Casu Marzu – “Psychosomatic” review

Posted in album review, Casu Marzu with tags , , , , , , , , on January 3, 2011 by GRAMPS Pantheon

 

When experiencing a band whose namesake is a cheese, one may be led to expect something tongue-in-cheek.  Yes, casu marzu is a cheese…a maggot-infested, decaying cheese.   However, this is no gore- splattered grind album either.  Casu Marzu is a serious extreme metal band, whose name, enigmatic in its relation to the music, fittingly reflects the album’s mysterious lyrics and curious blend of musical influences. 

Psychosomatic is surprisingly expansive for a 15 minute EP.  Divination and Legata revel in epic soundscapes that flit between traditional melodic death metal and ethereal black metal.  There are frequent moments that channel the great Immortal and Enslaved, especially in the cold, yet progressive edge to much of the album’s black metal sound.  The lyrics follow suit, being quite atypical for metal, while being mediated through a black metal rasp.  They are all over the place, ranging from the mythological leanings of Legata to more introspective meditations, like Plague Bringer’s allusion to a J. Alfred Prufrock musing “Do I dare disturb the universe?”

Casu Marzu is still a new band though, and sometimes it shows.  The drumming sounds programmed on this release despite them having an actual drummer.  This digital drum-kit sound gives the music an artificial sound that sometimes enters the realm of sloppiness, especially during the introduction to Tempest.  A few of the tracks end somewhat abruptly as well.  Though, it is worth noting that neither of these complaints detracts enough from the EP to ruin one’s enjoyment.  They are definitely excusable for a first release.

It can be easy to be too hard on a newcomer.  Clearly lacking the benefits of a proper studio recording and mixing, Psychosomatic nevertheless succeeds in its sonic deliverance of extreme metal joy.  Casu Marzu takes influence from the various masters of black and death metal, but isn’t afraid to look forward.  Musically and lyrically a success, Psychosomatic is an entertaining listen that should prove a more delectable morsel than its band’s namesake.

NOTE: The album can be download legally for free at this location: http://casumarzumusic.bandcamp.com/

-Max

Interview with Akitsa

Posted in Akitsa, black metal, interview with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

For over 10 years now, Canadian black metal band Akitsa has been been crafting their unique style of eclectic punkish black metal.  Their newest album “Au crépuscule de l’espérance,” the first in four years, continues their unpredictable and unique approach to heavy music.  Pantheon performs an interview with Akitsa member O.T. to gain a deeper knowledge of their sound.

Akitsa’s new album “Au crépuscule de l’espérance” has just been released.  Are you pleased with the result?

Yes, we are pleased with the final result of the album. It possesses the deepest, most sincere lyrics we’ve ever written. Musically, it is evolving toward new ground while retaining the fundamental roots of Akitsa.

The lyrics of Loyauté and Vers La Mort seem to be both prideful and courageous, such as “Prends garde! La peur amène le déshonneur” (Beware! Fear brings dishonor).  Are these the types of lyrical themes that Akitsa typically wishes to address?  What else do you write about when creating lyrics for Akitsa?

“Loyauté” is about standing tall with your head high in any situation. Even in defeat, don’t act cowardly. Stay true to what you are. So yes, it’s about courage and pride. “Vers la mort’’ is about death.

It is noted that the lyrics for La Voix Brutale were borrowed from the poet Albert Lozeau.  Why did you choose to use this poem and do you often draw from poetry and/or literature when writing the lyrics and music for Akitsa?

This text from Lozeau is amazingly crude. It also reflects the overall mood of “Au crépuscule de l’espérance”. “Don’t wish, be not or from bones and flesh and have no remorse.” This is the only text we’ve borrowed from what I can recall. Our lyrics come as Akitsa does; we don’t rely on any specific thoughts when we create.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but it sounds as if the audio quality changes from song to song on Akitsa albums.  Are all of the songs on Akitsa albums recorded at the same time and with the same equipment?

The songs were sporadically recorded at different time periods. This should explain the changes and variation in our sound as the settings were changed for each composition in order to reflect the exact sonic essence we were looking for. We normally use the same equipment every single time. Almost all of our recordings were made using an old 4-track that I have owned for years.

I see that you commented on the black metal scene back in an older interview, circa 2001/2.  But being that it is nearly a decade later, I’m curious as to what your thoughts are on the current black metal scene.

To be totally honest, I don’t believe that there is any scene right now. The state of black metal has changed enormously in the past decade, and it has evolved into something huge. Nowadays there are so many subdivisions of the genre and strangers who do not fully understand the basic spirit of black metal. It’s definitely impossible to talk about a single scene. Everyone is doing whatever they want on their own.

Have either members of Akitsa had any formal training in music or are you self-taught?

Néant is self-taught while I had some formal Piano classes at a very young age.

In your opinion, what is the best live show that you’ve ever played?

The New York City concert was our best.

Does Akitsa have plans to tour any time soon?

There are no plans as of right now, but we will see what the future holds.

What do you do outside of Akitsa?

We live our lives.

What are some of your favorite albums of all time?

This is a hard question and it could go on forever, I’ll name the few that come across my mind right now:

Absurd “Facta Loquuntur” and “Asgardsrei”, Arkona “Imperium”, Boyd Rice and Friends “Music, Martinis and Misanthropy”, Behexen “My Soul for His Glory”, Bethlehem “Dark Metal” and “Dictius Te Necare”, Brighter Death Now “Necrose Evangelicum” and “Innerwar”, Burzum “Det Som Engang Var”,“Hvist Lyset Tar Oss” and “Filosofem”, Darkthrone “A Blaze in the Northern Sky”, “Under a Funeral Moon”, “Transilvanian Hunger” and “Panzerfaust”, Deathspell Omega “Inquisitors of Satan”, Disembowelment “Transcendence into the Peripheral”, Genocide Organ “Remember”, Gontyna Kry “Welowie”, Ildjarn “Strength and Anger”, In the Woods… “Heart of the Ages”, Kaosritual “Svøpt Morgenrød”, Katharsis “666” and “Kruzifixxion”, Mayhem “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”, Monumentum “In Absentia Christi”, NON “Blood and Flame”, “In the Shadow of the Sword”, “Might” and “God and Beast”, Peste Noire “Ballade cuntre lo Anemi Francor”, Rotting Christ “Thy Mighty Contract”, S.V.E.S.T. “Urfaust”, Samael “Worship Him”, “Blood Ritual” and “Ceremony of Opposites”, Varathron “His Majesty at the Swamp”, Veles “Night on the Bare Mountain” and “Black Hateful Metal”… The list could go on.

Thanks a lot for the interview, O.T..  Do you have anything that you would like to promote? Feel free!

Our new album is available right now on cassette and CD. Visit www.t-d-g.net to get your copy. Thanks for this interview.

 

Max

Underrated Black Metal Gems

Posted in Hirilorn, Mutilation Rites, Trist, Urfaust, Zwenz with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 24, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

I made a video to go along with this article.   It’s set up to allow you to sample the tunes while you read my descriptions!


1. Mutilation Rites – Rewind a week back.  My friends and I, all college students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, are in attendance at a local black metal show on the second floor of a co-op.  Only a block away from the hordes of drunk fraternity parties, the concert seemed to exist in its own little microcosm.  As if to highlight this disparity, an old couple’s dinner party was visibly occurring in the adjacent building, completely unaware of the sonic blasphemy taking place a mere 10 feet from their window.  However, this unique atmosphere would have amounted to nothing if the bands weren’t up to snuff.  But, oh my…were they.  New York based Mutilation Rites was undoubtedly the highlight of the show.  Despite only having a single demo to their name, they blast like veterans of the genre.  A hint of melancholy but plenty of headbangable moments as well.  I could see them getting signed pretty soon.

 

2. Trist – Not to be confused with the suicidal band from the Czech Republic, the Trist from Germany is instead a more atmospheric band that demands an open mind and plenty of patience.  Especially on the hour-long ambient black metal track “Hin,” the listener is forced to treat the song as one would a traditional ambient cut.  The buzz guitars and quick drumming almost paradoxically become a source of the ambience, with subtle keyboards drifting in and out ranging from a magical melody to spacey whooshes.  Trist are one of those bands that necessitate a certain mindset of the listener in order to exhibit its maximal effects.  For me, I need a cloudy and rainy day coupled with a sense of relaxation and slight sadness.  My experiences with Trist are a rarity, but consequently, I cherish their almost spiritual effect that much more.

 

3. Urfaust –  While Trist focuses on expansive and space-like soundscapes, Urfaust goes deep within, concurrently forcing an existential search whilst dipping into titillating pleasures like liquor and occultism.  Urfaust seems to be built around these paradoxes (or do they even deserve to be labeled as such?).  Sonically, Urfaust builds upon the dichotomous structure that Burzum so popularized, namely the album arrangement of metal tracks lulled slowly to pure ambience.  Urfaust have traversed styles throughout their releases though, eventually landing upon a noisier and more ritualistic sound on the latest release.  But if you want my opinion, start with Geist Ist Teufel, their most emotional album.  (Also, keep on the lookout for an Urfaust interview coming up on Pantheon!)

 

4. Hirilorn –  Hirilorn has already been praised to infinity on Pantheon, through my review of Legends of Evil and Eternal Death, and Ryan’s Top Metal Songs article.  However, I find it hard to stress enough, how fantastical and majestic Hirilorn truly is.  Most lengthy black metal songs, either trance-inducing (Trist!) or flat out boring (99% of those bands who try), all usually seem to rely on the groundwork laid by the early 90s innovators.  Few bands truly break free of the simple Darkthrone riff style, that so effortlessly becomes a bore to hear.  Hirilorn opted for a more epic approach, with guitars that fit the long running time of the album.  I’ve still never heard a more epic lead guitar work.  Strangely enough, the rhythm guitarist Hasjarl went on to form Deathspell Omega, one of the most technical and progressive metal bands around today.  And he was only the rhythm guitarist…I wonder what the lead guitarist is doing nowadays.  I also can’t believe, given Deathspell Omega’s popularity, that Hirilorn is such a well-kept secret.  I’m trying to bring it out!

P.S. – The combination of Hirilorn with the Berserk manga and anime series is a match made in heaven.

5.  ZwenZ – Speaking of well-kept secrets, German one-man band ZwenZ is responsible for one of the best folk/black metal albums I’ve ever heard: A Life’s Work of Natrgaard.  Yet, nobody seems to listen to it!  Surely, ZwenZ’s discography is really hit or miss, mostly miss if you ask me.  That being said, this album is definitely a dictionary definition ‘diamond in the rough.’  Self-released in 2005, it never quite received the coverage it deserved.  The nature vibes of this album are out of control, with fellow German band Horn being the only band that comes anywhere close.  Natrgaard is a fantastic guitarist who switches masterfully between tremolo-picked riffing, Bathory-influenced acoustic moments, and beautiful clean soloing.  In addition, the vocals, both clean and harsh, are top-notch and the employment of a flute adds an unquantifiable amount of atmosphere.  Definitely give this a chance.  If this truly is Natrgaard’s life’s work, then well done sir.  I’ve downloaded it, but I also suggest purchasing it.  He just re-released it on his website and it’s pretty dang cheap: http://shop.mirrors-of-life.de/

– Max

Electric Wizard – “Black Masses”

Posted in album review, Doom metal, Electric Wizard, stoner metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

As the candle burns, the listener is tranced within seething tectonic thunder, becoming the very result of the album’s initial foreboding chord of psychadelic stoner doom metal. The dense, sonically-charged patterns of destruction are skillfully woven by the very mistress of Jus Oborn Himself, the voluptuous Liz Buckingham. From her stagnant roots in the doom band Sourvein, Buckingham has blossomed to the sweetest and most foul orchid of them all. Bat-tailing off of the last album, Witchcult Today, the theme of vampiric “Drugula” has gone from lurking in Witchcult’s “Satanic Rites of Drugula,” to full-blown overpowering mayhem in Black Masses‘ “Crypt of Drugula,” the album’s final track. Each scalar plane of sound has been rendered to full-density, full-volume, high-grade psychadelia that could transport any solid or shape into the Ether. The directions rendered by Electric Wizard’s overall soundscapes is that of simultaneous descension (in the form of lead-infused riffs and blues-rooted scales) and ascension (cultivating a multi-tentacles sound that interlays vastly different levels of tone, density and expectation, requiring the listener to forage through the layers of distortion to extract the kernal of miss Buckingham’s quietly shredding guitar). As the album title suggests, the listener will fall easy victim to the Wizard’s latest brew, and become blind, drugged and beaten to a pulp of leveling our reality before our eyes. Gadzooks!

-Alex

Cryptopsy – “Once Was Not”

Posted in album review, cryptopsy, death metal, experimental, technical metal, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

Perhaps it’s a worn topic by now.  Cryptopsy’s surprising foray into trendy deathcore simplicity threw their fans, and most of the extreme metal community, for a loop.  Their pseudo goth/bondage attire and feau-hawks, though appalling, served as the perfect compliment to their new-found bitchy attitudes and staunch assurance that deathcore was their new genre of choice.  Now, I have this idea.  Maybe I should say, a hope.  A hope that their latest musical output, The Unspoken King, is nothing more than an elaborate hoax, meant as a parody to the recent surge of so-called heavy and brutal deathcore bands.  For, how could a band that had just released Once Was Not, one of the most exhausting yet ultimately beautiful death metal albums, spit out this simple garbage?  Every time I listen to Once Was Not, I’m forced to ponder this baffling phenomenon.

Once Was Not is not without its detractors though, something else that I can never quite understand.  Being that extreme metal is such a revolt against typical music, it is surprising to see this album continuously lambasted for its experimental nature.  To recreate another Blasphemy Made Flesh or None So Vile would be a disgrace to those albums and is always behavior typical of a band that is burning out (Immortal, I’m looking at you!).  Though, based on many of the critical responses for this album, it seems that people wanted and expected this, especially given Lord Worm’s triumphant return as vocalist.  To me, Once Was Not is the necessary evolution of Cryptopsy, capturing the brutality of their older works while instilling a greater sense of scale and complexity.

The overarching theme of war is both sonically and lyrically conveyed without fail.  Their use of unorthodox sounds and composition, while the butt of most criticism, are probably the most integral characteristics to this album’s believability as a testament to war.  How else should war’s unpredictable and chaotic nature be conveyed than by instrumentation set to the same tune?  Starting with the framework of death metal, Cryptopsy takes the genre’s staple characteristics – blast beats, growled vocals, heavily distorted guitars – and re-imagines them into the context of the album.  Riffs are highly unique for death metal, conveying anything from impending doom (“Angelskingarden”) to contemplativeness (“The Pestilence That Walketh in Darkness”).  Flo’s drumming is at it’s best, working alongside the guitars with unyielding complexity. Meanwhile, Lord Worm’s raspy snarls are in top-form as he narrates the various atrocities and eventually forces the listener to grasp the utter horror that results from war.  Perhaps the most perfect symbiosis of music, lyrics, and consequent imagery comes with the final track “Endless Cemetary.” We are presented with the end of a battle, perhaps even the war itself:

“Cold blue lips frame (a) yard-wide grin
that Calls to flesh, to let it in,
and thus indulge its Yearning
come the unDawn

Roam the endless Cemetary of what once was,
(where) the Allfeeling is never truly Gone”

As if he were speaking from the cold and blue lips of Death itself, Lord Worm changes his vocals to a shrill, black metal shriek after the music builds in order to deliver his final, horrible message:  Ultimately, Death has won.  Just as he finishes screaming, the music immediately ends, with this abruptness being yet another reminder of the randomness of death in a war environment.  In effect, we’ve become another member of the endless cemetery, experiencing the suddenness of death in musical form.

Maybe in retrospect, after the horror of The Unspoken King, some of Once Was Not’s harshest critics can look back and see this experimental and technical Cryptopsy in a new light.  Here we see a band that set out to tackle the worn topic of war in a holistic approach, embodying the topic’s spirit both in concept and in sound.  Rather than the “experimentation” that occurred on The Unspoken King, Once Was Not actually pushes the boundaries of death metal.  Not through implementing trendy pig squeals and slower Korn-esque songs, but with immensely difficult and complex songs that force the listener to dig deeper in every consecutive listen to fully appreciate them.  Here’s to hoping that the next Cryptopsy album follows in this fashion!

Max

Mark Mothersbaugh – “Muzik For Insomniaks” Review

Posted in album review, avant-garde, electronic, experimental, Mark Mothersbaugh with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 3, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

My friend and I have an odd running joke of finding “Donkey Kong” vibes in music.  Somehow, we constantly encounter music that is similar in melody or overall atmosphere to the music in the Donkey Kong Country/Land games, normally a sound akin to that of the underwater or snowy mountain levels.  I’ve heard everything from black metal to trance conjure up this very precise ambience.  Now, I can add one more set of albums to this ongoing trend, Mark Mothersbaugh’s Muzik For Insomniaks.

Never played the Donkey Kong games, you say?  Well, don’t fret.  Muzik For Insomniaks’ infectious nature may latch onto you for a number of other reasons.  According to Mothersbaugh, its original purpose was to be music that you could do work around the house to.  If that was the only purpose of these albums, then he has succeeded.  A solely keyboard release, the two volumes are low-maintenance material, not demanding your full attention at all times to pick up on the melodies.  I’ve tested this out by doing household chores to these albums.  Lo and behold, the pairing is fantastic!  Dynamic enough to keep me from being bored but not so complex as to side track my natural thinking.

Though minimalist in terms of its repetitious nature and sole use of keyboards, the muzik is really quite addicting and the melodies are surprisingly complex and ever-changing.  The albums just drip with a whimsical child-like feel too.  This is what a creator of the children’s show Rugrats felt as well.  For, if you’ll recall, Mark Mothersbaugh did the music for that show.  These are the albums that got him that job.  If you don’t pick up on the Rugrats feel throughout Volume One, then first track “ugo” of Volume Two will no doubt give you instantaneous Rugrats theme song flashbacks.

I could see this album turning a lot of people off.  It’s really quite experimental in the overall lack of any verse-chorus song structure as well as the aforementioned constant repetition.  I urge you to give it a try though.  In the time that I’ve been listening to this album, I’ve found it perfect for going on a run, doing chores, childhood nostalgia, Rugrats nostalgia (I was/am a huge fan), thinking, driving a car at night, and allowing me to remember Donkey Kong games and other good 90s video game soundtracks.  Is there any reason not to give this a try?  Well, it is pretty rare.  Good luck finding it!

-Max

To Kvlt To Be Tr00 #2

Posted in To Kvlt To Be Tr00 with tags , , on July 18, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

It’s time for another “To Kvlt To Be Tr00.” Click on the above picture for a far more legible and magnified version of the the above comic strip.

-Cameron