Saturday, May 20, 2023

Interview with A.A. Nemtheanga of Verminous Serpent (Primordial, The Nest, Dread Sovereign, Blood Revolt…)

This is a more brief discussion that took place over the course of a week with the venerable and fervorous A.A. Nemtheanga with the intention of poking and prodding into the intentions and ideas of his newest group, Verminous Serpent. I had an early listening promo and spent nearly two weeks straight listening to it, munching on their blend of bestial black/death metal which draws from the wells of the underground and early adopters aforementioned below… I intended to have this up a month ago, while 'The Malign Covenant' was striking the anvil hot, but life happened and I gulped down a barrage of work and other responsibilities which halted my progress in getting this up. I digress, it was my pleasure delving into this brief conversation with A.A. and I thank him for his time and patience. It shouldn't take more than a few minutes, so read on and educate.

•  †  •

SHOM) First off, thanks for taking time out of your very involved life to blow some smoke regarding your newest project, Verminous Serpent and the debut album, ‘The Malign Covenant’ out on Amor Fati as of today (while I write this)… Feel free to open this up anyway you'd like.

A.A.) If you like nasty, bestial analog old school black/death metal, go for it… check the link to the album!

SHOM) What is the genesis story of Verminous Serpent, and when and how did this trident of metal veterans come to take its shape?

A.A.) Matt from Malthusian had the idea. He and I were jamming one day during the lockdown, and it came from there. He asked Joey from Slidhr and we started to put things together. No magical mystical meeting, and it took some shape and here we are. 

SHOM) The entirety of ‘The Malign Covenant’ is rife with a primitive and feral energy, sonically the mix of the instruments carries the same weight as a live performance and feels both raw and compelling in the same sense—What was the recording process like on The Malign Covenant? Was there any file trading in the early stages or were most of the decisions fleshed out in person in a rehearsal setting?

A.A.) We rehearsed together, old school. I wont trade files for any band I'm in, and neither are the guys interested in that. Has to be a human process. We hired a good studio, with a live room, went in, set up in the same room, blasted through the album in 2 takes… and used the first. All done in about 4/5 hours maybe. Overdubbed a few guitars and the vocals, mixed it. Done and dusted probably in about 16 hours proper work.

SHOM) Verminous Serpent exists somewhere between the death/black metal canopy—The overarching sound being something unfettered and bestial, do you find a different kind of catharsis in playing this type of sound over some of your other bands? Does this new sound open up different pathways of exploration for you in any creative sense?

A.A.) Not really… my influences for this were the same as they were in 1991/92 starting out with Primordial, we just took a slightly different path. For me it's kinda like returning to where I came from. The catharsis of course exists as we made this in lockdown, its a record full of anger and intensity. The main difference for me is really bass and vocals. I'm always open to creating with new people and in new environments with different goals. Life is short, get busy. 

Photo courtesy of Amor Fati Productions

SHOM) I really enjoyed what came from Blood Revolt—'Indoctrine' exists, in my opinion, as something wholly unique in the space of bestial death metal—Though the "signature" A.A. vocal delivery is still present throughout those songs, did you go into writing everything on 'The Malign Covenant' knowing you were going to explore new territory within your vocals or was it more of a byproduct of what seemed right within the desired tone and sound of Verminous Serpent?

A.A.) Well I knew (we all agreed) it shouldn't have any of my signature vocal sound, and once that was agreed upon… it was just a case of finding this new tone. I took a lot of influence from all the old Brazilian and South American bands, and Eastern European stuff from the late 80's. 

SHOM) This "signature vocal sound" nearly casts a shadow in the closing seconds of the album opener, 'Seraphim Falls', but instead yields to something more primitive and in a higher register. It sounds cool—In the earlier stages of Verminous Serpent were you experimenting with these types of vocal nuances or were you focused on keeping it more orthodox and within the range and influence of the South American and Eastern European stuff of the 80's?

A.A.) Well we all agreed at the beginning that it couldn't be my, what would we call it… signature voice—another band with the same tone, so we had to steer clear of it completely—Yet it also had to not be like my 'brutal' voice in Primordial either, so my intention was to always have this kinda old school obscure old style vocals and after a few experiments I got there. But also to give that tone some diversity as well, mix it up… so it had its own character, and without a doubt also me, but a different side. In the beginning really, we were concentrating on getting the songs together, the vocals weren't really first on the agenda.

SHOM) What were the explored themes and lyrical focus on 'The Malign Covenant'?

Photo Courtesy of Amor Fati Productions

A.A.) Just to set the tone, there is no specific statement being made, they are a texture, but of course dark. They are mainly (vaguely) alluding to religious, medieval occultism, secret societies, etc. But what I also wanted to do was have a flow of words based on the sounds, you might call it Onomatopoeia, a stream of consciousness to convey an overall atmosphere with no real grammatical structure. Which is why on the back of the album the lyrics are all in one long sentence.

SHOM) As a follow-up, could you illuminate the idea behind the album cover?

A.A.) Basically I collect interesting images all the time. I keep them in a folder and when I'm creating something and need an image, you never know, something might make sense… so that's what happened here.

This is if I am not mistaken a pencil drawing created some time in the early 19th century by an artist trying to depict the Black Death coming to the town centuries before. Seemed to make sense.

•  Ω  •

This is where we cut it off, short and sweet—No more, no less. If you got to this point, I thank you for keeping the underground lit! Thanks once again to Amor Fati and Alan. A. for taking the time to engage. Give this monster of an album a listen—One of the years best!

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Interview with H. of Oerheks (Silver Knife, Hypothermia, Monads…)

This is a discussion that took place over the course of a week with H.—Lone member in the atmospheric black metal project called Oerheks. I received an early listening promo for 'Landschapsanachronismen' and was levelled by the atmospheric heft and austerity flowing through the two-track demo, so I reached out to H. and bothered him with a series of probing questions in preparation for the album release—which releases today (February 22, 2023)—below is the album for stream through bandcamp followed by our conversation below…

•  †  •

SHOM) First of all, thanks for taking the time to chew some fat—It’s freezing cold here in Toronto as I’m writing this, what’s the weather been like recently in Kaggevinne, Belgium?

H.) Hi Chris, thanks for the opportunity to talk about Oerheks! We've had some extremely cold weather in the beginning of January, resulting in some magical ice-transformed landscapes, followed by snow, followed by rain, and right now the sun seems to have come back almost right on time for Imbolc.

SHOM) So you already have a very well received debut under your belt in ‘Cagghenvinna’ which saw itself unfurled last year on August of 2022 by the highly regarded Amor Fati Productions and found its way on quite a few year-end lists (including my own)… did the noise around the internet change the way you approached writing for your sophomore demo 'Landschapsanachronismen’? Was there suddenly a feeling to fill expectations or was it done within the same framework as your debut?

H.) It did not, since the second demo was long finished before 'Cagghenvinna' was released. In fact, in the Summer of 2022, about a month before the public release of the first demo, I started working on the fifth Oerheks demo. The third was also completely finished and ready to go to press before Oerheks went public. For the fourth and the fifth release I just have to finish some smaller things, add some stuff and record the vocals. In the past I've fallen into traps created by expectations of a debut recording, and my reaction over the years evolved into always trying having the next release ready before the current one goes to press. It doesn't always work, but so far with Oerheks, it has.

SHOM) Very wild, so you’re quite ahead of yourself in the sense of song-writing—Was this spurt of individual productivity a result of the earlier lockdowns and the free-time that that period gave? And are details like album name/cover already thought of and just locked in the vault until announcement?

H.)  I wouldn't say Oerheks is a result of the lockdown(s), I've always felt the need to record music, whether for bands or solo projects. However, the first recordings for Oerheks did occur in the first lockdown, indeed. Besides isolation, the Spring of 2020 offered incredible weather, giving me the opportunity to go on walks and hikes in my area every day. It gave me the inspiration that would eventually end up in the first couple of demos. 

Album concepts and (working) titles grow together with the songs, and very often are already set in stone before recordings are finished (sometimes even before recordings are started!). The fact that the first three demos were finished before the release of 'Cagghenvinna' gave me time to let the concept and artwork of each release take shape to the fullest. So, in a way they weren't locked away at all, they kept evolving even after they were musically finished. 

SHOM) Now that 'Landschapsanachronismen' has already been heard by thousands of folks through the early demo premier over at the Black Metal Promotion page, could you elaborate on the inspiration and the themes explored within ‘Landschapsanachronismen’?

H.) Just like with 'Cagghenvinna', the theme of the second Oerheks demo is centered around my local area, called Kaggevinne. It's a very small town with a rich history, mostly because of an ancient forest that used to be present here. The forest was called 'Prinsenbos' (or Prince's Forest, named after the Prince of Orange who used to own these lands). Today, only one survivor remains of this forest: the Old Oak of Kaggevinne. A magical solitary oak, with branches curling far and wide into the sky; it truly is a sight to behold in this sloping landscape. 'Lanschapsanachronismen' tells the story of this lost forest, how it got eradicated and how the solitary oak is a mighty yet painful reminder of what once was. 

Photo by @hagatissa

SHOM) Inspiration is often a fickle thing in the work of artistic expression, sometimes we’re caught up in specifics and other times it’s fleeting or ambiguous—Besides the history and landscape of your surrounding area what other forces drives Oerheks sound? 

H.) I'd say it's a deep and unrelenting obsession with the sound of black metal, combined with the ritual-like sensation of recording music in solitude. Inspiration for Oerheks comes when it comes, and usually pretty intensely. Once I start recording, I forget all about reality and time and hours/days seem to pass within moments.

SHOM) As a follow-up, are there any specific albums that directly or indirectly influence your motives with Oerheks?

H.) Indirectly, I'm sure there are a lot. However, there is no direct musical influence to Oerheks. I tried to cut myself off from ideas such as 'making it sound like band X meets band Y' (for example), and chose to let the inspiration come from the inside. In this way, Oerheks is a mix of my past/other current projects and something new all at once.

SHOM) You released your Oerheks debut 'Cagghenvinna' on the same day as fellow-countryman Aerdryk, who was also releasing his first solo debut output, both of which were put out with the support of Amor Fati Productions—How did this take shape and unfold?

H.) CVB and I are close and are in touch with each other on an almost daily basis. Whenever we're working on something new musically, we are each other's main checkpoint. In the process of recording both Oerheks and Aerdryk, a lot of unfinished stages of songs were sent in both directions. We appreciate and need each other's honesty for whatever we're working on. Thus, Oerheks and Aerdryk were growing together; and releasing it together seemed only logical to us. Marius from Amor Fati was immediately up for the idea, and thanks to Addergebroed, we had a double premiere with an interview to promote both releases.

SHOM) Can you provide some background to the album cover on Cagghenvinna and or any surrounding details?  

H.) All my life I've had a minor obsession with maps, especially old maps. In one of my many searches for maps of the area, and maps including variations of the name Kaggevinne, I stumbled upon the one used for 'Cagghenvinna'. To this day, I can't exactly explain why I chose this map and not any of the other ones that were an option, but it somehow struck a chord, and I knew it was the right one.
The map itself shows the area where the current provinces of Antwerp (North), Brabant (South) and Limburg (East, just off-screen) meet. To the east, we can see the nearby town of Diest (once a stronghold of the Prince of Orange) as a walled city, with the Demer running through it like coronary arteries. It also shows Zichem as a walled city, before most of it was destroyed during the Eighty Year's War. North of Zichem, the natural flooding area in the valley of the Demer is marked by diagonally crossed lines. West of Diest and South of Zichem, there's a seven pointed star, which is Scherpenheuvel in its earliest stages of being a town. South of that is the most important element of the map: The Forest of the Prince of Orange. All around are interesting landmarks, like spots labeled 'Justice', with a drawing of a gallows. These are still referenced today on those exact spots, in names of streets and areas.
Ever since the 1970's, Kaggevinne has been split up into two parts. The eastern, more populated part, is part of Diest. The western part, still called 'Prinsenbos' (Prince's Forest) today, is mostly fields and remnants of the ancient forest. It officially belongs to the territory of Scherpenheuvel. I live in that western part. The Old Oak of Kaggevinne is located close to the border of both parts of Kaggevinne.

SHOM) What does the recording process for you normally look like? Do you have any rituals or practices you perform before or after a recording session?

H.) It's usually a pretty impulsive process. I'm a person who doesn't record all too often, strange as that may seem. Yet, when I do, I sink into the process 100% and forget about time, the world and myself. I usually can't stop before most of what's in my mind and inspiration has become a tangible result. Though I usually have ideas and riffs written down, the recording process is still greatly improvisatory. As for preparation rituals, I always try to get enough walks/hikes through the area before and during the recording process.

SHOM) Comparably to Oerheks, your other project Silver Knife has also seen quite a lot of support and praise on a global level—How did this international collective take shape?

A) N. and I kept bumping into each other in the weirdest places, usually when I was on stage with Hypothermia and he was on stage with Laster. We started playing with the idea of doing something together one day. It remained a "one day we will" kind of plan for several years, until I invited N. in the Summer of 2019 to go and record an album with Déhà. We spent two days going over riffs and ideas at my place, then spent two more days recording the album (and the groundwork for the 'Ring' EP), and that's how SK started. Later that year, we asked Pierre (aka Business for Satan) to join us on drums.
Though SK is technically an international band, the term gets wildly less impressive if you see how we don't really live that far from each other at all.

SHOM) ‘Landschapsanachronismen’ launches into a soaring riff straight out of the gate on “Een Eenzaat in het Landschap”. It’s an abrupt start full of energy and feeling which gave me the same feeling as Nocturnal Triumph’s release last year, makes the hair on your neck stand!

Both your releases open with a powerful intensity, do you feel it important to set a pace and tone early within Oerheks? Have you ever explored various intro types?

H.) Well first off, the comparison to Nocturnal Triumph is humbling! I could only dream of writing such unstoppable expressive riffs… 

As for song intros; I love them, and have experimented with them plenty in other projects. It's true that the first two Oerheks demos are filled with songs that start off straight away with little or no build-up at all, but that's just because it fitted the atmosphere of the song. On the next demo, for example, I've played around with intros some more, as it did fit on those songs.

SHOM) Throughout ‘Landschapsanachronismen’ there are moments of what sounds like poetry or a saga in Flemish (?), tonally it gives the album a deeper sense of austerity but could you shed some light on what is being conveyed in these narratives?

H.) These parts are fragments of the lyrics. One wouldn't be able to separate them from the full context of the texts, but as you mention, they offer a deeper look into what is being conveyed. In 'Een Eenzaat in het Landschap', there's a spoken word fragment that goes as follows:

Stap voor stap vestig ik me in dit landschap
Eenzaam, maar vertrouwd
Verloren, maar thuis
Dit landschap vestigde zich in me

I'll try to translate this to the best of my abilities:

Step by step, I am settled in this landscape
Lonely, but familiar
Lost, but home
This landscape has settled inside of me

This section shows the intrinsic, deeply personal side of Oerheks, turning the atmosphere of this landscape unto me. The text goes on to describe a specific path towards the Old Oak. In this sense, the 'Loner in the Landscape', talks about the lonely oak, but about myself as well. 

The spoken word fragment in 'Een Oude Wijsheid Werd hier Geveld' is:

Een oude wijsheid werd hier geveld
Als bloedende lichamen onder de zon
Vloeiend sap, glimmende bijlen
Mijn landschap bloedt

An old wisdom was felled here
Like bleeding bodies under the sun
Flowing sap, shimmering axes
My landscape bleeds

Obviously this refers to the felling of the ancient forest. It's a dramatic turning point in the song, after which the melodies and atmosphere get more aggravated

SHOM) The sound throughout the album is very charged in the sense that it feels grandiose and battle ready—A vast and deep expanse with an ancient wisdom to impart. Listening to the final result, do you feel like you successfully matched the tone in the music with the albums message?

H.) Yes, absolutely. There is a sense of both triumph and tragedy in this release, which is exactly what I wanted it to convey. All in all, I want the listener to be transported to the Prince's Forest, both nowadays and many centuries ago, to witness the majesty that once was. As always, there are some things that aren't perfect and things I'd change. However, this is also why the release is a demo. Oerheks is still forming, still taking shape. Imperfections are a way of the process. I'll learn from these and refine them for future recordings.

SHOM) What aspect are you most proud about on ‘Landschapsanachronismen’? Do you have a favourite moment or riff that stands out to you?

H.) That's a really tough one. From day one in Oerheks, my personal challenge has been to put melodic leads over already melodic riffs, and this is something that really worked out well on Landschapsanachronismen. A new element are the classical guitar intermezzos, which I feel really add something special to the overall atmosphere. Favorite moment or riff, I really couldn't pick, but for the sake of it; let's say the final 4 minutes of the release (classical guitar interlude + final riffs of 'Een Oude Wijsheid Werd hier Geveld')…

Maybe that will motivate people to listen right up to the end of the demo.

SHOM) Let's leave it right here H.—A thousand thank you's again for taking the time to talk music! Feel free to close this out anyway you'd like, floor is yours…

H.) Thanks so much for your time, your effort, your in-depth questions and the opportunity to share my thoughts and words, Chris. 'Landschapsanachronismen' will be available from the Oerheks bandcamp page today, both digitally and on LP. 

LP's will be available from Amor Fati Productions (& distributors), the tape will be available from Babylon Doom Cult Records.Whoever orders the LP from me will get a little extra (to make up for Belgium's ridiculous postage rates).

•  Ω  •

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Crawl - Damned (2023) 🇺🇸 | Profound Lore Records

•  †  •

Crawl exists in the arena of doom metal as a one-man force of bone gnashing atmospherics that move around with the same agility and haste as old people fucking—It’s lugubrious and dismal and mired in cavernous noise, dank and crumbling. You’ve heard this before, many times actually, but maybe not exactly in this way. The use of ambient passages in Lurker of Chalice comes to mind. Or the stoney abrasive heaviness of Rorcal, distilled all the way down to the molasses paced heft of Világvége.

Tonally, Crawl is solitary confinement.

I’ve read Michael A. Engle word it as such: “Crawl is basically my attempt to put you in a space like a dungeon, where you’re slowly exploring the environment. Every step is very cautious, and every corner has a ton of anxiety. You’re afraid to take that next step or afraid to open a door.” It’s an apt descriptor for the sound he manifests.

•  Ω  •

Admittedly, I haven’t spent enough time with this record to absorb everything about it, my likes and dislikes are ambiguous, but as a reflex I am drawn to how it sounds. It sounds unique, despite not being wholly inventive, though I believe the execution and technique is rather unique to the genre.

Crawl - Damned (bandcamp)

Monday, February 6, 2023

Demon Bitch - Hellfriends (2016) 🇺🇸 | Skol Records

•  †  •

Hellfriends’ is spastic and raw plummet through the obsidian archways of early heavy metal, albeit completely jagged with a very limited reverence for conventional structure, sounding something between early Slough Feg in need of a Ritalin shot and a sloppier Mercyful Fate in full chain mail. There's a resounding energy flowing through every song, as if it were floor recorded and off the cuff. It's a stark and welcomed contrast to the overly produced and mechanically prepared acoustics typical within newer heavy metal…

Despite Fenriz shouting these guys out every chance he gets, the 530 Monthly Spotify listeners is no indication of the galactic supremacy they very well deserve… hopefully after this post it will go up to 532 monthly Spotify listeners?

“There are no words, just rock n' roll.
Keeping me stranger, and keeping me loud!”

Demon Bitch - Hellfriends (bandcamp)

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Antichrist - Forbidden World (2011) 🇸🇪 | High Roller Records

 •  †  • 

One of the best modern-day approaches to an old worn-out genre, beaten to death with bad production and style and a swath of copycats who have totally missed the fucking point. Not Antichrist from Sweden though, these guys understand the sound of the 80’s and shove it up your ass. Sodomy through sonic annihilation!

It’s like the first time I heard ‘Show No Mercy’ front to back—The sheer amount of force and ferocity blew me away. This is primitive thrash that taps into that same well, do yourself a kindness and listen to this in full.

Antichrist - Forbidden World (bandcamp)

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Fōr - The Life Feeding Flame (2021)

•  †  •

The Life Feeding Flame
is an album that has tremendous output sonically, in that its energy is vigorous and full of weight behind it. Seriously this album has an elemental power running through it, like it's been forged through magma rather than written and performed. I don't know how to make sense of that but in the same way bands like Hate Forest, Bølzer and Irkallian Oracle capture and exude a formidable energy, this album manages to do something similar.

It's a potent and ferocious bid at fusing funeral doom and death/black metal, and maybe that's where the source of its strength lies… In its ability to use the slow and heavy moments with the bolstered through a dense and cavernous atmosphere of driven guitars (with a surprising amount of melody behind them) and though the album lingers somewhere between mid-tempo and plodding it's an unrelenting and vicious ritual of the feral side of metal.

Fōr - The Life Feeding Flame (bandcamp)

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Hate Forest - Innermost (2022)

•  †  •

The Unquenchable merchants of aural fury and barbarism ride into the end of the year with a late release of their trademark black metal and its sheer immensity picks up right where 'Hour of the Centaur' left off. Buoyed by the tumult of this year, and no doubt the years prior, intensity and animosity is a palpable force on 'Innermost' as torrents of icy riffs wage war with the galloping bombast of Hate Forests' typical unrelenting blast-beats and of course Romans gruff vocal belt, which atypical for the genre, lends bulk and threat behind its framework.

It's because of releases late in the year like this, that I try to hold off on cementing any type of year end list. The more spins I rack on Innermost, the more it creeps into my list… The riffs are compelling and impactful, and few out there match the primitive velocity Hate Forest conjure. The riff a minute into "Temple Of the Great Eternal Night" is a Bolt Thrower level war anthem!

As of the day of this posting, 'Innermost' is set to be released by Osmose Productions tomorrow, so I don't have a bandcamp link directly to the album, but me and everyone else without an early-listening link have been listening to it through this YouTube link the label provided.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Foreseen - Untamed Force (2022)

•  †  •

Finland's Foreseen have been around for a better part of a decade, throwing their weight around in the arena of thrash and crossover, and they have never before faltered in their approach of agitated dirge. They continue the destruction on Untamed Force upping the ante with riff after riff under a production that is right on the money here—Mirky and heavy to the point of crumbling but not brittle under its own weight.

This is what crossover sounds like when you listen to English Dogs, Crumbsuckers, Whiplash, Razor, Verbal Abuse, etc.—Drawing upon the well but never sucking it dry without throwing your own thoughts and ideas into the pot. I'm into everything about this record!

Foreseen - Untamed Force (bandcamp)

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Chasm Shroud - Manna From Heaven (2022)

•  †  •

You peer into the void. You see nothing, but hear faint sounds in the distance emanating from the yawning maw of black space…

Manna From Heaven came out of nowhere, suddenly appearing (no demos or EP’s prior) and carrying with it some of the most intriguing black metal I’ve heard all year—It’s hard to pin down exactly, but a strange energy circulates here, like it’s been ritually charged and imbued with unknown intent.

The above statement might feel hyperbolic or even trite, but the overall sense is something palpable—An ominous portent of oblique black metal soundscapes reverberating around hypnotic dirges in a hallucinatory haze of frenetic dissonance. NAME YOUR PRICE, don't be a knucklehead!

Chasm Shroud - Manna From Heaven (bandcamp)

Friday, November 25, 2022

Ara - Gurre (2022)

•  †  •

Channeling the same austerity and heft as was circling around the fjords of Norway in the 90’s black metal sound, Ara (meaning “Era” in German) ride under those same black banners—Evincing a similar raw power through a bottom of the barrel production and a flurry of icy tremolo picking.

It’s form over function and it sounds PRIMITIVE! A thousand other bands released albums in 2022 that tried to do the same thing, but few captured Gurre’s ability to do more with less. This has been flying under the banner of most from what I can tell… I think it's a great black metal album with a grimy punk tinge to it. Recommended for fans of Okkultokrati, Bone Awl, Raspberry Bulbs, etc.

Ara - Gurre (bandcamp)