Update III – 3/22/15

Three new reviews have been added for Darkstroll, Hedge Wizard, and A Diadem of Dead Stars. In addition to the reviews, an interview with the obscure Australian black metal/ambient band Vindkaldr has been added to the zine.

More interviews and reviews are currently in the works, check back soon for more updates! Happy Spring Solstice.

Hedge Wizard – More True Than Time Thought (Review)

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Title: More True Than Time Thought

Artist: Hedge Wizard

Rating: 4 / 5

Genre: Dungeon Synth

Year: 2014

Country: USA

Label: Self-released

Links: https://hedgewizard.bandcamp.com/

Dungeon Synth is a genre that has received an increase in attention in underground circles over the past few years. The natural result of the sudden spike of interest in an underground genre is that subpar projects that are not very original or interesting begin to appear. This is especially possible for a genre like Dungeon Synth, where the music is usually composed by a single musician in their room. It can be hard to sift through the mediocrity to find a real gem that is worth your time and support. More True Than Time Thought is one such underground gem.

With only one self-released cassette, Hedge Wizard has already established itself as a true contender in the Dungeon Synth genre. The entire project is as obscure and mysterious as the fantasy / sword and sorcery atmospheres that the music creates. The cassette features hand drawn artwork of a wizard summoning an orb with the Hedge Wizard logo over a lake of fire, and the layout itself looks like an old spellbook that has been hidden in a castle keep for years. Featuring just a tracklist, no information is given regarding the project at all. The obscure nature of the project only enhances the music itself, as the listener is forced to make all judgements and opinions based solely on the songs and the excellent art and layout.

Hedge Wizard’s music is 100% pure Dungeon Synth in it’s most raw form. Vintage synthesizer timbres play dark, nostalgic melodies with a great variety of instruments and sounds. The music tends to be more video game and classic RPG based than many Dungeon Synth projects, which I assume was the creator’s intention. The production of the release is what you would expect from a project of this nature, and sounds like it may even have been recorded live or through a mic’d amplifier. However, this does not take away from the power of the music, in fact it reminds me of listening to old Dungeon Synth projects that I love from the 90’s such as Old Monk’s Saga and Gothmog. Hedge Wizard’s brand of High Fantasy Dungeon Synth is capable of holding it’s place next to those classics. Although Hedge Wizard is a new project, More True Than Time Thought manages to play a completely straight-forward style of Dungeon Synth without sounding like a carbon copy of other projects. I have played Hedge Wizard’s music while reading Tolkien and Robert Jordan, and the effect of mixing this music with fantasy literature never disappoints those who wish to enter a distant and forgotten world. Fans of die-hard fantasy literature who are looking for a straight forward soundtrack to their reading and role-playing nights need not look further; Hedge Wizard is a project that is hard to top.

Darkstroll – Sounds of Taiga (Review)

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Title: Sounds of Taiga

Artist: Darkstroll

Rating: 4 / 5

Genre: Dungeon Synth / Folk Ambient

Year: 2013

Country: Russia

Label: Dungeon Lore Foundation

Links: https://dungeonlorefoundation.bandcamp.com/album/sounds-of-taiga-compilation

Anyone who has spent time reading this zine will quickly realize my admiration for Slavic folk music. The folk melodies and spirit of Eastern Europe have always appealed to me, especially for the diverse atmosphere one encounters when listening to a variety of Slavic folk bands. The mood of the music can be extremely dark and also very light, like the land itself. Russia in particular also has a strong history of synthesizer music, and of all the great releases done by the Dungeon Lore Foundation this Darkstroll compilation is by far one of the best albums they have done (and one of the best synthesizer albums I know of). This compilation consists of three Darkstroll releases ranging from 2005 to 2013, which is the complete discography for the project as far as I know.

Darkstroll’s music has an undeniably Russian feeling to it, but Darkstroll stands out for several reasons. While the music itself carries a cold atmosphere, it is fairly fast for music of this style, and even carries an upbeat rhythm. “Happy” would not be the word to describe Darkstroll; my experience while listening to these songs is that it feels like riding on a sled drawn by wolves through the snow-covered mountains of the Russian wilderness. Each song is incredibly well structured, with the rhythm section (usually played on keys) keeping an upbeat tempo which is typical in traditional Slavic folk music. St. Oizin, the sole musician behind the project, also has a genuine talent for writing memorable melodies. Some of the melodies on this compilation remain in my head for days after listening to the album, which always causes me to go back and listen to it again. Another special touch that St. Oizin adds to his melodies is the “trade off” effect of utilizing two instruments to complete the same spherical riff idea. For example, a reed instrument might start a certain melody off, but the last few notes will be played by a flute before the riff begins again. This not only adds a technical touch to Darkstroll’s music but makes the melodies even more memorable.

Track five “At The Silent Halls” is the highlight of the album for me. The song features the typical piano rhythm section, but played at a slower pace compared to most Darkstroll songs. This song features a more melancholic feeling to it but still retains the “warmness” of Darkstroll, like the sun reflecting on a mist in the Siberian tundra. St. Oizin’s talent as a songwriter really shines in this highly atmospheric track.

Darkstroll has not only created a sound that is unique to the Dungeon Synth genre, but Folk music in general. St. Oizin has combined traditional folk music with powerful synthesizers to create a dreamlike soundscape that transports the listener to the wild landscape of Taiga. Of all of the thousands of albums in my personal collection, Sounds of Taiga is the only album of it’s kind.

A Diadem of Dead Stars – Profaning the Ground (Review)

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Title: Profaning the Ground

Artist: A Diadem of Dead Stars

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

Year: 2015

Country: Greece

Label: Self-released

Links: https://adiademofdeadstars.bandcamp.com/album/profaning-the-ground-e-p

A Diadem of Dead Stars instantly caught my attention last year with the first album, “The Mist Bearer”. This one man project created by a musician who simply goes by the name “The Pilgrim” demonstrated the bands ability to play highly atmospheric, folk-laden black metal. The lack of vocals also set the project apart from the thousands of other black metal bands, relying on instrumentation alone to draw the listener in (I believe that vocals are just another instrument anyway, but the lack of vocals here really showcases the parallel between black metal and ambient).

I am pleased to say that with “Profaning the Ground”, The Pilgrim has taken his music one step further. While “The Mist Bearer” was centered around warm acoustics and folk elements, Profaning the Ground is a darker release with an even stronger atmosphere. From the opening track “Wall of Ashes and Dirt”, other influences that were not present on the previous release become clear; such as the heavy Drone influence in the guitar riffs. Combining Drone music with the band’s already ambient influenced style of black metal has resulted in a release with an overwhelming amount of atmosphere. The sorrowful synthesizers and distortion drenched riffs on Wall of Ashes and Dirt sounds like the slow breathing of the Earth itself, or the crashing of waves as the ocean begins to sleep. Such comparisons demonstrate just how massive the atmosphere can be on Profaning the Ground.

The use of clean guitars played in a repetitive Drone style on the title track again shows A Diadem of Dead Stars maturing musically. While the song structure is extremely basic and the music minimal, there is definitely a direction behind the music, with touches of creativity littered throughout the song. The average metal fan may become bored with the lack of vocals, blastbeats, and changes in structure; which is why A Diadem of Dead Stars is a band only for those who look for intense, deep atmospheres that require your energy and attention. The energy is well worth it, as this album will allow you to drift away into the dark landscapes of your imagination through heavy riffs and a great sense of repetition and ambience. At this rate, the band has experimented with several different styles between The Mist Bearer, the Unreleased 2014 Demo, and this EP; and has succeeded in making a great release each time. I can only imagine what A Diadem of Dead Stars will offer atmospheric black metal fans in the future.

 

Vindkaldr (Interview)

In the modern Black Metal “scene”, one can easily come across countless one man projects. This is especially true in the realm of atmospheric Black Metal, where Australia’s Vindkaldr dwells behind a veil of mystery. However, Vindkaldr is not just another generic one man band with no direction or content. In addition to creating excellent atmospheric Black Metal, Vindkaldr has also released one of the best ambient albums I have heard in some time. In this interview I speak with the band’s mastermind Mauhulakh regarding the band’s albums, history, and the benefits of letting his music speak for itself.

Listen and purchase Vindkaldr’s music at http://vindkaldr.bandcamp.com/

  • Greetings Mauhulakh! Thank you for taking the time to answer this interview with Barbarian Skull. Please tell us about the history and creation of Vindkaldr. Can you explain the meaning of the band’s name?

 

I have never seemed to be able to find other people to play music with, perhaps because I have different ideas about what that music should be and how the songs should be written. I don’t know, but I am also not very good at collaborating with others music-wise. For some reason I tend to take the back seat and let other people lead, resulting in music that I am not interested in playing. I eventually realized I was just using this as an excuse to not make my own music. This was around the time I first started listening to black metal. Bands like Burzum, Windir, Paysage D’Hiver, Striborg etc were very inspiring to me and I feel that the creative output of one person can sometimes be more interesting than that of a group of people. I liked the idea of doing it all myself, I see it as like being an artist and completing a painting. You have some idea of where you are going but every stroke you add changes that idea and you usually end up with something very different than what you had planned. The fact that the recording quality was irrelevant in black metal was very liberating as well. I didn’t need anyone else and I didn’t need a recording studio so I basically just started writing songs and recording them as I went.

In the Poetic Edda there are two poems centering on the hero Svipdagr. The second poem involves him seeking entry into Menglöð’s castle. He disguises himself as a frost giant named Vindkaldr and poses a series of questions to the gate-keeper Fjölsviðr in order to secretly learn how one might enter the castle. What he ends up discovering is that the gates will only open to one person and that person is Svipdagr himself and that in fact he had no need to disguise his true identity. When inside he is met by Menglöð and they become lovers. Menglöð is actually the goddess Freyja and Svipdagr is actually her future husband Óðr. Fjölsviðr is also a name identified with Óðinn. The name Vindkaldr from Old Norse simply translates to Wind Cold. I liked the name because it had many associations with important and interesting figures in this particular story and yet its translation was very simple.

 

  • All of your music is performed by yourself and recorded in your home studio. You have also self-released a tape of your second full length album (Önd). Do you intend for Vindkaldr to remain a “DIY” band, or will you ever consider signing with a label?

 

It’s less like a ‘home studio’ and more like my bedroom with a usb microphone… That makes the creative process very easy and organic. I intend to remain a DIY band because that means I don’t have to rely on anyone except myself. I would sign to a label if the band was popular enough to warrant it and if it made more sense distribution wise, and more people who wanted to hear my music were able to. For now though, the Internet is just fine for me.

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  • You do not have an official website, and there is very limited information regarding you or the band available online. This is highly unusual in the “digital” black metal age, but also highly respectable. Do you believe that this level on anonymity benefits your music?

 

I don’t really see the point in having an official website and I don’t see the point in personally putting a whole bunch of stuff online that isn’t music. It’s all about the music to me. I guess some people are always going to be interested in information about the people behind the music, but it doesn’t matter to me if they can find that or not. Anonymity benefits my music in the way that people might start listening to it without any preconceived notions and just judge it for what it is. The underground metal community is also very supportive, so there would be no point in me trying to do any of my own ‘promotion.’ I think this is a very good thing for the future of music.

 

  • Several unused songs from your first album (Stone As Flesh) were released on an EP titled “Their Ships Sail From The Moon”. How did you decide which songs to keep for Stone As Flesh? What concepts did you intend to express with the full length album?

I had recorded all the songs at the same time and just in terms of musical consistency the ones on the EP didn’t have the same feeling. I felt that they had a more Viking influenced early Windir sort of sound that didn’t suit the rest of the songs. Instead of discarding them I just decided to release them separately.

I didn’t really seek to express any concepts as such. It’s only about how the music makes you feel. Lyrics are relatively incidental for my music at the moment. That’s not to say that they aren’t important to me and that I don’t put time into writing them, but they should really only express an overall feeling and not something logical. Stone As Flesh was basically a collection of the first songs I ever wrote and recorded so the concept for myself was just basically to do it and see how it turned out.

 

  •  Önd is the first Vindkaldr album with long, epic song structures. The album features your longest songs to date, two of which total around 25 minutes each. Tell us more about the creation of Önd. Why did you choose this album for your first physical release? Will any other releases be available in physical formats?

 

The songs are long because I wanted to create a long and drawn out atmosphere. I also wasn’t particularly interested in traditional song structures and as a result the songs have many different parts that flow after each other. I wanted to make an album that drew you into an almost meditative atmosphere while still having well crafted parts, structure and melody. The albums title Önd refers to the ‘gift’ of Óðinn, which was breath or ‘soul,’ and I think that echoes the concept rather well. When I was writing the guitar parts to the songs, I didn’t feel like they should end and instead they kept flowing into more and more parts. I think the last song on the album was originally 45 minutes long when I recorded it. One of my big influences for the album was the drone band Earth. You are meant to listen, but it is also meant to take you to another place, I think I achieved that to a certain degree.

I wanted to have a physical release for Önd because I felt like it was my first true effort in making a unified album. The first album just felt like an experiment in seeing if I could even make a collection of songs by myself. After the experience of releasing the album on physical format myself I realized just how much time, effort and money it takes. I would rather focus on just making music. I do plan to release further albums on cassette at some point, but they will most likely be very limited releases.

 

  • You have also released an ambient album titled “Ambient I”, which is one of my favorite ambient albums to be released within the last few years. I assume based on the album title that there will be further ambient albums from Vindkaldr? Do you believe there are any parallels between ambient and atmospheric black metal?

Thank you for your comments about the album. There will definitely be more ambient releases, as it was a process that I very much enjoyed. I had not used a keyboard in this manner before so it was an interesting journey for me to go on. There are definitely parallels between ambient and atmospheric black metal. When I was writing the songs for the ambient album I felt like I was creating the same sort of music I had always created just in a calmer and more tranquil medium. Black metal creates the same atmosphere just in a harsher and more aggressive medium.

 

  • What else can you tell us about the future of Vindkaldr?

There will be another album out very soon that I am still working on. I will try to leave myself some time to make a few copies onto cassette, but the band will then be on hold as I am travelling overseas for an indefinite amount of time. If I can find a cheap keyboard I might try to release an ambient album while I am over there…

 

  • Thank you Mauhulakh for this interview, any last words are yours!

Thank you for the interview and thank you for your interest in supporting independent music.

Update II – 3/11/15 (Defeat)

This update focuses on the Heathen Black Heavy Metal band DEFEAT, featuring an interview and a review of the album “The Winds Have Changed”. This band is a personal favorite of mine, and has somehow gone mostly unnoticed in the heathen underground (although the excellent Polish label Werewolf Promotion has done a couple of Defeat releases on tape). More updates are soon to follow!

Defeat (Interview)

The modern day Metal “scene” has long been infested with incredibly generic and uninspired bands who continue to recycle ideas already established by the masters of the genre. Luckily, there are still bands around like Defeat, who are able to take a variety of influences such as Manilla Road, Bathory, Graveland, and Omen and create unique and sincere metal by building on these influences. In this interview I speak with sole member and mastermind Vidarr about the history of the band, his songwriting process, and the role of heathenry and history in his life and music. For my review of the Defeat album “The Winds Have Changed, click here

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  • Greetings Vidarr! Thanks for answering this interview with Barbarian Skull! Please let us know about the history of Defeat.

 

Defeat is a project I started working on in 2004.  I had spent a few years searching for a suitable drummer, but had found no one interested in playing in the black metal style.  I had some experience working with programmed drums and home recording at this time.  I wanted to achieve a more “organic” sound.  My solution was to learn how to play drums myself, and use a cassette four-track for the “Pride Valor Hatred” demo.  The demo was extremely raw, and was an example of mid-paced Burzum style black metal.  The last track on this album was an ambient track including reversed drums (achieved by flipping the four-track tape over) and classical guitar.  With my first full length I began to explore atmosphere and ambient recordings further with some synth work.  “From Far Away” expanded upon many of the tracks included on the demo, with the addition of guitar leads and occasional acoustic guitars and keyboards.  The lyrical content, overall, revolved around mythology and nature.  Beyond the first full length, I recorded several rough demos, again using my mostly broken four-track as an audio notepad.  These demos are included on the compilation “Ten Years of Silence”.  With the demo and first Defeat album, I had been inspired mainly by Burzum, Darkthrone, Bathory, Nokturnal Mortum, and Graveland.

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  • Defeat is described as a “Heathen Black Heavy Metal” band, and there are certainly hints of the first wave of Black Metal and pure traditional Heavy Metal in your music. Defeat also utilizes aspects of Folk music and ambient as well. What bands/projects inspired you most to create this unique blend of music?

 

After the long period of silence, I began to look more towards the NWOBHM and early power/heavy metal bands like Manilla Road, Omen, early Fates Warning, Manowar, and Cirith Ungol.  The black metal influences which have remained in Defeat deal primarily with the first wave bands, like Celtic Frost and Bathory.  My taste in metal generally ends with the 80s:  I have become stubborn, maybe even bitter regarding my metal preferences.

The term “Heathen Black Heavy Metal” is in some ways a nod to Darkthrone’s declaration of spearheading the New Wave of Black Heavy Metal, with my own twist on the concept.  The latest albums by Darkthrone are a celebration of the old-school, which is something I can really appreciate.

As far as ambient goes, my influences are what one could expect:  early Mortiis, Summoning, and of course the mighty Basil Poledouris of Conan fame.  I use an old keyboard, the best qualities of which are that the keys are touch sensitive.  This keyboard is run through external effects on my mixer, which gives it a warmer, less harsh sound.  It is also worth noting that all synth on my albums is played:  there are no programmed passages.  Another influence, oddly enough, is most definitely the old NES RPG songs and sounds.

The combination of these styles is something more organic, and less of a specific intent.  I never sat down and planned out what I would like to sound like.  I simply created an album, and style of metal, that I would like to hear.  I strive to create albums and songs which are consistently epic, with no down time to wait for the next powerful phrase.

 

  • Defeat creates music deeply rooted in Norse lore and mythology, even directly quoting historical texts such as the Havamal. What role do these themes play in your life, and why did you choose them to be the focus of your musical efforts?

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I am Heathen, and the old teachings and the old ways are part of my every-day life.  The statement:  “The Winds have Changed” refers to the turning of the seasons, and deals with following nature as a spiritual path.  When the seasons are about to turn, there is a different feeling in the air, as if one can feel or smell the changes which are coming.  The cycle of life is ever turning and evolving, and we, as humans, are the same way.  The song “The Worlds Numbered Nine” paraphrases portions of the Poetic Edda, the verses dealing with the creation of the worlds, and the chorus quoting the famous passage from the Havamal dealing with death.

In additional to ancient Germanic and European spirituality, I study historical western martial arts, and have spent years practicing reconstruction Viking Age combat, mainly in the areas of sword and round shield.  I consider myself a “material historian” regarding ancient Scandinavia, and have amassed a wardrobe of period correct clothing and armor, which is worn while practicing these martial arts.  Most of these artifacts I have either crafted myself or are hand-made by other artisans.  Participation in large-scale battles is something which I have done longer than I have been working on the Defeat project, and is something which I intend to continue for many years to come.  The experience of standing on a battlefield with a barbarian army, facing several thousand opponents is something which is a great inspiration to my work with Defeat.  It is a full contact martial activity, with real pain and real threat of injury:  high risk, high reward.

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  • Your first demo (Pride, Valor, Hatred) was released in 2004, followed by your debut full length (From Far Away). How did fans react to these releases at the time of their release? They have both recently been re-issued by Werewolf Promotion as a compilation called “Ten Years of Silence”. Has the compilation created a renewed interest in Defeat?

 

Both the demo and the full length were met with positive reactions, but reached a limited audience.  This is something which is expected, as Defeat is a thoroughly underground band.  Without the ability to perform live, I can only reach so many people.  I would say that the majority of my fans reside in various European countries.

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“Ten Years of Silence” has compiled all of the Defeat materials recorded before “The Winds Have Changed”, including eleven unreleased tracks overall.  Many of these tracks were never intended for release, but have been restored and cleaned up as best could be done.  Again, this release has reached a small, but enthusiastic audience.

 

  • Before your second full length album (The Winds Have Changed), Defeat was on hold for many years. Why was the band placed on hold, and what inspired you to re-activate Defeat and begin composing music again?

 

After recording “From Far Away” I began, once again, searching for suitable musicians to help flesh out the band.  After this proved unsuccessful, once again, I drifted away from metal for a period of several years.  In this time I was very interested in 70s prog bands like Yes and King Crimson, as well as some early space rock and psychedelic groups like Hawkwind, Soft Machine, and Gong.  I recorded several unreleased albums of material heavily influenced by this music.  These albums will remain unreleased.

My inspiration to re-activate Defeat came about through a renewed interest in metal, this time focusing on the origins of metal, which naturally came forth from the prog and space rock bands which I previously mentioned.  The influence of 70s prog remains as a cornerstone of the Defeat sound.  In addition to this, an increasing interest in Viking age combat and reenactment also inspired me to work further on this style of music.

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  • I consider The Winds Have Changed to be a unique work of art in the realm of “Viking Metal”. Tell us more about the recording and composition of this album. What feedback have you received from fans regarding this masterpiece?

 

The album is composed as one might compose a visual work of art.  Apart from being a musician, I am also a visual artist, and for years have focused on classical oil painting as well as numerous other artisan skills.  The album includes nine tracks:  three ambient tracks and six metal tracks.  The ambient tracks function as an introduction, an interlude, and a conclusion track, while the metal tracks function as halves to the album.  The first set of metal tracks mirror the second set of metal tracks, as far as lyrical and melodic content are concerned.  This is entirely intentional.

The metal songs are composed around a central group of guitar riffs, which are then arranged with accompanying drum patterns.  At this point, a basic guitar, bass, and drum version of the song are recorded.  It is at this point that I begin to add lead guitar textures and additional melodies.  All of this is done by improvisation.  All solos on this album are improvised.  The keyboard parts are written in much the same way.  Lyrics are written as the songs take on a concrete recorded form.

The ambient tracks are composed around a central, simple melody, which then becomes more complex as each additional instrument is recorded.

I have received very little feedback regarding this work, which is not something I am discouraged by.  My intentions remain in creating music that I want to hear.  This current era of music in general both benefits from and suffers from the internet.  It is easy to hear and discover new bands, but there are so many people doing so many things, that it becomes quite difficult to filter out all the sub-par offerings.  It is perhaps for this reason that my list of influences is decidedly old-school.

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  •  You were also planning an ambient album released under the name Vidarr, with songs similar to the excellent keyboard tracks featured on The Winds Have Changed. What is the status of the ambient album?

 

The ambient full length album is recorded, but still must undergo the mixing and mastering process.  I have not decided on an official name for this project, and may end up simply releasing it under the Defeat name.  Time will tell what form this release will take, but I feel that it is strong enough material to deserve a proper release.

 

  • What can you tell us about the future of Defeat?

 

I am currently writing riffs which will become the bones for the next full length album.  I will say that these riffs are continually heading towards a more old-school heavy metal sound.  I will hopefully begin recording this album within the year.  It will, once again, be a long album of epic heavy metal music.  My knowledge of recording, mixing, and mastering is becoming more formidable, so you can also expect this album to sound better as well.

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  • Thank you Vidarr for taking the time to answer this interview. Any last words are yours!

 

Thank you for the support, and thanks to all those who uphold both the ways of true heavy metal and true heathen art.  Our modern world is filled with many false or unworthy ideologies, rampant materialism, and technology worship, but there are a handful of folks out there who still have the right idea!

Heathen Regards

–Vidarr

Defeat – The Winds Have Changed (Review)

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Title: The Winds Have Changed

Artist: Defeat

Rating: 4.75 / 5

Genre: Black / Heavy / Viking Metal

Year: 2014

Country: USA

Label: Werewolf Promotion

Links: https://defeat9.bandcamp.com/

It is difficult to imagine a Metal band doing something new in the year 2014. The amount of generic bands to exist at this point in history is monumental, making it increasingly difficult for die hard Metal fans to find something that peaks their interest. Black Metal had long become a kind of self-parody, “heavy metal” was full of pseudo-retro kids wearing spandex, and Viking metal was infested with second-rate bands recycling the same riffs and uninspired lyrical themes. While this can be seen as a cynical opinion, just spending 30 minutes on Metal-Archives is more than enough to prove the lack of quality, worthwhile bands that exist today.

Hither forth comes DEFEAT, a band formed a little over a decade ago in Pennsylvania by sole member and mastermind Vidarr. Defeat plays “Heathen Black Heavy Metal”, taking inspiration from the early years of Black Metal, traditional 80’s Heavy Metal, and even Folk and ambient genres. While Defeat has not re-invented the wheel, the band blends these influences in a unique and refreshing manner which is fierce in spirit and strong in execution. The Winds of Change is a prime example of how the band is “forging a unique heathen path” in the Metal underground.

The album begins with a synthesized instrumental song “A Journey from Far Away”, which could easily be classified as Dungeon Synth. Lush strings, heavy brass, and harp melodies soar over cymbal crashes, creating an atmosphere that actually feels as if the listener is embarking on a long journey. Track two instantly begins with an aggressive folk inspired riff that brings to mind the glory days of Storm’s “Nordavind” album. This immense riff is backed up by more synthesized brass and a great traditional guitar solo. The opening moments of this song exemplify Defeat’s ability to combine early black metal with pure heavy metal in a manner that is heartfelt and strong, without sounding recycled or cliché.

The vocal style of Vidarr is also commendable; a varying mix of comprehensible black metal growls and barbarian like clean singing. Defeat also possesses the unique ability to create memorable choruses, something long lost in black metal since the old days of “Into the Crypts of Rays”. The Conan-like chants in the chorus remain in my head for days (“Odin guide us in battle, Thor give us the strength, Tyr bring us victory tonight, and Loki stay out of the way!”).

The absolute highlight of the album is track three, “The Worlds Numbered Nine”. The song begins with another great synthesized orchestra intro, with melancholic strings and timpani percussion. The main riff features great dual guitar harmonies before evolving into a true headbanger. The entire song carries a feeling similar to many great classics from the early days of black and heavy metal, featuring lyrics from the Poetic Edda and again with an extremely memorable chorus featuring lyrics from the Havamal; “Friends die and kinsmen die, so you’ll die yourself, but a noble name will long survive if honor in life be had”. The incredible lyrical content is followed by a blazing guitar solo, before leading into more heavy brass and a string/harp section with the sounds of the steel of a sword being sharpened. The album is worth listening to just for this song alone, but luckily it is not the only gem to be found on The Winds Have Changed.

Vidarr’s exceptional ability to craft high quality guitar solos is best represented in the instrumental track “Who Guards the Rainbow Bridge”. The song is nearly five minutes of serious heavy metal soloing over ethereal synth strings. This is not technical neo-classical shredding, nor is it mindless scales being played without direction; Vidarr has the ability to play focused and highly emotional guitar solos which have given Defeat a unique voice. This ability alone already sets the band aside from the countless metal bands who have not yet found their own form of expression.

Other great moments appear all across the album; from the medieval classical guitar intro on “Ready For War” to the thrashing “first wave of black metal” riff in “The Darkness of Mimir’s Well”. By the time the album ends with “Heathen Battle Ode”, another epic synth instrumental which could easily be labeled as a Dungeon Synth song, you have experienced just over an hour of Defeat’s heathen black heavy metal. The band may not be revolutionary or ground-breaking, yet still maintains a level of unique originality. Defeat has honored the age-old Metal tradition of paying homage to your musical roots while remaining genuine and sincere, rather than being just another clone with no creativity or spirit. There is power and passion in Defeat’s music, and yet somehow this band has remained an undiscovered treasure.

Barbarian Skull gives this album the highest recommendation for all who dare to tread the path of true Heathen Metal.

Utstøtt (Interview)

The term “Epic Black Metal” is thrown around a lot these days, and often misapplied to boring, unimaginative bands. Even more so, the “Viking Metal” genre is also filled with many generic, uninspired bands who have no deeper knowledge of Nordic lore beyond the average Marvel Comics fan. Utstøtt is a band that defies these trends and creates impressive Epic Black Metal with a genuine admiration and spirit of the ‘old ways’. In this interview I speak with sole member and mastermind Navnløs about the band and Viking and Norse subjects.

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  • Greetings Navnløs! Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with Barbarian Skull! Please tell us about the formation and history of Utstøtt. The band name means “outsider” in Norwegian, why did you choose this name?

    Thank you for choosing me to interview! I am honored to be one of the first. I formed Utstøtt almost exactly two years ago shortly after becoming immensely interested in the music and musical formats of one member Black Metal projects like Burzum, early Windir, Valtyr, Striborg, etc. I had previously been writing material that took a drastically different approach from the previous group I was in, and the timing of my writing with my utter fascination with single member projects lined up perfectly. Shortly after, I compiled assorted riffs into a roughly recorded four song EP. At first, I was going to theme the music around nature, but I began researching norse paganism, and realized I had so much inspiration to write from when using norse history and mythology. I would say that Utstøtt was fully started in that moment. I chose the name because at the time, I hadn’t had much exposure to Black Metal or norse themes due to growing up around others who were disinterested in such things. I felt that “Outsider” was a fitting title to describe my tastes in contrast to my peers around me.

 

  • You have listed Windir, Summoning, and Caladan Brood as your primary influences for the project (all of these bands are regarded with the highest respect here at Barbarian Skull!). What other music (metal and otherwise) inspires you to compose for Utstøtt?

    Well, before I go off on many tangents, I think it’s crucial to say that Enslaved, Kampfar, and Thorns had a massive impact on my early composition as well as my current writing (Thorns being a bit of an outlier.) There are a plethora of bands that weave Black Metal and other amazing elements together, such as Evilfeast, ColdWorld, Elffor, and so on. Of course, I take inspiration from other genres and artists. Edvard Grieg is one of my favorite composers, shortly followed by Arvo Part, who writes beautiful, haunting minimalist orchestrations and vocal pieces. Author & Punisher has been an obsession for a while, as well as acts like Off the Beaten Tracks, Vali, Tenhi, and a few others. My taste has definitely broadened since the earlier days when I spent most of my time listening to Immortal and Enslaved, thinking that those two bands were the pinnacle of music (Early Enslaved comes close.)

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  • Your first release “Legender Odin” was very well received among underground epic Metal circles. From what I understand, the EP was released on cassette. Who released the tape, and do you believe it will ever be re-pressed?

    Infernal Kommando initially released the EP on tape, but there seemed to have been a bit of a fluke between the label and I, because many people didn’t receive their copies until much later. I ended up dubbing a very small amount myself and tried to divy those out amongst fans, with degrees of varying success. I would love to repress the EP, as it was a fantastic point for me musically. I believe there are plans in the works to reissue the EP as a CD with special packaging, and perhaps some covers. Of course, the full length takes priority when it comes to releases and reissues.

 

  • Your first full length album “Hjørungavågr” features over one hour of music, and includes several guest musicians. As a solo project, how was your experience working with other musicians? Do you plan on featuring guest musicians on feature albums?

    11045675_10205402748620574_1126988688_oI actually truly enjoyed working with Cavan, Aodan, and Jake for their contributions. I’ve become pretty close friends with both Cavan and Jake over a year or so, and I’ve known Aodan well since the beginnings of high school, so it all went very smoothly, and I felt comfortable letting them stylize their parts as they wanted, since they are all not only good friends, but brilliant musicians. I don’t know if I plan to feature guest musicians again, though I certainly will should pieces of writing require others like Hjørungavågr did. I honestly came into writing the album with the thought in mind that I wouldn’t need guest work, but as I wrote more of the album, it became apparent that certain sections would definitely need the chosen musicians to work well. I’m very glad all the musicians so readily helped and contributed, and I owe them a serious service for the hard work they all put in.

 

  • Hjørungavågr is a concept album based around the battle of the same name between the heathen king Haakon Sigurdsson of Norway and the legendary Jomsvikings. Why did you choose this particular battle for the album’s concept?

    I chose the battle mainly because from my research and knowledge, this was the battle that split Norway and Denmark completely. It baffles me to this day that this isn’t general knowledge, as it holds a similar significance to events in history like the American civil war or the numerous scottish attempts to fight for independence from Britain. As battles go, it’s not only an interesting, bloody battle with a fantastic outcome, but a battle that shaped scandinavia as we know it today. Reading about his battle as one of the last great revolts against christianity, it’s hard not to ask why this battle isn’t held in higher regard. If I can do something to shed light on this great historical event, I will, even if only through song. While I covered the battle as best I could throughout the album, I implore listeners and readers to research this battle further as there is a wealth of information about the reasons for the battle, and the aftermath of the conflict.

 

  • The album also features a religious aspect and tells the story of a pagan warrior’s death and entrance into Folkvang. As you may already be aware, Barbarian Skull is very much a supporter of the ‘old way’. In particular, the lyrics from the album “Pagan lands of fjords and mountains, honorbound by old tradition” are extremely powerful for me personally and speak volumes about the values that I hold dear. What do you admire most about the religion of the Germanic tribes? How do you feel about the rise of heathen groups and followers?

    I have a great admiration for the Germanic religions. I feel that the usage of religion and mythology taught them honor, responsibility, and gave them a sense of community from a very early age. The pagans of Europe were a hardworking, hardy people with a great sense of pride and honor, which has sadly depreciated over time. While I hold many facets of the ancient Germanic cultures in high regard, I would have to say what I respect most is their view of death. I believe that today’s society has a horribly skewed idea and image of death. Its weight has become a matter of perspective. I love that the mythology put honor in death, but didn’t hold it to an unrealistic standard. It seemed that in the times of paganism within Europe, the life of an enemy held just as much importance as the life of an ally. When in battle, the norse used to bend the swords of their enemies in respect so that the blade too could pass on to the afterlife to stay with the slaughtered foe. They valued the process of death regardless of moral standing. Mourning was a swift, but honor-filled tradition, and the culture viewed it as a part of life. It’s unfortunate to think that death is so objective now. people dwell on death and hardship now, letting it consume life for a period of time, and I respect most that the pagans of Europe had the honor and fortitude to pay tribute to the dead respectfully, and move on. Today, we mourn the loss of one, when thousands die every day. The Norse valued life equally, as they did death. In terms of my feeling towards the rise of paganism and heathen groups, I am conflicted. On one side, it’s fantastic that people are gaining reverence for a long lost culture and set of mythologies, and I’m glad people are looking back to their ancestral roots. However, and I may receive negativity for this, the sad truth of the matter is that there are those who listen to a Tyr album, believe they’re pagan for simply knowing some of the mythology, don a Mjolnir, and adopt pseudo-pagan practices because they believe it’s cool and different to do so. Being an Amon Amarth fan does not make you an Odinist. A great interest and deep respect comes not from limited knowledge and interest through bands, but from research, ancestral roots, and practices. I don’t even consider myself a pagan simply because I haven’t done nearly enough to define myself as such. However, I am completely for those people who take it seriously.

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  • Aside from the great subject matter, Utstøtt’s music takes the listener through a metallic storm of atmosphere that ranges from pride and victory to sorrow and loss. What is the most important thing that you wish to express with your music?

    I would say that for the most part, I try to express a more complete range of emotion through the music I create. The modern world thinks of sorrow and loss as ugly things that should never see the light of day, but what most people don’t realize is the capacity for beauty during unpleasant times. I find the emphasis of happiness currently to be overwhelming. Popular music tries to mask depression, sorrow, and isolation as if they never happen, but what I’ve always found to be more engaging is having a balance of sorrow and happiness in music. Classical composers spent their entire careers trying to find that balance. Take Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” or Grieg’s “Peer Gynt”. These pieces are not limited to a single emotion, but instead, through the brilliant writing and emphasis on dynamic atmosphere, the music can shift easily from happiness, to sadness, confusion, mystery, and back to triumphant hope all while steadfastly creating beautiful melodies, harmonies, and atmospheres. I suppose in a way, I’m trying to meagerly recreate some of that lost quality in music. To give credit where it’s due, Black Metal is one of my favorite genres for emphasizing the beauty in despair and darkness. I find that Black Metal is a great vessel to convey that very emphasis.

 

  • You recently announced that your album will be released by the label Celestial Oak Productions. How were you put in contact with the label? Will future albums also be handled by Celestial Oak?

    I’ve known the label owner for a few years now, and when he first released an artist through the label, I was blown away by the label’s professionalism and quality toward the album. I haven’t discussed it with Celestial Oak, but I would love to keep releases for this specific project through the label if allowed to do so.

 

  • While there are many bands that play the “Viking Metal” style, many of them only loosely entertain generic themes gathered from pre-Christian Germanic culture and religion. Utstøtt is a band that explores these themes further by creating music based on real history and Nordic lore. What can we expect for the future of Utstøtt? Do you have any ideas planned that you are willing to reveal regarding themes/concepts for upcoming albums?

    I can’t say I’m sure about the future of the project, to be honest. Inspiration hasn’t struck in quite a while. That being said, I have no plans to stop Utstøtt, since I still have a great respect and interest in the subject matter. One theme I have recently become interested in is the lore regarding Járnviðr. It has a great potential for interesting and engaging darker subject matter. Should I gain some musical inspiration, I could definitely see myself writing about that section of the lore.

 

  • Thank you Navnløs for taking the time to answer this interview, and for honoring the gods! Any last words are yours!

    I owe a great amount to those who have stayed listening to Utstøtt, so I thank all those who have downloaded, purchased, and spread the music. More importantly than supporting Utstøtt, listen to and support this genre in general. It stays strong because dedicated listeners and fans choose to keep it strong. Thank you for the interview!

Update I – 3/1/15

The Barbarian Skull Webzine is officially launched and running! Please click the “About” button in the top right to learn more about the focus of this underground music webzine.

There are currently interviews with Adabroc, Arath, Forgotten Pathways, Utstøtt, and Gvasdnahr.

There are reviews up for Alhazred, Foglord, Grimrik, Mirkwood, Moongates Guardian, Morketsvind, Winterblood, and Wolcensmen. There are already new reviews and an interview being worked on for the next update – please check back soon and spread the word about Barbarian Skull!!!