Review of 飞狐 / Dilemma. Revenge. Snow. by Demogorgon

Band: Demogorgon
Album: 飛狐 / Dilemma. Revenge. Snow.
Release Date: 31 October 2016
Record Label: Pest Productions
Buy on CD ($9.99) or digital ($5) from: Bandcamp

Cover of Dilemma. Revenge. Snow. by Demogorgon

As 2016 comes to a close you’ve probably seen countless end of year lists of albums, often listing many of the same popular releases. We don’t like ranking music here at DCHM (our album reviews aren’t given a score for this reason as well) so at the end of the year I always give my album review writers the chance to pick an album of their choice from the year that they feel deserves more attention than it received. It doesn’t have to be a local band, and in fact this year they have both chosen bands from outside the US. First up is DCHM writer Tal’s in depth review of the debut release by a new black metal band in China. Be sure to stream the track at the end of the post to give it a listen while you read and stay tuned for our next end of year album review post coming up shortly.

I am once again enthralled by the literary theme of an atmospheric black metal band – this time Demogorgon, a project of members from established Chinese black metal bands Zuriaake (atmospheric black metal), HolyArrow (epic black metal) and Destruction of Redemption (primitive black metal) as well as the eponymous Demogorgon, a major figure in the Chinese metal scene as one of the founders of the magazines Extreme Music (《极端音乐》) and Dragonland Music (《金属乐界》).

These metal masterminds teamed up to produce a short debut based on the martial arts novel Flying Fox of Snowy Mountain (《雪山飞狐》) by one of the founding fathers of the modern martial arts novel, Jin Yong (金庸). I actually started reading Flying Fox, in Chinese, over the summer, but didn’t finish it yet. Still, the context of an exciting, bloody and yet romanticized story set in the world of wuxia (武侠, the martial hero) immediately caught my interest and made this musical work richer for me.

This release contains only two tracks, although it still clocks in at about 25 minutes total. The first song is called “飞狐” (“Flying Fox”) in Chinese and “Dilemma. Revenge. Snow.” in English — I figure this is because non-Chinese speakers may not know the significance of Flying Fox or be able to understand the lyrics, so the English title gives them an idea of the themes of the song. The song is 14 minutes long, in fine atmospheric black metal form. It has four distinct sections, which are so clearly separated that they might as well be individual songs.

The first section introduces the setting and the story with all the gradual buildup of a movie soundtrack. It starts with a few martial horns blaring and isolated drumbeats, and then distorted guitar notes like thickly falling snow with a dreamlike sad melody floating above. Then it launches into chugging atmospheric guitars, drumming with an irresistible marching rhythm and harsh screams. A duet of clean, solemn vocals poetically describe the desolate wintry landscape:

A cold night with few stars
Shadows vanish and voices retreat
Floating clouds sink away
The white moon is silent and bright
The frosted river, cold and lonely
The mountain forest stands desolate and solemn
Icy peaks like white cranes

The verse ends proclaiming the entrance of the hero: “Through the snow flies the fox!”

The second verse describes the lonely life of the wandering, vengeful martial hero in the same style:

Vengeance spanning generations
Half a lifetime spent wandering alone
Grass and trees flourish and decline
The swan geese fly away and return
A deserted village listens to the rain
I’m alone with my sorrow

The verse ends with an octave jump on the last word, followed by wordless singing in a higher, more emotional register – where before the vocals were solemn, now they give voice to the hero’s loneliness.

Around four and a half minutes, the second section begins, as the chugging guitars abruptly fade out and are replaced by synthesized reed and string instruments, whose long, clear and melancholy notes evoke vast snowy expanses. The harsh vocals that start a minute later sound like the howling of a blizzard. Distorted guitar notes blend discordantly with the vocals, adding to the impression of being lost in a storm.

This time the vocals are conveyed in a harsh, half-drowned scream, once again describing the solitary life of the martial hero:

A free spirit all my life
A wandering swordsman
Used to favor and vengeance
Drawn sword whistling through late autumn

This is followed by a Summoning-like bridge with distorted guitar arpeggios and a gentle keyboard that’s more counterpoint than melody. When the vocals start up again, the vocalist’s extended screams and the vistas of nature evoked by the music make the human feelings in the lyrics epic-sized:

Love and hate are so difficult to lay down
I dream of joy and sadness
And my tears fall in solitude

Just before the nine minute mark, the third section begins with ominous, brassy and discordant notes, like horns sounding before a battle, but in a gloomy key. A repeated clean guitar arpeggio adds to the sense of anticipation before the song plunges into an avalanche of distorted guitar backed by percussion like the clashing of swords and overlaid with harsh screams. The vocals are slightly different again, the screams higher and more desperate-sounding, and the driving, repetitive guitar arpeggio evokes a relentless onslaught of blows. Obviously, this section describes combat, specifically the hero’s prowess:

Blade like sudden thunder
Imposing as the mighty heavens
The vigor of my sword sweeps through the cold sky
The mountains shake with the tiger’s roar
My jade disc travels as a fierce dragon

Then, without relenting its musical onslaught or distraught vocals, the song reverts back to describing the hero’s loneliness and sorrow:

Cherishing
The icy heart of the orchid
Sighing
At the hurried moment of joy and love
Turning my head to look back
The lonely stars weep
A sad moon rises

Then, while the martial drumming, battering distorted guitar and even the harsh screams continue, the solemn duet from the beginning of the song returns for a final sorrowful verse, reprising lyrics from earlier:

The lonely stars weep
A sad moon rises
I dream of joy and sadness
And my tears fall in solitude

In the fourth section, the last 30 seconds of the song is filled with the mournful reed and strings from the start of the second section, as though snow blankets the landscape in the aftermath of battle, and the tragic story fades into memory.

The second track, “悲月 / Sadness Moon,” is very different in style, belonging to the genre of dungeon synth rather than atmospheric black metal. Dungeon synth is a genre of synthesized music that has a medieval feel. This particular track also has a somber, mournful feel at first, as befitting the title. It starts out dominated by long, low tones of synthesized pipe organ. Eventually, resounding drumbeats and a synthesized choir and strings join in, and then a synthesized reed instrument plays a dreamy but lonesome melody similar to the one that opened the album. The second half of the track has a grander and more martial feel, with a marching rhythm, but the final organ tones close the album on a solemn note.

The album purports to “vividly depict the vast lands of northern China” and to evoke the jianghu (江湖, the quasi-outlaw society of martial artists in ancient times). I think it succeeds in creating a certain impression of these concepts, anyway. Both the white-noisey sound of distorted guitar and the solemn or melancholy clean parts lend themselves well to describing desolate, snowy landscapes. This impression is heightened if you watch the lyric video for “Dilemma. Revenge. Snow.” where you can actually see the mountain scenery (in the form of a traditional Chinese painting) as the song unfolds. The jianghu described by Demogorgon, meanwhile, is a solitary existence full of loneliness, longing for lost love, obsession with vengeance, and epic-sized violence – ideas conveyed both by the lyrics and the sorrowful or martial sound of the music. These are not the only or the most important features of the jianghu of Chinese martial arts novels, however – loyalty and seeking after justice are a few others that come to mind – but they are the qualities conveyed by Demogorgon’s work.

That’s not to say I don’t like it, though. Sad atmospheric music is exactly the kind I enjoy, and if it has an epic story tied to it, so much the better. The harsh and distorted nature of atmospheric black metal means that non-metalhead fans of Chinese martial arts novels may not be able to get into the album, or the first track anyway, but by contrast, one does not need to be a fan or knowledgeable about Flying Fox or martial arts novels to enjoy the music as a metalhead. The brooding mood and solemn vocals remind me a bit of Caladan Brood, so fans of that sort of music would probably enjoy the first track, “Dilemma. Revenge. Snow.” The second track, “Sadness Moon,” is not as strong or memorable in my opinion, but then again I’m a bigger fan of atmospheric black metal than of dungeon synth. In any case, the first track is diverse and epic enough to be worth four songs, and a must-hear for 2016 in atmospheric black metal.

飛狐 / Dilemma. Revenge. Snow.:

Interview with Abbath

On Tuesday, March 8th of 2016, I was given the chance to interview the legendary Norwegian black metal musician Abbath to help promote his upcoming show in Baltimore. We covered that and so much more in this over 14 minute long interview. Despite his grim appearance he is actually a quite humorous person, though the interview is rather, dare I say, touching, at points. I have been sick all week and my voice is rather flat in much of this interview, but I think the questions were strong enough for you all to get a better idea of the man behind the corpse paint. You can stream the interview below by clicking the orange play button, or you can download it as a 32.63mb mp3 for free here and of course you can read the full transcription below (my words are in bold).

Photo of Abbath by Ester Segarra

Photo of Abbath by Ester Segarra

This is Metal Chris of DCHeavyMetal.com and today I’m speaking with Abbath via Skype all the way from his kingdom cold in Norway. Abbath is probably best known for his time in the Norwegian black metal band Immortal but in January he released an eponymous solo album on Season Of Mist records. Abbath, the band, will be headlining the Decibel Tour with High On Fire, Skeletonwitch and Tribulation also performing. The tour kicks off on St. Patrick’s Day, Thursday, March 17th at the Baltimore Soundstage [tickets available here]. Now to get things started here, am I pronouncing your name correctly?

It’s Abbath [Ah-Baht].

So where exactly did you get the name from? How did you choose the name?

I didn’t choose it, the name chose me. It just appeared in my head.

So what kind of set can fans expect on this tour? Will you be performing any songs from your past bands or all new material?

Not my past bands but my past band, yeah, Immortal, yeah. We’re also going to play a song from the I album, Between Two Worlds album. Yeah and there’s going to be like maybe four Immortal songs and one I song and the rest is going to be new songs.

Now American Gabe Seeber has joined your band as Creature the drummer. How did you find him and how did he end up joining Abbath?

The mighty Creature Gabe yeah. We met this guy in Australia, Brisbane was it? He was an excellent drummer and after the tour Kevin [Foley, original Abbath drummer] left and this guys he told us about Gabriel and he’s just fantastic. He’s just amazing you know. I’m going to meet him in a couple days and [I] can’t wait to do another tour with him you know. He’s the best you know, he’s just amazing and young as well you know. 25 years old and what a fucking talent he is. The best drummer I’ve ever played with. Him and Kevin. I was devastated losing Kevin [but now we] have a kind of a second shot with Gabe.

So the new album has been really well received by fans. What vision did you have for it when you started putting it together and do you think you captured that vision?

It was the carrion call you know? And I was very fortunate to have this great lyricist called Simon Dancaster, who also participated in the early days, who also participated in writing some of the lyrics on Blizzard Beasts. I met him by accident. I haven’t seen him for years and he came to my friend Tore [Bratseth]’s birthday party. Tore from Bömbers my Motörhead tribute band. And we just started working from there you know? I had all these songs, music working and I had these themes and ideas and we just worked around from there.

So what do you think makes Abbath different than Immortal?

Well it’s still my music you know but it’s a different band and it’s different musicians, different lyrics, but it’s still the music you know as it were with Immortal. So it’s just a continuance of myself.

So do you think you’ll ever possibly rejoin Immortal at some point?

Um… I don’t know, you know. I, I, you know, eh… Never say never they say but I don’t, I don’t uh… It’s not a time to think about that right now.

OK so in 2006 you had a band simply called I that also had [Abbath bass player] King Ov Hell in the line up. Is Abbath the band something of a continuation of I do you think or do you see it as a separate entity with its own musical direction?

No I mean it’s still my music. It’s just a continuance of my music and with I, I have more old school heavy metal elements, rock and roll, heavy metal elements put into it. I just sit down and make the music I feel like making and if it works for me, it works.

In November of 2015 there was an Old Funeral reunion performance in Bergen, Norway. Is there any chance that another possible Old Funeral show will happen or even new Old Funeral music?

No that was the last Old Funeral performance ever. If I’m ever going to continue it it’s going to be New Funeral. Hahahaha.

What made you decide to go in the direction of black metal instead of a more death metal sound which was definitely more popular in the underground at that time?

No I never, I never follow what’s popular you know. I just do what I like you know. If I wanna do a fucking pop album I’ll do a fucking pop album. That’s simple as that.

Haha.

If I want to do a disco album I’ll do a fucking disco album, it’s as simple as that. I don’t care what’s popular or not out there. I just follow my gut feeling and heart feeling and just make the music I feel like making. That’s what it is you know. Music to me is freedom. It’s the freedom of expression. It’s just me, you know. Maybe I don’t write the lyrics myself but I’m part of it. The music is mine. I make the music and I find the right people to write the lyrics with me. It’s simple as that. It’s just rock and roll isn’t it? Really?

Heh heh. So what is the definition of black metal to you then?

Lay down your souls to the gods rock and roll! Just uh, you know, Venom. Black metal to me is Venom. 1982.

Do you think black metal should just be about the music itself or do you think religious, theistic and political beliefs have a place in it as well? And do you think fans of black metal need to share similar beliefs with the bands they support? For example, can you be a devout Christian that is also a fan of black metal?

You know black metal is, it’s supposed to be rock and roll. It’s the Devil’s music. It’s about freedom and it’s about, fuck off to those who would tell you what to fucking do or whatever the fuck it’s just, be your own god. Work your own mysterious ways. Believe in yourself and have a kick ass fucking time. Bang your fucking head. Be cool, hahaha. It’s rock and roll, yeah, that’s what it is. Without rock and roll you know, without Buddy Holly there would never be a fucking Venom or a Motörhead. It’s just you know, raise your fist and kill.

In March of 2000 I saw Immortal on tour with Satyricon, Angelcorpse and Krisiun in Wheaton, Maryland at a place called Phantasmagoria. I remember seeing you breathe fire on stage and leaving giant black marks on the ceiling and I’d never seen a black metal band put on a show like you guys did that night. You guys really blew me away and I became an instant fan and a couple months ago Satyr of Satyricon, he made some comments in an interview [here] about that tour and he said he disliked playing small bars and clubs in the Midwest on that tour. Do you remember anything about that tour and was it really that bad?

We were touring around the States. We did some shows on the West Coast and we did a couple of shows, we just jumped on the Satyricon tour. We were sharing a van with the Brazilian guys Krisiun. The mighty brothers of Krisiun. And [I] remember Alex [Camargo, bass and vocals for Krisiun] one of his favorite albums, Battles In The North hahaha. And uh we just jumped on the tour, the Satyricon tour, they had their own bus and Angelcorpse they had their van. And I remember, it was alright. It was Satyricon’s gig you know. We didn’t get a sound check or anything but we delivered you know. The show must go on always, whatever. The last show, we’ve been touring a month in Europe and it’s been great and everything. We’ve had a sound check every night and the last show on this tour, Blastfest, we didn’t get a sound check and the sound on stage was horrible but fortunately we know how to play. We didn’t hear jack shit up there. [Abbath makes a lawn mower sound]

Well the Baltimore Soundstage where you’ll be playing on Thursday the 17th, they actually have really good sound. They’re one of the better sounding venues in Baltimore so hopefully that won’t be a problem.

Baltimore, yeah yeah. I’m flying over with my tour manager Steve on Sunday and we fly to Philly to have a couple days of rehearsal there because our bass player is not able to come over so we’re gonna play with another bass player over there.

Oh who’s going to be playing bass on this tour?

Uhh… I don’t remember his name but he’s a friend of Gabe’s and he’s alright.

Abbath performing with Immortal at Sonar in 2011

Abbath performing with Immortal at Sonar in 2011

The last time you performed in Baltimore was when Immortal played at Sonar in February of 2011.

I remember that one, yeah.

Yeah I remember someone threw a bottle on stage during “Grim And Frostbitten Kingdoms” [video here] and I remember you stopped the show and got really mad and yelled at the guy. Did you ever find the guy or anything? Did you ever find out who did that?

No I didn’t.

Do you remember anything else from that show? It was with Absu I believe was the opener.

Yeah Absu yeah. Absulutely! Hahahaha. Uh… that show was alright wasn’t it?

It was a great show, yeah.

Yeah. You never know who’s in the fucking audience. It’s like, that’s a part of the battle isn’t it? It’s the front line, you never know who’s going to show up, what’s going to fucking happen. We were supposed to play in Bataclan [the concert hall in Paris, France, where terrorists killed 90 people while the Eagles Of Death Metal performed there on 13 November 2015]. You know Motörhead was supposed to play there a couple days after that massacre you know. It could have been us, it could have been Motör[head]. You never know but the show must go on. You have to go up there because, it’s your life it’s what you want to do you know. It’s just rock and roll and if that’s what’s going to fucking kill you, alright. So if someone throws a bottle, you know, I’m not fucking Axel Rose alright?

Now you were in a Motörhead cover band called Bömbers for a while and I was curious what kind of effect Lemmy [Kilmister, bass and vocals of Motörhead] had on you musically and how did his passing last December affect you. Did you ever get a chance to meet him?

Yeah several times. What a fucking gentleman he was, yeah. Him and Ronnie Dio, coolest guys I’ve ever met. I love my father but fuckin’ hell those were my fathers too ya know. And [it was] just devastating. It was… I still can’t believe they’re gone ya know. Fuckin’ hell. Me and King you know we went to Greece… a couple days ago we came home recently from Greece finishing the video for “Winterbane” and I bought this Metal Hammer special. I mean I had like a five hour wait in [the] Copenhagen airport and [the] Metal Hammer special, Lemmy special and I just sat… there in the bar reading it and, and uh… you know I… I got this lump in my throat and it just… it just, you know… devastating. He was like a father to us in many ways. Lemmy… he was the best. He was the coolest. He was everything. So where do we go from here you know, yeah. Carry on. Carry fucking on. Rock and roll. Yeah.

Lords Of Chaos movie poster

Lords Of Chaos movie poster

So what do you think about this Lords Of Chaos movie [based on the book Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind] that is in pre-production right now? Do you know if you will be portrayed in the movie or have you been consulted about it in any way?

Really? I didn’t know, I didn’t know about that.

Apparently it’s not a documentary it’s going to be an actual movie with a script and everything.

Oh yeah, oh yeah.

I think Ridley Scott has attached his name to it, the famous director. I think he’s producing it or he’s somehow tied to it.

Ridley Scott? You’re talking about the Alien director?

Yep. Yeah I don’t think he’s directing it I think he’s like the producer or something like that. He’s been attached to it. I saw his name attached to it [here].

Yesterday in fact I saw this movie with my girlfriend called The Martian [that is directed by Ridley Scott].

Yeah, yeah. The one where they go to Mars and he’s a scientist trying to stay alive.

Yeah, yeah. And there’s a Norwegian actor in that called Aksel Hennie and that was fucking great I mean, Ridley Scott? Wow. It better be good then! Hahaha.

Hahaha. I mean it’s probably a couple years away still or at least a year I would think but I was just curious if you’d heard anything about it.

Whatever, we’ll see! Hahaha.

Now there’s a brewery in Austin, Texas called Jester King that names some of their beers after different heavy metal subgenres and they make a stout named Black Metal and the drawing in the label is a guy that wears corpse paint and he looks pretty similar to you. Have you ever tried that beer and do you like it?

Jester King's Black Metal beer label

Jester King’s Black Metal beer label

Never heard of it, I probably don’t like it. Hahaha.

Do you like craft beer at all? Do you ever drink the micro brews or anything?

I like this… Ringnes!

That’s something we don’t have over here.

This is what I drink mostly. It’s a good Norwegian beer.

Well 1349, they’ve had a couple beers come out with their name on it like official 1349 beers. Do you think there will ever be like an Abbath Ale?

Abbath Ale? Hahaha. I just did a tour with Behemoth recently and they had a couple of beers they wanted me to try. They were actually good, yeah. Pretty good. Yeah. Everybody is doing that now. Nobody sells records so they gotta fucking sell something. Hahaha.

Well thanks so much for your time Abbath. Is there anything else you’d like to tell your fans before your tour starts here on March 17th at the Baltimore Soundstage?

Die hard! …please come to our show. Hahaha. We’re gonna do our damnedest! Yeah. I can’t wait, I can’t wait. Fucking hell.

Awesome.

I’m looking forward to it, yeah.

I’m really excited it should be a great show.

Thank you Metal Chris!

Alright have a good one man and have a good flight over here on Sunday.

Thank you sir.

Alright, take it easy.

You too.

Metal Show Of The Week: Downfall Of Gaia

Who? Downfall Of Gaia
When? Monday, January 26th
Where? DC9 (map)
How much? $10 at the door or online from Ticket Fly

It’s been a little while since I made a Metal Show Of The Week post but this upcoming show is just so damn good I had to! Downfall Of Gaia is a German black metal band that is signed to Metal Blade and they’re touring the US to support their 2014 full length release Aeon Unveils the Thrones of Decay. The band played DC once before, back in 2011 at an Ethiopian restaurant just a few doors down from DC9 actually. I was there and that show was incredible despite the very DIY sound system so I can’t wait to see them in a proper venue this time. The band has matured since 2011 and their new material is both atmospheric and aggressive, simply put this is some excellent European black metal and we’re getting a rare chance to see these guys play live. The best part? It’s just $10 to get in the door! When was the last time you saw a band from Europe playing a legit venue around here for $10?

There’s some great locals on this bill too. The doom band Foehammer will be playing, you may remember seeing them as the first band to play at my holiday party last month at the Pinch. They’re loud, slow and heavy as hell! Opening the show will be local band black metal Myopic who are always worth getting there early to see. And if you’re in Baltimore the tour will be at the Metro Gallery the night before, Sunday, January 25th, with the bands Set And Setting, Sannhet and Barbelith. Still not convinced? Then check out a few songs by Downfall Of Gaia below and then get your ass out for the rare chance to see these guys live, it’s not like you’re stuck on some expensive cruise right?!?!

Downfall Of Gaia – Of Stillness And Solitude:

Downfall Of Gaia – Carved Into Shadows:

Review of Grimscape ’14 at the Sidebar

On Saturday, July 26th I made it up to the first Grimscape at the Sidebar in Baltimore. The place isn’t very big, I think the max capacity is around 100 people, and most of the walls and pipes in the place are covered in the stickers of bands that have played there in the past. The stage is only a few inches tall and the lighting isn’t anything worth bragging about, but it’s a great spot for DIY punk and metal shows. This evening the Sidebar was hosting the inaugural Grimscape that will apparently become an annual event. It collected a bunch of mostly local black metal bands with the headliner, Pact, coming down from Erie, Pennsylvania, to play. Apparently Helgardh was supposed to be on the bill but for whatever reason they dropped off and were replaced by a band called Hex Temple. This was apparently Hex Temple’s first live show but I didn’t get there in time to see them. I did however get to see the next band, Antikosmos, who were also making their live debut at this show. They were entertaining for sure. Frontwoman Victoria Atkins commands the audience’s attention with her striking blonde hair and wild facial expressions, though she was standing on the stage behind a couple of the band members who were on the floor which obscured her from view at times. They played a Watain cover and a Bathory cover as well as a pair of originals. They’re still figuring out their own sound, which is mostly dominated by their influences, but that’s to be expected from any young band really. There was quite a large crowd there while they played and I think a lot of people came just to see their friends in Antikosmos perform for the first time.

After Antikosmos played Inverted Trifixion was set to play next. I was hungry though, and the Sidebar doesn’t serve food, so I ran out for a bite to eat at Joe Squared, hoping to make it back in time to catch the end of Inverted Trifixion’s set. Unfortunately I didn’t make it back that quickly as Dispellment was setting up when I returned. Dispellment is a three piece black metal band from Northern Virginia and they’re pretty damn good. Their style is fast and energetic and reminds me of something similar to Taake mixed with older Marduk. The band is well rehearsed and performs together as a tight unit. Although their songs are often punishing they do have room in there for some catchy riffs even a moderate black metal fan can appreciate. Their stage set up with deer antlers and various tree branches in addition to their messy corpse paint is pretty entertaining, and their bass player often walked right into the audience with a menacing look on his face making sure you couldn’t simply ignore Dispellment’s performance.

Finally it was time for the headliner, Pact. Unfortunately most of the audience that had been there earlier in the night had left by this point and it was a shame cause these guys were pretty sick. Their vocalist came out wearing a black robe with a big hood on it and some sort of bandage on his right hand. One of the guitar players had some crazy looking custom guitar that looked like the cover to Morbid Angel’s Altars Of Madness covered in a sickly ashen bile. These guys were also very well practiced and tight, you could tell they knew their material inside and out. Pact was the most aggressive sounding band that I saw at Grimscape combining a raw intensity with some unholy riffage that oddly reminded me of mid-90s era Dark Funeral at times. Their vocalist did a lot of hand gestures to the crowd and sometimes it almost seemed like he was practicing some sort of martial arts moves with his hands.

In all it was a great DIY black metal show and a great time over all. Thanks to Mary Spiro of Metallomusikum (and the curator of the Black Metal Baltimore group on Facebook) for getting the bands to come out, the turn out seemed pretty good so I’m betting there will be a second installment in 2015. Let’s hope more people (including members of the bands earlier on the bill) stay next time cause the later bands were great! I’ve posted some of my favorite photos that I shot Saturday below, but you can see all of them, and in full size, on Flickr here. Keep it metal everyone and keep on supporting the scene that you’re a part of!

Antikosmos:

Antikosmos at the Sidebar

Antikosmos at the Sidebar

Victoria Atkins of Antikosmos

Dispellment:

Dispellment at the Sidebar

Ikonoklast of Dispellment

Æþelwulf of Dispellment

Pact:

Pact at the Sidebar

Pact at the Sidebar

Pact at the Sidebar

Pact at the Sidebar

Deafheaven ticket give away

Deafheaven

San Francisco based atmospheric black metal band Deafheaven is touring this summer and they’ll be at the Rock And Roll Hotel this Sunday, June 30th and DCHeavyMetal.com is giving away a free pair of tickets to a lucky one of you readers. To enter leave a comment on this post telling me who your favorite black metal band from the US is. At 5pm EST this Friday, June 28th, a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries to win the tickets. Be sure to use a valid email you check regularly so I can contact you if you win. Don’t worry, I won’t add you to any spam lists or sell your info or anything sleazy like that. If you can’t wait to see if you win then you can get tickets from Ticket Alternative right now for $12 here.

Deafheaven plays a rather hypnotic style of black metal that fans of Alcest, Wolves In The Throne Room and Krallice will enjoy, though they’ve put their own California style take on the sound. Their new album, Sunbather, takes the standard frozen wintery darkness commonly associated with black metal and does a full 180 with its imagery of summer heat, blinding sunlight and sunburnt skin. Give the album’s title track a listen on the YouTube video below. The song is 10 minutes long but it goes to a lot of different places in that time and is definitely worth the full listen. Also on this tour is Marriages. They’re based out of LA and not really a metal band but two of the members, Greg Burns and Emma Ruth Rundle, are both from Red Sparowes. The opener is a electonic/doom band from Baltimore named Curse. I’ve posted a song by each band below so give them a listen and tell me who your favorite USBM band is!

Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult at El Caracol Bar

Saturday the 17th of November 2012 was a pretty metal night in the DC area. Two different venues had sold out metal shows that night: The Sword at the Rock & Roll Hotel and Lamb Of God at the Fillmore Silver Spring. While I’m sure they both would have been worth reviewing, I found myself at a Latino pool hall in Silver Spring for a tr00 and kvlt black metal show. There were four bands from outside of the area at this show, including the headliner, Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult, which came all the way from Germany to play in this dive.

Although El Caracol Bar has put on a few metal shows in the past this was my first time stepping foot in the venue. The pool tables had all been pushed out of the way and two of them were being used as tables for merch display. Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult at El Caracol CafeThroughout the night I found myself dodging the low hanging lights hovering above where the pool tables had been. The walls had several posters of women in bikinis advertising beer and various plaques for what appeared to be pool tournaments, an odd setting for a black metal show. There is a stage towards the front of the venue which had been built out of plywood and particle board. To keep the audience off the stage they put three metal poles across the front of it, one on each side and one centered, that were tethered with two plastic coated steel cables. However, the shoddy craftsmanship of the stage would be an issue later in the evening. I did order food at one point, and let me tell you it was very authentic and quite delicious. Their beer selection wasn’t anything to brag about. They don’t have any taps so everything is in cans or bottles. Their best beer was Guinness but most people were drinking quart sized Corona bottles. The place doesn’t seem to have any policy for cutting people off and there were some people that were dangerously drunk at the show. I’m not even talking about just shit faced, but people that had actually drank themselves into a stupor and could hardly stand, much less walk. I had one such drunk come up to me and explain he had come to the show looking for a fight. Then, in his alcohol infused haze, he began trying to trick me into arguing with him. Eventually a few of his friends pulled him away from my table but damn that was annoying. I did see the guy involved in several fights later in the night but he was never kicked out. Hell, other than the armed security guard outside the door checking IDs, there was no real security inside the venue. There is another black metal show that will be there on Saturday, December 15th (details here). It’s an all day “festival” headlined by Black Witchery. I doubt I’ll go though because spending the day avoiding fights and trying to protect my camera in the mosh pit at an event that will start serving booze when the doors open at noon with no cutting people off sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.

The first band to play was Damnatum, a new band from Queens in New York, although apparently some of the members are of Colombian descent. They had a goat skull on stage with a few candles burning. There wasn’t much stage lighting other than a blinking neon Miller Light sign on the wall by the stage, so the show was pretty dark. There was a fog machine too, but it wasn’t used too heavily. These guys were ok. They had a couple songs I liked but many that just seemed fairly typical for underground black metal. They played a long time, longer than was necessary, and when they ended at around 9:30pm I could tell this was going to be a long night. The next band to play was Nachzehrer. This Boston based band was a bit more thrashy than any of the other bands that played, but still very black metal. Their vocalist had a very energetic stage presence and was fun to watch. This was the first band the audience started “moshing” to. I use the term moshing very loosely because rather than do the typical mosh pit style of ramming into each other the audience, most of whom had a very low center of gravity, would shove each other as hard as they could with both hands, almost throwing each other. They would ricochet off of each other in the pit and go flying wildly into the audience or the barrier at the front of the stage. Not ideal for shooting photos in but it was pretty fun to watch. Their set was shorter than Damnatum’s and seemed to be a good length, stopping before it got overly repetitive. The next band to play was Agrath. They’re from New York City and feature a couple members of Negative Plane. Normally they’re a three piece band but they were playing with a second guitarist which made their total four. I’m not sure who that guy was but he did have a sticker for the racist NSBM band Absurd on his guitar, classy. Regardless, I still thought these guys had the best songs of the night (you can see their set list here). Their sound was certainly more professionally put together than the previous two bands and they had more variation in their songs than the headliner did. This was still raw, underground black metal but you could tell they had worked hard on polishing the songs and executing them live. They were also the first band to wear corpse paint on stage. I really enjoyed their show and the people in the pit seemed to agree with me.

Finally it was time for the headliner, Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult, to play. They all came out with elaborate corpse paint on and you could tell they were gearing up for a most unholy black metal spectacle. They had giant, black inverted crosses on stage near the drum kit, an ornate chalice full of (fake) blood, and tons of leather and spikes. Low lighting and a fog machine helped set the grim mood. Onielar, the band’s frontwoman/guitarist, has very long hair that hangs well past her waist. She emerged from the fog raising the chalice and holding upside down a Jesus nailed to the cross prop to start the show. The audience immediately went into a frenzy and began pushing each other so hard I felt like I was in a war zone up there trying to take pictures. Midway through the first song someone was pushed into the cables so hard it completely ripped out the support pole on the right of the stage, bolts and all. The cheap particle board the pole was bolted to was still attached at the base, the wood itself simply couldn’t take the stress and it broke. This resulted in a drunken member of the audience/mosh pit falling onto the stage on his back and the big speaker stack there actually fell over and landed right on him! Members of the sound crew quickly moved in to pick the equipment up, push the guy off stage and try to keep anyone else from falling onto the stage, with mixed results. The band wasn’t shaken and kept playing through all of the chaos. After the first song ended Onielar asked that the audience try to stay away from the stage so they could keep playing for them. Unsurprisingly, considering that all the earlier announcements to the audience from the stage had been in Spanish, the audience didn’t listen at all and as soon as the next song started they were just as violent as before in the pit. Luckily some of the people in the front row started locking arms and formed a wall for the rest of the show that kept most of the moshers at bay. Throughout all of this the band members had all been spitting (fake) blood on themselves and the audience, a ritual that continued for every song of their set. Their sound was pretty aggressive and cold, as is typical of most black metal of this nature. They didn’t have a lot of variation in songs though and after a while many of the songs started sounding the same. There were a few that stood out though and they seemed to be spaced in good places in the set (you can see their set list here). Right as the pit’s energy would start to die down they’d get the frenzy going again with a sick riff/blast beat combo. About midway through their set a few people started trickling in from the Lamb Of God show, which had already ended. Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult’s blasphemous set ended abruptly and the band walked off stage. As the fog cleared you could see a stage that had been left in ruin and covered in so much fake blood you might have thought an animal had been slaughtered there in some sort of Satanic ritual.

This show was definitely insane and pretty fucking fun to be at. It sucks I couldn’t be at the other two sold out shows that night, I can’t be everywhere at once, but I’m betting I was at the wildest show of the three. It’s pretty awesome that DC sold out two different metal shows this night and this third show was pretty well attended too. I didn’t shoot any video, it was far too dark in there for my camera to do that, but I did get some still photos of all four bands which you can see below. Also, thanks to everyone who came out to the Port City Brewery‘s second metal night the Friday night before this show. The place was packed and a total success so there should be another one coming up. It’s great to see so many people coming out to so many different metal events in this area. Keep it up everyone and continue to support the scene you’re a part of!

Damnatum:

Damnatum at Caracol Bar

Damnatum at Caracol Bar

Damnatum at Caracol Bar

Nachzehrer:

Hräsvelg of Nachzehrer

Hräsvelg of Nachzehrer

Nachzehrer at Caracol Bar

Nachzehrer at Caracol Bar

Agrath:

Lord Thammuz of Agrath

Lord Thammuz of Agrath

Agrath at Caracol Bar

Agrath at Caracol Bar

Agrath at Caracol Bar

Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult:

Onielar of Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult

Velnias of Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult

Velnias of Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult

Adversarius of Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult

Adversarius of Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult

Onielar of Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult

Onielar of Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult

Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult at Caracol Bar

Onielar of Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult

Morbid Angel at the Howard Theatre

On Monday the 24th of September 2012 another heavy metal tour came to the Howard Theatre in Washington DC. This time the show was headlined by Morbid Angel, one of the most famous bands from the legendary Tampa, Florida death metal scene. The first band to play was VadimVon, a South Carolina based death metal band, however I wasn’t able to get there in time to see them. The first band I saw perform was Grave, one of the old school Swedish death metal bands. Before Swedish metal became associated with bands like At The Gates, In Flames and Soilwork there was a death metal scene there that rivaled the one Morbid Angel Tour Posterin Tampa at the time. It was led by bands like Entombed, Hypocrisy, Unleashed and Dismember. Grave is one of the few bands from that scene that is not only still around but has also stayed true to their sound. The only member of Grave that is left from those days is vocalist/guitarist Ola Lindgren and he showed the audience at the Howard Theatre that he’s still got it. The band put on a good show with a set list (photo of it here) that showed a pretty good history of the band, considering the time they had to play, as well as featuring a few songs of their latest album, Endless Procession of Souls. They got the pit really going on a few songs and hell, it was great to hear a set full of old school Swedish death metal! You just don’t get a chance to hear that very often any more. The next band up was another Swedish band, though this time of the black metal variety. Dark Funeral has gone through some line up changes since they last toured the US, most notably replacing their vocalist of 15 years, Emperor Magus Caligula. This was their first area appearance with the new vocalist, Nachtgarm, who is also the front man of the German black metal band Negator. While I wouldn’t say he was bad he certainly didn’t live up to the showmanship that Caligula had when on stage with the band. Dark Funeral has always been very apt at maintaining their image, everyone in the band comes out dressed like corpse painted orcs from Lord Of The Rings, complete with leather armor. Well, everyone except Nachtgarm that is, who was wearing one of those Shagrath style black metal dresses and looked more like he fit in a Behemoth video than with Dark Funeral on stage. Dark Funeral has never been the most original black metal band. Their sound is pretty typical of the genre and never really pushed any boundaries, though they do have a few rather stand out songs. The stage show has always helped to keep them from blending in with every other black metal band out there and I guess the new vocalist seemed to just detract from that. Again he wasn’t awful, he just didn’t seem to fit Dark Funeral that well. Perhaps after they record an album with him and he is performing some of his own material live he’ll have a better chemistry with them. Still, the band plays fast paced music and their closing song, My Funeral, got me pumped and ready for the headliner, Morbid Angel.

Aside from this year’s headlining appearance at Maryland Deathfest, Morbid Angel hasn’t played in the area since their show at Jaxx/Empire in April 2006 when they were first touring again because David Vincent had rejoined the band. Since that show they have only put out one album, last year’s dreadful Illud Divinum Insanus which was not only critically panned but also stained Morbid Angel’s reputation among fans. I had just seen another one of the big names from the Tampa scene, Obituary, play at Empire two weeks earlier (my review of that show is here) and they put on a lackluster performance so I was hoping Morbid Angel wouldn’t follow suit. Morbid Angel didn’t disappoint. They put on a brutal show playing many of their older classics. Their set list (photo of it here) had a lot of songs from their album Covenant, with most of the other songs being spread throughout the David Vincent era of the band. They did play one song, Bil Ur-Sag, from the album Formulas Fatal To The Flesh, an album David Vincent was not on. I’ve never seen them play a song with him before that wasn’t from his time with the band, so that was pretty cool actually. Trey Azagthoth did his thing on the side of the stage cranking out classic riffs and wild solos with his trademark long hair obscuring his face the entire show. While Morbid Angel played two songs from their most recent album they were at least two of the more “metal” songs from it. Tim Yeung did a good job behind the kit and Destructhor, playing rhythm guitar (but still had some solos) did a fine job as well, but really the main focus on stage was David Vincent. Morbid Angel is definitely a better band with him fronting them. Between two songs he did mention how he hated DC as it represented everything he hated about the way the world is run, but assured the audience this wasn’t any fault of our own. Definitely not the usual audience ass kissing you hear a front man blabber about whatever town he is in. In all it was really fun to see one of the legendary bands of death metal put on a killer show. My main gripe was that they didn’t play much from either Blessed Are The Sick or Domination but did play my two favorite songs of theirs, Maze Of Torment and Chapel Of Ghouls, and I’ve posted the videos I shot at the show of each song below. Well I hope you enjoyed reading this, now check out the pictures and videos I shot of the bands playing. Be sure to get your ass out to some of the awesome upcoming metal shows going on in the area and help to support the scene you’re a part of!

Grave:

Grave at the Howard Theatre

Ola Lindgren of Grave

Ola Lindgren of Grave

Ola Lindgren of Grave

Ola Lindgren of Grave

Tobias Cristiansson of Grave

Mika Lagrén of Grave

Dark Funeral:

Nachtgarm of Dark Funeral

Chaq Mol of Dark Funeral

Nachtgarm of Dark Funeral

Lord Ahriman of Dark Funeral

Zornheym of Dark Funeral

Nachtgarm of Dark Funeral

Lord Ahriman of Dark Funeral

Nachtgarm of Dark Funeral

Morbid Angel:

David Vincent of Morbid Angel

Trey Azagthoth of Morbid Angel

David Vincent of Morbid Angel

David Vincent of Morbid Angel

David Vincent of Morbid Angel

Destructhor of Morbid Angel

David Vincent of Morbid Angel

Trey Azagthoth of Morbid Angel

David Vincent of Morbid Angel