Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Glorior Belli - Manifesting The Raging Beast

Glorior Belli – Manifesting the Raging Beast
Southern Lord

I’ve been sitting on this record for quite awhile (long past it’s actual release), listening carefully and intently to the masterpiece that vocalist/guitarist/composer Infestvvs, bassist Dispater, and drummer M:A Fog have created. I was struck by the huge leap in maturity and originality Manifesting the Raging Beast has been crafted with in comparison to Glorior Belli’s first full-length, O Laudate Dominvs. Earlier Glorior Belli material is by no stretch of poor quality regarding musicianship or writing (on the contrary, the band has always slayed), but when listening to O Laudate Dominvs it’s not hard to liken the album to other’s in the ‘orthodox black metal’ genre. However, Manifesting the Raging Beast bursts through the speakers like a blackened punch to God’s dick, and all done with no shortage of well-honed dynamics and melodic guitar parts. This record smokes their previous effort easily, and anyone even remotely sympathetic to this style of black metal (or appreciators of metal in general) will most likely find themselves pressing the play button again on the cd player after the last track is over.

Opening the album is “From Darkness There Springs Light.” Beginning with a few moments of silence and swelling noise, a crawling guitar riffs drops out of the speakers before Infestvvs snarls “Light is sour blood spilled from pregnant skies. Frothing and turning, ignoring dead wings as they drift by, it reveals blood and rust from twisted faces,” then later “And now, from darkness there springs light.” The lyrics are written in an almost wholly poetic form over the course of the album, shrouded in cryptic personal meanings but all pointing to Him.

To give a song-by-song breakdown and description of the rest of the eight hymns contained on Manifesting the Raging Beast would be pointless. This is a work that should be heard in order to truly understand the feeling and craftsmanship. This is black art of the highest order and absolutely essential.

Monarch! - Dead Men Tell No Tales

Monarch! – Dead Men Tell No Tales
Crucial Blast

Dead Men Tell No Tales is a 2xCD collection of France’s noise/drone/sludge terrorists, Monarch!, the songs originally released as two separate full-lengths: 2006’s Speak of the Sea and 2007’s Die Tonight.

Fans of crawling, suffocating heaviness should take note. Monarch! tread the waters of previous greats like Khanate, Burning Witch, and Corrupted, but with a much more blackened and desolate atmosphere. The majority of the space in these sprawling 5 songs is constructed of droning guitar and bass chords. Vocals are sparse, alternating between soft whispers and wretching, powerful screams. Emilie’s vocal talents are vast and she fits the mood perfectly with each drawn breath or scream. Songs stretch anywhere from 11 to 26 minutes in length and sound like the apocalypse in slow motion. Ruling, and highly recommended!!!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Weedeater - God Luck and Good Speed

Weedeater – God Luck and Good Speed
Southern Lord Records

There’s a fine line that sludge and doom bands seemingly always have to be mindful of, which is a balance within the use of repetition and the simplicity of the riffs. Used correctly and the intent of playing slowly is effective and with purpose. Weedeater’s latest record, God Luck and Good Speed, seems ‘over the line’ to me.

The riffy ‘stoner’ portion of the genre gets boring and very quickly, and God Luck and Good Speed did nothing to hold my attention. While the music is heavy, there’s a definite lack of originality contained within this collection of songs (not counting ‘Alone’, a 2 minute track of banjo and low, clean vocals). The riffs don’t seem to go anywhere and vocalist/bassist Dixie’s throaty rasp just doesn’t do it for me.

I miss Buzzov*en

Bergraven - Dödsvisioner

Bergraven – Dödsvisioner
Hydrahead Records/Total Holocaust Records

2007 has been a year that produced many essential recordings from the trenches of darkness, doom, and death. Bergraven’s second full-length entitled Dödsvisioner is by far one of the best surprises of the year. I heard multiple descriptions prior to the release of what this one-man project was like, but none of them were even close to encompassing the sound or feeling contained within the record’s eight songs. Bergraven refuses to be backed into a niche corner like the hordes of many shitty extreme metal bands, playing off their image or making bold statements about nothing. The music speaks loudly and says much, none of which I can even begin to convey within the space of a review. Get this record immediately.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Striborg - Nefaria/A Tragic Journey Towards the Light

Striborg – Nefaria/A Tragic Journey Towards the Light
Southern Lord Records


Lone member Sin Nanna creates lo-fi ‘depressive black metal’ with inaudible vocals and few refinements in structure or otherwise. Some may find it difficult to continue listening past the first few minutes of the first track (“Nefaria”). Honestly, I am no snob in regards to production values, but rarely have I heard anything this poor. The instruments are separated so much in the mix that it sounds as if there are multiple songs playing at the same time, and they do not mix well. This may be an extension of disjointed song writing, but whatever the cause it’s hardly listenable to my ears…just somewhat boring. Next comes the haunting keyboard instrumental track titled “Permafrost Forest,” followed by “Somnambulistic Nightmares.” The atmosphere changes here, introducing a doomy vibe and more coherent instrumentation/production. Thankfully, the much of Nefaria is an extension of this and finds it’s feet somewhere in the realm of Xasthur territory and the shadows of Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger on the blast parts. It’s nothing new or special, but those who crave the noisier side of darkness will be appeased.

A Tragic Journey Towards the Light

Striborg’s 1995 demo material begins with a dramatic intro and promptly falls flat on its face. Reverb-soaked vocals overpower the fuzzy guitar parts, the programmed drums even sound off time, and I’m not sure as a whole what’s even happening here. Why it’s been preserved is beyond me, but that’s just my opinion.

Year of No Light - Nord

Year of No Light – Nord
Crucial Blast

The sludge/shoegaze mixture has unfortunately become the newest in a line of ‘hot shit’ trends that cross genres and attempt to make metal ‘safe’ for hipsters to be into. I have to admit there are a few bands that do it well, but France’s Year of No Light misses the mark. The opening track, “Sélénite” sounds like a lost cut from Cult of Luna’s second full-length, Salvation. However, the band quickly fall flat after this opening instrumental piece. There are several other instrumental moments on Nord that revisit the potential of “Sélénite,” but they are quickly overshadowed by unnecessary modern hardcore tinges and screamy vocals that just aren't burly enough and don’t fit.

Unleashed - Midvinterblot

Unleashed – Midvinterblot

Although this is not a ‘new’ release at the time of this writing, Midvinterblot certainly warrants attention and some words of praise. Unleashed is no strange entity to many death metalers, but I think they often get brushed aside for the more celebrated sons of the classic Swedish death metal scene. This boggles my mind, as their debut full-length, Where No Life Dwells (1991), is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Midvinterblot is a slab of classic Unleashed, although the brute force is much more melodic than I would have expected. I haven’t given any attention to the past few records so maybe this isn’t a new development, but it took me by surprise. The production is solid and thick, although the guitars could’ve used a small boost in the mix. My first exposure to underground metal was through Swedish death metal bands and that style almost always satiates me. Unleashed have produced a solid record with Midvinterblot, but I will say that it’s almost too slick and too melodic at times for my taste. It seems out of place to hear Johnny Hedlund’s raspy growl over the top of constant noodling, lead guitar wails.

Choice tracks include “In Victory Or Defeat,” “I Have Sworn Allegiance,” and the epic closing track “Valhalla Awaits.”

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Euroboy Interview Podcast

Below is a link to download the podcast interview with Euroboy of Turbonegro. The interview was conducted at the Metro in Chicago, Ill., before the first show of their 2007 US tour. Thanks to Euroboy and Kit Young at JLM PR, Inc.

A written transcript of this interview will appear on Left Hand Path at a later date for those who would prefer to read instead of listen to the interview.

To download the file, right-click and choose the 'Save Link As' option: Euroboy Podcast

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Turbonegro interview & more.

Upcoming LHP features include an interview & downloadable podcast with Euroboy, guitar god of Norway's Turbonegro. A forth-coming interview with Infestvvs of Glorior Belli, Obscurus Advocam, and Wolfe is also planned.

More reviews on the way for new releases from Glorior Belli, Weedeater, OM, Tangorodrim, Trelldom, Bewitched, Wolves in the Throne Room, Striborg, Monarch!, and others.

Bands, labels, and PR folks interested in having their materials reviewed or interviews please get in touch: carlbyers@gmail.com.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Blake Judd Interview (Part 2)

LHP: You also do Battle Kommand Records, which has released quite a few records covering various underground metal genres. What was your motivation for starting BKR and what does the label have planned currently?

I started BKR for a couple reasons. The most important reason being that I always wanted to own my own record label and be able to have the opportunity to work with bands I love and also to help out new bands that I’d discover in the future (which I’ve done thus far). It’s great that I’m able to make a decent living between the label and the band. It really allows my entire life to be completely revolving around music, which was always a dream of mine.

As for current plans, we just released a new record for our great friends Zoroaster (Atlanta’s godz of doom metal!) called ‘Dog Magic’, which is an outstanding album that we’re all very pumped about. Also just released a record from a killer Chicago band we’ve known for years called Exalted. Their debut ‘We Are The Grim Throng’ is out now. Total thrashing black metal madness. Really killer record and the band’s debut, so we hope to use this record to develop them a bit and ‘put them on the map’ so to speak. Releases to come in the near future include Lurker of Chalice ‘Perverse Calculus’ (new album), Godless North 2xCD collection (the band’s entire discography compiled into one release), Gloria Diaboli ‘Gate to Sheol’ CD/LP (ex-members of Godless North’s new orthodox black metal project), and there’s a few others in the pipeline at the moment, but these three are the most current priorities.

LHP: What artists/bands have you not worked with yet that you'd really like to?

Can’t really say. I’ve never gone after a band and not been able to do something with them. If there was an active band right now that I could release something for, it would be Necros Christos because I’m totally obsessed with their sick occult death metal purity. Really great German band, but I’m pretty sure that we won’t be working together as a band-to-label thing because they’ve got a deal in place already. This would be the #1 band for me right now, though, if I could ‘sign anyone’.

LHP: Has Nachtmystium's increase in activity put BKR in the back seat of your priorities?

Not at all. When I tour it slows down things around here. We take our distro offline, etc., but it’s always good to be out on the road and reach Nachtmystium fans that might not be aware of the label or the bands on it. I always sell BKR titles at the merch table and often times people get their first dose of BKR that way, which is very cool as we’re killing two birds with one stone…haha.

LHP: Finally, what records have you been listening to lately (metal and non-metal)?

Current playlist…

V/AHeavy Metal Dub LP (old dub comp. LP…great stuff)
Necros ChristosTriune Impurity Rites CD
Lurker of ChalicePerverse Calculus CD advance
OMConference of the Birds (obsessed with this record since the day I got it…)
Tom WaitsReal Gone LP
Dawnbringer - ALL

Check out currently available titles and news of upcoming releases at the Battle Kommand Records site: http://www.battlekommand.com.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Blake Judd Interview

The first time
Nachtmystium was brought to my attention was by my friend Jeff Wilson, who mentioned he was trying out to play second guitar for them. It was the day after my 25th birthday and we were in his basement before a party to celebrate my b-day and the house resident's moving out. I checked out Instinct:Decay and thought it was great from the first impression, but some of the elements were hard to place. The more I listened to it the more I liked it, and it's grown into one of those records that will always stay in my collection and on my turntable. They also rule live. Nachtmystium's founder and singer/guitarist Blake Judd sat down and talked with me in the basement of the Empty Bottle in Chicago on May 10th during the Antichrist Vanguards tour. Jeff also joined in on the conversation.

LHP: With the release of
Instinct:Decay, it's apparent there have been some big changes with Nachtmystium. The album boasts many elements that were hinted at on the Eulogy IV EP, the production has been stepped up, and more experimental elements have been incorporated into the song writing. There are acoustic passages, soaring leads drowned in delay, and some wah pedal usage. How have these elements brought you closer to your vision for the band?

It’s kind of a way to be more free within black metal, if that makes sense. I love pure black metal music, but I got bored with it. There’s a lot of bands doing it right now, some doing it very well and some don’t, but there’s enough of it. I like a lot of other music. I like a lot of psychedelic music, which I’ve said many times before. We (
Nachtmystium) have a big Pink Floyd influence and in a way it’s cool, because you can almost be a pioneer within this type of music because nobody’s really walked that path. It’s not really a conscious decision to try to be different, it’s honestly more of what I really want to do and what I really want to hear.

LHP: Has the execution on record and live met your expectations?

Yeah, I wish we hadn’t recorded (
Instinct:Decay) in someone’s living room on 16 tracks of ADAT. We just recorded again for the Leviathan split, but we took the ADAT tapes to a studio where we were able to drop it in track-by-track and mix it in ProTools. We didn’t ‘cheat’ with it, but we did take advantage of being able to clean up the sound a little bit and with the drums and the microphones we were able to make it sound crisp. There’s a lot less noise and bullshit.

LHP: Given that Nachtmystium has had a rotating lineup over the years, have you found it hard to find musicians who share the same ethos and direction for the music, or has it been more of a personal vehicle, finding players to play the different parts?

A little bit of everything…I think we have the most solid lineup right now.
Zion has been playing with us for a couple years, Jeff our second guitar player has been with us for about a year, and we all get along really well. Our biggest problem has been people will get a little greedy. When we go on tour I sell our old records. They weren’t on our old records, and it’s my label’s release. The problem that has existed with the ‘rotating door’ has been I bring my business on the road, my label and my distro. A Nachtmystium CD that someone with us didn’t play on might as well not be a Nachtmystium CD for that person. It’s for my business, so there’s been some conflict with people not really understanding that. I do my best to make sure everything is very fair and very even, and anything that anyone plays on is all split percentage-wise by how many people we’re dividing it up between. I’m no exception to that, but there have been issues with that. It’s not so much finding people who do or don’t get it, but I do need people who get it. I don’t want to play with super evil black metal guys who get dressed up and have to have a front to prove something to people.

LHP: Like you have to coax them out of their mom’s basement?

Yeah! Exactly, and there’s so many people out there like that. To me that’s weakness. I want people who aren’t afraid of experimentation and the idea of freedom within music, because true music has no boundaries. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing whether you’re a country musician, a black metal guitarist, or you play a drum in a tribal band…if you want to really express yourself you can’t be withheld by the confines of scenes, genres, or cliques. I think it’s best that people have an open mind. You don’t have to be a Satanist or some evil guy…we don’t have to share any political or religious ideologies with each other. Just a group understanding that we’re trying to create something that’s very much our own, and I want people in the band that don’t have egos, that don’t have some agenda with black metal. There’s so much of this elitism bullshit that I don’t understand, it’s not my thing. I understood it, but when I was 19 years old. I’m a grown man now. (Lo-fi recording) works for some bands, but other times it’s just tired-sounding. There’s a lot of bands that shouldn’t be recording or releasing music. Anybody can rehash
Darkthrone and anyone can find some kid that wants to start a label that has $1,000 to press a CD to do it. We (Nachtmystium) did it, and I feel we made a mediocre attempt at doing the Darkthrone black metal thing. I was really young and for the time I’m really proud of it, but I know damn well that those albums aren’t landmarks for anybody. Maybe somebody from that time who was there with us might have some nostalgia tied to it. I mean, I don’t have some desire to become a ‘rock star’, but I’m releasing music and working hard…I want to be heard and I don’t want to be a sheep amongst the flock. We want to be the wolf, so that’s why Nachtmystium has taken the direction it has. I have a vision and I want people to listen to my music and experience something unique.

LHP: What changes has the band gone through since the release of
Instinct:Decay and how has that evolved the band?

Well, we went to from kinda being nobodies to being something…what level that’s at kind of depends on the person reading about it and judging. I can really assess where we’re at. We’ve got a little international press coverage and we’ve got a lot of opportunities arising for us, and that’s very cool. I’m glad that the album was effective…it did what I wanted it to. I wanted it to touch people, which surprised us. We recorded with
Chris Black, who has done our stuff for years, and he looked right at me and said “I don’t think you should release this record, I think it’s too weird and I think the recording suffers. The mix is muddy, and there’s too much going on with too little engineering capabilities.” It wasn’t that we didn’t know what to do, it’s that we didn’t have the equipment to make it more audible. I didn’t like the record at first, but it grew on me, and even though it is under-produced so are all our other records. That’s kind of our charm. The fact that there were all these new elements on the record, I decided to go for it. It would kind of suck for Battle Kommand, for my business, if it flopped, but at the same time we didn’t spend a ton of money on it…that album cost us $600 or something. We probably had $1,000 to spend, about $500-600 on actual record and the rest was on beer and pot. We recorded at my friend’s house in their living room.

LHP: Well, it sounds awesome. The first time I heard it I really didn’t know what to think and it really grew on me. Most of the records I’ve come to really connect with have been like that, though, where at first I don’t know what to think. You listen to those records again and again and get more out of it each time.

That’s been the general reaction and it’s totally understandable, because at first that was all of our reactions, too. What I thought was that it jumped around too much, that was my problem with it at first, but the noise tracks between the songs were the things that kind of melted it all together. I wanted it to start and stop…there are very few points on that CD where there’s any silence. That was intentional, and I wanted it to be one whole vision. In doing that and fusing it all together, and the mastering helping to clean it up…you should have heard it before it was mastered! It was a nightmare. We sent it to
Hydrahead and they said no, then sent it back to Hydrahead after it’d been mastered and released and Aaron (Turner) said he really wish he’d released the record. It made that big of a difference.

LHP: In September of last year you did a string of dates with
Pelican and Daughters. What can you tell me of the experience?

I loved it. I love those guys. I used to work at
Metal Haven years ago and I know Laurent (Lebec) and Larry (Herweg) from then when they’d come in to shop. At that time they were just getting on their feet, I was just getting on my feet. We talked a lot and kept in touch, we all read about each other’s bands over the years. Then they just emailed me one day saying, “You wanna come on tour with us? We read an interview with you saying you wanted to go on tour with bands that weren’t metal, so we’re gonna give you that opportunity.” I was like, fuck yes! I don’t listen to Daughters on CD, but live it was amazing! Their whole persona is so obnoxious and they execute it beautifully. We bonded with them through an arm wrestling match on the same day we crashed our van! That was a fun night.
(Jeff Wilson joins the interview at this point)

LHP: You have an upcoming split release with
Leviathan for Southern Lord Records. Will this be comprised of all new material?

Blake: Two new songs. I think they’re the best
Nachtmystium songs yet, wouldn’t you agree (to Jeff)?

Jeff: Yes, and they’re complete opposites.

Blake: Yeah, they’re complete opposites. One has Moog synthesizers…we call it ‘Hammerheart-era
Bathory getting butt-fucked by Burzum on a Spaceship’.

LHP: Hell yeah!

There’s that and then a more aggressive song…we stripped it way down, didn’t put a lot of solo shit in it because we wanted to be able to recreate it live. It’s more of an angry thing.
Instinct:Decay was so weird and had so much mellow stuff that I wanted to do something really aggressive this time. We re-recorded the first song from the Demise LP, ‘Solitary Voyage’, it’s a little more tripped-out…it doesn’t have the feeling of the original, but it’s cool. Then we did a Goatsnake cover…we did ‘IV’, and then we did a cover of Death in June’s ‘Rose Clouds of Holocaust’. It’s pretty strange, man, but it’ll be cool I think. The Leviathan material is cool, he’s doing a Today Is The Day cover and a Christian Death cover.

LHP: It was recently announced that Nachtmystium has signed a 2-album deal with Century Media, they’ll be re-releasing the Eulogy IV EP, and you’ll also be doing a DVD.

Yeah, a DVD and two new records with them.

LHP: Did you have other offers from other larger metal labels, and if so why did you choose to sign with
Century Media?

Simultaneously we had
Earache, SPV, Candlelight, Century Media, and Metal Blade all gave us written, full on offers. Someone got paid to draw up a contract from all those labels. We weren’t trying to be cocky or rock stars about it, but the thing is I own a label and have good distribution. We didn’t need them…at this level I don’t work another job, we can afford to go on tour and don’t need a big label. The idea behind it was to score some cash to buy ourselves a better vehicle to tour in and they can offer us bigger studio budgets. All the other labels wanted 4-6 albums, but we told Century Media “You can have one or two, you can have the re-release, and the video. If not, that’s fine and no hard feelings, we’ll just put it out ourselves.” When we started playing hardball like that, we got what we wanted, and I’m psyched about it. I like Steve Joh a lot, he’s the A&R guy at Century Media. He left (Century Media) for a couple of years and then came back when they wanted to become a real metal label again. It’s great and we’ve got a lot of freedom in our contract. It took about 4 months to negotiate our contract. For instance, any advertisement…they can’t advertise Nachtmystium next to God Forbid, for example. Our deal was, we choose who we tour with, who we’re advertised with, they have no control over our artwork at all, they have no control over our lyrical content within reason, obviously. I mean, we’re not gonna turn into a (racist) band or whatever. The thing that’s cool is that the guy that wanted us the most, Steve Joh from Century Media, that’s what he wanted. He wanted a band to come in and be this ‘loose’ kinda thing, and add something that wasn’t so cheesy and intentionally borderline mainstream at Century Media. They’ve done really well with bands like God Forbid and Lacuna Coil, but they’ve also invested in 30 bands that sound like God Forbid and Lacuna Coil, that you’ve never heard of, and they’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on these bands. Steve had told me that the company was basically at a point where they were just barely breaking even despite having the best selling records they’ve every had on their label right now. They’ve dropped a lot of bands and are digging back into the underground a little bit. They didn’t start off as a (commercial) label, they were an underground metal label. They’re a lot bigger now and have more cash, but…they put out ‘Blood Ritual’ by Samael, they put out fucking Unleashed ‘Across the Open Seas’, they put out the first Grave records, all the Eyehategod records! They licensed Mayhem and Emperor…if it wasn’t for Century Media we wouldn’t be sitting here right now, because that’s what I heard first when I was 13 years old. I also wanted to sign to Century Media because Nachtmystium has gotten to the point that since I run Battle Kommand Records almost exclusively alone I have a really hard time focusing on other bands on my label. Nachtmystium demands a lot of my attention, especially in pressing and releasing the record. When stuff sells quickly and I sell out of it that causes me to delay the releases of bands that I want to work with. I didn’t think that was very fair to those bands. I’m trying to develop a lot of bands that I really like, but if I’m worried about pressing Nachtmystium so we can tour and I can’t push the other records that doesn’t help anyone. The reason that Battle Kommand exists is because there are a lot of shit labels out there that walk all over little bands that might have a little buzz. They get fucked over or taken advantage of in some way and I’m here to try to be a person to help at least a few of those bands that I really like.

LHP: What do you have planned for the next
Nachtmystium full-length release?

Blake: I don’t know yet (laughs).

Jeff: We’re gonna move closer to each other and then figure that out.

Blake: Me and Jeff need to live near each other so we can write music better. (laughs) I don’t really know. If you asked me what I was gonna be doing tomorrow the only thing I could tell you is that I’ll be at a
Watain show. If I wasn’t on tour I’d probably wake up, make coffee, smoke pot, and maybe play my guitar. The only thing that sucks about this record deal is I’m sure somebody is gonna put some kind of time limit on when they need the record. That’s good, though.

LHP: With more funding at your disposal via Century Media will you be entering a 'proper' studio for the new album?

Jeff: Maybe. For part of it.

Blake: Maybe. Probably just for the mixing like we just did.

Jeff: The
Leviathan split sounds 10 times better than any other Nachtmystium release.

Blake: I don’t like going to a studio. I don’t like feeling like the clock is ticking, but the guy we mixed it with was really great to work with because he’s very patient and he’s a metal head. He’s in
November’s Doom and he’s played in Jungle Rot and some other bands over the years. He gets ‘the metal’.

Nachtmystium has several exciting tours lined up currently, including this one with Angelcorpse and Watain. I've also heard talk of a European tour with Celtic Frost?

That may or may not happen.
Tom Warrior is here tonight…I’ll have to go ask him what he thought. (laughs) He had a lot of good things to say to me about what we’ve been doing, which was not provoked by us, so that was really cool. It’s such a compliment that he would acknowledge us, much less have respect for it. As far as the touring goes, I have no idea about Europe. We will go eventually. It used to be a priority for me. I still want to go, but it’ll happen when the time and the money are right.

LHP: Do you feel that Nachtmystium is a black metal band?

No. I consider
Watain a black metal band. When you see Watain you’ll understand why I don’t consider us a black metal band. I think we’re intense, honest, and genuine. I think we have our own thing going on and we’re extreme, but black metal to me is the music of Satan when it’s the real thing. Watain is one of three bands that are the real thing in my opinion. I know it’s the real deal because I watched them drink animal blood and vomit and pray to the dark lord himself last night! That’s not my trip…I’m a Satanist kinda by default, but I don’t consider us a black metal band because that’s a very restricting title. I’ve got respect for Dimmu Borgir because they do what they do and they do it well. They make a lot of money and they’re doing what they want, but that style or something of that ilk that’s cheesy is not black metal. It’s not dangerous, it’s not intimidating. I watched Watain last night and I had to walk outside because I couldn’t take it anymore or I was going to fucking kill someone. I started losing it…it brought that much out of me. That’s what differentiates us from them, because I don’t see anything we do inspiring people to kill anyone, cut themselves, or whatever. I like to think of Nachtmystium as a band that is very black metal at our core that has evolved beyond that. I don’t think it’s fair to tag us with a genre because we like everything. That’s why we jokingly call ourselves psychedelic black metal, because there’s no other way to describe it. So, we’re the pioneers. (laughs)

LHP: Are there any other changes or influences in that realm that you’d like to make?

Not really. The cool think about the
Nachtmystium sound is that I’ve never really had an agenda or a vision for it. I think we’ll get weirder, hopefully, and I think you’ll see more different kinds of music come through. I buy a lot of records…I listen to everything from roots reggae to gore metal, and everything in-between like old country. I like it all and if there’s something that I can relate to and can find a way for those influences to seep into the music then it might happen. That’s what I like about Nachtmystium, there’s freedom. There’s no direction, there’s no path with it. The agenda is just to keep busy and to always be doing what I want to be doing. I want the people who also want to share that same vision and experience to be there as well, and those are the people who are here tonight.

LHP: Would you mind talking about Twilight for a minute?


LHP: In regards to the
Twilight project, there have been some changes to the project since the first release. Malefic is no longer a part of the band. How did Aaron Turn (ISIS) get involved with the band?

I love Aaron, man. I’ve known him for a few years now. He’s a really cool guy…we got in touch through the fusion of the scenes with the whole
Hydrahead and Southern Lord crowd drifting into the black metal world and vice versa, for those of us that are into other music. It was cool to start hanging out with him and talking with him more, and I saw ISIS live one night. I’d never really heard them. Someone let me borrow Celestial years ago, but I wasn’t feeling it at the time. I listened to it for 30 seconds and then turned it off, because it wasn’t my thing and I wasn’t ready for it at the time. I went to see them and was blown away! Everyone shit on Panopticon I found out later, and that’s my favorite album by them. It’s very melancholy and depressing. In a way, if you sped those riffs up and put blast beats over them and some distortion a lot of it would be black metal. I like the way he sings, the overall attitude of it, and I like the fact that they sell out the Metro three nights in a row and don’t have a fucking ego. Not one of them. They’re the coolest, most down to earth guys and they tour with Tool. They’re just laid back guys doing what they do, but like any great band in any scene people have shit all over them because they’re the band doing it better than anyone else and nobody wants to hear that.

LHP: What can we expect with the forthcoming record as far as changes?

I don’t know. (laughs)

LHP: Has anything been written?

Kind of…we got together a few weeks ago and tried to do some shit together. It was an interesting week. We did a lot of drugs and didn’t do much of anything. (laughs) We wrote four songs…it was
Wrest, myself, and Imperial from Krieg. We all collaborated, though. It wasn’t like, “Alright I wrote this riff…now you write the next one.” We were just all playing together, feed off of it, and just go with whatever sounded good. It’ll be a lot more of a group effort, Aaron Turner will be involved in writing as well, and we’re gonna take our sweet ass time with it. There’s no timeline for it.

At this point the interview had to be cut short and Blake left to help setup and prepare the stage for
Watain’s performance. The remaining questions may be answered at a later time, so check back for the continuation. A huge thank you to Blake (and Jeff) for this interview. Nachtmystium are poised to destroy the west coast soon with thrashers Skeletonwitch.

For more information, merchandise, and show dates check out the Battle Kommand Records
web site or Nachtmystium's Myspace site.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Zweizz - The Yawn Of The New Age

Zweizz - The Yawn Of The New Age
Vendlus Records

Former DHG-collaborator Svein Hatlevik has been doing Zweizz since 2003 (although in the liner notes the music on Yawn... is credited as being recorded between 2000-2006), after leaving the keyboard position of DHG for a more noise-based mixture of black metal elements, noise, and 'intelligent dance music' (or IDM).

Yawn Of The New Age is a headfuck. The majority of it's content is not traditionally musical, but that is not a criticism. On the contrary, Zweizz has succeeded at producing the equivalent of a 1,000 foot tall (bright pink) middle-finger. The tracks are electronic madness incorporating synth blast-beats, somber tones, occasional inaudible vocals, and tons of atmosphere. Layer all that with what sounds like bombs dropping and countless other bit-crushed ambient noise and you've got a slight idea of what you're in for with Yawn Of The New Age.

'Thank You In The Face' is 3:58 of ambient noise (sounding much like bugs and bats) and vocals being delivered through what sounds like a Speak & Spell. During the occasional breaks in vocals a collage of what sounds like fair ride jingles (think the tune played on carousels), chopped up and played backwards, serve as a 'chorus'. This is speculation, of course, as most of the sounds on Yawn Of The New Age are unidentifiable to my ears.

Zweizz is adept at creating chilling atmosphere, for instance 'Catacomb'. Beginning with a disjointed synth line and falling off into a sample loop of echoing bells and pulsing distorted sounds that sound like a child's toy piano in a cave. There is much to absorb, despite the minimalist approach used here (as opposed to tracks like 'Nowadays Only The Boring Is So Frustrating' which are a brain bomb).

There are many sides to Zweizz on Yawn Of The New Age, all of which may turn the unadventurous to run and hide. A few tracks in I found my 'sea legs' and was hooked.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Throne of Katarsis - An Eternal Dark Horizon

Throne of Katarsis - An Eternal Dark Horizon
Candlelight Records

Cold and grim, Throne of Katarsis delivers an EP's worth of tracks at an LP's length with An Eternal Dark Horizon. The vein is occult, early 90's Norwegian Black Metal here, with the music taking the shape of a more mid-tempo version of Mayhem or Darkthrone. Also included are classical acoustic guitar passages, melodic leads, and some subtle guitar effects. The vocals have a slight echo effect and sometimes are doubled. At times vocalist/guitarist/bassist Grimnisse utilizes an enunciated scream or some De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas-era Attila Csihar groaning vocals, which he pulls off quite well.

Despite the hefty song lengths (3 of the tracks average around 12 minutes each and the other 2 fall just under the 10 minute mark), Grimnisse and drummer Vardalv keep it interesting. There are tasteful tempo changes, constantly moving chord progressions, the occasional break only to be followed up by a passage of venomous blasting, and (again) the varying vocals keep An Enternal Dark Horizon from growing stale.

Fiends take note! Throne of Katarsis' first full-length release will surely fit nicely between spins of the classics or amongst the current crop of orthodox black metal in your stereo.

Furze - UTD

Furze - UTD: Beneath the Odd-Edge Sounds to the Twilight Contract of the Black Fascist / The Wealth of the Penetration in the Abstract Paradigmas of Satan
Candlelight Records

Furze creator 'The Reaper' is an odd fellow who fancies himself as not only as 'the One Reaper in the Music World' (whatever that means), but speaks in a language which I'm assuming only he knows what the fuck he's talking about. This whole release is weird.

Poorly recorded (at this juncture in the history of Black Metal the 'bedroom recording' is just plain unacceptable - overdone and rarely effective) fits of speed-picked notes and blasting drums (thanks to the contribution of Frost on this record) will suddenly shift gears into passages of avant-garde collections of notes and the occasional Celtic Frost doom march. At points, the guitars drop WAY down in the mix (attempting to emphasize certain vocal lines?) and the bass sometimes gets boosted to the point of blurring out the rest of the mix. Frankly, the record sounds like elements of early Burzum and Darkthrone with extremely weird flourishes, recorded on a cheap 4-track and played back at high-speed.

The tracks that comprise 'The Wealth of the Penetration...' are a bit more straight-forward, featuring a more Darkthrone-esque style and lots of rock 'n' roll riffing. Plenty of 'weirdness' can still be found, though, as well as overlaid vocals and thrashy drumming.

UTD is not breaking the mold by a long-shot, but it does provide an interesting listen. I can't say it will ever touch my stereo again, but it's definitely worth a nod to The Reaper for creating some unique sounds.

Earthless - Rhythms From A Cosmic Sky

Earthless - Rhythms From A Cosmic Sky
Tee Pee Records

Opening the first 'movement' (the 20:55 'Godspeed') with 3 minutes of phased-out, delay-soaked feedback and crashing drums seems like a promising precursor to a pummeling. I half expected a Church of Misery-style spanking, but instead this is an instrumental 'stoner rock' jam with too many goddamn leads and some organ here and there. I'm not hip to the more riffy 'stoner' style of heavy music, as it gets boring and doesn't pack the darkness that doom provides. There can be exceptions, but most of it just isn't as potent as Black Sabbath were and isn't slow enough to make me care. Leads galore can suck my balls and I'm SICK of instrumental bands. The rest of Rhythms From A Cosmic Sky is comprised of another 20+ minute song entitled 'Sonic Prayer', and a cover of 'Cherry Red' by The Groundhogs.

However, Earthless possesses several appealing qualities in that the the guitar tone sounds killer and recording quality is airy, yet captures every note/beat with the punch it was played, producing a very 'live' sound. Mario Rubalcaba (formerly of Rocket From The Crypt, Hot Snakes, The Black Heart Procession) is the skin basher in Earthless, a point which I'm sure will pique the interest of many.

This album left me lukewarm, but there's potential here. The music is very well executed by a trio of excellent players. There's just too much going on and not enough 'song' to hold my attention.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ryan Lipynsky Interview

Unearthly Trance has been an entity that I have been stunned by since a friend recommended their 'Season of Seance...' LP and I heard their demo material. Each release since their inception has been a focused and genius ball of piss and molten lava. In 2006 the band released their third full-length epic entitled 'The Trident', which has refused to leave my turntable, car stereo, or headphones since. Ryan Lipynsky, vokillist/guitar mangler for U.T., agreed to answer some questions about himself, the doom juggernaut known as Unearthly Trance, and his other musical projects (past and present).

LHP: When did you first connect with underground music and what experiences led you to participating in your own musical endeavors?

Ryan Lipynsky: Ever since I was in 5th grade I listened to heavy metal. Being a kid in the 80’s was something completely different than it is today. I feel lucky that I was exposed to so many good bands early on. After growing up on metal, I discovered a thriving HardCore/Punk scene on Long Island in high school and my later teenage years. This was my first experience with DIY shows and the underground aesthetic. Eventually I would grow tired of the “scene” mentality and move on to darker forms of expression. As far as my own endeavors, I’ve been playing in bands with Darren of UT since he was 11! Over the years I’ve k
ept my musical projects and bands within a somewhat tight knit connection of friends.

LHP: What role does music (listening/creating) serve in your life? How much of a daily experience is it for you and what does it provide you?

RL: Music is my life. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t listen to something. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of headphones on the subway to and from work. It literally keeps me sane and allows me to block out all the overcrowding humans that I encounter daily. As for creating, I’m constantly writing something new as I’m currently in three bands that are each writing a new record!

LHP: The bands you are/have been involved in, to my knowledge, are rooted in black and doom metal aesthetic. What other types of music do you enjoy, and what artists/bands have been most influential personally? Are you involved in any projects outside of the metal realm?

RL: Honestly, I mostly enjoy the classics. Bands that are timeless. Bands like Black Sabbath and older heavy metal/hard rock is what truly influences me believe it or not. Outside of metal I create noise on recordings and the occasional live performance. Rock and metal are at my core: Guitar based music with great memorable

LHP: What thoughts do you have on the growing popularity of NSBM? Personally, it's a slippery slope as far as deciding where to draw the line. Most of the bands that tout such ideals are garbage and not interesting musically (making the decision to listen to their music quite easy). However, there are several bands who produce excellent records, yet promote ethnic/racial hatred as opposed to a more general nihilistic/anti-human message. Your thoughts?

RL: I say whatever floats your boat but I don’t seek out these bands. Like you said, most of them sound like crappy black metal gone wrong. It’s hard for me to understand what socialism has to do with Lucifer. It’s irrelevant to me to be honest. I like Burzum a lot and that’s about it ! ha

LHP: You are currently doing a DIY label called Humanless Recordings. What plans for releases do you have currently and what is the focus for the label?

RL: Humanless is and has always been a resource for us to release our other projects that usually venture on the experimental side. But I’d like to do another Humanless compilation one day with other bands from a
round the world. There are no current releases lined up but these things tend to happen spontaneously.

LHP: Your former project, Thralldom, was dissolved after the release of the excellent 'A Shaman...' LP. What was the initial goal or focus for that project and what was your reason for disbanding it? Will there ever be another Thralldom release of new material?

RL: Being from Long Island in the late 90’s there were very few people into black metal. Jaldagar was some one who was into fast blasting drums and harsh noise. Originally we wanted to make creative black/death metal recordings for our own entertainment. The reason for disbanding was that the drummer and only other member since 97, was not into metal anymore and I refused to work with him again as his drumming was no longer up to par for heavy music. Not to mention our personal differences… I ended it and its dead and we won’t ever record again. Since we broke up I’ve had no contact with Jaldagar and I don’t care to. I now have a new black metal band that is basically the continuation of Thralldom called “The Howling Wind”.

LHP: You are currently involved in other projects outside of Unearthly Trance, including Villains. I've heard the 7" that Ajna put out, which is great stuff! What do the drunks in Villains currently have planned/coming up?

RL: Villains recently released our debut record “Drenched in the Poisons” out now on CD from Aurora Borealis and soon on VINYL from Nuclear War Now! We are currently writing new music that will be on another 7” or two and another album. Next we are recording a split with Italian band Fingernails!

LHP: Unearthly Trance is a magnificent beast of a band, which has been together for quite some time. With the release of last year's full-length, The Trident, there were changes to the U.T. structure. There were more tempo changes from song to song, more 'clean' singing, and the continuation of shorter song lengths compared to older releases. The production was also a bit more treble-heavy without losing the familiar groaning low-end. The album is a fucking crusher! How did you feel about the way 'The Trident' came out (visually, conceptually, and sonically) and has that changed in the year since it's initial release? What changes do you hope to explore in the future with the upcoming record and further releases?

RL: I think The Trident is awesome! I was and still am very pleased with it. Looking back, I would probably like the production a little less trebly and the guitars are little more up in the mix with more low end. That is my focus for the next record! Haha... I think the drums are awesome on the trident! When we wrote songs for that record, we were sick of having all these super long songs and only getting to play 4 or 5 songs in a set. I especially was focused on shorter songs. Having said that some of our newer songs for the next record that we wrote are a bit longer! Looking back on the art I wish we could of have more time with it and the next time we will.

LHP: The recently released 'Axis Is Shifting' 10" (which rules!) includes two old songs, one from the 'Nuit/Sonic Burial Hymns' CDR and an unreleased song. Any reason why those weren't included on previous full-length releases? Why the change to the beginning of 'Branches of Anti-gravity'?

RL: We changed the beginning to “Anti-Gravity” just to try a new take on it and not do it exactly like the "Nuit" version. We also changed the middle part around. The vocals are also all harsh on the new version where the old was much more melodic. “Oceans Expand” was almost on every album actually, but we always decided it didn’t fit with the overall album vibe. The song is that old!

LHP: Several other U.T. vinyl releases are planned currently, including a live 7" on Elephant Graveyard and a split 7" with Minsk of Roky Erikson covers on Parasitic Records. What are the status of these releases right now? Have the tracks been recorded yet? Are there any special plans for these releases?

RL: The Elephant Graveyard 7” may never come out to be honest. We have the music to the Roky song recorded and now we just need to mix it. I believe Minsk is about at the same point. We are going into the studio next week to record another 10” of ancient UT songs: “Phoenix Undead” and “Veins” which is actually a Thralldom song that I wrote from a 1999 demo that was never released. Ironically this was a very doom sounding demo.

LHP: What are the plans for the follow-up to 'The Trident'? Is there a recording date currently set? Will you be working with Sanford Parker again? Is there a title for the record currently? What thoughts can you share about the new material written for the record?

RL: We are currently planning on recording the next album in October with Sanford Parker. This time we are aiming to record in a NY Studio with Sanford. No title yet. The new material is a bit more psychedelic and more progressive. One song has a very slow riff that reminds me of “Seasons” era. I’d say the material is a good mix of all three records thrusting forward with tons of new ideas. Lots of riffs this time around. The vocals have progressed as well or at least I hope. haha But dont worry, we are still focused on making the heaviest music possible.

LHP: What is the mission of U.T. as a collective entity? Does it serve as a vehicle for a higher purpose than just creating music (and if so, what is that purpose)?

RL: In self. Infinite.

LHP: Will U.T. be touring again in the US soon? Any tentative plans for live onslaughts outside of NYC before or after the new record is out?

RL: We first are hitting Europe in September and that is our main focus right now. We are way over due to return to the UK and Europe. From now till then well be doing the occasional weekend journey. I’m sure after the next record comes out we will do a full scale US assault.

LHP: Thanks so much for answering my questions and giving me some of your time. Anything you'd like to say to close this interview?

RL: Dissent!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Ryan Lipynsky Interview

Coming soon is an interview with Ryan Lipynsky of Unearthly Trance, Thralldom, Villians, and The Howling Wind.

More reviews to be posted soon. Again, bands and labels interested in having their material reviewed or doing an interview get in touch: carlbyers@gmail.com.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Hävok Ünit/andOceans/The Sin:Decay - Synaesthesia: The Requiem Reveries

Havök Ünit/andOceans/The Sin:Decay – Synaesthesia: The Requiem Reveries
(Vendlus Records)

This three-way split is a transitional release for andOceans, using this collaboration to bury their moniker and introduce themselves as the newly christened Havök Ünit. Also included are 3 tracks from The Sin:Decay, which is a side project of a member of the band.

The split begins with the first ever Havök Ünit song, entitled “With Discipline Upon Mankind” – a brief symphonic sample and grating white noise are suddenly crushed by a hyper-blast of brutal death metal. The guitars sag, grind, and shift - the notes seeming to vibrate through thick mud. The vocals actually remind me of a more maniacal David Yow, utilizing more of a howl than a scream or grunt. Effects, programmed electronics, and samples mix with the organic instruments throughout and assemble a truly interesting listen. The following two tracks are remixes of the same song, providing two very different perspectives on the music through a more industrial feel and then a drum and bass approach.

andOceans then drops their last song under the band’s name, “Yerushalayim Érez Haqodes.” For the most part, it’s a straightforward mid-tempo bomb of distortion with a blackened/punk overtone. There are industrial, atmospheric tinges that create great soundscapes behind the music and the vocals are like gruff battle commands (sans the Vocoder break towards the end). Again, the two tracks following are remixes of the song. The first of these remixes is an almost totally atmospheric version, embracing haunting and distant vocal sounds and droning low notes. The second remix is a minimalist, industrial overhaul of the original song with occasional breaks and driving beats.

The Sin:Decay ends this split with three tracks of melodic industrial metal with heavily distorted guitars, lots of synth textures, and elements that bring to mind Mortiis. It’s much more metal and interesting than the aforementioned artist, but definitely the low-point on this disc.

Overall, this split is a very interesting listen and is worth it alone for the Havök Ünit track and remixes, let alone the andOceans material. Good stuff!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Stalaggh - :Projekt Misanthropia:

Stalaggh – :Projekt Misanthropia:
(Autopsy Kitchen Records)

Conceptual, blackened, pure noise bands are not my thing. Much of the time the point is to deliver the most painful expressions of life itself in a collage audio format. Rarely, and I mean RARELY would I ever listen past 2 minutes of such drivel without turning it off. This is the second time I have endured such a record and made it past the usual 2-minute mark, the first being Abruptum’sVi Sonus Veris…’ record (which was total shit). I made it to 13 minutes and 32 seconds of Stalaggh’s final release, :Projekt Misanthropia:, before having to turn it off. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it was horrible, but the only thing I could liken it to is listening to 10 stereos playing the same ‘Spooky Halloween’ tape in a wind-tunnel. Sounds cool for a few minutes, but not for repeated listening (in my opinion, of course).

There are moments when some guitars enter the picture, lots of banging and things smashing about, and constant wailing and screaming. Yet, there’s no substance to support the atmosphere. I do have to say that listening to :Projekt Misanthropia: is definitely unnerving at times, but I was more annoyed than anything.

Monday, April 23, 2007

N.I.L. - S/T

N.I.L. – S/T
(Battle Kommand Records)

The current wave of ‘prolific’ underground USBM is mainly supported by the ‘one-man band’ format, although there are exceptions (i.e., Nachtmystium). Krieg was always very hit or miss to me, mainly due to incredibly avant-garde drumming and production (although this is not the case with late-era releases). I’m not a snob about production, although I find it hard to find reasons for continued listening when the drums are inaudible. Krieg main man Imperial has since focused on two new projects (March Into the Sea and N.I.L.), both of which are quite different than expected.

N.I.L. finds Imperial and March Into the Sea co-conspirator J. Marcheski creating an experimental, drone-based black metal hybrid, incorporating acoustic guitar passages, occasional mandolin (albeit buried in the mix), and something called a singing bowl. The song structures are akin to Xasthur, although much shorter in length and avoid the aimless wandering that much of Malific’s later material has possessed.

The vocals are great – deep, low moans, screams, and growls that resound of painful despair and hatred. You can also hear enunciation without them losing their power, which is something that I appreciate. The guitars move between an oppressive wall and atmospheric moods, but remain at the forefront. The bass is audible and prominent, yet the drums suffer much of the same treatment that many of the Krieg recordings did – all cymbals, tiny snare and kick sounds. The production values waiver at times and some songs do find the drums more balanced in the mix, but it’s a mild point in the scope of this release. It’s an annoyance, but the songs and overall feel of the record still hold up. Even the Big Black cover of ‘Bad Houses’ seems to fit comfortably here with the rest of the music, although it is the melodic sore thumb.

Clocking in at around 34 minutes, N.I.L.’s first release has me captivated and anticipating future recordings. Hopefully future releases will continue to be on the shorter length of things like this record. Hails to Imperial and Marcheski! Keep the nihilism coming!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

04/18/07 - Update.

I'm still in the developing stages with getting content published to the site, but there are a sizable number of forth-coming record reviews and an interview with Blake of Nachtmystium / Twilight / Battle Kommand Records. Originally, the interview was already supposed to be completed, but due to time constraints on the day of the original interview it has been pushed back. Expect that to be posted in mid-May.

Any label/PR folks and bands interested in having their stuff reviewed or doing an interview, feel free to send a request, inquiry, or question to carlbyers@gmail.com. Please enter "Left Hand Path" into the subject line.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Diagnose Lebensgefahr - Transformalin

L - TransformalinDiagnose: Lebensgefahr – Transformalin
(Autopsy Kitchen Records)

This is fucking weird, but in a great way. Gritty synth tones surge rhythmically, layered soundscapes, and truly disturbed vocals giving way to painful lyrics – true evil genius! D:L is the new project of Nattramn, former vocalist of the Swedish band Silencer, and is apparently the outlet for his recovery after being institutionalized in a mental hospital some years ago.

The album begins with ‘The Level Beyond Human’, a short intro track that starts with a voice stating, “Welcome to beyond human – the last call.” The track builds with a single droning note that sounds like it’s been raked through a bit-crusher, eventually subsiding into the sound of an orchestra.

‘Transformalin’ then begins with a heavily distorted single beat before a manic atmosphere fades in and Nattramn sings, “Pull out my teeth/Inhuman grin/Peel off my skin/Break the bones beneath.” The sound of his voice, though nothing like his vocal style in Silencer, is extremely disturbing in the way it mixes with the music.

The bulk of the D:L tracks are uncomfortable experiences on first listen, which does not change with repeated spins. The music is always shifting gears, but constant elements are droning background noise, machinery-like grinding, atmospheric tones, and tortured vocals.

Any further sort of verbal description wouldn’t do this record justice, as likening it to other artists or genres makes no sense. Nattramn has captured something unique with Transformalin, which is quite worthy of checking out.

You can listen to several of the album tracks on the Autopsy Kitchen Records media player at http://www.autopsykitchen.com/akrmp3s/kitchenplayer.html.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

3/22 - Giant Squid, Grayceon, & Llange @ Radio Radio

Friday, March 23rd
Radio Radio - Indianapolis, Indiana
Giant Squid, Grayceon, & Llange

Opening the show were locals, Llange, who boast an incredible amount of volume and heaviness. This four-piece sludge unit incorporates all the girth and plodding notes of household names like Jesu, Isis and Pelican. These dudes have their shit together, and not unlike many a show here in Indy I’ve seen, these Naptown locals handed the headlining bands their asses. Llange recorded their 6 song, 41 minute debut with Joel Lauver at Burning Bridge Studios in 2006, which is available now through the band at shows and on their Myspace site. More information, show listings, and streaming audio can be found at http://www.myspace.com/llangemusic.

Second in the lineup were
Gracyeon, hailing from San Francisco, California, and comprised of a unique trio of musicians. The band features cello, guitar, and drums as well as the haunting voices of Jackie Perez Gratz and Max Doyle. Grayceon spun epic melodies, intertwining finger-picking guitar notes and somber cello lines over manic rolls and changes from Zack Farwell’s powerhouse drumming. Suddenly, the music lurches into a groove and Doyle is riffing between gallop chugs and pinch harmonics (still not using a pick) – ridiculous! For further listening check out Grayceon’s self-titled album on Vendulus Records, and Gratz can also be heard on the latest Asunder record, entitled Works Will Come Undone, on Profound Lore Records. Highly recommended!!! More information can also be obtained at http://www.myspace.com/grayceon.

Ending the night’s show was
Giant Squid of Sacramento, California, who are currently on tour in support of their record, Metridium Fields, on The End Records. Recently added to the lineup is Jackie Perez Gratz, in place of former member Aurielle Gregory. Giant Squid are an enigma to me. There are the makings of an excellent and original heavy band within their ranks, yet the delivery is far from satisfying. There are 3 things that bothered me about the performance (which were an extension of what bothered me about the record):

1. The lack of doom-like crush: Guitarist Aaron Gregory uses a tuning at times that is the same many bands within the ‘Neurosis-worship’ clan use, dropping the bottom note to an octave of the string above. It creates a sound that is not unlike the ocean crashing. However, it’s criminally underutilized on Metridium Fields.

2. Vocals: More often than not, Gregory’s vocals are far too similar to Serj Tankian of System of a Down. It overpowers the music during the album and the night of the performance, it nearly overshadowed the rest of the music’s presentation.

3. Genre-bending: Originality is a hard thing to tackle sometimes. There are many different approaches to creating ‘new’ music. However, I’ve always thought that regardless of the medium (i.e., genre) in which the bulk of the music rests, those subtle touches and personal style make more of an impact than a band that constantly changes things up. Case in point, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde beast that is Giant Squid. Talented in many aspects of song writing and performance, the band just doesn’t seem to be able to make up their mind where each song is going. Dreamy pieces with soft vocals suddenly jump into a staccato-driven dirge riffs and then to a long bridge before fading out over quiet guitar and horns. In a live setting the keyboard and horns are not to be found, but even a more stripped down version of the band doesn’t seem to make the approach more direct.

Giant Squid did, however, present themselves as a tight unit of players with technical competence and the promise for good things to come, hopefully. If Metridium Fields is a stepping stone to a more focused or interesting band, I look forward to hearing the next phase. For more information about the band you can visit their web site at http://www.giantsquidmusic.com or their Myspace site at http://www.myspace.com/giantsquid.