difficult; in general, people aren't buying our CDs, so labels can't justify funding recordings (see above how I talked about how "Stained Glass" needed to be recorded mostly at home). Home recording is really fun and personal of course, but studio recording just sounds better, goddammit. Especially when you're working with acoustic instruments, such as horns (which are featured in TL2 entirely). And since I know how difficult it is to get funding for Kayo Dot, which is essentially a rock band of sorts, and is definitely more accessible than Tartar Lamb, we figured that approaching labels for Tartar Lamb funding would be a futile waste of time and energy.
Could fan donations be a glimpse into the future of the independent music industry? Bands like Extra Life have since done Kickstarter projects as well.
Absolutely, I think it's fantastic. It'd be wonderful to remove any need whatsoever for middle men.
Part the Second has a very mellow sound compared with the earlier MOTW releases and from anything you've done with Kayo Dot. What brought about this change in direction?
It was not a change in direction. The songs on PTS are old songs, from the exact same era as all the other MOTW stuff that's out there. They were never recorded for the albums, however, because of the required instrumentation, or the very fact that the sound was more mellow. In making the original MOTW albums, we very much wanted to identify ourselves as some kind of a metal band, so we avoiding putting too much of the mellow stuff on those records at that time.
Why do you choose to make music? What makes it more involved than other forms of art? What do you see as the purpose of music?
I would not say that it's more involved than other forms of art. I make music only because I'm somehow called to do it. I can't help doing it. I want to quit all the time and do other things like become a SCUBA diver and take photos of dolphins and giant grouper, but the only way to stop the "voices" in my head (they're not really voices, OK)... the melodies and the songs that are constantly playing on repeat in my head... the only way to stop them is to turn them into a material form (a recording). Every time I make a record, then, I think I'm free of that shit, but then new songs will start playing up there and the cycle begins again. Very very annoying.
Is there any possibility of another Toby Driver solo record?
Only if Tzadik is going to release something. In The L..L..Library Loft is only called a Toby Driver solo record because that's kind of the Tzadik Composer Series' policy (see how Mick Barr's Octis album on Tzadik is called a Mick Barr record and not an Octis record, etc etc.. there are many other examples like that on Tzadik). I think it was a fluke that the first Kayo Dot album was able to be released as Kayo Dot and not as Toby Driver. Anyway, In The L..L..Library Loft features all the members of Kayo Dot of that era... there's no reason why that *couldn't* be called a Kayo Dot album, other than the fact that the instrumentation precludes us from ever playing any of those songs live (and I suppose there was no collaborative element whatsoever). Stuff I've worked on since 2005, outside of typical Kayo Dot, has been called Tartar Lamb.. but TL is basically Toby Driver solo composition in the same regard as Library Loft.
We were fortunate enough to come across a youtube video of yourself performing 'The Second Sight' with lyrics by Jason Byron. If your ‘casual’ song writing is of this standard, does this mean there’s loads of unheard Toby Driver material?
Yeah, there's lots of stuff like that!
Maudlin of the Well flirted with astral projection and other new age concepts. It is also said that maudlin of the Well material was partially composed through lucid dreaming. Can you elaborate on this, and does it have any relevance to the music you are now creating? Jason Byron’s lyrics for Kayo Dot still seem to make reference to these concepts.
Yes, again I would like to recommend to your readers to check out ARCANA IV; I contributed a nine-page essay to it which thoroughly answers this question. I have to tell you that Byron's lyrics, since MOTW, have not made reference to this subject matter at all. The astral projection/lucid dreaming theme was very much part of the MOTW aesthetic, but I like to believe that Kayo Dot has gone beyond those things into subtler territory. However, dreaming is still a large part of my creative process... often, I hear musical ideas in dreams these days which I'm able to use in waking life. In fact, and this'll probably get published after the fact, but this Friday (October 29) I'll be performing a brand new tune whose music was initially dreamt (The song is called "Lethe," with lyrics by Tim Byrnes.)
Not like how you seem to be suggesting... Spirituality is tough to define; As I mentioned above, I definitely feel "called" or otherwise compelled to make music, and songs often seem to write themselves. When I write, I often retreat into my subconscious. I get into a shallow trance. I feel physical ecstasy when writing or performing. Sometimes, I can't sing because I get so choked up by emotion. Are these aspects of spirituality? I have no idea. Maybe someone that is spiritual is reaching or searching for something specific, in which case I definitely am not, at this point in my life. Maybe that's one of the big differences between Kayo Dot and MOTW, too. MOTW had a specific spiritual sort of goal. Right now, though, I'm just along for the ride and am enjoying where it's taking me. I have to mention, though, that Byron, where his lyrics are involved, is a different story. He spends basically 100% of his time on this aspect of himself, and surely his lyrics reflect that, and affect the output of Kayo Dot. I may be a neutral bridge, in this case.
Former lyricist Jason Byron is making a return on Stained Glass. Why did he not contribute to Blue Lambency Downward and Coyote? We heard he's a 'hermit' now...?
He didn't contribute to BLD because I didn't ask him; that was a record I was working on by myself and in an intensely personal way. Coyote's lyrics were written by Yuko Sueta because Coyote started off as a collab between her and myself, and not as a Kayo Dot project. Byron's not a hermit, he's just got his own personal life. He lives a few states away from me, so we rarely see each other.
Will Choirs of the Eye ever be released on vinyl?
I don't think so. Tzadik doesn't do vinyl and they don't license. Well, they're just putting out their first vinyl release (Zorn's DREAMERS) right now... so hey, if that one sells, then maybe there's hope for a "Choirs..." phonograph record.
The meanings behind each Kayo Dot album title are fairly opaque. What do they represent for you?
Choirs of the Eye - the beginnings of tears. Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue - purely visual.. just try to visualize what that would look like, and there you have it. Blue Lambency Downward - again mostly visual, but I tried to elaborate with the comic-poster set I created and offered for sale via Hydra Head back in 2009 (and which no one bought or paid attention to, ha ha *cry*). Check it out on my website though, kayodot.net/toby under "artwork". Coyote - god of Chaos and Change. "The warmth of doeskin, dry plains grasses, and soft, dusty woods warmed by amber and a downy, gentle coat of deep musk." Stained Glass - it's about stained glass, musically and lyrically.
How has the overall fan response towards your music changed over the years?
It seems like people catch up with the albums a few years after their release, in every case. Not too much attention at first, and lots of disdain. About 6 years afterwards, respect and a longing for the "old days". Actually this is frustrating for the fans as well, because they want to hear these old songs on tour, and they don't understand that we've already played all those songs on tour hundreds of times; these fans just didn't come to the shows! It's even logistically near-impossible to play some of the old stuff these days since our instrumentation changes so frequently. Fortunately, I've started to notice a faction of fans who are adventurous listeners and have grown to trust my instinct, for the most part, so they're able to approach my current ideas with open-mindedness. I very much appreciate that.
Well, you have a few fans for life here.
Here's one that slipped under the radar. Canada's Pagan Hellfire return with a new 7", packed with cold Black Metal fresh from the battlefield (out now on German label Genocide Aesthetics). The driving rhythms and carefully-layered guitar lines of 2008's Solidarity are as strong as ever, and will whet any fan's appetite for another full-length.
'Spoken at the Altars Distant' is a solid enough song, with riffs that recall the better bits of latter-day Graveland (Fire Chariot of Destruction) and middle-period Darkthrone. It's nothing, however, in comparison with the real stormer that follows. 'Anthem of War, Forever to be Sung' starts off in a similar vein, but is packed with memorable riffs. After a long stretch of blast beats and constant key changes, the song really comes into its own at around the three-and-a-half minute mark. We're treated to a sequence of stunning riffs, killer shifts of rhythm, and some incisive melodic lead-work to round off. Like any 7", it's a short journey, but one you'll remember for days to come, the grim refrain etched into your mind, War is forever, and forever is war.
Thanks to Enslaved's latest opus, I've discovered that there's at least some extreme metal that my girlfriend is happy to listen to in the car. Alongside Vertebrae, Axioma... has been in heavy circulation, and has turned car journeys into a chance to kick back with some huge tunes. Spurred on to seek out more car-friendly metal¸ I've been working through the band's discography - most of which I haven't listened to for years - and what a treat it's been. One record has stood out more than all the others: 2000's Mardraum - Beyond the Within (Osmose Productions). I rarely hear it ranked among the band's best releases, but in a nearly faultless back-catalogue, Mardraum floored me in a way that no other Enslaved album has managed to.
With Mardraum, Enslaved took their first steps towards the blackened progressive metal of their current incarnation, and right from the album's opening notes there's a strong Floyd influence on show. But the band that wrote this album is a far cry from the Enslaved of today. The uncompromising energy and aggression of Blodhemn still runs strong through the arteries of Mardraum: the break-neck riffery on 'Daudningekvida' and 'Krigaren eg Ikkje Kjende' reminds us that even with 5 full-lengths under their belt, Enslaved were still a very young band in 2000 (Ivar B. must have been about 22). There's a rawness to the production, too, that lends an extra ounce of ferocity and silences anyone who might equate a prog influence with going soft. This is definitely not an album for the car.
The best thing about Mardraum is its huge sense of adventure. No compromise is made for the 'sensibilities' of traditional rock or metal songwriting. Take opener 'Større enn Tid - Tyngre enn Natt', a sprawling epic that slides seamlessly through a long chain of movements in a wide variety of styles and tempos, while staying compelling from the beginning right to its majestic conclusion. Other tracks (e.g. 'Ormgard', 'Æges Draum') see Enslaved toying with a heavily Death Metal-influenced sound, which (kind of surprisingly) works fantastically within their progressive/Black Metal framework.
After this brave and diverse album, there really was no telling which direction Enslaved would head off in next. While I love the sonic territory they ended up exploring on their post-Y2K albums, the reckless unpredictability of Mardraum will always be closer to my heart.
So another handful of Midwestern cultist nutjobs have convened on the vast Ohio cornfields in the hopes of hastening the return of the Old Ones. This is Vit's mission and with their self-recorded debut "-", the music is of such a bizarre occult calibre that LURKER sincerely hopes they are successful. Whether you've read Lovecraft's work or not, even the most casual metal fan will have some grasp on the extent to which he has influenced the path of our beloved rituals. His name is usually dropped by only the heaviest and strangest bands: Moss, Electric Wizard, Innsmouth, Nile and Morbid Angel to name but a few.
However opening track 'The Ardour of Saints' may present a smokescreen of sorts for listeners who are well versed in Lovecraftian literature. Light years from the brooding gothic verse that Lovecraft channelled almost a century ago, instead Vit open with the most melodic, upbeat material of the whole album. Jangly, major key guitars enter the fray then slide into what can only be described as downtuned Le Secret era Alcest worship. But before you stop reading there, - has so much more to offer.
The onslaught of celebratory black metal is cut short as it warps into a sludgey, discordant soup. This stylistic U-turn is where the album starts for real. 'Swansylvania' erupts into incredible, lumbering blackened doom like Darkthrone colliding head first with the pace of Forgotten Tomb. Abysmal guitars ring out droning riffs shrouded with a startling melodic ability beneath powerfully enunciated growls of Lovecraftian allegory.
Two tracks deep into the mire of black metal experimentation that Vit wields so effectively and the listener's expectations are challenged once again. As the album's centrepiece, 'Ascension Ritual' starts with a fleet of acoustic instruments. Among the guitars banjos are nestled, giving the piece a distinct folk and bluegrass feel that echoes the musical culture of their homeland. Then rumbling double pedals set in as Vit continues to display the ease with which they traverse genres and defy all expectations, ranging from depressive dirge to thoroughly head-banging fistfuls of old school heavy metal.
Within the mish-mash of genre splicing and general experimentation, thankfully Vit never forget that they can bring the metal full force as 'Puritan Ossuary' showcases so well, with one of my favourite black metal riffs of the year forming the backbone of this song. A genuinely fantastic work of progressive black metal from American shores, do not miss out on this. - can be streamed from the band's bandcamp page and downloaded for free. If you fancy shelling out, get it in FLAC or place an order for the hand-crafted boxset version!
Un Passé Aride is downright tense. A delayed sense of urgency that evolves throughout the album is achieved by hard-hitting, mid paced drums. This hypnotised approach to the drums and a possessed air to the tormented, aggravated vocals give the music a ritualistic, derelict feel. The guitars and bass are largely atonal and oscillate between driving the music forward and provoking a tense sense of discomfort. Citing influences as wide as French noisecore from the 90’s to The Cure and Sol Invictus, as well as the hauntingly vacant photography of Yves Marocchi.
The packaged product is exemplary. Cold Void Emanations and Odio Sonoro have excelled and the photography of industrial collapse fits the tone of the album perfectly. Drawing influence and fuel from every possible canon of work, Danishmendt elucidate the chosen design: “When we were half-way composing the album, we discovered Yves Marocchi's work through a documentary about East Saint-Louis, a derelicted city next to Saint-Louis, Missouri. This town used to be the indutrial center of the city gathering most of the plants in the region. After all of them closed down, it decayed to finally be one of the poorest cities in The United States. Abandoned industrial sites are quite all over the place and social and racial segregation can be witnessed everywhere. As in many countries, major industrial sites shut down in the past 30 years in France and deindusrialization is only getting faster these days. East Saint-Louis is a good image of what could become France and lots of Western Europe countries in the years to come. Picturing the future in such a context was the starting point of the lyrics.” The album cover is a winemaking warehouse near Rouen, France (Yves got arrested shortly after photographing the monolith – decaying structures are apparently forbidden access in France too) and the fold out booklet houses images from other disused factories, jails, hospitals.
Conceptually, Un Passé Aride revolves around societal evolution and inevitable devolution: “The way globalization and the shift to a tertiary society is being promoted and written onto the urban landscape is simply frightening. Any sign of collective organization, whether it be to produce goods or to struggle for social progress is now being erased from Europe's biggest cities to allow global franchises to open new shops. It feels as we were all, European citizens, travelling through giant attraction parks as Philippe Murray wrote. No social history, no sign of tensions to be seen. Political speeches are only based on oxymoron’s such as ‘sustainable development’ or ’negative economic growth’ to hide the reality while thousands of people are now being cast aside every year to settle down in poor, decaying areas.” We will all, in this developed world, eventually experience and suffer the tumult of ideological, economical and cultural ruin. This is the lyrical content of Un Passé Aride, traversing topics of unconscious nihilism, hope, despair, anger and of course, apocalypse (not so great if you cannot speak French I am afraid).
The feel and coercion of the ideology fall hand in hand with the progression of the album. You are pushed and pulled over track distance, sludge meets mesmerizing black metal arrangements - Danishmendt’s sound treads the post-metal waters of sludge and blackened doom; the Blut Aus Nord of the Neurosis world. That is not even to undermine the bands music, which takes influence from two stellar acts and sets a tone against finely crafted portions of despotism. You’d be hard pressed to find a release so mesmerizingly cathartic.
Purchase / Stream
I picked up Castevet's Mounds of Ash on a whim from the fantastic Rapture Records in Witney, amazed to discover that a little record shop in small-town England had a section devoted entirely to Profound Lore. Since that chance discovery, I've come back to Mounds of Ash more than any other album released this year. It's a complex and compelling piece of metal artistry that reveals new sides to itself with every listen, and threw up plenty of questions in my mind about the ideas that went into it. Last month I got in touch with the band. Drummer Ian Jacyszyn and guitarist/vocalist Andrew Hock kindly made time to answer a few of these questions.
Reviews of Mounds of Ash usually struggle to describe and categorize your sound. How would you introduce the record to an unfamiliar listener?
Andrew: I think the general umbrella of progressive black metal is rather applicable to what we do. It is a loose term, but we didn't set out to create music that is easily categorized.
The record comes across as so much more than just a collection of songs: the way certain patterns in the opening track turn up again in the closer, for instance, gives the record a real unity. Was this all carefully planned, or did it develop organically? Was there an overarching musical goal for the album?
Ian: Andrew and I are definitely “planners” when it comes to song writing; very few of our ideas are left unquestioned. We rely heavily on the use of specific themes and motifs, whether harmonic or rhythmic. We obviously cannot control the outcome of everything we write. However, having this ideological writing process helps give our songs a sense of purpose. You might be the first person to actually notice and comment on the similarities between “Red Star Sans Chastity” & “Harvester”. “Harvester” was written shortly after we decided that “Red Star…” would be the opener for the album. We knew that we wanted the record to come “full circle” during the closer, so we wrote “Harvester” to essentially be “Red Star...” part 2. “Harvester” naturally took on a life of it’s own, but there are specific harmonic and rhythmic ideas that are borrowed from ‘Red Star Sans Chastity’. There is also a lengthy crescendo in both songs. I think that this kind of continuity is important. All of the songs on Mounds of Ash share at least one or two ideas. Some of the ideas are more subtly connected than others, but they are certainly not hidden.
Mounds of Ash includes some intriguingly titled songs (‘Harvester’, ‘Red Star Sans Chastity’), but no lyrics are printed on the sleeve. Would you be willing to divulge any information about the lyrics to any specific songs?
Andrew: The songs in question are actually linked as much lyrically as they are musically. 'Red Star Sans Chastity' deals with the desire to exit one's body and exist on a completely abstract plane of existence, albeit an inevitably nonexistent one. The words link these feelings to very specific images I have come to associate with that desire through various personal experiences. There is a sense of anger towards existence and a hope that escape is not only possible, but also within my grasp in those words. 'Harvester', however is a succumbing to weakness, to life, and an acceptance of rather unfortunate basic realities. The main lyric to that song is "Harvester of dead trees," a metaphor for a struggle that leads nowhere.
You have said that your lyrics deal with escapism. It seems that you use Castevet as a means of escape in other ways as well: Ian has said that he deliberately avoids the conventions of brutal death metal drumming, and Andrew that he tries to get away from the traditional approach of a guitarist. What importance do escape and escapism hold you as individuals?
Andrew: Escaping the confines of existence has been an unreachable goal humanity has struggled with since the early beginnings of our species. Whether this has been through religion, art, drugs, or death; people have been in a constant search to attain the unattainable. Much of this drive for earthly escape has resulted in some fantastic art and many monumental philosophical and metaphysical conclusions. However in the end, we are left only with our bodies and our minds, the acceptance that all of our creations are from them, and the knowledge that they will no longer exist in the future. This dialectic cycle inherent to such important aspects of human invention has always fascinated me and been a source of inspiration and frustration.
Other than providing your name, what significance does the Polanski film Rosemary’s Baby have for Castevet?
Ian: Well, I am a definitely a huge horror nerd, but the Rosemary’s Baby reference isn’t pure homage. We chose the name simply because we feel an aesthetic kinship to what the Castevets represent in the scheme of the film. The true intentions of the Castevets are not within plain view, and we feel the same can be said about our approach to songwriting. Our inspiration for writing songs typically cannot be heard as the primary voice; it’s the intricacies and details that are most important.
Not fitting easily into any one genre, you get booked to play alongside bands with a background in hardcore (East of the Wall, KEN Mode), as well bands closer to Black Metal (Altar of Plagues, Krallice, Velnias). What kind of show do you enjoy playing more? Do you get very different audience reactions?
Ian (continuing his previous answer): The band doesn’t really rely on any type of sensationalism. The listener needs to become more involved, and this type of involvement isn’t really unique to any one audience over another. We don’t really get different reactions from the two types of shows you’ve mentioned, and I actually believe that the audiences of the mentioned bands crossover a great deal. We’ve been fortunate enough to share the stage with bands that we admire at almost every show we’ve played thus far, so every live show has been a great experience.
Mounds of Ash is a very harmonically dense record. How does this translate in a live setting when there’s just the three of you?
Andrew: There are actually very few multi-guitar harmonies. While there is a lot of textural guitar layering on the record, almost all of the riffs and harmonies are coming from guitar chords, which are played with just one guitar. So, this has never been an issue for us.
Your debut EP Stones/Salts is soon due for a cassette rerelease through Destructive Industries, a label better known for noise and power electronics. How did that come about? And what made you choose that format?
Ian: I met Thomas (who runs DI) through Jim, who used to run Paragon Records. He’s a truly genuine guy, and when he expressed his interest in the band it seemed like a natural idea to work together at some point. We’ve had many requests for copies of the Stones/Salts EP since our album came out. Since we have no plans to reissue the vinyl version of Stones/Salts, we felt that the cassette format would be a perfect solution for both the seekers of the release and newcomers to Castevet alike. I should state though, that this release isn’t just a rehash of the previously released vinyl version. The audio was remastered for the new format, and will feature newly designed, hand-assembled packaging in resealable poly bags.
You have said that your sound has its foundation in Black Metal: what artists do you respect most in that genre?
Both: Master's Hammer, any Czral related project, Kvist, Old Wainds, Tenebrae In Perpetuum, Vlad Tepes, Ulver (particularly Bergtatt), Deathspell Omega, Beherit, Lugubrum, Von, Pest (Germany), Burzum, and many others throughout the years.
None of the members’ previous projects has any obvious connection with Black Metal. When did you start exploring the genre, and how did you get into it?
Andrew: Black Metal was actually the first form of extreme music I began listening to and have been an avid listener for half my life now. I got into it through hearing Emperor's Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk. To say it was an eye-opening experience would be a massive understatement. My understanding of how music could potentially function and the atmosphere it could invoke were turned upside down. The right opportunity to have a project connected to the black metal genre had not arisen until I met Ian and we began working together.
Nothing about Castevet’s sound is typical of Black Metal, though, and you rely very little on the conventional stylings of the genre. What guitarists and drummers would you cite as particularly inspirational?
Ian: For metal: Brandon Thomas.
Andrew: There have not been a ton of metal guitarists to really inspire the way I play. Piggy of Voivod, Carl-Michael Eide of Virus and Ved Buenes Ende, Steve Hurdle and Luc Lemay of Gorguts, the riffing on Kvist’s Fur Kunsten Maa Vi Evig Vike, the riffing on Bergtatt, and Antti Boman of Demilich. However, I’d say my number one influence as a guitarist is the free-improvisation legend, Derek Bailey. My entire approach to guitar changed upon being exposed to his music.
What five records have you most enjoyed recently?
Ian: Immolation: Unholy Cult, Jana Winderen: Energy Field, Cocorosie: Grey Oceans, Possession: The Thin, White Arms…, Slade: Slayed?
Andrew: Root: Kargeras, The Devil's Blood: Come Reap, Morton Feldman: Cello and Orchestra, Talk Talk: Laughing Stock, Beherit: Drawing Down The Moon
What’s next on the agenda for Castevet?
Andrew: We are in the process of writing for our next LP and working on touring the West Coast in spring. Keep an eye out for some east coast shows we are in the process of solidifying as well.
Posted by Princess Eva Angelica in news on Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Highly Recommended. Listen to some tracks from the forthcoming release here. Expect both CD and LP through Aurora Borealis and a full review from us here at LURKER.
Posted by Princess Eva Angelica in black metal on Monday, October 11, 2010
Thankfully, California's Whirl appeared in May of this year with their brand of retro, picture-perfect shoegaze. Perhaps they can do some schooling through their connection to the shoegaze/black metal flirtations of Deafheaven, a band that guitarist Nick also plays in. But he assures us Whirl is "his baby" and the project has proved to be an entirely different animal.
Distressor is immediately successful in paying homage to shoegaze circa My Bloody Valentine. Funnily enough, the genre is again comparable to black metal in that fans believe its glory days were in the early 90s, with many new bands yearning towards that unobtainable sound caught on by very few acts. The only difference is that many modern shoegaze bands are terrible. The brilliance of Whirl then lies in how they transmit their awesome and accurately archetypal shoegaze. With a name that echoes the aesthetics of Ride and Lush as much as the 'whirl' of colours within their own music and references to the dream-like atmosphere of Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, Whirl have nailed a mystique on the band that makes the music even more enjoyable.
The transition from 'Preface' into the rest of the EP is a belter. Sleepy guitar chords glittering with distortion, noise and a host of trance-inducing effects wash over a sample from the film. Then from the first snare strike of the following song 'Leave', you are propelled into literally perfect shoegaze for the duration of the record. Whirl conjure that emotional frailty between euphoria and nostalgic melancholy with ease. Melodies are catchy and major key but also manage to capture something desperately sad. Beautiful male/female vocals drift in and out of layers of scintillating high frequency guitar noise, buried in the mix to the point that lyrics are vague: all great hallmarks of the shoegaze breed.
This is an incredibly addictive record. For someone who currently refuses to listen to any shoegaze outside of My Bloody Valentine, I have spun Distressor to exhaustion this week. It's poppy, straightforward and moving, the perfect remedy for tired and beaten ears. Whirl are to embark on a mini-tour through CA towards the end of October. A 7" split with American Gods will be released in the next couple of months on Withdrawal Records as well as plans to put Distressor on 12" EP. For now though Distressor can be streamed and downloaded for a donation at the Whirl bandcamp.
Oh, and just make sure you stop before the Pendulum bit, the closing moments let it down. Never thought they'd get a mention here...
Following on from Rob's article last month about the subliminal workings of Grand Belial's Key, here's another slightly hidden nuance about another of LURKER's favourite bands.
Responses to my queries from the fanbase were as garbled and confused as I was. No one seemed to know their actual origins and I was happy to resign myself to believing it was one of the above, the air of mystery that surrounds Urfaust's motives remained thankfully intact.
But while on a fateful mission around the (very limiting) record shops of Brighton town this summer with Dylan Trigg, everything suddenly fell together. After recommending each other numerous acts, I mentioned that he should definitely give Urfaust a listen. Dylan also mentioned that he was on the lookout to purchase works by the Georgian composer Giya Kancheli. Later on, after hearing Verräterischer, Nichtswürdiger Geist as his first foray into the world of Urfaust, Dylan contacted me to say that, by bizarre coincidence, 'Dunkel, still von Ewigkeit' appeared to extensively sample Kancheli's 'Simi' from the work Magnum Ignotum.
I got hold of Kancheli's material to find that Dylan was right, it's a essentially an abridged and aggressive take on 'Simi', lifted straight from the composition and chopped and changed a bit. Not that the plagiarism bothers me: Kancheli's work is tense, fragile and darkly beautiful and works wonderfully within the context of Urfaust as much as his own compositions. Were any lurkers aware of this, or am I just an uncultured metal pleb? The open-mindedness and knowledge of the metal underground continues to astound me.
Dylan wrote an in-depth article on Giya Kancheli and the Aesthetics of Nostalgia and also dedicated his phenomenological book, The Aesthetics of Decay, to the composer.
From the opening bleeting nod to the Almighty Horned One to the last folkish strums, Buds entertains and satisfies the metalhead's constant yearning for great riffs. Twisting and turning through almost every form of sludge, doom and stoner metal that comes to mind, Dopefight at no point sound like a tribute to the obvious American acts that hold the monopoly on this arguably done-to-death genre. What makes Dopefight stand out is their unique and effective take on song writing.
Their credo seems to be focussed on getting incredibly catchy riffs into the song as soon as possible and then... maybe adding some vocals on at the end if they see fit. Take second track, 'Leviathan's Burp' for instance. Kicking off with a riff that can only be described as "towering", the song weaves its way through several gripping variations on itself and an awesome double guitar lead then dives into a chunky, stomping section: the only natural place in the track that could carry vocals. This 'verse' only lasts about 30 seconds then it is straight back to the How to Write a Fucking Awesome Riff 101.
While critics may stand up and argue that this is a product of bad songwriting, I would have to disagree. Dopefight is without doubt a mostly instrumental band whose potency lies in their uncanny ability to write some of the greatest sludge riffs I have ever heard. Guitarist/vocalist Owen Karti has a knack for melody and excellent composure that rings true through most songs on the album. The formula works so well you will find yourself consistently reaching over to the volume dial, pumping it up for specific sections then letting your head-banging fly off the handle.
In contrast to the typical reigning sludge doom bands whose songs usually range anywhere between 8 and 15 minutes in length, Dopefight don't fuck about. No single song exceeds 7 minutes, with a majority of the tracks being under 5. It's another concealed weapon up Dopefight's sleeve, the sheer quality of sludge on display is only emphasised by the short and sweet tracks that will have you pining for more as soon as each song is over. Buds stands up to so many repeated plays it's unreal.
There are two dark horses on the album in particular and they come one after the other, demonstrating a microcosm of the variety that Dopefight draws upon across Buds. 'Brighton Town is a Fuckin Whore' (believe me, it is. I've lived there) is the shortest track on the album and betrays Dopefight's origins as a punk band. Handing out heavy slabs of blasting sludgecore, Owen's vocals spew vitriol upon the band's home town.
Following that is 'La Mano Del Demons', the slowest, heaviest thing Dopefight have done to date. I recall being told that this was the band's least favourite song to record, a revelation I find odd as it is definitely my top track. A droning menace of power chords form the introduction which gradually evolves into one of the most evil and sinister traditional doom metal riffs ever written [I'm prepared to stand corrected if anyone can find a more evil doom riff]. It's so good I can guarantee that if Electric Wizard-shaped doom is your thing, you will repeat this song. The creeping doom is then brushed away by the bludgeoning sludgecore that Dopefight are so proficient in. But they know a good riff when they write one, and it returns a couple minutes later, triumphantly bursting with distortion and fuzz.
Buds is a damn fine work of sludge doom that stands up to the classic Weedeaters, Bongzillas, Buzzov*ens and Electric Wizards of the world. Drums are tight and punchy, bass is sturdy and rumbling, guitars are clear and melodic yet pack a punch with a massive wall-of-sound production. There are no lyrics in the sleeve, just weed, but you can be assured that Owen is pissed off and taking it out on you. Britain is taking over, go get it now because it will put a smile on your face. LURKER guarantee.
The phenomenal Envy have released a video online for their song 'Worn Heels and the Hands We Hold'. I love it.
Recitation (Sonzai/Temporary Residence/Rock Action) is out a week tomorrow. This may turn out to be one of the best records this year, and that's saying something. Listen to two other new songs from the record here and here.