#005: Full Moon
verything has its opposite. For the righteous, there are the wicked; for the lucky, there are the unlucky, and for those that live, there are those that die. The ancient Hebrews gave us yamin; the ancient Romans, sinister. Inevitably, these words grew into even more divergent connotation—that of the Right Hand Path and that of the Left Hand Path. This monthly column will celebrate all that resides in the shadow of the left, regardless of religious allegiance or format.
Recently, Full Moon's founder, Thorns, or simply Jon as he prefers in conversation, was kind enough, if seemingly reticent to indulge all our curiosity of his past and future endeavors—including the upcoming fifth issue of his influential Petrified zine, dormant since 1994.
How did you make the move from a fan to actively participating in the scene and starting Full Moon Productions? Did you ever have musical ambitions of your own?
Jon: I was heavily interested in the occult, violence, and heavy metal music. My actions as a teen were very extreme and I couldn't relate with most normal individuals, so I had no choice but to contact people I thought could see eye to eye with me. Before I started Petrified I had already been involved with the scene for 4-5 years so it was a natural step in progression. In high school I had written a lot of lyrics and worked with a friend on a band, but nothing ever came of it.
What does metal represent to you? Are you surprised at how recognized Black Metal has become or the way that it's perceived today?
Jon: Black metal has always meant Satan. Yes, it's a bit surprising to see Black Metal still alive, but it's lost its meaning! To most new fans black metal is just music, nothing more.
Is it usually a case of you actively looking for bands to sign or of them contacting FMP? How much of your time is actually devoted to running the label and mail order service?
Jon: We are always watching and looking for new bands, but we only release something like 3-4 CDs a year. The mail order is very important to us; we spend 90% of the time doing email and mail order.
How well do you do with foreign sales?
Jon: Very well actually, we have more foreign customers than American customers. Almost 2 to 1. FMP's original support started in Europe and slowly crept into the states.
What were your early goals in starting Petrified and what other zines at the time influenced you? What prompted you to begin work on a new issue after more than ten years?
Jon: I started Petrified to spread hate, inform people of the real scene out there. Not the scene based on money and greed. Some of the 'zines that influenced me includeFallen Pages, Darkness, Comatose, Isten, Slayer, and a few others.
Around the time you began the label/zine you had frequent contact with people like Euronymous and Emperor in Norway. What did they think about having that kind of support in The United States so early on?
Jon: A lot of Norwegians were shocked that Americans knew about their scene and were even more shocked to find out that we had similar ideologies. Grishnackh actually stated that I was the first person from the states to write to him—but we got along quite well. I remember both Euronymous and Grishnackh asking me to contact bands like Deicide, Morbid Angel, and so on about violence, Satanism, etc But I really got no response.
You mentioned that it's surprising to actually see black metal still alive today. Were any of the people you wrote to really thinking about the future at the time and where everything was going to end up or was it more spontaneous?
Jon: When I started both FMP and Petrified, I was thinking it would only last one year, possibly two, but the genre only grew larger. By 1995 black metal was huge, something I never imagined in 1993.
Were you surprised to hear about the Church burnings in Norway?
Jon: I thought it was the only logical step. Metal violence was only escalating; it was more shocking to me that Euronymous was murdered.
When did your correspondence with Vikernes finally end?
Jon: It ended when he signed to Misanthropy so I'd guess around ��95? He was bound by their contract and couldn't support FMP anymore without pissing off Diamanda (head of Misanthropy). He OK'd the fact that we made official merchandise, but got a lot of shit from his label. I basically stopped making the merchandise of my own free will.
Were you ever in contact with Jon Nödtveidt? Thoughts on his death?
Jon: Of course; I had a lot of behind the scenes contact with Jon for releases and much more—stuff that will never come out. Jon was a great friend and a very intelligent person and I'm sure he thought this out quite well, so he is where he wants to be.
How would you compare the albums you've released in the last five years to those in the 1990s?
Jon: I think the quality of the music has not diminished; we always release new interesting music. A lot of our newer releases will be our best releases. Yes, comparable to Mysticum, Hades and so on.
Exactly what new releases are in the works?
Jon: We're working with Nightbringer, Serpentinam, Arckanum, Akhkharu, Dark Messiah, and a few other bands.
A question regarding Velvet Cacoon: They've kind of taken advantage of the way the Internet has become almost the primary realm of black metal and underground gossip, generating bizarre stories and controversies to promote the band. What's been your attitude on this in retrospect? Were you always aware of who was involved? Do you think it's hurt the image of the label and would you continue to work with them after their next release?
Jon: I really don't give a fuck... As long as people fuel the fire, the fire will continue to grow.
Alienacja - Blades Shall Speak
Absolutely ripping Polish deathcore, with major emphasis on "death" - the "core" comes only from short hair and the occasional breakdown. This is brutal stuff in the vein of the first All Shall Perish record. As expected from the cited influences of Dying Fetus and Cannibal Corpse, blastbeats rule the day. Machine gun kicks, monstrous riffs, and catchy tremolo picking chew up scenery like lawnmowers on steroids. The band has truly mastered the Suffocation-esque art of breaking down a to a lone riff, then exploding into ensemble mayhem. Vocals range from rasps to growls and top the riffs perfectly. Short movie samples provide respite between tracks. But don't think of these as songs; they're more like episodes of surgical face-smashing. With riffs this fierce, even the most jaded metalhead should wear a neck brace.
All Else Failed - Good Enough for the Girls We Roll With
This CD contains the audio equivalent of deleted scenes on movie DVD's. Good Enough collects demos and unreleased tracks from this Pennsylvania band from 1995 up to the present. The new tracks are much more mature than the older ones, which show a band in search of an identity. The shrink wrap says, "For fans of Every Time I Die, Converge, and the Dillinger Escape Plan," which is really not the case. Traces of Converge are perhaps present in some of the dissonance here. Otherwise, the disc is a rambling melange of hardcore, metal, and alt-rock. The vocals are interestingly Fugazi-esque, and the band occasionally uncorks cool clean tones or stirring climaxes. Some songs, though, hint at nu-metal and should have stayed in the 4-track. Sprawling, unfocused, and lovingly packaged - such is the nature of catch-all odds-and-ends collections.
Amputator - Amputator
The same semen-soaked chasms that spawned the likes of Treblinka, Beherit and Beast Craft have bestowed the unholy rite to yet another, namely Rhode Island death fuckers Amputator, a sort of Black Thrash hybrid whose songs are oddly recorded, vilely entitled and prejudicially executed. Nuclear wastelands, venereal holocausts, blood and gore and a sort of quasi-militant Satanic worship are all on display, in often campy—but effective ways. Of course, there’s little to choose from; Amputator vociferously shit on choice, covering each track in the same vomit filled retch: guns and gasmasks, spikes, chains and leather. Go fuck yourself.
Bloodsoaked - Brutally Butchered
The band name, album title, song titles ("Sexual Mutilation," "Self Mutilation," "Suffocating the Unborn"), cartoonish artwork, and dripping red font all point to one thing - homage to early Cannibal Corpse. However, on its debut, Bloodsoaked is frankly more proficient than Cannibal Corpse was at that stage. The band is one man, Peter Hasselbrack, who does guitars, drums, vocals, mixing, mastering, the whole shebang. It takes vision to pull off music like this single-handedly, and Hasselbrack does fine on all counts. The riffs are catchy, the drumming is precise, and the death growls are low yet intelligible - no cookie monster business here. Does the world really need another album with lyrics like, "Violently I smash your face / Brutally with my fist I sodomize / Now I stomp your c**t / After cutting of your breast"? And does Hasselbrack's mother know of this (she's the first person he thanks in the liner notes)? Existential questions aside, this is a tight, percussive, and brutal set of death metal. Currently, it's self-released, but Comatose Music has picked it up for proper release in February.
Burn to Black - Mach 666
Sam Dunn, director of Metal: A Headbanger's Journey, takes a break from filming metal to make it, playing bass in Toronto's Burn to Black. The band updates old-school thrash and early death metal with modern production and tight execution—imagine Arch Enemy channeling Morbid Saint to make Exodus' latest album. The result is ample headbanging fare, mostly devoid of atmosphere, but full of ridiculously firing riffs. Adding oomph are strong vocals, which alternate between scathing rasps and low growls. The lyrics are better left unread, but with a classy digipak and gorgeous layout, the whole package hits hard. A fine debut for both label and band.
Disillusion - Gloria
Gloria is a very strange release that's surprisingly on Metal Blade instead of, say, The End. Disillusion has made an about-face from its previous progressive metal to craft something between a rock record and film soundtrack. The album's promotion says, "David Lynch on Metal," which is actually somewhat accurate. On its website, the German band presents no less than five video trailers for Gloria. The tracks are not really songs so much as disjointed, menacing tone poems. Synths, ambient/spoken word interludes, and electronic beats share equal time with metal and hard rock riffs. The synths aren't the usual symphonic bombast, though; they're more like film cues, with fleeting strings and unresolved melodies Vocals alternate between serviceable goth singing and over-reliance on the "AM radio" filter. The difficulty with a project like this is that metal is very much foreground music. The results are mixed, but this album admirably tries to give metal a widescreen aspect, instead of simply signifying aggression like the typical metal soundtrack.
Gaza - I Don't Care Where I Go When I Die
This is one of the most nihilistic albums I've ever heard. By that, I don't mean the lyrics, though they're plenty savage: "I'll break your colt's legs / I'll snag and spill your deer on the fence." Rather, this Salt Lake City band scrapes grindcore, hardcore, math metal, and sludge into the bloodiest sonic bucket since Converge's You Fail Me. Roaring vocals and seething dissonance practically glow with hostility. So many bands in this style forget how to be slow, but Gaza lets songs sink into pools of amp hum, then lashes out without warning. The Ultimate Fighting Championship comes to mind. Two guys are beating the hell out of each other, but they do it skillfully. Sometimes they use brute force; other times it's arm bars where mere millimeters break bones. One guy lies face down, his elbow locked behind him. The pain causes time to slow down briefly. His eyes roll back in his head. Suddenly, something primal awakens in him. He twists out of the hold, flips his opponent over, and in a flash, the other is within inches of his life. This album's like that.
Rev. Kriss Hades - Paganini—Bloodlust—Static Age
The Rev. calls the congregation to order with three wildly differing tracks of wildly differing recording quality. “Paganini,” a performance of a violin piece from the quill of the Italian composer of the same name is supple and clear, with wood, steel and electricity mimicking the pizzicato, staccato and harmonic twists that Paganini was wont to engage. Volume swells and exhalations are followed with technical runs not dissimilar from say Robert Fripp’s solo work, a display that loudly references Paganini’s self-professed deal with the Devil, where soul was allegedly exchanged for preternatural technique. The 27-minute “Bloodlust” is culled from a video camera’s audio recording. White noise squalls and ominous drones bookend Hades’ shredding guitar work; occasional vocals slip to the surface and are quietly returned to the void. Percussion eventually enters and spars briefly, defiantly failing to establish any semblance of structure. The seven-minute “Static Age” is ostensibly a tape manipulation of previously recorded material skewered onto a live action; the result sounding like an agitated remix of Fred Frith’s Death Ambient works for avant label, Tzadik. While uneven, this is an adequate and often engaging portrait of Hades as a dynamic guitarist who delights equally in searing bombast and nuanced tone.
Infinity - Enter the Labyrinth of Hell
Dutch Juggernaut Brandon Xul handles drum, bass and vocal duty on Enter the Labyrinth… with co-hort Andras providing guitar. Xul is an impeccable drummer, maintaining precision at ludicrous speeds, accentuating soaring guitar work with traditional—and therefore—tasteful fills. His vocals do not stray from the hateful rasp; his bass playing is nearly imperceptible in the mix. Song structure is basic and makes no pretense to be anything other than bare bones Black Metal. Some songs, however, function better than others; particularly “In the Spell of the Dreaming Dead” and “Funeral of the Soul,” both of which alternate slowly developing guitar intros with thrashing midsections. The dynamic does wonders, allowing the songs to breathe and connect with their influences. That being said, Eronymous’ presence here is undeniable; compositionally, his baroque and violent patterns are easily extricated, which is certainly no fault. Infinity is at its best when harnessing his influence. Do not only recall the past; revel in it.
Thee Kvlt ov (((Ouroboros - BLVD
Unless you just strolled out of Hot Topic brandishing Mastodon and Trivium hoodies, you’ve had some fundamental understanding of location’s significance to Metal. Thee Kvlt hails from Gainesville, a sort of proto-Southern cesspool known equally for its meth labs and gator poachers, plastic mammary’d mommies and perfunctory Saturday worship at the House that Spurrier built. Floridian living is equal parts angst and whimsy; the distribution is critical, however, as drownings, sunstrokes and alcohol poisonings are as commonplace as the daily acquisition of sand spurs. Thee Kvlt not only takes yin and yang to heart, it demonstrates every single facet in art, word and song. BLVD works High and Low notion in ways that would make Andrew Hartwell greasy in the seat. Song titles ape dusty reading-room shibboleth and logocentric Trapper Keeper embossing; art waxes the infernal Scandinavian woodcut; sonics assemble in nearly mimetic fashion and then disassemble before there’s any chance of influential reception. In all honesty, there are ludicrous amounts of “sounds” and “styles” Thee Kvlt engages in. A fervent will to experiment—not exactly a Floridian Metal trait—keeps this EP from being pinned at its four corners. Heavy and slight, fast and slow, crass and pious, Thee Kvlt comes across as successfully contradictory; each song its own splendidly caused geometry, determined and steady in the shoes that it walks, likely pleased as fuckall to incite perplex and gibe, beery ecstasy and horned hands high. Recommended.
Sad - Total Nothingness
From Hellas issues Sad, a Black Metal duo comprised of multi-instrumentalist Ungod and vocalist Nadir. New Jersey’s Regimental Records has chosen to give this demo a CD release, sparsely packaging it in traditional white on black, adding nothing but a lyric sheet and twin portraits of the players. The song titles are conspicuously barren and unostentatious. The lyrics are sparse and austere—their conveyance practically humorous in its minimalism. The song “Dark” offers five examples of the absence of light: starless nights, when clouds conceal the moon—no light. Dungeons and forests and “astral space” are invoked; their loci free of light, free of hope. The song “Dawn” gives six states of dawn: eerie, frozen, darkened, red, black and final—their designations appearing macabre—and Homeric. Sad’s music is as basic, with layers of guitar, bass and drums rumbling behind hoarse and often maniacal groaning—a la Urfaust—which often gives way to pointless cries of pity and anguished snorts. The final track, “Nothing,” eschews electricity, vocals and percussion, giving the listener a galloping acoustic interlude. Like the Russell quotation that covers the inner sleeve, this is a music marked by the inevitability of ruin—a very un-Hellenic concept, as the Greeks seemed to always couch optimism in the “benign” potency of Fate. —Due to its simplicity, an interesting, if not fine debut.
Senata Fox - The Acracy Discourse
You gotta love hardcore punk with super-short songs. When it comes time for a full-length album, the track list goes through the roof. Take, for example, Nasum's two-disc compilation, Grind Finale. Amazon says: "See all 90 tracks on this disc"—and that's just the first one. Senata Fox's The Acracy Discourse does likewise, cramming 41 tracks into as many minutes. It compiles everything the Croatian band has ever recorded, including unreleased tracks, splits with other bands, and 10 new songs. Amazingly, the assault remains interesting throughout, as the band does every trick in the book to keep things moving. Blastbeats, thrash beats, d-beats, two-steps, and half-speed grooves rotate freely and fluidly. The vocals carry on grindcore's classic "papa bear, little bear" dichotomy - except the singer does them both. You won't remember a single song, but you'll bang your head to every one. Best of all, the disc comes with live video footage of nine songs that sound like bursting aneurysms. Fun, vicious, and highly recommended.
Skyforger - Kauja Pie Saules
For whatever reason, Heathen Metal has provided a niche for far too many people interested in reanimating the Reich’s decayed corpse, all under the banner of a band of “forefathers” they likely know nothing about. There are plenty of good—even great—bands that “participate” in this genre, but the line between hate and heathen is indeed fine. Skyforger are the bona fide article, basing entire records on Latvian warsongs, epic battles, victory’s celebration, the burials following defeat. Skyforger oscillates between Thrash and Folk interlude, trading amplification for mouth-harp, rattle sticks and bagpipes. Both approaches are equally enthralling and Kauja Pie Saules is one of the few recordings in recent memory that truly possesses the sound(s) of war.
Witchcraft - Years of Blood
Talent-less repetition and childish mimicry serve to only poison the well of what many have taken to task for a perceived refusal to progress; Black Metal existing only as it folds back in onto itself for one milquetoast release after another. Hidden beneath these layers of otiose bullshit are bands that excel from the very actions that appear to relegate the genre to premature atrophy. Norway’s Beast Craft [mentioned previously in the Amputator review] are a convenient case and point, consuming and disgorging unveiled influence as a sort of local rite. Witchcraft may not hail from Norway—they call Budapest home—but their sound is certainly in tune with the Norwegian Second Wave. The production isn’t there, but the melodic desire wholly is. Blasting drums and scorching leads envelop haggard, wheezing vocals in song after song; words woven in a convincing and ribald Satanic devotion. All of the archetypal violence and inevitability of the greats is on display here, but it’s Witchcraft’s willingness to engage in subtle changes and shifts that serves this music to its potent end—even protecting it in its more infantile moments. Recommended.
Angel Witch - Angel Witch [Bronze Records]
A landmark record, beautifully accompanied by Eliphas Levi’s iconic Baphomet illustration and a vision of hell ripped from the Tate, the debut album by London’s Angel Witch is one of the greatest one-shots in heavy metal history.
Released in 1980, this LP sounds as fresh today as it must have twenty years ago, at least to those who mattered. Viciously ripped apart by the press for everything from the obvious influence of Black Sabbath in the equally off-key vocal delivery to the album’s thin production and their basic three-man set up, which often left a hole in their live performances, the group nevertheless managed to inspire a number of important musicians abroad. Angel Witch, along with Diamond Head, Venom, Holocaust, and Witchfynde (The New Wave of British Heavy Metal) became a favorite of Bay Area thrashers like Metallica, Exodus, Testament, as well as LA’s Slayer. In their early years, Celtic Frost rehearsed by covering the group’s song “Extermination Day.”
Today it’s hard to imagine someone able to take offense to the production or aspects of the group’s performance, yet in the wake of thundering sounds by Judas Priest, Sabbath and Zeppelin and their more polished contemporaries like Tygers of Pan Tang and Iron Maiden ��Witch sounded like runts of the litter. It was simply “unhip” (and unprofitable) to like them, and eventually the lack of support sent the band into a tailspin.
Following the release of the more commercial “Loser” single, founder, original vocalist, and lead guitarist, Kevin Heybourne disbanded Angel Witch in 1981 only to reform it several months later. It proved to be a mistake on Heybourne’s part, with his next two releases, Screamin’ and Bleedin’ (1985) and Frontal Assault (1986) painfully missing their mark.
The on-again off-again trend continued well into the late ��90s—a gruesomely protracted life-span that includes four successive live albums. In 2003, former band members Richie Wicks (vocals), Keith Herzberg (guitar) and Drummer Scott Higham turned their discontent with yet another Angel Witch revival (this time featuring members of Exodus and Heathen) into a nasty public spat. Looking over each release by the band since, Angel Witch appears very much a happy accident, but one still worthy of its continually growing praise.
The album is driven by its command of melody and dynamic mixing of pop-rock simplicity ("White Witch") stuck onto passionate choruses and rebellious upheaval of spirit ("Angel of Death," "Free Man")—a teenage psycho-drama of love and confusion mingling with occult nightmares, rock n’ roll shouted from the gut. And still it sounds apart from the band’s contemporaries, partly because it’s so trim and concise—not a dud among the album’s ten tracks—but also because of Heybourne’s stellar lead work. Angel Witch is possibly the best guitar-based record of that period, erupting somewhere between Tony Iommi and Eddie Van Halen, with double track harmonies joining in snarling appeals of emotion and attitude. It’s impossible not to air-guitar while listening to it nor be unaffected by its lamenting tone, a contrast exemplified in the wailing close to their gloomy, precedent doom masterpiece, “The Sorceress.”
In 2005, Angel Witch was re-issued along with the complete Loser and Sweet Danger EPs and their lone BBC session (taken from an early demo tape rather than an in-studio performance)—the classic years fit onto a single disc.
Indeed, with the increased coverage and grudging acceptance of heavy metal in the press—regarded as only now acquiring an intellect or else still reduced to a cartoon—Deviare's intention remains clouded by assumption and, as one could gather from any random conversation outside the venue, near complete ignorance of both mediums—until you actually see them in action.
Ballet Deviare is not so much a "heavy metal ballet" as it is metal-esque. The former implies a kind of cheap, superficial embodiment of the genre, whereas in reality the producers, choreographers, and dancers work to enhance the characteristically epic, romantic, fiercely sexualized, and often primitive features common to both forms, taking the performance itself radically beyond the more conservative realm. "High art" it may still be, but the attentive art of dance remains in potential of its older, ritual function. In that context, such a coupling hardly seems as bizarre.
With elegant restraint, Forged opened to the brooding tones of Celestiial's "Waldländer im Herbst." The nine-minute piece unfolded through a dark and slothful rhythm, using woodland sounds and bear-like yawns, which some remarked as frightening, but helped create a haze of almost mythical wonder. Seemingly inside the belly of this bestial sonance, encased in chilling green light, a circle had formed of slender, arched backs facing the audience. One by one, more dancers slowly entered the scene—a kind of pantomime that embodied the procession of loon calls and ominous brush of strings groaning over the sound system. Throughout the evening this precision not only of rhythm (often set within furious speed) and form (with much incredible, sustained pointe work and turns) but of emotion, propelled the show with a vivid and remarkable expressionism.
Shivering piles of women lay across the stage, fatally set in a crimson glow to the Gothic moans of the UK's My Dying Bride; screams shattered the silence of observation and bodies with their long hair unleashed, launched one after the other to the raging guitar sweeps of Arsis' "A Diamond for Disease." Opeth's "Deliverance" (which has never been as captivating on its own) once again served as the basis for another brilliant display of grace and aggression. It was all they needed to secure a rousing ovation at the evening's close.
As an added bonus, artist Tony Koehl, known for his disturbing work with death metal group Malignancy, began a live painting exhibition on the floor but this, as well as a live performance by Gwynbleidd (Brooklyn's answer to Agalloch), became a partial distraction from the spell-making at center stage. (It would also be better for DJ Craig Andersonic to never perform outside of the Williamsburg area ever again.)
Looking around the room, filled with many prim and strait-laced types, I could tell they weren't returning home intent on listening to most of these bands in private. At least we had that much in common. What mattered was that for this moment they were completely enthralled by the performance, which was able to translate these songs beyond the level of noise, projecting back into the crowd a soul-entrancing interpretation of art otherwise on the decline.
Left Hand Path welcomes CD, CD-R, LP, 7”, DVD, VHS, and cassette releases to be considered for review. Information on the release should be included, if at all possible.
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Left Hand Path #002
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Left Hand Path #004
By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2007-02-13