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.