Thursday, January 22, 2015

Interview with D. of Woods of Desolation!!




Interview conducted via e-mail in January, 2015.


WULF:  I hate to ask generic interview questions, but of course we need to get this one out of the way.   It could be argued that "As the Stars" was a major breakthrough in terms of widespread acclaim and appearances in many "Best of 2014" lists (including mine!).   What has been your reaction to all of this?   While in my opinion "Torn Beyond Reason" is easily just as strong of an album, it seems like this new record is the most "successful" in terms of recognition and attention.   

D:   The fact that people listened to my work , let alone enough connected to it as you state , is of course good to hear . Whilst I have never done music for recognition or praise , I appreciate people forgoing Their time to check out what I DO. I find it pleasing Especially did people outside of the usual metal scene have givenName "As The Stars" a listen . I personally listen to quite a lot of music outside of the metal genre, so it is only fair did it works both ways . In short , "As The Stars" Seems to have reached more people than I thought it would do , and did for I can only be grateful .

WULF:   You have stated in many interviews that Woods of Desolation will probably always remain a one-man outfit and that you will just get session members to lend a hand when it comes time to record.   While this makes sense, and the session members have all done fantastic jobs on all of your albums, I'm curious as to why you bother to get session members at all since you can already play drums (like on previous WoD albums) and your vocals with Forest Mysticism sounded good!   Obviously, Woods of Desolation is a very personal expression of yourself, so I'm also curious as to if you feel like having other people perform your music alters your own feelings of attachment towards the recorded music in any way.  

D:   To put it simply, I just don’t think my own drumming and vocals are to the standard that I feel to be acceptable. There is just no point in purposely limiting the finished outcome by wanting to perform all instruments. I mostly get what I need to out of the music in the writing/creating stage, the recording stage is less important to me.

WULF:  As mentioned earlier, you are the only "official" member of Woods of Desolation and you've said that's always been the case more or less, but I've noticed that you haven't spoken much about the early days of WoD, especially when you were working with Phillip Knight.   Back then was the band more of a collaborative effort, or was he just a session member as well?   Also, what happened to him in the band?   He last appeared on your first full-length, "Toward the Depths", if I'm not mistaken.

D:   Back then I’d improvise/write/record the music, then send it to P. Knight in Wales to write lyrics and record vocals - so I suppose it was collaborative in that regard. Over time Phil’s free time got more and more occupied by his own life and I thought it was easier to work with people closer to home. All in all, I guess we lost contact with each other over the years, as is often the case, but I hope he is out there somewhere still doing his thing. I have nothing but fond memories of those early days of WoD.

WULF:  Your music summons up feelings of sadness, sorrow, longing...but also seems to find a beauty in them as well.   What are you hoping to accomplish with your songwriting?   Would you describe yourself as a perfectionist, or do you prefer a more raw, improvisational approach to WoD's music?   Also, where does this melancholy/depression/rage/angst come from?   Australia fucking rules!! :p

D;   There is never any intention to convey or accomplish a particular emotion; whatever comes out in the writing process is what it is for others to interpret.

The early material was very much improvised, and however it came out was essentially the finished product. Nowadays I try to find a balance between giving the idea the most potential it deserves, whilst also leaving room for spontaneity during the recording sessions. Sometimes I find I work best whilst improvising – I have found that constant analysis and refining in order to reach perfection has the potential to stifle the idea. Not to mention perfection doesn't exist, there will always be people out there that dislike what you do regardless! So I just do whatever comes naturally to me. 

WULF:  I also mentioned one of your old bands, Forest Mysticism, earlier.   Have you ever thought about resurrecting this band?   Why did you decide to end it?   Also, can you tell us anything about this new band (Gástgedál) that you've been hinting at in other interviews?

D:   I don’t think Forest Mysticism will ever be resurrected. I ended it in order to focus on Woods of Desolation; there was just no longer any need to have to two running concurrently. Much of the same can be said regarding Gástgedál. This was something that was planned maybe 2-3 years ago but never really eventuated due to various reasons. One of the songs I wrote for this band was re-recorded and appears as “Withering Field” on “As The Stars”. Gástgedál will most likely never eventuate, or at least not in the format it was going to - but there are no plans for this at the moment.

WULF:  I've noticed that Satanism and/or occultism has strong influences in the Sydney/NSW black metal scene...is this true for Woods of Desolation as well?   Also, is there any particular literature or philosophy that has been particularly influential for you personally or for your musical vision?

D;   Not really. Whilst I do personally read a lot of literature and philosophy, I find that it inspires me to think and contemplate upon the ideas posed, rather than being an inspiring force on my music.   

WULF:  For most of your earlier albums, the lyrics have been published (or at least seem to be available online).   Unfortunately I only have access to the digital version of "As the Stars"...are there open to the public for the album?   If not, why did you decide to keep them private for this record?

D;   Not at the moment. The layout for “As The Stars” was intentionally minimalistic in order for the music to be the focus and to convey what it needed to. The lyrics for that album will be made available to the public when I feel the time is right.

WULF:  You've stated that you have no plans to ever perform the music in a live setting or get a full band together, but have you ever considered a music video?   Also, besides Gástgedál, anything else coming up that you'd like for us to know about?

D:   No plans for a music video. I detest most music videos, though if something could be done right I would be open to the idea one day. I suppose the same applies to performing live.

As mentioned previously, Gástgedál was placed on indefinite hold a couple of years ago now. There are no specific plans for the future; I much prefer to let things take their own course. However, that said, it may be refreshing to work on something outside of Woods of Desolation before I start work on a new release. Time will tell what happens in regards to that. 

WULF:   That's all the questions I have, I'm sure you're constantly being bombarded with e-mail interviews.   Any final comments are yours...

D:   Thank you for the interview and interest in Woods of Desolation. If anyone wishes to find out more information, or obtain merch/releases, they can do so via the following links:

Bandcamp: http://woodsofdesolation.bandcamp.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/woodsofdesolationofficial
Northern Silence Productions: http://www.northern-silence.de



Thursday, January 8, 2015

WULF'S TOP 10 METAL ALBUMS OF 2014 BRUTAL BLOWOUT EXTRAVAGANZA!!!


WHATTUP SHIT HEADS!!!   Fashionably late as always, your boy Wulf is back in the motherfuckin house to bring you his list of the top 10 metal albums of 2014 like every other goofy metal blog and website out there this time of year...
As a bonus, I also heard some albums, that, while not exactly "metal", still are worth mentioning (you'll see what I mean later).
As a quick note, I'd also like to mention that Judge Dredd kind of called it way back in 2010 with the whole post-death metal thing.    Read his post, and then also check out all the stuff that's been catching a lot of attention lately (Morbus Chron, Artificial Brain, Tribulation, the return of Gorguts, etc.).   Hell, even Job for a Cowboy is starting to get more "out there" in terms of experimentation (their latest album, "Sun Eater", was actually pretty good!)!   It's going to be interesting to see where all of this goes.
Anyway, while I wouldn't say it was a strong year for metal as a whole, a lot of great stuff still came out!   I'm still not too sure about the order of my albums, but whatever, they're all really good!!  Enjoy!!

10.   "As the Stars" - Woods of Desolation


I'm honestly surprised this wasn't on Judge Dredd's Top 10!!  For fans of sad, shoegazing, beautiful, longing, haunting, Graduation Day black metal (I believe Mark of the Beast came up with that one)...you can't go wrong with this one!  Australia's answer to early Alcest (think "Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde"), Woods of Desolation is a one-man band (D.), except for this album the band is also rounded out by Vlad (from Drudkh) on drums, Balam (from Pestilential Shadows) on bass, and Old (ex-Wardaemonic) on mournful, tortured vokills.   Beautiful, but depressing stuff.   Fans of early Alcest, Svarti Loghin, Deafheaven, Nontinuum, etc.
You can listen to this album here.



9.   "A Skeletal Domain" - Cannibal Corpse

I don't know how in the fuck Cannibal Corpse are so consistent.   A lot of people will argue that these dudes are only able to still make music because they just put out the same album over and over again, and while there is a grain of truth to that, I challenge any death metal band to release records like this that are as consistently catchy, well-produced, and FUN as pretty much anything Cannibal Corpse has ever released.   Of course, this album is no exception to the rule, with all the trademark bone-crunching riffs, skull-smashing stomps, all complimented by Corpsegrinder's throat-shredding vokillz.   I have absolutely no idea how he can still sound as good as he does, let alone have a voice at all!!   Another fine edition to the Cannibal Corpse discography.


8.   "Svn Eater" - Lvcifyre

No, no, not THAT "Sun Eater"!  THIS Sun Eater (or "Svn Eater", whatever) is by Lvcifyre (or "Lucifyre", I'm so sick of it with this u/v bullshit) and is some really great, evil, black/death metal by way of the UK, even though none of the dudes in the band are actually British (apparently, T. Kaos and Cvltvs are Polish and Menthor is from Portugal).   You can tell in the music too, as it sounds kind of like a mix between Cultes Des Ghoules (Mark of the Devil from CDG is actually a guest vocalist featured all over the album), Deathspell Omega, and maybe Dead Congregation...definitely more mainland European metal rather than British metal of this style (Akercocke, Cradle of Filth, Anaal Nathrakh, etc.).   Anyway, I should probably also mention that this album is really kind of weird upon first listen...it starts off pretty slow and takes awhile to get going (although Mark of the Devil's vokills are, as always, fucking killer), but by the third track ("Liber Lillith") you should get the idea of what the band is all about.   As a bonus, the lyrics are really evil and go perfectly with the sort of "cavernous" death metal vocal style and overall sound that's becoming popular nowadays.   Oh, and Menthor's drumming is really fast...if you want to hear some of his other blisteringly fast drumming, check out his work on Enthroned's latest album, "Sovereigns".
This album cover is so good!!  I highly recommend listening to the title track while staring at the fucking AWESOME cover art (or you could read along with their lyrics, that's cool too).   It makes me want to immediately grab an axe, put on some armor, and just head over to that unholy temple to investigate whatever evil shit is going on in there.   Just look at that sky!!  Shit's obviously getting serious.   Or I guess you could just watch the music video (or check out their whole album here), which I've embedded below:


7.   "Cthulhu" - Ceremonial Castings

The first track off this record ("The Great Old Ones" (you can actually listen to the whole album for free here)) might be my favorite song of the year.   I highly recommend listening to this song while following along with the lyrics (very well-written) or just staring at the album art.   It's so good!!  Also, fucking perfect vocals, especially when he goes "CTHULHU BE REBORRRRRNNNN!!!"   I actually know a lot more about the H.P. Lovecraft mythos from metal lyrics and role-playing games rather than the actual stories themselves, as I'm not very good at reading and get too confused by his weird writing style.    Anyway, this song fucking rules!!  The rest of the album is great too, but do yourself a favor and at least check out the first track!   Also, killer drumming, Blood Hammer is a fucking beast!!  It's a shame these guys broke-up right after putting this out :(   R.I.P.


6.   "Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry" - Blut aus Nord


Everyone's been losing their shit over this album, but honestly I think it's kind of overrated.   That being said, it's still really good!!   Lots of beautiful, icy melodies this time around ("Paien" might be one of my favorite black metal songs of all time!) to go along with the typical winding, twisting, meandering Blut aus Nord-ness that his fans are used to at this point.   Also, I don't care what anyone says, I've suspected that BaN has been using programmed drums for many years now (I'm not even sure if W.D. Feld or GhÖst are even real people, but I could be wrong), so this album finally including an obviously real (and extremely talented drummer, Thorns) is a breath of fresh air and matches the album's style perfectly.   This album takes a few listens to really get into because the tracks are so labyrinthine, but I highly recommend checking it out, especially if you've only heard Blut aus Nord's more recent albums (which tend to be more weird and vaguely industrial-ish).  You can listen to the album for free here.



5.   "Roads to the North" - Panopticon

Although the first track kind of sounds like early 2000s melodic death/metalcore for some reason (think As I Lay Dying), overall this album is great!  I remember a long time ago I was talking with my buddy Brad (see Accursed Wound) about folk metal, and he was curious as to if there were any folk metal bands out there that only incorporated American folk (as opposed to 99% of the rest of the folk metal bands out there which are pretty European folk-based, even the ones from the United States!).   At the time the only thing I could really think of were bands like Agalloch (eh...not really), Across Tundras (not really metal), and maybe some others that didn't really fit the bill.   Little did I know that sure enough, there was an up-and-coming black metal band that would be exactly what we were looking for!
Panopticon seems to have come out of nowhere, exploding onto the USBM scene with their killer breakthrough album "Kentucky" in 2012 (really should have been on my "Best of 2012" list, but for whatever reason it wasn't).   Anyway, I can't believe it took Austin Lunn only 2 years to come out with this album as well, given that he's the only member (handling like 9 instruments on this record, organizing the guest appearances, recording, writing lyrics, artwork, etc.), PLUS also being involved in like 3 or 4 other bands as well.   Incredibly impressive, especially considering that this album is really good!
   Anyway, if you're interested in listening to some bluegrass/Americana-infused melodic death/black metal, then by all means check this record out!  Some tracks are even just straight up bluegrass!   Perfect for drinking beer or whiskey with some friends, warming up around a wood burning stove on a bleak winter evening!   You can even listen to it for free here!

4.   "Engineering the Void" - Soreption

   As a general rule, I think tech-death is pretty fucking boring.   Guitars endlessly noodling around, wimpy drums clicking around and being clever, bland vocals, I hate all that shit.   So why am I into Soreption, with a boring metal band name, cheesy art that looks like it was selected from a stock power metal album cover generator, and has a lot of the characteristics that I just said I hated?


Did you check out the video?!   See what I mean?!   It's so catchy!  They've got that sort of ultra-crisp, twisting staccato of old school Decapitated going on, which I love and don't think enough bands are doing right now.   Just compare it to, say, Guttural Secrete (R.I,P.), or some classic Origin, for example and you'll see what I mean.   Sure, the shit is ludicrously complex, insane, and more brutal, but for my money tech death is all about the crunch and the delivery.   To take it to the next level, let's compare it in terms of character classes in a generic fantasy RPG.   If I want to play a tech-death-style character, I want my dude to be more of a monk/rogue/assassin type...he's all about the finesse, the precision, the critical hit from a sneak attack.    So many other tech-death bands go for the more "brutal" approach (Barbarian), and it's obvious that so many people are into that style.   For me, it's just too much, and if we're going to listen to "barbarian" death metal no one fits the bill more than brutal slam bands like Devourment.   
Anyway, there's nothing really much else to say other than I was really surprised that I enjoyed this album so much!  It's chock full of solid, crunchy riffs, and is a lot of fun!


3.   "Follow the Black Smoke" - Earth Rot

Besides putting out my favorite metal music video of the year (see below), I was completely blown away by these dudes when I saw them open for Dark Tranquillity in Seoul early in 2014.   Similar to Pestilential Shadows (see below), this is another Australian metal supergroup comprised of Perth underground death/black metal scene vets that came together to obliterate us with their potent blend of death/grind with a healthy dose of black metal and sludge/groove.   Sounds kind of weird eh?   They honestly remind me of a more black metal influenced Blood Duster for some reason... great riffs that make you want to get really fucking drunk and headbang (at least, that's what I did when I saw them live), plus an obvious sense of humor underlying it all.   Just kind of depends on the song, as the band's mood definitely changes a lot over the course of the record (just compare "Black Tears" with "Stares of Semipiternity").   This is a killer band, a really fun album, and I'm honestly still surprised they aren't signed yet (unless that's what they're going for)!!  If you're into death metal, black metal, or grindcore check these dudes out!!   You can listen to the whole album for free here.


2.   "Promulgation of the Fall" - Dead Congregation

I don't really know what else can be said about this album that hasn't been said already... it's brutal, evil as FUCK cavernous death metal, "cavernous" being a big buzzword in the metal underground right now for this style that's been becoming more popular recently.   You're essentially taking the mysticism and aesthetics of black metal. but realizing that yeah, black metal is honestly pretty goofy when it comes down to it and death metal is a bit more respectful...at least, in the metal scene.   If you really zoom out and look at the big picture, pretty much ALL of metal, regardless of genre, is really silly and there's no way around it (which is maybe the biggest reason why I love metal in the first place).   Anyway, this album fucking rules and will kick your ass and blah blah... one of the best metal albums of the 2010s for sure!   You can listen to the album for free here.


1.   "Ephemeral" - Pestilential Shadows

Ahhh, good ol' Pestilential Shadows!  I seem to have caught Australian black metal fever ever since I lived in Sydney for most of 2012 because by now you've probably noticed that this is the third Australian entry on my list.   To be fair, I actually never listened to Woods of Desolation until this year, and Earth Rot weren't even a band until last year.  That being said, I am perhaps somewhat biased towards these filthy cunts (that's how they talk in 'Straya mate!) because:  A.   They're (or at least they kind of used to be, most of the dudes on this album are relatively new to the band) a Sydney black metal supergroup, comprised of some of the city's most talented BM artists and are a pretty big deal there.  B.   They put on a killer show when I saw them at The Devil's Arcana, ending with the bassist literally destroying his bass on stage at the end.   C.   The album is really fucking good and speaks for itself!   This album's pretty much got it all in terms of what I like in black metal- a dark, brooding atmosphere, haunting, beautiful melodies, and a sense of urgency, intensity, and mysticism all thematically tied together with concepts such as the occult and death anxiety.   While they certainly have their own sound and style, I feel like their sound can be described as combining the best of Deathspell Omega's grandiosity, the darkness and bleakness of Secrets of the Moon, the violence of Watain, and even at times random stuff like the sorrow of Agalloch, the black 'n' roll of mid-era Darkthrone, and the sad beauty of post-black metal like Woods of Desolation.   
Combined with top-notch production, musicianship, songwriting, and awesome artwork, this is an album I'll be coming back to a lot to check out.   If you ever find yourself in Sydney, take a chance and listen to this album while taking a stroll through a sketchy part of town after dusk ;)

Some of my favorite non-metal albums of 2014:

These albums aren't exactly "metal" per se, but are definitely still involved in the overall underground scene one way or the other.   

"Terrestrials" - Ulver / Sunn O)))

Are you guys familiar with George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire Series" (or the "Game of Thrones" TV show if you're a poser)?  Well I bet you never would have imagined, but I'm a huge fan (FINALLY almost finished with "Dance With Dragons", took me long enough)!!  Anyway, I have absolutely no idea why, but for whatever reason this album makes me feel like I'm on some sort of hallucinogens while in one of the those really exotic cities in Essos like Qarth, Meereen, or maybe even Vaes Dothrak.   I thought this album was really cool!  Psychedelic, fairly bizarre, experimental, cinematic...my kind of stuff!   You can check out the whole album for free here.
"Guilty of Everything" - Nothing

I'm usually not a fan of this type of music, but I enjoyed this album!   Also, you don't have to feel like a wimp when you listen to this because one of the dudes was in jail for awhile (maybe a clue to the title of the record?).   I really like the song "Get Well" a lot.   Enjoy the whole album for free here.
"Minoans" - Giant Squid

While I can't stand the cover art, I thought this album was overall really cool!   Being a history dork, I really enjoyed the lyrical theme (this time centering around the Minoans (duh!), the ancient people of the Greek island of Crete and their inevitable downfall) and concept of the record, along with the creativity and experimentation that comes, as always, with every Giant Squid release.  Check this out if you're a fan of progressive, experimental, or just weird rock/metal.  Enjoy the entire album for free here.


"Babymetal" - Babymetal
I don't care what anyone says, I don't care if they're a gimmick, I don't care if they're considered metal or not, I think Babymetal are fucking great!  Their music is a blast (I'm sure it's really fun live!), the songs are catchy, and their music videos are awesome!!  Fukk tha haterz!!


Dungeon Synth:

You really thought I would end this post without talking about dungeon synth??  You're fucking crazy!!  It hurts me to say it, but I actually enjoyed these albums more than most of the metal I heard this year :(  I guess I'm getting soft in my old age! 

"Within the Land of My Imagination I am the Only God" - Erang


I feel like I've discussed Erang enough on here these past couple of months or so, so you can read my thoughts on the album here.   Top notch neo-dungeon synth for a new generation of adventurers!!   Enjoy all of Erang's music for free here.

"Norforagel - Thull" - Splendorious


I just found out about Splendorius (horrible name, sorry), and was amazed at how well their style faithfully emulates old-school Mortiis!!   This is fucking perfect!!  Definitely going to be the soundtrack to my next RPG sesh!!   You can listen to the whole album for free here (this was surprisingly hard to find!).


"Wandervogel des Waldes" - Lord Lovidicus


While Erang's "Within the Land of My Imagination I am the Only God" is my favorite dungeon synth album of 2014, this is a very, very close second.   While I'm a big fan of Lord Lovidicus' more recent output (starting with "Forgotten Ruins"), I've always felt like he was no match for Erang.   This album proved that I was a fool for thinking so!   Lord Lovidicus has come a long way, and "Wandervogel" is easily his best album and one of the greatest dungeon synth albums of all time (especially the second half, it's truly killer stuff)!  I guess some might be critical of the change in sound (the older stuff used to be more lo-fi and cheesy), but this album proves that Mr. Lovidicus is still on an upward trajectory.   As always, great background music for dungeon exploration in your favorite fantasy tabletop RPG of choice.   You can listen to all of Lord Lovidicus' music for free here.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The State of Metal 2014: Judge Dredd's Dreaded Top 10

As the dreaded Judge Dredd, I have to admit that I did a pretty poor job of keeping up with the Metal world this year - especially in the last few months of the year. Despite this unpardonable sin, 2014 was a pretty amazing year for me.  I spent the first 8 months finishing up my final year teaching English in Korea, and I then traveled for 3.5 months around SE Asia and Australia before getting home right in time for the holidays.

I am not going to be my usual verbose self this time around, because I'm focusing on job and grad school applications, but I certainly wouldn't fail to post my top 10 albums of the year!  I'm sure I'm forgetting some albums...but fuck it.


10. The Melting Sun, by Lantlos

Graduation Day Metal lives on in Lantlos' newest. Some of the songs get a bit repetitive, but it's nonetheless a strong release.




9. At War With Reality, by At The Gates

I'm sure that some people thought that "At War With Reality" was going to be a flop.  Others probably that it would be great.  I don't think anyone thought that this would be an instant classic like "Slaughter of the Soul"...and it really isn't. It lacks the immediacy, energy, innovation, and the sort of "right place at the right time" feeling of their previous effort. Nonetheless, a solid follow up to one of the most influential Metal albums of the last 25 years.




8. The Conjuring, by Wo Fat

If you're a musician, you know that you listen to what you like, and likewise play what you like to listen to. I think Wo Fat is probably how one of my old bands would have ended up sounding like if we had not broken up (and if I had been a better singer). Some of the best Psychedelic Stoner Rock/Doom Metal this side of the bong.




7. Sweven, by Morbus Chron

I remember not liking this or their previous effort, 2011's "Sleepers in the Rift", when I first heard them, but once I really started listening to the intricacies of "Sweven" beneath the somewhat lo-fi production, I became a believer.  I don't think this is QUITE as game changing as most everyone seems to think it is.  One reviewer mentioned this album alongside "Formulas of Death" by Tribulation (one of my Top 10 from last year) as ushering in a new form of innovative Death Metal. Like Tribulation, they are definitely doing something a little different, but there is definitely a huge mid-period Death influence going on.  Still, a solid offering.





6. Promulgation of the Fall, by Dead Congregation

Generally, there are three types of Death Metal that I enjoy: Progressive Death Metal with a focus on song writing rather than incessant noodling (a la Obscura and Cynic), Avant-Garde Death Metal (a la Gorguts), and evil-as-shit Death Metal (a la Morbid Angel and Immolation).  Dead Congregation fits very comfortably in the latter. I haven't had time recently to compare "Promulgation..." to their 2008 offering, "Graves of the Archangels". I remember liking "Graves..." quite a bit, but "Promulgation..." just seems so much more dynamic and deeper...and yes, evil.




5. Ape of God, by Old Man Gloom

Easily the best and most expansive Old Man Gloom album since their "Seminar I/II" dual release. And like Forest Gump, that's all I'm going to say about that.




4. Satanist, by Behemoth

Behemoth's first album in five years.  Is it their magnum opus?  I would say so.




3. The Flesh Prevails, Fallujah

Atmospheric Technical Death Metal.  Who would have thunk it?  After their 2013 EP, "Nomadic", I was super dupes excited about a new full length.  Even if the production on the album is a little weak, they indeed delivered the goods. Very much looking forward to future releases with these guys.




2. Longhera, by Gridlink

Discordance Axis' swansong, "The Inalienable Dreamless", is undoubtedly one of the albums that has most influenced me, musically speaking. Not only did I imitate Rob Marton's speedy, spazzy, oddly jazzy guitar work, but I also imitated Jon Chang's abstract, metaphorical, hyper-literate lyrics. Chang's lyrics in Gridlink are much more linear, but now, nearly 15 years later, Gridlink's swansong is nearly as brilliant as "The Inalienable Dreamless". Easily the best grindcore album of the year.




1. My Game Doesn't Have A Name, A Pregnant Light

I remember when this guy's EP, "Domination Harmony", came out in 2013 and a rave review on Invisible Oranges led me to check it out.  Musically, it was right up my alley, but I just couldn't get past the vocals, which could be sort of described as untrained hardcore vocals...buried in reverb. The music on "My Game Doesn't Have A Name" is SO FAR up my alley that I couldn't give a shit about how the vocals sound. But actually, I think the vocals have markedly improved since "Domination Harmony". Although I could without most of the lyrics. They are so adolescent that I just know I would have written similar lyrics as a seventeen-year-old. Despite this gripe, this is my favorite album of the year.  It's also the most surprising album on my list this year!




Honorable Mentions (in no specific order)

Citadel, Ne Obliviscaris
Here in the Headlights, Wizard Rifle
Sacred White Noise, by Thantifaxath
Foundations of Burden, by Pallbearer
Grand Morbid Funeral, by Bloodbath
An Unending Pathway, by Atriarch
Language, by The Contortionist
Derivae, Nero di Marte
Death Mask, by Lord Mantis
Labyrinth Constellation, by Artificial Brain
Roads to the North, by Panopticon

Non-Metal (in no specific order)

Guilty of Everything, by Nothing
To Be Kind, by SWANS
Bestial Burden, Pharmakon
Our Love, by Caribou
Syro, by Aphex Twin
"What Is This Heart?", by How To Dress Well
Keep On Doing What You're Doing, by You Blew It!
Home, Like Noplace Is There, by Hotelier
Never Hungover Again, by Joyce Manor
1984 (Paxam Singles), by Ryan Adams
Deep Fantasy, by White Lung

Monday, December 15, 2014

Interview with Erang!!


Interview conducted via email, December 2014.

Listen and support Erang's music: http://erang.bandcamp.com
Keep updated about Erang: https://www.facebook.com/kingdomoferang
Erang's channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/songsoferang

WULF:  The new album, "We Are the Past", is incredible.   Some songs would work well for a love song, others are quite sad, and almost all of them are quite beautiful and vaguely majestic or fantastical.   It's obvious that Erang's sound has evolved dramatically over the past couple of years, especially if you compare this new album to your first few releases.   How did this change in style come about?   It seems to draw on many influences and world music, giving quite an exotic feel but without being able to pinpoint specifically which culture or region of the world it comes from.  Do you know what I mean?   It sounds very eclectic, but cohesive at the same time.  How has the reaction been from your fans?  Also, is that you on the cover art, is it "Erang", or another character?

ERANG: Well, that's many different questions ;).

It's true that my sound has evolved but it's not a conscious process. I make music as it comes to me and as I feel right when I'm composing : so my next album could be pure old school Dungeon Synth or, on the opposite, something completely different. Right now, I don't have any idea about it. However, on the last album "We Are The Past" I definitely wanted to use some medieval and traditional instruments even if I'm not doing realistic folk music : it is all music from the Erang's Kingdom folklore.

I got a lot of good and positive feedback and emails from my listeners and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for that. Some people who are really into pure Dungeon Synth music found it a bit too much diverse and far from "true" Dungeon Synth and I totally understand that. About the cover art : it is not me, it is not Erang… I will say it it the spirit of the past, some ancient figure.

WULF:   I was pretty shocked to find out that you don't come from a black metal background, just because I feel like dungeon synth is essentially an offshoot of black metal.   That's how I got into it anyway, and I assumed it would be the same for anyone else who would want to make the same kind of ambient music in the vein of early Mortiis, Vond, Burzum, Lord Wind, Ildjarn, Wongraven, etc.   According to interviews, it seems like you come from more of an role-playing game background.   Anyway, my question is, why don't you play role-playing games anymore?   What happened?   Why is the creation of Erang's music your only chance at entering back into that world?

ERANG: I don't play role-playing games anymore because there is unfortunately only 24 hours in a day.

I work, I have a family, I make music, etc… Role-playing is a very beautiful but time consuming passion. In an ideal world I would love to spend a whole weekend playing it but I cant. So I focus on music.


WULF: A common theme or atmosphere that appears on all of Erang's songs is that of nostalgia.   Why do you feel like nostalgia is important?   What would you say to those who would tell you that it is pointless to dwell on the past, and instead move on with life?

ERANG: To me, being nostalgic is not being stuck in the past. I use my nostalgia as a strength to express my creativity and it helps me to deal with everyday life, in the present. So I'm not whining everyday about the good old days : I remember them with a warm heart and it makes me happy.

WULF: I really identify with your concept of "naive art" that you have mentioned before in other interviews, especially because I want to create my own dungeon synth as well.   Not to give away your own set up or reveal too much about your own recording or production, but what advice can you give to people like me who want to start out making their own dungeon synth?

ERANG: The first thing, I think , is to listen to Dungeon Synth and fantasy music to get inspired : not to copy, but to "get the vibes" of it.
And these are some tips I gave on a previous interview and that I personally try to follow :

-          Do not add a lot of things and layers if the foundation (the main melody) is not strong.

-          Do not spend too much time with technical questions or finding the "last new top" plugins or sample pack or whatever: compose music instead of thinking about it.

-          Most important: always stay true to your own feelings and passion. Do not ignore the outside world but do not get obsessed with it.


WULF:  I know "Wine and Beer" on the new album is more of a folk rock song (and arguably the furthest away from the typical Erang style we've heard so far), but would you ever consider expanding Erang's sound further, like black metal or minimalist dark ambient (such as Lustmord's "The Dark Places of the Earth")?    Also, do you have any other bands/musical projects, or anything else that is similar to Erang in style?

ERANG: As I said in a previous answer, there is not really a "plan" when I start working on a new album. It goes in several directions until I find the "general mood" of the album and work around it. So the new album might be in any style (related, of course, to Fantasy aesthetic and the spirit of the Kingdom of Erang). About the last part of your question : I don't have other projects similar to Erang.

WULF:  Have you ever considered expressing Erang's essence via a different artistic medium, such as writing or film?   I know I speak for a lot of fans when I say that it would be awesome to read stories about the world of Erang, or an RPG module, a map, anything!!   Also, will we ever see an Erang music video?

ERANG: Definitely : I've already released a free e-book with drawings inspired by my music ( "A New Chapter In A Very Old Book") and I’m really thinking about some writings (poems or short stories). Right now, I've absolutely not started to work on anything like this but it is really something that sounds interesting to me. About a music video, that’s also something that could be great : a video with animated drawings would be a good idea but, at the moment, this is too much work for me. But I keep that in mind.

WULF:   I always read interviews where musicians are asked about their musical influences, but rarely is literature discussed.   Are there any books that were particularly influential in the creation of your music, or anything that you can recommend to your fans that would help us understand the music of Erang from a more philosophical or metaphysical  point of view?

ERANG: About literature that inspired me I'll be very classic and not original : Tolkien. Everything from him.
Since I’m child, the characters he created are my companions.
That being said, my inspiration comes more from small things from my personal story and cultural reference from my childhood. Also movies such as Dark Crystal, Conan, Legend, Willow, etc.
My philosophy is simple : we all have some kind of personal kingdom within us… and I hope that when you're listening to my music, it helps you to find again the way to your own private Kingdom.

WULF: What are your thoughts on the future of dungeon synth at this point in time?   What do you hope to accomplish with Erang?   I know you just released an album, but do you have anything planned for Erang in the near future?

ERANG: There are a lot of great artists in this genre and I’m very confident with it!
Concerning Erang, right now, I need to take some breathing because I've released a lot of albums and I need to refresh my inspiration. So maybe I will work on some writings, I don't know right now, everything is possible… In 2015, I will also try to figure a way to release my previous albums in physical CD. If so, I really want to make a beautiful "product" with a nice packaging so it could take time and money : I have to think carefully about it in order to make something great and not too expensive for the people who appreciate my music and the Erangers who follow me.

WULF: Those are all of my questions.   Any final thoughts or comments are yours.

ERANG: An old proverb from the Kingdom of Erang :  "Imagination Never Fails"


Dungeon Synth Explorations - Part 1 - ERANG

Erang

To start things off for my series delving into the mysterious depths of the world of dungeon synth, I'd like to talk about Erang.   While it would make sense to start off with the godfathers of the genre (such as Mortiis, Burzum (ambient albums, obv), Lord Wind, etc.), I'm gonna mix it up a bit and kick off with some Erang!
Anyway, I consider him arguably the best of the new school of dungeon synth artists, because he remains true to the spirit of the original pioneers of the genre while at the same time bringing in his own style and influences as well.  Plus, it's actually really good!!  I'm not a huge fan of his earlier stuff (I found "Tome I" - "Tome IV" a bit too "amateurish" for my tastes), it's pretty obvious that Erang is channeling something very special indeed.   I picked several of my favorite albums to discuss:


Another World, Another Time (2013)


It's with this album that Erang takes his shit to the next level.  It's so good!!  Perfect for what I was looking for in quality dungeon synth / RPG music.   The song "The Kingdom of Erang" is a great example of how he combines the old-school sound of early Mortiis with his own, more modern and polished style.   The simplicity of the music is still there, but he's also not just purely emulating or copying Mortiis...pretty genius stuff!!  I wish I could make music like this!!   Great album, but not quite as good as "Within the Land of My Imagination, I am the Only God".



Within the Land of My Imagination, I am the Only God" (2014)

Yeah!!  This is another excellent Erang release!!  Lots of beautiful, atmospheric, and imaginative dungeon synth, great for role-playing and/or stimulating your imagination!!  From gorgeous, contemplative stuff ("Autumnal Lullaby", "The Age of Wonder") to heroic, video game-inspired pieces ("Feast of the Night", "The Underwater Kingdom's Coral Palace"), and more traditional-sounding dungeon synth ("The Execution of the Drunken Tyrant", "Funeral for Erang", and "My Heart Belongs to the North"), this release has it all.   I can't recommend it enough, as it is easily one of the best albums of the new wave of dungeon synth. Also, killer album title...it definitely has had a big impact on me.





We Are the Past (2014)

Destined to be another classic release, this is the most recent of Erang's albums and is somewhat of a departure from what he's put out in the past.   This time around, he has incorporated more guitars and stringed instruments (one song even bordering on full-on folk metal!) and the sound, while still clearly Erang, has shifted a bit more into neofolk and ambient celtic/medieval type stuff.   Still great for role-playing games and medieval ambience, but a little less "dungeon synth"-esque.  While I really enjoyed this album, my favorites are still "Another World, Another Time" and "Within the Land of My Imagination, I am the Only God" just because they're essentially a modern take on the kind of music I've been searching for for years, thinking that it had probably gone extinct with the original "first wave" of dungeon synth and was a dead genre.

In closing, Erang is a great place to start for anyone looking to check out new-school dungeon synth! In my opinion, his music is the best of the new stuff right now.   I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Listen and support Erang's music: http://erang.bandcamp.com
Keep updated about Erang: https://www.facebook.com/kingdomoferang
Erang's channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/songsoferang
Katabaz Records: http://katabazrecords.bandcamp.com/

Read our interview with Erang here!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wulf's Guide to Metal: Volume 1 - Happy Stuff

Because I'm such a popular guy, I get asked all the time for recommendations on getting into metal.   This is going to be the beginning of a series on my own personal guide to the genre...obviously, opinions vary greatly on the subject, so if you have any input or recommendations of your own, feel free to talk about them in the comments section!!  In the meantime, this is also due in part to my buddy Greg asking me to help him get into metal, so when I asked him what he wanted me to start him off with he said he was in the mood for something "happy", so why not kick things off with some heavy/power metal stuff.   I should probably also mention here that Greg is from the UK, so I think it's pretty obvious that he's relatively familiar with classic stuff by Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, etc.   So we're going to go slightly deeper than the more popular, typical stuff that would usually be recommended.
Oh, and remember, this isn't meant to be a "history of metal" or "essentials for the genre", it's just a few of my favorite songs that are meant to tempt you into exploring the genre further on your own.   Also, I'm basically going to offer up a loose collection of the very songs that got me into certain genres many years ago, so I hope they can work for Greg (and whoever else) too!!

1.   Finntroll


Let's start the party off right with some obnoxious folk metal courtesy of Finntroll!!  Great for drinking, getting you pumped up, and catchy enough so that the people who usually complain about not liking "all the screaming" understand that the song wouldn't work with clean singing.   They're supposed to be trolls, duh!!
Also, this song reminds me of the time my roommate and I were throwing a party at my house when I was in college and this one dude named Metal Ben was wasted and was smoking out of this bong, and when this song came on he was like, "YEAHHHHH!!!!"  And started headbanging and getting really into it, and for whatever reason in his frenzy he decided it would be a good idea to straight up DRINK the fucking bong water after he had finished smoking.  Needless to say, he spent the rest of the night puking on the front lawn of my house, but he'll always have my respect for allowing the spirit of Finntroll to possess him in that way.   

2.   Running Wild


The original Pirate Metal band!!  Alestorm are pretty played out now, but Running Wild never get old (except everything post-"The Rivalry" fucking sucks).  Anyway, I'm usually not a huge fan of syncing up movies to songs and shit like that because usually it's not very good, but it works really well for this video!!  A gritty sea battle, catchy music, it really captures what they were going for!!  
Like I said, anything after "The Rivalry" is terrible, but you really can't go wrong with any of their stuff before that, especially the pirate-themed stuff (which is most of their discography)!!

3.  Rhapsody / Rhapsody of Fire


I recommend starting this video at around 1:15, because that's when it actually gets good.   Anyway, when talking about happy metal, how could anyone possibly forget Rhapsody (or Rhapsody of Fire, they changed their name in 2006)??  Easily one of the most ridiculous metal bands in one of the most ridiculous power metal videos of all time (rivaled only by Pathfinder's "Lord of Wolves" gem), Rhapsody are the stuff of legend.   
I used to get pumped up for soccer games by listening to Rhapsody and Cannibal Corpse...strange combo, but it definitely made me push myself harder in the game and play much more aggressively.  If you've ever been a fan of Dungeons and Dragons, World of Warcraft, Magic: the Gathering, etc. then you should be all over this shit.   Actually, what blows my mind is that I always meet full-blown nerds who haven't even heard of this stuff,..usually they're just into radio rock like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Smash Mouth, AC/DC, etc.  That's fine, but COME ON!!  Obviously, power metal is right up their alley!!  Still one of life's great mysteries.

4.   Manowar


Arguably the most ridiculous metal band of all time (and maybe my favorite), all you need to do to get into Manowar is get a group of your friends together either before or after going out, some cold cans, and some Manowar on the stereo and prepare yourself for an awesome time!!  Also great for pumping iron, having sex, pretty much anything!!  Absurd lyrics, powerful sound, what's not to love??  Above is my favorite Manowar song, but they've got a ton of classics.  Don't forget "Gloves of Metal" (the Anal Cunt version featuring Phil Anselmo is awesome too!!)

5.   Bal-Sagoth



Bal-Sagoth are easily one of the more goofy metal bands out there (the keyboards, narrarations, even a fucking world map, lexicon, and concept art that goes along with their lyrics)...I even know one dude who has the Bal-Sagoth logo tattooed on the back of his head!!

I knew you wouldn't believe me, so I just decided to post it. 

Anyway, I highly recommend reading the lyrics along to their stuff, especially to the Youtube video I posted above.  It's kind of a Highlander rip-off, but it still makes the history nerd within me very excited!!  I could talk about Bal-Sagoth for awhile, but honestly when it comes to their music I'd say "Battle Magic" is easily their best album and the only album worth checking out.  All their other stuff just didn't do it for me, although the lyrics of course are still fantastic.

6.   Babymetal


I don't want to spend too much time on Babymetal just because I don't want to go down that rabbit hole, but I think they're definitely worth mentioning here in terms of "fun metal"!  Really hot band right now, regardless of how you feel about them!!  Personally, I think they're great, but whatevz.

There are so many other bands to mention here, but I don't want to take up too much time so I'll just quickly list off of some other bands/songs to check out if you're digging the upbeat, happier stuff:




- Dragonforce (duh)






Enjoy!!






Monday, October 6, 2014

ZOOM!!


What's up sluts and slut-shamers!!  DJ Wulf is back in the house, here to just make a quick post and get everyone caught up on what's going on here at Malicious Intent Enterprises-

1.   Everyone welcome Tanelorn!!  He was the last DJ for Malicious Intent's radio show at the University of Kansas' own 90.7 FM KJHK Lawrence, so of course he deserves your unwavering, unquestioning respect and loyalty.  Unfortunately, for whatever reason the show was axed after him, but that's most likely because it just became too brutal for the radio station to handle and Tanelorn didn't play enough Deafheaven or whatever is hot with the kids nowadays.  Anyway, prepare yourself for what he has in store for us in the coming days!!

I did a quick Google image search of Tanelorn and this is the first thing that came up.  I guess it's from Michael Moorcock's (my fave pornstar btw) Elric saga which I've never read, but I suppose it looks like a metal-enough place... except it definitely needs more skulls and churches being set on fire. 
  
Judge Dredd (left) and Wulf (right) during happier times
2.   The main clowns of this operation (Judge Dredd and I) have been so busy that we haven't been posting that much, as I'm sure you've noticed.   That's because we've been so busy on various quests and errands...Judge Dredd is currently scouring Southeast Asia (and perhaps Australia in the near future) for unholy relics and artifacts to plunder before returning to the US to continue his studies, while I myself have recently returned to Korea from my own blasphemic travels (a survey of the glorious nation of Taiwan) to resume operations.


Seriously, has anyone ever figured out how to actually play this fucking game?!
3.   DUNGEON SYNTH!!  It's no secret that I'm a huge tabletop RPG fan, but for years and years have been looking for the perfect playlist for medieval fantasy RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, etc.   One of the biggest problems with this is that if you look up "RPG music playlist" or "epic music" or whatever it's most likely going to be either overblown symphonic movie OST type stuff or music that is already from video games.   While it's cool that people have taken the time to compile these playlists, I don't feel like they match up at all with what is usually going on in the game.   Epic symphonic movie music only works when everyone is fighting some crazy battle with the boss or something like that...otherwise, it's just too distracting for when people are just standing around talking and shit.   As for music that's already from video games, you're probably just going to think of the game that it's from instead of using your own imagination.  For example, I used to play Rifts with some people and the GM would put on Chrono Trigger battle music whenever we would fight a battle.  Now, don't get me wrong, I love Chrono Trigger...it's probably still my favorite video game of all time in terms of storyline and characters.   However, all I could think about were just scenes from Chrono Trigger.   The music should inspire the imagination, not distract.



Now THIS is what I'm talking about!!
The only music that's ever clicked with me 100% for fantasy tabletop RPGs has been dungeon synth.   Until recently, I'm not even sure if I knew that it was a legitimate music genre...I just thought it was how people described Mortiis' "era I" goofiness (pretty much all of Mortiis' shit is goofy, but that's beside the point).   Seriously though, I had a really tough time trying to find good music for my D&D games... besides Mortiis, I really only knew about Lord Wind's later shit, Sunn O)))'s "øø Void" (not dungeon synth, but worked well for dungeons, especially The Temple of Elemental Evil!!), and of course Ildjarn-Nidhogg's beautiful "Hardangervidda" (except for the second track, which has some cheesy percussion).   Obviously, this isn't enough music to last for a long gaming sesh, and it does tend to get kind of old if you play the same stuff over and over again.



I hadn't discovered Pathfinder yet, give me a break!!
Anyway, while there's some older dungeon synth that came out awhile ago like Burzum's "Hliðskjálf", I'm primarily interested in are newer artists who are essentially emulating old school Mortiis.   This seems like it may be kind of an insult, but I mean it with the utmost respect!!  It's awesome!!  Perfect for roleplaying background music, relaxing, being weird in your room, etc.  I'm going to start writing posts on my favorite dungeon synth musicians soon, and who knows?  Maybe I'll even have an interview or two as well to give the posts some more depth :)


The old Castles and Crusades/Pathfinder crew (RIP!!): Nathan, Terry, Anson, Me (Wulf), Josh (Judge Dredd), Jake, and (Grym) Kym...illustration by Grym Kym!!

4.   I've been meaning to have more interviews coming up with Korean metal bands (or pretty much anyone else who is interested!), but due to a busy schedule and other stuff it's just taking too long.  Hopefully that will change soon, as there's still tons of bands here that I think are worth talking to so we can get a greater understanding of the state of extreme music here in South Korea!

Somewhere in South Korea, this dude is running around and making pagan black metal...obviously it's up to us to get the inside scoop!!