AVANT GARDE Metal Classics

Content

AVANT-GARDE METAL 1

A Brief And Incomplete History

Of An Ongoing Experiment

1980s 4

CELTIC FROST

Into The Pandemonium

VOIVOD

RRRÖÖÖAAARRR

VOIVOD

Nothingface

early 1990s 8

SCORN

Vae Solis

DISHARMONIC ORCHESTRA

Not To Be Undimensional

Conscious

THE 3RD AND THE MORTAL

Sorrow

ULVER

Vargnatt

CYNIC

Focus

DIABOLOS RISING

666

UNHOLY

The Second Ring Of Power

TIAMAT

Wildhoney

1995 17

KOROVA

A Kiss In The Charnel Fields

OPETH

Orchid

CELESTIAL SEASON

Solar Lovers

MR. BUNGLE

Disco Volante

VED BUENS ENDE…

Written In Waters

FLEURETY

Min Tid Skal Komme

MISANTHROPE

1666…Theatre Bizarre

1996 25

BAL-SAGOTH

Starfire Burning On The Ice-

Veiled Throne Of Ultima Thule

MYSTICUM

In The Streams Of Inferno

OXIPLEGATZ

Worlds And Worlds

ARCTURUS

Aspera Hiems Symfonia

AMORPHIS

Elegy

1997 33

BETHLEHEM

Sardonischer Untergang

Im Zeichen Irreligiöser

Darbietung

SEPTIC FLESH

The Ophidian Wheel

SIGH

Hail Horror Hail

ANUBI

Kai Pilnaties Akis Uzmerks Mirtis

OPETH

My Arms, Your Hearse

ARCTURUS

La Masquerade Infernale

ENOCHIAN CRESCENT

Telocvovim

STRAPPING YOUNG LAD

City

THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN

The Dillinger Escape Plan (EP)

IN THE WOODS…

Omnio

ANGIZIA

Das Tagebuch Der Hanna Anikin

1998 47

BEYOND DAWN

Revelry

OXIPLEGATZ

Sidereal Journey

STILLE VOLK

Ex-uvies

KOROVA

Dead Like An Angel

THE KOVENANT

Nexus Polaris

BAL-SAGOTH

Battle Magic

ULVER

Themes From William Blake’s The

Marriage Of Heaven And Hell

DøDHEIMSGARD

Satanic Art

1999 55

CARNIVAL IN COAL

French Cancan

THE KOVENANT

Animatronic

ARCTURUS

Disguised Masters

IN THE WOODS…

Strange In Stereo

SAMAEL

Eternal

SOLEFALD

Neonism

DøDHEIMSGARD

666 International

PECCATUM

Strangling From Within

OPETH

Still Life

2000 65

AGHORA

Aghora

FLEURETY

Department Of Apocalyptic

Affairs

RAM-ZET

Pure Therapy

FANTOMAS

The Director’s Cut

Imprint 68

1

AVANT-GARDE

METAL

A Brief And Incomplete History

Of An Ongoing Experiment

Experimental metal, or what we on this

website call avant-garde metal, strives

to cross self-imposed borders

and throw off the shackles of

convention. As a genre,

metal is unusually volatile

and forward-thinking—some

will scoff at this suggestion,

but if you consider how far it

has come since NWOBHM

and thrash, you’ll see what I

mean.

Most of this change has been

incremental: a little faster,

heavier, uglier, more complex, etc. In

trying to be more extreme or less

accessible, metal bands continuously,

almost pathologically, one-up the bands

that came before. But avant-garde metal

bands take a different approach. Instead

of playing faster or slower, an

experimental band will look outside the

genre itself, attempting to locate sounds

and aesthetics from elsewhere,

ultimately creating music that doesn’t

quite sound like metal but is too heavy

to be anything else.

There is no avant-garde sound and it

isn’t a genre. Anyone with talent and

creativity can do it simply by availing

themselves to the wider world of music,

both popular and academic. Music is far

too

wonderful a

gift to

squander

on musical

schematics

and tried

and tested

formulas—

the best

composers

and

musicians don’t simply replicate the

sounds handed down to them, but make

them their own. Avant-garde metal takes

this notion to the extreme.

From the 1980s to the 1990s

In the 1980s, truly experimental metal

bands were few and far between. Thrash

and heavy metal bands generally

advanced by changing tempos, using

more complex time signatures or

increasing the distortion.

But there were some

important formative bands

that pushed the limits. In

1987, Swiss thrashers

CELTIC FROST released the

heady “Into the

Pandemonium” to a then

largely confused audience;

the album featured pop,

industrial, classical and

Modern elements never

before heard on a heavy

metal album.

Celtic Frost were followed by fellow

Swiss countrymen CORONER, who

combined thrash with jazz and industrial

elements, pushing a sound that was

more abrasive and technical than much

of what came before it. Coroner and the

archetypal American death metal band

Death had a significant influence on the

bands of the late 1980s and the early

1990s.

Meanwhile, grindcore exerted a strong

influence in the United Kingdom, with

experimental industrial-grind bands

O.L.D. and GODFLESH building on

Napalm Death’s violent ambiance,

developing in the process a new kind of

grind with dancey techno beats and

sludgy industrial rhythms. These two

bands helped inspire both the bleak

dub soundscapes of SCORN and the

hectic free jazz grind experiments of

NYC composer JOHN ZORN

(Painkiller and Naked City) in the

1990s.

Zorn’s own work would lay the

foundation for hyper-eclectic

pastiche bands like FAXED HEAD,

SECRET CHIEFS 3 and MR. BUNGLE.

Throughout the nineties, these bands

(with composer Trey Spruance as the

2

anonymous figure linking them)

combined death metal and grind with

every other conceivable genre (jazz,

pop, country, contemporary classical,

soundtrack, exotica, punk, Persian folk

music, surf rock, big band, funk, hip hop,

electro, industrial, etc.) in impossibly

entertaining ways—

so eclectic they

were, the metal

itself largely

disappeared.

In other parts of the

United States,

thrash/death metal

bands ATHEIST,

CYNIC and

BELIEVER

introduced

significant jazz

fusion and

progressive rock sounds, creating

extreme metal with unusually melodic

richness and harmonic depth, even going

so far as to introduce “positive” lyrics

into a genre traditionally given to

machismo and misanthropy. In Austria,

DISHARMONIC ORCHESTRA released

“Not to Be Undimensional Conscious” in

1992, an album that introduced jazzy

funk-inspired bass lines and silly

surrealist lyrics to grindcore. These

bands would inspire other technical,

jazz-inflected metal bands, including

MESHUGGAH and EPHEL DUATH, right up

to the present.

The international thrash and death metal

scenes produced several avant-garde

bands throughout the nineties, including

SEPTIC FLESH and ON THORNS I LAY

(Greece); MISANTHROPE and

STILLE VOLK (France); ELEND

(Austria); PAN-THY-MONIUM

(Sweden); THE 3RD AND THE

MORTAL (Norway); ORPHANED

LAND and PEOPLE (Israel); and

NEUROSIS (United States).

While none of these bands

sounded like one another, they

were unified by the same

commitment to unrestrained

creativity and the simple fact of their

unclassifiable nature.

Black Metal Insurgency

The Norwegian black metal explosion of

the early 1990s revolutionized metal to

the extent that even its earliest, most

primitive practitioners could arguably be

called avant-garde. Atmospheric bands

like EMPEROR added

spacey synthesizers and

Romantic melodies to

super-fast metal while

the more rustic

sounding Ulver (still in

their infancy) equalized

the flute/acoustic

guitar/hymn to metal

ratio. Viking metal

bands like ENSLAVED

went even further,

adding piano lines and

later psychedelic rock to the heroic

formula laid out by Bathory in the late

1980s.

All of this was very interesting, but more

interesting was what it inspired in the

latter part of the 1990s. Several bands

who started in the black metal scene

quickly abandoned it for more

adventurous terrain. For example, after

tiring of folk and balls to the wall black

metal, ULVER began tampering with

electronics, trip hop and ambient music.

Their 1998 take on Blake’s romantic

prose poem, “The Marriage of Heaven

and Hell,” broke all the rules of black

metal, creating a daringly expressive

sound in the process.

Several Norwegian black metal bands

sought to put their own strange spins on

metal music. Some bands

adopted elements of jazz

and post punk (FLEURETY

and VED BUENS ENDE);

others took a theatrical,

almost operatic turn

(ARCTURUS, ATROX and

PECCATUM); some went

industrial (THE KOVENANT,

RED HARVEST and

DODHEIMSGARD) while others embraced

a fey 1970s aesthetic (IN THE WOODS).

My personal favorites are SOLEFALD and

BEYOND DAWN. Solefald seized upon the

pastiche style of Mr. Bungle, but without

ever abandoning the rough metal

undercurrent—their lyrics are among the

3

most inventive in metal music. Beyond

Dawn started with a dark Swans-like

atmosphere before embracing classy

electro-pop.

Black metal’s influence was global, and

bands across the world would follow a

similar path. One

band that was

noticeably weird

from the

beginning was

Japan’s SIGH.

Sigh was not

merely content to

play their thrashy

style of black

metal in a

vacuum, but instead saw fit to

incorporate a whole slew of outside

influences, including disco, funk,

country, old school heavy metal and

impossibly strange, analog sound effects.

Sigh is not merely a black metal band,

but fits within the broader spectrum of

Japanese experimental music (including

the Boredoms, Acid Mothers Temple and

Melt Banana).

One of the most productive avant-garde

metal scenes emerged from the Austrian

black metal movement. Even pure black

metal stalwarts like ABIGOR and

SUMMONING are

strange and

otherworldly by the

standards of the

genre; Abigor

specializes in

chaotic,

atmospheric

arrangements, while

the Summoning duo

composes long,

repetitious, tranceinducing

songs.

Avant-garde metal

bands KOROVAKILL and ANGIZIA take

things much further with ridiculously

punchy songs rooted in industrial and

vaudeville/musical theater respectively.

If black metal kicked off a tremendously

productive outpouring of metal

experiments, its effect on folk metal was

particularly pronounced. Swedish folkmetal

projects like OTYG and

VINTERSORG pushed the limits of both

metal and Swedish folk music with

jaunty arrangements and traditional

instrumentation. Finland’s FINNTROLL

fused indigenous humppa music with

beer-swilling black metal, while the nowdefunct

EMPYRIUM (Germany) brought

romantic hymns and pastoral music to

bear on black/doom metal. Folk metal

bands, including ORPHANED LAND

(Israel) and HANTAOMA (France),

continue to flourish throughout the metal

world.

The 21st Century

Avant-garde metal has not slowed down;

in fact, it has only continued to evolve

and expand. Bands like KAYO DOT,

JESU, ISIS, DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA,

SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM and

many of the bands covered above

continue to explore the outer limits of

experimental music, creating heavy

music without rules or self-imposed

limitations, creating unique sounds

simply because they can and must.

These are the bands that this website

was designed to commemorate,

celebrate and inspire.

Metal evolves with baby steps; avantgarde

metal bands are the random

mutations that make the process

interesting, fun and worthwhile to me. I

raise my beer to ya all.

JAMES SLONE

4

1980s

CELTIC FROST

Into The Pandemonium

Release: 02.11.1987

Label: Noise Records

Avantgenre: Avantgarde Metal

Duration: 39:24 (excl. Bonustracks)

Origin: Switzerland

Official site: http://www.celticfrost.com

Having nothing better to do during a five

hour lunch break from school, I thought

I could give a shot at reviewing one of

the most irreviewable albums ever. Into

The Pandemonium. 20 years after its

conception, it still stands as the creative

apex of one of the most important extreme

metal bands ever. After vomiting

forth the darkest metal album of the

eighties – To Mega Therion, the best pre-

Oslo black metal album – Martin Eric Ain

returned to the Frost, and together with

Tom G. Warrior and Reed St. Mark they

decided to push the boundaries as far as

possible. All Celtic Frost releases seem to

have sprung out of the deepest anguish

and personal pain, as does Into The

Pandemonium, which must have been a

terrible nuisance to create; it is not surprising

that it back lashed into whatever

you would call Cold Lake some years

later.

Anyhow, Into The Pandemonium is still a

major fuck off to the suffocating genre

conventions metal is still plagued by,

even though the efforts here from our

favourite Swiss export opened up many

paths for the decades to follow. Opening

an album with a cover is not kosher, and

the choice of an upbeat new wave song

about being lost in Mexico would still today

be questioned and frowned upon, so

I suspect many metalheads have reacted

quite negative back in these days.

“Mesmerized” is a deep red suggestive

little thing, haunting with its decadence

and Tom’s trademark moan. If you ask

me, I would say that this is where gothic

metal began, another genre’s blood on

their hands. The rather slow moving fashion

is continued by the two “Jade Serpent”

songs, with their dark melancholy

infused with Oriental mysticism evoking

images of lush decadent gardens filled

with incense. Even though songs like

these were the foundation of avantgardistic

metal, I cannot think of any works

similar to this masterpiece, despite these

two decades. The approach – yes, perhaps,

but not the specific sounds. Celtic

Frost are the H.P. Lovecraft of metal.

Another always very important part of

Celtic Frost was (and is still, actually) the

use of art music. The horn and timpani

arrangements of To Mega Therion are

here blooming out into all their majesty;

from the lamenting ”Sorrows Of The

Moon” and its French counterpart, to the

TRACKLIST:

(Note: I Have Reviewed The Remastered CD Version

From 1999, With 5 Bonus Tracks. Of These Tracks, I

Chose To Discard All But Track 4, And Therefore The

Tracklist Beneath Does Not Represent The Review

Above, As Track 12-15 Did Nothing To Enhance The

Listening Experience.)

1. Mexican Radio

2. Mesmerized

3. Inner Sanctum

4. Tristesse De La Lune

5. Babylon Fell (Jade Serpent)

6. Caress Into Oblivion (Jade Serpent II)

7. One In Their Pride (Porthole Mix)

8. I Won’t Dance (The Elders Orient)

9. Sorrows Of The Moon

10. Rex Irae (Requiem)

11. Oriental Masquerade

12. One In Their Pride (Re-entry Mix)

13. In The Chapel, In The Moonlight

14. The Inevitable Factor

15. The Inevitable Factor (Alternate Vox)

5

ominous string quartet modernism of the

mighty ”Rex Irae”. I cannot think of any

metal band using classical music in this

manner before Frost did, and very few

since. Tom’s lyrics continue in tradition

of Celtic Frost – sorrow-filled poetic visions

of majesty, corruption, vanity and

pride, bringing doom and loss of life and

power; the fall of everything, all set in a

fantastic suggestive environment that

could be as much about Dune as Sodom

and Gomorrah. If To Mega Therion is silver

and steel, then Into The Pandemonium

is marble and sand.

Even though a song like ”Inner Sanctum”

showed very well that they still could

pump out bludgeoning thrash metal, the

lyrics are still partly taken from a poem

by Emily Brontë – a proof why Celtic

Frost still in my opinion eclipse all competition.

They dared being intellectual,

even pretentious, transcending the simplicity

of beer and denim. They tried “to

be different, to be something new

(Thomas G. Fischer, 1986), for “there

are more feelings to express than just

aggression and destruction” (Martin Eric

Ain, 1987).

These quotes sum up what Into The

Pandemonium is about, and it is for this

reason Kerrang! described it as “the

most avant-garde album that will ever

be released [sic]” which is true, at least

in a metal context, seeing what came

before it. This is the mother of all avantgarde

metal (including early Voïvod!).

Into The Pandemonium might not be the

best and most consistent of Celtic Frosts

work – To Mega Therion usurped that jewel

throne aeons ago – but for the sake

(which is not mere) of its aspirations, its

creativity, its daring progress, it deserves

a place in the heart and record

collection of everyone, as well as a 66

metre tall golden statue of the power trio

of all power trios; our antediluvian gods

and celestial dominators, Celtic Frost.

What does he say? UH!

aVoid

VOIVOD

RRRÖÖÖAAARRR

Release: 1986

Label: Noise Records

Avantgenre: Avantgarde Metal

Duration: 38:08

Origin: Canada

Official site: http://www.voivod.net/

To give you a certain feeling for the time

this album was released I went into the

local library and got hold of old newspapers.

1986 was when Canada got beaten

by France 0:1 in a soccer game, Reagan

and Gorbachev meet in a house in iceland,

Bon Jovi releases ‘Slippery when

wet’, the Top Gun soundtrack hit the

streets, Elton John did ‘Nikita’ and blood

reigned for Slayer. ‘Woiwod’ is polish for

‘Landeshauptmann’ (engl. ‘governor’)

and their choice of name represents their

approach to music.

TRACKLIST:

01 – Korgull, The Exterminator

02 – Fuck Off And Die

03 – Slaughter In A Grave

04 – Ripping Headaches

05 – Horror

06 – Thrashing Rage

07 – The Helldriver

08 – Build Your Weapons

09 – To The Death

6

This is the house where Gorbatchev and

Reagan met by the way:

The album itself was actually recorded/

mixed in 1985, but I will spare

you with further details of that era (Rock

me Amadeus, anyone?). The cover has a

tank that looks left and reminds me of

drawings metalheads do in school when

they are bored.

This is the worldfamous Falcoimpressario

Hans-Peter Gill:

I feel weird reviewing the gods of Avantgardemetal,

for I never really listened to

them back in my days, I’ve only had this

weird vinyl picture disc where there was

one Voivod song on it but unfortunately I

can’t find it anymore.

This is the where I went to school,

here I lost my virginity,

and this is the first 10 euro I held in my

hand:

All in all I can safely say and see that

this album has its moments and I adore

the title and some of the lyrics.

Jonny Lignano

VOIVOD

Nothingface

Release: 1989

Label: MCA Records

Avantgenre: Avantgarde-Metal

Duration: 44:18

Origin: Canada

Official site: http://www.voivod.net

TRACKLIST:

01 – The Unkhown Knows

02 – Nothingface

03 – Astronomy Domine

04 – Missing Sequences

05 – X-Ray Mirror

06 – Inner Combustion

07 – Pre-Ignition

08 – Into My Hypercube

09 – Sub-Effect

7

Whilst most reviewers try to keep a constant

pitch between reviewed thing and

oneself, I take offensive on that kind of

behaviour and try to change the world.

For that reason please find below my letter

to the Merriam-Webster Inc. in my

quest to change the world to the mentioned

better place.

In 2007 emails can’t change the world anymore.

Jonny Lignano

8

early

1990s

SCORN

Vae Solis

Release: 1992

Label: Earache

Avantgenre: Grind House (get It?)

Duration: 1:15

Origin: United Kingdom

Official site: http://www.mickharris.net/

Napalm Death, aside from creating the

grind genre, are also noteworthy for

having spawned several important solo

projects. The original members fanned

out on their own, creating unique aural

spaces to ply their extreme trade. Mick

Harris’ contribution to this abundant output

was Scorn, a project that retained a

harsh grind ambiance before jettisoning

the violence in favor of haunting dub

soundscapes.

“Vae Solis” kicked things off, a brutal

hammering attack out of the Killing Joke

playbook with Harris’s pounding industrial

grade beats, buzzsaw guitars sharp

enough to cut steel (courtesy Justin

Broadrick), and Nick Bullen’s pulsating

bass and nauseatingly lethargic vocals.

The only thing that could make this album

any sicker would be blastbeats and

squawking free range saxophone- for

that, see Painkiller, Mick Harris’s delightfully

painful collaboration with John Zorn

and Bill Laswell.

“Vae Solis” is noisy and repetitious in a

classic industrial mode, but retains a pop

catchiness, a certain punk groove that

makes it almost seem musical. There are

moments of near silence scattered like

detritus across the album’s total war

wasteland, dark ambient moments of

near horror garnished with creepy samples.

As the album progresses, the beats

become more danceable. “On Ice” is as

catchy as anything composed by Ministry,

warmed over with a programmed

synth line straight out of New Wave.

The album hints at a Napalm Death that

might have been if the band had abandoned

political anger for aggressive introspection

and sordid atmospherics. It’s

ugly, like a bloated corpse in a filthy

public restroom, but it’s absolutely hypnotic,

deliriously sick and twisted, and in

its own grimy way, a gem.

James Slone

TRACKLIST:

01 – Spasm

02 – Suck And Eat You

03 – Hit

04 – Walls Of My Heart

05 – Lick Forever Dog

06 – Thoughts Of Escape

07 – Deep In – Eaten Over And Over

08 – On Ice

09 – Heavy Blood

10 – Scum After Death (dub)

11 – Fleshpile

12 – Orgy Of Holiness

13 – Still Life

9

DISHARMONIC

ORCHESTRA

Not To Be Undimensional Conscious

Release: 1992

Label: Nuclear Blast

Avantgenre: Surrealistic Avantgarde Death

Metal

Duration: 36:01

Origin: Austria

Official site: http://www.disharmonic.com/

The early 1990ies have been the golden

years of death metal. 1992, as the trend

had reached its culmination, Disharmonic

Orchestra shocked their fans with one of

the most subversive albums that death

metal has ever seen. Already the surrealistic

cover-artwork demonstrated their

breaking with the ordinary metal standards.

And the band photo showed those

three guys posing with toys and teddy

bears. Just one cliché remained: the album

was produced in the legendary Sunlight

Studios, address no. 1 for european

death metal bands.

Compared to their debut “Expositionsprophylaxe”

this album brought a radical

change in style, mainly based on the

complex lines of drums and bass. The

drumming of Martin Messner is superb.

It’s extremely groovy and innovative,

with uncountable breaks and off-beats.

Also the bass acrobatics of Herwig Zamernik

(later also known for his other

band Naked Lunch) are unique. Just the

guitar work and the death-vocals of Patrick

Klopf remain rather straight and

keep the album rooted to metal. Like the

artwork, also the lyrics are very surrealistic

and far away from the usual metal

stuff.

Their old fans probably just found two

songs of this album acceptable: “Like

Madness From Above” and “Mind Seduction”.

These remain relatively conventional

and bear lots of grind-parts. All

other songs are very individual. Just listen

to the great opener “Perishing Passion”

(which also became the motive for

one of the coolest metal-shirts ever),

“The Return of the Living Beat”, which

mixes fast grindcore with a rather stupid

funk-rap-part or the atmospheric, repetitive

instrumental “Time Frame”. More

than any other death metal album, “Not

to be Undimensional Conscious” is

avantgarde at its best! Be sure to have

this in your collection!

Chrystof

TRACKLIST:

01. Perishing Passion

02. A Mental Sequence

03. Addicted Seas Of Missing Pleasure

04. The Return Of The Living Beat

05. Groove

06. Idiosyncrasy

07. Like Madness From Above

08. Time Frame

09. Mind Seduction

10

THE 3RD AND THE

MORTAL

Sorrow

Release: 1993

Label: Head Not Found

Avantgenre: Murky Gloom Doom

Duration: 20:28

Origin: Norway

Official site: http://mortal.info/

Looking back on

the early years of

The 3rd and the

Mortal, it’s not

that easy to see

why they were

considered so

groundbreaking,

but that’s only because of the host of

bands that arrived in their wake, emulating

with varying degrees of success their

meandering, murky guitar sound, adventurous

song structures and accessible

but technically proficient female vocalsprovided

here by the indispensable Kari

Rueslåtten, sounding sad, distant and

peerless.

An EP, “Sorrow” introduces their early

doom metal sound, with a muddy production

accenting drooping guitars and

reining in cackling feedback. Reverb laden

melodic lines draw equally from

shoegaze wall of sound and navel gazing

doom. Kari’s vocals rest squarely on the

subtle and complex bass lines, anchored

to the rhythm in a sea of distortion, crying

out from a place of emotional and

musical isolation. The title track breaks

with the rest of the album with classical

guitar and unusually sullen vocals, having

a more medieval courtly love sort of

atmosphere.

With their epic compositions and unusually

noisy, darkly psychedelic sound, The

3rd and the Mortal would influence several

acts, laying the groundwork for

bands as disparate as In the Woods and

The Gathering. It all starts with “Sorrow.”

James Slone

ULVER

Vargnatt

Release: 1993

Label: Self-released / Bootlegged

Avantgenre: Jazz-tinged Folksy Black Metal

Duration: 28:00

Origin: Norway

Official site: http://www.jester-records.com/ulver

First, you must forgive me. I do not own

any official copy of this first Ulver release;

not the original self-released cassette,

nor the hastily sold-out 10″ released

by The End in 2002. My version is

the bootleg cassette Ondes Triumph,

complete with the rehearsal cassette

from the same year (way better than

that Immortal-“split cd”, yet still lame).

The rehearsal-side is a low-volume in-

TRACKLIST:

01 – Grevinnens Bonn

02 – Sorrow

03 – Ring Of Fire

04 – Silently I Surrender

TRACKLIST:

1. Her Begynte Mine Arr…

2. Tragediens Trone

3. Trollskogen

4. Ulverytternes Kamp

5. Nattens Madrigal

6. Vargnatt

11

strumental take on the Vargnatt tracks,

with the addition of “Enser Du Vinter”

and Celtic Frost cover “Babylon Fell”.

That’s about it.

Ulvers seminal (and only) demo release

is however a fancy statement that the

early Norwegian black metal scene truly

was a creative climate for aspiring and

daring musicians. Ulver especially, as

they have proven their unicity over and

over again these last 14 years. Vargnatt

is to me one of their most innovative releases,

along with the Blake album of ’98

and Blood Inside of ’05.

They are here as always fronted by Kris

“Garm” Rygg, who was an astounding

and multifaceted vocalist already at the

tender age of 17. He ranges from the

enchanting whispers of the acoustic track

Trollskogen (almost superior to Kveldssanger),

to the spiteful gnarls and eerily

haunting howls of the title track,

to the operatic falsetto of Tragediens

Trone… Quite out of tune,

but fitting perfectly to the raw

passion of this necrotic masterpiece.

The guitarworks are as inspired,

with folk-like acustic guitar leads,

at points jazzy chords, entertwined

with gothrock melodies

and primitive Hellhammer riffing.

Czral’s percussion is a shaky embryo

that would become Written

In Waters some years later; odd

beats with strange yet groovy

fills, backbeats, all reaching far

beyond your ordinary metallic

styles. (Note the cowbell, awesome!)

Vargnatt is the primeval quintessance of

Ulver’s Trilogie; the satanic energy,

haunting yet calm beauty and and romantic

melancholy of the mighty Norwegian

Forests, and those who dwell there

in. An inspiring soundtrack for a solemn

and hateful stroll through the woods at

dusk (make that pine or fir, not whimpy

birch).

aVoid

CYNIC

Focus

Release: 1993, 2004

Label: Roadrunner

Avantgenre: Utopian Fusion

Duration: Reissue – 72:31

Origin: United States

“Focus” (1993) is a

kind of milestone for

extreme metal. If you

wanted ten metal albums

placed in a time

capsule of Greatest

Moments in Metal History,

Cynic would be a

no-brainer. This website

specializes in the

experimental, the cutting

edge, and the outright

weird. Cynic certainly

qualifies for inclusion,

being one of

the earliest examples

of a metal band that embraced all three

traits with equal zeal. Calling “Focus”

progressive metal is too limiting. It

spawned a whole new subgenre: extreme

metal fusion. Jazz metal bands

like Ephel Duath, as exciting and innovative

as they are, simply would not exist

without Cynic’s revolutionary work here.

After circulating tapes as a technical

death metal band in the Floridian mold,

Cynic signed to Roadrunner and dropped

“Focus” on the unsuspecting world. I remember

hearing it when it came out and

being absolutely floored. Here was this

insanely intense combination of unremitting

death metal, otherworldly jazz fusion,

and weird New Age ambiance

(Robert Venosa, the surrealist painter,

TRACKLIST:

01 – Veil Of Maya

02 – Celestial Voyage

03 – The Eagle Nature

04 – Sentiment

05 – I’m But A Wave To…

06 – Uroboric Forms

07 – Textures

08 – How Could I?

Bonus Tracks:

09 – Veil Of Maya (2004 Remix)

10 – I’m But A Wave To…

(2004 Remix)

11 – How Could I (2004 Remix)

12 – Cosmos

13 – The Circle’s Gone

14 – Endless Endeavors

12

created the eye catching cover), that

screamed excess, but somehow avoided

disaster by being inexplicably good. Even

with the oddball vocoder chanting that

would have ruined a lesser band, the

musicianship carries the day. Jason Gobel

and Paul Masvidal’s guitar playing alternates

between jagged death metal

thrashing and delicately arranged synth

guitar lines that sound like ocean tides

and light waves riding on ether. Sean

Malone’s punchy fusion bass operates

with a mind of its own; conversing with

Sean Reinert’s stop-on-a-dime percussion,

but always with its own voice. All

these players, each with their own unique

take on the material, somehow mix

it together into tight little three minute

songs.

Cynic sounds like a train running off its

tracks into the ocean and instead of

sinking somehow floats on the surface.

OK, that simile sucks, but it’s the best I

could come up with to describe this impossibly

fluid music, which really does

sound like death metal careening into

spiritual bliss, a kind of new age Morbid

Angel that put away the Cthulhu in favor

of Indian philosophy and ecological spiritualism.

If that sounds horrible it’s because

it should. And yet it isn’t. By tapping

into something “positive” and utopian,

Cynic turned death metal on its

head and opened up the stubborn genre

to new areas for exploration. Even today,

“Focus” is an eccentric piece of

work, reaching far and wide for sounds

that defy every expectation death metal

comes prepackaged with. Cynic have recently

reformed for a reunion tour, and

prior to that re-released “Focus” with

what remains of their would-be follow

up, “Portal.” If they decide to record new

material there is little doubt that it will

be good by any standard. But their work

on “Focus” was a radical breakthrough,

something new and exciting that

changed the rules of the game, a true

one-off metal classic.

James Slone

DIABOLOS RISING

666

Release: 1994

Label: Osmose Productions

Avantgenre: Ritualistic Industrially-

Satanized Metal

Duration: 34:42

Origin: Greece / Finland

Official site: http://none

Released back when Osmose Productions

was a purveyor of eclectic and well respected

quality underground music, including

such bands as Pan-Thy-Monium,

Rotting Christ, Masters Hammer, Dark

Tranquility and many more, this release

is no exception. It is a cooperation between

artists of differing locals but of a

similar musical and undoubtedly theological

mind set. This CD possesses a

clinically dark quality having the straight

forward simplicity and production of an

industrial album with the aesthetics of,

what was at the time, the Satanic black

metal underground.

The musical backbone that makes up Diabolos

Rising comes from the mind of

Magus Wampyr Daoloth of Necromantia

(and other Greek bands, too numerous

to mention here). By taking the framework

of drum and guitar composition

from the likes of Ministry and KMFDM,

and then mixing it with keyboards remi-

TRACKLIST:

01 – Genocide

02 – Dinnum Sabbati

03 – Give Me Blood Or Give Me Death

04 – Satanas Lead Us Through

05 – Sorcery-Scientia Maxima

06 – 666

07 – ×-Î-Óô

13

niscent of some 80’s horror movie, he

managed to create an album that coalesces

the personae of Black Metal with

the precision of Industrial quite well. The

production is clean and polished with

atmosphere provided by the everpresent

sound of droning keyboards

which gives it an almost palpable evil

ambiance. There is a somewhat subtle

Mediterranean, or even middle eastern,

flavor through many songs and when

juxtaposed with the technological aspects

make it easily adaptable for use as

either a soundtrack to “Bladerunner” or

“The Last Temptation of Christ”.

The vocal delivery is provided by the second

half of this electronic project, Finland’s

Impaled Nazarene spokesman, Mika

Luttinen. Taking into consideration

the practice he had on the industrialized

track “Gott ist Tot” off of Impaled Nazarene’s

release “Ugra Karma” it seems

only appropriate to have Mika as the voice

of this incarnation. As one might expect

the majority of vocals have that

Imp. Naz. tone and forcefulness, with

many of them having added effects

heightening the industrial feel. Added to

that are a handful of spoken parts which

help accentuate the ritualistic elements

of the music.

As for the lyrical content (also written by

Daoloth), with a title like “666” one can

make obvious assumptions. Of course

not without it’s sense of Satanic irony,

track 6 being literally 6min and 6sec of

silence for Satan.

Along with a few disparate projects, such

as the Cold Meat Industry releases, this

is one of the earliest examples of individuals

from the Black metal underground

delving into electronically based

music, pre-dating the exploration of

many of their contemporaries by a number

of years. Which makes this a must

for anyone interested in such Black metal/

Industrial amalgamations and deviations.

MvH

UNHOLY

The Second Ring Of Power

Release: 1994

Label: Dunno, Yet

Avantgenre: Santaclosthrophobia

Duration: 53:41

Origin: Finland

Most of the time I only review things I like.

I guess people who review restaurants

also only order (not only when

testing) stuff they like. ‘Unholy’ has a

great name for a christmas-review where

I will decorate some christmas trees,

strongly influenced by each song of the

album.

As usual, this is an exclusive for

.

Song 1:

TRACKLIST:

01 – The Second Ring Of Power

02 – Languish For Bliss

03 – Lady Babylon

04 – Neverending Day

05 – Dreamside

06 – Procession Of Black Doom

07 – Covetous Glance

08 – Air

09 – Serious Personnality Disturbance

And Deep Anxiety

14

Song 2:

Song 3:

Song 4:

Song 5:

Song 6:

Song 7:

15

Song 8:

Song 9:

Jonny Lignano

TIAMAT

Wildhoney

Release: 1994

Label: Century Media

Avantgenre: Drunken Psycho Gothic Metal

Duration: 42:08

Origin: Sweden

Official site: http://www.churchoftiamat.com/

Ah, 1994. Those were glorious times. It

was the year when I started to seriously

listen to Metal, and one of the best years

to pick from an embarrassment of riches.

I remember MACHINE HEAD debuting

with “Burn My Eyes”, PANTERA releasing

their best album “Far beyond Driven”,

PARADISE LOST steering towards the ingenious

“Draconian Times” (I know, not

that these music styles have so much in

common but let me dwell in nostgaly for

a while) and TIAMAT- well, bringing a big

surprise with this instant classic Gothic

Metal album. And I mean Gothic METAL,

not this easy listening dancing-fairiesstuff

which is so popular nowadays- a

genre which I thought extinct except for

maybe THE VISION BLEAK, but that’s

another story.

TRACKLIST:

01 – Wildhoney

02 – Whatever That Hurts

03 – The Ar

04 – 25th Floor

05 – Gaia

06 – Visionaire

07 – Kaleidoscope

08 – Do You Dream Of Me?

09 – Planets

10 – A Pocket Size Sun

16

But this is not only a superb Gothic Metal

album; if it was, I’d leave it like that and

go reviewing something else. To try to

describe this album to someone deaf

would result in the following: Make him

empty a whole bottle of absinthe while

internalizing the works of Dalí, then finish

him off with magic mushrooms. The

resulting dream would surely resemble

“Wildhoney”…

The first track “Wildhoney” serves as a

calm Intro and prepares the beginning of

“Whatever That Hurts”, a slow, creepy

and menacing track with a great clean

guitar line and almost tribal-like drums.

“The Ar” springs forth of this song with a

pitch black atmosphere, threatening

choirs, heavy guitars and some keyboards-

at this point this drug-driven

nightmare manages to pull you down

into a black hole vortex with an incredible

dark mood, while the conjuring voice

of Johan Edlund is floating above all.

“25th floor” lets you resurface slowly,

and the dream changes from a

nightmare to something more

friendly in “Gaia”, giving you a little

glimpse of warmth. Slow drums,

moody keyboard background and a

more benign, clean Johan Edlund

with even some guitar solo.

“Visionaire” though gets more aggressive

again, keyboards disappear

in favour of an again heavy guitar

duetting with a clean guitar. This

time Edlund sounds almost conjuring

and there is a feeling as if TIAMAT

are preparing to get as evil as in the

first part of the CD- but this change

does not occur; instead, in “Kaleidoscope”

and “Do You Dream Of Me?”,

it gets really surreal. Only Keyboards

with weird tunes, and a gloomy clean

guitar while Edlund, half whispering,

half speaking, leads through this part

of the dream. This sounds like walking

through a field of flowers under a

black sky… The instrumental “Planets”

invokes the width of space with only

effects and guitars, and then “A Pocket

Size Sun” starts and resembles the chaotic

and weird but somehow calm parts

of the dream shortly before you awake.

This song builds up a tension, starting

only with drums, clean guitars and a dissonant

harp (?) and ends with something

what could be a jam session of very talented

musicians when, at the peak of it,

you suddenly awake, leaving only traces

and irreal pieces of what was experienced

a moment ago…

Luckily there is no hangover after this,

just the feeling that you have listened to

one of the best Metal albums of the nineties.

Avant-garde? Yes, at that time for

sure, and even today a little. Unique?

You bet- this one is a timeless masterpiece.

Tentakel P.

17

1995

KOROVA

A Kiss In The Charnel Fields

Release: 1995

Label: Napalm Records

Avantgenre: The Fruit – The Darkness –

The Evil

Duration: 41:36

Origin: Alps

Official site: http://www.korovakill.com

Late eighties – early nineties, Austria.

Let me clarify the international context

first: this was a period of exceptional

creativity in the domain of extreme metal.

These were the days before the internet,

the days of real underground

music, whose originality was deprecated

by all existing official metal magazines,

the days where small isolated regional

scenes established contact among each

other through tape-trading. While in

Austria Disharmonic Orchestra or Pungent

Stench were beginning to gain international

recognition thanks to innovative

releases through Nuclear Blast Records,

in most parts of the country musicians

and the public were still clinging to

heavy, thrash or hardcore 5 years behind

the times. The burgeoning black

metal movement was looked down upon.

Abigor had only released demos so far,

quite conventional ones, by the way.

This was a time when Darkthrone were

only known to a handful of people – Korova

among them. Whether they saw in

A Blaze in the Northern Sky the confirmation

of their existing convictions regarding

atmosphere over vacuous brutality

will remain conjecture, but a fruitful

one nevertheless: so far, violent music

had been death metal exclusively,

roughly in the form of two tendencies –

the organic harshness of the Scandinavians,

the technical brutality of the Americans.

All of this has to be kept in mind for any

future judgement. I refuse to tolerate

the amalgamation of Korova under the

avant-garde movement that would soon

develop out of black metal. The obvious

references (Arcturus, Ved Buens Ende,

what have you) have to be brushed aside

– those came much later. What we

have here, however, is a truly independent

development.

The fact that their name was imposed on

the group in its early days by a fan of

Kubrick’s film version of Anthony Burgess’s

novel A Clockwork Orange is not

important at all. Nothing on this record

points back to the early thrash/punk origins

of the band. They are veterans of

the Austrian extreme scene along with

those cited above, with the only difference

that their sound did not catch on

immediately. Locally, however, the group

had numerous opportunities to test their

work in front of an audience long before

the release of this first album (early

1995): the bulk of the work had been

written as early as 1992.

The production may not do justice to the

album (which partly may have been the

reason for both the critics’ and public’s

failure to grasp the importance of this

release), with a limited amount of tracks

alternating a multitude of instruments

(the engineer who recorded the album in

1994 was not used to that particular

sound and was confronted with a density

he was unable to master), but the music

still stands out today as well ahead of its

time. To combine such elaborate parts,

both rhythmically and harmonically, with

memorable phrases, riffs and melodies

into immediately comprehensive structures

and inventive instrumental textures

was a visionary feat. The music is

a torrent of harsh violence, complex and

18

limpid at the same time, driven forward

by an exceptional drummer who has

since proven his versatility, and whose

admission to the group one year prior to

this recording had propelled them to a

state of grace. The album features an

extensive use of keyboards, acoustic instruments

(timpani, mandolin, violin)

and female vocals, long before those elements

became a trend for backwards

oriented copycats.

Korova’s main composer, a left-handed

guitarist playing a right-handed guitar

upside down (just like

Atheist’s Rand

Burkey), used this

apparent anomaly to

obtain inimitable

chords. His compositional

skills and idiosyncrasies

outshine

most of his contemporaries.

His learned

use of such diverse

elements as dissonance

(diminished or

augmented chords

on heavily distorted

guitars were not heard much since

Voivod) or troubadour music, or the invention

of a unique guitar sound (have a

listen at the opening riff of “Entlebt in

tristem Morgenblut”), every single aspect

of this work must be called pioneer.

At any rate, Korova’s legacy by far exceeds

their official reputation. Take the

whole tone scale riff that appears in “Lachrydeus

Mittelgard” (02:14, 03:42), for

example. Then listen to Misanthrope, Visionnaire

(1997), track 6 (00:43, 01:27,

05:59, 06:44), then Ram-Zet, Pure

Therapy (2000), track 3, opening riff.

The alert listener will find other significant

instances. They were true originals.

Numerous passages immediately recall

other avant-garde metal bands; many

pave the way for Written in Waters

(carefully plough through “Awakening

from Perpetual Contemplation”), yet all

of it had been written years before Ved

Buens Ende was formed and the world

had heard about Arcturus, who were certainly

not doing any bold stuff at that

time, by any standards.

Korova’s frontman always delivered an

unbelievable and unique stage show. Fellow

Austrians Dornenreich would not be

where they are today had they not had

the chance to see Korova perform in

concert – the early live antics of Dornenreich’s

vocalist were a mere pale copy,

and all his attempts at vocal experiments

were suggested by Korova’s inventions.

Whether a concept album or not (maybe

with the exception of tracks 7 and 9,

which seem to have been added due to

the need to release a full-length album

that could be recorded

quickly with the new

line-up – track 9 was

originally intended for

an unreleased sideproject),

we are dealing

with a very cohesive

record. Korova

managed to create a

multiform, idiosyncratic

universe, baroque, visceral,

encompassing

more than just the music

– take a good look

at the cover artwork or

at the vocalist’s custom-carved guitar.

Any sort of reflection on the lyrics be left

to the listener. Let it just be said that the

images of primeval violence and declining

beauty conjured up in those morbid

tales of demise are of a much more interesting

nature than what had been

known so far through the aesthetics of

death or doom metal or through what

would soon become the standard mode

of expression of the newly born Norwegian

black metal scene. Long before the

trend to write lyrics in the native tongue,

Korova dared to draw on languages

other than English. The riposte is easy

against the convenient criticism regarding

the use of too many languages as a

preposterous display: there is a point!

This is no mannerist toying around: on

both the musical and textual level, a

careful selection was applied to determine

which parts were to be sung in

which language. Italian in the operatic

passages, Gothic and its barbaric sound

for the evocation of an archaic heathen

world (if not earlier, than at least simultaneously,

but above all, independently

of any similar Norwegian tendencies),

Middle High German in an exalted hom-

TRACKLIST:

01 – Intro: Der Weltenbrand / Das Kreuz Und

Der Metzenapfel

02 – After The Fruits Of Ephemeral Pulchritude

03 – Lachrydeus Mittelgard (Slâhan Fôntagr Inn

Awêþi)

04 – Entlebt In Tristem Morgenblut

05 – Intro: Im Teich Erlischt Ein Bächlein

06 – Awakening From Perpetual Contemplation

(Yellow Mahogany Tomb I.)

07 – Latin Dreams In Turpentine

08 – Nordsciltim – In The Filth Where All Cull

Perambulates Pain

09 – Sálømeh, Des Teufels Braut

10 – A Kiss In The Charnel Fields

19

age to the heroic verse of Romance, yet

the bulk of the album in German and

English, and all of it tightly melded together

into one florid, hyper-baroque

and simultaneously revolutionary, radically

modern language. To pick only one,

the German text of “Entlebt in tristem

Morgenblut” attests the craftsmanship of

an original lyricist well versed in the art

of poetry, who would move even further

with the indispensable but still unreleased

Echowelt.

And the voice! This voice, protean yet incredibly

coherent, shifting from operatic

chants to soaring barbaric screams,

mastering all stages from growls to

shrieks, at times sanguinary, solemn, or

agonizing, with echoes of Celtic Frost or

a King Diamond in a murderous frenzy,

still seeks its peer today.

3 words: Akran – Riqis – Unþiuþ

mang tsze

OPETH

Orchid

Release: Summer 1995

Label: Candlelight Records

Avantgenre: Epic Dusky Forest-Prog

Duration: 65:31

Origin: Sweden

Official site: http://opeth.com

Fallen leaves crackle beneath determined

steps through an October aurora of forest

on the edge of a rolling, sunsetpainted

field with a single, ancient dead

tree that sends the soul above a cloudy

azure abyss; you fall gently, emerging

on a frozen moor overlooked by a pale

countenance that turns marrow into ice

as you run with four wolves onto a candlelit,

shadowy hill, to find what lies there;

you find that track 1 has ended. One

down, six to go…

Opeth’s debut “Orchid” never left avantgarde

territory because it still sounds like

nothing else. Each song (save for two interludes)

is a woven tapestry of exquisite

harmonized guitar via Mikael Ã…kerfeldt

and Peter Lindgren, doomy yet swift, mixed

with medieval acoustic tomes and

Johan DeFarfalla’s equally sophisticated

and folky/jazzy bass. Anders Nordin

keeps the others’ movements driving

forward with relatively simple but highly

effective percussion, while minstrel

Ã…kerfeldt sets free chilling howls and

crystalline sung/whispered images.

The most commonly-noted (and perhaps

only) fault for which this disc is criticized

is general interchangeability of riffs and

discontinuity between them. Somewhat

true, but each is a scene, and together

they form a journey, and as seven they

form a grandiose portrait of a distant,

archaic land. It’s midnight mist in which

the perfumed fires of autumn and the

withered winds of dusk have been captured.

And it’s not even remotely black

metal.

C. L. Edwards

TRACKLIST:

01 – In Mist She Was Standing

02 – Under The Weeping Moon

03 – Silhouette

04 – Forest Of October

05 – The Twilight Is My Robe

06 – Requiem

07 – The Apostle In Triumph

20

CELESTIAL SEASON

Solar Lovers

Release: 1995

Label: Metal Blade

Avantgenre: Romantic Doom Death As

Played By Dutch Stoners

Duration: 48:05

Origin: Netherlands

Ah, “Solar Lovers.” Hands down my favorite

doom metal album ever, “Solar

Lovers” is the gem in the Celestial Season

crown. Resting between the too ornate

debut album and the extravagantly

drugged excesses of the latter albums, it

strikes the balance between crushing

emotional doom and groovy psychedeliadid

I mention it’s also my favorite stoner

rock album? The tension between the

two styles, one heartfelt and moving and

the other heavy and excessive, make it

beautiful, entertaining and seriously ideal

for a pint of Belgian ale (yes, I know

they’re Dutch band) and a joint stuffed

with the best BC bud. It helps to be in

love too.

Left over from more My Dying Bride influenced

days are two violinists, but they

don’t just play in the three note style

that was and remains all the rage in metal,

playing instead some very beautiful

solos and somber chord progressions,

complimenting the heavy guitars without

overpowering them. The violins are also

employed in folksy instrumentals, accompanying

acoustic guitars and springy

dance rhythms. But mostly they’re there

to add a rainy ambiance to the heavy

plodding guitars and wild 1970s style

heavy metal solos.

The lyrics, growled, spoken and whispered,

revolve around deep, perhaps too

deep love, flying in the face of a genre

more infatuated with love lost. The lyrics

are all about falling, falling into someone,

falling into green leaves, falling in

love. But they’re also about those moments

when you look into a lover’s face

and know that your finite happiness can’t

last because ultimately death brings us

all back the earth. It’s all so beautiful

that it makes me want to dance with

tears in my eyes, to paraphrase Ultravox,

whose “Vienna” the band covers to

soaring success, bringing a rocking bohemian

flavor to a sentimental favorite.

It’s this romantic heaviness tinged with

sadness but mostly joy, as well as the

typical Dutch emphasis on the sensual

and the hedonistic that really sets the

album apart from the other doom death

mopes of the time. Following “Solar Lovers,”

Celestial Season dropped the violins,

increased the bong hits and fully

embraced the stoner rock that was always

latent in their sound. They may

have a following in the European stoner

rock crowd (or maybe not, I don’t know),

but to me, “Solar Lovers” will always be

their great timeless album. Oh well, all

things end, lover, c’est la vie.

James Slone

TRACKLIST:

01 – Decamerone

02 – Solar Child

03 – Body As Canvas

04 – Soft Embalmer Of The Still Midnight

05 – Will You Wait For The Sun?

06 – The Holy Snake

07 – Dancing To A Thousand Symphonies

08 – Vienna

09 – Fandango

10 – The Scene Of Eve

11 – A Tune From The Majestic Queen’s Garden

21

MR. BUNGLE

Disco Volante

Release: 1995

Label: Warner Brothers

Avantgenre: Soundtrack From A Banned

Exploitation Film

Duration: 68:37

Origin: United States

Mr. Bungle’s “Disco Volante” is a sophisticated

collage of popular music genres.

The primary difference between “Disco

Volante” and its self-titled predecessor is

the overall tone. If the debut was a facetious

celebration of depravity, the second

is extremely dark, convoluted, and comparatively

introspective.

The songs are bereft of overt form or order,

organized loosely into self-contained

sections, each one a piece of madness

unto itself. Where else in the mid 1990s

but a Bungle or John Zorn piece could

you hear frenetic bebop fully integrated

into raging death metal mayhem? Or

lounge music taking it easy next to Warner

Bros. style cartoon music, with a

dash of hardcore punk and klezmer

thrown in for good measure? The density

of each song is staggering.

The lyrics are hilarious, with extremely

dark subject matter malevolently imposed

on satirically banal music. Mike

Patton growls, croons, intones, screams

and beautifully sings. On the pseudo

Italian collage, “Violenza Domestica” Patton’s

voice dances between romantic

whispers, a paranoid accusatory tone

and full on shouting. The whole thing

provides a depressingly interesting simulation

of, you guessed it, domestic violence.

Disco Volante is the dark heart of Mr.

Bungle’s discography, a dreadful, dissonant

note sounding out between the comic

shtick of the first album and the

poppy refinement of the third. It both

lampoons and celebrates the genres it

exploits, with compositions that are more

film-like and visual than conventionally

musical. Unpredictable and complex

to the extreme, the album is one very

wild, very nightmarish experience.

Note: this review is edited and considerably reworked

from the original, which can be found at

http://www.ssmt-reviews.com

James Slone

TRACKLIST:

01 – Everyone I Went With High School With Is

Dead

02 – Chemical Marriage

03 – Sleep (Part II): Carry Stress In The Jaw

04 – Desert Search For Techno Allah

05 – Violenza Domestica

06 – After School Special

07 – Sleep (Part III):Phlegmatics

08 – Ma Meeshka Mow Skwoz

09 – The Bends

10 – Backstrokin’

11 – Platypus

12 – Merry Go Bye Bye

22

VED BUENS ENDE…

Written In Waters

Release: 1995

Label: Misanthropy Records

Avantgenre: Fuzzy Dreaming Avant-Garde

Jazz/Rock Metal

Duration: 57:08

Origin: Norway

Official site:

http://www.myspace.com/vedbuensende

Ved Buens Ende (“at the rainbow’s end”

in Norwegian) is/was the brain child of

Carl-Michael (Eide, a.k.a. Czral & Aggressor,

also of Aura Noir, Cadaver, Dødheimsgard

+ various projects), here together

with Vicotnik (see interview on

this site) and Skoll (Arcturus and Ulver).

Ved Buens Ende was discontinued in

1997, then reformed by Carl-Michael

with a new line-up as Virus in 2001, releasing

the strange swinging album Carheart

in 2003, then morphing into Ved

Buens Ende in autumn 2006, remorphing

back into Virus six months later. They

released only two records as Ved Buens

Ende; demo/EP Those Who Caress The

Pale, and this.

Sometimes, a few times a decade, something

special happens. A trinity (sometimes

with appendixes) gathers, uniting

in harmonious vibrance. They open gates

to completely unrestrained creativity,

embarking on voyages down unheard

paths of musical expressions. For example,

Birmingham, late 60’s: Iommi-Butler-

Ward. Mid/late-80’s, Zürich: Warrior-Ain-

St.Mark, Florida: Azagthoth-Vincent-

Sandoval. Mid-90’s, Oslo: Ved Buens

Ende.

There is a poetic genius in these nine

pieces, in all their simplicity. Except for

the strange violin-piano-accordion misuse

on a few tracks, the band keeps to a

voice-drums-strings setting, leaving all

unnecessary dabbling with synthesizers

and samples behind. Carl-Michael’s flowing

melodic drumming – those aren’t

beats, they are melodies; technical, but

never showing off, switching from typical

Norwegian grinding to peculiar rock beats

through smooth polyrhythms. His

British crooning, sorrowful, slightly yet

delightfully out of tune vocals… Vicotnik’s

grim screeches and ever-changing

guitars – from the raw BM riffage in “Den

Saakaldte”, through disharmonic chords

to the jazzy and pop-like melodies of

“Autumn Leaves”… Skoll’s fluent basslines

wandering rumbling about, yet never

without an aim or goal, using the tonality

(or lack thereof) as much as (or

more than) his six-stringed counterpart.

Every musical element dances and whirls

in a perfect symbiosis, in perfect balance.

The production is far from the necro-

standard of their fellow countrymen,

reminding you more of the warm fuzz

progressive rock embraced its listeners

with during the 70’s. With a bit more reverb

and distortion, of course. And Carl-

Michael’s lyrics… dark and eloquently

dreaming, beautifully enigmatic symbolic

poetry even worth reading without the

music, as surreal and haunting as Lisa

Myhre’s cover painting.

…Much can (and should!) be said about

Written In Waters, much more than above.

And even though my tongue might

seem brown from Oslo-based rear ends,

I cannot stress the utter magnificence of

this album. Ved Buens Ende were so

ahead of their time, that it is not until a

TRACKLIST:

01. I Sang For The Swans

02. You, That May Wither

03. It’s Magic

04. Den Saakaldte

05. Carrier Of Wounds

06. Coiled In Wings

07. Autumn Leaves

08. Remembrance Of Things Past

09. To Swarm Deserted Away

23

decade later that bands are trying to use

tonality and melodicity as they did in

1995, and so far none I have heard have

gone beyond sounding like paying tribute.

If you can get only one Norwegian

album (poor soul!), it should be Written

In Waters. Forget Darkthrone, Mayhem,

Satyricon. Forget Ulver, Arcturus,

Fleurety (or wait, perhaps not…). This is

the only album you need. It was magic,

and it still is, twelve years later. Shining

like an amethyst in the autumn night.

aVoid

FLEURETY

Min Tid Skal Komme

Release: 1995

Label: Aesthetic Death /

Misanthropy Records

Avantgenre: Black Metal Rock

Duration: 44:45

Origin: Norway

Official site: http://folk.uio.no/sveineh/fleurety/

Min Tid Skal Komme (1995) is like black

metal run through a post punk filter,

with rock breakdowns surfacing amid

long stretches of caustic black metal fury

and a groove oriented sensibility pervading

throughout. While Alexander Nordgaren’s

guitars and vocals are amply distorted,

the rhythm section- Per Amund

Solberg on bass, Svein Egil Hatlevik on

drums- hammer out some jazz-inflected

rock beats straight out of a Television album.

Songs are long winding affairs, but

suggest cityscapes as much as they do

mist shrouded forests, grimy and electrically

charged.

Acoustic guitars are used to introduce a

more somber, relaxed mood, spaciously

phrased and gentle like “Trespass” era

Genesis before the torrent returns with

the invasive ugliness of an industrial accident.

Marian Aas Hansen contributes

her voice, sometimes sounding stereotypically

gentle and girly per the requirements

of the genre. But she also

has a great rock voice, technically proficient,

cold and commanding, adding a

restrained touch of torch seduction to

what would otherwise be a growl fest.

Revolutionary at the time of its release

and pretty new sounding now, the album

is a nearly perfect synthesis of post punk

cool and black metal power.

James Slone

TRACKLIST:

01. Fragmenter Av En Fortid

02. En Skikkelse I Horisonten

03. Hvileløs?

04. Englers Piler Har Ingen Brodd

05. Fragmenter Av En Fremtid

24

MISANTHROPE

1666…Theatre Bizarre

Release: 1995

Label: Holy Records

Avantgenre: A La Carte Blanche Et Noir

Duration: 01:07:10

Origin: Frenchland

Official site: http://www.misanthrope-metal.com

If I were a gardener I would listen to this

album constantly. I guess I would even

get myself an ipod, upload this album

and listen to it from the early morning,

when inspecting the garden to the evening

whilst looking at the day’s work. If I

were a truck-driver I would not listen to

this album all day long. Probably only

once a day, preferably whilst having

lunch in my truck whilst parking next to

a highway and having cheap fun with an

expensive prostitute. Or the other way

around. If I were a policeman I would

definitely try to listen to the album at

least once a week, preferably on weekends,

where the time spent would most

definitely be my best time. I would also

try to convince my fellow policemen to

listen to the album as often as possible. I

might even write short emails via the

intranet to convince other policemen of

the geniality of this album. If I were a

caveman, you know, those brave man

and woman who constantly work in

caves to dig coal or diamonds, I would

try to convince the corporation to play

this album in the elevators that brings us

up and down to and from daylight to the

bottom of the mines. If I were a rich

man, I would spend all my money on

merchandise from this band. Even the

rarest and most bizarre pieces (broken

drumsticks, broken guitar strings,…)

would be collected by me by any means

possible. Even by selling my body if it

had to be done.

If I were a simple album reviewer that

listens to music all day long, I would quit

writing about music and would become

either a gardener, a truck-driver, a policeman,

a caveman or a rich man. Literally.

After I wrote this review, I was told that

the singer is the label-boss of Holy Records,

so to say, an important man.

Please bear in mind (well, not literally)

that this album is gorgeous.

Jonny Lignano

TRACKLIST:

01. Gargantuan Decline

02. Courtisane Syphillitique

03. 1666… Theatre Bizarre

04. L’Autre Hiver

05. Pirouetting Through The Gloom

06. Aphrodite Marine

07. Medieval Embroidery

08. Mylene

09. Trumpets Of Hypochondria

10. Schattengesang

11. La Derniere Pierre

25

1996

BAL-SAGOTH

Starfire Burning On The Ice-Veiled

Throne Of Ultima Thule

Release: 1996

Label: Cacophonous

Avantgenre: Savage Bloodsoaked Wars Of

The Far Far North Metal

Duration: 57:36

Origin: United Kingdom

Official site: http://www.bal-sagoth.co.uk/

“Starfire Burning” was my first foray into

the pulp fantasy universe of Bal-Sagoth.

Somehow a college radio station in Las

Vegas got a hold of a promo and put it

into heavy late night rotation. And let me

say, “The Splendour of a Thousand

Swords Gleaming Beneath the Blazon of

the Hyperborean Empire” was one hell of

an introduction.

The song possessed a pulverizing brutality,

fast, heavy and grindy, pure metal

mayhem. And yet, when it slowed down

and the synths came to the forefront,

the music took on a soaring heroic quality

that elevated it to peaks of pompous

perfection. And then Byron’s voice intoned

“My warriors, a legacy today shall

be wrought with our blades…” And as if

that wasn’t enough, Byron then proceeded

to portray another character, the

song’s evil antagonist, in another, far

more insidious voice. On one level it was

incredibly nerdy, Robert E. Howard by

way of Forgotten Realms, but on another,

it was total head music, forcing

the listener (i.e. me) into Byron’s

strange universe whether they wanted to

be there or not.

This is the kind of album that should be

preceded with a THX sound effect. It’s

big, the production as thick and heavy as

a pint of imperial stout. The band is firing

on all cylinders. Jonny Maulding’s

drums are full on death grind, blasting

away and only slowing down for pounding

breakdowns and cymbal rides, especially

when his keyboards take center

stage—in these parts, the drums are a

perfect compliment, tight, powerful and

martial. The keyboards, of course, are

the first thing about Bal-Sagoth that

stand out, adding orchestral power to

Chris Maulding’s guitar lines, which alternate

between epic heavy metal and

pulverizing blackened death metal.

The whole point of the thing of course is

to deliver Byron’s ornate language and

ridiculously convoluted war story, which

plays out like the coolest Warhammer

campaign ever waged on a tabletop.

When not rasping, his voice seems to

emanate from ancient depths, by degrees

oracular and imperious. His lyrics

are bleak, and so is the music, unusually

so. Since “Battle Magic,” the band has

sought a more upbeat sound, but “Starfire

Burning” is darkly inspiring, cold as a

glacier and just as impenetrable. It’s fun

TRACKLIST:

01 – Black Dragons Soar Over The Mountain Of Shadows

(Prologue)

02 – To Dethrone The Witch-Queen Of Mytos K’unn (the

Legend Of The Battle Of Blackhelm Vale)

03 – As The Vortex Illuminates The Crystalline Walls Of

Kor-Avul-Thaa

04 – Starfire Burning Upon The Ice-Veiled Throne Of Ultima

Thule

05 – Journey To The Isle Of Mists (Over The Moonless

Depths Of The Night-Dark Seas)

06 – The Splendour Of A Thousand Swords Gleaming

Beneath The Blazon Of The Hyperborean Empire

07 – And Lo, When The Imperium Marches Against Cul-

Kothoth, Then The Dark Sorceries Shall Enshroud The

Citadel Of The Obsidian Crown

08 – Summoning The Guardians Of The Astral Gate

10 – In The Raven-Haunted Forests Of Darkenhold,

Where Shadows Reign And The Hues Of Sunlight Never

Dance

11 – At The Altar Of The Dreaming Gods (Epilogue)

26

and escapist, but carries the melancholic

conviction of a Conan story, by turns

blood soaked, desultory and elegiac.

Fans of later Bal-Sagoth may be shocked

by the grim atmosphere and utter heaviness

of the band’s second outing, but it

shouldn’t be missed. It remains the

brooding epicenter of the Bal-Sagoth

discography. Now, I’m off to down some

beers and fight Seattle yuppies to their

dishonorable deaths with my mighty +3

broadsword of de-gentrification. Many

hails, metal brothers!

James Slone

MYSTICUM

In The Streams Of Inferno

Release: 1996

Label: Full Moon Records

Avantgenre: Digital Extreme Inferno Metal

Duration: 36:35

Origin: Norway

Official site: http://www.myspace.com/mysticum

If someone would start a competition to

point out the most evil and grim avantgarde

Black Metal band

of all time, Mysticum

would be one of the top

favourites to win the

price. I mean, these

guys were signed by the

mighty father of all

Norwegian vampires,

Mr. Euronymous, himself,

on Deathlike Silence

Records. Who of those wanna-beevil-

worshippers of today is able to claim

something just close to this? Secondly,

the sound on their debut “In the Streams

of Inferno” is even more high-pitched

and invidious than the guitar-razorblades

on “Nattens Madrigal”. Thirdly, these

guys support the “Never stop the madness”-

campaign which supports the use

(or abuse, as you like) of hard drugs.

Shall I go on? No, I think we can all

agree, regardless how much of this

might be slapstick, “In the Streams of

Inferno” is a damn cult release.

Back in 1995 the psychos around vocalist

and guitarist Prime Evil were the first to

combine ingredients of harsh, cold and

merciless Industrial (mainly digital

drums and various samples) with the

sharp and ugly sound of True Norwegian

Black Metal. If you take in consideration

that this is the one and only official album

till today, you get an idea of how

intense the material must be, as the

band was able to influence a whole generation

of angry avantgarde-metal musicians

just with one output. Soon after,

the fruits of this unholy motherhood

could be tasted on masterpieces like

“666 International” or “With no Human

Intervention”.

Today, more than one decade after the

release, it is hard to analyse this album.

With an unemotional and sober approach

one has to come to the conclusion, that

this is crap and not worth one penny.

The sound is rather dilettantish, the electronic

drums are blustering without any

kind of creativity and the keyboards annoy

with their common tone and melody

themes.

On the other hand, and now we leave

the spheres of rational reception, the

atmosphere on “In the Streams of Inferno”

is simply magic. The artistic coolness

of Mysticum combined with the

rather evil and possessed vocals,

spreads a poisoned spirit,

which is in these times, where

extreme metal has become

nothing more than cheap mental

fast food, a welcome revelation

of the sick and poisoned

genesis of Norwegian Black

Metal. Myticum’s music should

be hence labelled and evaluated

as a relict of music history. A metal

TRACKLIST:

01 – Industries Of Inferno

02 – The Rest

03 – Let The Kingdom Come

04 – Wintermass

05 – Crypt Of Fear

06 – In Your Grave

07 – Where The Raven Flies

08 – In The Last Of The Ruins We

Search For A New Planet

27

record which is old fashioned, musically

unspectacular and trashy, but in the same

time represents a bridge between

two important evolutionary stages of extreme

metal.

Polygon

OXIPLEGATZ

Worlds And Worlds

Release: 1996

Label: Fairytale Records / Season Of Mist

Avantgenre: Metallic Tales From Distant

Worlds

Duration: 38:02

Origin: Sweden

Official site: http://tinyurl.com/2yqydu

After his activities in THE GROTESQUE

and AT THE GATES, Alf Svensson decided

to work with some previously unreleased

material, which ended in the albums

of OXIPLEGATZ (named after a

creature in a Donald Duck magazine).

The one man “band” never fit into a certain

genre, it’s Death Metal, it’s Black

Metal, it’s a mix of many styles – describing

all details of OXIPLEGATZ’s music

is as tricky as trying to escape from a

super massive black hole. “Worlds And

Worlds” is the second of three outputs (a

review of the third album “Sidereal Journey”

can be found here), and deals also

with the aspects of future and what dangers

will await homo sapiens stellaris out

there. The songs vary in style and lyrics,

each representing a single world of this

acoustic solar system.

“Worlds and worlds, their destiny lies to

be conquered.” (Quote from “Abandon

Earth”)

Sometimes Alf’s voice is accompanied by

his sister Sara, who is a good addition to

this album and underlines the slowtempo-

parts in a unique way. On the

other hand some songs have a very aggressive

metal feeling, where the drum

computer tries to accelerate to warp

speed. Even an old song found its way

onto the album: “Graveyard dream” was

written by Alf for THE GROTESQUE, but

never recorded before. The last three

songs represent my favourite part of

“Worlds And Worlds”, calm and with clean

vocals and sometimes even without

guitars and drums, only synthesizers and

the voices of Sara and Alf, music for dedicated

stargazers who often look up to

the sky and ask themselves what’s going

on in the endless depths of the void. One

negative point is the sound. Sadly it

could be better because of the lack of

much budget back in 1996. Nowadays

for sure it would be easier to give this

album the technical strength it deserves.

This band has ever been dedicated to the

unknown of the final frontier, to things

beyond the borders of imagination. If

you want to explore new horizons, give

this album a try and take part on this

journey to the universe of OXIPLEGATZ.

Bernd

TRACKLIST:

01 – Battle Of Species

02 – First Contact – Conflict

03 – Aftermath

04 – Quest

05 – Graveyard Dream

06 – Usurpers

07 – The End Is Nigh

08 – Abandon Earth

09 – Journey

28

PAN-THY-MONIUM

Khaooos And Kon-Fus-Ion

Release: 1996

Label: Relapse

Avantgenre: Raagoonshinnaah Rock

Duration: 34:23

Origin: Sweden

“Khaooohs And Kon-Fus-Ion,” Pan-Thy-

Monium’s awkwardly titled and far too

short finale, is like an inexplicably fun

sledgehammer to the head: brutal death

metal in the nineties Relapse mode with

hectic song structures, wild baritone sax

squawking, NYC hardcore breakdowns,

progressive rock interludes played with

airy guitar tones, extended blues solos in

the Stockholm death metal style, nonsensical

gurgling, funky bass lines and

some new age keyboards. In other

words, it’s a pretty good time with a

beer or two.

Really, it’s pretty much par for the course

with the band’s other obscure work,

though a bit more in-your face, drawing

on some of the straight to the point extremity

of the “Dreams II” EP, with fast,

heavy riffs to keep heads banging. What

it all comes down to is the entertainment

factor, and here the band is off the scale.

I would talk about Dan Swanö’s well documented

involvement with the otherwise

anonymous band, but it’s not particularly

useful to frame it that way. Ultimately,

Pan-Thy-Monium’s inspired

death metal wackiness provides its own

context.

James Slone

ARCTURUS

Aspera Hiems Symfonia

Release: 1996

Label: Ancient Lore Creations

Avantgenre: Emotional Technical

Black Metal

Duration: 41:27

Origin: Norway

Official site:

http://www.myspace.com/arcturusnorway

Could a metal album be soft, like the

murmur of a snowflake landing on the

ground? Could a distorted strumming give

the feeling of that frozen wind, crushing

at one’s bare face? What about black

metal, the extremist edge of a branched

genre who’s loaded with extremism –

shall we forever listen to hymns of hate

and slunder [slander], fast as flies, penetrating

stubbornly through blunt and

gurgled sounds? Until the mid 90’s, most

TRACKLIST:

01. To Thou Who Dwellest In The Night

02. Wintry Grey

03. Whence & Wither Goest The Wind

04. Raudt Og Svart

05. The Bodkin & The Quietus (…To Reach The

Stars)

06. Du Nordavind

07. Fall Of Man

08. Naar Kulda Tar (Frostnettenes Prolog)

TRACKLIST:

01 – The Battle Of Geeheeb

02 – Thee-Pherenth

03 – Behrial

04 – In Remembrance

29

of these questions were left without unequivocal

answers, and “Aspera” constituted

an appropriate answer.

Arcturus’s debut album went out in cold

1996 after two EP’s that included experiments

in forging unique sounds,

blended of industrial and traditional BM.

“Aspera” proved that the BM genre is wide

enough to include also modest works

such as “Aspera”, all wintry Norwegian

romance, but also breaking the conventions

of the mainstream BM. At first

glance, Arcturus might be seen as yet

another Norwegian scene supergroup,

due to two of its members: Hellhammer,

the famous Mayhem

(and some other

countless bands)

drummer and the vocalist

Garm, also in

Borknagar and Ulver

at the time being. In

many cases, the high

turnover of musicians

in the Norwegian

bands made the impression,

as a new

band comes in spotlight,

that it’s just another

side project. The

significance of Arcturus

is measured also in the consolidate

work, and the listener can feel it’s a work

conceived by a band and not by a bunch

of mercenaries.

One of the BM subgenres dedicates its

creation affinity to its natural surrounding,

such as the early period of Ulver and

Borknagar. Their albums were based on

traditional BM, yet slower, with folk elements.

With some influence from these

acts (and with the same frontman in

both of them…), Arcturus created midtempo

BM that emphasizes both enchanting

atmosphere and craftsmanship.

This achievement allowed the band to

become the spearhead of the generically

musical experiments, to speak the nature

through music.

Labelling this album as “wintry” only,

would be injustice, because this image

brings automatically worn metaphors of

rain falling harshly on windows, facing

the listener’s sad gaze, wrapped in blankets

and mourning the loss of his / her

lover. Wrong. In this album, the listener

wrapped himself in a coat, adding scarf

and boots, went on a journey through

the northern winter and his phenomena,

described gently like a pencil sketch.

Possible that the album is a glorification

of the season and the feeling it lights in

the human heart, and in general of the

spectacular costumes which the magical

Norwegian nature wears for the coming

of winter. I can say that the album is

somehow a blackish, symphonic and

Scandinavian version of the wonderful

Empyrium debut “A Wintersunset…”

The album contains 40 minutes of music,

divided into 8 songs, of

gentle and contemplative

work of art, so exceptional

in the scenery of the typical

musical BM efforts at

the time. The first prominent

characteristic,

attributed to the BM legacy,

are Garm’s vocals,

which rush between traditional

screaming to crystal

clear singing. The second

characteristic is Hellhammer’s

professional drumming,

perfectly adequate

to the work’s demands, if

in dreamy speed outbursts (like in the

opening track), softened double-bass

and slow drum beatings – to those who

are used to fast drumming in the vein of

Marduk. It’s obvious that only a virtuoso

like Hellhammer could perform his

unique role like few others can, and restrain

yearning for blast-beats etc.

The difference that separates “Aspera”

from other standard BM albums becomes

clear also in the weight of the innovative

keyboards work. In a genre in which the

keyboards are usually only as a background

or taking over the music, here

they take the lead indeed, whereas the

guitar is pushed aside a bit – however,

they keep the metallic character, which

creates a rich and harmonic mixture. Moreover,

the excellent production and the

sharp and clear sound grant each instrument

the maximal expression ability.

Easily, the keyboards could be swallowed

by his accompanies and hurled into

dough or submit to the typical Norwegian

sound, which is known as “caves’

30

sound”. It proves Arcturus as an intelligent

band, with unrestricted boundaries,

ready to explore sounds beyond the

known and convenient.

To many acts in the BM world adhered

the image of amateur musicians, only

capable of playing two-chord songs. Arcturus

is built from skilled and inspired

musicians, each in his sphere: beside

Hellhammer, there’s Sverd, master of

keyboards, which displays progressive

and neo-classical influences. August the

guitarist also doing a great job (for example,

his solo in “fall of man”, is an absolute

masterpiece). In addition, half of

the lyrics are written in Norwegian, but

reading the English ones with the translated

texts (one can find them on the

internet, since the album contains only

the opening track lyrics), reveals that

they focus on the nature and astronomy,

and of course on the spectrum of forlorn

feelings, courtesy of winter. The lyrical

difference is one of the characteristics of

Arcturus throughout its years of creation,

and always suits the musical developments.

The album is made with total solidity,

without boring or disappointing songs.

However, three of them shine above the

rest like the morning star: mentions before,

the first song, “To Thou Who Dwellest

in the Night” is shining grey magic,

also quite romantic, in which the combination

between the screaming and clean

vocals projects itself as if it was a dancing

troll on a snowy hill, along with a

deep-voiced choir. The third song, “Du

Nordavind”, brings forth a touch of Norwegian

folk and warms like singing in

front of a bonfire. Afterwards comes

along “Fall of Man”, perhaps the peak of

the album, showcasing perfect technical

skills that can break some hearts with its

melancholy.

To everyone who desires BM to be all

magic and designation, to everyone who

wishes to travel in Norway without leaving

home and to everyone who adores

good music without labels, I’ll offer this

special album.

Jobst

AMORPHIS

Elegy

Release: 1996

Label: Relapse Records

Avantgenre: Folkish Intelligent Softdoom

Duration: 56:35

Origin: Finland

Official site: http://www.amorphis.net

Through a panoramic view of the world’s

folk metal scene, one can recognize most

of the bands under the umbrella organization

known as ‘Scandinavia”. A reasonable

explanation to this phenomenon

can be found in the roots of the proud

Viking legacy, still echoing in the scene.

This legacy appeals as an almost biblical

inspiration to many musicians, who flood

the genre with ongoing tales about Odin

and his rowdy friends in Valhalla, seasoned

with almost – “happy” keyboards

and “ho-ho” choirs. The antithesis to the

fashionable Vikingism stands as most of

the folk musical works in the country

that’s not Scandinavian in the deep

meaning of the term – Finland. The Finnish

folklore is based on the pagan

TRACKLIST:

01. Better Unborn

02. Against Widows

03. The Orphan

04. On Rich And Poor

05. My Kantele

06. Cares

07. Song Of The Troubled One

08. Weeper On The Shore

09. Elegy

10. Relief

11. My Kantele – Acoustic Reprise

31

background before the Christendom era

and is embodied through an important

cultural and mythical layer – the Kalevala.

This is an anthology of folk songs that

passed from father to son throughout

generations and deals mostly with the

adventures of the ancient gods. Simultaneously

with the gathering of the Kalevala,

joined together the Kanteletar: a cycle

of more then 700 songs and ballads,

describing the life of the ancient Finns,

their beliefs and observations, their daily

customs, their relation to nature and

their joys and sorrows.

Some Finnish bands found their influence

in the Kalevala and traditional music,

but none of them managed to blend

these influences together with grace and

uniqueness as the most important band

in the Finnish metal scene ever – Amorphis.

In my humble opinion, there isn’t

another Finnish metal act (and those

outside Finland who elevate from Amorphis

are rare), who melted a genuine

love of its national traditions to sounds,

based upon such a rich mixture: folk,

doom and death metal, progressive rock

and psychedelic etc.

One should remember that Amorphis

started as a doom-death band, and the

seeds of continuous musical evolution,

which reached its blossom in “Elegy”, are

demonstrated in their previous albums.

New band members have brought fresh

spirit to the group with energetic drumming

and mesmerizing keyboard work.

But the major difference was adding Pasi

Koskinen’s clean voice full time next to

Tomi Koivusaari’s growls.

The album also differs itself musically

with sharpening of the musical agenda:

the significant prog-rock and psychedelic

grew, as the band’s doom-death orientation

formulated into a mutation of soft

doom, rhythmic and toothless. The traditional

influences stood clear, through the

folk melodies and the textual basis of the

Kanteletar. As his ancestors, “Elegy” is

also a concept album, correspondent

with Finland’s pagan glory days. Yet the

texts reflect the simple and daily side of

the northern land beyond the twilight of

the gods. All this, without diminishing

the original poetic quality and gentleness,

since the members have realized

that they’re dealing with genuine poetry.

The album contains 11 songs, drowned

with unordinary arrangements, as far as

it concerns dealing with folklore assets.

The listener faces a meticulous display of

genres, embroidered with sensitivity and

accuracy.

The album opens like a snowstorm with

“Better Unborn”, displaying perfectly

Amorphis’ genres’ feast of genres: oriental

sitar playing (and so Finnish!), growing

stronger until the song bursts – the

psychedelic guitars, the metallic background,

the folk riffs – the natural way in

which all these ornaments are entwined

together is almost incomprehensible. It’s

obvious that this is a work by sensitive

and attentive musicians, mainly because

the challenge of blending the world of

yesterday with the present time. In general,

it’s fascinating to observe and be

impressed by the interpretation given to

each song, if in faster rhythms, like

“Against Widow” and “On Rich and Poor”,

or in the beautiful ballad “The Orphan”,

that opens with melancholy speck and

ends with rain of hope scraps. Amorphis

didn’t fear combining other strange elements,

such as the quiet folk beat (that

it’s almost tango!) and afterwards a 20-

second dance bridge, breaking into guitar

solo in “Cares”, a song that at first

listening seems confused and detached.

After some investigating, one must respect

the band’s courage, what may

32

have lifted many metal fans’ eyebrows,

wondering if the band had

gone amiss. Sadly, not every average

metal fan understands that this

is complex and multi-faced music

that reflects complex and multi-faced

culture. The name of the album had

not been chosen in vain – this is an

elegy to a lost world.

Not easily one can point for weaknesses

in the album. However, the

songs settings’ may be considered a

weakness, for the album opens fast

with the 5 most rousing songs, and

its energy goes out towards the end.

Nevertheless, the last song keeps

the listener with the sweet longing

that only another listening can liquefy.

The fifth song, “My Kantele”, is

by far the best song on the album

and keeps the proper ending: it reprises

acoustically with sitar and

gentle drums that deliver night of

northern lights, in a tight and exciting

performance. In addition, in spite

of the success of the two vocalists

working together, Koskinen’s vocals

fit perfectly to the music, and indeed,

in future albums he’ll be the

sole vocalist.

Amorphis’ music built magnificently,

on surface and deep inside: not only

from the fine musical essence, but

also from its ability to trickle into the

heart’s eaves trough and engrave its

feelings on its walls. It’s music of

love – of Finland, of past and future,

of people and above all, of music itself.

Lifted on the spiritual uplifting

from the album, the Finnish magic

goes on and on.

Jobst

33

1997

BETHLEHEM

Sardonischer Untergang Im Zeichen

Irreligiöser Darbietung

Release: 1997

Label: Red Stream

Avantgenre: Ruhrpott Metal

Duration: 44:19

Origin: Germany

Official site:

http://www.myspace.com/bethlehemasylum

Betlehem’s masterpiece “Sardonischer

Untergang im Zeichen irreligiöser Darbietung”

(in short: S.U.I.Z.I.D.) from

1997 is one of the strangest spawns,

which ever arose from the German extreme

metal underground. Thousands of

bands (not worth the bytes to name

them) tried to get into the universe of

human agony, but never reached the

oppressive atmosphere of this orchestra.

After “Dark Metal” and “Dictius Te Necare”,

this record carries the listener

deeper into the world of the nightmarish

visions of Jürgen Bartsch. His words are

really worth listening to, although it

seems impossible to find the right key to

decrypt his impressions from the omnipresent

Alexanderwelt:

“From a watery devotion/awakened in

the respect of the trinity/The apple juice

is lending/ the strange horror/ one odd

inherited burden/” (From “Tote weiße

Marder”)

Quite a lot reviewers labelled the lyrics

as nonsense and interpreted Bethlehem

as kids fooling around with the music

business. But in the year 2008, after two

more great albums dealing with the same

embittered emotions, one must discover

a stringent concept, a deeper

world behind the printed letters. A successful

interpretation depends on the listeners

ability to abstract and transform

thoughts of a sick soul into ones own

thinking and especially feeling.

Of course lyrics like “Luftstehs’ Ibläh”

should not be analysed through a demure

reception, but especially with the

sick humour of this track the band dissociated

from the “serious and depressed”

Black Metal underground, which, at the

latest with the release of “Dictius Te Necare”,

adored the suicidal collective as

the new Messiah.

The song structures are quite abnormal.

“Teufelverrückt Gottdreizehn”, for example,

starts with the reading of the lyrics.

In the background we can hear several

strange sounds like bells, the ticking of a

wall clock and subtle piano jingle. After

three minutes all hell breaks loose with

one of Matton`s non-reversible guitar

riffs and a powerful drumming. All in all,

talking about the songwriting, this is the

most dynamic composition, and even

though this feeling does not really fit the

apparently fragile personalities, it is also

the most aggressive track. Especially

when the tempo is slowed down and

Marcus Kehren is spitting out, what could

be described as the lyrical leitmotiv

(“Liebkosender Wahn…”), one has the

feeling to listen to the devil himself, who

is in a rather choleric state of mind.

TRACKLIST:

01 – Durch Befleckte Berührung Meiner Nemesis

02 – Du Sollst Dich Töten

03 – Gestern Starb Ich Schon Heute

04 – Teufelverrückt Gottdreizehn

05 – Tote Weiße Mader

06 – Nexus

07 – Luftstehs Ibläh

08 – Als Ich Caulerpa Taxifolia Erbrach

09 – Tod Ist Weicher Stuhl In Gar Fleischlos’ Gift

34

Marco Kehren`s ability to succeed the

superior Rainer Landfermann is stunning.

Its all history. The album was released

over one decade ago. But for me it is

important to remember albums like

“S.U.I.Z.I.D”, because they broke

through invisible barriers and created a

totally new approach towards extreme

metal. Even though on the one hand the

codex is rather strange and sometimes

even childish, it seems also that this

band was closer to what they proclaimed

(“You shall kill yourself”), then any of

their followers.

For me this album is like a good old medicine

from grandma`s times. Keeping

me healthy in times of the virus.

Polygon

SEPTIC FLESH

The Ophidian Wheel

Release: 1997

Label: Holy Records

Avantgenre: Hellenistic Alien Esoterica

Duration: 51:33

Origin: Greece

Official site:

http://www.myspace.com/septicfleshband

Septic Flesh have had a somewhat sporadic

output over the years, but have

found the time to put together an unusually

strong discography. Some of

their best and oddest material emerged

from their brief collaboration with Natalie

Rassoulis, whose sharp, classically

trained voice added a haunting edge to

their already esoteric sound. The only

proper album from this period is “The

Ophidian Wheel,” an outstanding example

of Greek death metal and arguably

the band’s best work.

The basic Septic Flesh sound is in full

force: brutal chugging death metal with

heavy metal guitar leads and ample post

punk/goth rock atmosphere, complete

with space age synthesizers and guitar

tones so crisp and clean you could

bleach your socks in them. As usual, all

these components carry a certain hardto-

pin-down non-western flavor, though

the overall sound is probably more Mediterranean

than Asian.

They’ve always had a slight twinge of the

epic and the exotic, somewhat reminiscent

of the “oriental” excesses of Siouxsie

and the Banshees and the apocalyptic

theatrics of the Fields of Nephilim,

though heavier and hookier than either

band per the metal mission statement.

The two things that make the album

really stand out in their discography is

the bigger production (before “The Ophidian

Wheel” the band was plagued with a

generally muddy sound) and Rassoulis’

voice, which isn’t weak, “feminine,” or

sappy in the way so many goth metal

sopranos are. Instead, it’s a strong, willful

and somewhat chilly voice, and she

uses it as an oppressive weapon and a

purely musical instrument, sometimes

high and mighty and at other times,

rhythmic and ritualistic, always slightly

alien sounding.

The style melds well with the lyrics,

which are all about classical Greek esoterica,

hedonistic sexual cults and new

age aliens, a melding of ancient history,

TRACKLIST:

01 – The Future Belongs To The Brave

02 – The Ophidian Wheel

03 – Phallic Litanies

04 – Razor Blades Of Guilt

05 – Tartarus

06 – On The Topmost Step Of The Earth

07 – Microcosmos

08 – Geometry In Static

09 – Shamanic Rite

10 – Heaven Below

11 – Enchantment

35

fantasy and science fiction. The cover,

which features an original painting with

serpents, snake men and what appears

to be a cosmically inclined gray alien,

summarizes its contents pretty well.

Septic Flesh has always been a strange

band, bringing ponderous lyrics and

oddball experimental approaches to what

amounts to extremely kick ass metal.

“The Ophidian Wheel” remains the best

working example of this band’s highly

unusual style.

James Slone

SIGH

Hail Horror Hail

Release: 1997

Label: Cacophonous Records

Avantgenre: Lucid Shadow Dream

Duration: 51:33

Origin: Japan

Official site: http://sigh.gospel-virus.net/

This was my first encounter with SIGH.

And a formative one. An album wich

starts deceivingly “normal”, but ends as

a soundtrack to some drugged horror

film. The title Track, at the same time

the opener, starts as some kind of a

Heavy-Metal song with scolding vocals;

nothing out of the ordinary. So, around

2:30 of that track you are completey unprepared

when being dragged out of this

song to a soundtrack

to what could

be a homecomingscene

in some kind

of movie, just to

be shoved back

into the same song

again. At that

point your reaction

would probably be a “huh?”, but save

your puzzlement for later… This happens

many times during “Hail Horror Hail”.

“This album is way beyond the conceived

notion of how metal, or music, should

be. In Essence it is a movie without pictures;

a celluloid phantasmagoria. Accordingly,

the film jumps, and another

scene, seemingly unconnected with the

previous context, is suddenly inserted in

between frames. Every sound on this album

is deliberate, and if you find that

some parts of this album are strange, it

isn’t because the music is in itself strange,

but because your conscious self is illequipped

to comprehend the sounds

produced on this recording.”

This statement is written on the back the

CD, and truer words have never been

spoken by a band about their own work.

“12 souls”, for example, starts with happy

scene involving a dog (associations to

ULVER’s “Capitel III : Graablick Blev Hun

Vaer” might be intended), goes forth

with a pure horror-metal piece so dark

and menacing it gives you goose-bumps,

which resumes after a short jazz-club

scene, then converting to a chase wich

ends in the jazz-club again. Wich is, in

the meantime, filled with demons. If

that’s hard to follow for you, dear reader,

I have succeeded in describing the

album to you. This album jumps so fast

through moods and styles it sometimes

aches; it leaps clawed in your face while

a second later it rubs your back caringly.

And it invokes pictures of a film wich is

not there, not unlike DIABOLICAL MASQUERADE’s

“Death’s Design”. An average

of six or seven different moods in a

“song” is not out of the ordinary here.

But there are straighter songs as well;

among them my favourite song “42 49”

and the calm “Invitation to Die” (wich

features flamenco-guitars and babycries),

both with an undescribable dark

and at the same time light atmosphere.

TRACKLIST:

01 – Hail Horror Hail

02 – 42 49

03 – 12 Souls

04 – Burial

05 – The Dead Sing

06 – Invitation To Die

07 – Pathetic

08 – Curse Of Izanagi

09 – Seed Of Eternity

36

And then there is “Pathetic” – you know

what, why discuss Amy Winehouse for

the next 007-titletrack? Let SIGH do it!

They have already done it with this song.

“Curse of Izanagi”’s beginning sounds a

bit like the (very) old SKYCLAD… Damn,

I just recognized that Mirai DOES sound

a bit like Martin Walkyier. Without the

lisp, that is.

Now, this is not easy listening. The

mood-changes are not smooth, mostly

they surprise you right in the middle of a

part; they are hard, edgy, and indigestible.

You have to be ready for this one.

Well, maybe not ready, but receptible.

To conclude this, I will do a Jonny-

Lignano-Rip-off to show you the formula

that is SIGH:

Tentakel P.

Human Hand in the right Hand – Human Leg in the left Hand!

37

ANUBI

Kai Pilnaties Akis Uzmerks Mirtis

Release: 1997

Label: Danza Ipnotica Records

Avantgenre: Avantgarde

Atmo-Sophisto-Metal

Duration: 54:06

Origin: Kaunas, Lithuania

Official site: http://www.martynasmeskauskas.net/

Anubi was formed in 1992 in the city of

Kaunas which is situated on the confluence

of River Neman and Neris in the

middle of Lithuania.

Anubi. When I say this word, I associate

it with the Egyptian god of mummification

and embalming, widely known as

Anubis or Inpu. Conclusion to this; the

lyrics – although spoken in Lithuanian –

are about death-related themes and mythology.

The logo of the band compromises

three things: a pentagram, an inverted

ankh-cross which functions as a

”standard”, Christian inverted cross at

the first sight. There are also two horns

which can symbolize the Devil. However,

it can be a reference to the coat of arms

of Kaunas as well – and let me say that

this meaning would be the nicest thing

I’ve ever seen in the world of symbols of

bands.

Seeing the cover, an avantgarde movement

comes to my mind, and its name is

expressionism. The whole artwork deals

with elementally strong colors, thoughts

and emotions. On the front you can see

a land with pine trees and with the shining

white moon over the blood-red sky.

This is definitely not the first thing you

will notice.

The first one you will surely realize is the

presence of Death on the cover holding

the eyes of the Moon in his hands; the

album title is generally translated to

When the Death shalt close the eyes of

the Full-Moon”. And listen; it’s quite hard

to recognize but yes, there is Anubis

next to the Grim Reaper. On the back

there is the Hooded again with a bird –

probably a raven or a crow standing on

his shoulder. Inside the booklet there is

a larger painting showing Death again

with his infamous scythe in front of a

blue and purple dominated scene. Beside

this, there are various drawings inside it.

The reasons I am telling you all is to inform

you about the concrete details giving

an overall picture. And the more important

one is that Lord Ominous – the

vocalist, the personification of the creative

force behind the band actually created

the whole artwork. This is a sort of

rarity in today’s world. However, beside

the fact that Lord Ominous was a talented

”inter-artist” (he painted lots of

pictures), it also signals that the album

and the artwork is fully created with devotion.

The CD contains 11 movements. The average

length of each song is around 4-5

minutes, although there is Folklorine

Daina Apie Mirti which not even reaches

the 1 minute-length. To contrast this;

the ending Tarp Akmens ir Veidrodžio is

over 15 minutes! The intro-like first song

arrives with church organs giving it a

gothic feeling but as the vocals appear

the gothic atmosphere is already gone.

Saxophone and disharmonic melodies

accompany the Lithuanian chanting. The

title song, Kai Pilnaties Akis Užmerks

TRACKLIST:

01 – Savo Kelyje

02 – Kai Pilnaties Akis Užmerks Mirtis

03 – Mirtis

04 – Kai Pilnaties Akis Užmerks Mirtis II.

05 – Gyvenimo Kritima Dovanosim Krankliui

06 – I Nauje Galybe

07 – Ir Saule Neteko Savo Puses Veido

08 – Ozirio Adventas

09 – Folklorine Daina Apie Mirti

10 – Iš Tuštumos I Akmens Tyla

11 – Tarp Akmens Ir Veidrodžio

38

Mirtis starts with minimalistic riffs at a

mid-tempo. Quickly the keys approaching

with rhythms and melodies

which seem to be amusingly spontaneous

at the first time. The piano reminds

me of the music of Antheil and Poulenc.

The vocals are both clean and harshly

growled, the latters are filled with rage,

and the formers are similar to a priest

doing a ceremony. Later we become ear

witnesses of a bass solo.

This album is often considered to be a

post-black metal album. But when I say

post-black metal I think of speed and

harsh, technical things. In this case it is

much more; the CD is full of surprises.

One of the these is the medieval feeling

created by bass guitar playing.

This (the medieval atmosphere), contrary

to the overall production; is not a

rare thing seeing the hordes of black

metal bands trying to resurrect the values

and spirits of the » dark medieval

times «. At this point, an Italian band

came to my mind, one of my personal

favorites: Evol. They were clearly a

unique spot in the medieval/

atmospherical black metal genre.

Anyway, they didn’t use saxophones. But

Anubi did. Before you think of some

grand saxo-solo or

anything, let me make one thing clear:

although saxo is often used, the band

managed to play effects and ambientlike

sounds rather than some saxo-kingblack-

warrior wannabe production which

would have been surely annoying. It

would have destroyed the ”Anubi spirit”.

The next surprises are the funky, tubesounding

key solos summoning a tropical

feeling for a moment. Folky violin comes

with the almost tribal-like drum playing

and the singing of the wise Elder. I see

everything when I close my eyes; the

blazing camp fire surrounded with elders,

the pine trees surrounding them,

the black sky with the white, shining

moon surrounding everything.

This is the vision Kai Pilnaties Akis Užmerks

Mirtis II. gives me. After this

dream the next song, Gyvenimo Kritima

Dovanosim Krankliui might scare you

away with the bursting shriek in the beginning.

But if you don’t listen to it, you

will miss the somewhat psychedelic guitars

that can be heard in this track. The

keys are tinkling under the clean singing.

Surprise after surprise; the symphonic

arrangements of I Nauja Galybe make

39

the song deeply filled with emotions. Ultra

light, minimal guitars open the next

chapter sounding so elegantly with the

soft keys; the whole Ir Saule Neteko

Savo Puses Veido is much closer to an

ambient influenced post-rock song than

anything else. This is not post-black metal

anymore and I’m glad to experience

it. My words don’t represent anything,

one must listen to it and devote himself

to this sophisticated perfection.

Too bad that every good thing lasts for a

few moments – we can say. The case of

this great avantgarde band is not exclusion.

Like stars on the night-sky, Anubi’s

name is on the dead band’s list. The reason

is filled with pain and sorrow. Lord

Ominous, known as Martynas Meškauskas

in the civil life died in a sailing

accident on Lake Michigan on the 30th of

March, 2002 with the age of 28.R.I.P.

(Note that the tracknames are wrong because

the site doesn’t support some Lithuanian

characters. You can find the

correct ones on the official website.)

revon

OPETH

My Arms, Your Hearse

Release: 1997

Label: Candlelight Records

Avantgenre: Holterdipolterock

Duration: 01:02:45

Origin: Swedia

Official site: http://www.opeth.com

Ladies and gentleman, again, a premiere:

in my ongoing efforts to reduce

the number of verbs in music journalism

this is the first review that puts all the

verbs separately! Yo!

This album *1 very conceptual, for someone

who *2 not *3 to Pink Floyd I *4

it *5 like Pink Floyd. Song number four

*6 some very kinky guitars and *7 very

sophisticated. Not in an intelectual way

(thank god) but as a very neat intro to

song number five, which *8 like Ernst

Juenger *9 to enemy trenches.

I *10 the otherwise very straightforward

(good) homepage of the band *11 the

lyrics of this album.

Number seven *12 some horrible *13,

*14 at 1:40 it *15 like decent (before

black album) Metallica but *16 everything

but the girl (not the band). Number

eight *17 some fresh *18 (from i.e. Hades)

and the double bass *19 ligetiesque

(I, sort of, *20 that adjective).

The rest of the album *21 so-so.

*1: is; *2: does; *3: listen; *4: ‘d say;

*5: sounds; *6: has; *7: sounds;

*8:sounds; *9: sneaking; *10: wish;

*11: would quote; *12: has; *13: singing;

*14: beginning; *15: sounds; *16:

lacks; *17: regains; *18: singing; *19:

is; *20 made up; *21: is;

Jonny Lignano

TRACKLIST:

01 – Prologue

02 – April Ethereal

03 – When

04 – Madrigal

05 – The Amen Corner

06 – Demon Of The Fall

07 – Credence

08 – Karma

09 – Epilogue

40

ARCTURUS

La Masquerade Infernale

Release: October 1997

Label: Music For Nations/Misanthropy

Avantgenre: Apocalyptic Vaudeville Metal

Duration: 45:11

Origin: Norway

Official site:

http://www.myspace.com/arcturusnorway

“La Maquerade Infernale” was and remains

a tremendously influential album.

Arcturus was largely responsible for popularizing

a more theatrical strand of

atmospheric metal, and “La Masquerade”

was the band’s defining statement, a

grotesque and vaudevillian sort of music

that retained a certain metallic vigor despite

its art rock inclinations. Musically, it

plays like a subdued, opium dazed version

of the debut album, dizzying and

loopy, complicated without being machinelike,

trading in growls for yowls.

Each song is like its own little voyage into

uncharted waters. “Master of Disguise”

is convoluted prog rock with a

modernist dissonance and unpredictable

structure. “Ad Astra” sounds like a tango

from another planet- in it Arcturus put

the drone of a steam engine to good use

as a hypnotic rhythm and then buries it

in a lush string arrangement that builds

into a tremendous otherworldly ambiance.

“The Chaos Path” is like vaudeville for

perverts, with repetitive carnival music

over a turgid metal riff broken by flights

into quasi-oriental string music and ending

in a drum n’ bass break beat. The

Edgar Allen Poe adaptation, “Alone,” is a

thunderous rock anthem with a weird

twist reminiscent of Faith No More,

slamming you with a catchy assortment

of heavy riffs before veering into supped

up epic grandeur.

The latter part of the album is slow and

winding, with a stronger emphasis on

atmosphere and considerably less on experimentation.

It’s good, but a little disappointing

in light of the first two thirds,

which sound like a radical manifesto, or

a Borges story re-conceptualized as music,

eerie inward-looking mental landscapes

punctuated with monumental

hard rock riffs that can seem, if only for

a second, like the unfurling course of

human history.

Imbued with a heavily romantic flavor,

the album explores the outer shores of

the gothic, with a somewhat literary take

on Lucifer and the fall of man, painted

over with the mad histrionics of a Grand

Guignol performer. Two Arcturus vocalists,

past and present appear on the album,

Garm (Ulver) and Simen Hestnaes

(Arcturus); Garm provides a reassuring

rock flavor, a little sloppy and in your

face, and Simen a high vibrato that

seems to beckon at the apocalypse.

All of these factors converge in an album

of startling originality. When it came out

it was characterized by many a confused

metal critic as pastiche ala Mr. Bungle,

but Arcturus actually infuse and synthesize

the sources into a single strange

sound, one that straddles theatrical excess

and straightforward metal purposefulness

in a way that was largely unheard

of at the time. Whatever one

might say about it now, “La Masquerade

TRACKLIST:

01 – Master Of Disguise

02 – Ad Astra

03 – The Chaos Path

04 – La Masquerade Infernale

05 – Alone

06 – The Throne Of Tragedy

07 – Painting My Horror

08 – Of Nails And Sinners

41

Infernale” was an unqualified breakthrough.

James Slone

Avantgenre: Lucifer’s

Circus Of Avantgarde Doom Metal

How on Earth do you write a review of

an album that is not only one of the

most revered masterpieces of the ever

so arbitrary genre of Avant-Garde Metal,

but also a standing member of your own

top three all-time favourite albums; a

review that is fair to one of the, according

to many, best records ever? I battled

this question for some weeks, and realised

that all I could do was to give the

story from my perspective only.

I have been returning to these 45 minutes

of Heaven (or was it Hell?) since I

first heard the absurd and infernal merry-

go-round ride that is “The Chaos

Path” sometime during the first autumn

of this century, this album becoming a

steady companion throughout my adolescence.

When reality became too dull

and loathsome, there was Arcturus,

transcending through spheres of astral

immensity, opening gateways to esoteric

and decadent wisdom (to the teenage

me, at least).

I remember skipping classes, wandering

about the city at sundown, admiring the

few 19th century buildings there are left,

the snow falling thick and silent upon the

empty town, the street lights colouring

the white crystals velvet orange, in soft

contrast to the deep blue skies. My walks

always ended at the public library, for

hours delving deep into the writings of

the dark and mysterious I could find –

Poe, Lovecraft, Blake (switching sometimes

from Arcturus to Ulver), Baudelaire,

Kafka, and the likes… The

carnevalesque buffonery and eloquent

satanic horrors of G. Wolf’s lyrics were

the perfect soundtrack to my pretentious

escapades, howling sophisticated mockery

not only at the cross, but at everyone

conforming to set standards,

chained by boredom and normality. I

mean, to which romantic dreamer doesn’t

the thought of the Devil as both a

mourning loner and plotting trickster appeal?

The musical mastery on this album is

practically flawless. Even though flying

through various styles, from blastbeats

to drum’n’bass, from the organ grinder

of the town fair (how menacing is not

“Painting my Horror”?) to the church organist

at the High Mass (“Of Nails and

Sinners” keep sending shivers down my

spine to this day), Arcturus never derails

from the defiant spirit of the Masquerade.

Carl-August Tidemann’s (now in

Winds) magnificent solos sweep across

the nightsky, companioned by Sverd’s

astral keyboard manouvres. The Wolf

might be accused for singing out of tune

– which he certainly does – but I still

consider this one of the highlights of our

favourite Trickster’s career; theatrical

deep-end bleating, as guttural as it is

untraditional. Simen Hestnæs (Borknagar,

Dimmu Borgir) does his first Arcturian

performance, which is also his career’s

zenith. Not to forget Knut M Valle

and Skoll/Hugh James Stephen Mingay,

who’s rumbling, at points unhearable

riffs create the backbone of this Infernal

feast. And yeah, Hellhammer does his

work swell as well. By the way, did I

mention that they have crammed a cornetist,

a flautist (AiwarikiaR of Ulver and

<code>) and a string quartet into the

studio?

La Masquerade Infernale is a revolutionary

Hell draped in velvet and silvery

stars, a landscape of golden masks and

arabesques, with the Devil of a 1000 faces

hiding behind every corner, never to

reveal His true identity. In the Darkness,

which is the sheep, and which is the

Goat? You will never know…

(and to those who possess the original

Music For Nations edition; have you

found the secret?)

aVoid

42

ENOCHIAN CRESCENT

Telocvovim

Release: 1997

Label: Woodcut Records

Avantgenre: Wood-at-night Metal

Duration: 41:52

Origin: Finland

Official site: http://www.enochian-crescent.com

Starting with a deceptively crappy first

song – which must have been taken from

some unreleased demo – this album fires

satanic Black Metal missiles with technical

and deadly precision. At least Black

Metal is the base of all this – ENOCHIAN

CRESCENT have no fears of contact with

all other subgenres of metal which they

blacken in their own specific way.

Whether it might be heavy-Metal-like

guitar playing, all styles of uttering lyrics

in any conceivable way other than actually

singing, Death-Metal riffing and even

calm piano-parts – ENOCHIAN CRESCENT

unite it all on “Telocvovim”.

Although the band hails from Finland

their lyrics are – besides english – only

partial finnish. I recall reading in an interview

with Wrath, the vocalist of EC,

that some of their lyrics are in Enochian,

a language induced to humans by angels.

Wrath stated in this interview that

he got his lyrics induced and has not

written them himself. Combine that with

the statement that EC rarely play live

due to the reason that the good man lives

a live experience as a ritual where

he ends up cutting himself so badly he

can’t possibly play two days after another

and you know EC take their satanic

approach seriously. Make of that what

you want. But there is no denial that

there is a certain shamanistic, if not

trance-like, spiritual edge to the music of

EC. And that is what makes them so

special in my eyes: Wrath’s vocals are

among the most widely varied, dedicated

Black Metal vocals I have ever heard. On

top of that, EC’s melodies are simply not

of this world. Sometimes you hear parallels

to …AND OCEANS’ strange disharmonies

(with whom EC shared the

drummer Grief) – these are melodies

which make this album some kind of a

ritual and add a big deal to the avantgardistic

moments of this record.

The best example would be the alien,

dreamlike melodies on “Amma I Piad Sa

Madriiax”. I have never heard anything

as surreal and dark as this before with

such simple measures. THROES OF

DAWN would be another guess sometimes,

and Bingo – we have members of

them in EC as well (reeks of incestuous

norwegian conditions here…). And last

but not least, the varied drumming of

Caer Hallam Generis (also known as Kai

Hahto, ex-ROTTEN SOUND) does its best

to make “Telocvovim” interesting – and

succeeds.

If you want a spiritual satanic experience

performed with technical skills (seldom

enough in Black Metal), run into the

woods at fullmoon and don’t forget to

bring your copy of “Telocvovim” with

you. If you are lucky enough to catch

one, that is. The most recent info I have

is that “Telocvovim” is sold out.

Tentakel P.

TRACKLIST:

01 – Kun Ihmisliha Itki

02 – Closed Gates Of Tomorrow (The Cold Harvest)

03 – Crescentian

04 – Under Autumn Trees

05 – Amma I Piad Sa Madriiax

06 – A Wolf Among Sheep

07 – A Dream Of Basaltic Submarine Towers Of

Titanic Proportions And Nightmare Angles

08 – Afar (The Age Of Dust)

09 – When Tears Run Dry

10 – Bonedancer

11 – Black Flame Of SATAN Burning

43

STRAPPING YOUNG

LAD

City

Release: 1997

Label: Century Media Records

Avantgenre: Industrial Thrash Power Metal

Duration: 40 Minutes

Origin: Canada / USA

Official site: http://www.strappingyounglad.com/

With this one it’s hard to know where to

begin. How about “the heaviest finest

angriest slab of cyber metal ever”? This

record came, conquered and remained

on the throne. It pretty much defines

what can be accomplished with the proper

amalgamation of extreme metal and

industrial music (along with Ministry and

Red Harvest, of course).

Opening with a flooring but short intro in

“Velvet Kevorkian” which segues into the

face-ripping “All Hail the New Flesh”, the

record quickly and explosively establishes

its sound and identity. The song

that follows up the intensity another

notch is the headbanging anthem “Oh

My Fucking God”. Thrash (and some

Death/Grind) riffage layered with all

manners of samples and synths, backed

by the rhythm section from hell (how can

you go wrong with Gene Hoglan on

drums?) races along, all topped off with

some of the most original vocals in metal

(Devin Townshend is a phenomena unto

himself, going from tough guy vocals to

screeches and screams to heart wrenching

wails and singing, all in the same

song and all suitably reverbed).

It is a winning mix, especially when the

brutality is contrasted by slower, more

atmospheric and intensely emotional

sections, where the synths, guitars and

vocals make a strangely ambient melodic

mix creating a wall-of-sound that became

Devin’s trademark. Another ace of

the band is the lyrical contact, which is

angry and direct (to the point of almost

being punk/hardcore) and clearly understandable,

thanks to the amazing production

job (courtesy of Devin himself,

with engineering by Daniel of Meshuggah

fame).

All the songs here are killer, catchy and

epic at the same time (something which

is very hard to achieve). They flow

seamlessly and the sequence makes perfect

sense. As Devin has repeatedly

stated in interviews, it is his catharsis

and it shows. Many of the themes here

are developed further on subsequent SYL

and DTB releases, but none comes close

to the sheer insanity of this record. The

Cop Shoot Cop cover is a great choice

and brings variety to the record, while

still sounding like a SYL tune.

All in all, this is one of the top metal releases

of all time, and still sounds as refreshing

and vibrant today as the day it

was released. If you haven’t had the

pleasure, pick it up today for a truly cerebral

yet vicious metal experience.

Suleiman

TRACKLIST:

01 – Velvet Kevorkian

02 – All Hail The New Flesh

03 – Oh My Fucking God

04 – Detox

05 – Home Nucleonics

06 – AAA

07 – Underneath The Waves

08 – Room 429 (Cop Shoot Cop Cover)

09 – Spirituality

44

THE DILLINGER

ESCAPE PLAN

The Dillinger Escape Plan (EP)

Release: 1997

Label: Now Or Never

Avantgenre: Gorgeoustrophic Melodic Analie

Duration: 15:21

Origin: USoA

Official site:

http://www.myspace.com/dillingerescapeplan

Guitars and Flangers are great. Beginning

one’s review with a sentence like

“Guitars and Flangers are great” is also

great. The greatness would soon diminish

if I continued citing the previous sentence

in the following sentence and it

would seriously harm the idea of reviewing

an album. Especially such a great

piece of contemporary music that is currently

playing in my foobar-player and

has been downloaded legally off the interweb

for backup-purposes.

The six songs pretty much sound the

same when listened to with one ear but

enormously grow when the number of

ears is increased. The song lengths

range from one minute and three seconds

to three minutes and twelve seconds

and totals in fifteen minutes and

twenty one seconds. Time that is spent

well when using both organs. Using not

only the ears but also the eyes and the

brain (“Brains!!!!”) as well, this is what I

saw when I re-viewed the 6 songs (from

left to right):

Dillinger Escape Plan uber alles.

Jonny Lignano

TRACKLIST:

01 – Proceed With Caution

02 – I Love Secret Agents

03 – Monticello

04 – Cleopatra’s Sling

05 – Caffeine

06 – Three For Flinching (Revenge Of

The Porno Clowns)

45

IN THE WOODS…

Omnio

Release: 1997

Label: Misanthropy Records

Avantgenre: Wood

Duration: 01:03:08

Origin: Norway

Official site:

http://www.myspace.com/inthewoods666

If I were a director (or as the French

say: metteur en scène) I’d use each

song of this album for the following

scenes (in different movies). Fortunately

I am not Michael Haneke, who is well

known for using sound very carefully in

his movies.

Scene one, 14:50: Scene where the hero

takes revenge by slaughtering the entire

force of evil but suddenly realizes that he

has lost his voice, being a hero and an

opera singer this results in deep depression.

He then walks alone on a beach,

has some flashbacks of the great cakes

his grandmother used to make exclusively

for him and then the camera fades

to the horizon and credits are shown.

Scene two, 7:10: Scene where the female

star, being a successful business

woman in New York comes home and

finds the kitchen in a total mess. She

then leaves her apartment abruptly and

uses her cell phone.

Scene three, 3:37: Scene where a little

girl that used to be a little girl in her

former life strolls through an empty

school building.

Scene four, 5:57: Scene where the actors

all wear black costumes, pretend to

listen to a Brahms concert in the Musikvereinssaal

but are all deaf. And tattooed.

Scene five, 8:10: Scene where a guy

with Aids laughs manically at a first-aidkit

that is attached to the wall at an airport

full of people.

Scene six, 12:03: Scene from a porn

movie where the masks are all played by

bad actors. They all perform well from a

pornographic point of view.

Scene seven, 11:43: Scene from a documentary

about the history of alpinism,

where actors dressed like 1890 talk

about the differences of ropes.

Jonny Lignano

TRACKLIST:

01 – 299 796 Km/s

02 – I Am Your Flesh

03 – Kairos!

04 – Weeping Willow

05 – Omnio? – Pre

06 – Omnio? – Bardo

07 – Omnio? – Post

46

TRACKLIST:

1. Kapitel I: Mein Schalltrichter Summt Memmenhaft Ein Totenlied

2. Kapitel II: Spätherbst 1832. Das Spinnrad Ist Ein Memoirensignal

3. Kapitel III: Vom Spiel Der Leisen Fragen. Wie Schäle Ich Den Augapfel?

4. Kapitel IV: Zwiegesprächniederschriften – Ein Vermummtes Trauerspiel

5. Kapitel V: Die Elenden Skribenten Von Bach Und Wolkenkuckucksheim

6. Kapitel VI: Die Fieberschauer Eines Betrunkenen Schwarzen Schmetterlings

I: Die Rhapsodie Vom Blechschaden Und Dem Stückwerk.

II: Serjoscha? Und Dreht Um Die Schurrende Spindel Den Leidelichen Faden.

III Und Tierisch Kleinlaute Schmachtfetzen Leierten Masshalten Und Geschmack.

IV: Blaue Schlotterbodeninsekten Und Der Ingrimm Eines Vogelbeerbaumes.

V: Die Notitz Von Mutter Wohlgestalt. Es Starb Eine Eintragung Am 16. Oktober.

VI: Innerer Monolog über Die Komödie Und Den Nutzen Des Komischen Geistes.

ANGIZIA

Das Tagebuch Der Hanna Anikin

Release: 1997

Label: Napalm Records

Avantgenre: Beauty And The Beast

Duration: 44:30

Origin: Austria

Official site: http://www.angizia.com

When I first listened to a song of this

beautiful novella I felt a little bit messed

up. I thought about Middle Age Fun Metal

or the alike. But from another angle

of view I soon realized that this is meant

to be serious classical theatrical piece

forming a Russian-oriented trilogy. All

musical elements I love got combined in

this album. I first didn’t really notice how

complex all these parts sounded mixed

up in one entity. But I knew the person

behind this project was actually me in

the body of Michael Haas. It was my

thoughts my feelings, my taste, my

ideas. That’s the reason why it became

my all time favourite album more than 8

years ago. Angizia really changed my life

not only on how I see and feel music today,

but also personally because I met

the singer after many years of being a

big fan and have a child with him now.

For me it was a Cinderella Story come

true.

The piano plays the leading role in the

songs which are quite lengthy but very

diverting. At no point I get bored. Cedric

Müller is a fantastic piano player and deserves

much respect for being a second

Mozart. There are electric guitars which

add some Metal to the scene and make

the album Avant-garde. The focus was

put on contrasting dramatic female

(Irene Denner) and male vocals (Christof

Niederwieser), which add a very distinctive

touch to the sound of Angizia. Also,

classical chant combined with some

clean but drunken vocals, cries and

shouting can be listened to throughout

the album. The whole CD emanates romance,

passion, insanity, desperation. In

my head a whole lot of stories form into

a big pond of devotion to this piece of

art. There are not enough words to describe

this work so I will stop here and

encourage you, yes YOU, to buy this album

quickly before it is sold out!

Katja Honeywine van de Barrel

47

1998

BEYOND DAWN

Revelry

Release: 1998

Label: Misanthropy

Avantgenre: Malaise Metal

Duration: 52:37

Origin: Norway

Official site: http://www.beyonddawn.com

“Revelry” is pretty bleak in a subdued

kind of way, a post black metal doom album

with a subtly experimental bent and

an expressive rock sensibility.

The album’s a little like a more metallic

late period Swans, but with glum trombone

lines evoking a southern noir atmosphere

when the grinding white noise

of the guitars lets up. When the distortion

quiets, the guitars relax into simple

arpeggios and Espen Ingierd (aka Espen

Weltschmertz) and backing vocalist Kate

Havnevik are allowed to dominate the

record with their morose, distressingly

detached singing styles. The drums provide

a plodding backbeat that has more

in common with trip hop than Scandinavian

metal, a rainy day dirge beat for the

isolated sad bastard ambiance that permeates

the music.

The album is bleak, but never oppressively

so, content to linger on the edge

of depression rather than drowning in it.

Beyond Dawn was always a little too

thoughtful for the histrionics of Katanonia

and a little too expansive for the extremity

of doom death. They always

seemed destined to move beyond the limitations

of genre, and so they did with

2003’s “Frysh.”

“Revelry” is easily the band’s best work

from the more abrasive but creatively

energetic pre-“Frysh” period.

James Slone

OXIPLEGATZ

Sidereal Journey

Release: 1998

Label: Seasons Of Mist

Avantgenre: Technical Sci-fi As Conceptualized

By Tim Rice

Duration: 41:46

Origin: Sweden

“Sidereal Journey” is the third, final, and

best album from Oxiplegatz, Alf Svensson’s

short lived post At the Gates solo

project. It’s a strange little album, with

outsized ambition, comprised of one epic

song divided into thirty-three short

TRACKLIST:

01 – Love’s (Only) True Defender

02 – Tender

03 – Resemblance

04 – Stuck

05 – Three Steps For The Chameleon

(How To Seduce Modesty)

06 – I Am A Drug

07 – Breathe The Jackal

08 – Life’s Sweetest Reward

09 – Chains

10 – Phase To Phase

48

tracks. The sound is generally metallic

but diverse, falling somewhere between

blast-beat mayhem per early ATG, upbeat

symphonic rock, Broadway musicals,

waltzy spring time music, and weird

Modern dissonance, with a heavy emphasis

on the weird.

The lead guitar is highly original, winding

like a neurotic snake over really long

chord progressions and snap-happy programmed

percussion. The synths provide

warped “futuristic” experimentation

(think the “Bladerunner” score on a budget

and you get the gist). Guitar lines

fizzle into hyperactive blast-beats which

suddenly transform into waltzy music

ready-made for figure skating in the Rhineland

– all of this madness is unified

under Alf’s seriously deranged story

about space survival.

The lyrical bent of the album is first rate

science fiction with a hard “S”- no Millennium

Falcon shooting around the Galaxy

at the measly speed of light in these

lyrics. This is genuine science fiction

about a theoretical life form seeking out

new planets to terraform after a nearby

star destroys their home world. Alf

growls, but also employs a low nasal

voice to tell the oddball story, accompanied

by Sara Svensson, whose more refined

voice lies somewhere between a

Tim Rice songbird and Annek van Giersbergen.

Sidereal Journey is death metal for those

who like invention over pretension and

ambition over budgets. With its flat production

and high eccentricity, any possibility

of it finding a popular audience is

next to nil. This is for weirdo metal connoisseurs

exclusively- you know who you

are! And you know you must have this

album.

Note: this review is edited and considerably reworked

from the original, which can be found at

http://www.ssmt-reviews.com

James Slone

STILLE VOLK

Ex-uvies

Release: 1998

Label: Holy Records

Avantgenre: Folk Hybrid

Duration: 43:13

Origin: France

The French-Occitan folk outfit Stille

Volk’s second album “Ex-uvies” is one

strange, beautiful hybrid. The eccentric

Pyrenees folk sound is still present, but

worked over with a whole assortment of

outside influences like prog, death metal,

industrial, noise, and psychedelic rock.

This time out, rock percussion and heavy

bass lines form the backbone of the mu-

TRACKLIST:

01. A Black Hole Is Swallowing The Sun…

02. They Learned Of Its Existence…

03. For Persistence…

04. Bringer Of Obliteration…

05. Into Nowhere…

06. For Persistence…

07. So It’s Our Final Hour…

08. The Light From The Perishing Sun…

09. Ahead – The Universe !

10. No Longer Will We Be The Meek Ones…

11. How Could We Ever Know…

12. Head For That Star…

13. As One Surveys This Ocean…

14. The Iondrive A Silent Vibration…

15. Several Planet In Orbit…

16. Enemies !?

17. Once More Proven – We Are Not Alone

18. Lightspeed – Flunge Into Hyperspace

19. No Clue To Where This Jump Is Taking Them…

20. Breathless…

21. Turning Up The Power, Accelerating Again…

22. This Time Passage Was Violent…

23. Rings, Spread Like Rippled Water…

24. They Stare Unblinking…

25. Eternal Night…

26. How Many Worlds…

27. These Beings Failed And Perished…

28. Ahead Once More…

29. This Journey Has Taken Us…

30. The Moon Was Land In Orbit…

31. Can This Be What We Hore For…

32. Teraform – Alter The Enviroment…

33. And So One Day The Sleepers Waken…

49

sic, and a prominent role is reserved for

the electric guitar.

The songs vary greatly, each song driven

by its own internal logic. The first song,

“Zoopathia,” has a psychedelic pop vibe,

with subtle rock guitar and percussion, a

folksy hook, and an unexpected left field

finale. The next two tracks, “Ténébrante

azure” and “Chimères” are pastoral

songs filtered through rock textures,

electro beats, and broken metal guitar

lines. The beautiful “Selena Koronna” is a

guitar and woodwind driven song in the

traditional style, while its companion

piece, the fun “Luna Mecanica,” cuts a

bloody swath through epic folk rock,

death metal, industrial, and the noise

outlying these genres. The band follows

this pastiche with the obnoxiously aggressive

electro-metal-folk slog

“Théâtrophone abscons.” The final

proper song, “Exuvie bizarre” is a buffet

of progressive rock, melodic metal, and

sonorous traditional music.

“Ex-uvies” is a curious experience, a

marriage of the rural with the urban, the

ancient with the contemporary. It is also

surprisingly dark. It’s like hearing traditional

music severed from the place of its

origins, broken down and reassembled

for a modern audience wholly alienated

from the wilderness. Every time I listen

to it I get this jarring, contradictory image

of pastoral fields superimposed on a

postindustrial cityscape.

Note: this review is edited and considerably reworked

from the original, which can be found at

http://www.ssmt-reviews.com

James Slone

KOROVA

Dead Like An Angel

Release: 1998

Label: Napalm Records

Avantgenre: Asylum Groove Fever

Duration: 52:09

Origin: Austria

Official site: http://www.korovakill.com

Flies are the Cameras of God. Invisibly

connected to the intertemporary Frequence

of their collective Data-Memory,

they are watching from every Corner

since Millions of Years, dragging all Seen

within them, and if we dare to listen,

they buzz their Films into our Dreams…

Back in 1998 – I must have been fourteen

years old – I was already suffering

from a quite strict idea of what mysterious

and pushing-the-envelope metal

should be. I still wholeheartedly wanted

to keep going on, but at the same time it

was as if I had found the mountain’s

golden top in a devilish Norway. That is

precisely when I discovered Korova’s

Dead like an Angel. I got to tell you, and

up to this day I still don’t know why: it

was an immediate love story. As a matter

of fact, it was my first exposure ever

to an exotica-flavored kind of psychedelic

opera metal. These musicians

weren’t evil, cold, suicidal, burning

churches wannabes and so-called superior

murderers; perhaps not, but that’s

mostly because Korova were instead

drowning themselves into deeper waters

that somewhat had something to do with

pure, uncensored and confusing weird-

TRACKLIST:

01 – Zoopathia

02 – Ténébrante Azurée

03 – Chimères

04 – Selena Koronna

05 – Luna Mecanica

06 – Théâtrophone Abscons

07 – Exuvie Bizarre

08 – Dans I’…

50

ness. They were, so to speak, buzzing

flies films into our dreams. Now that’s

kind of challenging, isn’t it?

As a matter of fact, there’s often that

troubled, colorfully demented and paranoiac

atmosphere throughout most of

Dead like an Angel. Vocalist and main

composer Christof Niederwieser, while

distributing his lsd-infused candy songs

in a Van Gogh’s sky, often sounds like an

altered madman sweetly singing hypnotizing

children songs on a dark, bluish

melting sea beach from planet Mars. It is

not techno music but it’s got groove and

swing; it is not futuristic keyboard noise

but there are always passages of subtle

electronic strangeness in all corners; it is

not typical metal music but distorted guitars

are riffing forth manias and more

raging growls, screams and vocal screeches

abound everywhere. It is basically

Korova and nothing else and that has

marked me forever.

One ought to mention the

bizarre yet highly poetic

lyrical lines, which are basically

as fascinating as

Korova’s music can get.

These are pure enigmas

that a psychiatrist could

have taken out of one of

his schizophrenic patients

diary. Once again very

colorful, and singer Niederwieser only

adds to their evocative power by singing

in a very off-kilter, almost out of tune

clean vocal fashion. His voice has to be

experienced, it is impossible to only describe

it with words, or worst, to even

compare it with any other terrestrial

singer.

I know the band weren’t satisfied at all

with the production, but all in all, even

though it was recorded in ’98, the sound

has a personality of its own. It is low-fi

but drummer Moritz Neuner and bassman

Florian Oberlechner both groove

with great depth and all of the toms,

double bass drums and acrobatic bass lines

resonate deep into the overall sound

picture. One excellent example of this is

Der Schlafmann Kommt‘s mesmerizing

finale. The same goes for the keyboards

and the great pianos: those are upfront

and imposing, twisting every musical

shape with unexpected patterns and

alien melodies. As for the guitars, one

could say that they’re almost only a buzzing

frequency in the background, which

adds to the feeling that this could not be

a metal album at all. There’s even a delirious

Christmas song on here, including

bells and snowing midtempo chills, which

was admittedly composed in January ’98,

probably just after a broken bottle

Christmas Eve in Hell.

When I previously wrote exoticaflavored,

I wanted to mean that it is not

dark and avant-garde metal music as

we’re normally used to – its darkness is

more subtle, perhaps more psychological

and mind-bending than Black Metal’s

usual black-and-white philosophy. Christof

Niederwieser had found a whole new

palette of colors to explore with his feverish

gang banging, and I must say that

I’ll forever be thankful to that kind of

“let’s push it further” attitude. At the end

of the album, we are even treated with

one exclusive song from their ’97 neverreleased

album Echowelt. Every experimental

metalhead should

lend an ear to this

strange masterpiece, as

this is pure metal insanity

at its peak. Who the hell

is playing the lightingfast

pianos on this one?

Completely genuine!

Korova’s Dead like an

Angel is, beyond all words, a vivid

soundwave bridge leading down to your

hidden dream universe, where everything

possibly perceivable suddenly materializes

for your own private mental

challenge.

Olivier Côté

It buzzes a Wave

like in dump Fever-Memories

and wobbles sweet Circles

around the Child’s Eyes.

Dusk in young senses

to warm Realms they drown,

bewitched by the Voice of the Flyman.

… and if we dare to follow, we never will

return…

TRACKLIST:

01 – Europa In Flammen

02 – Strangulation Alpha

03 – Our Reality Dissolves

04 – Trip To The Bleeding Planets

(Unto The Light)

05 – Dead Like An Angel

06 – Echoworld Caravans

07 – Der Schlafmann Kommt

08 – Tantra-Nove-HyperCannibalism

51

THE KOVENANT

Nexus Polaris

Release: 24.03.1998

Label: Nuclear Blast

Avantgenre: Symphonies Of Angeldust And

Star Journeys

Duration: 43:34

Origin: Norway

Official site: http://www.gentechranch.tk/

For most bands and artists the crossing

of the vanguard borderline seems to be

something they try to avoid like a dangerous

disease. Once they found their

own style of expression, the natural

drive is to defend the conquered niche.

Mostly till the end of the (creative) days.

That’s not bad. Iron Maiden rules and

still I don’t want to imagine their fabulous

songs with techno beats or harsh

industrial sounds.

On the other hand there are some individuals

for whom it seems the greatest

pleasure to break rules and search for

new options of expression. Nagash and

Blackheart from THE KOVENANT belong

to this group, without any doubt. In

1998 and with the release of “Nexus Polaris”

they first left the path of traditional

Black Metal and stepped into a new cosmos

of extraterrestrial rock music.

Against the trend back then the album

appears quite progressive. The blast beats

were reduced to a minimum to leave

more space for guitars and the omnipresent

synthetic sounds. This is notable,

because no one less than Hellhammer

was hired to give “Nexus Polaris”

the right percussion. Till this album he

was more known for his disruptive speed

attacks than for smooth accented rockdrums.

Also the guitars play a subordinated role.

Until Astennu comes around the corner

to present his skills with an outstanding

guitar-symphony, the electronic strings

mainly are used as rhythmic fundament

and are more comparable to rock music

and traditional Heavy Metal, than to

Black Metal and its characteristic fast

tremolo picking.

The keyboards are handled by Sverd,

well known for his work with ARCTURUS.

The attentive listener will explore a lot of

similarities to the masterpiece “La Masquerade

Infernale” in terms of instrumentation

and sound of the synthesisers.

Nagash’s screeching vocals, the only left

relict from the old days, are flanked by

Sarah Jezebel Devas opera chants, which

are often underlying the leitmotiv of the

tracks.

If someone would tell me, that “Nexus

Polaris” is not really vanguard, I wouldn’t

disagree. The ingredients are well

known. Heavy, concise guitars, opulent

keyboards and the vocals of a devilworshipper:

We all knew this already

from DIMMU BORGIR and CRADLE OF

FILTH, and some of us were even bored

by this style back in 1998. But nevertheless

I think this album is worth to be

mentioned here, because it represents

the will of its creators to make a big step

forward. “Nexus Polaris” marks the turning

point for an extremely creative and

inspired band, which should later step

even deeper in the world of avant-garde

music (“SETI”).

Polygon

TRACKLIST:

01 – The Sulfer Feast

02 – Bizarre Cosmic Industries

03 – Planetarium

04 – The Last Of The Dragons

05 – Bringer Of The Sixth Sun

06 – Dragonheart

07 – Planetary Black Elements

08 – Chariots Of Thunder

52

BAL-SAGOTH

Battle Magic

Release: 1998

Label: Cacophonous Records

Avantgenre: World Historical Metal

Duration: 50:00

Origin: United Kingdom

Official site: http://www.bal-sagoth.co.uk/

In my opinion (which counts for a lot in

some parts of rural Honduras), “Battle

Magic” remains the crown jewel of the

Bal Sagoth filmography. I say filmography

because Bal Sagoth albums are multimedia

experiences on par with epic

Hollywood filmmaking. Not content to

provide mere lyrics, songwriter and vocalist

Byron writes ridiculously involved

epics complete with chronologies, genealogies,

and cosmologies. He crafts concepts

too big for any concept album to

hold, spinning tales on a cosmic scale:

pulpy sagas spanning millions of years

and hundreds of galaxies involving alien

beings seeding life on earth and then

showing up to wipe it out billions of

years later. Silly? Yes. But it’s also kind

of grand.

The Lovecraftian scale Byron employs

can be a bit overwhelming, which is why

I like “Battle Magic” so much. “Battle

Magic” takes place in historical time, with

lyrics about Saxon warriors, seafaring

adventurers taking on the Spanish Armada,

vampire hunters armed with Japanese

swords, and Celtic gladiators

fighting for death and glory in the Roman

Coliseum. It’s still big, epic, and ridiculous,

but the scale is manageable

and it’s easier to invest in characters

who occupy a real place in history, even

if that history extends back to mythical

Atlantis. The music reflects historical heroics

with simple western melodies, big,

bold, and easy, forsaking the sci-fi razzle

dazzle of later albums for something a

little more down home (relatively speaking).

John Maulding’s keyboard orchestration

is big and brash without the dark brooding

chords that characterized his

previous work with Bal Sagoth,

evoking a more percussive Basil

Poledouris feeling. Chris Maulding’s

guitar lines are more in line with

NWOBHM, less grindy and far more

melodic than usual. Byron is Byron,

alternating between bm screeches

and “giant holographic head” voice

that narrates the story like Hegel

wrote about history: on a grand

scale. The feeling is more upbeat

and fun, dangerous adventure ala

Robert E. Howard minus the lurking

elder god paranoia of H.P. Lovecraft. It’s

ultimately the fun spirit and historical

context that makes “Battle Magic” stand

out- it’s truly one of a kind.

James Slone

TRACKLIST:

01. Battle Magic

02. Naked Steel (The Warrior’s Saga)

03. A Tale From The Deep Woods

04. Return To The Praesidium Of Ys

05. Crystal Shards

06. The Dark Liege Of Chaos Is Unleashed At The Ensorcelled

Shrine Of A’zura-Kai (The Splendour Of A Thousand

Swords Gleaming Beneath The Blazon Of The Hyperborean

Empire Part: II)

07. When Rides The Scion Of The Storms

08. Blood Slakes The Sand At The Circus Maximus

09. Thwarted By The Dark (Blade Of The Vampyre Hunter)

10. And Atlantis Falls…

53

ULVER

Themes From William Blake’s The

Marriage Of Heaven And Hell

Release: 1998

Label: Jester Records

Avantgenre: Classical Beat Poetry

Duration: 01:41:09

Origin: Norway

Official site: http://www.jester-records.com/ulver

William Blake was an illuminate mystic

British poet and painter who died in

1827, and his literary works as well as

his colorful illustrations are still regarded

by many as a world of their own. Deeply

religious, the man claimed and wrote in

many of his eclectic writings, full of his

mysterious self-confidence, that he had

visions of and conversations with angels,

ether-bodied creatures and celestial intelligences.

For sure, he seemed to have

quite a unique grasp of what reality is.

This is the feeding ground that Ulver

chose to emerge from between fall ’97

and rise ’98, and clearly a great step

outside what they previously had been

associated with, namely black metal. It’s

hard to pinpoint in a few words exactly

what Ulver are doing here, but all in all,

they tend to explore more electronic territories,

according themselves a kind of

nostalgic trip hop attitude at times, whereas

loud, industrial rockish metal also

makes its way now and then.

The whole double-album is very genreschizophrenic,

as there are also more

moody, almost ambient-like acoustic

tracks, and all the musical focus is put

on each of Blake’s inspirational shifts of

emotions, so it basically changes all the

time. Singer Kristoffer Rygg aka Garm

has really pushed his voice here, still in a

serious, classical and opera-sounding

context like he did with La Masquerade

Infernale, but new to his vocal palette,

there’s sometimes that underlining mockery

madness hitting on.

He also uses more spoken-word passages,

reciting chants, tender romantic

whispers, and completely electrified and

textured throat sounds, all of which are

accompanied by consequent compositions.

Sure, the man was finding himself

here, and so were Ulver, but it’s still an

incredible performance if you take in

consideration the black metal context

where these guys were coming from.

The music, when it gets right-on heavy,

is indeed very groovy and danceable, but

still somewhat foggy-dark all the way

through, and it was the first time Ulver

almost only worked with beats, programming,

sampling, big bass lines and

so on. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

was clearly their breakthrough album,

and for sure an avant-classical-beat

creation full of new avenues for all upcoming

records to gnaw on.

No bird soars too high if he soars with

his own wings, wrote William Blake in

1790, and it appears to me that Ulver

had finally found their own musical sky

to soar into. If you are up for some truly

TRACKLIST:

Disc 1

1. The Argument Plate 2

2. Plate 3

3. Plate 3 Following

4. The Voice Of The Devil Plate 4

5. Plates 5-6

6. A Memorable Fancy Plates 6-7

7. Proverbs Of Hell Plates 7-10

8. Plate 11

9. Intro

10. A Memorable Fancy Plates 12-13

11. Plate 14

12. A Memorable Fancy Plate 15

13. Plates 16-17

Disc 2

1. A Memorable Fancy Plates 17-20

2. Intro

3. Plates 21-22

4. A Memorable Fancy Plates 22-24

5. Intro

6. A Song Of Liberty Plates 25-27

54

heavy music with a mysterious edge,

and if you are also ready to explore more

delicate forms of emotional expressions,

you’ve got what you were looking for

within this almost two-hour-long album.

Olivier Côté

DøDHEIMSGARD

Satanic Art

Release: 1998

Label: Moonfog

Avantgenre: Chaotic Black Metal

Duration: 15:59

Origin: Norway

Official site: http://www.dhg.no

With AGM´s Birthday and a PDF-Version

of avantgarde-history approaching, it’s

time to take on one of the forgotten

treasures of the nineties: DHG´s “Satanic

Art”. Let’s touch the devilish mind

for a chaotic mindtrip, which starts with

a relatively unspectacular (but weird) piano

intro. Following that comes “Traces

of Reality”, and this song (one of the

craziest BM-songs I’ve ever heard)

leaves none of them. I don’t know what

kind of drugs you have to take to write

such a monster – It is fast, it is chaotic,

and it is raw and aggressive. And kind of

spaced out at the same time. DHG´s attacks

come from some parallel realities,

intercepted by one of the best symbiosis

between classic and Black Metal which

crossfades into a slightly industrial part,

everything with subliminal synth effects

infiltrating the listener. A piano with

really strange voicework grants a short

pause before the rest of the song destroys

your synapses with an ultra-fast

blast inferno, ending at exactly 7:06 (do

your math here).

“Symptom” is much straighter, but not

less disturbing with its speed and distortion

backed by snarled vocals. The

synths do their best to heave DHG´s Satanism

on a cosmic level (musically, and

with “cosmic” I do not mean something

like the exaggerated ramblings of the

late Mr. Nödtveidt). Twisted, driving,

outerwourldish. Sadly, too short with

only two and a half minutes.

“The Paramount Empire” could be something

left from “Monumental Possession”;

it shows the old face of DHG with relentless

BM which nevertheless shows a twist

in the direction they will turn.

“Wrapped In Plastic”, a piano piece

again, leads us out of this chaos… And

those of you who followed DHG know

that it will greet us again, introducing

“Shiva Interfere”. A congenial move, this

bridge between two releases, if there

ever was one.

“Satanic Art” is beauty in chaos, and this

might be a hint (and a hidden parallel) to

a possible influence ABIGOR had in reinventing

their art with “Fractal Possession”.

DHG have shaped a beautiful fractal,

whose only downside is that “666 International”

could not exactly cope with

what SA promised (But then, with “Supervillain

Outcast”, who cares?)

True satanic art indeed.

Tentakel P.

TRACKLIST:

01 – Oneiroscope

02 – Traces Of Reality

03 – Symptom

04 – The Paramount Empire

05 – Wrapped In Plastic

55

1999

CARNIVAL IN COAL

French Cancan

Release: 1999

Label: Kodiak

Avantgenre: Pr0np0p

Duration: 40:54

Origin: France

Official site: http://www.carnivalincoal.com

This is once again

a band from the

land that brought

you 1789 and a

president that

looks like Depeche

Mode’s Dave Gahan

as shown here.

But let us stick to the musical facts. Carnival

in coal do a lot of covering on this

album, so why not cover a movie for this

review? That’s why I made a screenshot

per song of this album out of the sleazy

Italian classic “Discesa all’inferno” (aka

Italian Inferno; aka Satanic Inferno) by

Mario Salieri from 1991. The quality of

the images has got nothing to do with

the quality of the album, it’s more an insight

into to cheap VHS to Divx digitalisation.

Please find the timestamps next to the

songnumber for neat reference.

TRACKLIST:

01 – Bark At The Moon

02 – Out Of Misery

03 – Maniac

04 – Piranha

05 – My Favourite Armchair

06 – Baker Street

07 – Fall From Grace

08 – Mama

09 – Fucking Hostile

56

Jonny Lignano

THE KOVENANT

Animatronic

Release: 1999

Label: Nuclear Blast

Avantgenre: Millenial Industrial

Dance Metal

Duration: 51:07

Origin: Norway

“Animatronic”

is bombastic

and silly, a

combination

that has caused

some

heads to explode

in the

black metal

scene. A BM

fatwa was issued after the NWOBHM influenced,

keyboard slathered “space metal”

of “Nexus Polaris.” But the Kove-

TRACKLIST:

01 – Mirrors Paradise

02 – New World Order

03 – Mannequin

04 – Sindrome

05 – Jihad

06 – The Human Abstract

07 – Prophecies Of Fire

08 – In The Name Of The Future

09 – Spaceman

10 – The Birth Of Tragedy

57

nant, never passing up free publicity,

continued to agitate with the industrial

metal outrageousness of “Animatronic,”

the most hilariously overwrought album

of 1999. The beats are more disco than

metal, guitars are heavy and simple,

growls are blasé, and the lyrics range

from fascist to nihilistic (all satire of

course). It sounds extreme, but is pop at

heart, with bold dance hooks and space

age epic metal riffs. The lyrics, which

throw around Nietzschean phraseology

like “will to power,” gravitate towards

science fiction satire, with some posthuman

conjecture and “big ideas” about

the end of religion and the collapse of

human society. Big surprise, millenialism

was riding high in 1999, the year of its

release. Thoughtful despite being disposable,

“Animatronic” revels in a kind of

dancehall nihilism, EBM disaffection suffused

with metal pomposity. It sounds

like music you’d hear in shopping malls

of the shiny dystopian future: violent,

simple, kind of stupid, and outrageously

entertaining.

James Slone

ARCTURUS

Disguised Masters

Release: July 1999

Label: Jester Records

Avantgenre: Electro Jester Mushroom Trip

Duration: 48:09

Origin: Norway

Official site:

http://www.myspace.com/arcturusnorway

Following their Norwegian tradition of

varying their previous work * Arcturus

managed to create an absolutely mind

blasting remake of their own tracks from

the previous, just as twisted album, “La

Masquerade Infernale”. The idea of shifting

one of the weirdest albums into a

new shape, giving it another (some

would say a more normal) dimension

shows a will to recompose already written

music into a new form, as if one was

creating a collage by tearing a masterpiece

into bits and pieces and gluing

them back in a different manner. Lost

between the boundaries of experimental

metal, and the forbidden waters of electronic,

they blended the two into some of

the most brutal facelift operations in the

genres. Shall we observe the deeds of

“The Institute of Common Oblivion”?

Painting an atmosphere for this release

would be impossible, as the music varies

through a wide palette of sounds. The

only “infant” along with the intro of this

album is the “Deception Genesis” track.

It follows the atmosphere of LMI, even

though it seems lost between some universes

Arcturus stumbled through, giving

it an individual cling. It somehow seems

to point out the deception caused by the

remix of the old tracks, the confusion

and chaotic layers of the upcoming

sounds. The rest of the album comes in

quite a blurry mater, repetitive, but never

mechanic, somewhat like a feeling of

repeating one dream over and over

again. These parts are regularly interrupted

ore covered by some shuffling

beats, most likely sampled form acoustic

drums, the exception is of course “Ad

Astra (The Magenta Experience)”, which

features a steady, party-like beat. The

other great surprise is the “Master of

disguise ” rap version. Although it may

TRACKLIST:

01 – White Tie Black Noise (Designed By When)

02 – Deception Genesis

03 – Du Nordavind (1998 Re-recording)

04 – Alone (Intellecto / Valle Darktrip)

05 – The Throne Of Tragedy (Phantom FX Jungle

Remix)

06 – La Masquerade Infernale (Valle / Hellhammer

Reconstruction)

07 – Master Of Disguise (Phantom FX Remix

With Gangstafications By S.C.N.)

08 – Painting My Horror (G. Wolf Levitation Mix)

09 – Ad Astra (The Magenta Experience)

10 – Ad Astra (Ensemble Version)

58

seem weird or out of place, the background

music and beats are absolutely

great, the guitar “solos” are resampled

and looped over and over again, giving it

a crazy swirling twist. The lyrics on the

whole release are also manipulated: raging

from looping or being sung in different

style, in the case of “Painting my

horror” (the song with the most enigmatic

atmosphere) – in a different language.

The most twisted part is the remake

of “La Masquerade Infernale”, just

by adding a simple beat the song’s

rhythmic structure was even more emphasized.

This sick little piece of music evokes the

image of two crazy jesters caught in a

schizophrenic dance; spinning in a perfect,

cabbalistic (I write this word with

fear) precision around an imaginary axis,

grinning at each other and at the few

viewers hidden in the corridors of their

obscure theatre. The album ends with

the string quartet track from “Ad Astra”

which, even if it lacks structure when

standing alone” gives the listener the

pleasure to rebuild the original melodies

in his head, or just to enjoy the ambience

itself.

You might have noticed I didn’t mention

the re-recording of “Du Nordavind ”.

There is much to say about this particular

track, especially if you know it has

four official versions, which do not vary

much, and this is one of them. The best

parts of this version are the vocals: even

though they are filtered they give the

song a new, blurry charm.

Arcturus always seem to follow their own

direction, regularly wandering beyond

the borders of what people thought to be

the borders of creativity or even good

taste. In order to create something new,

you have to destroy what you have already

done….or?!

“In darker institutions

They are beyond discipline

And repentance is no option”

________

* Edvard Munch’s “Jealousy” paintings,

Mayhem’s several resembling live albums

Ulv

IN THE WOODS…

Strange In Stereo

Release: 1999

Label: Misanthropy

Avantgenre: Atmospheric Doom Rock

Duration: 63:10

Origin: Norway

After the ornate symphonic rock of “Omnio,”

In the Woods… stripped down their

sound and production for “Strange in

Stereo,” opting for a somewhat colder,

edgier approach. The songs are shorter,

more straightforward, and less opulent.

But the band makes it work in their favor,

abandoning cozy familiarity for something

more hermetic and strange.

Hence the title.

The first song, “Closing In,” establishes

the atmosphere right from the start with

a claustrophobic white noise and piano

plodding sound somewhere between David

Bowie’s laconic “Heroes” period and

spacious Scandinavian doom, poppy and

gloomy without ever quite veering into

goth rock territory. Jan Transin’s low voice

eerily hangs over the music; he sings

TRACKLIST:

01 – Closing In

02 – Cell

03 – Vanish In The Absence Of Virtue

04 – Basement Corridors

05 – Ion

06 – Generally More Worried Than Married

07 – Path Of The Righteous

08 – Dead Men’s Creek

09 – Titan Transcendence

10 – Shelter

11 – By The Banks Of Pandemonium

59

about intense sexual attraction in obtuse,

introverted language, his lyrics corresponding

with the opaque mysteriousness

of the music.

In the Woods… use metal guitar tones

but their overall arrangements contain a

classic rock sense of harmony, and ambiguous

glaminess hangs in the air with

the sexually adventurous lyrics and the

drag imagery of the album art. In this

sense, “Strange in Stereo” carries great

crossover appeal. I’ve played it for rock

fans and goths, and both parties took to

it- the goths, being the good club kids

that they are, even danced to it.

The tempo varies from song to song,

even reaching black metal momentum

once, but never betrays the subtle feeling.

The band is joined by a cellist on a

few meandering songs reminiscent of

Amber Asylum, seriously creepy and a

little pastoral, like being buried alive in a

pleasant garden.

“Strange in Stereo” is metal perched on

the crossroads of popular music, not quite

metal, not quite rock, but occupying a

dark gray zone somewhere in between.

James Slone

SAMAEL

Eternal

Release: 1999

Label: Century Media

Avantgenre: Industrial Metal Future Pop

Duration: 47:19

Origin: Switzerland

Samael’s “Eternal” is remarkably catchy

for an industrial metal album, sounding

like disco music from a parallel dimension

where state socialism worked and

the Soviet Union won the Cold War, a

kind of worker state rock n’ roll. I’m sure

Samael don’t quite see it that way, but

with the utopian lyrics, the synthesizer

drenched choruses, and hammer clanging

industrial beats (“Together” sounds

like a totalitarian anthem), the music is

like something you’d hear over the PA at

the end of history. Someone might read

this and say “hey, but Laibach already

did that!” but not like this. Where Laibach

revel in a certain pomposity and

schmaltzy aloofness- Samael is smooth

and catchy, like monolithic dance music.

Their actual lyrics offer romantic yearning

for an authentically better world instead

of Stalinism or nationalism, and

the band writes love songs- they sound

tough and militaristic but reveal a band

who are basically nice Swiss guys. The

album takes the excessiveness of metal

and industrial and runs it through a

dance filter, polishing it off with a big

production. Scarily powerful, blissfully intense,

infectiously groovy, and sometimes

quite beautiful, “Eternal” is like an

collection of love songs from a posthuman

world.

James Slone

TRACKLIST:

01 – Year Zero

02 – Ailleurs

03 – Together

04 – Ways

05 – The Cross

06 – Us

07 – Supra Karma

08 – I

09 – Nautilus & Zeppelin

10 – Infra Galaxia

11 – Being

12 – Radiant Star

60

SOLEFALD

Neonism

Release: 1999

Label: Avantgarde Music

Avantgenre: Pastiche Metal

Duration: 50:11

Origin: Norway

Official site:

http://www.myspace.com/solefaldofficial

Neonism was a radical departure from

Solefald’s debut album. Gone were the

eccentric symphonic metal arrangements

and urbane pastoral pretensions, replaced

with a frenetic pastiche, a black

metal Mr. Bungle with an irreverent

sense of humor and wild mood swings.

The first song, “Fluorescent (The Total

Orchestra)” signals the band’s new intent,

with razor sharp black metal overlaid

with synth pop, surf rock, and unexpected

reggae breakdowns. Cornelius

and Lazare, the composers and players,

are all over the map when it comes to

singing, offering some poppy melodies

and punk smarminess along with the

usual assortment of growls, hisses, and

shrieks. There’s even some reggae toasting

and rap boasting when the music

calls for it.

Towards the latter half of the album, the

metal becomes sparser and a poppier

sensibility takes hold, with the

punk/worldbeat satire “Backpacka Baba”

and the silly synth prog of “Third Person

Plural” taking center stage. The album’s

overall production sucks in a good way,

with guitar lines reduced to a grindcore

buzz and blasting tin can drums. It’s one

of the rawest black metal recordings

ever and yet completely “untrue,” defying

every convention the genre had attempted

to establish. The lyrics follow

suit, offering snide political commentary,

jabs at globalized culture, exploration of

sexual utopianism, references to “Twin

Peaks,” and a feeling of deep urban malaise

best summed up with the lyric “she

swallows the light, only to throw up shadows

minutes later on a broken public

toilet.”

Neonism might have been hated when it

came out, but extreme metal has opened

up a lot since then. With the risk of making

a bad post hoc argument, I suspect

Neonism had a lot to do with the outright

abandonment by many black metal

bands of the rote sound. The album injected

some much needed color into the

cold gray landscape of Scandinavian

black metal, a fearless experiment hell

bent on teaching extreme metal how to

laugh and sing and all that other good

shit.

James Slone

TRACKLIST:

01. Fluorescent

02. Speed Increased To Scaffold

03. CK II Chanel N*6

04. Proprietors Of Red

05. A Motion Picture

06. Omnipolis

07. Backpaka Baba

09. 0434 PM

10. The New Timelessness

61

DøDHEIMSGARD

666 International

Release: 1999

Label: Moonfog Productions

Avantgenre: Kosmische Techno Black

Duration: 66:06

Origin: Norway

Official site:

http://www.myspace.com/dodheimsgard

With 666 International, we

see Dødheimsgard creating,

of course out of the famous

black metal hole where they

came from, a whole new way

of playing with sounds. Already

on their previous EP

Satanic Art, we could hear

more and more traces of the

upcoming chaos, but nothing

was so certain yet. Whatever

happened to guitarist and prime composer

Vicotnik, singer and lyricist

Aldrahn and their now partners-in-crime

between 1997 and 1999, there’s an obvious

dive into psychedelic adventures

within the music they then put into form,

just as there are clear evidences of

schizophrenia in the way many absurd

musical details happen to create, once

placed together, kind of an attractively

strange meaning. The music here is as

much groovy as it is disordered.

Out of all the nine songs, there is for instance

“Shiva-Interfere”, an almost ten

minutes sick industrial floating opera,

where Aldrahn sings some unpleasant

tales of mythology and outer space, with

a uniquely bizarre and angular beauty in

his tragic-comic vocal tones. As he’s just

about to cry, being all sweetly delicate

and nostalgic, he then explodes into a

perverse, sadistic and out-there laughter.

I would even go as far as to say that

there’s a certain “alien” quality to his

voice – it is simply out of this world. All

of his vocals, in this song, are performed

over a mysterious desert-riffing style

which follows some sort of a deep, pulsing

electronic drum groove. Quite special,

to say the least! Well the majority of

666 International is performed on the

thin borders normally placed between

sanity and common sense, in such a way

that at first, you always feel a sort of uncertainty,

an odd unpleasantness, a real

feeling of discord and paranoiac terror.

You’re not really sure if what you hear is

supposed to be kick-ass black metal or a

horrible mind-fuck. Then again, that’s

what avant-garde music is all about: to

first question what has always been conceived

as normal and natural, and then

create a whole new universe.

Be very attentive when it comes to all

the textures and the wrappings of the

musical content displayed here,

because that is where Dødheimsgard

do shine through the most

on this album. Ginge from Norwegian

electronic band Subgud had

his hands on the final product and

its easy to hear why, as there’s a

serious attention to a certain atmosphere

of sounds, clearly reminiscent

of techno music. I’m

not saying that form wins over

content; quite the contrary actually,

because if it weren’t for Vicotnik’s

singular guitar twists and how he builds

these up and down in the most unusual

way, along crushing groovy techno

drums and all kinds of synthesizers and

grand piano, I couldn’t be writing these

words.

Every black metal possible experimentations

has been given a try on 666 International,

for the better or for the worst,

all depending on how far you can actually

take it, and it’s as much death,

thrash, black and rock metal music here

as it is noise and ambient related there –

usually at the same time! From pure

mayhem blast beat chaos to slick,

techno avant-garde rock, Vicotnik and

TRACKLIST:

1. Shiva-Interfere

2. Ion Storm

3. Carpet Bombing

4. Regno Potiri

5. Final Conquest

6. Logic

7. Sonar Bliss

8. Magic

9. Completion

66. Hidden Track

62

his super-hero mates cover it all up

around here. Come and discover how

sick and perverted excessively aggressive

attitudes in music can become in the

right (or wrong) hands. Only for those

who can find real pleasure deep in pure

psychosomatic madness and druginfused

cosmic fantasies.

Olivier Côté

PECCATUM

Strangling From Within

Release: 1999

Label: Candlelight Records

Avantgenre: Eerie Progressive Black Metal

Duration: 43:35

Origin: Norway

Official site: http://www.myspace.com/peccatum

The world’s metal scene is heavily loaded

with side projects and secondary bands.

In a somehow rough statistic ruling, it is

quite obvious that most of them don’t

elevate to the level of the whelping

mother band. Naturally, the expectation

arising when there’s new mysterious

project, courtesy of prominent and influential

artists like Vegard Tveitan. To

those who breathe their share of black

clouds, the man known as Ihsahn, the

leader of the best black metal band ever,

Emperor. I think that the man is a genius

– limit breaker musician and amazing

lyricist, even a poet. With his vision,

Emperor defined anew the genre with

each new album, with its complex and

expressive music. Despite the temptation,

this review handles Ihsahn’s other

band and the most meaningful one –

Peccatum.

Actually, Peccatum is a family band. Beside

Ihsahn stands the other prominent

and balancing figure – his wife, Heidi

Tveitan, AKA Ihriel. The third figure is

Ihriel’s brother, Lord PZ (didn’t have his

real name), vocalist of the goth-metal

band Source of Tide. This fact, as later

examined, contributed to the album the

wrapping feeling that the music was created

by people very close to each other,

as they are very close to the music and

to the worlds behind it.

Peccatum was formed by Ihriel in 1998,

as an expression to her ambitions to

translate her inner world to sounds. To

my interpretation, this data is placing

the band in constant tension between its

leading figures. Between her meaningful

contribution in arousing life and shining,

and his proven ability as an erudite musician,

there’s somehow a concealed

struggle which leaves her, carved in our

minds as less important figure, under his

reputation. As goes the first paragraph in

this review, the attitude towards Peccatum

is like another fruit from Ihsahn’s

tree, and Ihriel follow his trail.

Peccatum’s debut album, dating from

1999, was conceived through a tight cooperation

of the married couple. She

created the concept and wrote all the

lyrics, he composed the songs and

played all the instruments. They both

sing – Ihsahn with his majestic voice,

sometimes screeching, sometimes low

but mainly clean, revealing clear Placet

tendencies and operatic attitude.

To this attitude, Ihriel is playing a partner,

delivering the songs in a tender Soprano

voice, sometimes cracking into

screams and whispers. Lord PZ, also a

clean vocalist, is the weakest of the

threesome. Although his voice fits the

TRACKLIST:

01. Where Do I Then Belong

02. Speak Of The Devil (As The Devil May Care)

03. The Change

04. The Song Which No Name Carry

05. The Sand Was Made Of Mountains

06. I Breathe Without Access To Air

07. The World Of No Worlds

08. And Pray For Me

09. An Ovation To Art

63

music well, it’s not as impressive as his

counterparts and therefore he disappears

in the back. Musically, Peccatum is

squeezing itself to the somewhat vague

category of avant-garde metal. In practice,

the band represents Ihsahn’s open

perspectives, as expressed since the

middle Emperor period: not just black

metal and its satellites, but also progressive,

ambient, classical and symphonic music,

as well some electronic sparks. Consequent

upon this, Peccatum is a bucketful

of quite a few musical genres, under his

vision.

The basis is black metal, travelling

through gentleness to aggressive breakings

and has given unrest melodies. Also

accompanied by synth work, defined by

classic escort and ambient sprinkles,

within progressive song constructions.

Over this concoction lies a feeling one

can get by a careful listening to a profound

doom metal album: the same feeling

of enlightening corners with a little

torch, of the deep penetration into the

artist’s inner depths. The album is abundant

with emotions, in writing and in

performance and it’s capable of cancelling

schematic declarations that are not

cohesive of metal and of pure emotions

display. Despite its creator’s experience,

the album shines of precedence, the rejoicing

of primal creation.

The album contains 9 songs of changing

diverse, keeping the high Peccatumian

standards: complex craftsmanship, varied

singing and refined playing, wrapped

in great beauty. The opening song carries

the scorched wonderment that accompanied

the entire album as a ghost:

“Where do I then belong?” – violins, pipe

organ and ethereal vocals against Ihriel

reciting the lyric as a silent elegy. A

howling guitar will strike the listener with

the second song outburst, “Speak of the

Devil (As the Devil May Care)”, and leads

to a maelstrom in which the three are

singing, one into another, inside and

outside to breath, shrinking under a neoclassical

cloak that reminds of a horror

movie soundtrack, crippling behind one’s

back.

Throughout the album, waves of guitars

crafting them unto the listener – like the

vocals, sometimes they’re breaking or

run wildly to melodic solos, hardening

and calming, and one cannot chase the

threesome as they run down the abyss.

In addition, the main riff in “The Change”

reminds us that the black metal roots

are too deep to be forgotten. The progressive

structure of “The Sand Was Made

of Mountains” is stirring and proves

that complexity and beauty do live together.

Nonetheless, the best song on

the album and my favourite is “The

World of No Worlds” – almost 9 epic minutes,

so fragile, breaking with guitars

that almost touch the climax and the

heart beats, and the song repeats that to

the next effort.

The album exalts a concept of selfseeking

journey of a human being (sometimes

mentioned as an angel), torn

between life and reality, and the worlds

beyond, lack of pertinence cast upon him

like the hands of the burning sun. The

concept is split into two parts: the first is

named “The Black and the White Meant

for Nothing. The Shadows Meant for All”,

includes the first 5 songs and binds a

process of death and rebirth into a new

shape and foreign destiny. The second

part, “The Carrier of Sorrow Transforms”,

describes the inner decay, the

consuming darkness, the emptiness.

It’s obvious that the lyrical side of the

album was conceived through a lot of

thoughtful work: the lyrics are wellwritten,

abound with metaphors and still

navigate clearly through the protagonist’s

feelings. Over the words lies a poetic

magic, giving tenderness and dark

grace. In some contradiction to the the

fact that the album is a concept album

and in sharp contradiction to the song

“The World of No Worlds”, each song is a

world of its own, another step in the

eternal quest of Peccatum to reveal the

secrets of the human soul – the laden

and silent cosmos. The combination of

the endless musical abilities of Ihsahn,

as a musician and as a co-creator, and of

the unusual interpretation of Ihriel gives

the band two hands: creating and anthropomorphizing.

Another interesting issue, dealing with

the previously mentioned tension, relates

to the selection of the album’s

64

name. Although it’s a line taken from the

sixth song, it illustrates well the atmosphere,

and even so, in light of the bursting

of creativity, an ironic exclamation is

needed. On the one hand, one can wonder

whether it’s the hidden sides of Ihsahn,

which he cannot express in his

mother-band, or a statement with a wink

to his audience – my creation wellspring

will never cease to gurgle. On the other

hand, it is appropriate to spotlight Ihriel,

for she formed the band and created the

basics of the album.

It is possible that choosing the name is

her personal utterance, men’s aside. An

optional reinforcement of this choice can

be found on the album’s cover, where

she appears alone, on a dark green

background, directing wide open eyes

and tight lips to us. She might be the

strangled one, maybe because her husband

talent gets eternal hails and her talent

stays in the shadows, and Peccatum

is her way to daylight.

In my opinion, the album is very unique

thanks to the cooperation

of

these two. Although

it’s colored

much with

Ihriel’s outlines,

his valid most in

favor of the

hearts and minds

who created, and not only for Ihsahn’s

brand name. At the same time, Ihriel

proves her talent – not just “the wife

of…” – in an overwhelming display,

which is not disposable, but it’s only

natural that the band finds it a bit hard

to reconstruct the primal flame in its future

albums, continuing the experimental

line but suffering from what sterility and

over polished sounds.

In 2001, during her Peccatum activity,

Ihriel formed her solo project “Star of

Ash”, displaying experimental electronics

with metal and rock influences. Lord PZ

has left the band, which took the direction

of the further realms of avantgarde,

of electronics and jazz, until the

split-up in March 2006.

Jobst

OPETH

Still Life

Release: 1999/2003

Label: Peaceville Records/Music For Nations

Avantgenre: Triangulation Rock

Duration: 1:02:29

Origin: Sweden

Official site: http://www.opeth.com/

There should have been way more

e||–3—–3——3——3—-3—-3—-3—-3—-3—-3—-1–||

B||–1——1—–1——1—-1—-1—-1—-1—-1—-10—1–||

G||–2——4—–4——0—-0—-0—-0—-0—-0—-01—0–||

D||–3——4—–2——0—-0—-0—-0—-0—-0—-01—0–||

A||–3——3—–4——2—-2—-2—-2—-2—-2—-2—-2–||

E||–1——————-3—-3—-3—-3—-3—-3—-3—-3–||

but I am glad there is not too much of

c|x—————|—————-|

h|–x-x-x-x-x-x-x-|x-x-x-x-x——-|

s|—-o——-o—|—-o—–oooooo|

b|o-o—o-o—–o-|–o—o———|

which sounded more like The Scorpions

than anything else I’ve ever heard and

wrote about. I did enjoy

G|———————————|

D|———0-4-2-1—————–|

A|—0-3-2———4~————–|

E|-1———————4~——–|

and of course

G|——————————————|

D|——————5—5/9—9/7—9/11h12-|

A|-3-3-3–034——————————-|

E|————-5-3————————–|

but I still wish there was more double

bass.

Jonny Lignano

TRACKLIST:

01 – The Moor

02 – Godhead’s Lament

03 – Benighted

04 – Moonlapse Vertigo

05 – Face Of Melinda

06 – Serenity Painted Death

07 – White Cluster

65

2000

AGHORA

Aghora

Release: 2000

Label: Dobles Productions

Avantgenre: Meditational Metal

Duration: 55:40

Origin: USA

Official site: http://www.aghora.org/

For some odd reason,

my brain could

never conceive why

the principles of far

eastern philosophy

have never, or

rarely, been the

source of inspiration

of some of the

greatest metal albums ever released. I

always found it surprising since some of

rock ‘n rolls greatest rooted in the 60s

hippie scene who took great interest in

the wisdom of taoism, buddhism, and

especially hinduism.

I suppose that many artists found it easier

to find inspiration in the realms of

drug consumption which is totally ok

since it provided many precious moments

in music history. They tend to

have the negative externality of taking

their toll on the musicians we love

though.

And then there are persons like Santiago

Dobles, a Berklee School of Music graduate,

practicioner of body and soul balancing

exercises ranging from qi gong to

yoga and mastermind behind Florida based

jazz metal prodigy Aghora. Those of

you who know about the Aghori know

that there can’t be a better name for a

metal band that seem to find part of its

inspiration in the ancient sanskrits, since

the Aghori are also refered of being religious

anarchists.

The Aghori are a hindu sect which worships

Lord Shiva, the ultimate deity in

Hinduism. The Aghori distinct themselves

by an unusual approach to the theme of

duality, which for them, doesn’t exist. In

essence, their beliefs boil down to two

points: First, the gods are perfect. Second,

the gods are responsible for everything.

Hence, everything that exists is

perfect. The Aghori even find beauty and

perfection in such actions as consuming

excrements, cannibalism and other

things which the common occidental inhabitant

would consider being disturbing

and sick.

I have no idea how hard or easy it is to

digest any sort of backdoor releases but

as far as the band is concerned: the only

thing I find hard to come by here is to

select the right words that will make you

understand that you need to order this

album right now!

It is with a crushing in-your-face style

riff that “Immortal Bliss” kicks in the

door to a domain of yet unheard soundscapes.

The nine songs containing tracklist

will take you on a journey through

neckbreaking complex, syncapated

rythmic riffs (“Immortal Bliss”, “Satya”),

driven by a powerful and epic bass lines,

up to exalted jazzy parts (“Frames”,

“Jivatma”) consisting of wonderful guitar

melodies, some oriental folk instrumentation,

subtle pianos and Danishta

Rivero’s beautiful vocal lines that underline

a yearning for the answers to our

most fundamental philosophical questions.

I must stress here that I am glad

to hear a women on the microphone that

manages to give her vocals a sopranic

injection without sounding gothic. Her

TRACKLIST:

01 – Immortal Bliss

02 – Satya

03 – Transfiguration

04 – Frames

05 – Mind’s Reality

06 – Kali Yuga

07 – Jivatma

08 – Existence

09 – Anugraha

66

voice also joins in the numerous oriental

intervals which is an appliance I am particularly

fond of.

This album lives of everything it is built

up upon. Every element has a prominent

spot in the sound. I wish more bands

would understand that each instrument

is part of the whole and that only a balanced

equilibrium between all of them

will provide the listener with the most

pleasant sonic experience possible. It

might be far fetched but it wouldn’t surprise

me if Dobles said that this is one of

the goals he wishes to put into effect

with this band since he knows that only a

balance between the energies flowing in

our body leave us in good health. He

sure found a good balance in the production

of this album.

I can only pronounce my deep respect

for this complete work of art. And those

of you who are not interested in the

whole concept: if you want to know what

Sean Malone and Sean Reinert where up

to, among others, before reuniting Cynic,

then this is for you too. Namasté.

Trident

FLEURETY

Department Of Apocalyptic Affairs

Release: 2000

Label: Supernal Music

Avantgenre: BM Pulp

Duration: 50:01

Origin: Norway

Official site: http://folk.uio.no/sveineh/fleurety/

In 2000, Fleurety moved into more ambitious

terrain with “Department of Apocalyptic

Affairs,” a convoluted genre

spanning event with special guest stars

from the Norwegian black metal scene

(Maniac, Garm, Hellhammer, et al.). The

songs are still cold and ugly, but have a

sense of humor and jump around a lot.

Late period King Crimson riffs slam head

on into jazzy trip hop while scat vocals

dance on industrial metal surfaces. The

production ties it all together with an

empty flatness that somehow makes the

music sound paranoid and manic.

Lyrics are grim and frosty, but are more

interested in drug abuse, murder, and

suicide than trolls and mountains- less

Nord, more noir. Vocals are provided by

veteran Alexander Nordgaren, but he’s

joined by Heidi Gjermundsen, Karianne

Horn, Maniac (Mayhem), and Garm (Ulver).

Naturally all voices are different,

but here they’re joined with a unified

sense of sardonic amusement, flat, understated,

and compellingly disinterested,

the voice of the hardboiled. Mari

Solberg’s sax work adds a forlorn urban

dissonance to a few songs, spicing up

what would otherwise be a purely metallic

smorgasbord.

While not quite the classic “Min Tid Skal

Komme” is, Department is an amusing

stroll though the alleyways and gutters

of extreme metal.

James Slone

TRACKLIST:

01. Exterminators

02. Face In A Fever

03. Shotgun Blast

04. Fingerprint

05. Facets 2.0

06. Last-Minute Lies

07. Barb Wire Smile (Snap Ant Version)

08. Face In A Fever (Nordgaren Edit)

67

RAM-ZET

Pure Therapy

Release: 2000

Label: Spikefarm Records

Avantgenre: Black Industrial Gothic Nu Metal

Duration: 50:24

Origin: Norway

Official site: http://www.ram-zet.com

Fat rhythmic guitar riffs in the typical Nu

Metal style, powerful mid-tempo drums,

guttural vocals, spiced with keyboards

and elektro sounds – Is this Ram-

Mstein? No, it’s the debut-album of Ram-

Zet. At the first listening I got very annoyed.

Around the year 2000 there have

been so many bands trying to create a

very modern millenium-sound, mixing

the popular Rammstein-guitars with futuristic

elements. Ram-Zet seemed to be

another of those bands with big, modernistic

production and little new ideas.

So I immediately fell asleep.

But when I woke up I found myself in a

sparkling world. Trivial riffs and fat production

are just the commercial foreground

of “Pure Therapy”. As soon as

their winsome rhythms and melodies have

catched your ears

they start to mutate.

The rhythms get complex

and winded. The

melodies get exotic,

sometimes dissonant,

sometimes oriental. One

of the biggest strengths

of Ram-Zet are the

elaborate arrangements.

Driving headbanger riffs

are joined by slow violins

and sweet angel voices. Peculiar

weird themes melt into catchy tunes.

Dramatic and bombastic parts flow into

peaceful ambient-scapes. Everything is

very varied and colorful. And it fits perfectly

together. Ram-Zet have their

unique style somewhere between Industrial,

Gothic-Wave, Alternative and tons

of all kinds of Metal. They are one of the

very few bands, that are catchy and

commercial, but also avantgardistic and

innovative at the same time.

Chrystof

FANTOMAS

The Director’s Cut

Release: 2001

Label: Ipecac

Avantgenre:

Pre-postmodern/

postmortem Subpop

Duration: 38:47

Origin: USofA

very +

Jonny Lignano

TRACKLIST:

01 – The Godfather

02 – Der Golem

03 – Experiment In Terror

04 – One Step Beyond

05 – Night Of The Hunter (Remix)

06 – Cape Fear

07 – Rosemary’s Baby

08 – The Devil Rides Out (Remix)

09 – Spider Baby

10 – The Omen (Ave Satani)

11 – Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer

12 – Vendetta

13 – Untitled

14 – Investigation Of A Citizen Above Suspicion

15 – Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

16 – Charade

TRACKLIST:

01. The Fall

02. King

03. For The Sake Of Mankind

04. Eternal Voice

05. No Peace

06. Kill My Thoughts

07. Sense

Special Print Edition of

Avantgarde Metal Magazine:

Avantgarde Metal Classics

14th of July 2008

Imprint:

Chief editor:

Chrystof Niederwieser

PDF design and layout:

Katja Honeywine van de Barrel

Cover Artwork: Chrystof Niederwieser

Webmaster:

Bernd Grünwald

Articles written by:

aVoid, Olivier Côté, Jobst,

Jonny Lignano, James Slone, Polygon,

Tentakel P., revon, Suleiman Ali, Trident,

Ulv, C.L. Edwards, mang tsze, Bernd Grünwald,

MvH, Katja Honeywine van de Barrel and Chrystof

Contact:

to get in contact with the crew members

visit the “about” section on

WWW.AVANTGARDE-METAL.COM

 

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