Update XII – 3/26/17

The zine has been inactive for quite some time due to focusing on several music projects, but I am pleased to announce a strong update – featuring reviews from Trogool, Rabor, Crypt of Carmilla, and Morketsvind. I am also happy to present the Legendry special – a double review of the demo/album and an interview from this epic traditional metal band. Definitely one of the best interviews on the zine so far, be sure to check it out and look for more updates in the coming months!

Legendry (Interview)

Legendry is an epic traditional metal band from the United States, which hearkens back to the glory days of Manilla Road, Cirith Ungol, and Omen. Having already been in contact with guitarist/vocalist Vidarr after covering his black/heavy metal band Defeat in the zine, I was eager to discuss Legendry and publish this long overdue interview. You can read my review for the Legendry demo and full length album here: http://www.barbarianskull.com/wp/reviews/legendry-iniation-rituals-mists-of-time-reviews/

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  • Greetings and thanks for taking the time to answer this interview with Barbarian Skull! Please tell us about the history of Legendry, what does the band’s name mean to you?

Thank you for the opportunity!

Legendry came from jam sessions between me and former bassist, Choo.  We had originally gotten together with the thought of forming a live band using the material from my solo project, Defeat.  We began working through the songs, and found that we were writing a lot of interesting music, so we decided to develop a new band and concept.  Choo introduced me to Kicker, who became our drummer, and it all went in the current direction.  My original thought was to start a kind of first-wave black metal band in the style of Hellhammer, but my growing interest in bands like Manilla Road soon took center stage in the writing process.

Coming up with an original band name these days is a difficult thing, most new bands having to resort to the unpronounceable or multiple word band names in order to differentiate themselves.  I searched and brainstormed for quite some time, turning up the name Sky Burial (which became the title of the instrumental jam on our Initiation Rituals demo).  This name was found to have been taken by what I can guess is a hardcore post-rock outfit of sorts, so I reluctantly searched on.  At the time I was reading a lot of Robert E. Howard Conan stories, and in his essay, “The Hyborian Age” (which the song, “Winds of Hyboria” is based on), I came across the word “legendry”, and it stuck.  The name, of course, refers to a collection of legends, which is exactly what our albums can be called.

  • Traditional Metal is one of the least common ‘subgenres’ for new bands to adopt today, what appeals to you most about pure heavy metal?

The level of honesty in true heavy metal of the late 70s and early 80s is one of its most appealing qualities.  There are countless undiscovered gems of NWOBHM and weird one-album bands that you might find on LP or cassette in the dusty basements of real record stores; these are what I’m after.  I have a fascination with these artifacts; these bands are long gone, in most cases.  I won’t ever see them live, but the music they recorded will always be there.

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Apart from the appeal of capturing moments in time, the atmosphere is something appealing about these albums.  Both in lyrical subject matter and in the production/recording techniques used to capture the performance.  Often, the lyrical themes revolve around medieval fantasy, and the most enduring bands achieve a sense of that fantasy atmosphere with only the use of guitar, bass, drums, and vocals, without relying on keyboards or any obvious sound effects.  Bands like Brocas Helm are extremely medieval sounding, yet they only incorporate the traditional metal instruments.

  • Legendry creates epic atmosphere like the old masters, such as Omen, Cirith Ungol, and Manilla Road. The United States has a long history of playing traditional metal in this style. Does this have any significance to you or your creative process? Do the American bands influence you more than European bands do?

We try to achieve an old-school sound in our production, paying very little attention to what might be considered “modern” or “good” metal production (loud mixes, clicky bass drums, pitch correction are not tools I will be using any time soon!).  The old masters, as you put it, have a huge influence on what we are doing.  The American heavy/power metal bands have an aggressive quality in their performance that can be found to be lacking in some European bands of the same genre (especially once you get into the 90s and 00s power metal bands).  Don’t get me wrong though, geography has little to do with it in most cases, its more style and intent.

  • Your first demo Initiation Rituals was released on tape via Haftvad Records, how did you land a deal with Haftvad? What was your experience dealing with this underground label?

Actually, I contacted them after seeing that they distribute Barbarian Skull, and it went from there.  They were very enthusiastic about the material, and very helpful/professional through the whole process.  I think the finished release looks and sounds great.17389250_430317757309969_3923002488243411475_o

  • The first Legendry song is ‘Phoenix on the Blade’; a song based on the first published Conan the Cimmerian story by the mighty Robert E. Howard. What other authors do you take influence from? Why does Conan make the perfect subject for metal songs?

So far, I have avoided using many of the obvious choices for literary subject matter, a major one being Tolkien, as well as references to Viking Age history and legend.  At this point, Howard is the only author I have referenced, the rest of our songs deal with original subject matter and loose concepts.

Conan is a symbol of barbarism, which Howard considers the natural state of man:  barbarism is depicted as a symbol of freedom and honesty, while civilization, its opposite, is depicted as a symbol of slavery and wicked dishonesty.  Metal, as barbarism in this context, embodies freedom of expression, and has an animalistic power which appeals to its fans.  In addition to being stylistically related, the Conan stories work very well for songs because they are short stories:  they can be reasonably condensed into a few verses for a song.

  • Your first full length album ‘Mists of Time’ has been released by Non Nobis Productions. Tell us more about the creation of this album. What exactly are the ‘mists of time’? How has the album been received thus far?

Just before recording the album, our bassist, Choo, left the band.  We had been preparing to play shows, and this turn of events caused us to look to recording an album while looking for a replacement.  Choo rejoined for a short time, but we have found a more permanent replacement.

The album was created in my home studio.  While I am using a DAW (digital audio workstation) to track instruments, we have done everything possible to capture analog sounds from analog gear.  As far as the actual production of the album goes, we used a variety of instruments and experimental setups; we even had congas and a doumbek for the intro to “Attack of the Necromancer” and I recorded some sword sound effects for “Phoenix on the Blade” using some historical swords from my collection.  Another strange effect we captured was the sound of wind (or mists) using a wah pedal and a distortion box.

The song “Mists of Time” tells the medieval fantasy story of an unnamed protagonist who is called forth to slay a demon who stalks a labyrinth beneath a city. The mists of time refer to the hazy recollections of legend which tell of the warrior who will ultimately defeat this ancient demon.

The album has received a positive response, overall, and has gotten several positive reviews.

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  • The ‘Mists of Time’ album artwork is very impressive and deserves to be printed on a LP jacket! Any chance of this album being released on vinyl?

Thank you!  The original is oil on canvas, 48”X24”, quite a large piece, intended as gatefold LP artwork.  We had originally planned to do an LP release, but as of right now at least, there are no plans to do a vinyl release of Mists of Time (maybe sometime in the future!).

I have begun work on the cover painting for our next album recently.  I cannot reveal the scenario depicted, but I will say that the faceless barbarian has returned to this album cover.  We haven’t come up with a name for him yet, but he has become basically the “Eddie” of Legendry, and will probably be on every album cover from here on out.

  • Your first cover song ‘Necropolis’ by Manilla Road was featured on the Mists of Time album. Of all of the songs in Manilla Road’s extensive discography, why did you choose this one? Do you plan on doing more covers in the future?

It is in many ways an obvious choice to cover “Necropolis”, but that is also the intention.  “Necropolis” was the first Manilla Road song that I heard, and many other people could probably say the same, I’m sure.  Hearing Manilla Road for the first time changed essentially my entire musical direction and covering one of their songs is a tribute to the band.  In the future, we will definitely include more covers; many of my favorite metal albums have cover songs on them and I like that tradition.

Where Mists of Time had more of an obvious choice for a cover song, our follow-up album will have a rather obscure cover track called “Sword of Zeus” by The Lords of the Crimson Alliance.  For those readers unaware, LotCA is a band who released one album and essentially disappeared, no band photos, stage names, no shows, nothing, quite a mystery.  There are actually no lyrics printed or available for the album, so I had to decipher and re-write some of the lyrics myself!

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  • Has Legendry been able to perform any live shows? One thing I noticed from your Facebook page is that your main guitar is a classic Fender Strat with single coil pickups, are you willing to discuss your gear setup for any gearheads reading this?

Having finally stabilized our lineup, we are organizing some shows in the Pittsburgh, PA area, and will be playing at the Legions of Metal Festival in Chicago in May alongside some really great bands, some of which I’ve listened to for many years (Armored Saint, Ross the Boss, Diamond Head, Brocas Helm, and so on!).

We use a lot of vintage gear in general, and certainly favor anything analog. The guitar I play is an American Standard Fender Strat, through a vintage Musicman 210 tube amp and 212 RH cabinet. I use the neck pick-up, as opposed to the bridge pick-up, which is the one you “should” use when playing metal.  This is a blues rig, so naturally it will bring a different tone to the guitars, which I find to be something unique to our sound.  The only effects I use are wah pedal, vintage analog chorus, vintage analog flanger, and a distortion box.  Our new bassist is also using my 70s Fender Tele bass.  This setup is what gives Legendry that “round” guitar sound; we’ve often joked that we could record a blues album.

  • What can we expect from Legendry in the future?

We have been working on the follow-up to Mists of Time for the last several months.  I don’t want to reveal any specific details about this album, but you can expect a much greater 70s prog influence on this album, improved production values, and some other surprising elements.

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

Thank you, and all the fans who have reached out to us over the last year! We are only getting started, and can’t wait for you all to hear the new music we’ve been working on!

Legendry – Initiation Rituals / Mists of Time (Reviews)

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Title: Initiation Rituals

Artist: Legendry

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Genre: Traditional Metal

Year: 2016

Country: USA

Label: Haftvad Records

Links: https://legendry.bandcamp.com/album/initiation-rituals

Legendry is a traditional heavy metal band inspired by classic American metal bands such as Omen, Manilla Road, and Cirith Ungol. This short demo released by Haftvad Records features live tracks recorded during studio rehearsals. Despite being a simple live demo, Initiation Rituals establishes Legendry as a unique force in modern heavy metal.

The opening track Phoenix on the Blade features very fast riffs and structures that instantly bring to mind Omen’s mandatory Battle Cry album. The lyrics (which are based on the first Conan the Cimmerian story written by Robert E. Howard) set the stage for Legendry’s themes; sword and sorcery, warriors, epic battles and barbarism. The raging speed is reduced during the guitar solo which has a very emotional and melancholic feeling, which brings to mind the guitar work of Mark The Shark Shelton. While the primary focus of Legendry is epic heavy metal, this is far from just another generic metal band. The track Mists of Time show a more improvisational feeling, with long guitar solo passages before returning to the traditional heavy metal bulldozer established on earlier tracks. This moves into territory not often explored by bands of this nature, and creates an adventurous atmosphere perfectly fitting for the sword and sorcery themes of the band.

The tape version also features a bonus track (Sky Burial) which is not featured on the digital copy or the full length album. While Initiation Rituals is a simple rehearsal demo, the material featured as well as the outstanding musicianship of the band already shows that Legendry is a force to be reckoned with in the realms of epic traditional metal.

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Title: Mists of Time

Artist: Legendry

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Genre: Traditional Metal

Year: 2016

Country: USA

Label: Non Nobis Productions

Links: https://legendry.bandcamp.com/album/mists-of-time

Legendry’s full length album Mists of Time is one of the most underrated metal albums I’ve encountered in some time. While their demo Initiation Rituals displayed the bands technical musicianship and sword and sorcery atmosphere, everything is turned up several notches on the full length album. The album begins with a narration of Robert E. Howard’s poem “Cimmeria”, before the second track For Metal, We Ride begins. The song starts with a mesmerizing clean/acoustic guitar passage, which sets a strong mood for a solemn ride into battle. When the electric guitars kick in the lead guitar continues the same mood set up by the acoustics, followed by riffs that command you to headbang. Guitarist/vocalist Vidarr’s unique vocals are also worth mentioning here. The vocals remind me of a nasally mix of Mark The Shark Shelton and Tim Baker from Cirith Ungol, with lyrics that are easy to understand. This approach to heavy metal vocals is rougher and tougher than the typical clean vocals many heavy metal bands take, feeling as heavy as a broadsword compared to the razor thin falsettos other bands use. The chorus is also one of the most memorable moments on the entire album. This 9 minute heavy metal monster is the perfect opener to the album.

Songs from the Initiation Ritual demo are also found here, except we get to hear them the way the band intended. Slight differences can be heard, such as the addition of an electric organ to Phoenix on the Blade, again with the guitar solos soaring over the mix with feeling and power. True heavy metal cannot exist without great guitar solos, and Legendry can hold their own with the best of them. The solos do not focus on speed and shredding, but on delivering memorable and epic melodies that hearken back to the glory days of Ritchie Blackmore. Compared to other contemporary heavy metal acts such as Eternal Champion or Savage Master, Legendry has the best guitar solos in my eyes.

The diversity of the album continues with the tribal percussion opening of Attack of the Necromancer, which creates images of the barren land of Stygia in the mind of the listener who is well read into the world of Robert E. Howard. Necropolis is of course a Manilla Road cover, which really displays how similar Vidarr’s vocals are to Mark The Shark Shelton. The cover is well executed and I’m sure would make Mark and the band proud. The album closer, Winds of Hyboria, is a 12 minute epic which mirrors the style of the poem Cimmeria found in the album intro. This track combines acoustic and electric guitars, giving some sections a heavy Falkenbach feeling, with soaring folkish guitar solos. The band could not have closed with a stronger song, the spoken word outro mirroring the album intro.

Legendry stands next to contemporary American metal bands such as Visigoth and Eternal Champion as keepers of the ancient ways. While the band is firmly rooted in classic bands from the old days, they are far from being generic and are not lacking in enthusiasm, talent and creativity. The album artwork (which was painted by Vidarr himself) is a testament to the ancient metal power of the album. For those who like their metal with chainmail and battle axes, this album cannot be missed.

“I remember the forests, glacier haunted earth
I remember the mountains, and the tales of great mirth
I can see the ravens circling overhead
I can feel the spirits of the honored dead
My ancestor’s calling, from Valhalla’s hall
Their voices do linger, after nightfall
Elemental and strong, the unbowed clans
Oh, the Riddle of Steel, the strength of their hands”

Morketsvind – Wandering to Nether World (Review)

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Title: Wandering to Nether World

Artist: Morketsvind

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Genre: Dungeon Synth

Year: 2016

Country: Russia

Label: Paa Gamle Stier

Links: https://morketsvind.bandcamp.com/album/wandering-to-nether-world

I have been a fan of Morketsvind since the Morketsvind I release, which I reviewed when this zine was first created. Morketsvind I presented very strong militant Dungeon Synth, which felt like a siege upon a stone stronghold. With the next release, Age of Lord, Morketsvind expanded his sound to include more medieval atmospheres. With the latest Morketsvind album Wandering to Nether World, Morketsvind combines both atmospheres to create an album that is both warlike and medieval, and is supremely epic in feeling and composition.

From the intro Big Ritual of Gates Opening the mood is already set for the album with heavy brass melodies which remind me of the glory days of Basil Poledouris. At this point Morketsvind has the best synthesized brass sound I’ve heard; which sounds more like a synthesizer than a virtual instrument. These brass sections invoke images of mounted kings riding to glory over a desolate battlefield. The militant power of the early Morketsvind material is perfected here. Synthesized key instruments break up the warlike brass sections with adventurous medieval melodies, before returning to the crushing battlefield.

The Basil Poledouris influence is also present in the strings (the track ‘Nether World’ being a prime example). These string sections are both melancholic and powerful, hearkening back to an age of legend. The ability to create music that is both powerful and somber is no easy feat, yet Morketsvind constantly accomplishes this. Many of these melodies stay in my memory for days after each listen, each time bringing images of fortresses and ancient legends.

Not only is the music here excellent, but other aspects of the album are as well. The production is crystal clear and gives power to each instrument, nothing is lost in the mix and every synth is easily present. The CD version of the album (which this review is based on) also includes hand drawn letters and text, something rarely seen in Dungeon Synth today. The album also comes with a story explaining how the songs weave the tale together (I highly encourage everyone with any remote interest in Dungeon Synth to buy the physical version to get full appreciation of the album).

As RaevJager once said, Morketsvind is the siege weapon of Dungeon Synth. Completely original and crafted with excellence and mastery, Wandering to Nether World is not only the best Morketsvind album, it is one of the best Dungeon Synth albums that I’ve ever heard. Welcome to Hyboria.

 

Crypt of Carmilla – Master’s Chalice (Review)

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Title: Master’s Chalice

Artist: Crypt of Carmilla

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Genre: Dungeon Synth/Dark Ambient

Year: 2017

Country: USA

Label: Self-released

Links: https://cryptofcarmilla.bandcamp.com/

A rotting castle in an ornate Victorian frame is perched upon a hill, the sunlight dulled into shades of grey by the black and white filter resembling an old Xerox cover. Dissonant organ lines creep in the wind and lightning strikes crash as a voice echoes in a deep chamber to drink the blood of the Master. Whispers fade with the wind, as haunting strings sparsely crawl through the speakers at the pace of fog enveloping a corridor. An evil presence is lurking near…

Crypt of Carmilla is a new Dungeon Synth/Dark Ambient project taking influence from the works of Lord Byron, Sheridan Le Fanu, and Charles Baudelaire, as well as the music of Lamentation, Depressive Silence, Old Tower, and 90’s black metal intros. While the opening paragraph of this review may seem as if Crypt of Carmilla is just another lo-fi blackened synth project, what sets this demo apart is atmosphere. From the one minute intro until the end of the demo, the mood is immediately set and never ceases, engulfing the listener in Crypt of Carmilla’s romanticized vampyric darkness. Powerful narrations reverberate as if coming from deep caverns, wolves howl within the wind, deep gongs and percussions crash, and organ lines carve ghastly images into the listener’s mind. However, none of these elements are performed at random. Each narration, each organ line, each percussion crash enhances the atmosphere and feels deliberately planned, giving the demo a cinematic quality. While countless projects strive to create this sense of darkness, Crypt of Carmilla feels authentic in it’s approach. The gothic theme is explored in a way that is not cheesy or feels like a cheap gimmick, much like Lamentation’s early material (especially As Shadow Kingdom Comes To My Sight). While listening to the demo I actually feel as if I’m in the presence of some form of immortal malevolence, from years long past, buried beneath centuries of lore and legend. I’m sure this is the composer’s intention, and this demo was a refreshing new presence in modern Dungeon Synth.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, the rating system used on this zine is strict, and a 3.5/5 is a great rating for a 15 minute debut from a new artist. The demo will also soon be available on tape for those who seek analog copies. Fans of old horror and dark dungeon music that isn’t plastic and insincere, come forth and drink from the Master’s Chalice.

Рабор – За Тридевять Земель (Review)

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Title: За Тридевять Земель

Artist: Рабор (Rabor)

Rating: 4 / 5

Genre: Dungeon Synth/Folk

Year: 2016

Country: Russia

Label: Out of Season

Links: https://rabor.bandcamp.com/album/–7

Rabor is a project that has been around for some time and has explored a range of different atmospheres, from straight forward ambient to epic battle music. The latest album За Тридевять Земель explores Russian folklore, with each song based on a Russian fairy/folk tale. The artwork is what first drew my attention to this album, as it is absolutely perfect for this style of music. Traditional Slavic style, patterns, and colors are used, with Baba Yaga’s hut and a personified sun smiling on a bear playing a lute. It is rare to see something like this in Dungeon Synth, and especially at this level of high quality.

Fortunately the music is just as impressive as the artwork. Rabor mixes synths with what seem to be acoustic string instruments, and arrangements that are light hearted in nature. Rabor combines the warm atmosphere of Fief with the folk elements of Kashmar to create a sound that is unique and captivating. While many Dungeon Synth projects are dark and mournful, Rabor’s music is like a long walk through a sunny Russian forest, where folk legends and superstitions are just as real as the mountains and the trees.

The album is not limited to the light folk ambient that compromise the majority of the tracks. Traditional epic Dungeon Synth tracks can be found here as well (the song Камень на Распутье being a prime example), as well as more somber songs (such as За Рекой Смородиной). However, the overall mood of the album remains jovial and warm, which is a welcome change. The majority of music covered on this zine is dark, and this album is the perfect contrast to that. Rabor’s unique mix of Dungeon Synth and folk music is a refreshing change of pace for us at Barbarian Skull. Rabor has created the perfect soundtrack to the age old legends of his culture, immortalizing them in music that even those unfamiliar with Russian folklore can appreciate. The tape version will soon be available on Out of Season and will be one album that I will immediately purchase.

 

 

 

 

 

Trogool – Beyond the River Skai (Review)

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Title: Beyond the River Skai

Artist: Trogool

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Genre: Dungeon Synth / Orchestral

Year: 2017

Country: USA

Label: Stressball

Links: https://trogool.bandcamp.com/album/beyond-the-river-skai

Inspired by the strange worlds of Lord Dunsany and H.P. Lovecraft comes the bizarre entity known as Trogool, music which is as strange and awe-inspiring as the authors who helped make this project a reality. I’ve been waiting for a Trogool full length album since I first reviewed In The Mists Before the Beginning two years ago. Now that I’m finally holding the album in my hands, not only was it worth the long wait, but this album has exceeded my expectations in every way imaginable.

To label Trogool as just another Dungeon Synth act isn’t fair, especially since no synth is used as far as I can tell. Trogool is one of those rare acts that transcends genre. While it may be Dungeon Synth in nature and style, it is also orchestral in arrangement and sound. Very high quality virtual instruments are performed with a “soundtrack” feeling, yet the arrangements unlike anything I’ve encountered in another project. While the Basil Poledouris influence was heavily present on the EP (which shared similarities with Lord Wind), Beyond the River Skai explores even stranger territories. The range of moods are just as vast as the tales of Lord Dunsany himself. Epic adventurous tracks across deserts where strange towers spiral from the sand, medieval faires where bizarre creatures in colorful clothing perform gleeman feats, dark corridors where unseen malevolence lurks along twisted paths. These songs invoke a feeling of nostalgia similar to the experience of trying to recall a vivid dream which you can no longer remember, a dream which was so strong it is hard to distinguish it from weird reality. Otherworldly and dreamlike, Trogool has created a musical experience forged by creativity and mastery of the all that is inspiring and strange.

Trogool’s music is so unique and original that is truly is one of those projects that must be heard to be understood. Music aside, the packaging of this release is possibly the best I’ve seen in Dungeon Synth so far. The artwork is of fantasy novel level quality, which looks amazing on the A5 digipak format. I was fortunate enough to receive the Die Hard edition which came with a flag, patch, and pin; the entire presentation is incredible.

For those who have grown weary of this world and long for other worlds, Beyond the River Skai is for you.