Woods of Ypres – Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light

Woods of Ypres

Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light
Earache
Whatever talk of this album there may be in future, the only certainty is that it will be forever overshadowed by the death of Woods of Ypres’ primary creative force, David Gold, who died prior to the album’s release when he was hit by a car whilst walking down Highway 400 in Barrie, Ontario, Canada, near the end of 2011. Their deal with Earache should have been the beginning of a new chapter in the Woods of Ypres’ story. Now, it’s almost certainly the epilogue, brought to a tragic, abrupt and premature end. Woods of Ypres were certainly lauded in the underground for their effective blackened doom metal, but that reputation and recent events alone shouldn’t have any bearing on whether the fifth Woods of Ypres album, ‘Grey Skies & Electric Light‘, produces the results that Digby Pearson foresaw upon signing the band to Earache.



There is no doubt that some purists will be disappointed with the band’s decision to largely ditch the blackened stuff for sorrowful doom, although ‘Adora Vivos’ provides a blinding mix of the two, an undeniably amazing moment occurring as Gold gnarls ‘under grey skies and electric light!‘. Whether you’ll enjoy much of the rest of the record is down to how much of the dark stuff you’ll be able to stomach. As it is, while lyrically it is one of the bleakest records I’ve ever heard, Gold conveys it very well in my opinion, and by and large gets its right. The largely concise tracklisting – compared to most doom releases, at least – gives each song a certain punctuality. They don’t get lost in bleak meandering – even the longest song on the record ‘Kiss My Ashes (Goodbye)’ remains fully interesting throughout thanks to its progressive nature, merged into one song from the two parts that took up the promo version of this record.

Whether it was intended or not, ‘Grey Skies‘ reads an awful lot like a death note. Lyrically it’s one of the most striking albums I’ve ever come across, regardless of the events prior to its release. Through many of the tracks, there’s a real sense of closure, indeed finality – certainly not something that was intended to be so real. Yet you can’t deny how eerie some of the lyrics are, particularly ‘Back on the highway, under the moon, my final moments, still wondering about you…‘ (from ‘Alternate Ending’). There’s much more within that I won’t go into now by my word, its powerful stuff.

This was surely only to be the beginning of a successful relationship between Woods of Ypres and Earache which had the potential to bear many fruits. David Gold and Woods of Ypres were already revered before they signed with Earache and released ‘Grey Skies‘. This was to be the record that spread their name a little, to propel them to new heights/depths. Alas, what conspired that January evening was to cut any new promise short. Nonetheless, ‘Grey Skies‘ is a phenomenal album, a fitting epitaph to a band and a frontman who will surely take their place in cult metal folklore.
Peter Clegg

Grim and Frostbitten cake

Any regular visitor to our site will know my appreciation for metal-themed cake, especially as I received a Slayer cake on my 27th birthday, so it goes without saying that any well-executed metal cake deserves its due as far as I’m concerned. So when this spot-on creation of an Immortal/Abbath cake started doing the metal newsrounds a few days ago, its only fair that we share it around. Take a bow Jessica Blavatsky of SlaytaniCakes!

Peter Clegg

The reason why outsiders think metal is for idiots

Yeah, real mature…

Jeff Tandy from independent thrashers Birth A.D. has apparently ‘just realised’ that his band will be in Liturgy’s home town of Brooklyn, New York, and indeed home of their frontman, and self-styled black metal philosopher Hunter Hunt-Hendrix. Quite maturely, Tandy called out Hendrix to a fight, via a Facebook page entitled ‘Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, Come Fight Me!’ The page was full of brash statements from Tandy, consisting of further callouts, insults and mock images of what he’s apparently got in store for Hendrix, with plenty of non Liturgy and Hendrix fans baying for the transcendental visionary’s blood. Here’s what Tandy said:

“I’m calling you out, Hunt-Hendrix! I’ll be at Martyrdoom Fest in Brooklyn on June 30, 2012. I hate you. I hate what you do. Come down and we’ll fight!… I will feed you all the Brooklyn sidewalk you can eat, HHH. I’ll show you the side of black metal you don’t have the fortitude or will to explore. Seriously, I will fuck you up.”

I’m not HH-H’s biggest fan, not by a long shot. I find his musings on black metal and indeed elements of his band’s music pretentious and somewhat elitist. By the same token, there are aspects of their music which are sheer genius. But that’s not enough to put me off Hendrix and his diatribes. Does that mean he deserves the treatment he’s got on that page? Absolutely not.

This is exactly why people on the outside have a problem with metal. Yeah we try to paint ourselves as the intelligent bunch, but in actual fact what we have here is Hendrix, somewhat farther along the evolutionary scale (at least in thought and vision), getting heckled, taunted and pilloried by a caveman and his orcs via a social networking site that, wisely, were quick to take down the offending page.

Of course. trolling is nothing new, but this is quite a low. There’s clearly a lot f people of the lowest common denominator who are happy to back this proposed act of violence in actual name – not a user name, but their actual identity. It’s like metallers picking on emo kids again, only this time its aimed at supposed hipsters, in this case Hendrix, whose only crime (aside from some pretty controversial views on black metal) was to be at the forefront of a revolutionary take on the genre via a band so divisive yet incredible (at times) that the case for whether Marmite is good or bad suddenly looks easier to decide.

Tandy might be part of ‘trve’ black metallers Averse Sefira and once a live member of Krieg, but what makes him more qualified on black metal matters than anyone else in the scene? That he’s effectively trying to reduce the debate on black metal to a slugfest achieves nothing, zero, squat, and its stating the obvious to say its pathetic, boneheaded and devoid of actual balls. And even if Hendrix did turn up, what’s to say he wouldn’t clock Tandy, rather than vice versa?

Hopefully this silly incident will be forgotten about and people can continue to argue about metal in a normal, disorderly fashion. It’s not big or clever to pick a fight, and less so on Facebook, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a little jealousy involved with Liturgy’s success, and Tandy’s presumable incredulity that a man with such polarizing views happens to be on their way to relative stardom. Tandy can preach ‘kvlt’ and ‘trve’ all he likes – but those words will never befit empty threats, and we all know violence never settles a true debate.

Peter Clegg

Winter songs

The weather outside in the UK right now isn’t too frightful but winter certainly took its icy grip over our shores earlier in the month. Thankfully, we’ve not had the repeat of the storm of late 2010 and early 2011 but no doubt the capability is there. Luckily for you, we’ve compiled five songs we feel befitting of the big freeze, however bleak or even positive they may feel. Enjoy.

1. Probot w/ Lee Dorrian – Ice Cold Man

[from Probot, Southern Lord, 2003]

OK, an obvious one to begin with, and without doubt the finest song from Dave Grohl’s childhood dream/metal superstar album. Arriving in the middle of the record, a cold, heartless, doomy riff echoes, before the pounding of the drums introduces Cathedral/ex-Napalm Death frontman Lee Dorrian to bestow a tale of a planet dying at the grip of an eternal winter. The chorus is storming; Eternal winter takes its reign/devoid of life, filled with pain/ice cold man watches earth die’. And as Dorrian delivers that line, you can truly grasp the hopelessness that fills you when caught in an Arctic-style storm.
2. Batillus – …And The World is as Night to Them
[from Furnace, Seventh Rule, 2011]
I recently had to get up ridiculously early for a Saturday shift. It was dark, frost and ice were covering the roads and pavements near my home. A van had slid off the main road at the bottom and almost into a building during the night. ‘…And The World is as Night to Them’, the opening song from blackened doomers Batillus’ ‘Furnace’, was the track playing on my musical device of choice that very moment. I was stood around waiting for the bus and this incredible song, so bleak, so harsh, captured the mood perfectly. Equal parts atmospheric and soul-crushingly heavy, take a walk outside with this track when the sky is black and the surfaces are glistening, and I defy you not to feel in thrall to winter’s cold, icy grip.
3. Immortal – In My Kingdom Cold
[from Sons of Northern Darkness, Nuclear Blast, 2002]
I know I’m trying to avoid clichés, but you can’t have such a list without including Immortal, who are in thrall to all things icy and cold. I could have picked this pretty much any song, e.g. ‘Antarctica’, ‘Arctic Swarm’, ‘Blashrykh (Mighty Ravendark)’ and more besides. But I plumped for ‘In My Kingdom Cold’ because every riff in this song truly sounds like it was pulled directly from the tundra, and Abbath’s trademark scowl truly shows he and Immortal reign supreme over this icy world.

4. My Dying Bride – A Doomed Lover

[from Songs of Darkness, Words of Light, Peaceville, 2004]
That old saying ‘it’s grim ‘oop north’ is seldom more true of the UK in winter, and if any one song could actually capture the bleakness and hopelessness you feel when caught in the middle of nowhere, trapped in a snowstorm and seemingly enveloped by the elements, this would be it. As the title indicates, it’s a song about a hopeless romance and descending into sorrow, but musically the feeling is jarring. I’ve experienced that song whilst walking in the night through snow, and just as the conclusion to the song builds up, its started snowing heavily again. This actually happened just last winter, when the country was ground to a halt by the abhorrent weather. The image in front me combined with ‘A Doomed Lover’ summed up the situation; staggeringly beautiful; but bleak, hopeless and with an unerring air of inevitability.

5. Big Business – Theme from Big Business II

[from Mind The Drift, Hydra Head, 2009]
I won’t lie – this is one of those songs which makes me feel like I’m standing on top of a mountain and shouting the words out so loud that everyone can hear! In all seriousness, this would be the song I would conquer Everest to, if I had the cojones. Just imagine that, as you hear the opening riff, accompanied by the horns, you’re staring upwards at that mountain. Or at some vast expanse. It epically builds up into ‘Mind The Drift’s fantastic climax, and the chimes that ring out the end of the record provide a potent soundtrack to winter’s harsh but undeniable beauty

Let us hear your suggestions for perfect accompanying rock or metal songs that fits the frosty mood this weather brings. I for one find those five just right.
Peter Clegg

Shining – Live Blackjazz

Shining
Live Blackjazz
Indie
Without question, Shining (NOR) were one of 2010’s top emerging bands. Although they began in 1999 (as a jazz quartet), and later embraced metal fully with 2005’s ‘In The Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be A Monster’, 2010 was the year that, for me, they truly impacted with the imperious ‘Blackjazz’. Melding black metal, jazz and more in a more intense fashion than ever before, Shining landed themselves in many people’s top albums of 2010 list way before the year had even ended. It was strange, malevolent, gonzoid and somehow cohesive.
Live Blackjazz’ isn’t a performance of that album in full, although the bulk of material from the album is present here. It compiles a full Shining performance comprising of material from that album plus older albums including ‘Kitsch’, and manages to do the rare job of doing what most live albums simply cannot, which is capture the raw, volatile energy of a band at the peak of their game. None of the craziness that manifested the studio album of the same name is lost, with frontman/saxophonist Jørgen Munkeby still screaming the ‘one three seven five’ out of ‘Fisheye’ and sounding nothing short of on the edge on the likes of ‘Madness and the Damage Done’ and ‘Exit Sun’. The closing cover of King Crimson’s ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’ is just as apocalyptic as it was on ‘Blackjazz’, enhanced by its domineering live presence
If you haven’t yet checked out Shining then you really owe it to yourself to immerse yourself right away into one of the most original bands of our time. Rarely does metal lend itself to diversity as much as it does with Shining, and without question this is an opportunity to grab with both hands and ears.

Peter Clegg

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‘Kin Hell Fest @ The Well, Leeds, 13/11/2011

(Originally posted on 12/12/2011 – now with live footage!)

Ninkharsag; I have no idea what that means, but every time I saw the name on a flyer it said to me “black metal,” which I suppose is helpful. Deeply rooted in the early days, this band would probably make those who use the words ‘kvlt’ and ‘trve’ do something sticky in their pants if they weren’t all miserable cunts and actually went to gigs.

The temperature of The Well is lowered as the grim hypnotic riffs flow between rolling drum fills and dark melodies. Ninkharsag have the same trance inducing quality to their music that Burzum have although they don’t follow in the same minimalist vein. They don’t compromise the song for the sake of speed, and the drums often emphasize the groove of a riff giving more weight to the track than endless shred/blast, although there is plenty of that to go around. I felt that the vocals didn’t quite match the power that the rest of the band created but Ninkharsag basically sound how black metal should do, evil as fuck. I was in fact so impressed, the urge to maniacally crab walk around screaming came over me. Unfortunately the ratio of beer to hangover was so far to the latter that by doing this I’d probably have fallen over and died. One black metal lunatic was completely overcome by the performance, he immediately set off out outside and set fire to a pile of leaves. Not quite a church but still.


Colonel Blast
bring death metal but not as you’re used to. There’s a lot of shredding and build up riffs to big moments that sound like some sort of post death metal pinnacle, uplifting rather than minor orientated. Amongst these moments there’s moody acoustic dynamics that are eventually savaged by all out death metal, jittering riffs and gruesome vocals delivered by a front man who gesticulated wildly, throwing punches around his unaware band mates, and at several points I feared for the safety of the bassist. There’s often a feeling of moving over several different types atmosphere within one song, all surrounding one moment of sheer power to follow these disjointed parts. Colonel Blast have defined death metal their own way, and it sounds good.

Oblivionized push the boundaries of the term tech death, the speed and ability of the musicians is incomprehensible to me. The complete insanity of what’s going on is probably a little lost in a live show and I won’t pretend that I knew what was going on most of the time, apart from the drums being ridiculously fast. If you like your death metal as intense as possible and have bionic hands, then these guys would be right up your street, or you could combine a CD with strobe lighting and have a useful tool for extracting information from a prisoner of war. I honestly can’t get into what’s happening and the only appropriate action I can think of while listening to Oblivionized, would be to internally combust or lose my mind. The vocalist also adds a strange style of chaos to the noise. Chaos however is what the band are obviously going for and they do achieve it.

The Atrocity Exhibit were up next and they bring on the filth; an unmistakable gravel like tone slaps you in the face and bastardized punk riffs give you that feeling in your gut that only something so brilliantly rotten can achieve. With the same kind of energy that Magrudergrind or Napalm Death can supply, the Atrocity Exhibit make me want to destroy everything in a grind induced frenzy and generally spaz out. The riffs are simplistic nasty, and seldom without massive groove. Obviously dedicated fans of all styles disgusting, the groove sometimes slows up into a sludged out stomp along, while piercing, abrasive screams tap into the feeling perfectly. Amongst the best underground grind bands in the UK, raw as hell and ferocious.

 

Foetal Juice bludgeon the energetic and appreciative crowd with fantastically sickening death and grind. I however, am sick of talking about the dodgy cunts so that’ll do. (Look at the Cannabis Corpse gig for more on these).


In a welcome change of pace, Wizard’s Beard appear to crush you like some sort of malevolent steam roller, assuming you didn’t have legs and couldn’t escape. The band drops into a disgustingly grim and droning start, each note pulling you further into some kind of sonic nightmare. Screams and shrieks punctuate howling feedback and fill the space between notes. As the tempo increases (not too much) the crowd are drawn in by planet shifting noise. The band are an interesting mix of droning depression and groove laden, schizophrenic blues. The groovier parts have an Iron Monkey type vibe to them, which is even more apparent with the similar all out throat ripping vocal style. While some parts of the set definitely stood out over others, the band has a distinct sound and can be crushingly heavy. One sinister and freakish crowd member of the crowd known as “Professor Big Bulge” described them as “swamp sludge, slow, heavy and powerful”. To be honest, that sums them up.

The band Diascorium is a violent attack on the idea of traditional song writing, and the musical equivalent of Mental illness. Insane sweeps are followed with slamming down beat brutality and a melodic interlude can descend into a complete cacophony within seconds, all while guttural/shrieking vocals perforate your ears. What surprises me about Diascorium is there one of the few bands I’ve seen that really make this work. The changes aren’t whimsical and work for and compliment the whole song. While it would be easy to watch them and focus on how impressive the musicianship is, it isn’t a regurgitated gimmick. There’s was plenty of crackin’ normal paced riffage and even the odd doomy bit to mix it up. One great thing about this was if something’s not to your taste in a track, you can guarantee there’s something in the pipeline that you will appreciate. This made them a fantastic band to watch live and they were certainly appreciated on the night.
 

Hangover defeated, I now faced a new challenge, which was staying upright and functioning with a great deal of beer and some very questionable local chicken inside of me while watching The Afternoon Gentlemen. The realisation that I couldn’t deal with the crowd at this point in time came as I first hit the deck, deciding to retreat towards the back and observe from afar. The Afternoon Gents bring awesomely psychotic violence in the form of music. Shredded vocal chords shout and screech in a constant barrage while relentless snappy punk and grind riffs create a whirlwind of flying bodies at the front of The Well. The bass crunches solo, with fuzz injected twang intermittently preparing you for the next bout of furiosity. The pace doesn’t let up but it doesn’t get boring; it’s kept fresh with stabs of sheer aggression and shredding followed by groove and power that keep the crowd moving.

 

The band are also pioneers of their self-coined genre ‘Power Joogle Pogger Violence’ which is their well practised art of running whilst playing with the retro toy known as “pogs”, and being angry at the same time.

I always though pirates were about disease, alcoholism and being sodomised but Skull Branded Pirates sound like they know otherwise. Power metal and melodic wizardry forms itself in tales of adventure from the seven seas. Good drinking music and a lot of fun if you’re not a cynical wanker (I am).

The drum kit has been moved from the middle of the stage and now sits amongst a captured audience, who are gathered in a circle focusing intently on two individuals in the centre. From the back of the room you can see no band, and the scene looks like a weird pagan ceremony’s under way, having said that, if I was at some sort of ritual of the earth and universe, I’d want Khudaplaying as well. It must be almost impossible to define this band with a few words and without mind expanding substances but here goes. A great deal of their sound seems to be influenced by post rock, looping, layering and building up to a sound that should be orchestrated by the big bang itself. Post rock however, wouldn’t exactly be a fully accurate description, a great deal of foreign rhythms and styles present themselves, some of which sound Baltic, yet these are still only part of a complex tapestry of sound. Many of the climatic moments do fit the post rock label but there’s no certainty as to how things will go. Psychedelic acoustic twangs ring out in slow spacey moments that build up to die out or explode with energy and percussive power.

A very interesting and dare I say original band that stole the day for me as I know they did for many others. As if Leeds shat this golden nugget out.
Astrohengebring the ‘omni metal’, which I’ve never heard before, but quickly decide is fairly odd. They give me the feeling of being chased around a dodgy fairground haunted house by Papa Lazarou, a scenario in which their music certainly fits. The instrumental four-piece have people stomping about the front with an odd combination of synth-fuelled riffs. There’s plenty of E-string thrashing amongst the groove and general anxiety inducing sounds. Astrohenge remind me slightly of Fantomas, but more riff focused.

The crowd that are watching Ingested don’t tell anything of the mixed feelings I’ve listened to through out the day. It’s easy to see why they’ve have gained popularity when watching live; they’re heavy and you know there’s going to be more than several points when you can stomp around pushing each other, or do that weird breakdown dance that makes me uncomfortable. I find parts of the set generic, predictable and very familiar, but there’s also quality death metal in there, plenty of fierce rhythms and some catchy riffs. Ingested have a formula and it works for those watching tonight, many of whom aren’t actually wearing New York caps and Ed Hardy t shirts!
 

‘Kin Hell Fest was a really fucking good day thanks to an awesome selection of bands

and a great atmosphere. It was also however, a very messy time, so the bands aren’t in the order they played, probably. Thanks a lot to Paul Priest and whoever else helped organise what was one of the best underground all dayers I’ve been to. Cheers to Jez Walshaw of Monster Riffage for the footage. Apologies to Decayed Messiah, who I unfortunately missed.
Bring on the next one!
Michael Collins