Archive for May, 2012

Review: Black Breath

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on May 23, 2012 by Magadh

Black Breath Sentenced to Life Southern Lord

I have moved around a lot since the year 2000, and I have two major regrets. The first is that I left Portland, Oregon several months before From Ashes Rise moved there. As it was, I never managed to see them, which rankles. The other regret that I have is moving out of Seattle, for a lot of reasons really, but most prominently because I managed to leave town right before Black Breath came on the scene. Sure, they’d been around since 2005 (I left town in 2008) but who really pays attention to what’s going on in Bellingham? Well, not me at any rate.

Since their first EP Razor to Oblivion 2008, Black Breath have gone from strength to strength. Their approach has been consistent and pretty straight forward: up tempo deathmetal along lines similar to early Entombed. True, Black Breath never quite gets the really ripping guitar sounds of Left Hand Path era Entombed, but one would be hard pressed to name anyone who does. This is not to say that Black Breath can be numbered among the legions of Entombed imitators. They create a style that is all their own, both musically and lyrically. The riff structure their songs bespeaks the influence of the metal tinged hardcore and crust of the 1980s and 1990s, particularly in its West Coast incarnations. There is a lot to like here from a pure, headbanging perspective. Chugging guitars thrash along over thudding double bass and the vocals have a tortured quality without descending into incomprehensible guttural gurgling.

Sentenced to Life is the band’s third release with Southern Lord. When the Captain and I first discussed it, his comment was “more Slayer, less Entombed.” He definitely has a point here. Listeners will notice this right from the off. The opening grind on “Feast of the Damned” recalls Hell Awaits, although it is more compact and doesn’t quite descend to the same dark depths. The similarities continue when the song kicks into gear. Once again, this is a matter of positively taking up influences rather than slavish imitation. As the disc continues, the familiar crust influences come to the fore again. It doesn’t seem like there is quite as much single string riffing on Sentenced to Life as on previous releases, although it is by no means absent. The heavier reliance on chordal riffing adds weight to the songs. What certainly has not changed from previous efforts is Neil McAdams’s vocal style, which is still desperate, angry, and vicious.

In this correspondent’s humble opinion, the world needs more Slayer loving hair farmers and these guys fill that bill to a tee. For fans of blistering thrash this disc will be meat and drink.

Magadh

Burning Bridges: Narrows Occupy SxSW

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2012 by Magadh

Drink deep, it’s just a taste, and it might not come this way again,
I believe in moments, transparent moment, moments in grace when you’ve got to stake your faith

– Rites of Spring

South By Southwest has become a self-parody; any vestige of promotion for independent artists and labels has been rapidly replaced by a soul-crushing circle jerk of payola and corporate scheming. One need only see a stage (named the Jacked stage no less) in shape of a giant Doritos vending machine to think that, perhaps, the human experiment has run its course. 

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 Yet, it was there I found myself in the company of dear friends Narrows  (who were themselves accompanied by tour manager/roadie/merch lord/fantastic human Rich Hall) as they hit Austin with tourmates and force of nature, All Pigs Must Die. With the exception of the Power of the Riff/Southern Lord/Brooklyn Vegan showcase, my primary motivation was to watch Narrows lay waste to all before them as they played 5 shows in 3 days (and to get tattooed by Steve Byrne). It’s funny how things work out.

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Brooklyn Vegan/Chaos in Tejas have, for several years running, promoted a guerilla show at 2 a.m. on the Lamar Pedestrian Bridge. The shows on the bridge have been something of an Austin tradition, and I was perplexed but rather pleased to find myself surrounded by 400 kids as Regents started their 2 a.m. set powered by a gas generator and purloined city power. Regents feature ex-member of Sleepy Time Trio and Maximillian Colby, and I’d had the pleasure of seeing them at a BBQ earlier in the day. They dashed through their four-song set (the maximum allotted to each band) and we set about switching equipment so Narrows could keep things moving. Narrows were, in a word, amazing — because the setting itself was amazing. Anything I write won’t do it justice but I’ve included photos from Shawn Scallen which perfectly capture the night. It seems fitting that the man whose photos graced the pages of Heartattack and inserts of Ebullition albums would be there to do the job.

Austin’s finest showed up following Narrow’s set and the show, unfortunately, ended there. But that 20 minutes…ah, that was perfect. Drink deep ladies and gentlemen.

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– Captain of Games

Review: Wolfbrigade

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on May 22, 2012 by Magadh

Wolfbrigade Damned Southern Lord

The guys at Southern Lord have really been making a play for world domination lately. If you stick with this blog you’ll find that the Captain and I have a real fascination with their catalog. When we heard that the new disc from Swedish d-beat veterans Wolfbrigade was coming out on Southern Lord we were, needless to say, breathless with expectation. I am happy to report that it does not disappoint.

First a little history. In 1986, I was living just outside of Nottingham in the U.K. Notts was a great place to be if you were a punk rocker kid in those days. I was hanging out at the Salutation in Nottingham when word went around that Anti-Cimex were coming over from Sweden to do a couple of shows. We were all pretty stoked. I traveled the hour or so to Birmingham with the Concrete Sox guys, who had sort of taken me under their wing. We met up with Anti-Cimex and Agoni, another Swedish band, before their show at a pub called the Mermaid (as I recall, Heresy played that night as well).

It was under these circumstances that I met Jonsson, the singer for Anti-Cimex and, incidentally, one of the persistently drunkest people I have ever encountered. About ten minutes after I met him, Sean from Concrete Sox and myself had the pleasure of trying to keep him from beating the shit out of some guy (who kind of deserved it, to be fair) with a bullet belt. At the show in Nottingham a few days later, Jonsson, who was totally rat-assed (and from what I could tell had been so constantly in the intervening period) planted himself beside the front door to the gig. Whenever anyone would go in, he would wave a picture of himself in their face and say very earnestly, “Me.” Of course, being totally lit had no discernible adverse effects, either on Jonsson’s performance or on those of his bandmates. Anti-Cimex played two blistering sets while being absolutely pickled in lager.

The presence of Jonsson was a big selling point for me of the early Wolfpack discs. As in Anti-Cimex, his vocals were gruff, but you could understand what he was saying, which for me was a plus. Those early Wolfpack releases, especially A New Dawn Fades and Lycanthro Punk, were a real step forward for the d-beat style. As Anti-Cimex had begun to do on Country of Sweden, Wolfpack differentiated themselves from the d-beat pack by adding a melodic element to their approach which made their simple, straightforward song structures noticeably more effective. Bands like Crude SS and Asocial were great, but a little melody mixed gave the style in general a bit more punch and variety.

Wolfbrigade, the band that Wolfpack became have had mixed results in terms of quality since they parted ways with Jonssen in 1998. Progression/Regression, released in 2001, set the tone for a lot that came later. The songs were good, but lacked the cutting edge of their earlier material. Their new release, the first since Comalies four years ago, marks a triumphant return to form for the band. Throughout their existence, Wolfbrigade have consistently delivered bludgeoning punk rock. On Damned, the quality of song writing once again rises to the level of those early releases. The melody is more in evidence that it has been for the last several releases, and it is accompanied by production that is slicker, but crucially thicker than their recent offerings. They also seem to have branched out a bit stylistically. There are moments when this disc sounds like Motorhead. At other times, one can discern something that sounds like black metal, especially on “From Beyond,” which contains a passage that sounds a lot like Dissection’s “Where Dead Angels Lie.” All of this is very much to the good. The crucial thing about this record is that the level of aggression has been upped along with the melodic content, perhaps not to the level of Disfear, but enough to ensure that this disc will be getting plenty of spins here in the bunker.

Magadh

Lost Wisdom: On Varg Vikernes and Umskiptar

Posted in Articles with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2012 by Magadh

May has seen the release of Umskiptar, the third album from Kristian “Varg” Vikernes following his 2009 discharge from prison where he was incarcerated for the murder of former bandmate Oystein Aarseth and the arson of several churches. Discussions of Burzum are often nuanced affairs (true believers aside), with his genre-defining albums separated from Varg’s increasingly extreme political views. Through it all, Burzum.org, once a labor of love (or hate as the case may be) of a Russian fan, has served as the clearinghouse for the man and the band. Ralph Waldo Emerson famously opined, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Burzum.org makes clear that consistency is not one of Varg’s myriad preoccupations.

Two days after Anders Breivik murdered 77 of his fellow Norwegians in July of 2011, Varg published a missive entitled, “War in Europe: Part I – Cui bono?”  on Burzum.org. His haphazard analysis hinges upon bizarre associations and improbable allegations including:

  • Breivik was working for Mossad in a “false flag” operation designed to punish Norway for supporting Palestine and to unite Norwegian ultra-nationalists under a false banner.
  • Breivik is a Freemason and all Freemasons are puppets for “international Jewry.” Therefore, Breivik was working for the Jews to dismantle all nations in order to build a global Hebrew temple enslaving all under the will of the Jews and their servants the Freemasons.
  • Breivik is a Christian and Christianity was created by Jews in order to dupe non-Jews into worshiping the Hebrew’s god which, in turn, would turn European pagans into servants and tools for the Jews.

The “facts” Varg puts forth resemble the loose associations of a schizophrenic. This embarrassing essay begins and ends with his tired fixation on a Jewish plot for world domination. Vikerenes never connects the dots, then again, that was never his intention. He ends his essay informing Breivik that, “True nationalists don’t kill children of their own nation.” The reader may comfortably infer non-native children remain fair game.

Varg returns to the topic of Breivik nine months later. In the interim, he utilized Burzum.org to publish, among other items, a pair of exhortations to his fans and fellow nationalists.

The first piece, “The Lords of Lies: Part X – Thieves and Frauds” , is a fairly transparent overture to his fans to help secure his economic interests (sorry, artistic interests) by boycotting and reporting all sites not named Burzum.org. He describes his boycott of social media as a conscious attempt to starve the capitalists and bankers who are destroying Europe. One wonders who he might mean? In either regard, his assertion is particularly humorous as he spends a chunk of the preceding text discussing his limited computer skills and experience.

“The Lord of Lies: Part XI: Under Friendly Fire” , the second essay, laments his rough treatment at the hands of left-wing journalists. Varg references his previous attempts to use media, in the form of interviews, to spread dissident ideas. The thrust of the essay is a plea for fellow nationalists to avoid using the media to draw negative conclusions about Varg himself. He returns to an old chestnut when he concludes only the Jews profit when nationalists fight with one another. Of particular interest is his discussion of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

Varg asserts that Jews have a vested interest in destroying Russia because Russians are responsible for releasing “The Protocols” to the world and painting the Jews in a negative light. Readers unfamiliar with the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” should congratulate themselves. The book is a fictitious account of a meeting between Jewish elders in a European cemetery during which they outline their plot to take over the world. Varg addresses the dubious authenticity of the book in the essay’s third footnote where he asserts, bizarrely, that whether or not the text is a fraud or authentic is immaterial. The material issue is the content , which he feels is genuine, and should be read by everyone. He offers no support for the validity of the text itself or the content, but then again, why would he? He is consistently inconsistent in supporting his anti-Semitic worldview.

As to Breivik, Varg revisits him in a July 21, 2012 essay entitled, “War in Europe: Part II – The Price of Anti-Racism” . The essay is an attack on Grethe Bøe-Waal and her article, “The Price of Racism.” His typical meandering analysis features an analogy of a dog being placed among wolves. Varg states that a dog placed among wolves will be destroyed by the wolves who recognize it as different. He concludes this is the law of nature and expounds upon the analogy by stating that, when the number of dogs increase, they will begin to kill the wolves (Leaving aside the obvious flaws in this argument, such as the numerous examples of symbiosis in nature). When Varg finally discusses Breivik, it is telling. Gone is the Christian, Freemason dupe discrediting Norwegian nationalists and serving the ends of international Jews. Instead, he is described thus:

Try to corner an animal and you will see what will happen! Be not surprised when the animal attacks you. Humans are also animals, and people like Anders Breivik act on instinct because you have cornered them. You can actually thank yourselves for the fact that he killed some of you “anti-racists.” You have cornered our entire European race! Like Breivik says more and more individuals in the European nations will react with aggression.

In nine months, Varg’s Jewish puppet has transformed into Norway’s avenging angel. Unmolested by hobgoblins, Varg is free to draw increasingly improbable conclusions to support his deranged world view. He is a dark Don Quixote tilting against windmills of his own making.

What then of Umskiptar, Varg’s interpretation of the poetic Edda Voluspo (excellent translation here)? The album begins well enough with “Blóðstokkinn” featuring sparse drums and sparing use of a horn while Varg solemnly intones portions of the opening stanzas. The introductory track is superior to those on both Belus and Fallen and serves to effectively set the album’s mood.

Tracks like “Jo’ln” and “Aera” are reminiscent of Fallen with their diminished, but still present, tremolo picking and lyrics both spoken and sung. “Alfadanz” makes effective use of a piano intro which gives way to some repetitive guitar work and interplay between both sung and spoken vocals. “Hit Helga Tre’“most resembles the classic Burzum sound augmented by some pretty sweet riffage..

Varg continues to use a warmer (compared to say Filosofem) vocal style throughout Umskiptar. When accompanied with chanted or spoken vocal parts, it comes off very well. However, the later portion of the album is comprised of songs which rely heavily on speaking or chanting coupled with strummed guitar lines. These tracks seems to be an attempt to create something of a somber, ethereal sound and it is here where cracks begin to surface.

“Valgaldr” works reasonably well, tremolo guitar work and harsh vocals eventually give way to a slowing of tempo, a repeated riff and droned vocals. However, tracks like “Galgviör” and “Surtr Sunnan” simply meander on and on. Both tracks build upon simple guitar parts coupled with spoken or droned vocals. Where bands like Agalloch or Drudkh can take that formula and make it effective due their more robust instrumentation, here the songs just sound flat and unfinished.

The album ends limply, with “Gullaldr” succumbing to the same malady outlined above but with even less of a riff to rely upon while “Níðhöggr” is simply a disaster of muted drumming, rasped vocals and the addition of what can only be described as whale sounds.

Umskiptar begins with promise but fails to sustain the momentum. There are signs of an interesting evolution in “Allfadanz” and “Valgaldr” but the failures of the final four tracks really diminish the album. It remains to be seen which direction Varg chooses for future Burzum albums, but the maddening inconsistencies which characterize his personal life have certainly tainted Umskiptar.

– Captain of Games

Dispatches from the End of the World

Posted in Dispatches on May 21, 2012 by Magadh

A thousand trivialities
To keep you occupied
A thousand trivialities
To keep you stupefied

–Discharge, “Hype Overload”

 

Welcome to A Thousand Trivialities, brought to you from a bunker located far below the smoking ruins of Western culture. From time to time, we like to poke our heads outside the bulkhead door, if only to see if any eddies within the matrix have developed. If you are reading this you are one of the “lucky” ones. Perhaps your coding didn’t take. Perhaps you are unsuited to the environment into which you have been inserted. Perhaps you are just another dysfunctional unit, awaiting replacement and reconfiguration. From the perspective of one’s own location, it can be difficult to orient oneself within the flow of information. Our goal is to assist you in this process. Music, art, electronics, dissident culture, all can become tools for the reorientation of consciousness. A new order is fast approaching, one which seeks to square up the disorderly fragments of actually existing humanity. It is unclear to us for how long this order can be resisted. This is Dispatch #1.