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.
When and why did you form the Outlaw Recordings label and what was your inspiration for the name and pistol motif in the logo?
I formed the label in the later part of 1999, and the first release came out in January of 2000. The name came from the fact I was listening to a lot of David Allan Coe at the time, and he's all about the “outlaw” lyrics and stuff—so he was the inspiration. The pistol motif was something that just seemed fitting to represent the label name, and the slogan “Live By Your Own Laws.” I can't remember exactly how the idea for slogan came to be, I don't think it's something that's completely out of left field; it's been said before but this was my way of saying it. Just to do your own thing and forget the rest. In the end you're the one you have to answer to anyway.
Maybe my inspiration for that could also be linked to an evening around 1997 when I went to see Deceased and Voivod at this club in NYC right after I moved here and I was standing in the front banging my head for Deceased and nobody else in the room seemed to care that they were playing. After the show King said to me, “Thanks for having a good time man! You know that's the way to do it; doesn't matter what anyone else is doing—you just do what you want!” I have never forgotten [about] him saying that, and I mean—as long as what you're doing isn't hurting anyone I believe everyone should do things this way. Every time I go to a show and see a bunch of fools with their arms crossed looking around for a cue to see if it's OK to have fun I think of that night. King has been an inspiration in many ways; he's one of the truest and most dedicated people I have ever known. He is the King of Metal!
How did your love for vinyl evolve? Is this something that grew out of your youth—record collecting—or even before that, maybe flipping through your folks' records as a young boy?
Yeah, I have always been around music and records, I was lucky to have a Mom who was way into music and she got me hooked! I used to run around the house rocking out and had my little stack of 45s, stuff like Guess Who and Cat Stevens—that sort of stuff. This was in the early ��70s when we lived in Oklahoma City.
The first LP I got was Glenn Campbell’s Rhinestone Cowboy; I still have that one! The first “metal” album I got was after we moved back to the U.S. in the early ��80s, Kiss’ Creatures of the Night in 1982. That album is one of the heaviest metal albums ever, the drum sound on that has and probably never will be matched! Sounds like a cannon! What can I say, it's been a life long thing, and is still going on. I love music, and I love vinyl! Period!
How have your earliest memories of music contributed to where the label is today?
I think that over the years as I got into “collecting” records and finding rarities and imports, limited edition things etc.—that had a great impact on how I have done things with the label. I remember going to this store in Virginia in like 1982 and seeing a Kiss "Creatures of the Night" limited edition UK double-grooved 12” that had the band’s autographs etched in the b-side! It was amazing! It was like $5.99, which I didn't have, and my folks wouldn't give me—but that's a whole ��nother story!
That 12" led to me starting to work and make my own money at a young age to finance my vinyl lust—being a busboy for $2 an hour and mowing lawns and stuff so I could pay for my own records and not have to ask anyone for money! But anyways, I'm getting sidetracked.
Eventually I got a copy of that Kiss 12” and it's something I still own today. It was something special, not some mass-produced LP you could buy anywhere; this was something that had a whole different vibe. And that's what I've wanted to do with my releases. I think for most of the vinyl ones at least I have succeeded. It's hard to do that with CD's, which is why I haven't done as many CD releases—though they're much easier and more profitable. But that's not what makes me happy, so it's kind of irrelevant, right?
Outlaw covers a lot of ground; you've got bona fide metal, thrash, doom, heavy rock, and even comedy. Are you interested in releasing other types of music? Do you have any particular records in mind that you'd like to reissue?
Well, I have done even more than that. There's some straight rock style stuff on there, and even a country album. But yeah, my tastes run all over the place, so anything is possible!
I will never put out any computer music though, or any rap or techno! Anything I release must involve instruments (except the heavy metal phone pranks record!). There's always stuff that could be reissued, but right now there are so many labels doing that sort of thing that I've kind of stepped back to see how it all pans out. I mean, these days anyone can track down a band and release some demos or a live record, and most of them are pretty half-assed affairs with no liner notes or information, which doesn't do it for me. Then there are labels like Earmark in Italy who are reissuing LP's that you can find original copies of for less than what they charge for a reissue! Where is the logic? Why reissue something that's still easy to find? I don't know, I will always put stuff out and do my thing, but it's getting harder to actually sell records with so much on the market. I'll have to go back to doing 100 copies of things, which is how I started. My theory at the beginning of Outlaw was that I would only do as many copies of a release as I wouldn't mind having in my collection for the rest of my life! That way, if none of the copies sold, it wasn't a failure! Haha....
My favorite record in your catalog is the Dying Light's Survival Guide to the Apocalypse. It's difficult to believe that this record didn't make a bigger impression on people. What were you thinking when you released this? Did you ever see them play?
I agree; The Dying Light record is incredible—I love that album, too! I have known Lino (the original singer, who is on that album) for years. I actually met him when I had just joined that band Enemy Soil and we went out to Fiesta Grande in 1997, and I think he was there with Cattlepress. We hung out in this motel in SF getting wrecked and have been friends ever since! So, when I moved to NYC, we hung out and I always followed his bands—Hemlock, Ceremonium, etc. and then there was the Dying Light, which was my favorite of those bands. So, when they released the album there wasn't a vinyl release scheduled and I stepped up to do it.
As far as what I was thinking, well, it was cool because it was Lino and he's my friend and I liked his band! But as far as musically—well, quite honestly I had and have completely managed to ignore the 2nd wave of “Black Metal” that happened. To me it was total garbage. I mean, Mayhem, Darkthrone, etc.—all that stuff sounded like watered down, bad Hellhammer demos to me. I never owned one of those records (except the first Mayhem, which I sold for $800 to pay rent one month like 10 years ago!). And while they definitely had a slight nod to those types of bands, the Dying Light was more rooted in traditional thrash metal like Slayer and the good Death Metal bands like early Morbid Angel and stuff. And they have fuckin' hooks on those records, it's not some buzzsaw, bumblebee guitar riffs that make me sick—I mean, listen to "Warstrike;” that song is unbelievably catchy!
Yeah, [The Dying Light] never did get too “huge” or whatever, but that doesn't matter; they're still more important and interesting than 99.9 percent of the metal released in the last decade or more! Regarding seeing them live and stuff, yeah—of course—I saw them more times than I can remember! All over town, if they played we'd all go check them out! Most of the time they were great—sometimes the bang out would take its toll... and it wasn't as tight, but still sounded cool!
The last show they played with that original lineup was with Battletorn and Unearthly Trance in a basement in the Lower East Side at this place The Pyramid... It was a blow out: too much of everything, then there were some words said and that was it. I only saw them once after that; we got booked with them again, and though I won't say anything bad about the new lineup, let's just leave it at this: I liked the first the Dying Light lineup best.
Outlaw has put out some incredible picture discs over the years. What guides your decision to release a record as a picture disc and what is it about the medium that is so closely tied to metal?
Picture discs used to be something special that you would get if you could find them; they were pretty rare collectors items! So when I found a pressing plant that could make them in limited quantities as small as 100-200 I was elated, and did a bunch of stuff on picture disc all at once. Now I can't use that plant for that anymore, so those days are done, but it was cool while it lasted!
Yes, picture discs are cool, [but] I don't know that they're necessarily associated only with “metal.” There were definitely a lot of classic metal albums that came out on picture disc back in the day. Maybe it's because that metal isn't as concerned with “sonics” since most metal is pretty loud and proud, and since picture discs don't have as good sound quality as regular vinyl this may keep other types of music from using the format. Like, I've never seen a jazz or classical picture disc!
It seems that Outlaw's “successes” have been at the hands of friends—most of the people involved in layout, artwork, and even the musicians are the same people that you're hanging out and draining brew with.
I think the successes have gone both ways, it's been people working together to create something cool—that's all. [As for] having friends do layout/artwork, that's because I wanted to work with friends, and couldn't afford to hire professionals! No offense to any of them as some of them are professionals, but I wasn't and am still not in a position to hire a designer to do an LP layout, so people around would kick in. They liked to be involved and see these things come together, so it was mutually beneficial I guess, and I always appreciated and acknowledged them for this. I would pay them with vinyls from my collection or if the release made a little cheese I'd give them some when we were out at a show when they weren't expecting it or something.
It was always me who had to pay the bills for pressing and stuff though! Haha.. so nobody else wanted to jump in to enjoy those “glories!” The goal of every release was just to break even—I have never and will never do this label to make money—it was just somewhere to channel my energies and stuff after I stopped partying, and stay involved with and give back to the music community I had enjoyed for so long. I had a lot of time and money I could put to better use once I didn't spend it on raging—been clean/sober for almost nine years!—this was another big reason for Outlaw forming and my ability to keep it going.
Regarding the bands, well yes—many of them are friends from NYC or VA and stuff, and that's again just a natural and organic thing that happened—I never accepted 'demos' from band in the mail or anything, most of it has just been my friends or bands I was into. I don't really have a wish list of bands to release—we'll see what comes up, there's always something around the corner!
Steal Your Balls
OLR 017; Edition of 214
Late for an Early Grave
OLR-027; Edition of 525
Complete and Total F@#cking Midnight
OLR-033; Edition of 1,000
The GrimmRobe Demos
OLR-022; Edition of 220
The Dying Light
Survival Guide to the Apocalypse
OLR 020-Edition of 330
Alioth - Channeling of Unclean Spirits
[Starlight Temple Society]
A re-release of this solo recording by Cult of Daath’s Wargoat Obscurum, first recorded on tape in 2002. Channeling of Unclean Spirits is an homage of sorts to the Greek black metal group, Varathron, re-living its nightmares with closely patterned-after trad. metallic riffing, mid-thrash gallops and softly stated but unnerving interludes (“Invocations”) of clean guitar and chomping growls orating cosmic rot. In executing these four tracks with dark, unflinching appreciation of its subject, and more importantly, a real understanding of that influence, Alioth yield something less defining, perhaps, but wholly uncanny and worthwhile.
Bone Awl - Meaningless Leaning Mess
[Nuclear War Now!]
The Novato boys return with their first full-length record. Much in the vein of the Not for Our Feet and Up To Something tapes, the duo of Gnashes Teeth and Crushes Teeth wield drums and guitar in rusted permutations of punk and minimalist black metal: A scrap heap ensemble that provokes and finally overpowers. It's repetitive and unconcerned, second-hand and beginning again. The only major difference now is they’ve replaced the stills of Artaud’s disembodied head with dark cathedrals, faceless puppets, and excerpts from Robert Chambers’ early book of weird, The King in Yellow. Voegtlin calls their music the first you can “drink, fight, and fuck to,” in the space of one day. To be sure, the inner sleeve’s advice to "try and be still" is about as reassuring as it would be if heard on the Satyricon tour bus. And from Oi! to Ildarn, you know all the musical comparisons already. Unlike their hermetic forbearer, however, Bone Awl’s crude marches roll outside of the wreckage, skillfully incorporating the aftermath back into song. Their comparatively thoughtful, systemic drum patterns and harmonic rakes are not metaphors for some primordial darkness. Nor or they the voice of builders, but of a wrecking crew razing speaker fragments down into the dirt, migraines ringing on afterward.
Dead Reptile Shrine - Sabbat
[Skulls of Heaven]
Obscurant, absurd, unmusical, Dead Reptile Shrine has become increasingly spoken of, but seldom actually heard since their first (and very limited) label release A Journey through the Darkest of Forest began circulating out from native Finland’s Werewolf Records in 2005. Puzzling to say the least, D.R.S. subsists on what they/he/she/it describes not as music but “aural phenomenon”; sounds recorded “outside of the studio” and unbound by convention: A black, folk, ambient, noise, psych, monastic rigamarole. There is no roster, no names on record; performance is delivered to the shrine anonymously and abandoned with exhaustion. Having matter-of-factly stated that it’s better if they sound like they don’t know how to play their instruments, these faceless participants suggest on the one hand that their work has no real purpose but insist on “knowledge” manifested by excess.
Their latest, Sabbat brings these tangled attempts closer to listeners abroad, but maintains distance with four tracks of profuse electronic battery on tape. Sabbat’s four tracks of Fernow-esque gold plated cock-in-socket fumbling manufactures death moans, gulag dances, and clunky faux-percussion which explodes like rows of compressed air-canisters, with a final realization of crash symbol alarum as all worldly containers of audience are microwaved into a stygian broth. Its full-tilt noise program is locked in a temporal history to be rewound, replayed but never reanimated. An exhibition of intuitively un-crafted sound that succeeds because of needed brevity, but is practically domesticated compared to their past recordings.
Dead Reptile Shrine - A Journey through the Darkest of Forests
If A Journey through the Darkest of Forests is as unlikely to ever be recreated on stage or in-studio, it can still be re-issued. Anti-Humanism's limited cassette edition preserves this unique recording complete with its confounding dedication to "Austrian Black Metal and the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer," which only further heaps on strangeness. The material here was culled from between 2001-05 by the band, purportedly choosing more "black metal" sounding tracks "out of respect for the label." That's modesty on every level. You'll probably never hear something like this anywhere else and at the same time be just as relieved when it's finally over. And at the same time you cannot fail to see it through.
Taken track-by-track, the music appears lazy, crude, and risible. But together (even if they were not written as a continuum) there is a startling and infectious energy to it all. To call these effects revelatory is to be generous, but it awakens something. Pan-Satanic inculcations and fascist blessings of malevolence are curiously espoused within free-form variety that emphasizes the Shrine's clumsy musical ambitions. Half-voiced notation fails and resumes mid-song with Parkinson's afflicted guitar riffs strewn about murky, amphibious drones, low-fi cut-ups with floor trembling bass loops, underground Gregorian chants, bumble bee'd flights of whimsical keyboards, lascivious flutes, and Roman Castevet. An autistic r-r-r-ritual of off-tone terrors with rhythms contorted like tree infection. It is a freak show with hardly anything left out for consideration. But while the transparently half-assed approach can at times be an endurance rite in itself, its nerve is pure inspiration.
Forest of Impaled - Rise and Conquer
At one time comprised entirely of Polish expatriates, Chicago’s Forest of Impaled returns here with long-time member Duane Timlin (ex-Krieg, Sarcophagus) on drums and new vocalist/bassist Zion, of local death metallers, Disinter, stepping in for original player Marcus Kolar. Rise and Conquer is the group’s third album, gaining appreciable speed and fury as they continue to forge elements of black and death metal into precision note anabasis. Like Zyklon and Belphegor, Forest of Impaled seems to reconstruct pieces of elder Morbid Angel’s Covenant into imperious phrases with very a European sense of melody and occasional keyboards painting awestruck tones amid the cold-blooded brutality. While the album’s more tempered moments are less convincing, they are also few and far between. It is propelled by immediacy and martial frenzy: jihad in full commencement. 12 tracks including a cover of Miasma’s “Schizophrenia.”
Pagan Altar - Mythical and Magical
For every band that's held up as an arbitrary standard of the genre's arch grandeur, there are dozens who remain buried in obscurity, regardless of their contributions, and in short time what was once artifice is turned into artifact. I'm not talking about those Sunn/Boris 3XLPs, either. Pagan Altar was the original band in black robes. Formed in the late seventies, the group recorded only one record in their prime: 1982's Volume 1, one of the creepiest post-Sabbath records to come out of England. In a kind of Black Mass recreation, Pagan Altar often staged their concerts with candles, sigils, skulls, sable-clothed altars, and inverted crosses propped beside their looming ebon-shapes. But the act never took off and they were relegated to a cult status they’ve sought to expand on ever since. Mythical and Magical is their second album since reforming several years ago, presenting 12 newly recorded songs dating as far back as 1977.
The album’s numerous references to sorcery, occult superstition, witches, and druids are expressed in several shades of the era. Tracks like “The Crowman,” “Sharnie,” and “The Witches Pathway” web bright acoustic guitar and banjo movements across vocalist Terry Jones’ trembling narrations, with some stable if too placid female voices on backup. The general mood is like a combination of Jethro Tull and the Strawbs. Elsewhere, preferably hard and galloping tracks like "Cry of the Banshee" run closer to early Demon, while the dark and doomy contours of “Samhein” and “The Rising of the Dark Lord,” bookending the album with impeccable lead-work, epic-depth and melody are all vintage Pagan Altar. The recording’s muted tone and somewhat gritty analog sound is just as wonderfully removed from the present. Offered alongside are illustrations by Henry Clarke and photos Ireland's Dunluce Castle, boasting its own history of lonesome apparitions. Fortunately, the music is taken seriously enough to avoid drowning in this nostalgia: What it strives for and in many ways achieves, is timeless.
Ruins of Beverast - Rain upon the Impure
Who was to block the left hand path,
When it became the last resort?
With inspired equivalence, Ruins of Beverast’s lone creator, Alexander von Meilenwald traces the German band’s sound directly to its mythical origin: The name Beverast (also Bifrost) stands for the famed “rainbow bridge” linking earth to the realm of the gods in Norse cosmology, later destroyed during Ragnarök and bringing with it, “the collapse of the entire human organism.” Something of a mixture between Enslaved and Deathspell Omega, Meilenwald’s music is both progressive and partly obscene. The bulk of Rain upon the Impure is composed of five tracks reaching 15 minutes a piece with brief segues in between. Though solidly founded in black metal’s degraded idiom, the album is an epic and varied portrait of swampy dirges and phantoms peaking along the Rhine.
False angels and fleeing hope are voiced by jagged-toothed growls, medieval horns, ancestral chorus and sweeping melodies that crash into faint, drifting cries—all supported by the most involving use of film sampling since Scorn. The production has been criticized for being too thin and depleted, but its consciously self-muted presentation is appropriate for these considered and nearly symphonic arrangements. The album has a near-death weightlessness to it, an ablated masking of features that clouds its more visceral nature with subtlety and poise to convey the passing of time. How else to last through such absurdly drawn out divisions? It glides over abandoned battle fields with the far removed glare of death, and as an antithetical fantasia, is a strong exemplar of where the genre has been, and of the strange paths now formed ahead.
Vassafor – Southern Vassaforian Hell
Slow starting black metallers Vassafor hail from Auckland, New Zealand and have released two previous demo tapes with about an eight year gap between them. This latest 7” displays the band at their current peak with roaring black-tar emissions of unwieldy and intricate design. The aptly titled opener “Craft of Dissolution” proceeds with variants of seemingly opposite groups Blut Aus Nord and early Immolation, using full-chord bends to portray a vortical formlessness as leads wilt away under nauseating chord clusters and blast-shifting black-grind rhythms overlaid with vocals from the demon of early morning larynx sludge. They’ve not quite broken through, but even at this pace they’ve got half the competition beat. Also includes a perfectly suited cover of Bathory’s “Son of the Damned.”
[The Left Hand Path logo was created by Patrick Delaney.]
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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By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2007-03-19