Saturday, 3 February 2018

Album Spotlight: Ulykke - Angantyr

So, here’s a surprise, Angantyr is a Danish one-man band I came across way back, probably around 15 years ago if I recall correctly, through the album Kampen Forts√¶tter. It was an excellent if quite raw release, I’d not kept track of the band for a good while though, so it was a pleasant surprise to see a new Angantyr album arrive unexpectedly in my inbox. Now Angantyr started out as a synth / ambient project in 1997 then quickly became a black metal band, with Ynleborgaz being the man behind it all. He’s released a few albums over the years, but aside from the recent Foragt EP this is the first release since 2012 and also marks the 20-year anniversary since Angantyr’s first demo. The album is titled Ulykke and is set for release on March 30th via Northern Silence Productions.

If you’re a fan of Angantyr, chances are you’ve got a fair idea what to expect, no frills, no nonsense orthodox black metal in the classic 90’s Scandinavian style. You’ll also expect a certain level of quality, in spite of the rawness of some of Angantyr’s previous works what’s always stood out is just how well written and performed the music actually is. This is crucial to bands playing this style, especially now in 2018. After all, Ulykke breaks no new ground nor does it deviate much from its course for just shy of an hour, so if you want to get and more importantly hold people’s attention you’ve got to be top of your game. Angantyr, thankfully, is just that. The potential shown in those early albums has really come to fruition here, 20 years of experience and a considerable amount of talent, not to mention a huge improvement in the production department makes Ulykke an incredibly strong album and a first-rate example of how traditional black metal should sound and still be relevant in today’s era.

Simply put, Ulykke manages to be a captivating and spellbinding album from start to finish, made so by the fact that musically Angantyr knows how to do pull this off and knows how to keep you hooked. On the surface it may sound like just another black metal album, as you listen though the riffs and the outstanding guitar melodies set the path and lead you on an enthralling trip for the 59-minute duration. In terms of the actual songs, there’s little point isolating the tracks individually and you’ll find most of the variety on the album comes within each song as opposed to being radically different from one to the next. Each song though is well put together and packed with ideas, no one part outstays its welcome but avoids being cut short either, and the seven songs here could each be considered as one leg of a much longer journey. Ulykke is fairly upbeat as black metal goes, the harshness and intensity are there in just the right amount but there’s bucket loads of melody employed as well as an entrancing atmosphere which, in spite of the harshness of the style still has a serene, majestic and uplifting quality. Without deviating so much as to be labelled “melodic” or “atmospheric” black metal, Ulykke still manages to be both.

Angantyr’s sound most certainly benefits from the focus and singular vision Ynleborgaz has for his music. I’ll admit I’ve always loved the diversity of black metal, and the dynamic between bands who experiment and push new boundaries alongside those who firmly resist change and stick strongly to tradition is something which keeps the genre interesting. Angantyr has staked a flag firmly in a specific point and refused to move from or look outside that, uncontaminated by current trends and outside influence and for Angantyr this works extremely well. The focus is channelled firmly into this vision, and the result is something which has a refreshing purity to it. That really stands out on Ulykke, some bands playing this style might sound like they’re emulating the 90’s, Angantyr here sounds like it IS the 90’s and for all intents and purposes you could easily be convinced that’s where Ulykke is from. It’s rare to hear that on this level in all honesty, and it’s one of the key strengths of this album.

In summary then, I’d say Angantyr is far better than a band playing traditional 90’s Scandinavian black metal in 2018 has any right to be. If you don’t like that style, there’s little here that’s going to convert you I’ll admit. If you do though, you’re in for a treat with this one. It’s not always about pushing boundaries, experimenting and trying different things, with music like this it’s about performing and enjoying the style of black metal you love, sticking to your guns and keeping the black flame burning. Angantyr has a clear vision of the target, has drawn, aimed, delivered and firmly hit the bullseye with this one. If you’re into this band, Ulykke is a much welcome return after a six-year wait. If you’ve never heard Angantyr, now is a good time to find out why this band has picked up a cult following over the years. No nonsense, no frills, just first class black metal exactly how it used to be, and one I can happily recommend to anyone with any degree of liking for this style.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Album Spotlight: Insurrection - Spreading The Disease

It’s been a while, but the Sine FM Metal Zone blog returns today with a look at the album Insurrection by Spreading The Disease. They’re from Kent, formed back in 2014 by bass player Steve Saunders. So far their output has consisted of the EP Viral, which received much critical acclaim, and now Insurrection, their debut full length album which came out last year. They describe themselves as a modern metal band, list bands such as Slipknot, Machine Head, Pantera and others as influences, and with Insurrection they certainly seem to have impressed a fair few people and made a decent impact.

There’s certainly no denying the passion these guys show here, the tracks here are bursting with rage and energy, there’s a hell of a lot to like about this band for sure. The heaviness is there, meaty riffs and grooves plough forward and bring a sense of fire and passion throughout Insurrection, you’ve got some fierce vocals too from Connor Russell Snyder, the yells and screams delivering the raw aggression and complemented by decent clean vocals interspersed throughout. If you’re a fan of modern metal you’re going to find Insurrection ticks all the boxes for sure, and certainly the younger metal audience are going to lap this up. It does everything you want it to on that front. However, the same can be said of a lot of bands in what is becoming an incredibly saturated scene and depending on your point of view to hear of a “modern metal” band listing the influences they do will typically evoke one of two reactions. Either chomping at the bit, or rolling your eyes in your head thinking jeez, not another. You could be forgiven for the latter of course, and you’d be pleasantly surprised when Spreading The Disease prove you wrong though, as they’ve delivered a strong debut with the raw aggression you want from a contemporary metal album yet showing enough maturity and diversity to impress all but the most jaded of cynics.

I think what I like most about this album is that they’ve drawn on so many different influences that come together to deliver their music the way that they do. They’ve got a very clear vision in how they want their music to sound, but they’ve got a fair few tricks up their sleeve in how they go about delivering that. Metalcore and hardcore fans will find much to enjoy, particularly in the early songs, opener “Find My Path” and “Words Unspoken” for example. You’ve also got a healthy dose of thrash showing through as well as punk spirit and influence showing through in a lot of the songs, both in the riffing and Connor’s vocal style at times on songs such as “Spreading the Disease” and “Greed” for example. The band do ease off the throttle on “Can’t Let Go” and we hear female vocals paving the way for a great solo which even gives nods to prog and doesn’t sound out of place, even a dash of funk on "Brexit Wounds" too. “Save me” has to be a real highlight of the album where Spreading The Disease really let rip and tear at you full force and I imagine it’s ferocious live too. Another highlight is “Whores of War”, clocking in at six and a half minutes but brings together so many of the strong points of this band in one song and serves as a good taste of what they can really do.

On the surface you’ve got a blisteringly intense full on metal album which holds its own on a crowded scene, but you’ve also got a band which can go much deeper and inject their music with a personality entirely of their own, and this becomes more apparent on repeated listens. If there’s any downside to this album I’d say it’s mainly down to the fact that there’s a lot of unrealised potential here. Spreading The Disease stretch far in many directions and are certainly ambitious. However, while I can’t quite put my finger on exact points there’s times where you think that they occasionally miss the mark or more accurately they sometimes fall short of what you really know they can do. That’s no bad thing, it leaves them somewhere to go, this is a debut album and as debuts go it’s an incredibly strong release, but I did occasionally get the impression that they’re trying a lot of different things here and some of it didn’t have the impact it could have. As I say, this is far from a negative point as it didn’t make me enjoy this album less so much as make me curious as to what we may hear from this band in the future.

In summary then, a great debut, and it’s worth checking Insurrection out if this sort of thing floats your boat, and even if not it’s one well worth giving a chance, you may be pleasantly surprised by Spreading The Disease. They’ve lit the fire here, I’m sure it will burn even more brightly in years to come.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Album Spotlight: No Stars Upon the Bridge - Hallatar

I’ll be completely honest, I’ve done a fair few album reviews over the years on here and on other platforms and few albums have been as difficult to begin to write about as this one, Hallatar’s debut album No Stars Upon the Bridge. This is partly down to the circumstances surrounding the formation of Hallatar, and partly down to the sheer emotional weight of the music here and what it represents. It’s not something I can sit here and review in a conventional sense, it is however something I can gladly simply write about and just tell you about and hopefully draw your attention to and share with you all the same.

If you aren’t already aware, Hallatar is a band formed by Juha Raivio, guitarist from Swallow the Sun and Trees of Eternity, and began after the tragic death of Aleah Starbridge, Raivio’s partner and vocalist for Trees of Eternity who passed away from cancer in April last year. Raivio had collected together Aleah’s writings and poetry, and having gone to a very dark place spent a week writing the music which, combined with Aleah’s writings would then form Halllatar’s debut album. He invited Amorphis vocalist Tomi Joutsen and former HIM drummer Gas Lipstick to record this music with him, who both immediately agreed to do so without hearing so much as a note of it, and so Hallatar was born.

Slow, melancholic doom makes up the core of Hallatar’s sound here, tipped with a rawness that really hits home the raw emotion laid bare on this album. Opener song “Mirrors” showcases this from the off, with sorrowful guitars setting the tone early on but it’s when they drop out and Tomi Joutsen’s vocals kick that this really hits home. His vocals literally scream pain here, offset by cleanly sung lamenting segments which add to the overall effect of this opening song, which goes through many different phases and contrasting elements flooding the listener with mixed yet powerful emotions. This devastating opener is followed by “Raven’s Song”, one of the spoken word tracks on here, with Draconian vocalist Heike Langhans lending her voice to these parts as well as singing alongside Joutsen on the haunting “My Mistake” later on. In places we see that Hallatar can and do adopt a more accessible and conventional approach, third song “Melt” is a classic gothic death / doom song, subtle keys enhancing the overall effect of this one, while “The Maze”, later on is quite the opposite, a very bleak and desolate piece which has to be one of the darker moments on the album.

One thing you notice about Hallatar is the synergy and chemistry between the musicians involved, the line-up is impressive on paper alone with the calibre of the musicians involved but in practice it’s literally poetry in motion. Aleah’s words brought out and set to the music of Raivio, Joutsen capturing his pain and raw emotion with one of the most powerful vocal performances I’ve ever heard him deliver, and Gas Lipstick’s drumming which, while restrained, adds drama and emphasis to Hallatar’s sound in just the right way. Heike Langhans does her part brilliantly too, her voice being naturally suited to the music here as well as to reciting Aleah’s poetry, and bearing a close resemblance to the voice of Aleah herself. Chemistry is important for any band, but here everybody has come together for this unified purpose and they give it absolutely everything they have.

The closing song, “Dreams Burn Down”, deserves special mention and has to be the one which really shows the essence of what No Stars Upon the Bridge is about, and it features the ethereal vocals of Aleah Starbridge herself. It’s a much calmer and more subdued piece than most of the other songs yet no less evocative, and possesses a calming serenity which we can only hope will be found by those Aleah left behind. It’s essentially to be Aleah’s swansong, and is the perfect epitaph and closing moment on this album.

No Stars Upon the Bridge then, is an album forged from anguish and sorrow yet also from love and beauty, and you’ll hear that reflected here. It is a tough album to listen to, and it’s not really one you will sit down and put on to “enjoy” as you would most other albums, nor would you realistically expect to. It is, however, a powerful and moving epitaph which captures a very raw snapshot of a moment in time, with shared grief inspiring its creators and driving them towards the purpose of sharing Aleah’s legacy with the rest of the world. As metal fans we’re used to hearing dark music, but I’ve rarely, if ever, heard anything which sounds quite as real as this album, it’s honest, raw and lays everything wide open for all to see, and we have to admire the courage of all involved in choosing to share this with all of us. It really is something special and succeeds in its purpose admirably, and is one I’d highly recommend.

RIP Aleah Starbridge (1976 - 2016)

Friday, 1 September 2017

Album Spotlight: HATRED - Psython

You may remember the interview done with Psython not too long ago on this site, and while it’d be fair to say that while Psython are a band who have been flying under people’s radar so far, they’re also a band which, when you notice them, you really take notice. Their last album Outputs was released last year and was very well received and rated by people who heard it, and this write up coincides with the release of their second album HATRED (Hopelessly Aware That Rage Engenders Despair). It’s been played on both the Dark Side of Metal and the Metal Mayhem shows on Sine FM and shows Psython once again channelling raw energy, passion and rage but this time in a much tighter and more focused manner. If you enjoyed the last album, this one takes what made that one good and takes it to the next level.

Opener “J√∂rmungandr”, there’s no two ways about it, is an absolute stormer, and is quite possibly the best thing I’ve heard from Psython yet. Fast, frantic yet distinctive riffs kick this one off and it’s not long before vocalist Bing Garcia tears into the fray, screaming his lungs out with a fury that I’ve not seen from too many people. The main thing you notice with Psython is these guys are full on intense, full throttle flat out balls out METAL going straight for the throat, and on top of this they can actually play to boot. It’s a lethal combination, there’s some outstanding musicianship going on here, each song packed full of killer riffs, frenzied solos and lots of little twists, turns and flourishes propelled forwards on a wave of raw passion and energy, and Psython really are at the top of their game on this.

It could be said that some songs on HATRED stand out more than others, which is the case to a point but it’d be more accurate to say that some songs take a couple of listens to fully appreciate while others deliver the payload immediately. The opener certainly sees the band playing an ace early on, songs such as “Battery Life” or “H.A.T.E.” take a no frills no nonsense approach too and will be an instant fix if they’re on your wavelength. You’ve then got songs such as “Chai Latte” or “Ten Pounds” which weren’t quite as impressive initially, at least not for me, then after a few listens you’re hearing things in them you didn’t notice before and you realise that there’s much more to these songs and the album than is immediately apparent. It adds depth to the album, I’ve played this a fair few times now and I’m still hearing new things each time, and expect to continue doing so. It’s worth mentioning the closing track, “Old Man”, a near ten minute slow and sludgy brooding epic that’s the polar opposite of pretty much everything you hear before, yet somehow seems the most fitting way to end this album.

Metal is a very diverse beast these days, something I hope is reflected on the shows we put out here at Sine FM. Amidst the many different subgenres and different paths the genre has taken over the years though, there’s bands which stay bang in the middle in the middle and get to the core essence of what made metal great to start with. Psython are one of those, they do everything you’d want a great metal band to do and if you like that raw, hard hitting no nonsense approach this one will hit the spot nicely. They’ve certainly impressed around this neck of the woods anyway, and the band describe their sound best themselves in the language of God’s own county. Reyt metal. Reyt?

- Demoniac

Monday, 7 August 2017

Interview with Danny Finch of Dead Soul Communion

While still being a fairly new band, there's a lot of very experienced hands on board with Dead Soul Communion, featuring members of Steve Harris British Lion, Synaptic, and former members of Devilment and Dearly Beheaded among others. They've just released their self titled debut album which is already making a big impact on people, including many listeners of the Dark Side Of Metal show who've been in touch and commented on just how impressed they were when they were played on air. Hopefully the future will bring good things for them, and I was recently able to speak to Danny Finch from the band and find out more about them. Here's what he had to say...

Firstly, thank you for taking part in this interview. For the benefit of anybody who may not be familiar with Dead Soul Communion, could you briefly introduce yourselves and describe your music?

Danny: I’m Danny Finch, I'm the guitarist, founder and songwriter for this album. I also do the clean vocals, but I was never meant to be the vocalist. But just couldn’t find anyone who would do it ha ha. I’m never comfortable ever describing my music or giving it a genre, I don’t like to label or kind of box in what I do. I think overall it’s just metal, and we dip our foot in some other styles too. You’ll just have to buy the album and you can tell me what our music is ha ha.

How did you all get together and what made you decide to form Dead Soul Communion?

Danny: I put DSC together right after I left Devilment, I wanted to take the ideas musically of what I was doing with that band and take it to the next level. There are a lot of changes , but it’s still very much the root of what I do. Simon (Drummer) and Kev (bassist) were both in what I think was the definitive line up of Devilment. I missed working with those guys, so as soon as I left, I started writing and made the calls to Simon and Kev who were both wanting to work with me again. You have to remember that Simon was the guy who I wrote all the Devilment stuff with for that first album, we got the sound together. So it’s only natural that we could take it to the next level, and he knows what I want, and I know how he plays and it just works. 

Who are the biggest musical influences on you as a band?

Danny: When I’m writing I tend not to listen to music, not anything that’s metal anyways. I find I’ll end up writing something that sounds like the last album I heard. So I’ll listen to a lot of podcasts or audio books or ambient music or soundtracks, something like that. I listen to so much stuff, and I have thousands of albums. I think maybe I take a little of everything, and you can hear all those styles and sounds in what I and the band does. 

You’ve all been involved in a number of other bands prior to forming this one, including Steve Harris British Lion, Synaptik and Devilment. In what ways has the experience of being in those bands as well as the sound of those bands carried forward into Dead Soul Communion?

Danny: Simon is in British Lion and Kev is in Synaptik, and of course as I mentioned before we were all in Devilment, including Dan Jackson who supplied some solos on this album. I’ve been playing since I was 14 and been in bands since I was 16. Myself Edwin (vocals) met in college in 1995 and we had an industrial death metal band called Episeed. We did a lot of demos on 4 tracks, and of course now were doing stuff on Logic and thinks are just different in the way we write and record, I never liked the whole computer based recording, but over the years I saw the advantages to it, not only from a production point of view, but as a tool to write with. I think I learnt a lot of over the years about how to write music and how to record it. I listened a lot to the producers and musicians that I’ve work with, and other bands too. I never spend any time trying to play guitar better, but I just practice writing songs. 

I think that maybe my experience over the years has taught me about the business side and the profession side of what I do. I’ve been ripped off and fucked over by so many people in the industry that I try and do things on my terms and that of the band too. We look out for each other and our business is good. We’re doing well and its growing, but it’s all on our terms and within our control. I think that’s the most important thing for me and for the band, and if you want to call it “The Product” as a whole 

Your self-titled debut album came out on July 28th, can you tell us a bit about it? What can we expect from it and who might it most appeal to?

Danny: I think it crosses a few genres and lines, I think it will appeal to not only the metal fans, but also the hard rock, the prog fans and maybe even the goth fans. I know a few people who don’t even like metal, like some of the songs they’ve heard. I’m really proud of it and I think it’s my definitive moment musically. It’s a good hard metal record with atmosphere and epic melodies. 

How was the writing and recording process for this album?

Danny: It was pretty good, I wrote most of the album here in my home studio. I guess it took about 6 months to write this album over an 18-month period, but I took a year off in the middle while I was doing the Bloodshake chorus. We recorded the drums at Simons house and everything else music wise was done here in my home studio. We did the vocals at Scorpio Studios which is my friend Jordan from Scream Serenity’s studio. 

I love writing and recording, I love the creating songs from nothing. I like how they form themselves and become songs, just from an idea or a jam. It’s the best part of being in a band. Paul was really helpful, he kind of controls my madness and helps me get to the point I want to get it. Ed was great and helping me craft the lyrics to make sense. It was a great process and it works for us. 

What sort of themes do you explore in your lyrics?

Danny: There’s a lot of emotional content in these lyrics, from break ups, to sadness, depression and suicide, to drink and drug abuse. it all kind of talks about the last three or four years of my life. I went through a real dark period in my life. I turned to heavy drinking mixed with drug abuse. I did it to cover the depression and anxiety, but I had to face it with a clear head. I had so much anger and bitterness. I’m in a really good place now and I’m clean and sober. I feel the best I’ve felt in years and musically I’m writing my best work right now. 

You also have a video for the song Suicide Lullaby, people can watch this on YouTube, can you tell us about the inspiration behind this video?

Danny: Originally I wanted a fight scene done by my friends Machete 88. I just wanted like 30 seconds of footage, but they delivered me this whole story. The video kind of took on a new vision, and it works well with the lyrical content. The lyrics and the video are about self-destruction through alcohol abuse, leading to suicide. It’s kind of how my life was a couple of years back, I wanted to drink myself to death. The concept of the video is about fighting your internal demons, hence the violence portrayed. The girl in the video is meant to symbolise an angel. Right at the end the two demons look at each other and nod to say job done. It was a great video to make and were planning to do more with Machete 88 guys in the future. 

The album has been available and selling for pre order for a while now, as well as having received a fair amount of reviews and airtime in various places. How has the response so far been? Are you happy with the response and is it what you expected?

Danny: it could be more, but we're doing it ourselves, and we're doing well. I got left with a lot of debt from the Devilment thing, so money for me is really tight. We didn’t have a massive budget to record the album, and we don’t have any money for promoting it. We're just going old school and learning how to promote this thing as we go along. 

Do you have any touring plans once your album is released?

Danny: Not for this album, but were looking to put a second album out in May 2018, and were already setting up some festival shows around the UK for the summer of 2018. Right now we are just putting our attention on to writing. I want to have a killer tight set for when we play live.

What has been the most enjoyable part of being in Dead Soul Communion so far? Also, what has been the most challenging?

Danny: Challenging has been the lack of money and budget, plus also trying to get this album to be reviewed and even listened to. The most rewarding part was handed my little girl last week the finished CD and she jumped around in joy, ha ha. 

What’s next for Dead Soul Communion once after your album has been released? What would you like to see happen in the future for the band?

Danny: We’re taking the summer off then in September we start writing album two. I’ve been messing around with ideas but in September we go full on, with plans to start recording in January 2018. I think I’d just like to see us grow, and were doing that. It’s a long slow process and a lot of work, but the pay off its gonna be worth it. It’s nice to know we are doing this ourselves. 

What are your thoughts on the metal scene in 2017? What do you like most, and least about it?

Danny: I have a big issue with the some of the labels and bands, I see so much greed. I understand that everyone is trying to make money and keep their band alive. But I see bands making big mistakes and becoming a product. It’s not so much about the music anymore it’s about “Look what crap product we have to sell you”. There seems to be a lack of original or innovative bands right now. Everyone is trying to sound like everyone else. We are certainly not doing anything new, but we take some many ideas and influences to make our sound, but my issue is bands just basing their sound on one or two bands. It’s just disposable music. I hate how many people just sit there a bitch and moan, there just doesn't seem to be the support like there was. I can see us moving away from the metal scene in the future, and I kind of wish there was a second metal scene, one that doesn't have the bull shit this current one does. I have over the past few years taken a step away from it. I still on a Friday listen to all the new bands releases that come out on apple music etc, and I’ve come across some good ones. I’ve started buying vinyl again. But I stay away from things like Facebook and YouTube, and I don’t read the comments. I don’t want to see that shit. People are just fucking it up for themselves you know, and it seems to be the younger generation that our doing it. They just want to destroy and moan, and metal starting to be separated again. Back when I was growing up you had Thrash vs Glam vs Grunge, and then there was nothing. Now you have people that only listen to Djent or EMO or Black Metal or Hardcore etc. I listen to everything and I like most styles of metal. People freak out if you listen to stuff that’s not metal. I just like what I like you know. and that’s how it should be. But I can’t stand this whole product vibe, its killing it and I’m losing respect for certain bands, but I think it’s more a thing of labels pushing that. Labels are just getting so greedy you know.

Finally, thanks again for taking part, is there anything else you’d like to add or say to people reading this?

Danny: I just want to thank yourself for giving me the time and giving us the support for our band. Thank you.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Interview with Psython

If you've paid much attention to the Yorkshire scene at all, hopefully you will at some point have come across Psython. They're an up and coming band who bring a hard hitting adrenaline fueled sound and tear up the stage at their live shows with a ridiculous amount of passion and energy. They've shared the stage with bands such as Cattle Decapitation and Akercocke, they're also set to release a new album in September this year and I've been able to catch up with Bing, vocalist and frontman and get the lowdown. I didn't even have to pay him much for his closing comments either.....
For the benefit of anybody who might not be familiar with Psython, can you briefly introduce yourselves and describe your music?

We're a 5-piece Metal band - 2 guitars, bass drums, and a singer... we insist on being described as metal, cos that's what we do. We're fast in a thrashy sense, and some folk have said we've got a punky vibe too... but we're Metal.

How do you all know each other, and what made you decide to form Psython?

Psython started as the remnants of Septic Fatality; Luke and Will's old band. I knew Will from being in another band with him. We didn't really know Harry, but when we were gigging with our old drummer, we saw him play with his other band, Angry Grandad, and decided we needed to poach him. Eddie, I have known for years, from when he was playing in Nailstorm back in late 90s early 00s... an incredible guitarist, now giving the bass some hammer!

We all wanted to play Metal music… and therefore Psython. 

Your debut album Outputs came out over a year ago, were you happy with the reception that album got? What were the most positive things to come from that, and with hindsight would you have done anything differently?

I think we were as happy as we could expect. From a standing start, we received some really cool reviews, loads of people played tracks on their blogs, podcasts and radio shows... all of which was really generous, and certainly the most positive thing about the reception; such kindness and enthusiasm from people who seem to genuinely enjoy music... very cool! 

Not sure we would've done anything too differently... 

I understand you have a new album coming out soon, can you tell us a little bit about this album? How will it sound in comparison to your debut?

Well... this album shouldn't be massively different. The first record was written with the aura of Septic Fatality and Thrash very much still glowing... this time round Will has had a bit more of a free rein. We've all kinda said that this record will be 'more interesting' than the first... plenty of speed in there, but a few other bits n pieces too... 

Also - it should sound a bit more raw and engaging; we've got Harry's drumming on there. We used programmed drums on the first, cos we didn't have a drummer at the time!

How was the writing and recording process for this album?

Will did all the writing in, like, a month... he's fuckin' mental. He likes writing like that. It will probably change though, especially now we've got Eddie. We've all got loads of riffs and ideas knocking about, and now we've got a full band, we can start putting some elements together... we're already knocking things about for the 3rd album, so... 

Recording was fine - nearly sent Will mad though. I love recording albums ourselves and I know we're really lucky to have someone like Will in the band who can do all that work. He might tell you that it's hellish (which I can believe), but it does mean that we can write, record and release an album far easier than if we had to pay for studio time!

What sort of themes will you be exploring with the lyrics on the new album? Who writes most of the lyrics, and to what extent are they based on your own views and life experience?

Well - as the front man, I handle all the lyrics, and they are all based on what goes on every day... I ask the rest of the band to name the songs and then I take my cues from the titles they come up with... I find it a quite interesting way of going about it... 

I tend to stick to themes which are pretty standard fare for Metal; social alienation, anger and violence, drugs, shame in oneself, disgust at my fellow man... nothing that hasn't been covered before by anyone who put pen to paper, but I do like to think that it's not all drivel. I do like to take life seriously, and I'd hope that comes across...

You play live a fair bit, what have been your favourite experiences from your live shows, and which places and events have you enjoyed playing most?

Personally, my favourite experiences have been when we've managed to get a few shows all clumped up together as a kinda of 'tour' vibe... it's nice to hang out with the people who help you create this cathartic yelp of aggression night after night - kinda gives you that positive 'we can do it - fuck the world' feeling... illusory and ephemeral though it may be!

Also, it's nice to play for people who have been kind to us; we play metal, and folk have no reason to help us out - so when people dig it and remember us and chuck us a show, that's lovely.

No venue stands out above others, but there are so many 'Metal-friendly' venue, which we played last year, that have now closed, and every day brings news of another closure... a bit disheartening!

You've also played with a wide range of bands, including some big names over the past year or two, such as Cattle Decapitation and Akercocke. How do you find the experience of playing these bigger shows, and how does it compare to others? Which do you prefer to play?

Obviously we prefer to play the bigger shows... I mean, we play loads of shows to next to no one, which is fine; we know how it is. But when we get the chance to play with a 'big' band, it is a bit different; it's more of an event, more 'proper', more people and it does afford us the opportunity to enjoy a bit of the Rockstar vibe. We don't shift significantly more merch or owt like that, but, you know - it is nice to scream your tits off to a room full of people occasionally!

What have been the best moments from Psython’s career so far and what have been the biggest challenges you've faced as a band?

We haven’t really had any massive moments, plenty of welcome kindness though! Best moment would have to be hearing our songs recorded… writing and recording just never gets old! Biggest challenge would be that we just don’t seem to be what is 'cool' at the minute; we’d like to be playing better shows, to better ‘crowds’, but trying to get folk behind us has, and is, proving difficult… 

You're from Yorkshire, how do you find the metal scene to be in Yorkshire, and are there any particular parts of Yorkshire you find to be particularly good for metal?

I dunno even know man! Perhaps if I was the Hot Band of The Hour I might have different ideas, but I think that because of the wider economic problems in the world, there just ain’t enough money in people’s pockets to build a scene that has much clout… I think most people in bands would concede that there aren’t enough people at shows… I don’t think that’s cos bands are shit… I think folk are skint!

Sheff seems to be doin’ well on the ‘Doom/Sludge’ front; that seems to be the dominant driving force for the S. Yorks scene as we experience it. But there are pockets of all sorts knocking about… Donny has a lovely wee scene, and Barnsley has a few really cool bands too… Rotherham sucks, which is the way it should be!

Which other bands are you listening to and particularly enjoying right now?

Mostly I just scope out the competition, and seethe with bitterness…

What would you say are the best, and worst aspects of the metal scene today?

The best aspect is that there is a scene at all; people still wanna play in bands and that is cool! Being in bands is good for you I think!!! Worst bit is, things just ain’t what it used to be… 15/20 years ago, if you wanted to check out some bands, or wanted to catch up on gossip, you had to physically go somewhere… now you can just check Facebook… I think that makes things worse…

What do you hope for the future with Psython, short term and long term, and where do you see yourselves in a few years from now?

We’ve never had unrealistic objectives for the Psython. We wanna keep writing and releasing records and playing all the shows we can. We’re all pretty interested in keeping the band together, playing gigs for the next 10 years. We can all play, and we have a mutual admiration for each other, and hopefully we can nurture these relationships! In 10 years we should have a good body of work to look back on, and shit load of fun to reminisce upon!

Finally, thank you once again for taking part, is there anything you'd like to add or say to people reading this interview?

Cheers for having us man… I hope that folk out there will be nice to each other, will fight the power and come to our shows… oh and buy our CD… ha!

And finally, dear Reader, please do keep supporting the Demoniac’s various activities; unlike me, he is no Philistine, no misanthrope and a true champion of underground metal, without the likes of which, shitty metal bands like mine couldn’t survive!

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Interview with Lord Saunders of Formicarius

While we can't predict the weather, we can certainly forecast that this summer is going to be great for UK black metal with several up and coming bands putting out some promising albums. Formicarius are one such band, having drawn people's attention with their Lake of the Dead single not too long ago. They're now set to release their debut album, and I'm pleased to have been able to talk with Lord Saunders and get his thoughts on everything that's happened with Formicarius recently. Here's what he had to say...

For the benefit of people who may not be familiar with Formicarius, can you briefly introduce yourselves and describe your music? 

Good evening and thank you for having me! We are an alliance of musicians creating our unique yet distinctly English brand of black metal. We vividly tell the stories of both history and fantasy, using the miserable image of medieval Europe as a metaphor for battling our very human, very personal demons. We intend Formicarius to be something you can relate to and be empowered by. 

I know your members have had a fair bit of experience being in other bands, including De Profundis, Phyrexia and Premature Birth among others. What made you decide Formicarius would be the next step for you all, and how did you come together to form this band? 

This is true! Many of us have been colleagues for years before Formicarius. We cut our teeth in a number of these extreme metal bands and made many mistakes during those times. Personally, having taken a break between 2013 – 14, it quickly became very apparent that writing and performing this extreme style of music is my calling, and I think that's the case for all of us. Having been on the scene for a decade, I found inspiration in how much it had grown in that time and how so much positivity can be expressed through such dark, aggressive music. I've been listening to black metal for most of my life now and truly love this music. This is where we belong, and in this moment of clarity we gathered to decide what we were going to do about it. Formicarius was born and plans were immediately made, taking on board our collective experience and with an attitude to never settle.

Who are your main influences musically?

There's a lot of variety in our influences. We clearly have a foundation in Emperor, Dimmu, Cradle, Satyricon and so on, but we also take a lot of influence from the compositional styles of baroque and romantic music, acknowledge the power of the riff as demonstrated by classic metal bands, and admire the experimental and uncompromising attitudes of the more obscure bands like Sigh, Bal-Sagoth, etc. There's no one answer; we have always strived to keep an open mind and to use our brains to think about what we like about the music, and how we can make that work moving forward. 

You released a single, Lake of the Dead via Bandcamp back in 2015, which gave us a taste of Formicarius. Was the single well received, and how did people's reaction compare to your expectations at the time? 

The first printing of the single sold out after touring the UK in 2016 and is currently its second pressing. The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, especially after the video was released and it was picked up for Speed Kills VII. Only a handful of naysaying 'trve' edge-lords have dismissed it, which is exactly what we wanted and expected; we aimed to do our very best and progress forward, not stick around in the sound of the early 90s. We don't care about those people, we care about those who are willing to come out and be somebody in this world, and we see them at our exhibitions going crazy in the front row, cheering us on and sharing our message and music far and wide! 

The song Lake of the Dead last year then came to be featured on the Music For Nations Speed Kills VII compilation, undoubtedly a turning point for you as a band. How did this come about, and what are your thoughts and feelings around being featured on this compilation?

As with everything in life, a stroke of good luck born out of unrelenting hard work found our song in the Sony / Music for Nations office. We put ourselves out there and it is with thanks to the efforts of our incredible management team at Imperative PR that we found ourselves in this fortunate situation. Everything is a domino effect and you can never rest – every day that you're not representing yourself and doing your best to be at your best is wasted. It takes real honesty about what you want and what you're doing about it for these things to happen. 

The rush when we were given the news that we were recognised and to be included in such a legacy alongside such quality acts is second to none. It completely reaffirmed the seriousness with which we took the band – we are now a part of history, and we can't get complacent if we are to have any chance of making history! The cycle continues from there, acknowledging the victories and using them to achieve bigger and better dreams. 

You've also recently signed a deal with German label Schwarzdorn Productions, which I hope brings good thing for you. How did you come to sign with Schwarzdorn Productions, and what are the main things you hope to gain from signing with Schwarzdorn specifically? 

Simply put, we were searching for a label to release Black Mass Ritual with us... and Schwarzdorn listened. After much back and forth negotiation it became obvious that we were completely on the same page and there is a real belief in pushing us beyond where we are now, which is what we want and need. It's a perfect match – not so much about gaining from them as it is about achieving great things with them. Schwarzdorn are an incredible label with an extraordinary legacy. We will do them proud as we embark upon this venture together! 

Your debut full length album, Black Mass Ritual, is I believe set for release on July 21st through this label. What can listeners expect from the album, and how has Formicarius’ sound developed on this album in comparison to the Lake of the Dead single? 

Quite right; It's available to preorder now from all major retailers and set for release on July 21st. Lake of the Dead is actually featured as the opening track as it is a single taken from the album. Needless to say our high production and perfectionist values remain consistent! If you enjoyed 'Lake...', it follows that you will love Black Mass Ritual. 

The reviews are already pouring in and I encourage everyone to check those out for impartial responses to the album. We poured our souls into this record, and I think this is very obvious from the enormous, epic and emotive sound we achieved. We delve into themes of madness, witch burning, war and genocide, with complex and inspired compositions to match these themes. So far the classical inspired harmonies, keyboard driven textures, viscous melodies and intelligible vocals have gotten a lot of attention and praise. Again, don't take my word from it, there are plenty of reviews out there telling you what to expect. 

What are the main themes and inspirations for your lyrics on the album? 

We were reading a lot at the time when we were finishing lyrics for the album, and each piece tells a story of horror, power, tragedy, transformation and so on. As black metal musicians I think we are all obsessed with the darker side of the human condition, and characters whom you may at first think are heroes or villains can surprise you. You have the choice to take the stories literally or read into and interpret them - whatever the case, we aim to present something vivid and thought provoking. The world isn't black and white, and we try to get that across.

What are your plans for touring once the album is out? 

Nothing is set in stone so I can't say too much about this at this time. We love the UK and of course desire to play a city near you as soon as we can. Keep an eye on our website and social media! 

How do you find the metal scene in London, and are Formicarius well received there?  Have you had many opportunities to play live outside London, and if so how were your experiences with that compared to London? 

London is completely different to everywhere else in the UK, and this remains true for live music. On the right days of the week the London scene is of course thriving and the place to be, and the seedy, grimy Victorian architecture coupled with some typical British weather certainly lends itself as a suitable backdrop for black metal. As it is such an important place to play we do try to make our shows there big ones – the responses when we played with Negura Bunget, Hate and Noctem were fantastically powerful! London is spoilt for choice and you're in competition with every enormous international act every day, but the crowd remain grateful and happy to go to a good show – you just have to present them with one. 

Other parts of the country have a much more 'grass-roots' feel to their events, with a genuine gratitude and happiness that you are there to perform for them, but no less professional. There's a real overwhelming joy and wave of support from such a community, and it's an honour and a pleasure to bring our music and message to every corner of the UK. In particular Blackwood and Northern Extremity come to mind as embodying this spirit. 

How do you find the UK black metal scene as a whole, and how would you describe the bands relationship with it? 

I think it's pretty clear by now how in love with the scene we are. There's so much superb, high quality music being made in this scene, there has never been a better time to be involved. We feel a real brotherhood with many of the bands we shared the stage with – we're fans of each-others bands and often times prefer what we're hearing in our back yard to what is current on an international scale. There's an element of friendly competition in there, because this isn't a meritocracy - we want to see everyone do their best, building upon what they first created and seeing success for their hard work. For me, this is the best way for a scene to operate – everyone raises the bar, everyone grows and the listeners get better and better products, watching the artists on their long journey of self discovery. It's fascinating and wonderful. 

What other bands are impressing you right now, and who would you mark as bands to watch for in the future?

It's a long list! Sathamel are releasing their album this Summer, and Shadowflag have just released theirs (which I'm listening to right now!). Old Corpse Road are among my favourite bands of all time, and Aklash are certainly one of the most intriguing. Petrichor are writing and performing at an alarming rate and very quickly establishing themselves as a class act. I'll stick to those five! 

Looking back, what have been the best moments with Formicarius so far, and what have been the biggest obstacles you've had to overcome? With hindsight, what would you do differently, if anything?

One of the most memorable experiences was playing the Black Tor Gathering at the Tan Hill Inn – the highest pub in Britain! Watching the sunset on a cold mountain at a festival celebrating black metal... that was a real honour to be a part of and I don't think I'll ever forget that. A lot of the moments behind the scenes have been pretty great too; hearing the final master of our album, hearing ourselves on Sony printed vinyl for the first time – these are all moments you cherish because you really love what you do. 

Although we are always learning it has to be said that most of our hindsight came from the previous ten years of bands before Formicarius. I'm very happy with how we've come to decisions and the success that has brought. Recording the album was the real trial by fire for me, as I handled my role as a recording engineer in a perfectionist manor whilst learning on the job. Really the biggest hurdle is all the way back at the beginning, getting established and getting people to listen to you - if you can survive the first year you can do anything. 

What do you see for the future of Formicarius from here on, and what are your main hopes from here? 

We're here to take this band, our music and our message as far as we can. We shan't ever get complacent and we don't rely on hope. We will carve ourselves a place in this world and history by always doing more and doing better. Formicarius has a place globally in black metal and we will always hunt for the next opportunity to do Formicarius on a grander scale. 

Once again thanks for taking part, and finally is there anything you'd like to add or say to the people reading this interview? 

I hope you found my words thought provoking and that you find our music inspiring. If you do, I can only encourage you to pick up the album and join us on this journey – we've only just begun and things are only going to get more interesting! 

Thank you very much for having me and I hope you'll have me back when I next have something to say! 

- Lord Saunders