#007: The Just Shall Live by Faith
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.
Tangorodrim has been around for 10 years now. What sort of line-up changes has the band gone through, and has that affected the sound at all? What is the current line-up?
At first we were three members, plus a drummer who was not a member. He moved to the US to play jazz. The two others founded a group called "Obey," and I was left alone. Fate brought me Terno Graderz (drummer). We spent a lot of time together. In the end we became brothers and formed the new group Tangorodrim. Two is the ideal number. Now it seems it was like this forever.
Most bands are careful or even secretive when talking about influences, but Tangorodrim is boastful, name checking Hellhammer, Bathory, Darkthrone, and Fimbulwinter on the sleeve of Unholy & Unlimited. Do you see Tangorodrim as pure homage to these bands? If so, is "originality" not a concern of Tangorodrim? Do you even think that “originality” is possible in Black Metal today? Are these “Founding Fathers of Black Metal” Tangorodrim’s only influences, or are there other bands that guide the sound?
It was part of our image not to consider originality. We certainly were crazy about those bands, but today it's behind us. Yes, Darkthrone and Burzum are Black Metal as it should be. I don't know what “originality” is, or “old school”—it’s bullshit. We are also listening to Doom Metal, which is a stage before Black Metal—bands such as Burning Witch, Toadliquor. We do not copy anyone; we just play as we please.
A cursory glance at Tangorodrim’s lyrics and interviews shows the central part that alcohol plays in the band. Does Tangorodrim spend more time with the bottle than practicing or recording? How does a practice session differ from a day in the studio?
We sniff white powder with our beer and talk, that's the main role. We play three times to secure or create new songs. We both write music and lyrics at home.
Many have made much of Tangorodrim's origin and current residence. Was Tangorodrim wrecking Mother Russia before the move to the Holy Land? What prompted a move to Israel? Does the violence of the region and the region's Biblical history inspire Tangorodrim? Are you or members of the band concerned about your safety, or is the so-called “War on Terror” a joke to Tangorodrim?
Our parents brought us to Israel for a better life?—I don't know. We are not influenced by the “region” or terrorism. We influence each other. We live in another world.
“A photo without faces; it’s our style!” – Larenuf
We don't play live. We thought about it, but would not risk it. I don't think it will happen. We are afraid of breaking someone's skull. Scene in Israel? —Not interested.
Tangorodrim's fourth full-length is entitled Justus ex Fide Vivit, which is Latin for “The Just Shall Live By Faith.” Why was this title chosen?
Faith is when you understand something without words. You need to believe; the question is in what or whom.
Justus ex Fide Vivit will be released on Southern Lord. How did Tangorodrim come into contact with the American label? What does a band like Tangorodrim think about sharing a label with “hip” bands like SunnO))) and Boris? Does this detract from Tangorodrim's underground status?
They liked us; we liked them. They are cool and have cool groups.
What is Tangorodrim's attitude to the current state of Black Metal? Is this a concern at all for the band, or is time better spent drinking and hell raising?
I think I said it all.
Akimbo - Harshing Your Mellow
Music for dive bars, Akimbo is a three-man moshpit of metal, punk, and alcohol. NeurIsis meets Touch & Go meets Jack & Coke—fusions this drunkenly seamless are rare. This Seattle trio doesn't parse MySpace genres like so many bands these days. Instead, it's all dirt from the word "go." Slashing dissonance and scarred-throat vocals charge knees-up through beefy drums and rumbling bass. From their European tour diary: "We played Immerhin, a super rad punk club...the following morning the staff told us they had never had a band that drank as much as us. I don't care how they remember us, so long as we leave some kind of mark." This band could be your flannel-ridden, Friday-on-Thursday life. Bottoms up!
Arkangel - Prayers Upon Deaf Ears
European metalcore was always more metal than its American counterpart, with Arkangel being one of its best exponents. Polish label Lifeline has exhumed the Belgian band's 1998 debut EP and given it a fresh coat of blood. In typical Lifeline fashion, the packaging is stunning, with a three-panel digipak housing rich artwork and lavish liner notes. The six tracks intriguingly recall Converge around the same time—hardcore punk with a jagged, dissonant, metallic frame. Slayer influences reign heavily in the riffs, while scathing screams scorch the midrange. The execution is loose and the mix is raw, but the songs drip with vitriol.
Arkhan - M.A.C.H.I.N.E.
The only thing wrong with this album is its era of existence. Death metal replete with melodic riffs, bulldozing blastbeats, blazing solos, and fearsome growls—it's a shame this sound isn't hip now. Perhaps Arkhan recognizes this, as the Swiss band spices up its old-school chassis with cheeky samples, black metal tremolo picking, and tastefully goofy keyboards. Song titles like "Texas Lesbian Barbecue" and "Little Stinky Monkeys" are hardly "death metal," while the Japanese manga artwork is straight out of late '90s techno. Tongue-in-cheek aberrations aside, though, the band throws down straight-up death metal. Compact and catchy, this is one heavy m.a.c.h.i.n.e.
Artrosis - In Nomine Noctis
Metal from Poland mainly falls into two categories—thundering death metal and female-fronted gothic metal. Artrosis has been one of the country's top exports in the latter since 1995. In Nomine Noctis is a reissue of the English version of the band's second album, 1998's W Imi? Nocy, which means "in the name of the night." The transliteration is mostly smooth, though at times the lyrical phrasing feels a little "off." Medeah's vocals, though, are definitely "on," hitting high registers and low menace with equal authority. The straightforward goth metal here is somewhat removed from the electronic experiments of later albums. While the genre's conventions are all present—melodic riffs, big keyboards, stately tempos—hooks abound everywhere. The production is a little raw, but that works in the album's favor. In avoiding the overproduction typical in goth metal today, the songs retain atmosphere. An eerie pad here, a delicate piano there—this album manages to breathe in its corset.
The Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound - Ekranoplan
Where does Tee Pee keep finding bands like this??? The New York label has always excelled at retro sounds, but while its recent release by Titan was a flashback to '60s Haight-Ashbury, The Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound is even more frighteningly authentic. The band even hails from San Francisco! Unlike Titan's modern, muscular mastering job, the sound here captures the soft bounce of Fender P-Bass, uncompressed drums, fuzzed-out tones. Imagine Neil Young's Crazy Horse refracted through psychedelic bliss, complete with ethereal vocal harmonies from another dimension. Luminous keys flicker over shimmering cymbals, earthy acoustic guitars, and sinuous electric leads. Fire up the black light for some of the most delightfully anachronistic music you'll ever hear. Highly recommended.
Devastator - Nuclear Proliferation
The angst of the atomic age lives on: songs of war and rage, nuclear holocausts and infernal pain fill this recording, an unadorned paean to early Bathory and Dark Angel. There’s little difference between songs, each piece presenting the opportunity for unbridled thrash and bone crunching allegiance to the spirit of Thomas “Quorthon” Forsberg. Lyrically, this is the stuff of the golden ��80s, were war and Satanism amicably commingled as they do today. “Writhe in sorrow; your God is dead!”
Earth - Hibernaculum
A curious title considering the band’s visibility of late, Hibernaculum comes as no surprise for those lucky enough to own aRCHIVE’s Live Hex. Old standard “Ouroboros Is Broken” is given just and respectful treatment, revisited with patience and slow-burning ire. “Coda Maestoso in F Flat Minor” unfolds out of Ouroboros’ wake, boot clicking spur music Morricone never did make. The real standout is “Miami Morning Coming Down,” with its enigmatically eerie piano couplets underpinning the restrained action—quiet and subtle transformations that change so much and so little it’s nearly impossible to tell where the piece begins and ends. Throughout, drummer Davies colors well, colors broadly with minimal equipment; Carlson is a disembodied tanker anchor perpetually in drop formation. The only problem with this package is its accompanying DVD, which holds far too many flaws to delineate. DePalma suggested O’Malley should have handled the stick—indeed. Skip the vid; enjoy the music. Recommended.
The Funeral Pyre - The Nature of Betrayal
The best album artwork on Prosthetic in ages—but it's a re-release of the Funeral Pyre's debut album, The Nature of Betrayal. This California band combines melodic, Swedish-tinged death metal with keyboard-heavy black metal. Both these sounds are long past their expiration date, and while their execution is tight and efficient, the band offers little new beyond them. Despite its conservative approach, the band has a knack for creative melodies and riffs. In particular, the title track bursts with rolling drums, tremolo picking, and moody pianos. The mix is almost too good, smoothing off edges with a slightly glossy sheen. Guitars unleash machine gun riffs, drums clatter through breakbeats, vocals scream and rasp, and keyboards blanket the din with both atmosphere and banality. Whether the band is actually saying anything is another matter.
Ghost of a Fallen Age - Rumors of the Secret War
Lynchburg's Ghost of a Fallen Age has not an original bone in its young body, grabbing pig squeals from death metal, breakdowns and Swedish melodies from metalcore, and the occasional grinding rhythm from Meshuggah. But the band does so extremely well, with catchy riffs and impressively lively performances. The band's playing has a "vibe" about it, which is almost unheard of for material of this sort. Natural, edgy production, and beautiful artwork make this a package with teeth. Perhaps these six songs didn't need to be padded out to ten tracks with intros and interludes, but the fillers add ambience. An unexpected Lydian groove in "Macabre Vow," a serrated riff in "A Poorly Tailored Man-Suit"—signs of individuality? The band obviously has vision; it just needs to find its own.
Gospel of the Horns - Realm of the Damned
Few bands form a more misleading acronym than southern Australia's Gospel of The Horns. Laced in bullet belts and denim vests while ripping white hot leads and raw thrash riffs of a similar brand proffered by local brethren in Atomizer, Destroyer 666, Vomitor and Grenade, members Howitzer, Hellkunt, Masochist and Marauder look like they sound and sound like they should ("Blue demons that eat Christians alive. You're not a Christian are you?") Their sophomore album, Realm of the Damned, would have made a fine epitaph for the band after breaking up in early January and still might after their reformation (about two weeks later). Their output is bred on emotional response, gut-feelings that reappear blackened by time. Songs like "Blood and Iron," "Trial by Power," "Strength through Fear" and even one track evoking Gallipoli ("1915") are not opportunities for cautionary tales as they were to many over a decade ago, but virulent expressions of Satanic cum Nietzschean perspectives of life as a cursed test of will, easily matched up with OZ's outlaw imagery.
From there, any potential caution they incur in being one out of X number of black thrash-metal bands is kept at bay by their surprisingly distinct sound, with trim and catchy songwriting marked by essential pumps on the bar and smoke-tail pick scrapes as they roll through mutated nods to classics like Kill ��em All and Bonded by Blood ("Death Sentence"), flush with melodic undertow and a parade of boots following under Howitzer's carrion-seeking vulture vocals. Certainly, good timing has moved them further into the spotlight (nearly all the above mentioned have broken up or momentarily lay silent) but not without perseverance (they've lasted longer than many). Gospel of the Horns have seized their moment and with balls to spare.
In Slumber - Scars: Incomplete
The AAA franchise to Soilwork's major league team, In Slumber plays perfectly executed, by-the-numbers Gothenburg melodic death metal. The only missing element is clean vocals, which is refreshing in a time of good cop/bad cop vocal nonsense. Otherwise, the band apes Soilwork's knack for modulating up at choruses to make songs soar. Riffs fire with military precision and clean tones glisten, with harmonies sure to induce much Viking ale quaffing. Song titles like "Seduce My Sentenced Pain" invite skepticism, but this Austrian band gets the ESL pass. Usually, the more desirable alternative is singing in a native language, but when a band cops a style that's an alloy to begin with, authenticity isn't the first concern. Completely unoriginal, but rocking.
Inquisition - Nefarious Dismal Orations
Inquisition's vocalist/guitarist Dagon derives his stage name from the older Semitic god, but his trembling and ensorcelling speech resembles quite another. As the creaking maw attached to perhaps the most unique black metal duo currently from the Americas (partnered with drummer, Incubus, the band formed in Columbia, 1988 as a serviceable but late-coming thrash metal band and currently reside in the US), Dagon coldly echoes the album’s concept and title; he is like the demon Baal, half-man, half-toad, filling the night's forests and bogs with wicked mutterings. And through the warlike pulse and drugged march of these nine tracks, his words maintain a frightening and indifferent monotone, an understated stylization of some ancient or decrepit script which icily commands: Annihilate, Exterminate.
Nefarious Dismal Orations is a welcome improvement over the 2004’s grandly titled, Magnificent Glorification of Lucifer, crippled by pallid writing, too ruddy production and one abortive attempt at ambient free-instrumentation. It is not significantly different from their past material, but subtle touches (and clearer mix) add greatly to its overall effect. In some ways Inquisition sound more like a heavy metal band than they do black metal, though their balanced repetition underlines the latter's veiled ambient sensibilities. Their modern style of drum blasts (perhaps the one fault on hand is that the bass drum is so disguised in the background it sound like a wet rubber flap) chase after a shrinking assembly of power chords split by waves of higher-note slash strokes that wipe over the discharge with vicious accents and disarming melodies that heighten at given times both somnambulant shrugs and fist-raising power. Sparse, smart use of the tremolo bar along with bell chimes and distorts the picture further maintaining the eerie presence and that has become their trade, perfecting their own heinous category.
Mortuus - De Contemplanda Morte
[The Ajna Offensive]
Herein are the mysteries of Death, that which it leaves behind and that which is proffered to those ushered into its barren locus that is at once everywhere and nowhere. De Contemplanda Morte compellingly provides musical exegesis of the becoming and the falling away and all that exists pre- and post-notion in a program that is at once repellent and wholly rapturous. There is no straying from the topic: Emperor, pope, and peasant are treated in kind; as the hourglass’ sands sift slowly through its waist, the cloaked and hooded brood awaits. Bile splattered scythes frown in silver half-moons, held attentively by crumbling yellowed tarsals whose vegetal growth creeps from beneath black felt sleeves. Steeds stand in static repose; their wet, black nostrils contract and snort in the humid reek; their broken and bloodied hooves count in hollow thumps upon the muddy ground. Cardinals, Ecclesiastics, vociferous deformed huddles of the tired and the poor undulate in exaggerated throes of Vitus danse. A balmy wind blows over and through them, its carrion cunt-stench odor rattles the ribcages of the decomposed, their blood-brown bones tinkling as muted chimes in the slow sick draft. Martyrs’ tombs open their mouths and disgorge their contents in miasmata of excrement, menses, and bone, vermin run from the sepulchers in steady gray streams, riffles of pestilence and perfidiousness. Bells bong again and again, marking the unmarkable: The eternal presence of Death. Sum quod eris quod es olim fui. Amen.
Necros Christos - Triune Impurity Rites
Part Huysmans, and the other part Solomon, the long anticipated full-length from Germany's Necros Christos is presented as a dark compendium of demonology and death metal, situated like so:
The Three Cultmysteries according to the Torments of the Damned
The Three Cultmysteries according to the Ceremonies of Goetia
The Three Cultmysteries according to the Rites of Necro-Demonomancy
Three chapters, three members, 23 tracks total. Slow to get into, Triune Impurity Rights evokes the best of unblessed acts like Black Hole, Sinoath, and Acheron: Dark, Satanic, and doom-drenched with no apologies or irony concerning the lower influence. Building toward a hypnotic vibe, vocals appear more talked than growled ("Va Koram Do Rex Satan") while bass lines sink into a white-eyed nullity ("Last Rite of Christ"), overtaken by desires released as ugly refrains that sing the portrait to life: black robes, bared asses, and black candles surrounding hideous idols, open graves, Sumerian dreams, and the end of days. More than a few tracks here sound like variations on the same jagged riff and positions, dark dances rephrased in deceptively simple patterns that are refreshed by multiple interludes (referred to by guitarist/vocalist Mors Dalos Ra as "temples" or "gates") fashioning at best a “mystical” atmosphere and at “worst” a b-movie ambience of Latin and backwards speech beside gloomy keyboards, fiery organs, and classical guitar charged with near-eastern melody—suspenseful respites from the many twisted grooves. For all its adherence to occult (and musical) clichés, Triune Impurity Rites is so unabashed and precise in execution as to overcome prejudice and exhaustion, affirming the strength of master and style. So were the spirits conjured, Ave.
Skeletonwitch - Worship the Witch
From the Pushead-like artwork to the dueling guitars and gutter vox, Cleveland’s Skeletonwitch eagerly embraces Metal’s past and comes forth with an intriguing mixture of speed and thrash metal, all melodic riffs and off-to-the-races percussion. “Beyond the Permafrost” transliterates Anthrax’s “Caught in a Mosh” for the mini-mart loiterers seeking transcendence with inhalants and malt liquor. “Feast Upon the Flesh” ably rumbles ahead, relentlessly linear and fleet-of-foot, displaying some excellent guitar work and hair-raising interplay amongst all members. This EP serves as ample proof that those raised on Sodom and early Metallica can attain authenticity if they play from their core. Recommended.
Tyrant Throne - Abominations
One of the few metal bands in Jordan, Tyrant Throne is a two-man project—Phexataan handles "battle axe bass and beastly growls," with Zaher Siryani on "machine gun guitars." Despite the drum machine percussion, the execution is impressively organic. Dissonant touches a la Hate Eternal spice up a Cannibal Corpse-esque blend of technical and straight-ahead death metal. The lyrics don't make much sense ("When suddenly it is time for the disastrous astonishment / Blood paths are opened, blood lines are seen"), begging the question of why more metal bands don't sing in their native languages, since no one can understand them anyway. However, the language of death metal is universal. Guitars gallop through low-slung verses, then rip into whinnying, zig-zagging leads. The locale may be new, but the feeling is authentic.
Upside - Jim Beam and the American Dream
A combination that absolutely should not work, but does—bluesy hard rock, melodic punk, and modern emo. Before you vomit, consider today's trend in metal and hardcore punk of mining rock's past, with tags like "death 'n' roll" and "punk 'n' roll." Tip the balance far towards the "roll," and you have Upside. Imagine the Offspring and Taking Back Sunday covering G'n'R on Austin's 6th Street, with Led Zeppelin on the jukebox. This sounds like a match made in hell, but Sid Goldsmith's strong vocals tie everything together. In the '90s, he would have given Eddie Vedder a run for his money. Whip-smart songwriting and perfect production don't hurt, either. Mullet music never sounded so sophisticated.
Watain - Sworn to the Dark
[Norma Evangelium Diaboli]
Uppsala’s Watain enjoys the fortune of having unleashed nothing but magisterial Black Metal. The band’s two full-lengths Rabid Death’s Curse and Casus Luciferi amalgamated an aesthetic somewhere between early Mayhem and Dissection, creating bona fide masterpieces lent gravitas by their intellectual lyrical themes, which coupled with respective artwork created a fiercely unified and respectable vision. Sworn to the Dark, Watain’s third full-length, shares little in common with its predecessors, however, boldly treading deeper into composition redolent of Dissection’s best work. Regardless, Sworn is a recording that gestates, slowly working its way into the mind and, ultimately, into favor. The guitar work here is of undeniable beauty; interplay and riffs from “Legions of the Black Night,” “Darkness and Death,” and the title track are stunning and warm, powerful and marked by a proud, remarkable precision. The unusually clean sound will doubtlessly turn more than a few off, but it’s a welcome alteration. If there is a criticism, its length, which allows the mind to wander even while the music is terrifically in focus.
[The Left Hand Path logo was created by Patrick Delaney. The Mortuus review is warmly dedicated to the Convivial Hermit: Mentula conatur Pipleium scandere montem: Musae furcillis praecipitem eiciunt.]
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By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2007-05-01