I’m not a particularly big fan of album reviews. As a rule, I consider them a shortcut to thinking – if you need another person to tell you what a piece of art means, what is the purpose of art? It’s supposed to be personal. Having said that, every rule has exceptions.
SLOW‘s newest album ‘VI – Dantalion‘, to me, is one such exception. While the band’s music can certainly be enjoyed on a very surface/almost superficial level (it is incredibly well crafted, and an absolute pleasure any fan of truly heavy music will probably enjoy) – I think a better understanding of the themes and undertones of the album lend themselves to a greater appreciation of the art as a whole.
Furthermore, looking at these in conjunction with the artistic/thematic evolution of the band over the span of it’s existence lend a sense of wholeism – to really appreciate where the band are, you have to look at where they’ve been.
“I & II are, for me, the first “period” of the band (being instrumental and more drone-ish), III & IV are the second period, and starting from V, we have something else. I can’t stress enough the time spent to control my studio (hence production). It’s, I believe, a normal evolution.”
– Déhà, 2018
On reviewing the band’s discography, you might notice a 2 part thematic pattern – specifically, for the first album in a period/cycle they focus on elemental forces as a vehicle for the narrative. On the second, the band shifts to an esoteric/spiritual/mythological theme.
With the first phase of the band, it went from the elemental force of a whirlpool (I – Silence Lives Out/Over Whirlpool) to the more heady unexplored realms of humanity (II – Deeper in the Space, Higher in the Ocean).
In the next phase of the band, there was a focus on the elemental qualities of earth (III – Gaïa) which transitioned to a less abstract Greco-Roman conduit (IV – Mythologiæ)
The current period of SLOW find the band returning to the elemental power of water (V – Oceans) before utilizing a descent into hell as allegory (VI – Dantalion)
Having established the pattern, it’s worth noting that this isn’t a linear progression – I would liken it more to a Fibonacci.
Like a whirlpool it expands outwards, but at no point does SLOW cross over and make the same album twice. Even when they re-released “IV – Mythologiæ” due to data loss, they completely remastered it and added a new song – honestly, the album feels a lot more complete.
I feel this is worth mentioning here, because ‘VI – Dantalion’ would not be the same album if Lore hadn’t revisited (and worked within) the mythological part of the SLOW thematic cycle.
Dantalion: Powerful Great Duke of Hell, 71st of 72 spirits of Solomon
“Music is both very personal and universal – I find it important to find the right balance in that. We both want to express our thoughts and emotions, we want to tell our story, but in a way that the listener is able to understand everything and project these feelings onto himself. Making an awesome album has become almost easy nowadays, but making an album that truly touches people with its story and lingers in the mind is a far greater challenge.”
– Lore, 2018
Before moving into the review of the album itself I think it’s important to ask the question, “Why did they choose Dantalion?”
At first glance, it seems rather obvious. The tracklist itself shows a journey of the soul after death.
Elégie (elegy/lament for the dead)
Given that the soul is descending into the pits of hell, it seems rather natural. But that’s a very specific demon, out of a possible 72. Not the most well known for sure, but he does posses specific qualities that are unique:
Per Wikipedia: “The Seventy-first Spirit is Dantalion. He is a Duke Great and Mighty, appearing in the Form of a Man with many Countenances, all Men’s and Women’s Faces; and he hath a Book in his right hand. His Office is to teach all Arts and Sciences unto any; and to declare the Secret Counsel of any one; for he knoweth the Thoughts of all Men and Women, and can change them at his Will. He can cause Love, and show the Similitude of any person, and show the same by a Vision, let them be in what part of the World they Will.”
Dantalion, specifically, is a demon whose realm is arts and sciences, thought, and emotion. He knows the thoughts and emotions of humans, and can change them at will. Given the fact that Lore has significant creative control over concepts on this album, and taken in conjunction with the aforementioned quote (taken from my 2018 interview with the band) I can’t help but marvel at the fact that she found a demon who embodies the creative goals of the band – to tell our story, but in a way that the listener is able to understand everything and project these feelings onto himself.
In that sense the choice seems a lot more natural than, say, Belial or Ashtaroth – I believe this context can assist the listener in consuming the album more with depth and clarity.
So, like I mentioned earlier, the titles of the tracks give the listener a pretty good idea where the narrative of the album is going. Beginning post-mortem, the first track transports the listener to a descent (descente) to Hell. Notably, the track is a departure from the norm for SLOW, clocking in at 4 minutes and 43 seconds. Fans of the band’s prior albums will notice they’ve tuned a bit lower for ‘VI – Dantalion’, an aesthetic choice which lends itself well to creating an aural hellscape.
At first, I thought the second track glow (Lueur) might be a reference to a “glimmer of hope” as the soul descends. But after listening to the opening notes, the exact opposite seems to be the case. This is pure sonic despair, SLOW is transporting us to hell and we’re seeing the fiery glow. The dark/light sound dichotomy is certainly still there (something I think the band does very well), with the melodic/light parts highlighting and complimenting the low end/darkness. In particular, the orchestral synth lends grandiosity and a certain gravitas.
Next up, the band’s (very appropriate) first single – ‘Géhenne’ (Hell). Another shorter track (just over 7 minutes), Lore’s bass is front and center here. Also worth mentioning: Déhà’s vocals for the entire album are a bit more raw. I’m not sure if that’s a result of mixing, or if he intentionally decided to channel bands like Wormphlegm – but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter. It’s fucking awesome.
After arrival in hell, naturally the protagonist recognizes the inherent futility (Futilité) of hope. This is where real despair sets in – and sonically it’s a real turning point in the album. This track is more in the vein of artists like Shape of Despair – without sacrificing that crushing, brutal heaviness that permeates ‘VI – Dantalion.’
Recognition of futility and abandonment of hope lead to a total surrender to the void (Lacune). This track in particular deviates from ‘traditional’ funeral doom territory, and in my opinion displays a lot of the musical growth of the band when compared to the rest of their discography. The track is a lot more dynamic, and why shouldn’t it be? Utter surrender to the void, abandonment of hope – the inherent nothingness of it all. The sparse piano notes opening the piece, Lore’s background vocals, etc all add up to make this one of my favorite tracks on the album.
Incendiaire (incendiary) is slightly more familiar territory for the band. A bit faster maybe (with some pretty well placed 16th notes throughout), but it’s one I’d recommend to fans of ‘V – Oceans” or ‘IV – Mythologiæ’ right off the bat if they didn’t have time to listen to the entire album in one sitting.
Which brings us to Elégie (elegy) – obviously a lament for the dead. You’ll find no spoilers for this track here, suffice to say it’s both an appropriate title and ending to this monolith of an album.
Hands down, this is the heaviest SLOW album to date. Like I mentioned before, they tuned lower. The vocals are grittier. The concepts and lyrics are par for course, which is really quite something – the bar has been set high from the get-go. The use of melody and ambiance contrasts the near suffocating brutality of the low end – creating a fantastic dichotomy.
As with all SLOW albums, this is a piece I would listen to in it’s entirety, the album is just a work of art. Speaking of art – even the fucking vinyl is artisinal.
Recently, I got the chance to do something I’d never done in all my time writing about music: interview a band. It’d been something I could have done (in theory) for a fair chunk of time – but there was always some reason I could never bring myself to hit up their PR; usually I was either too busy or too nervous or too both of those things.
I finally got around to it, and frankly I’m pretty damn glad I did. I got to interview Eggs of Gomorrh, the absolutely savage and ravaging war metal band about everything from the cultural implications of war metal to their latest album (which I included as a sort of double-feature to go alongside the interview). All that being said, let’s get on with the show.
Eggs of Gomorrh Outpregnate Krucyator Productions
18 March 2019
Genre: Black/Death Metal, War Metal Location: Geneva, Switzerland FFO: Archgoat, Sadomator, Blasphemy, Teitanblood, Proclamation, etc.
In addition to all of the regular difficulties that seem to exist for everyone in the world of underground music, playing bestial black metal seems to come with its own additional challenge: how do you make it interesting? Although there are some obvious exceptions to the rule within the genre (Blasphemy, Damaar, Revenge, Conqueror, etc) It seems to me as if bestial black metal is very quick to fall down the rabbit hole of mediocre, “2 br00tal 4 u” music that exists somewhere in the negative zone between amusing self-satire and uninteresting jargon.
I eventually reached a point when I was so tired of listening to all the Blasphemy wannabes of the world who named their albums shit like “Raping an Angel for his Satanic Majesty” that I became a sort of disgruntled old man (in regards to the genre); curling up into the depressing little metaphorical cave I’d carved myself from those aforementioned bands. Thankfully though, my cynicism about the genre was soon to be melted almost as meltily as that nazi’s face at the end of Raiders of the Lost Arc.
I was minding my own business and digging through some charts on RateYourMusic when I came across Eggs of Gomorrh’s prior release, Rot Prophet. Although it had the war metal tag, it was rated highly enough that I decided I may as well give it a spin. And goddamn was I glad that I did. I was instantly blown away by the fact that a modern band could be producing such fresh and genuinely interesting war metal, and I became a pretty devoted follower of their material from that point on.
That brings us to the actual topic of this review, the Swiss war metal bands latest EP, Outpregnate. From the top of the very first track, this new EP instantly struck me as being a yet another fresh take on the bestial black metal genre from the band. Although it maintained all the aspects that make some of the best war metal albums ever just so great (rawness, brutality, and a relentlessly pummeling sound) it seemed to also bring in a sound that can only be described as cavernous, and gloomy. In a way, this feels like the war metal equivalent to bands like Incantation.
Still though, through the thick and gloomy fog that seems to linger around the release, you can still undeniably make out the bands quality that I think endeared them to a lot of us in the first place- their musical attitude of “you know what, fuck this. We can take bestial black metal to a whole new extreme without just playing recycled Blasphemy riffs over and over again.” And frankly, if that attitude were to spread all around the various subgenres of metal, I can’t say that wouldn’t do a hell of a lot of good.
7/10 But wait! There’s more! Keep reading if you’d like to see my Metalstuff.net exclusive interview with the band.
There have been murmurs in certain sections of the metal community that are snowballing into a bit of a roar as of late regarding the events surrounding the tragic death of All That Remains guitarist Oli Herbert on October 16th of 2018.
For those readers not familiar with the story thus far – a brief synopsis:
~ October 9th – about 1 week before Oli died, he and his wife Beth met with a notary (one of Beth’s friends and an ex-stalker of Oli’s) to update his will.
October 16th – Oli is found dead in a pond on his property, the notary/Beth’s friend is present when the police show up. Police sources say the death does not appear suspicious.
A Facebook page called “Justice for Oli Herbert” seems to be spearheading the effort to get the information out – I figured I’d actually practice some due diligence and see what this is all about. I’m a fan of All that Remains’ first two albums, so this did pique my interest. After reading through posts on the page, it seemed like a pretty clear-cut case that Beth was guilty.
They’ve even got some indie metal sites establishing a timeline of events, and some pretty damning “character defamation” information that, while it doesn’t establish guilt (and is 100% circumstantial) – certainly paints a picture of Beth as a personality disordered bitch who made Oli’s life miserable.
But then I dug a little deeper, and went through the group’s photo albums and older posts. I started noticing a couple things seemed out of place for a ‘pursuit of justice’.
The author(s) of the web page seemed to be slandering Oli’s widow Beth based on her attendance at “neopagan” religious ceremonies, specifically Beltane and Mabon.
It struck me as a bit odd that a website allegedly out for justice would be openly listing attendance at an alternative religious ceremony with derogatory information about their target – all of which has NOTHING to do with the case. Especially when they’ve got things like #burnthewitch in the title.
Neopagans who attend these festivals, properly called Wiccans, also refer to themselves as witches. A more prominent example of someone in the metal community who celebrated these festivals and was part of this heathen community is the recently deceased Jill Janus.
This sort of thing is why it’s always a good idea to check a source – the “Justice for Oli” page is single-handedly dictating the media narrative surrounding Oli’s death, and they’ve resorted to religious discriminatory slander (among other things) within a month of Oli’s death.
Something about that didn’t sit right with me, and I contacted the page admins and let them know about it (a note to the JFO group – you know who I am and you know how to contact me) – but then I started questioning everything they said.
Boy, am I glad I did. Contrary to their claims – the page “Justice for Oli” is not making the case any more clear. Quite the opposite – their entire existence seems to be an exercise in muddying the waters surrounding the case.
As of 11/19, it seems that they’ve managed to confuse some 8,000+ people with their intentionally misleading rhetoric, as well as an underhanded all around approach to the investigation. I’d like to take the time to point out what they’ve got correct and where they’ve been intentionally misleading the public, weaving lies in with the truth to make reality a bit more opaque.
What We Should Be Questioning
A) The circumstances of (and immediately surrounding) Oli’s death
I’ll admit, I was curious when the “JFO” group first popped up. Oli’s death on October 16th, 2018 was certainly outside the pale. Details in the reporting of his passing were sparse, and the ‘meat and potatoes’ of the matter was that he apparently wandered down to a pond on his property, slipped in, and drowned.
Healthy 44 year old men, typically, don’t just wander off in the middle of the night and drown in a lake on their property.
Quite the opposite, photos of Oli kayaking indicate he was pretty comfortable in the water – that pond in particular. That means he’d be pretty familiar with navigating the banks of the pond, etc. I’d imagine it also means he’d be pretty good at swimming, especially since he’s not wearing any sort of safety gear like a life preserver.
So we can safely say it’s a good idea to question why a person who was familiar with a particular area near water (he lived there for years), who involved himself in activities that required him to be pretty adept around that body of water, dies in that body of water in a manner that suggests the exact opposite. Legit, 100% good question.
When you factor in one of the last text messages from Oli (from October 15th), it becomes apparent that at some point he wasn’t feeling quite like himself. The response is unintelligible, to the point where it appears something is chemically wrong with Oli – and this is within 24 hours of his passing.
I don’t think there’s any way to really make sense of it, and it implies there was either a problem with Oli’s cognitive function, motor skills, or both. Any one of those things would be enough to impair him once he got near the water.
B) The people who cry Foul Play
“Justice for Oli Herbert” came into being around October 24th, 8 days after Oli’s passing. The authors of the page choose to remain anonymous, but they claim open association with (and it’s safe to assume participation from) a man named Drew Johnston – who was thanked by Oli in the linear notes of one of All that Remains’ albums.
So, we’re hearing from sources pretty close to Oli – seems legit right? This guy wasn’t just friends with him, they were close friends and corresponded regularly. If I’m not mistaken, Oli even participated in Drew’s wedding.
This is where it gets interesting. By his own accounts, Drew was Oli’s social media manager – and represented him in that position for over a year, as well as essentially teaching Oli to use it.
In the same post/chain, we also see there is an inherent bias on his part – there’s no love lost between these two, and it obviously extends to well before Oli’s unfortunate demise.
C) What is the context of the initial statement from Beth denouncing Drew Johnston?
This particular post/action has been cited by the “Justice for Oli” page as a major indicator of guilt. After all – why would she act preemptively on poor, innocent Drew Johnston – one of Oli’s closest friends and the person who managed his social media accounts for a year?
Maybe the the person being referenced held a grudge that predated Oli’s death, and very openly stated he had “dirt on their toxic relationship”.
Maybe she thought he was a “clinger” whose only interest in associating with her now deceased husband was the accumulation of sub-cultural capital (in metal, generally we call it credibility) – that he would then use in a toxic way?
Or maybe she didn’t trust the type of guy who would use his dead friend’s social media to insult said friend’s wife due to a pre-existing bias.
Maybe they had a beef that went back quite a ways? My friends haven’t always gotten along with my girlfriends, nothing really out of the ordinary there.
I can comfortably say that this mutual dislike obviously extends back for years. Nobody makes that more clear than the folks at JFO themselves.
D) What is the context of the infamous “Say Cheese, Honey” photo/post
This is the photo that brought a LOT of people on board with JFO’s message. It’s a photo of the area where Oli’s body was found, posted by Beth with the caption ‘Say Cheese Honey”.
First Thoughts – That looks shady as fuck.
Most people (myself included) can’t imagine a context where saying this would be remotely OK. Fortunately for us, the comments section of one of “Justice for Oli’s” posts provides us with a clue.
Soooo… someone took control of Oli’s social media to accuse his wife of murder the day after he died, and she responded. I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty comfortable assuming it’s Drew Johnston.
If not him, someone in the Justice for Oli group. How do I know this? Both Oli’s official page (which Drew had a hand in operating by his own admission), Drew’s personal page, and the Official JFO page admins openly claim to be working together regularly on the JFO page. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who’s taken back the reigns of Oli’s social media page.
Let that sink in for a second.
Beth was not directing this in any way, shape, or form at her now deceased husband – she was directing it at Drew Johnston (the person who was pretending to be Oli the day after his death) while he was operating her dead husband’s facebook page.
Is it still a fucked up thing to say? Sure is.
Does it make her any more guilty or innocent? Nope.
Does goading a woman by using her dead husband’s social media, then taking her angry response out of context and posting it online to slander her seem shady as fuck? Yeah dude, it’s fucking gross, and worlds more toxic than anything they’ve proven Beth has done.
Kinda makes me question what Drew and Company’s definition of “Justice” really is.
E) The circumstances surrounding the release of the initial tox report/cause of death.
Once again, standing by itself the statement seems a bit odd. Once again, a little context bring a lot of clarity to the situation.
At this point, Beth was certainly aware of the “Justice for Oli” page. She even took (per JFO’s own post/declaration) control of Oli’s facebook page long enough to tell the creators to take it down. Needless to say, she had seen a lot of the things that were being said about her.
She probably also saw people posting screenshots of her social media, and then using it to goad on conspiracy theories that she had poisoned her husband, and then dragged his body down to the lake to make it look like an accident.
In that context, we can see that Beth was well aware of the allegations/theories that were already starting to spread about her.
If people were accusing me of murdering a loved one, I’d feel a certain sense of vindication when preliminary lab results proved it wasn’t true. I might even make it public.
I’m not saying that’s what did or didn’t happen – but I am saying that when you reintroduce context suddenly all these “odd things that don’t add up” make a lot more sense.
E) Changing Oli’s Will 1 Week before his death?
Yeah, that’s another one that looks shady as fuck. This is a good thing to question. “Justice for Oli” has been presenting the timing of this event, coupled with the participants, as a clear indication of malice aforethought.
Here’s the thing – Oli and Beth were getting ready to go through a divorce. You know one thing that ALWAYS changes when you want to divorce someone? How much of your shit you want them to get when you die. Changing your will is a normal part of the divorce process, and from what I can gather Oli was a willing participant in the divorce.
The notary herself, Wendy, is questionable. And JFO is doing a good thing raising the question – why was the notary (a friend of the widow) for the will present at the crime scene a week later when the police showed up?
There actually is a simple explanation – when you’re dealing with legal stuff, it’s nice having a close friend who’s a notary. And it’s pretty common knowledge it’s not good to be alone after a loved one has died, perhaps Beth called her close friend Wendy simply for moral support after discovering her fucking husband died?
To recap everything we’ve discussed so far
The Justice for Oli team, although claiming to be looking for justice – seem to think that the best way to go about doing that is by knowingly distorting the truth to get people on board. Because there’s a big difference between these two images:
So, besides the whole religious discrimination as defamation thing – my major issue with the whole thing is this – “Justice for Oli”, how exactly does lying to the public to get them ‘on board’ with your cause further justice?
If you’re demanding the truth come out – doesn’t that kind of imply you shouldn’t be giving a distorted version of the truth?
I understand why they didn’t – the whole fucking thing is a rats next of toxic personalities and conspiracy theorists. But here’s the thing – that sort of cancer doesn’t just go away if you ignore it. It grows. Within less than 1 month, they’ve gained nearly 10k followers – with 2k of those coming between November 16th and November 20th. This isn’t just growing, it’s snowballing.
At some point, there has to be some reason injected into the clusterfuck of insanity – because I guarantee we’re going to hear about this again.
Hopefully, those “journalists” at the sites I mentioned pull their collective heads out of Jered Threatin’s ass long enough to do their jobs as members of the media and actually fucking report on something worthwhile. Every single image was sourced from the “Justice for Oli” group.
The information is literally in plain sight – this needs to get out before it gets buried.
Country of Origin: England Years Active: 1985-1996, 2007-Present Label: Earache Records Official Site:https://carcass.bandcamp.com/ Year of Release: 1988
Let’s kick this list off with the godfathers of goregrind themselves, Carcass. Carcass are, in many ways, one of the most important bands for grindcore, both through their rejection of traditional grindcore politics for a brutal, ravaging, horrific take on the genre as well as their own contribution of normalizing vegan advocacy in the already rebellious, anti-authoritarian, punk rock political ethos of grindcore. The band would go on to change their style numerous times, break up and then get back together, and spark numerous imitators during their long, long career. Still though, this fast, violent, and gut-splattered debut still holds up as their best.
Outside of that one Tom Waits song, the country of Singapore is painfully underrepresented in the world of music. Thankfully, though, we have Wormrot to bring an end to that. The band seem to have just torn through their discography, maintaining the same style of traditionalist grindcore and the same grisly form of aggression throughout, signing to Earache Records after only 9 years and 2 full-length albums. Musically the band aren’t exactly the most innovative by any real means, but that doesn’t make their discography any less energetic, heavy, or well executed.
8: Agoraphobic Nosebleed- Altered States of America
“Altered States,” from my experience, tends to be written off as some kind of novelty record, the full length equivalent of “You Suffer,” due to it’s 99 tracks that take up 21 minutes altogether. In my opinion, though, if you stop looking at it like 99 ridiculously short songs and one, 21-minute composition, the Springfield MA band’s cybergrind masterpiece is actually quite the album. As brutal, fast, and pummeling as grindcore should be, Agoraphobic Nosebleed add another layer of insanity: by using a drum machine instead of a live drummer, they are LITERALLY able to have their music move at inhuman speeds. The band perfectly pair their dark sense of humor and knack for finding bizarre samples to use (I think about the phrase “thar she blows out my fucking dickhole” honestly more than I should) with their delightfully over the top and overblown cybergrind sound.
On the topic of weird things, this next album basically epitomizes them: a combination of free/avante garde jazz and grindcore should be, in theory, gimmicky bandcamp bullshit at best. However, like virtually anything John Zorn touches is, it is some fantastic, experimental, and genuinely surreal music. This album is almost like the audio equivalent to Nobuhiko Obayashi’s “House,” which for me makes the bad acid trip that is this album all the better. Perfectly melding the chaos of free jazz and grindcore into a dynamic, merciless, and constantly jarring 24 minutes of music, this is a perfect album for all crate-digging connoisseurs of the musically surreal.
6: Nails- Unsilent Death
Country of Origin: USA Years Active: 2009-Present Label: Nuclear Blast Official Site:http://abandonalllife.com/ Year of Release: 2010
Nails are without a doubt one of my favorite modern metal bands overall. Despite only having been active for about 9 years, I feel as if the band has cemented their place in extreme musical lore already. While all of their albums are absolutely fantastic, my personal favorite is their explosive 2010 debut album “Unsilent Death.” Featuring 10 tracks and only clocking in at about 14 minutes, Nails made their mark on the grindviolence scene from the second this ravaging instant classic hit shelves. One of my greatest writing crutches is refer to an album as the “musical version” of some other piece of media or an experience, a habit I am trying to break. However, I will allow myself this one: this is the album version of being killed by some cheap mask-wearing, drill-wielding killer in a straight-to-vhs 80s horror movie that was made by the Church of Satan and features actual death.
What grindcore list would be complete without the grandfathers of grind themselves? It’s really difficult to talk about the history of grindcore (or metal as a whole, to be frank) without mentioning the OGs themselves: sonically relentless, and fiercely political, Napalm Death took the pure sociopolitical rage of the hardcore scene and helped it take the next logical step, with a little help from the brutality of death metal. The band has never ceased their experimentation with other subgenres, but at the root of their sound will always be the phenomenal blueprint they lay out of the subgenre.
Artsy kings of the underground, Discordance Axis created a technical, chaotic, and refined spin on grindcore that no other band has ever truly been able to replicate. Almost comparable to what The Dillinger Escape Plan did with metalcore, Discordance Axis’ unique style and sound within their genre has earned them status as legends, even among people who aren’t typically fans of it. Notoriously elusive and camera-shy, the quintet’s mysterious and electric nature only adds to their draw and appeal, although to call it a clutch would be to lie: their music goes above and beyond on its own.
Speaking of bands who have earned themselves the status of legend, in our number three spot is Contrastic, a deathgrind band like none other. Hailing from the Czech republic, Contrastic have always gained a fair amount of attention within the underground community, turning heads with their Disney coloring page themed album cover and getting fans to stay for their bizarre brand of deathgrind, complete with hyperactive energy, heaviness and brutality, a tongue in cheek attitude, and the occasional break for a upbeat synth segment. Even though they could easily be written off as a gimmick band, Contrastic create some truly fascinating experimental deathgrind on this release.
A criminally underrated album, this release is one of the few that I would truly feel at ease referring to as “artgrind” or “post-grind” or something along those lines. The sophomore release from Dan Lilkers (Anthrax, Nuclear Assault, Stormtroopers of Death) oddball grind project, this album goes leaps and bounds beyond the group’s debut album released two years before it, this is really a project that’s artistic vision and musical prowess speak for itself- and I suggest you all let it.
At the very top of our list we have grindcore giants Pig Destroyer, with their debut full-length album and, I would argue, magnum opus. This 22-track exercise in brutality matches it’s ferocious, violent, depraved vocals and instrumentation with equally depraved lyrics. The album centers on a short story of a young girl being stalked by a depraved lunatic told through brief but nauseating vignettes and introduced and concluded by strange tracks that paint grotesque scenes through some kind of text-to-speech. This album does exactly what a grindcore concept album should: it applies the grind mentality of heavy, ravaging, and extraordinarily brief to how it conveys it’s narrative, and because of this, the lyrics and music work together perfectly to form one horrifying piece of music.
I’ll tell you, 2018 has been a stellar year for doom. Something I didn’t see coming, but certainly can’t complain about.
So ah, yeah. The other day I was scanning my email – and I saw something to the effect of “would you like to review the new Conan album and interview the lead singer?”
Fuck yes, I’d like to listen to the new album a month before it comes out and interview the lead singer. I’d take either of those options and call it a win. Holy shit. I’ve been stoked for the new fucking album since it was announced.
I was stoked enough when Metalsucks took my suggestion to review the new single “Vexxagon” (thanks Kayla!) – now that I’ve had a chance to peruse the whole album I can tell you it’s a contender for my favorite release of 2018 – easily in my top 5.
I’m actually not big on reviewing albums, but when it gets a little closer to the release date (9/14/2018, on Napalm Records) I’m thinking I’ll break my own rule and write something up.
As a matter of fact I’m listening to the new album as I write this, and I must say it’s as pleasant a listen the twentieth time as it is the first. I think (like the rest of their discography) this is one that’s going to age well.
Conan brings the fucking heavy. Hail Conan.
Band Name: Conan
Label: Napalm Records
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Years Active: 2006-2007, 2007-2008, 2009-present
Metal Archives Entry: https://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Conan/96731
Official Site: http://www.hailconan.com/
Members: Jon Davis (guitars/vocals, 2006-2007, 2007-2008, 2009-present), Chris Fielding (bass/vocals, 2014-present), Johnny King (drums, 2017-present)
Hey Mr. Davis, thanks a lot for your time – and all hail the mighty Conan!
I’ve been a fan of you guys for several years now. In particular, I think there’s a bit of a Pavlovian association with the Conan comic series – every time I see one of your album covers it reminds me of the art style in the comics (particularly Horseback Battle Hammer). Your sound is pretty much the sonic interpretation of how I always imagined Conan to be – just a constant fucking powerhouse. So first and foremost, thank you for that reminder, and for doing what you do.
Please bear with me on the first question – it’s in 3 parts, and I kinda have to set the pins up before I knock them down.
1) It seems like, with every album post-Monnos, you guys have thrown in some tempo changes/faster parts as a sort of “palate cleanser” (either in songs, or with the new album with a truncated track of it’s own). I noticed it in the O’Neill era, then Lewis seemed to bring a jazz-influence in with some of the fills and faster parts. Now Johnny King seems to be bringing more of (what I’d refer to as) a “classic extreme metal” angle/sensibility to the table with “Existential Void Guardian”.
My questions are;
a) Do you go into the writing/recording process with these sorts of breaks in mind, or do they just kind of happen (planned v.s. organic)?
(Jon Davis): Actually, those faster songs are the easiest ones to write as they always seem to come together while we are fucking around in the studio. We just start playing something ‘un-Conan’ and Foehammer came about, then Revengeance came about when we were trying to play Grim Tormentor but faster. Paincantation was just me playing one note really fast and Johnny joined in. I think the version on the record is actually the first take.
b) Do you pick new members based (at least in part) on their particular styles and influences – or is it based on something else (and you just give them the creative room to explore during the writing/recording process)? Perhaps a combination of these things?
(JD): Well of course we choose members based up their individual playing abilities and I’ve always just wanted to know if they can play heavy. Anything else is a bonus. It’s funny because Johnny almost was overlooked for the role. He got in touch when we thought we had settled on someone else and we almost said no, just so we didn’t mess this other guy around. But I’m glad to say that we took our time and invited Johnny down for rehearsal, and he was perfect. Paul and Rich were perfect too, in their time, but their time has come and gone now and we’re really enjoying having Johnny in the band.
c) Is the inclusion of these “palate cleanser” type sections for the benefit of the fan/listener (ensuring the “caveman battle doom” continues to hit the listener to full effect), or more for yourselves to keep things fresh?
(JD): I don’t think we think about it too much really. I think that it IS important to keep things interesting but putting faster songs in into Conan seems pretty natural really. I listen to fast music (I’m listening to Wolfpack on a very bumpy flight to Auckland NZ currently for example) so writing a faster riff here and there feels perfectly normal.
2) I heard through the grapevine you guys are doing a set of Australian tours with the mighty Bell Witch. I must admit, I haven’t been this jealous of the Australian people since the age of 16 – when an exchange student informed me that his school had a bar adjacent to it, and he was able to drink there (legally) after school. How did the Bell Witch pairing come about, and is there any chance those of us in the states will be blessed with such a powerhouse lineup for the “EVG” tour?
(JD): I think drinking right after school would have ruined me but it doesn’t seem to have done Australia any harm. I doubt Conan will tour the US with Bell Witch, but you never know. This pairing was the idea of the booking agent I think, or maybe I suggested them, I honestly don’t remember. Either way, they are an INSANELY cool band and we’re very happy they agreed to join us.
3) I read a while back after watching one of your live shows a reporter to nearly soiled himself (I think he discovered the fabled “brown note” isn’t that much of a fable). There isn’t a question there, I’ll just never get a chance to say that in an interview again. But it does act as an interesting segue to my next question – when you write and record songs, are you doing so based on how they will sound on the album, or in a live environment?
(JD): More so in a live environment. Early on we never really gave it much thought, but as time has progressed and we have toured more, we notice different reactions from the crowd and I think our writing has followed. We’re a metal band at heart, all this doom and stoner metal bullshit is just dressing. With that in mind we really enjoy affecting a crowd, giving them songs they can go crazy to – I got bored watching people nod their head slowly to Krull all the time, the faster songs have always been more fun.
4) I feel like I already know the answer to this, but I have to ask – do you guys mic your amps in the studio?
(JD): Yes, obviously this is essential when recording.
5) Is there anything you’d like my readers to know – be it about the upcoming album, forthcoming tours, or otherwise?
(JD): Well, we are pretty busy in the latter part of this year and hopefully next year too with some touring and festivals. I guess we’ll be over to the USA soon enough, so keep an eye out for announcements.
6) Lastly, a selfish question – being a resident of Upstate New York (near the Pennsylvania border), is there any chance we’ll see see you touring anywhere in New York besides near the city?
(JD): Now, my geography is not too good within the USA. We played Rhode Island and also (I think) Rochester on our last tour. Does that count? I’m on a flight without wifi so I can’t check on a map, so I’ll have to keep this answer vague sorry!
I have been stoked for the release of this album, and have had it on pre-order since it went up on BandCamp. Thanks again for taking the time to answer my questions, it’s been a pleasure!
(JD): Cheers Corey, I enjoyed answering these questions.
Fuckin a right – Jon, if you’re reading this… Rochester is close enough. Your geography is spot on.
As of today (8/20/2018) Here’s when/where you can catch Conan on Tour;
30.09.18 UK – Sheffield / O2 Academy
02.10.18 NL – Eindhoven / Effenaar
03.10.18 DE – Bochum / Rockpalast
04.10.18 DE – Hamburg / Logo
05.10.18 DE – Berlin / Musik & Frieden
06.10.18 PL – Wroclaw / Firlej
07.10.18 PL – Warsaw / Poglos
09.10.18 LT – Vinius / Rock River Club
10.10.18 LV – Jelgava / Melno Cepuriso Balerija
11.10.18 EE – Tallinn / Sveta
13.10.18 FI – Helsinki / Blow Up 4 Festival
15.10.18 SE – Stockholm / Kraken
17.10.18 SE – Malmo / Plan B
19.10.18 DK – Copenhagen / Stengade
20.10.18 NL – Leeuwarden / Into The Void Festival
07.11.18 AU – Canberra / The Basement
08.11.18 AU – Melbourne / Max Watts
09.11.18 AU – Sydney / Manning Bar
10.11.18 AU – Brisbane / Crowbar
12.11.18 NZ – Wellington / Valhalla
13.11.18 NZ – Auckland / Whammy Bar
16.11.18 RU – Moscow / Aglomerat
17.11.18 RU – St. Petersburg / Zoccolo
23.11.18 UK – Nottingham / The Loft
24.11.18 UK – Leeds / Temple Of Boom
25.11.18 UK – Newcastle / Byker Grave Festival
26.11.18 UK – Glasgow / Audio
27.11.18 UK – Manchester / Rebellion
28.11.18 UK – Coventry / The Arches
29.11.18 UK – Cardiff / Clwb Ifor Bach
30.11.18 UK – Milton Keynes / The Craufurd Arms
01.12.18 UK – London / Boston Music Rooms
02.12.18 UK – Oxford / Buried In Smoke X-Mas Weekender
The People of the Appalachians (A mountain range stretching from Southern New York to Alabama) have been subject to some pretty nasty stereotypes for hundreds of years. The terms “redneck”, “hillbilly”, and “hick” were all coined to cast the people living in the area in a negative light.
A good example of the acceptable prejudices levied against the people of the area would be the 1972 film “Deliverance” (set and filmed in Appalachian Georgia), which portrays Appalachians as backwards, uneducated, inbred, and dangerous.
While these things aren’t true, the movie does display the poverty of the region rather accurately. Many families in the area live on less than $5,000 per year before taxes (which sets their food budgets slightly lower than $1 per day). Another term from the area is “dirt poor” – a lot of people don’t realize the term literally means you’re not rich enough to own a floor. One of my neighbors growing up was raising children in an old trailer with no floor, no running water, and no electricity. The county of my birth, Delaware, is the poorest in the state of New York, and has an economy that (last I checked) was 10 years behind the rest of the country.
This sort of absolute poverty can certainly make for an interesting culture. One of the most distinctive variants of American folk music comes from the area. Combine a strong folk/music and culture with nature, isolation, and mountains – and you’ve got the perfect formula for black metal.
While the region is too large (and difficult to travel) for there to be a scene with a distinctive sound – the Appalachians are home to one of the best kept secrets in USBM. Possibly, due to bands like Panopticon gaining popularity, not quite as well kept as it used to be – but still rather obscure even to the seasoned metalhead.
2018’s “The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness (I and II)” is a delight. Panopticon reminds me of an Eastern-American version of Saor, the incorperation of American folk music into the black metal style is seamless and tastefully done. Panopticon has managed to take Black Metal’s fixation on nature and give it a very Appalachian slant.
After an hour of fantastic blues-oriented atmospheric black metal, you’re treated with another hour of melancholy infused American folk music.
Another Appalachian Black Metal project that focuses on fusing American folk music with Atmospheric Black Metal, Kentucky’s Twilight Fauna is a bit more raw. There’s a distinct focus on the stories/history of the region I find refreshing.
Twilight Fauna is not easy listening. It’s thought provoking, challenging, and possesses the power to transport the listener to a different place and time.
There’s a wonderful use of atmosphere and a good positive feeling to it – but it’s still unquestionably Black Metal. They juxtapose elements of darkness and light – it’s black metal, but it’s something else as well.
When you’re talking about Appalachian Folk Music, there’s a very heavy influence from the Native Americans who lived side by side with the original settlers of the area.
West Virginia’s Nechochwen include traditional Native American melodies and themes into an otherwise intense black metal assault. There’s an element of prog in there (real prog), and the unexpected transitions from melody to dissonance are expertly executed.
Besides the occasional dulcimer or banjo on albums – AW doesn’t really incorporate a lot of folk music into their style. Instead, it’s a synth heavy symphonic Black Metal onslaught with cultural/folk themes in the lyrics. A bit cheesy at times, it almost draws from power metal in terms of the “epic quality” of the symphonic end of things.
Appalachian Winter – Deep Within the Mountain Forest
An atmospheric/ambient black metal project from Kentucky – the best way I can describe these guys is this: Imagine if Bell Witch took shrooms, and then decided to play Black Metal instead of Funeral Doom. It’s very stripped down, pretty raw, and very good.
Merkaba – Eyes Lose Focus
So, there’s a preview of the black metal musicians who are embracing their Appalachian heritage and dispelling some of the stereotypes about people from the area.
And kicking out some pretty killer American Black Metal. Fuck yeah.
Every once in a while, you stumble across a musical act that transcends artistic boundaries. To call people like this musicians alone wouldn’t be fair or accurate – they’re artists in the real sense of the word.
I listen to a fuck-ton (actual measurement) of metal – a bare minimum of 8 hours a day while I’m at work (and then, to mix things up, I listen to metal when I go home) – and I’ll tell you, I can count the number of metal bands who fall into the “artist” category on one hand.
In fact, unless a band approaches me I prefer to focus on the artist and how/why they do what they do. The reader can decide for themselves whether or not to check it out, and enter into the experience without any pre-existing bias.
And for a band like Slow, I feel like anything less would be doing my readers a disservice. This isn’t a “singles” band, this is a “listen to the whole album in one sitting and then contemplate your life” band.
What is the significance of “Silence Lives Out/Over Whirlpool” (SLOW)
(Déhà) : When I started this project twelve years ago, it was a counter-project for Yhdarl (my other very dark, suicidal-theme band). I wanted something which was metaphorical for what I wanted : a complete drone soundscape (Whirlpool), that is not violent (Silence). Out/Over is the meaning of “it goes everywhere”, if you will. I must admit I was very young at the time, but it still makes sense to me nowadays.
What made you choose Funeral Doom as the artistic medium for your work in Slow?
(Déhà) : I chose funeral doom because I wanted a way to express feelings that are a bit ‘trippy’, without necessarily being depressive (like album I and II). Starting from III, I was getting a little more influences from death/doom, but I stuck with funeral doom because I simply love this kind of music. There’s nothing more than this.
Lore did a phenomenal job capturing the essence of the music lyrically with Oceans (enough so that I had difficulty believing more than one person was privy to the project). Even the cadence of the words is perfect. What made you approach her specifically to write lyrics to Oceans?
(Lore) : Thank you.
(Déhà) : Lore did the most perfect job for Oceans. In the beginning, she was just ‘for help’, but after the amount of emotions she put into this album, as well as time and focus, there was no way I could not propose her to join the band. It became so evident to me. Obvious even.
She got it all right at first listen. That’s quite a sign, isn’t it?
Listening to your work in Slow from Gaia forward there’s definitely a progression in sound, with everything from guitar tone to the application and use of synth. Would you consider that to be due to growth as a musician, access to more and different equipment, a combination of these things, or something else?
(Déhà) : I believe yes, but mainly simply by going further in the music. I & II are, for me, the first “period” of the band (being instrumental and more drone-ish), III & IV are the second period, and starting from V, we have something else. I can’t stress enough the time spent to control my studio (hence production). It’s, I believe, a normal evolution.
All of your albums with Slow seem to take grand (and universal) archetypes and weave a story into and through them.
-With Gaia, the synth kind of carried the narritive in place of vocals. -With Mythologiæ there’s a progression using mythological (greek, if i’m not mistaken) archetypes to give subconscious form to the journey of an individual. -With Oceans, the journey/struggle of the individual is at the forefront and the ocean seems to be the metaphor.
My question is: Do you purposefully approach an album from the position of taking a larger theme and weaving a narrative throughout?
(Lore): I can’t speak for the previous albums as I wasn’t involved with the making of them, but with Oceans it was definitely the goal. Music is both very personal and universal – I find it important to find the right balance in that. We both want to express our thoughts and emotions, we want to tell our story, but in a way that the listener is able to understand everything and project these feelings onto himself. Making an awesome album has become almost easy nowadays, but making an album that truly touches people with its story and lingers in the mind is a far greater challenge.
One constant I’ve noticed on every Slow album is this – there seems to be a thread of hope in all the doom. It manifests itself differently on different albums – on Gaia it was purely the synth, on Mythologiæ it kind of traded back and forth between the guitars and the synth, and on Oceans (interestingly enough) the guitars themselves seemed to carry it.
A lot of Funeral/Death Doom bands seem to focus purely on despair/darkness (which is fucking awesome), and the ones who do try to add that contrast end up sounding cheesy and almost campy. If your albums were a slow moving storm, there’s always a ray of sunlight in the eye. I have to ask, do you add these aesthetic qualities to your music purposefully?
(Déhà) : I believe yes. I like to believe that Slow is mostly narrative, whereas other bands are a simple, crushing smash of despair in the face. Everyone can interpret it in his or her own way. I find Gaïa being insanely positive, for example.
(Lore) : I don’t know… I think it comes naturally rather than we spend a lot of time thinking about and perfecting aesthetics. It is what makes Slow Slow in the first place. Everything is very sincere, it is not merely an image we are trying to create of ourselves. We feel very deeply, both positive and negative feelings, and try to express this in our music. There’s always a spark of light somewhere in the darkness, if you choose to look for it hard enough.
It seems like, with the advent of the internet, a lot of artists simply write songs until they have enough to fill an album, and then release it. I’m certainly not the first person to notice it, but the “full album” is a disappearing art-form.
With Slow, it seems like your focus is more on writing the album as a whole (musically and conceptually) – where each of the individual pieces is part of a greater narrative and the albums are meant to be listened to in their entirety. Am I imagining this, or is that the case?
(Déhà) : This is the case indeed. Every album for Slow, as stated, is narrative and brings forth a story. Gaïa… Well I believe it speaks for itself, as well as Mythologiae and the (definitely greek) content, while Oceans….
(Lore) : I agree with Deha. We aim to create ‘a whole package’ rather than ‘just an album’ because it gives everyone so much more satisfaction. The songs on Oceans are indeed meant to be listened to as one full song – that way you will truly hear how the story unfolds.
Is there anything else you’d like readers/listeners to know or to keep in mind in regards to Slow?
(Déhà) : We are working on album VI right now, which is going to be a little different, but will contain the same crushing doom music. I would dare say that it is be a bit more ‘experimental’.
(Lore) : That we are very thankful for all the reactions and support we receive from them. Furthermore, what Deha said. We are constructing a small monument as we speak, so keep your eyes and ears wide open.
So, VI is being recorded as you read this, and Lore is taking over bass duties and arrangements. Fuck yes.
If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself.
– Joseph Goebbels (an actual Nazi)
So, yeah. The “Metal Bubble” of 2016-2017 has popped. We’re over-saturated with mediocre metal by numbers. As such, there’s been a decrease in metal-related news.
Due largely to a massive decrease in traffic over the last year or so (see below), Metalsucks seems to have latched onto this new formula where they cry “Nazi” anytime someone from ANTIFA digs something up to stir shit.
I think this is also largely due to a bit of a confirmation complex – somewhere along the line in Vince and Axl’s social circles, they associate with a section of the metal community (and probably people outside the metal community) who subscribe to the ideology of the American political left.
After a quick glance at their own words (and their actions) I think it’s safe to say it’s a mildly radicalized faction of the middle to upper class that self identifies as the radical left.
Which is totally cool. I love people who subscribe to extreme ideologies too, I totally get it.
(There’s also the argument that I’ve touched on in other articles, where the large influx of scene tourists from a social class not typically associated with heavy metal have been slowly trying to co-opt black metal (entryism).They’re relatively easy to identify, look for an American “black metal” band that uses the term “post metal” to describe themselves.
HOLY FUCK LOST IN VEGAS READ MY BLOG, AND TWEETED A LINK TO IT!
Ok, I’m good.
Seriously though, I’ve been a fan since they reacted to Megadeth’s “Holy Wars”
Their excitement is infectious, you can see they “get it” right away.
I’m pretty sure every metalhead, to some degree or another, gets a thrill seeing someone who isn’t a fan of the genre experience that level of excitement (as of today that video has over 1 million views).
They’re more of a phenomenon than just a channel, and their incredible popularity in the metal community has spawned some copy-cats in the metal industry (like this entire new segment called “metal reacts only” from Metalsucks) and elsewhere trying to soak up a bit of the limelight. I think there’s even a youtube channel with 2 metalhead dudes reacting to non-metal videos.
Often imitated, never duplicated.
I’ll probably never get a chance like this again, so I’d like to take a second to recommend a few songs I think Ryan and George might like. Trying to go by genre here, maybe make a poll?
Thrash:Testament – “The Pale King” (fan favorites aren’t always the best example of what an artist is capable of, their new album has the production quality you guys seem to prefer) v.s. Metal Church – “Needle and Suture”
Power Metal: Unleash the Archers – “Tonight We Ride” or “Awakening” v.s. Blind Guardian – Voice in the Dark”
Melodic Death Metal:Soilwork – “Stabbing the Drama” v.s. In Flames – “Trigger” v.s. Solution .45 – “Gravitational Lensing”
Black Metal:Immortal – “Sons of Northern Darkness” v.s. Cradle of Filth – “Nymphetamine” (If you guys like getting shit from so called elitists, simply mention Cradle of Filth)
Folk Metal:Eluveitie – “Call of the Mountains” or “Inis Mona” v.s. Cellar Darling – “Avalanche”
Make sure you check out more of their reaction videos here, and if you like what you see subscribe to their channel (and their twitter). They’re already over 300,000, and react to videos largely based on viewer recommendations.