Interview with Battle Dagorath

If you frequent my blog you will know by now that I only review releases that I can highly recommend to other people. And since music is rarely detached from the musician, I usually try to get some deeper knowledge by talking to the band responsible for it. Last year when I reviewed Battle Dagorath‘s album “I – Dark Dragons of the Cosmos” I decided to wait for the second part of this opus to do the interview. And now the time has come, since “II – Frozen Light of Eternal Darkness” releases in about a week.

So BSB, tell me a little more about the band, a short bio if you like.

Battle Dagorath was born in the year 2002. Since the beginning the vision was to invoke the haunted pathways and create distant ominous landscapes. Cold Bleak Atmospheres and Intense Glorification of Darkness are combined to open the gates of the Night Sky. Harnessing the forces of Mystique Revelation we journey through fields beyond these horizons, exploring realms of the deeper dimensions. Through time we have gradually evolved as an outlier within this so-called “Atmospheric” black metal genre. When we started the sound derived from the early forms of Black metal but also with other outside influences, and we remain this way.

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It’s been almost a year since you released “I- Dark Dragons of the Cosmos”. How has the feedback been so far?

There’s always a mixed reaction to our albums so it’s nothing new. In general every time we release an album it flies under the radar and gets discounted by many. We’ve never really been accepted or hailed by the mass and I don’t think that will ever change. Nowadays “Atmospheric” black metal has become labeled as another cliché and we get accused of this, but I don’t see it as such, whatever trends that come and go, has nothing to do with us. We find our own path and we evolve in our own way. By nature, Black Metal is atmospheric, so beyond a reference point for dummies, this term is redundant. For me the fight ends when we finish the songs. I don’t waste much time looking for positive or negative attention. It really means nothing. Everyone experiences their own truths, so I don’t go too far beyond into others thoughts. If somehow the music can connect with others in a natural way, then that’s good.

Give me some insights about your lyrical themes and your artwork.

Battle Dagorath is music from a dreamlike dimension. It is a solemn ceremony to the inner cycles of the soul. The end result is a purging rite that ruminates into the deep shrouds of disintegration. Metamorphosis consumes your being. Our explorations manifest from the unconscious, we travel along these gateways. The places that would inspire this are more cold remote distant places that lurk in the inner realms, untouched places. This creation is about these things that lie beyond the pale. This is the basis for our inspiration. To look through the boundaries of this dimension and into other dimensions.

This is only the first part of an opus. When is the second part, “II- Frozen Light of Eternal Darkness” coming?

Frozen Light” is to be released in the Autumn time of 2017 by Avantgarde Music (p.s. according to their bandcamp it releases September 15th).

Can we expect something vastly different in “II”, or is it an extension of the path you followed with “I”?

All the releases are extensions of each other; each one evolves like a link in the chain. “Frozen Light” is the natural next step in this path. There is an emphasis of hypnotic majesty in the arrangements.  We expanded on the mystical embodiment and spectral grandeur of our message.

In retrospect, would you change anything in the albums?

No not really. When you look back there can be things that you could pick at but I don’t dwell too much on the past works. Once the music is completed I’m done and on to the next work. With creating, I enjoy seeing both the limits of the past and the evolution into the future. I think every artist can see it in this way, otherwise there would be no point.

You have released “I” in both CD and vinyl format. “II” will be released only in CD. What is the reason for that? Are we going to see it in vinyl at a later time?

With “Dark Dragons” we wanted a vinyl. But it doesn’t have to be this way for everything. The format of any release is something secondary. These things have their charms but it’s merely materialism and it won’t endure. Only music endures. I don’t know if “Frozen Light of Eternal Darkness” will be released on vinyl, Avantgarde Music has said that they will release it on vinyl eventually, but we shall have to wait and see.

You live in the USA while Vinterriket is located in Switzerland (if I am not wrong). How do you manage to work? What is your creative routine?

We never rehearse, only create. I construct the structures here in my home, then I’ll mail rough drafts to Vinterriket and we start to develop the songs in this manner, going back and forth experimenting with the ideas.

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What are your future plans for Battle Dagorath?

At a time the frustrations I felt with the limitations of this band had me thinking that I wouldn’t go any further. But lately I’m rethinking things, I want to take things slow and simply continue being creative. I’m planning a few splits with some good artists who I am in contact with.

I know you also run a label. Give me some details. Are you accepting demos from bands or do you scout yourself?

I’ve had a label, Mercenary Musik, for many years now. It was always run idealistically, as a vehicle to push great underground art, Mercenary Musik will always stand for art as it should be, free from conformity! But in many ways it’s too unrealistic for my health and survival. In the last years the label has become far more inactive. After 20 years involved in this, I’d say that I’m definitely winding it down now. It still exists but not like before.

There is a shift in the music business. Bands are now releasing music easier than ever. On the other hand, people don’t seem interested to pay for music anymore. Being both in a band and a label, where do you stand on this?

From a business perspective, this is the worst time you could have chosen to make music. The Internet created a deep vacuum and what remains is merely a shell from the past. The mystery of discovering music that existed in the old days has been replaced by instant gratification, now you can conveniently find 20 bands all sounding the same within a few clicks, without pay a dime .As an artist there isn’t money to be made from this. What I’ve learned is that you have to try and not let these limits derail your dreams to create. Humanity in conjunction with technology is a plague that is reaching for the end game. Don’t have any expectations. There are no solutions to anything.

Are you involved in any other bands or projects? What are your personal future plans?

I’m also involved in a black-thrash project called Hellschwadron, we released an album last year entitled “Storming Obliteration”. Currently I’m writing the lyrics for another album.

Any albums that you’ve listened to recently and would like to share with the readers of this interview?

About the scene nowadays, without wanting to sound overly negative, I don’t feel part of it. I can probably name more bands that I don’t like than those that I do. And I’m really only interested to listen to artists that I relate with. Some great ones that I can mention are Lorn, Earth and Pillars, Near, Lluvia, Brouillard, Forn Valdyrheim, Dissonant Winds, Tempestarii, Volahn, Prosternatur, Cryfemal, to name a few. Also the new Sadistic Intent split, which I helped with some engineering, this one is magic!

What do you know about the Greek metal scene? Any favorite bands?

My favorites are Spectral Lore, Darchon, Nocternity, Lord Impaler, Order of the Ebon Hand, Typhoeus, Prometheus, Stutthof, Legion of Doom, Dark Messiah.

Closing thoughts ? Anything else to add?

Thanks for this interview!

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Interview with Au Champ Des Morts

Every time I write a review, I try to get in touch with the band and get some more information around the album and the musicians responsible for it. And it is always a pleasure when this actually happens. Back in February I wrote about Dans La Joie and a few days ago I had the pleasure of talking with Cécile G., a very down to earth personality with a lot of insights to share. Go ahead and read this…

Give me some historical background on the band and the members.

Cécile: Au Champ Des Morts started up in August 2014 when the both guitar players, Stefan Bayle (ANOREXIA NERVOSA) and Migreich (VULV) first met during an underground festival in France. They’ve decided to make this project a real band and in 2015, the line-up was completed by the arrival of Wilheim (NEURASTHENIE, EXECUTION) on drums and myself (OLEN’K, ANOREXIA NERVOSA) on bass. After recording the album, Migreich decided to leave the band so now we’re evolving as a trio.

What is the feedback on the album so far? Are sales going as you expected?

The feedbacks on our album are good and far beyond our expectations. We are very touched by the welcome given to our work. Regarding sales, we don’t know yet and it’s still too early to say because our album has been released at the end of January. And honestly we don’t expect anything, I mean, we did not really thought about this, especially since this is our first album, so we will see. At present, I don’t think you can predict anything concerning record sales in underground music.

You incorporate a lot of different elements in your songs. Can you name some of your influences?

Our influences are very varied, to sum up, it goes from black metal, cold wave, old hard rock, essentially bands from the 80s to now. And to name but a few I will cite bands like Bathory, Celtic Frost, And Also the Trees, Dead Can Dance, Austere, The Devil’s Blood… There are too many to quote them, but we are really passionate and we always listen with pleasure to the cult albums as we always looking for new stuff too.

What are the lyrical themes about?

For the lyrics, we all participate, we write on a theme or something inspired by the music, or a personal experience that has affected us. Symbolic, our vision of the world, our readings…Inspiration comes from everything around us.

But, for this album, once we were working on the track listing, we found that a kind of concept has emerged. I like to summarize it by this sentence “We are the witnesses of death under all its forms”. Indeed, the theme of death is omnipresent in our work, under every of its levels; death of the flesh, death of the soul, death of the civilization, death of the world.

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While on this subject, you stick –like most French bands– to your native language. Was this decision made because you feel more free to express yourself that way or some other reason (they sound more exotic for example)? Do you feel this as a limitation?

In fact we have not really thought about this, it came naturally. Maybe at the beginning we thought it would be easier to express ourselves in French because it is our mother language and we are attached to it, but it is not obvious to sing in French in Black Metal growls, it’s not really appropriate. Even in clear vocals in my case, it’s new to me, I’ve always sung in English or Latin so it’s a good challenge and you have to be careful to choose the words that make sense and can be musical too.

I think we use French because we wanted to deliver something which really comes from us and for the declaimed singing the French is perfect for its theatrical and powerful side too. I do not see this as a limitation, I just find that exercise is a bit more challenging.

What does the album cover stand for? Care to share some info on the artist who drew it?

The cover of our album was made by the talented artist Dehn Sora. He perfectly rendered the atmosphere of our album, the concept of death and its symbolic. Like any great artist, his work has many interpretations, it is for listeners to make their own, it’s the same thing about listening our music. You have to leave room for imagination and sensitivity of each one, art is made for that. We admire his work on contrasts and lights and his way of living black and white, this is what marked us and I invite you to take interest in the work of this artist.

What are your future plans? Do you have any live shows booked?

We’ve returned to composition, and we’re looking for a second guitarist to play live so no shows booked for the moment. It’s very important for us to construct something worthy of the album for what will be Au Champ Des Morts live and we hope to be ready soon.

How do you write music? What is your creative process?

It’s Stefan who mainly composes. The process is simple, usually everything starts from a riff which becomes an obsession. Then a structure is built and melody ideas keep coming. You have to be in a particular state of mind to compose, it’s a kind of second state, something beyond yourself. For that you must have time to devote yourself fully to it, I mean, trying to make a vacuum around yourself, which is not really easy sometimes.

Do you have some specific piece of gear or software that greatly facilitates your job?

Not really. We work the old way, with not really recent material, an old Atari, an analog console, vintage effect pedals, Marshall amps… This suits us perfectly. We only use computers for practical reasons and for recording software. That’s fine when it works but when it breaks down and you’re forced to take a recent pattern it becomes a headache. All this to realize in the end that it works much less well than before. It’s really frustrating to waste time with it…We hate the modern world and its nonsense.

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France has built a trademark-BM scene. How does it feel to be part of it? Is it a blessing or a burden?

We are often asked this question, I do not have the impression of being a part of a “scene” strictly speaking. I don’t know if there is a trademark BM scene in France, as French musicians we have always been interested in French metal bands, so I think you are better placed than me to talk about it. The idea of scene disturbs me a bit in the sense that it evokes a certain form of conformity, or even competition.

For me, it is obvious that in recent years there have been talented and interesting artists in France. I think of bands such as Year of No Light, Throane, Alcest, Aluk Todolo … Of course they share common influences but they have very different personalities. The link is in the way of elaborating the art, and a certain state of mind that drive those bands to compose this way. It deals with sincerity and a will to come back to a more emotional way to make music, without thinking about business or selling. At least that is how I feel and I fully share this vision. If this is what you call the trademark BM French scene then I agree.

Any underground metal bands from your local area we should be looking out for?

Underground metal bands… No, I don’t see. The only name that comes to my mind is Burzum but I think you already know it. There are probably others but I don’t know them yet. The problem of overproduction…

What do you know about the Greek extreme metal scene? Any favorite bands?

I don’t know too much about Greek extreme metal scene, sorry. I know Astarte, Necromantia and Rotting Christ of course. I like Rotting Christ, Stefan knows them well as they went on tour together during the Anorexia Nervosa era.

Before letting you go, any news from the Anorexia Nervosa front?

Even if Anorexia Nervosa belongs to the past, we are always in touch with the members, we are close friends. They are fine. Concerning music, Hreidmarr has several musical projects in progress and Neb Xort still holds the Drudenhaus Studio, he has recorded our album.

Closing thoughts, anything else you want to add?

Thank you for this interview. Let yourself be invaded with Joy and Light…

 

Follow Au Champ Des Morts at https://www.facebook.com/Au-Champ-Des-Morts-1061663760580553

Ignis Gehenna – Baleful Scarlet Star (2017)

ignis-gehenna-coverIgnis Gehenna is a one-man band from Tasmania, Australia. Nihilifer (also known from the now split up Erebus Enthroned) is the mastermind behind this act that already counts a decade on its back. In this debut full length album he attempts to conjure a sinister darkness from beyond this world, and admittedly he managed it all too well.

The album starts with a slow, mesmerizing tune, and from the first minute you can tell this is going to be a good album. It doesn’t take long however to realize this is an understatement. Halfway through the first song and the raspy vocals are hooked on skin like snake fangs. Then enters the bass with a furious melodic riffing and instead of just filling the sound, it fills your brain with deep burning scars. And this is only the beginning; each track pushes the envelope just a bit further. The album is constantly shifting from mid-tempo groovy to Swedish-like melodic black metal with a natural ease, and sure has the riffs to support the act (the closing riff of Baleful Scarlet Star keeps playing in my head at random moments during the day).

The guitars are heavy and distorted and give the album the dreading sound it requires to drag you to hellish magical paths. The incredible (and quite audible) bass helps heighten the feeling of desolate desperation which tends to become the trademark of Australian extreme metal. The vocals are also amazing. Part venomous, part grandiose and with clear articulation are more than you may ask for. The drums are doing their best to push the album a little further into the masterpiece area. They won’t ruin a good riff with needless experimentations, but given the chance they go all inventive.

Production-wise, the album is outstanding. The songs are crafted with great care and keep the interest peaked at all times. You will literally be surprised at how fast time flies by when you listen to it. The sound is gloomy but not muddy; on the contrary, everything sounds clean and well separated. The well crafted mastering maintains a consistent atmosphere for the entire duration. The cover artwork is fantastic and only adds to a flawless album. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Follow them at: https://www.facebook.com/ignisgehenna

Noteworthy Report: February 2017

In today’s overcrowded metal scenes, more than 100 albums are being released EVERY MONTH. Through ATF I try to review 2-3 of those albums, the ones that really worth it and don’t get as much credit as they are due. Unfortunately, this means that an awful lot of good albums are not going to be reviewed. This is why I post the “Noteworthy Report”, a monthly installment with albums that are either too noticeable to miss or albums that sound promising but I didn’t have the time to pay as much attention as they deserved.

As always, I will begin with the albums that usually pass under the radars and put the “established” acts in the end, since you probably got to listen to them already. If you believe some other way of order would serve the bands better, let me know in the comments.

 

Scuorn – Parthenope

Italy’s Scuorn have almost a decade on his back (yes, this is a one man band), but only released their debut just the past week. Symphonic black metal (that will remind you the great Limbonic Art at points) with a Mediterranean folk twist. Sounds really promising. Added bonus: the second CD comes with the orchestral versions of the songs.

 

Pure Wrath – Ascetic Eventide

Debut release for this one man band from Indonesia. Nice atmospheric black metal and a sound quality I wasn’t really ready for. At points the repetitions feel somewhat uncalled for, but the overall impression is a good one. I wish I had more time in my hands to focus in this album. If you do, don’t miss the chance to give it a spin.

 

Guerra Total – Nihilistic Malthusian Manifesto (The Ouroboros Cosmic Indifferentism)

Whoaaahaha! Total war is sure what is going on in this album. South American blackened thrash featuring some weird piano/synth moments that -once I got used to- actually managed to keep me interested throughout the duration.

 

Eterna Rovina – Metamorfosi

Another one-man band from Italy that plays mid-tempo atmospheric black metal. The album starts with some uncertainty, but a few songs in it picks its own direction and stigma. Don’t let the obvious mastering blunders turn you down, this is just the perfect stepping stone for improvement.

 

Sinister – Syncretism

Need I say anything more? Really?

 

So, what are some other interesting extreme metal albums that got released in February? Let us know in the comments…

Interview with Avslut

As you may remember, last month I reviewed this fresh Swedish band’s latest EP. Once they did a break from touring they found the time to have a chat about their music and their future plans. Don’t you wanna know? Well, keep reading.

First of all, give me a short biography of the band.

Avslut is a strong 4 piece band based in Stockholm Sweden. It all begun one year ago when C and O wanted to do something different from what their other bands do/did. From the beginning it was just supposed to be a 2 piece band between them both, but short after E was invited to do the lead guitar works and it became a band. Later on D joined on Bassguitar.

You released two singles and an EP the past year. What is the feedback so far?

The feedback has been great all across the world, we’ve been played on radiostations in      several countries and in October’s Edition of Close Up Magazine Avslut were appointed as the best unsigned Swedish band. This is to mention the EP. The singles have made us into the top Metal lists on spotify and resulted in great collaborations and contacts.

What are your future plans? Are you working on a debut album or should we expect something different first?

We are working on an album at the moment that will be recorded, done and released after this summer. During the time we will do some gigs in between and keep on spreading Darkness.

Anger. Misery. Darkness. Tell me about your lyrics.

The titles sums up some of the “negative” forms of energies the living, or dead tend to produce, in different circumstances. You can either “run from it”, or embrace it to it’s fullest and use it as a tool. The lyrics comes from our own personal experience, and we’ve chosen to write them in our language.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

From within our inner selves.

What is your creative routine when you begin to write a song? On that note, is there some piece of gear that you feel is essential to facilitate your work?

We often come up with new riffs at home or when we do our 3 days a week rehearsal that are the same days every week no matter what, that’s pretty much the routine we got. We always want to involve all the members in the songwriting and all of us got our own homestudios that facilitates the songwriting and sharing ideas.

Do you have any plans for live shows?

We will go to Germany the 15th of April to play at Dark Easter Festival, then we will play 2 shows on home ground. We will open up for the cult Death Metal band Asphyx the 20th of May in Stockholm then we will do a Festivalshow in Stockholm at Prostatattack in October. That’s what’s planned so far, but we’re sure it will be more bookings inbetween.

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There is a long tradition of extreme metal in Sweden, and as far as I know, even the state kind of embraces that now. Are there any difficulties for black metal bands up there?

Yeah we got for example Dissection, Marduk, Dark Funeral and Watain to mention some important bands in the genre that have released many great albums and made big prints around the world. It’s very common band’s sound to much original than try to create their own sound that’s what makes it hard for new bands to reach out to a bigger mass, and that’s the biggest difficulty up here.

Tell me about your local scene. Any notable underground bands we should keep an eye for?

There are some strong growing bands in Stockholm to keep an eye out for. IXXI & Mephorash. The scene is very small in Stockholm but is on its way back. It’s up to the new bands to lead the new wave.

What are some albums you got to listen lately that you feel deserve more attention?

SarkomDoomsday Elite, GorgorothInstinctusBestialis, The UglyDecreationNordjevelNordjevel. That’s some of the best albums of late time.

What do you know about the Greek extreme metal? Do you have some favorite bands?

Natvre’s is an awesome upcoming band.

Ok, thank you for your time. Do you have any closing thoughts or anything else you want to add?

Stay updated and keep your eyes open for more. Thank you for this interview.

For more Avslut visit: https://www.facebook.com/1008Avslut1008/

Au Champ Des Morts – Dans La Joie (2017)

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Au Champ Des Morts are a somewhat new band, summoned in 2014 by former Anorexia Nervosa members who didn’t want to sit idly after the band went into hiatus, they released an EP in 2016, and now they are back with more of their bitter poison in the form of a debut album.

 

The album starts with a pretty standard sounding shoegaze track, and for the first four minutes nothing really prepares you for what is going to unfold before you. Then, around 4:05 something happens, something truly promising. The mood switches to the epic melancholy of late Primordial albums, the music speeds up a notch and the vocals become bolder in their expression. The album never loses interest from then on, constantly going back and forth between anger and despair. With every passing track more and more influences are transparently brought in. Loose ends from Asgaroth’s “Absence Spells Beyond”, from Therion’s “Vovin”, from Fen’s “Malediction Fields”, heck, even from Dead Can Dance’s “Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun” are tied nicely to what feels like the origins of depressive BM, and creates some of the finest French contemporary post black metal. Absolutely fucking brilliant songwriting!

 

The purposefully unclean guitars weave a dread web of mournful melodies, enhanced by the vocals in their many forms. The drums are unexpectedly inspired –for the genre– which was a positive surprise. The bass tries to follow this orgy, and in many a case you will catch it playing wicked tunes, but its somewhat flat sound doesn’t allow it to truly shine.

Production-wise, the mix is somewhat muddy. This isn’t really a deciding factor when it comes to black metal, yet in this case it does do a disservice to an –otherwise– excellent album. Dans La Joie goes way beyond the boundaries of shoegaze post black metal, and I guess it will appeal to fans of Fen, Drudkh, Primordial, Battle Dagorath, and anyone with an open mind really. Bottom line: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

For more info hit:

https://dmp666.bandcamp.com/album/dans-la-joie

https://www.facebook.com/Au-Champ-Des-Morts-1061663760580553/

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Nidingr – The High Heat Licks Against Heaven (2017)

 

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Nidingr started way back in 1992 as a solo project of Teloch (also known from his work in 1349, Gorgoroth and Mayhem among others), yet for some reason they never reached the starhood status other bands of that same era achieved. They released their debut in 2005 and even from that first album they showed signs of expert musicianship and a wild blend of melodic -yet sharp- black metal, cross-bred with brutal death metal moments. Yesterday they released their fourth full-length album, ‘The High Heat Licks Against Heaven’, and as nature wants it, this is a mature evolution of the band and its style which can still be heard rooted deep in its songs.

The album starts with a blast of energy that sets the mood and expectations: this is going to be a Hel of a ride (warning: there be Valkyries), definitely black metal, but hard to put in a corner as it constantly shifts and wind up in weird and unexpected turns of doom, avant-garde and death metal. The only element that is ever-present is the Viking mythology.

 

The guitars on this album are hard to characterize: at points they stand firmly on previous Nidingr works, at points they stand with one foot knee-deep in Mayhem-like bursts and the other in US death breaks, and in the end all roads lead to epic ballads. But there is no confusion as everything is mapped properly. On top of that, the clearly audible bass is at great form here. Not only massively glues everything together, on its spare time it goes into raging melodies complementing the work the guitars are doing non-stop. Simply beautiful.

The vocals are fitting. ‘Is that all?’. Well, for such a complex album, “fitting” translates to some of the most diverse and well performed recordings. The growls are articulated (a rare feat on its own), the clean voices, both male (performed by Kristoffer Rygg, aka Garm) and female (performed by Amalie Bruun, aka Myrkur) are mesmerizing. They manage to take you there: the Norse saga.

The drums sound natural, an option most modern extreme bands avoid as they are hard to do right and it raises the bar for the rest of the instrumentation as well. Nidingr went for it, as they seem capable of pulling this off anyways. The compositions here however are somewhat conservative –given the nature of the album– and although perfectly executed, they leave you wanting more.

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The mix is wonderful. Nothing is forced here, despite the shift of styles even mid-song. Everything has its place, sounds natural and well separated. The sound is powerful but special care was given not to kill the dynamics. If you are a fan of relentless, violent black metal, well, there is something for you too in here. If you are a fan of honest extreme metal, labels aside, this album is for you. Twice as much if you also like Enslaved. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

More info:

https://www.facebook.com/nidingr

https://nidingrsom.bandcamp.com/