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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Heresiarch interview

There hasn't been a new post here since May 2015 and I've been hassling N.H from Wellington New Zealand's Heresiarch to do an interview here since at least 2011.  So it's only appropriate that he gets to break the drought....

1) It’s been awhile since your 2014 Wælwulf ep. What’s been happening with Heresiarch since then?

After Wælwulf, we did shows in NZ and Black Conjuration IV Fest in Australia, at the time I was also doing drums and then bass for Vesicant. For 2015 we were inactive.

This year we recruited N.O on drums, now have J.B back in the lineup and for the first time have a lineup with all members in the same city. We've been working on new material for our full length since. Recently we recorded our track for the split with Genocide Shrines, Trepanation and Serpents Athirst which will be out on Dark Descent and Cyclopean Eye in 2017.

Wælwulf 7" cover
2) Having your line up all in the same city must be a significant change for you. What aspects do you think that does to enhance Heresiarch? If any, what were the advantages of the previous two lines ups that were national and then trans tasman?

Being able to regularly rehearse as a full band has further developed our music, the writing process and presentation of live material.

There were definite advantages in the previous recording lineups but they were independent of location... Each individual involved to date has made important contributions to the band with commitment, experience and musicianship.

3) How did this 4 way split come about? What was the deciding factor for the combination of bands? Tell us about your contribution toward it.

I've been in contact with Genocide Shrines before the "Devanation Monumentemples" EP was released in 2012, we have mutual respect for each other’s music and ideology.

I was in Sri Lanka recently and discussed with Genocide Shrines and Serpents Athirst members, we all agreed on the bands involved and labels to work with. Trepanation are also on board which are one of the best NZ band's today, the track they’ve recorded is pure savagery.

Each band will be contributing one new song to this release, our track represents how the new material for the coming album will sound.

Preview of the Heresiarch contribution to the split

4) Looking ahead from the split, what else is on the horizon for Heresiarch at the moment?

The priority for this year has been working on new material, we’re working on the last songs currently.

We recently played with Immolation at Valhalla in Wellington which was our first live appearance in over 2 years. In November/December we have gigs lined up with Trepanation in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch alongside some newer bands such as Desolation Horns and Exaltation. We’re discussing opportunities for next year but our focus is towards building the foundations for the new era of Heresiarch.

5) Tell us about this album. Please give an idea about lyrical and musical themes, titles, intended release date and anything else we could expect.

The title is Death Ordinance, it is being composed with a lyrical and musical narrative, similar to what was done with Wælwulf but further expanded.

Each song has a specific place in the album and is written accordingly, it’s important that the full length album is complete, rather than a collection of songs. Release dates will be given by Dark Descent when it is time to, our focus is on composing the material to reflect the vision rather than meeting an arbitrary deadline. One of the tracks features on the coming split and will give an indication.

6) So with ‘Death Ordinance’ being consistent with what we heard on the Wælwulf ep, can we expect to hear more of the dynamic, complex song writing such as that on the track ‘Endethraest’? Also will we see the artwork of Nick Keller again? If so what concept might that take?

The songs composed are more developed than previous material. The addition of C.S has contributed a new element of song writing which still reflects the sound or Heresiarch. The concept, theme and structure of the album is all planned, referenced and we are ensuring that each song composed reflects this.

We are likely to be working with a different artist for the album, our music and lyrics are very visual so the suitable artist will have plenty to draw influence from.

Nick Keller's gatefold inside cover art for the 2011 'Hammer of Intransigence' ep
7) Could you please expand on some of the lyrical themes contained on the Wælwulf ep and how they may be developing on future material?

Wælwulf took a different turn compositionally and lyrically to the previous releases, at the time I was the only member composing material and I drew on a lot more of my personal influences rather than musical.

There’s an atavistic narrative through the piece balancing primitivism and a more reflective underpinning philosophy. The lyrics draw influence from Germanic, specifically Anglo-Saxon historic and literary texts such as Brunaburh and Maldon. There’s allusions to Ragnarök\ Götterdämmerung, with an Anti-Theistic approach (murder of gods, rejection of hope, destiny and fate) as well as implications to the present.

That theme will be expanded on later as a "saga”, but won't be on the album. The album expands on the composition and flow found in Wælwulf, with each track having a specific purpose in the scheme of the album. This is why the Obsecrating, Hammer and Wælwulf were individual demos and EP's rather than recorded together as an album.

8) I guess that leads to a few questions. In your view, how do you see pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon history having implications in the present day? Where did you become interested in these things? Does this suggest that ideas for future Heresiarch EPs might be in their embryonic form?

Numerous historic texts are still applied to the present day which multitudes adhere to with mindless devotion. The lyrical content can draw influence from an event or text without specifically referring to it, there are parallels with multiple cultures and eras throughout history.

There’s no suggestion to foster spurious relationships with old gods and tribes, or escape reality and romanticise the past. Wælwulf recounts multiple references whilst having an application to the present, in mind, attitude and will.

The follow up to the album is already taking form. It will feature previous and unreleased material recorded as a cohesive release.
9) Tell us about the process or processes you use to write your music. What is working particularly well at the moment?

C.S and I consistently work on new material together as well as separately. We focus on each track\section of the album specifically, if something is more fitting elsewhere it will be designated so.

Each tracks place in the overall composition is specific and if it doesn’t reflect this, it is discarded, writing with a greater context in mind has worked well.

10) What aesthetic theme are you considering for your future live shows?

We will be building on what we’ve used previously with smoke, lighting and minimal “crowd pleasing” interaction. Creating an inclusive atmosphere does not reflect our music, in a live setting the listener should be able to experience this, rather than participate in a group activity. The audience should feel as though they are being watched just as much as the band.

11) You say you want "minimal crowd pleasing" in your live show and that you want the audience "to feel though they are being watched". How do you see your audience? If you don't want them to be pleased, for what reason should they come to see Heresiarch play live? 

Those familiar with our sound and releases should know what to expect, we’re not going to strike up conversations and share anecdotes between songs. The live atmosphere is a representation of the sound and vision of the band.

12) Do you have a set idea of what you’re aiming for with Heresiarch’s music? I mean, do you feel like you’re making that music right now? Or are you still exploring the path towards your end goal?

Yes, we are very specific with what we are working towards. The new material written is the best representation of the band musically and thematically and is the most purposeful manifestation of Heresiarch. Throughout each release the music and ideas have evolved while maintaining the underpinning identity of the band, the end goal is likely to evolve with time as well.

13) You’ve talked about influences, be they personal or musical, but what inspires you to keep pushing ahead with Heresiarch today?

We will continue forwards until there is nothing more to say/do, at this stage there is no conclusive end in sight. Even during periods of inactivity we have used the time to formulate and develop ideas for the future, those ideas give purpose and become the motive for continuing. If this changes, the band will cease.

Special thanks to Craig Hayes of Six Noises for his assistance with this interview.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Review: Malevolence - Relentless Entropy

I haven't felt much like writing over the past year or so.  Something I promised myself when I started this blog in 2010, was that I wouldn't allow it to become a burden like the old print version of 'Subcide Zine' did. As it happens, right now I'm feeling quite creative and motivated. There are a number of releases that have inspired me in the last while that I'd like to tell you all about. They may not be new as such, so if you have already heard them I encourage you to take another listen.  I've particularly enjoyed listening to and writing about this one.

Chris Rigby

Malevolence - Relentless Entropy (Self released)

Not so long ago I was checking out an old album by ‘Groinchurn’ called ‘Sixtimesnine'. ‘Groinchurn’ were a kick ass grindcore band from South Africa in the late 90s. When listening to it I thought "Man that was a great era for grindcore. Bands had started to develop musically. They were incorporating new diverse, intricate, interesting and engaging concepts into their music. The results being really enjoyable listening experiences." Brutal Truth were pioneers of this concept. Napalm Death had started to go down the same path and Nasum had just appeared on the scene. But where was this sound these days? Sure Napalm Death are still here and kicking ass. But Brutal Truth are over, as are Nasum, but why is there no one new doing this or developing it further?

As synchronicity would have it, after their 20+ years of existence 'Malevolence' come along with 'Relentless Entropy' to fill that gap. From start to finish it’s a consistent piece of modern grind art. It kicks off with 'Approaching Monster', an instrumental climbing intro which is later complimented by the album outro 'Retreating Monster', assumedly sequels to 'Passing Monster' from the 2007 EP ‘Eyes to See, Ears to Hear, Wrists to Slit’. ‘Approaching Monster’ leads directly into 'Digitize', a 1 min 49 second grinder focusing on our unavoidable existence of having our entire lives documented and tracked on line. Opening and closing with “Welcome unit, to the machine”, within Digitize we are issued with our serial number “3-4-4-4-8-4-9-3” which I’m pretty sure is also a clever reference to the guitar fret numbers of the riff beneath it. Then in the same tone we have 'Legalize', which talks about a dystopian future where food no longer grows and in order to survive, humanity must turn to cannibalism. Feeding on the vegetarians first, before farming thy neighbour. “The Adversary’ breaks the 3 minute mark for the first of only 2 times on ‘Relentless Entropy’. It also introduces the first section that could possibly be described as slower. The Adversary appears to be a character who is the “Anti-theist”, neither Christ nor Anti-Christ, they have come to free earth from the shackles of religion and to encourage humanity to “Think God out of existence”. ‘Transparent’, with its animosity toward the shallow nature of mainstream society, is the only song on the album where the music isn’t written by main man Daryl Tapsell, but by former second guitarist Nich Cunningham. Despite the different composer it still sits perfectly along with what sounds like a subtle nod to brutal truth played in reverse. The next 2 are short sub 1 minute grinders. The first is “Property of Satan” inspired by Daryl's tattoo.

Then we have the 23 second 'Butchered', which if I hadn’t read they lyric sheet I wouldn’t know was a personal tribute to the late Matt Hall, former vocalist of ‘Backyard Burial’, who in 2011 was “Butchered by a cunt!”

“Home brew Memories
BBQ smoking weed
Long nights of philosophy
Techniques of the scream
Mushroom recipes
Pros and cons of LSD
Some of what you were to me
Metal brother rest in piece”

'Bleed' tackles class warfare and highlights the fact that tory scum still bleed the same as you and I when you take their heads off. ‘Nothing and Nowhere’ reminds us that we’re all insignificant in the grand scheme of everything and explores the experimental grind style to a deeper level with its discordant chords riffs, before fading out slowly with various samples of scientific facts. 'Chased through the woods (with a rhyming dictionary)’ takes the piss out of immature gore themed death metal lyrics. All of which are of course rhymed. Track 11 '99942 Apophis' hits with a super heavy chaotic barrage, not unlike its namesake asteroid which is due to collide with earth on April 13, 2029. Apophis 99942 also is closest comparison to the war metal chaos that's currently coming out of New Zealand, and it comes nicely garnished with a sprig of vintage Morbid Angel. 'Human Suit’ has the most coherent lyrics/vocal and memorable chorus of the album, also the most catchy musically. It follows the life of a protagonist who becomes so disgusted with the human race they decide to murder it, finishing with themselves. ‘Idle hands' begins with a voice sample from the 1990/1 Ice T album ‘OG’ where Ice is introducing us to his new metal band ‘Body Count’. The song itself, the most straight forward metal tune, is a misanthropic view of someone who has sold their soul to their corporate job at the expense of everything else important. 'Life Machines’ is the album’s slowest and at 3:46min, longest tune. It begins with a creeping not-quite-doom riff, before ramping up the grind and death combo and Dives into slowness again briefly before finishing on an increasingly speed up War Pigs meets grindcore ending. ‘Life Machines’ spells out most directly the theme that’s been running right through ‘Relentless Entropy’ i.e. nothing we do in our lives will ever amount to anything of significance, we’re all getting older and we’re all going to die one day before eventually being forgotten. …Then the monster finally retreats wrapping up ‘Relentless Entropy’.

Malevolence have been around for over 20 years now, and constantly get better every time I hear them. ‘Relentless Entropy’ is testament to that. It has a simple Black and white cover - Just like the best grindcore albums. It’s held together with trade off vocals from rock solid ass player Julian (I’ve known this guy since 1998 and I still have no idea what his last name is), intense drumming from Ben (also skin pounder for Vassafor) and of course the stellar guitar work of Daryl. 

‘Relentless Entropy’ is modern technical grindcore at its best. It survives and grows upon multiple listens. It will be a treat to hear what level Malevolence elevate themselves to next!

It’s a grind album you should invest in! You can do that by going to and purchasing it in CD, Vinyl or digital form.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Carcass - An audio interview with Bill Steer

Carcass are about to play New Zealand for the third time since 1993 (the second time was in 2008). This time with Napalm Death. Thanks to Soundworks touring I was able to interview guitarist Bill Steer, via Skype.  Rather than transcribing the conversation, I've decided to let you hear the full audio complete with my baritone mumbling contrasted against Bill's clear english accent.  

This was actually the second time I've interviewed Bill.  You can read my first interview with him, which took place in Wellington late 1993, here: Subcide Zine #1

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Review: Bulletbelt - Rise of the Banshee

Album Review: Bulletbelt - Rise of the Banshee (Headless Horseman)
by Mark Brooks

Author Disclaimer: I don’t normally write reviews on a regular basis, mostly due to the fact that I don’t have enough spare time to sit down and write them out. However, as soon as I heard the new BulletBelt album in its entirety, I knew that I had to review it. I hope that through my writing you can understand why.

The sound of a storm fast approaching, ominous hooves gallop in the distance - a rider fast approaches, bringing good news or ill omens? Before one can find out, their head is chopped off in a flurry of tight bass chops, caustic guitar licks, and pounding drums. Before the body does its last convulsion within death's grip, sepulchral acidic voices are heard announcing humanity's final doom.

This is the opening image that BulletBelt's second full-length album Rise of the Black Banshee invokes. A rip-roaring ride of first wave black thrash punk rock that should have plenty of cross-over appeal and is a strong contender for album of the year. 

For those who are unfamiliar with BulletBelt, they are a 5-piece "black-thrash" metal band from Wellington, New Zealand. The band features a slew of talented NZMetal musicians from other legendary NZMetal bands such as Backyard Burial, Demoniac, Karnage and Pervertor. The line-up is as follows: Steve Francis (drums), Ross Mallon (guitars), Tim Mekalick (bass), Ryan O’Leary (guitars) and newest addition Jolene Tempest (vocals).

I put “black-thrash” in quotation marks earlier because this album is not strictly “black-thrash.” BulletBelt have incorporated far more musical influences on this album than their last album Down in the Cold of the Grave, which sounded like a perfect hybrid of 80’s punk and thrash with early-mid 90’s Scandinavian black metal. They went in favour of a more first wave black metal sound like Venom or look to ‘modern’ bands like Midnight for example. The more rock or heavy metal influences come to the fore with tracks like ‘Deathgasm’ and ‘Murderer’s Collar.’ If the No Tag (NZ hardcore punk) ‘Mistaken Identity’ cover was an ode to the band’s punk roots on the last album, then The Nod (NZ heavy/thrash metal) cover of ‘Sniper’ fits in perfectly here to represent the band’s approach on the current album. Although the punk and strictly black metal roots of the band have been dialled down in favour of a wider heavy metal sound, these haven’t completely eroded away. Tracks like ‘Death Tinted Red’ and ‘Numbered Tomb’ feature a heavy dose of icy, blood-curdling Scandinavian black metal and the aforementioned ‘Deathgasm’ also features a healthy dose of punk-rock stomp. These influences, although reduced, turn up in other places, like the artwork.


In terms of the actual music itself, BulletBelt have shown a marked and more cohesive song-writing effort on this album in comparison to their previous work. It’s not as if the band has completely changed their sound, but rather has tinkered with it to get the songs to be at their tightest. Razor-sharp guitar riffs from Ross and Ryan not only bring the icy cold wrath accustomed to black metal’s overall sound but also add catchy hooks that get stuck in your head for days. This accompanied by Steve’s well timed cymbal work and chop blasts really add more punch to the already catchy guitar licks. Songs like ‘Tarawera (Burnt Spear)’ and the aforementioned ‘Numbered Tomb’ feature these techniques heavily. For me the real star of the album is Tim on bass; he really shows that just because you’re playing bass, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to just follow what the guitars are doing. Tracks like ‘Minnie Dean´, ‘Murderer’s Collar,’ and 'Death Tinted Red' really showcase Tim’s prominent bass work, adding that something extra. That extra layer really makes the songs great pieces of music to listen to.

If I had any criticisms about the music side of things, it would be the lack of guitar solos. Don't get me wrong, The Nod cover features a mind-blowing guitar solo from the original guitarist (of The Nod) and ‘Deathgasm’ also features a great solo but I feel that this type of music calls for more solos. In saying that however, these songs do have extremely catchy leads in place of solos like in 'Tarawera (Burnt Spear)' so it is an altogether minor quibble. Perhaps on their next album, at the song-writing stage they could find parts where a solo (or three) could be slotted in. 

Regarding the vocals, I was saddened to hear that Fergus (vocalist on Writhe and Ascend EP through to Down in the Cold of the Grave) had left and was curious to hear his replacement. Those that are familiar with Fergus' ear-splitting vocals will know it would be a hard task to match that impenetrable scream. Has Jolene effectively replaced Fergus? For me, the answer is yes and no. I have been a fan of Fergus’ ironclad vocals from the minute I heard them. However, there was not much dynamism or range to them – the only quality it lacked. Jolene’s vocals make up for this deficiency by adding flair, going into low snarls, attacking mid-range and screeching highs. The only issue is that they’re not quite as powerful as Fergus’. Then again, Fergus was a freak of nature.

Jolene's voice however, adds a venomous, acidic bite to the songs on the album rather than a skull-crushing tone like Fergus’ voice would. Instead of having your skull smashed apart with a sledgehammer you have the (more painful) acid flung in your face, slowly corroding through your skin, melting the bone until nothing remains but a smouldering pus-sack of flesh. It is hard to imagine how the album would have sounded if Fergus had remained. In any case, Jolene does a damn fine job of stamping her own mark onto BulletBelt’s carefully crafted and honed sound.

Another nice addition was the inclusion of guest vocalist Rigel Walshe, of Dawn of Azazel fame, on the track 'Numbered Tomb'. At first I wasn't sure if his vocals worked here as I'm not a fan of Shining (SWE) or Silencer and the guest vocal lines were definitely in this vein (they are interesting to hear at the very least if you're familiar with Dawn of Azazel’s usual vocal style). It has since grown on me and has become one of my favourite parts on the album. Furthermore, the inclusion of more backing vocals/gang vocals on the album, especially on the track 'Deathgasm,' was a welcome addition and one that was lacking in previous albums. I hope that these trends continue in their future material.

On the lyrical side of things, Rise of the Banshee could almost be considered a concept album of sorts. The album features a lot of lyrics focused on the dark, seedy underbelly in New Zealand’s culture/history. For those who don’t know, ‘Minnie Dean’ is about the child-killing woman of the same name who was the only woman to be given the death penalty in this country. ‘Tarawera (Burnt Spear)’ is about the volcanic eruption which claimed many lives and destroyed a cultural landmark, ‘The Pink and White Terraces,’ in 1886. ‘Deathgasm’ is the title song for an upcoming NZ horror/comedy film and so, I assume, the lyrics are based around the movie and its concepts. The other lyrics are more subtle in their meaning but still convey the inner dark nature of mankind. 

BulletBelt have decided not to use Nick Keller’s highly stylised art like in Down in the Cold of the Grave but instead have used the almost cartoonish art style from Scarecrowoven, who also did Steve’s heavy/power metal’s band Red Dawn’s latest EP ‘Ironhead.’ The result is a mixture of classic Mercyful Fate/King Diamond mixed with early AFI (back when if you were into hardcore, it was cool to like AFI) art. The result is analogous to their roots from punk through to heavy metal/first wave black metal and perfectly encompasses the album’s musical outlook and approach. 

The band recorded at STL where they have previously before, but this time they recorded and mixed on a vintage SSL 4000G board - the board itself coming from Peter Gabriel's 'Real World Studios' and has been used for bands like: King Crimson, The Cars, Robert Plant, etc. The result was then mastered overseas at 'The Boiler Room', Chicago. That alone should speak for itself. If not, this album has an excellent clarity to it where everything sounds perfectly balanced. My only comment would be if the guitars were a bit rougher sounding in tone. But what do I know, I’m just a filthy vocalist. 

In summary, this is an excellent album and the band should be proud of the amount of hard work and effort that has been put into making a great album filled with excellent musicianship. They’ve made an album that from the artwork through to the lyrics captured the intended approach and outlook of the band. They have once again set the bar high for themselves and for the NZMetal community and I am eager to see how they will overcome it with their future work.

For fans of the band already, you will love to hear the development and cohesiveness that the band has honed in on for this album. If you're new to the band, then it is a hell of an introduction that you're in for! Don't let Rise of the Black Banshee pass you by this year and get the album immediately. You will not be disappointed.

For fans of: Venom, Midnight, Nifelheim and first wave black metal/thrash metal.

Favourite track(s): Sniper (The Nod cover), Deathgasm

Rating: 9.8/10

To listen to and purchase 'Rise of the Banshee' explore the panel below

Friday, October 10, 2014

BulletBelt Interview

BulletBelt, from Wellington NZ, have been kicking about in different forms since 2009, playing their own unique brand of Black Heavy Metal.  They have just released their second album 'Rise of the Banshee'. Let drummer Steve Francis tell the rest...

1) Could you please give a rundown of why you started BulletBelt and what the driving force behind it is? Why should people check you out?

Bulletbelt started as a 'bedroom' project between Ross and I. Initially there were never any thoughts of even playing live. Just keeping it as a 2 person project and work on it with no stress at our own pace. The first first few months were very much like this. The early material being 2nd wave BM influenced. But over time this beast we created gradually took on a life of it's own and is now very much it's own entity. We've had members come and go but Ross and I are the constants. Hopefully with the line up we have in 2014, Jolene, Ryan, Tim, Ross and I we have the 5 people to keep moving the band forward. We feel that we are blazing our own path and not being swayed by scene or "kvlt". 

2) Before we start talking about BulletBelt as such, Lets talk a bit more your own history in New Zealand Metal? Give us a rundown of where you came from. Ross, Ryan and Jolene also have interesting and different back grounds in the same scene. Tell us about those. I Remember Ross writing to me back in the early 90s when I was in my first band ‘Convulsion’.

Like most people I became 'infected' with metal through having older brothers who had a decent record collection of punk and early metal/rock. Once I heard Eddie Van Halen play eruption on Van Halen 1 it was game over on my pop tape collection. So you get heavier Van Halen - Twisted Sister - WASP - Megadeth - Slayer - Napalm Death. So in college it was time to start a band.. None of us could really play. Karnage was born. We played about a dozen gigs between 90-93 ending with supporting Carcass in Wellington. Incidentally they came up to our flat before and after drinking and their touring Guitarist Mike Hickey (who played on Venom calm before the storm) ending up 'scoring' Totmans girlfriend that night. Around the end of Karnage Sam and myself met up with Lindsay Dawson and formed Demoniac. Hidee Beast came a little later. I played on the 93 Rehersal demo. I left after that and didn't really play a lot again until 2009! Must have been a mid life Crisis. Although I didn't play in bands during that period I still was every much a metal fanatic consuming as many albums as I could get my hands on.

Ryan is obviously a scene stalwart having played in Backyard Burial for many years plus he played in Monsterworks and Bile Suction. Jolene played in Zirconium, Pariah and Majera. Ross also plays drums in local perverts Pervertor and Tim plays in Intergracia

So yeh, too old too cold!

Demoniac - early line up. Steve is on the right holding the up side down sheep
3) You’re in the process of recording a new album. Tell us everything!

The recording is in the bag. Rise of the Banshee is released October 1st, the same day we open for Sepultura! We feel that we've spread our wings a lot on this one. There's some different things going on for sure. The battle cry from day one had been NZBM, but this time around probably NZHM would be a better description. Influences from BM to Motörhead to DM to Thrash. So more diverse, but certainly feels like Bulletbelt. Another big difference this time around is the tunes haven't been road tested. So it's been interesting hearing them really come to life in the studio. Jolene has fucking nailed it too. Obviously practicing the tunes in the rehearsal room at volume it's hard to really pick up on the vocals, so we were going into the studio a bit blind. We know she sounds great but didn't know how it would equate to the studio. Her vocals are going to blow people away. We have made a really strong album, a big step forward for us and I can't wait for people to hear it! The concept of the album was to base it around NZ's dark past. We like to promote ourselves to the rest of the world as this safe, clean green paradise but some evil shit has happened in Aeoteroa. I don't want to give too much away yet but some of the subject matter is Minnie Dean who was only woman hung in NZ. One tune is about the gallows that used to be on the Terrace in Wellington and there's a song about Mount Tarawera erupting and fucking everything up. And like the first album we cover an old NZ song Bulletbelt style. We've revved up 'Sniper' from New Plymouth's The NOD

4) Speaking of Jolene, not so long ago she joined the band after Fergus exited. What happened there with Fergus, and how did you come to pick Jolene to replace him? 

As you know yourself Chris from being in bands for a long time sometimes people just decide their time is up. There was no bad dealings or drama at all, Ferg just let us know he was opting out. We respected his decision and although we were bummed to see him go it was exciting to launch a new

chapter for Bulletbelt. Ferg was never really a 'metal guy'. He would be the first to tell you that. He's now in a 'noise' band and still creating and still a great friend of ours.

Jolene actually did some backing vocals on the first album and told me at the time that if Ferg ever leaves to hit her up which i did! She came and tried out and within a couple of practices we knew she was it. It was a baptism of fire for her as we had a whole bunch of gigs lined up. Ferg had actually offered to do them before he left but we figured once you're gone your'e gone. So we threw her in head first. She played our vinyl release gig after about 3 practices then played with Primate the next week, She did a great job, mainly trying to remember the lyrics! I think it's a relief for her now that we are moving onto new material and it's her lyrics.

5) Lets talk about your current/previous album ‘Down In The Cold Of The Grave’. How do you view that now that you have new material recorded? In your view how was the album received? You self released both vinyl, cassette and CD versions through your own label. How did you find doing that in this post download pirate world? 

I'm really proud of it. We recorded it 2 years ago and some of those tunes are 3 years old. It's a perfect representation of where we were in 2012. The

album was received really well. The only thing I would change is how widely we promoted it. We certainly could've done a lot more. But that's how you learn. Everything we've learnt since our inception in 2009 will be used to push the new album hard. We have a
plan of attack in place to really get it out there. 

Yes we self released on Headless Horseman, Trading and selling to other labels/distros has been the key to getting it out there. The negative of doing it yourself is $ and the positive is total control over everything. In this day and age it's hard work doing tape/CD/Vinyl releases but WELL WORTH the hassle. Ross and I are old school collectors and know the feelings of holding an awesome metal album in your hands and looking at the art work, reading the credits, lyrics and being taking away to that special place that great metal albums can do to you. There is no better sound than the crackle of
vinyl. I know i'm in a minority these days but downloading just doesn't compare. We always have been in this for the long haul so we know that it takes time to sell a batch of CD's or vinyl. 

6) Continuing on with ‘Down In The Cold Of The Grave’. On that Album you had the cover art and logo done by the incredibly talented Nick Keller. What are you looking to do with the visual presentation of the new album?

I was really keen for this one to have a classic heavy metal feel like those great covers from the 80's.. The great old days of walking into a music store and buying a record unheard because of the cover art. Scarecrowoven is doing the art. I stumbled across him in Thrasher magazine and was blown away by his stuff. I contacted him to do my other band Red Dawn's cover art and he nailed it. This time around around I showed him King Diamond Abigail cover as a reference point. He's really captured the vibe and it represents the feel of the album perfectly.

Click the image to purchase and listen to 'Down in the cold of the grave' 

7) You were recently interviewed for Radio New Zealand’s 2 part ‘South of Heaven: A History of New Zealand Extreme Metal’ documentary. Tell us why you think that is important to the people reading this.

NZ metal has a great history and it's awesome that Craig Hayes has documented it. A lot of those bands broke up 20 years ago so it's important that they are remembered. I was a bit player back in the day, but attended many shows as a punter so was happy to be interviewed and give my perspective on what went down. Now
we just need someone to do an awesome vinyl compilation on THONZEM!

Click HERE listen to 'South of Heaven: A History of New Zealand Extreme Metal' as well as complete unedited interviews.

8) You’ve been pretty prolific in your touring around New Zealand. What benefits has this brought to BulletBelt? I understand you’re going to be playing off shore soon? 

Yes we are a busy band and like touring and getting our music out to as many people as possible. If anything it has made us a much better live band. We also like the idea of taking the music to the smaller towns around NZ. As a teenager getting into metal I can still recall the magic of the first gigs I attended. We hope to go to these places hopefully inspire someone to start there own band. 3 shows in Aussie this time around. Getting across the ditch is easy to do but also exciting to play new ground. Brisbane, Melbourne then playing the Bendigoat festival in Bendigo. We have plans to travel further abroad in the future.

9) What is ‘Headless Horseman’? What can we expect from it in the near future?

Headless Horseman is the label and distro that Ross and I formed to get our music out and help fund what we do. Ross handles the distro and I lead the touring side of things. We have brought Impiety/Goatwhore (with Chaos), Midnight, Primate and Krisiun next month to NZ. We both work together on the album releases which have so far been Bulletbelt, Red
Dawn and Pervertor. "The futures uncertain and the end is always near".

Check out the 'Headless Horseman' facebook page HERE

10) Who the fuck are 'The Skull'? Why? What the fuck are they doing?

Haha The Skull are 4 ugly fuckers who have made Chinese Democracy part 2, except it's a 12 minute gang beating rather than a wankfest. And it's hopefully coming your way soon!

11) Cheers for answering this interview Steve! Now is the bit where you get to wrap things up and plug any products or shows you would like readers to be aware of. 

Thanks for the interview Chris. Go and get our album Rise of the Banshee now. You can buy it off the Bulletbelt Bandcamp, at a record store near you or on iTunes. Cheers!

Click the image to purchase and listen to 'Rise of the Banshee' 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Review: Domains - Sinister Ceremonies

Another fine review from Mr. Mark Brooks...

Review: Domains - Sinister Ceremonies (The Sinister Flame)

It's unusual for me to write about any bands that aren't from New Zealand in an 'official' capacity but this band gave me an email and when they said they were from Spain, it piqued my interest. A country which has an enduring legacy around the world (using an example from my Filipeno ancestry where the Philippines was named after King Phillip II of Spain and I myself, retain some Spanish 'blood' especially with my mother's maiden name being 'Roxas' and all), yet their metal scene is practically unknown with only a handful of known bands (the gore-splattered Avulsed, the excellent but Swedish sounding Graveyard, the bestial Teitanblood and Blasphemy clones Proclamation being the only ones that seemed to have made some leeway globally). When I finally heard the CD though none of this mattered, I knew that I had to review this.

To start with, Domains are a relatively new death metal band. According to their Metal-archives, they've been around since 2005 but have just released their full-length 'Sinister Ceremonies' earlier this year. I for one, am glad that they didn't rush recording if this is the result.

I'll start with the music itself. Although this is a death metal record, it does borrow a lot of elements from black metal. This serves as an undercurrent to the 'brutal' (and I mean that as an adjective, not as a genre) death metal riffs and gives the riffs an edge of dark melody. This builds up the atmosphere to the songs that gives off a chilly, obscure and all together 'evil' sound to them (for instance check out the track 'Mastery' and those ending riffs, feel like you are sinking slowly into the pits of Hell). I know that it was seen 'in vogue' to bring evil atmosphere into a death metal record by either ripping off Incantation or doing the 'bestial' thing (much like their compatriots Teitanblood). You will find this isn't the case with Domains. This is a 'fresh' outlook on how to add atmosphere into your music and although it isn't completely reinventing the wheel or shattering conventions; it nevertheless feels like a breath of fresh air within the mortuary of extreme metal.

The band focuses on more tight mid-paced passages in their music, rather than complete doom, with some occasions that lead into fast parts, reminding me of Immolation. As expected from that statement, you get your blastbeats but these are used to accentuate the carefully honed song structure. The transitions between fast and mid-paced aren't 'unnatural' but flow smoothly, like destructive lava oozing from Earth's mantle. I mentioned earlier that the band uses black metal elements to accentuate their riffs but combining this with death metal riffage also brings about a level of melody and catchiness to the riffs; which the drums do well to also instil this in your mind by adding well-timed cymbal work, rolls and catchy beats to these riffs. It is easy to start humming the tune to 'Raped by Darkness', 'Eucharist of Relevance' or 'Crowned at Dusk' something that they share elements with German death metallers Necros Christos yet far less doomier.

Another thing they share with the aforementioned band is the lyrical themes and general philosophical outlook of the band. This isn't Occultism for Occultism's sake, but something that comes from a deep seated belief in the dark arts. The lyrics are well-written and well conceived. They aren't overly complex but not simple either, they are dark but not coming across as cheesy or non-genuine. You will have to buy the CD to read the lyrics since they don't seem to be up online (at least yet) but I feel as if they are an integral part to this band's vision and are ones that are just as well crafted and thought-out as their music.

The production is a little murky and dense but again this adds to the atmosphere of the album, rather than detract from it. The drums sound fantastic here with great reverb on the snare to really accentuate the atmospheric guitar riffs. The guitar riffs and bass sit well in the mix, neither clouding each other. Likewise, I like where the vocals sit - above the music and they did well with his voice to give it enough reverb without losing its bite. There may be some complaints that the guitar levels could be more 'bright' but I think that would be a foolish thought considering the obvious intentions of this album. It is meant to sound a little obscure, a little gives the album an ambience that it has been recorded in a crypt rather than at a studio. 

Lastly, I will speak about the artwork and general layout of the CD. The artwork is killer in my mind, but then again I'm a sucker for the old school death metal art of old. It reminds me of the Finnish death legends like Demigod or early Sentenced. It works well to invoke in the listener's mind what the music is all about and the band's vision through their music. The inner layout is simple, curiously without a single band photo, but this aids to visual clarity rather than looking at a dense piece of work. 

Finally, there is not much I can fault this album on although as mentioned earlier - this debut album isn't likely to shatter conventions or reinvent the wheel. In saying that it is a very solid album which deserves to be on many 'top albums of the year' lists. I especially look forward to seeing what they come up with next and if it is even possible to top such a strong album. It'll be interesting to see what the next trend in death metal will be; we've had the Incantation death-doom trend and we've had countless Suffocation imitators, I sense the next trend will be a bunch of Immolation clones. Don't, under any circumstances, count Domains as one of them - their music is done with far more genuine purpose than those that will surely follow. If you're a fan of Immolation, Ascension, Necros Christos, Sonne Adam, Mortuary Drape or other dark, evil death/black metal bands (the way it should be really) then do not hesitate in picking this album up immediately. It will not disappoint. 

Standout track(s): Crowned at Dusk is a particular favorite but really this whole album is stellar.

Rating: 4.8/5

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Review: Invertia - Another Scheme of the Wicked (Ohm Resistance)

Invertia - Another Scheme of the Wicked (Ohm Resistance

Invertia label themselves as Industrial/Black Metal, from New England, USA. Although an accurate title, I don’t think that description does them justice. There’s more to them than a pigeonhole marketing tag. Let this review speak to that.
‘Another Scheme of the Wicked’ is a five song mini album, with each track remixed at the end, bringing it to full album length. The music contained within could be described as bleak, angular shades of black and grey. Not unlike the creature on the cover art, which captures the feel of and almost describes the music of Invertia perfectly. 

This is particularly relevant in the opener 'The Sidewinder'. Which delves between moody discordant guitar strings, to black metal chaos and then industrial pulses. All laced together with misanthropic satanic voice samples.

Noticeable in the second track "Cross Eyed Christ" and again in the third "Void of Community", are angular, discordant rhythms that lock down with the programmed drums. In both of these songs, the main riffs smack you like a whip as it lashes out in time with the snare.

Track four "Hourglass Without Sand" starts out in a consistent tone to those previous, before being treated to a mid song interlude, which sounds like something off Beherit's "Drawing Down the Moon", performed after a nuclear apocalypse, in an abandoned power station.

The fifth and final non-remixed tune is "They're everywhere". It kicks in at an insane suffocating speed, before a vacuum briefly draws you up into the stratosphere only to drop you straight back into the blender to the manic chant of "jesus christ will set you free".

Now I’d like to throw in a thought. Whether Invertia choose to take it on board of course is up to them. Programmed drums/drum machines can do a whole raft things that a real drummer can't. By saying that I mean other that going inhumanly fast. There are is a limitless range of percussive sounds available that go way beyond that of a standard drum kit. I’d love for Invertia to embrace and explore that concept on their future recordings.

Now we get on to the remixes. First up is Justin Broadrick’s melodic ‘Jesu’ treatment of 'The Sidewinding'. A welcome oasis (the kind you find when lost in a desert, not the brit-pop band) like relief after the previous onslaught of harsh darkness. Justin really takes this somewhere else and turns it into his own song. He's done this and yet made it fit in comfortably with the rest of 'Another Scheme of the Wicked'. Good job!

This is followed by the ‘End.User’ remix of 'Chris Eyed Christ'. Opening with a fazed grinding bass sample, then layered with ominous floating keyboard and then Irregular off time percussion. Like the previous JKB remix, this takes the tune somewhere completely new. This track reminds me of the disjointed unorthodox feel of Mayhem’s ‘Ordo Ad Chao’.

The ‘TranZi3nT’ remix of 'Lack of Community' continues in a similar vein to the End.User mix, if not a tad less inspired. It does have some interesting hypnotic drone passages though.

The ‘Submerged’ remix feels less inspired, using predictable techno beats and sample loops from the song 'Hourglass Without Sand'. It would be my least favourite track on the album, but yet it still fits in consistently with everything around it.

Lastly, ‘R3TRD’ remix 'They're Everywhere' with pulsating rhythmic power-electronic style noise with bonus distortion on everything, accompanied by a slow simple hypnotic beat.

While all the remixes aren't perfect, they do display enough variety to make you feel as though you aren't listening to the original five songs over again. This of course serves the release well, as it sounds like a full album's worth of material.

Overall ‘Another Scheme of the Wicked’ is a fresh and rewarding listen. In my view, it explores new ground within the realms of extreme metal. If you enjoy metal that isn’t afraid to explore the territory of industrial electronics, this could be for you.