Mysterious Abyssal create more tension-filled, warped death on mind-crushing ‘Antikatastaseis’

Abyssal coverMystery and murk can take something already pretty scary and catapult that into the stratosphere. Having noise made by faceless voids and having little grasp of the insanity behind something can make the thing standing in front of you seem more ominous than it already is. Creating something like that is a gift not to be taken lightly.

UK death metal band Abyssal falls into all of that, as they don’t play live, don’t release promo photos, don’t seem to operate like a normal band. They released music basically for free for anyone who wanted to partake in their cavalcade of horrors, and their mission seemed to be to spread that blanket of darkness over as many people as possible. Luckily for the and the rest of the world, the band piqued the interest of Profound Lore Records, who gave a wider release to the band’s engorging second record “Novit Enim Dominus Qui Sunt Eius,” released in 2013, and are at the forefront of bringing their amazing third album “Antikatastaseis” to the masses. This is a record that will infect you in the best possible way. It has layers of darkness stacked on top of each other, it’s a collection of sounds that create a vortex of power, and it’s a record that, once the various elements make themselves known to you, you could find yourself indulging in over and over again. That’s certainly been my experience.

Abyssal has been the product of musician G.D.C., who has helmed this thing since its inception and from their mysterious debut “Denouement” up to now. Drummer T. Hakkinen has been brought in for session work, but that’s about all we know as far as how this group operates. Anyone who has followed Abyssal’s journey knows that this is a machine that’s been building and developing all along, and what you’ll hear on “Antikatastaseis” should stop you dead in your tracks. The day before I wrote this, I got stuck in a blinding rainstorm while driving, with the windshield wipers barely helping and with everything a strange light gray. I had this record playing in the car, and it struck me that I was locked in the perfect setting for absorbing this music. You can’t exactly recreate that experience, but it was a pretty awesome feeling finding a natural event that worked perfectly with the album.

The record opens with “I Am the Alpha and the Omega,” a track that lets the dark melodies slip into the room like smoke before the death hammers start to fall. The growls are buried under the chaos, with blurry, sooty playing marring your vision and ominous tones practically melting into themselves. The last bit is warped and aggressive, trudging hard until it fades suddenly. “The Cornucopia” has drums rumbling heavily and strange chants that should make your hairs stand. Once the song erupts in full, the growls feel infernal and bloody, with fiery playing causing great blazes, and later the assault feeling rather stinging. Melody cuts through the background later, as emotion is allowed to pour down, with the toll paid feeling like a great one. “Veil of Transcendence” is one of the longest cuts at 11:31, with guitars boiling and giving off steam, and delirious, slow-driving mashing letting you go insane over time. Later, a haze of keys arise and tumble for a while, as if you’re headed into the mouth of horror, and the mad thrashing that slips over top that puts an exclamation point at the end like a dagger. It’s my favorite track on this thing. “Telomeric Erosion” has a black metal-style opening, with the growls turning to gurgles and every element of sound creating a pocket of hypnosis. Vocals cascade down and blast at your skin, while the final notes of terror disappear into a noise cloud.

“A Casual Landscape” feels like a logical extension of the track before it, as sounds bustle and chants make another appearance. There is a strong sense of spaceiness, like you’re floating into the coldest, most isolated stretches of the galaxy. But there’s an explosion out of that, as you might imagine, with the music feeling like a total massacre, bodily and psychologically. The pace thrashes with filth, while gothic undertones emerge and bring even more bleakness to the scene. “Chrysalis” is cloudy and murky right away, with riffs swimming through the thick muck and black melodies drizzling and coating the ground. Halfway through the song, a long instrumental portion sets up shop and carries the cut to its final resting place, with the tones haunting and the playing feeling ambitious and proggy. The lengthy closer “Delere Auctorem Rerum Ut Universum Infinitum Noscas” has several minutes of haze at the front end, making it seem like it might be a nightmarish ambient track. But about halfway through, after sci-fi-rich synth thickens the humidity, a death march breaks out. The guitars char and hammer, while the vocals feel nasty and monstrous, and the song feels like the album’s true climax. Again, the melodies are wholly emotional, feeling like guts and hearts are being poured on the floor, and the final minute lets that tension build, finally giving way when it fades out into the cosmos.

Abyssal’s might and fury and not to be questioned, and the devastation worked into these seven cacophonous tracks will impact your body and spirit. This project keeps getting more and more inventive, and “Antikatastaseis” is the band’s best work to date. This is powerful, hellacious death metal that doesn’t follow a rule book or bow to a code, and it’s leave you in a mental fog. Abyssal’s music deserved to have more ears and minds tuned in, and this record should help them achieve that.

For more on the band, go here: http://abyssal-home.bandcamp.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Lucifer rises from The Oath’s ashes to create spellbinding, alluring debut ‘I’

Ester SegarraEvery year is full of garbage news that goes along with all the cool stuff that also happens in metal. But sometimes those lousy moments outweigh the really great ones, and that’s how I felt about occult rockers The Oath dissolving before they really got started last year.

The band’s self-titled debut and swan song was our No. 24 album on the 2014 best-of-the-year list, and it was a collection that was enrapturing right from the start. But the union of vocalist Johanna Sadonis and guitarist Linnea Olsson apparently was doomed from the start, and the announcement of their end was shocking. And sad. But Sadonis didn’t let that disappointment define her, and soon afterward, she announced her new band Lucifer, whose first record was one of my most anticipated releases of 2015. How could it not be? Sadonis’ vocals and words are alluring, haunting, and disarmingly evil, and the way her singing carries like a spooky fog make her one of the finest voices in the occult and doom field. We finally got to hear what Lucifer had in store when their 7-inch single “Anubis/Morning” star dropped in January (it was a particularly noteworthy find on one of my vinyl journeys this year), and it certainly whet my appetite for what would come next.

Lucifer coverWe now have what’s next in our hands with Lucifer’s debut record “I,” seemingly a purposely titled album that should signal this will not be their last. Sadonis, again, is a revelation on this album, showing different sides to her voice and once again commanding your attention. But she has one hell of a helping hand with Gaz Jennings, guitarist from the legendary Cathedral, as well as recently surfaced Death Penalty, and his work on these eight tracks pack a serious punch. Drinking deeply from ’70s and ’80s doom rock (there is a ton of Sabbath influence here), these tracks wrap Sadonis powerful voice with muscular riffs and shadowy darkness that this band hammers home with expertise. Along with Sadonis and Jennings in Lucifer are bassist Dino Gollnick and drummer Andrew Prestridge (Angel Witch and a former live member of The Oath), who hold down the bottom end and give these awesome cuts a nice deal of grit.

The album starts fittingly with “Abracadabra,” which rollicks to life with boisterous drums, a killer riff, and Sadonis’ fiery voice, where over the chorus she prompts, “Say the magic word.” Later the song shifts into classic metal territory, which makes for a pretty cool change, before rounding back. Damn catchy opener. “Purple Pyramid” makes me think back to metal bands I’d find on “Headbangers Ball” in the mid-1980s, especially with the guitar work. The vocals dig a little deeper on this one, with another strong, but somewhat understated chorus. The show of muscle later in the song is a nice touch, as it gets kind of blistering, but it all goes back to the front again, which helps tie the song together. “Izrael” is one of the tracks the band released as a single, and it has nice, textured leads, another masterful vocal performance, and promises such as, “Spread my wings to carry you, I will set you free.” The song has a fantastical feel, but also a moodier one, and it was a pretty good choice as a lead song to lure people into the album. “Sabbath,” well, it won’t be too hard to figure where this song took influence. The riffs are smudgy and doomy, the bells chiming add a sense of ghostly ambition, and the cut bleeds slowly as it should, with Sadonis vowing, “I will sacrifice myself to you.”

“White Mountain” also has a distinct Sabbath feel, with a touch of Dio for good measure, and Sadonis’ vocals work as a seduction tool, pulling you into the humidity so you can become prey. The melodies can be mesmerizing here, and toward the end of the song, the guitars catch fire and fill the final moments with smoke. “Morning Star” has a reflective quality to it, with slower verses and guitars that help create a vortex effect. The chorus punches up a little more, with Sadonis hailing the “unholy daughter of the night,” and the guitar work could burn the hair off your arms with its heat. “Total Eclipse” is a fun one, with the tempo pushing hard and the melodies stomping your guts in a slow-driving fashion. Like many of the other cuts on here, this one changes its face later, bringing more intensity and magic to the proceedings, all going out in a storm of ritual. Closer “A Grave for Each One of Us” begins clean and glimmery, almost as if it’ll be a doom ballad, Sadonis notes, “You live ’til you die,” around a mystical field of sounds. But later, the intensity picks up. The guitars start mauling and tearing at you, and the emotions caterwaul from there, as the sound reaches a crescendo, the music feels like it is preparing for the end of the world, and Sadonis declares her lack of fear over death, almost bringing it on as a challenge as the album closes.

Lucifer feels like a logical next step away from The Oath, as the spirit remains in place but the music goes into some darker corners. It’s great to hear Sadonis totally in control of her fate and unleashing a voice that could contend with anyone in metal. “I” is a great first step for this band, and hopefully this project keeps morphing further into the horrors well into the future. Pretty sure anything they do from this point automatically will catapult to the top of that respective year’s most anticipated list.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/luciferofficial

To buy the album, go here: http://www.riseaboverecords.com/shop/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.riseaboverecords.com/

Twilight Fauna back from foggy woods with rustic, dark sounds on new ‘Shadows of Ancestors’

Twilight FaunaSometimes I get about halfway through the week and I wonder in the morning how I’m going to pull it all together that day and get my work done. I always do, and generally once I’m on my feet, showered, and drowning in coffee, I’m ready to go and get done what’s in front of me. But yeah, I’ve got those days where I wake up completely unmotivated.

I’m not saying Ravenwood never feels that same way, but I’d have a hard time believing it. Ever since his one-man project Twilight Fauna surfaced four years ago, he’s been on a creative tear. His brand of lo-fi-washed, constantly morphing black metal always offers something new with each release, and over the course of five (five!) full-length efforts now, the music has found new and inventive ways to haunt and rivet his audience. The latest Twilight Fauna album “Shadows of Ancestors” goes into even stranger terrain but also brings plenty of Appalachian instrumentation into the scene, infusing his murky, cloudy black metal with a sense of foggy confusion that could have you grabbing at the walls for balance. It’s a disorienting collection of music, one that might not resonate immediately, but that’s not a bad thing at all. It’s an album you need to let sink in and that would behoove you exploring its every corner. Not everyone is going to find their way to the other side. Those who do will take a really interesting ride.

Twilight Fauna coverRavenwood (also of Green Elder), who handles all instrumentation and the buried-in-hell vocals, released his first album under this moniker in 2012 with “The Silence of a Blackening Abyss,” a record issued in limited numbers that was followed later that year by “The Grotesque Travesty of Creation.” Since then, Ravenwood has offered up a new Twilight Fauna release every year, with “Grief” following in 2013, and “Hymns of a Forgotten Homeland” arriving last year. Going back to the rustic, rootsy sounds Ravenwood brings to “Shadow” it’s not as if it’s a new twist for him. But that Appalachian element is even more pronounced this time around for the Johnson City, Tenn., musician as he adds dulcimer, tin whistle, and other elements into the mix. It creates a richer sound that can make it feel like you’re wandering through the woods, lost, with your ears clogged with water as you try to make out sounds.

“Helical Rising” gets things started with whistles calling out, followed by guitars charging and letting off steam. The growls are buried deep beneath everything, as they are throughout the album, and the track feels like a foggy, stormy excursion that leaves your head spinning. “Boring the Auger” opens with gentle acoustic strains, heading into a blurry electric wash and melodies ripe with emotion. The vocals crawl beneath the murk, sometimes sounding like hisses, as guitars ramp up toward the end, go wonderfully gazey, and disappear into the enveloping atmosphere. “Meadows Afire” fittingly opens with fires crackling, with an eerie calm setting in and the guitars boiling to life. The vocals slice through the bottom, with all elements spitting fire, the melodies feeling like they’re slipping through the ether, and later the body returning to rustic roots.

“Purging of Spring” is a well-timed song for listeners on this side of the world, as summer emerges, and the music here fits that scene very well. The tracks bursts open, with guitars chugging and a doomy glaze drizzling over the song. The track chars and churns, with acoustics later returning, with the whistles by their side and the colors continually get more color. The track rages back to life toward the end, acting like the final stamp of spring before sizzling hot sun starts to burn out foreheads. “Cave of Kelpius (Women of the Wild)” has an opening similar to a Primordial track (obviously a good thing) that has buzzing melodies and a trance-inducing assault that keeps the dream machine rolling. Growls are smeared on the underbelly, while up top, quiet moments arrive, bringing brief serenity, before another all-out charge. Each piece of the song begins to build to a crescendo, as loops of sound cause a hypnotic, enthralling finish. Closer “Coffin Nails & Apple Trees” is the longest cut at 10:01, and it takes its time setting the scene, with somber acoustics leading the way. Of course the song comes to life, with guitars stabbing and chopping, melodies spiraling into oblivion, and the song sinking into a fog, later ripping out of the other side. Riffs rain down hard, growls feel animalistic and pure, and the track comes to a cataclysmic boil that finally submits to quiet. The chirps of birds are the last thing you hear.

Ravenwood’s tireless work ethic and prolific output have helped Twilight Fauna grow at a pretty rapid pace. “Shadows of Ancestors” is proof of that artistic development, as this sometimes strange, often moving project keeps getting richer and more defined. It’ll never be everyone’s cup of tea, but those who do relish these sounds will find themselves immersed in a haunting place with rogue spirits showing you the way.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/twilightfauna

To buy the album, go here: https://twilightfauna.bandcamp.com/

Demon Lung unearth classic horror film to inspire death, possession on killer ‘A Dracula’

Demon LungHorror and evil are perfect settings for heavy metal. They all belong together—do they not?—and when they’re perfectly mixed, it can make for a thrilling record and a band you won’t soon forget. Horror cinema also plays a major part in this, as it has been celebrated the genre over, and a record that soon will find its way into your hands is the latest in a long line to be moved by film.

Demon Lung debuted in 2013 with their excellent first album “The Hundredth Name,” a collection of occult-inspired doom that was huge, laced with evil, and glorious. Now, the Las Vegas-based quartet return with their smoking sophomore platter “A Dracula,” a record inspired by and based on the 1978 Mexican cult film “Alucarda.” The film, thought to be based on an 1872 novella, follows two young girls living in a convent who go on to summon evil after meeting a band of gypsies and are possessed by Satanic forces looking to destroy the place with blood and fire. Taking a storyline such as that seems to be just ideal for a band such as Demon Lung, and they wring that story line for every drip of darkness on this eight-track record that is blisteringly fun but also richly mind-altering, like you’re being beaten alive as drugs paralyze your system.

Demon Lung coverOut front is vocalist Shanda Fredrick, who took the film’s plot points and devised the record’s story. Aside from her masterful interpretation of this evil tale are her powerful, intoxicating vocals. She could sing you into a trance without you even realizing it, and her vocals are some of the finest, most fitting in all of doom metal. Along with her in Demon Lung are guitarist Phillip Burns, bassist Patrick Warren, and drummer Jeremy Brenton. This unit, when combining all of their major forces, create a sound that could find favor among fans of Electric Wizard, Witchsorrow, Black Sabbath, and Windhand, and it’s clear they possess the musical imagination to keep creating tantalizing worlds like this record.

“Rursumque Alucarda” begins the journey, spreading acoustic strains and rather rustic sounds over this brief intro. It eventually swells and spills right into “Behold the Daughter,” a ripping, clobbering piece that breathes life into the title character and puts your brain in the proper headspace. The vocals swarm and bubble, with the music offering dense macabre and eventually a sludgy mid-section. The end of the song takes on a ritualistic feel, as Fredrick howls, “The end begins,” while the body of this thing trickles out. “I Am Haunted” has a thrashy stance, with Fredrick prompting, “Would you die for me?” as the riffs get massive and the tempo hits the mud. The song goes back and forth teasing all-out destruction before pulling back, and when Fredrick insists, “We will die together,” in the song’s closing sequences, the ball rolling downhill toward death is pushed. “Gypsy Curse” finds the two girls possessed, and the song crunches with Sabbath-style guitar work, mauling intensity, and muddy melodies that cake your face and leave you gasping for air. “Bow down before your god,” Fredrick taunts, as the track gives way to a cavalcade of noise.

“Deny the Savior” should be pretty clear from its title, and the track takes on an almost ceremonial feel at times. There is darkness and beauty to this one, with the vocals a near hush at points, and the riffs again are complete monsters. “You worship death, I worship life,” Fredrick poses, with the song dissolving into static and eventually closing its eyes. “Mark of Jubilee” has soulful, powerful vocals, with the band creating a haunting tapestry of doom. Underneath, there’s a near-Western noir thing going on, making it seem like a cool sunset in the desert, and the song’s slower, more mellow sections lure you right into its trap. Suddenly, everything erupts again, as filthy pounding takes over and leaves you bruised heavily. “Rursumque Adracula” rises up, another quick instrumental with acoustics, sunburnt guitars soaring, and the elements setting a bridge to the thunderous finale “Raped by the Serpent.” There, slow-driving, smothering melodies start smoking before the chugging arrives. In a way, it is the most straight-forward cut here, as the blanket of haze is pulled back, and the chaos eventually ices over, providing a chance to cool down. But it’s a temporary state as the track tears open anew, with drums blasting, guitars slaying, and Fredrick vowing, “Their hearts connect like fire,” as the band brings this tale to a cataclysmic, thrilling finish.

Demon Lung have done an admirable job with “A Dracula” to bring the film into more people’s awareness and to add their own, horrific stamp to the piece of work. This band is one of doom’s most exciting new bands, and they now have two excellent records to slay you. This band keeps getting better and more imaginative, and this new album not only scratches every damn doom itch but also has me wondering what buried, bloody classic they can conjure next. They don’t need some film to do that; their collective imagination surely will be enough to foot the bill.

For more on the band, go here: http://demonlungband.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.manicmusiconline.com/demon-lung-a-dracula

For more on the label, go here: http://candlelightrecordsusa.com/site/

Part 2 of a conversation with Tom G. Warrior: Celtic Frost’s dissolution, what’s in his future

Triptykon 1Tom G. Warrior’s place in metal lore is cemented, even if the adulation heaped upon him sometimes makes him uncomfortable. This is an incredibly humble man, who deflects any thoughts that what he touches these days turns to gold, and who shows an amazing amount of vulnerability. This is a human being, after all, and that fact has not been lost on him. He may be a world-famous musician, but he’s not a rock star. He rejects that notion. Perhaps that’s what keeps him a tireless worker, the man who helped pioneer black metal with Hellhammer and Celtic Frost and keeps the fires burning with Triptyon. Here, on this second installment of the conversation I had with Warrior the day after Triptykon played Maryland Deathfest, he opens up about the dissolution of Celtic Frost, what kind of relationship he has with the members of that band, and how he feels about his own future. Once again, many thanks to the folks at Century Media for arranging the interview, my incredible wife Christina for transcribing this, and for Warrior himself for his honesty and amazing contributions to the world of metal. Long may he run.

Meat Mead Metal: You mentioned that there is conceptually a third (Triptykon) album?

Tom G. Warrior: Conceptually, there are many more albums. Writing a good album is infinitely difficult. Many times, I’m fortunate enough that people bestow titles upon me that are huge in their meaning. I personally don’t think that I deserve all of this. People think I have some sort of secret recipe, but I don’t. I’m a human being, and it’s a struggle. A good album is a struggle. A good album is difficult to create, otherwise everybody all the time would create good albums. Me, too. I’ve created terrible albums. But it’s difficult, very, very difficult to create a good album. I am fortunate enough, in my humble opinion, to have had three albums that are very strong. The last Celtic Frost and the first two Triptykon albums. I have no idea if I can replicate that. It’s a challenge, it’s a daunting challenge. I will do, of course, my best. But who am I to say whether the next album’s going to be strong? I don’t know.

MMM: Do you feel that whole idea that people do bestow these titles and these ways of thinking about you and your art, does that make you work harder to prove that you deserve these things that people say about you?

TGW: No, and I don’t mean that arrogantly. I say no, because I make myself work really hard. I don’t think it’s possible to apply a more critical person to me than myself. I’ve created at least one disastrous album at the end the 1980s, and it has changed my entire outlook on everything. I’ve become a far more self-critical musician, a far more detailed producer, a far more merciless producer. I’ve vowed to myself that I’m never going to release an album of such truly terrible quality again. When I go to the studio nowadays, of course I want to release a good album, a strong album, which is also the reason why the last album was difficult for me. I felt the album was strong, but I felt it could be much stronger, much, much stronger. I have certain quality standards that I apply rigorously. No, I don’t like to work under pressure. The only pressure upon me is my own. I think the rest of the band also wants to achieve that kind of quality.

I know what Triptykon needs to sound like, and so do the others, and I’m very fortunate that our guitar player’s (V. Santura) a very accomplished co-producer and engineer, and we work fantastically together. Sometimes in studio, we hear something, we look at each other, and we don’t even have to communicate, we know exactly what it needs. We are intellectually aware that there’s a certain expectation, a certain pressure, but in all honesty, it doesn’t impact us because that pressure existed within ourselves to begin with. You have a certain responsibility. People pay for your work, and the more time progresses, the more difficult it seems to be for everybody, including musicians, to earn that money. I want to have a good album when I buy an album by another band. If I spend my money, I want to have a good album. Our audience has a right to get some value for their money, when it comes down to it. It being art and everything, but at the end of the day, they’re spending money on it. They’re spending their hard-earned money to come to concerts, and they deserve something good. So, yes, of course you want to apply quality to it.

MMM: You have been in the metal scene for three decades, now. How do you view the state of metal right now? Are there any young bands that excite you?

TGW: There are a few young bands, yeah. I hardly listen to metal, personally. I’ve been a musician for 33 years, and I’ve been listening to hard rock, and later metal, since 1973. If I listened to this music constantly, I’d be utterly burned out. I have a very wide horizon. I listen to all kinds of music. I’m trying to do that to remain a little fresh, and not to be turned off by an overload. More than ever in the history of metal there’s a saturation.

MMM: As a writer, trust me, it’s tough to keep up!

TGW: I don’t know how you do it now, there’s so many releases. Even with the best intentions, it’s impossible. There’s the occasional band like the Wounded Kings, and stuff like that that excites me, or Portal from Australia. But these are accidental finds. Maybe I sound old when I say that, but I tend to listen to hard music, heavy rock from the 70s or from the first half of the 1980s when metal underwent an extremely exciting phase, a revolutionary phase. I listen to a lot of New Wave from the late 70s, early 80s, because that, too, was an extremely creative phase. I am still discovering new stuff from that era. Even then, there were so many bands that it was impossible to digest it all. I listen to a lot of jazz, a lot of classical music, stuff like that.

MMM: Oh, well, with Celtic Frost during the 80s, you definitely are able to hear a bit of New Wave.

TGW: It was a major influence.

Photo by Tess Donohoe

Photo by Tess Donohoe

MMM: Going to Celtic Frost quickly, do you still have relationships with Martin (Eric Ain) and the other people in the band? Where does that stand? I’m not sure how comfortable you feel talking about that.

TGW: I feel very comfortable. You can ask me anything. Yeah, I see Martin occasionally. The last time I saw him was in March. He was part of a podium discussion on a book about art and music, and I was in the audience, and we met and we talked. We get along; we’ve known each other since 1981. It’s a cordial relationship. Martin does his best to avoid any difficult topics, of which there are, of course, many, given the nature of the second breakup of Celtic Frost. But I don’t blame him. I don’t want to argue anymore. We argued enough in Celtic Frost. That was sparked mostly by a third party. But it has impacted our friendship. And there were certain things that I was disappointed about with him, because he could’ve prevented a lot of things from happening and he didn’t, because he was very much burnt out by everything that was going on. As it is, Celtic Frost was the past, and it’s never going to exist again, so what good would it do if we would fight now? It’s the past. And nothing can rectify what happened. I’ve left the company we had formed behind Celtic Frost for all the business affairs. I’ve left that. I’ve left all of my shares to him to be able to leave. He controls the entire Celtic Frost empire. I have nothing to do with that anymore. That sounds odd, but this is why I can step up to him and talk to him like a normal human being, because I’m not tied to this bullshit anymore.

There were so many disagreements on the business side. I felt betrayed. I know it’s a hard word, but that’s how I felt. Because he and a third party made a lot of decisions I wasn’t happy with. Since we were three people, if two people sided with each other… I was very unhappy with the situation, so I left it all, which made it possible for me to have a future with Triptyon and to be happy and to create music again, and to actually focus on art rather on human issues. This is why Martin and I can meet occasionally and have a good talk about old times and music and this and that. I’m happy about that. Same goes for old members of Celtic Frost from the 80s and stuff. We have very good relationships. The only person I have no interest in seeing is, of course, the last drummer of Celtic Frost who caused all of this. If I am allowed to sound arrogant for a second, he’s irrelevant, anyway. So, there you go.

MMM: Do you ever see any creative situation where you and Martin can work together again?

TGW: No. When I left Celtic Frost for the final time, Martin and I had dinner about 1 or 2 weeks after I left Celtic Frost, and he said, “You and I are going to create music again.” And I told him, “No, Martin, this time it’s different. This time, there’s so much damage. I don’t think that’s ever going to happen again.” And he said, “Ehh, you’ll see.” But it hasn’t really changed. I’ve invested so much time and also my personal money in bringing Celtic Frost back. We’ve worked 5 1/2 years on the comeback album (“Monotheist”). I invested so much effort and finances in that and everything else. And only to have it all turn on me, I’m not going to go through that again. If Celtic Frost were to record a new album now, the expectations would be huge. Of course, we would want to live up to that. We wouldn’t know what kind of album we would have to produce. It would be an immense amount of work to live up to these expectations, our own expectations, the back catalog. That would take so much work, I don’t want to do that and face the danger of having it all implode on me yet again. The big star trips and rock star behavior and egotism. No, no, no, no. I don’t that. Triptykon operates on a completely different level. It’s almost hippie-like. We’re all like, it’s a family. Sometimes we have minute arguments that evaporate after a day. It’s ridiculous compared to Celtic Frost. We work together and we have fun playing. We don’t act to be a band on stage. We are actually a band. Why would I want to trade this? Yes, of course, one could say there’s more success attached to Celtic Frost. But there’s also much more hassle attached. If I weighed the two against each other, the choice is clear.

MMM: It’s one of those things where even if there was more money attached to that, money’s not happiness.

TGW: I’ve been offered so much money for Celtic Frost reunions, even most recently, and also for Hellhammer reunions. And maybe I’m stupid because I have my bills to pay, and it’s become very difficult to make some money in music nowadays. But no, I’m not creating my fucking music for money. That would be sinking to the lowest level. Suggesting to my audience, yeah, I’m here because I’m enthusiastic, and in reality, being here for a check. I know of bands that do that. Bands have told me personally that they do it for that reason. I formed Hellhammer at the tail end of the punk wave, and there was a completely different attitude prevalent at the time, and I still function according to that. I’m not creating music for capitalist reasons. I’m creating music because it screams out of me.

MMM: Maybe that is one of those reasons that people do put titles on you and give you the adulation they do, because you are coming from an honest standpoint. You’re coming to it from an artistic standpoint, and not a “you want the money” standpoint. And I think maybe people can see that. Do you think maybe that could be?

TGW: To me, it’s personal. I don’t even think so far about it. I analyze it in interviews such as yours, but I personally just create music because it’s inside of me. I wanted to become a musician because I felt that whenever I listened to albums in 70s and early 80s, it started burning inside of me. I had this inescapable feeling that I wanted to do this, too. That’s really the end of it. That’s why I became a musician, or I was hoping at the time to become a musician. Of course, I never thought it would actually work. I was very humbled. I didn’t think I would ever get the chance.

MMM: And especially to be here 30 years later…

TGW: It blows my mind. It’s now 33 years since I first formed Hellhammer. In May 82, it’s exactly 33 years.

MMM: The future of Triptykon, where do you see, if you can see it from this point? What do you hope for, what do you see?

TGW:  This might disappoint you. I have no plans whatsoever.

MMM: Are you working on new music?

TGW: Yes, of course. We are an existing band. We are a working band. I have no ambitions and no plans anymore. I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do. I don’t want this to be perceived negatively; actually I’m fortunate to be able to say that. As I just told you in the last question, I was this tiny little kid, a complete outcast. I mean, you can’t be a more clichéd outcast than I was, in this little farm village where I grew up. I was an outcast and later I formed the band, and my band was ridiculed. Magazines ripped our EP apart, Hellhammer. And then with Celtic Frost, “Those are the guys from Hellhammer who can’t play,” and this and that. We had very difficult beginnings. The success and the cult following only started in the 1990s. So, I’m very fortunate to have done this well, and it’s gone much, much further than I ever expected when I was a little kid, a hard rock fan, and later, a little musician in a mildewy, stinky bunker that everybody laughed at. I’ve toured the world a million times. I’ve played in Japan, I’ve released two books, I’ve met all the musicians I wanted to meet, I created albums. It would preposterous to say I wanted to do more, more, more. I hate this capitalist attitude. It’s not sustainable. It’s completely counter to nature and human nature and everything. I refuse to be a part of that. My mind doesn’t work like that. I’ve been extremely fortunate to be granted all of this, given my beginnings and the background I had my in my youth. Now, I’m just playing music for my enjoyment. I’ll work on a new album, and if I’m actually managing to pull off a good album, yes, it will be released. If not, I will be honest and say, well, I can’t do it. I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do, and everything now is basically dessert. I have no plans or ambitions whatsoever. Which feels very good. It feels very good. I have no pressure whatsoever.

MMM: Tom, this is my last question, and it’s sort of a summary question considering all we’ve talked about: How are you now?

TGW: That’s a very complex question. It’s a struggle. I’m trying to keep this simple and not keep you here for another half hour. It’s a struggle, what can I say? I’m very disenfranchised by the direction of the world, basically the human behavior on this planet, both in the big picture and the small picture. The way we treat each other, the way we treat the environment, the way we treat our fellow living beings on this planet, I don’t agree with that at all. I’ve had personally in my private life very difficult years in the past, and only due to one or two people in my life was I able to find the strength to actually say, “Alright, I’ll stick around.” But having said that, it’s not easy to stick around, because I’m not very good at burying my head in the sand. I tend to think I’m very informed of what’s going on in the world, I read, and I watch, and it doesn’t seem to get better. When I was a young teenager in the 1970s, there was a prevalent mood of advancement, of enlightenment. And me and my best friend at the time we both thought, the world is heading into a very enlightened era, where modernity and knowledge persists, and compassion. As it happens, we are now delving back into medieval times. Weapons, and war, and animal abuse, and mass killings of human beings and animals, and destruction of the environment, they’re all rampant. That doesn’t really add to make me stronger in my private life. It makes me very disenfranchised and sad. What can I say? It’s a struggle.

For more on Triptykon, go here: http://www.triptykon.net/

For more on the label, go here: http://centurymedia.com/

The Exploding Eyes Orchestra craft shadowy, dramatic debut record ‘I’ that haunts the soul

Photo by  Jarkko Pietarinen

Photo by Jarkko Pietarinen

Over the past few years, Jess and the Ancient Ones have become a revelation in the world of metal and extreme music. Their haunting occult-based sound is infectious and enrapturing, and their powerful singer has pipes that can put the world to shame. Seeing them open for King Diamond last year was a highlight, and their music is some that I revisit with great regularity.

But apparently the members of the band, primarily guitarist/songwriter Thomas Corpse, have plenty of other material brewing that wasn’t quite right for the JATAO setting. Corpse felt strongly about the material and seeing it move forward, thus the Exploding Eyes Orchestra was born. This group contains five of JATAO’s seven members, and definitely does go down far different avenues than their main band. But damn right these songs are worthy and should be out there for consumption, and their debut record “I” certainly sets itself apart from what the band accomplished with their main vehicle. In fact, I have just as much fun listening to these songs as I do the Jess material, and it’s a pretty neat thing hearing this band divide their talents into two pretty different personas.

Exploding Eyes coverObviously we noted Corpse, the main driver behind the Exploding Eyes Orchestra. Joining him are four others members of the Jess band including powerful vocalist Jess, who shows a completely new shadow of her persona here. Not terribly certain which of the other three Jess members appear here (their profile has been kept relatively shadowy), but they do a damn fine job bringing out new sounds. There is a lot of soul to these songs, as well as a deep serving of blues. The tracks have a great amount of attitude, they sound fantastic, and while they might not necessarily be tried-and-true metal, this music certainly can trickle over and find much favor within that audience. The other bit of good news if you’re into this collection is that they have a second full album of material ready to go for next spring.

The record gets off to a great start with “The Smoke,” a psyhedelia-filled track that has Jess commanding over the verses, with a spoken section complementing her work. “Did you hear the news? They say someone’s going to die tonight,” she wails, as the band backs her with ample swagger and fire. “Crazy Heart” is an early show stopper, a moody, dark ballad that can rob you of your control. The guitar work here is heavily textured and rich, with some brass bleeding in later, giving the track a bit of a ’70s feel. The song is swelling and emotional, and the vocals are just powerful. “My Father the Wolf” gets sinister, with keys emerging and the whole thing taking on a Deep Purple feel. The song is catchy as well, with one hell of a great chorus, and the back end of this thing really starts to gain steam and gives the track a sweltering conclusion. “Drawing Down the West” also is slower and more somber, with Jess belting out her words, vowing, “I will return.” The intensity kicks up later, with warm guitars lathering and the singing taking on a new level of intensity.

“Two-Zero 13” agitates the prog end of their sound, with spacey keys zapping, noise ringing out, and the guitars feeling pretty damn glammy. “Suicide baby, it’s the end,” Jess vows, as the heavy psychedelic rock strains come pounding down and the buzzing takes over your head. “Black Hound” is a hell of a journey, with lines from H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Hound” woven into the mix. The track has a tasty bluesy haze, with harmonicas sprawling, a smoky ambiance cutting through, and the melodies swelling and stinging. The danger of this one is apparent, and the end burns pretty slowly. “Farewell to All-in-One” takes a little time to open itself, and the story that emerges is a sad one with a bleeding heart attached. “I’m so happy she found love, now she’s going to hide it away,” Jess sings, letting you see the scars and open wounds that sparked this tragic song. The whole thing really pulls at you—the words and the music combined—and it all fades out into the ether, leaving your soul heaving.

It’s tough enough to come up with one band that’s compelling and powerful, but to now have two bands that are operating at a high level is a major accomplishment for the members of The Exploding Eyes Orchestra. “I” is an excellent debut record that proves just how much creativity these musicians have in their tank, and with a second collection on the horizon, who knows what their limits are? If you’re already a Jess and the Ancient Ones devotee, go out of your way to hear this thing. If you’re new to their magic, you might find a new world in which to get totally enveloped.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Exploding-Eyes-Orchestra/1375153479399278

To buy the album, go here: http://svartrecords.com/shoppe/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.svartrecords.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Pale Chalice finally resurface with scathing, charring ‘Negate the Infinite…’

Pale ChaliceIt’s not easy to find a band that can take black metal and make it sound fresh. There are tons of black metal bands—too many, if you ask me—and it’s so difficult to find ones that really make me excited about the music form and puped about digging into what they are doing.

But Pale Chalice are one that, ever since their formation in 2008 and release of criminally underappreciated 2011 EP “Afflicting the Dichotomy of Trepid Creation,” has had me hopeful that modern black metal bands still could be relevant and interesting. That collection scorches the flesh, but it also contained exciting elements and dynamics that pushed your brain to new levels. Clearly they weren’t just here to play black metal for the sake of it; they were here to add dangerous new dimensions and make it a place worth being enthralled about again. And then they seemed to disappear. It’s been four long years since that initial EP, but luckily those of us clamoring for their return are getting just that.

Pale Chalice cover“Negate the Infinite and Miraculous” is the band’s first full-length document, and it’s being dual released by Gilead Media, a label on a serious roll this year with some pretty heavy hitters on the horizon. Locked inside this seven-track beast are blasts of primal black metal that are heavy on the riffs, completely scathing, and a total payoff on the promise they displayed on their EP. The members of this mysterious union—vocalist/bassist Ephemeral Domignostika (also of terrifying Mastery), guitarists Oram Evad and Baneist Nonrutin, and drummer Masthanthric Nodrab—sound channeled, full of fire, and ready to prove black metal can spew dragon’s fire and be the most penetrating form of metal on the Earth. They also prove to be a band, black metal or not, that is worth following into the future because they just seem to be scratching the surface of what they can do.

“Through Vexed Veil” has a stinging, chilling open, letting the flames get fanned and cracking open at just the right time. The vocals emerge, sounding like they’re emanating from a formless void, and it spills right into barnstorming “Shaking Nerves and Vacuous Sphere,” a song that’s got some of the stickiest riffs you’ll ever hear. Each elements tidal waves one after the other, with the vocals sounding fiery and deranged and the music chilling your bones and surging your blood. The song calms a bit toward the center, as things are allowed to stretch and the humidity gathers. But toward the end of the song, the terror whips up again, looping back to the stomping that started the cut, coming to a smothering end. “Bound Intransigent Flight” has guitars spiraling out and savage vocals, with the tempo bounding forward and the atmosphere feeling a little rock oriented underneath all the soot. Domignostika’s cries are desperate and pained, while the band spends the final minute reigniting all of the blazes. “Fragile Bones Cradling Tallow” crushes hard, with a mechanical storm cloud hovering overhead, guitars shimmering and stabbing, and the vocals retching again. The song hits another level in its second half, with the intensity multiplied, the growls gurgling, and everything suddenly disappearing into nothingness.

“Weltering Depths of a Carrion Wave” has a super chunky guitar riff that drives this bastard forward, feeling like a winter storm pouring on with the vortex confusing your eyes and brains. The chorus is infernal and wonderfully simple, with just the song title howled back, and the bulk of this enrapturing horror has guitars swelling and the tempo driving you mad. Awesome song. “Bent by Carapace Chain” has riffs spilling down, creating a dark swath of shadows. Weird, deranged melodies ring out, spinning your head around, and that leads into the band chugging heavily before going back into the murk. It’s quite the journey. The sounds swim in the swamps, with wild cries erupting, the noises filtering out like you’re emerging from a dream, and a cosmically deranged finish. Closer “Stigmatic Glands Through Supernal Rifts” brings back the riff that opens the record, tying together the package nicely, though this cut goes in a different direction than does “Vexed.” The song simmers and lets off steam, heading in all kinds of different directions, rounding back to a thunderous pace, with the vocals lacerating veins and a blinding ending ripping the air from your lungs.

It may have taken seven years to get a full-length out of these beasts, but Pale Chalice deliver a hellacious display on “Negate the Infinite and Miraculous” that was worth the wait. This band is in the right place with Gilead Media to get their music to those who will devour it the most aggressively, and they are a unit that should get more immersive and destructive as time goes on. This is one of the finest black metal offerings this year, one that will punish your soul with every listen.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/PaleChalice

To buy the album, go here: http://www.erodingwinds.com/product-category/music/gilead-media-releases/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/

Ottawa’s Black Tower blasts classic metal into punk with crushing debut ‘The Secret Fire’

BLACK TOWER Promo (Outdoor - Colour)You know what’s super annoying as a writer who has to hold it down and listen to tons of new records each week? When an album comes out of left field, tosses you down a flight of steps, sits on your chest, and convinces your brain you need to hear it over and over again, the rest of your work be damned.

While you all cry for me and burn effigies for my giant workload many metal listeners would kill for, let me tell you about Black Tower. This Ottawa-based trio fires up classic heavy metal, black metal, power, and punk in such a glorious, fire-breathing manner on their debut “The Secret Fire,” it’s impossible not to get caught up in their spirit and be swept away. The album is being released both by No Idea (that covers the punk and hardcore bases) and Unspeakable Axe (for the tried-and-true metal fans, who will get a ton out of this), and it’s a platter that will sweep you up like a chariot and run you into the night, torch in hand. I’m pretty sure I can’t fully encapsulate in words what a damn rush this collection is, so just take my word for it, guys. This band is onto something good.

SAMO_12Jacket_Standard_RJCThis killer threesome is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Erin Ewing, bassist/vocalist Skottie Lobotomy (who are truly a tandem when it comes to vocals, as each get equal time to do damage), and drummer Dave Monomania. The band’s only been operational for the past two years, which is astonishing considering how well-oiled their sound already is, and this record is one that is a weird hybrid that could find favor among so many different audiences, sort of like a Royal Thunder, Castle, or Kylesa. Really, there is no ceiling for them, and the power they already display seems to indicate they are aware of that and will shoot to whatever levels they can to come up with something explosive and anthemic.

Opener “Death March” is a total rouser, a blast of energy and tenacity that is so infectious, it’s ridiculous. Ewing leads most of the way, shrieking with power and fury, howling, “We’re ready to die.” The song transitions into a new section, with Lobotomy taking over and offering more punk-style vocals (that’s what he does best), singing, “We have blood on our swords,” as you can imagine the battle finally finished. Holy shit, what a great song. “Black Moon” keeps the energy high, with a punk-fueled assault and raucous vocals, imagining that “rituals begin” as the fire and spirits rise. “The Dark Lord” starts hazy, with funeral bells ringing, before the tempo bursts. Ewing and Lobotomy trade turns on vocals, and the chorus is a burst of juice that will get your blood flowing.  “Riders” has a more ominous opening before it hits the gas and rushes forward. Lobotomy takes the verses, with Ewing raging in later, urging, “Burn our candles through the night.” The song has a delirious, aggressive bend to it.

Speaking of aggression, “Shadows” has a violent black metal feel to it, leading into NWOBHM-style riffs that kill and Ewing shrieking like a demon. The pace is earth quaking, with melody moving in here and there, and an up-tempo assault dressing the line, “Trapped on Earth, these shadows are ghosts.” “Winter” also has its dark moments, with the guitars conjuring a classic metal sense and the band hitting a mad gallop. Both vocalists go cleaner and powerful on this track, with the song feeling wholly punk inspired. “The Dragon Flies” thrashes madly, with thick keys lurking beneath the chaos, and Lobotomy’s singing running headlong into Ewing’s screams. There are some fantastic guitar runs as the song nears its ends, causing the fires to burn even brighter. “Night Siege” has a traditional Medieval castle-ransacking adventure to it, with smothering guitar leads, speed, and the singing traded off, with, “To take the kingdom, take our freedom,” coloring the scene perfectly. The song is destructive and blazing, with the final salvo causing bruises. The closing title cut is an outro in the truest sense, a collection of rustic acoustics, synth warmth, and sounds that could remind of Bathory’s and Primordial’s more primitive moments. It’s a nice breath of smoky air at the end of a heathen journey.

Black Tower won me over with a single visit with “The Secret Fire,” and as noted, it’s an album that’s been in massive rotation as I work to squeeze in other albums I need to cover. I love the band’s energy, tenacity, and power, and I am really intrigued as to where they take this thing from here. This band has all the possibilities in the world in front of them, and it’ll be awesome to watch them capitalize on that as they unfurl their debut for the world and create other works into the future.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/blacktowergates

To buy the album, go here: http://www.unspeakableaxerecords.com/purchase/

Or here: http://store.noidearecords.com/products/black-tower-the-secret-fire

For more on the label, go here: http://store.noidearecords.com/

And here: http://store.noidearecords.com/

Agitated Fight Amp brawl back with sludgy anger on powerful fourth album ‘Constantly Off’

Fight AmpIt’s mid-week, right? Feeling miserable and beaten down kind of comes with the territory, because while half of the week is in the rearview, the other 50 percent is still to come. And for those of us who don’t know what a regular work schedule is like, I’m not even sure how to console you.

I’ve always gotten the idea from hearing Philly-based grunge sludgers Fight Amp that they’re constantly in a state of disrepair. Only there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a constant grind, a process of work and tiring tasks that raise their ire and make their music that much more agitated. You certainly can hear that on their new “Constantly Off,” a tight, economical release that seems to understand the idea of terminal frustration. It’s the follow-up to 2012’s blistering “Birth Control” and their fourth record overall. This is six tracks in under a half hour, and through it all, they keep finding a way to hit the right buttons and channel into what anger and annoyances have you down. The dudes in the band—bassist/vocalist Jon DeHart, guitarist/vocalist Mike McGinnis, and drummer Dan Smith–bludgeon you hard with grimy noise that could remind of bands as varied as the Melvins, Nirvana, Torche, and the Jesus Lizard.

Fight Amp cover“Ex Everything” starts things up with charging guitars and noises hanging in the air, with the vocals coming in as wailed cries. The tempo is muddy and filthy, though it has a bit of catchiness to it to throw you off guard, and it ends in a flurry of punches. “Survival Is Strange” has sweltering punishment brewing, feeling a little like Black Flag at times, and the band works hard to lather and smother you as you fight for a clean gasp of air. The song is short and to the point, feeling abrasive every step of the way. “Leveling in a Dream” feels humid and thick, with harsh yells over the thick atmosphere, and an agitated, annoyed chorus that pounds home their point. There is a nice bit of melody mixed in for some variation, though it’s never at the expense of the overall crunch.

“You Don’t Wanna Live Forever” is the perfect downer of a song title, and it’s a harsher cut that drives right into the tar pits. There is some singing over the chorus, which is the calmest element of the song, but otherwise it’s a propulsive, crushing will-killer. “I Perceive Reptoids” seems a little silly from the title, but don’t go in expecting a joke or you’ll get smothered. The thick bass erupts, mangling everything, and thing get weird and psychotic later, especially with the bizarre yet sobering shout of, “My screen is empty and I still can’t look away!” “Happy Joyful Life” sets the opposite tone of its title, which obviously is tongue-buried-in-cheek brutal. The bass crushes, while the guitars charge up the riffs, and the vocals come off like barks. As the song goes on, it gets faster and nastier, packed with aggression and anxiety, feeling like a truck being driven, on purpose, off the edge of a cliff, where only consuming fire will be the master. It’s a skin-gashing end to a pretty irritated collection of songs.

So yeah, maybe you’re pissed off or disillusioned or both, but you’re not alone. “Constantly Off” is right there next to you, bitching about conditions and getting fed up with life’s constant, unforgivable cycles. Fight Amp always have had a knack for understand and reinterpreting that psychotic, negative energy. They drag you through the gutter with them and bring you out on the other side a little more calloused than you were before.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.fightamp.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.brutalpandarecords.com/collections/all

For more on the label, go here: http:// www.brutalpandarecords.com

Part 1 of a conversation with Tom G. Warrior: Giger’s major influence, Triptykon, the stage

TriptykonThere are parts of writing about heavy metal that are surreal. Like sitting at a table with the legendary Tom G. Warrior less than 24 hours after his band Triptykon played this year’s Maryland Deathfest. Here is this iconic artist who played in influential, genre-toppling bands Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, and here is me. It might seem like an intimidating, harrowing experience, looking into this man’s face and hearing him talk about his experiences from the past three decades. But Warrior is such a kind, soft-spoken, humble individual that he immediately makes you feel like you’re at home talking to an old friend. Over a half hour or so, we talked about the band’s set at Deathfest, his friendship with the late artist H.R. Giger (who passed May 12, 2014 at the age of 74), who had a profound effect on his life and career, the ups and downs of his three decades in music, and the future, as cloudy as that may be. This is the first of what will be two installments, the second running next Tuesday. Many thanks to the folks at Century Media for arranging the interview, my incredible wife Christina for transcribing this, and for Warrior himself for such a wonderful, engaging conversation. Here it is, one of the absolute highlights of my writing career.

Meat Mead Metal: You finally got to play Maryland Deathfest after missing last year’s event following the passing of H.R. Giger. Tell me about the experience you had in front of the crowd.

Tom G. Warrior: The experience was fantastic. We haven’t been in the States in a while, and the audience was sensational. I have nothing but the best to say. They gave us back so much … adrenaline, enthusiasm. I thought we were a bit rusty because we haven’t played in half a year, but the energy we got from the audience erased that immediately. It was fantastic. I hope they have the same impression. We enjoyed it tremendously. It was a very important show for us. Number 1, because we weren’t in the states for quite a long time; number 2 because we missed it last time; number 3, because we followed the festival for quite a while. It’s a very important festival. I’m very happy it came out this way, and I’m blown away by the audience’s reaction.

MMM: We don’t have a lot of festivals in the U.S. I know in Europe there’s lots of festivals.

TGW: There’s almost too many.

MMM: Deathfest, for metal fans…

TGW: It has a reputation that goes far beyond the United States.

MMM: We’re a little over a year since H.R. Giger’s passing. What are your feelings now, with a year’s time having passed, and what are your reflections?

TGW: It was very difficult in the beginning. He had such a unique and strong presence that it was difficult to accept that he should no longer exist. It was very surreal for all of us, his whole circle of friends, his wife. It was just impossible to think of him as dead. As odd as that sounds. He had this magical presence, this impact on all of our lives that our psyche refused to accept this. Of course we all know, yes, it is true. So, the first few months, we all operated in some sort of trance. We drew together quite tightly, especially helping the widow, who suffered most of course, trying to give her some strength, which is difficult, and I understand that. By now, it’s much better. We all met on the anniversary of his passing. We met in the garden of his house with his widow, and we had a light dinner, and we decided not to do something somber. We just had a small garden party with just the inner circle and we reminisced, had a good time, and talked about our own lives and futures. It wasn’t a sad thing. It was a sad background, mood, of course, because we all know why we sat there. But it was a good thing. It was friends sitting there, being all brought together by this individual who changed our lives. So it was alright.

MMM: Sounds more celebratory than anything. Not like a party. But you know what I mean.

TGW: Exactly. We are all working on a major Giger exhibition in his hometown of Zurich, which will start in June. I am involved with that, as are many other of his friends. We will commemorate him, and we will remember by means of this exhibition. We tried to make it very meaningful. We will display things that have never, ever been seen outside of the house. Some new sculptures and everything. Trying to give this a positive spin, as positive as it can possibly be in this situation.

MMM: Do you see this as something that could possibly travel as well? Could it go to other places, exhibited in a museum, or will it remain in Zurich?

TGW: Possibly. There are Giger exhibitions planned in various countries, independent Giger exhibitions. Curated by one of the inner circle, who was Giger’s curator for many years. So yes, there are going to be international Giger exhibitions. And right now in New York, there’s a Giger film festival with all of his experimental and unseen films, in addition to the documentary that is playing in America. Which, I’m not saying because Triptykon is in it, but the documentary, I can highly recommend. Either go see it in a cinema or get the DVD. The director managed to portray Giger in a very private and intimate manner. It’s not just the same run-of-the-mill “Alien” and such. It’s a very deep documentary that shows Giger like you’ve hardly seen him before. So, I can highly recommend “Dark Star,” the documentary.

Tom WarriorMMM: What does it mean to you that Giger’s artwork, which has meant so much to you, now lives on through your art?

TGW: We are a tiny, tiny part. Giger doesn’t need Celtic Frost or Triptykon to be immortal. We are blessed to have the chance to have his contributions.

MMM: Well, sure, OK. But your music still reaches a lot of people, and having Giger’s artwork represent your music has to be a major honor.

TGW: When you do an album, you think, what will be on the cover? And you either look in classical paintings, you commission someone you know who you think is good, or you approach an artist you think has something fantastic. In the case of Celtic Frost or Triptyon and Giger, it’s different in that every single Giger cover I’ve ever had has had a very distinctive meaning. It wasn’t like I approached an artist, “Hey, we need a cover.” The first Giger cover, of course, was given to us free of charge, when we were complete nobodies. We didn’t even have a record deal. Everyone around us laughed about us. We were still in Hellhammer. Nobody took us seriously. Everybody laughed about us. Everybody said, “You’re never going anywhere. You’re just playing noise.”  Giger was at the height of his fame. He had just won the Academy Award. We approached him as complete nobodies, and he calls me and writes letters to me, and says, “I’m going to give you not just one painting, I’m going to give you two. And yes, I think your music and my paintings have a similar aura, message.” We were completely blown away. Everyone hates us, laughs at us. And he, a world-class artist, believes in us or at least gives a chance, becomes our mentor.

The second Giger cover, the first Triptyon album, Celtic Frost had imploded spectacularly, on a personal level infinitely disappointingly. I’ve had people who I thought were friends that I had to completely reevaluate my relationship with them. I discovered maybe they weren’t my friends but they were my enemies. People I’ve known for decades. I had to recreate the band from nothing. From the ruins of Celtic Frost, to try to salvage the crew, the relationship with the record company, relationship with the recording studio. I had to build up everything from nothing. I had to prove myself yet again. It was very difficult. Could I pull this off without Celtic Frost. And who is there believing me again? Giger. Before he even heard a single note from Triptykon, he agreed to give me a Giger painting for the first album. And I was so grateful. I never would’ve gone back. I didn’t want to seem insatiable or greedy. But it was Giger who approaches me with the second album of Triptykon because he was so happy with the first. Which once again blew my mind. He has never approached a band. It was always bands approaching him. Including mine. And Giger, of all people, one of the greatest surrealists of human history, which completely blew my mind, I couldn’t believe it. So every single Giger cover I have had has had huge meaning to me. Life-changing meaning. What more can I say, you know? They’re not just record covers for me. I know they mean a lot to the audiences as well, you know, the combination of these images with this music. But for me, it goes far, far, far beyond that. And we designed another album with Giger when he was still alive, before I knew that he would die. When he approached me for the second album, we decided together to do a triptych. The third album cover is designed, if we actually do a next album, it will be the last cover that Giger was ever personally involved with. Which, yet again, is something extremely special.

MMM: Let’s go to that second record, “Melana Chasmata.” I had read elsewhere that you are disappointed with it? Is that true?

TGW: Yes, that is true.

MMM: What was disappointing about it to you? I say this as a listener, my first experience listening to it – I was blown away. I loved it. I still am.

TGW: I appreciate that you like it. I feel very fortunate that audiences have embraced the album. Which by no means is something that is guaranteed for any band. I don’t take this for granted, and I’m very happy and I feel blessed that this happened. But yes, I personally take a very critical stance with this album. To me, it’s unfinished. And for me, it was an extremely difficult album to make. We started it, I personally, my contributions started after we released the first album. And I entered an extremely difficult period of my life, for unfortunately more than one reason. Both my health and certain things that took place in my private life. I had three extremely difficult years. To be frank, they brought me to the brink of giving up. And it takes a lot for me to give up. But I certainly was there. It’s only due mainly to the influence of one person in my life that I’m actually still here. But that’s the time when we had worked on the album, that the album had remained unfinished. I didn’t touch it for over a year. During the worst year, I had no strength to work on the album.

Once I had regained my composure to some extent, we gathered the band, and we had to see, is the band still together because the other members of the band were quite insecure as to where the band was heading because of my condition. After we had done that, we decided to finish the album. We gave ourselves a deadline, but the album was somehow tainted to me because of that, and I found it very difficult emotionally to finish these songs with these lyrics and everything that all stem from this era. I don’t mean to make this sound totally dramatic, but that’s the way it happened. We finished by the deadline, but it’s a difficult album for me to listen to because it’s connected to all of these things, and I think it could’ve taken some more work. But after three and a half years or so, we knew that we couldn’t work on it anymore. It was just going to make it worse. Under ideal circumstances, we should’ve gone back and finished some of the songs. We needed to move on. We needed to finish this album and leave it in the past, look to the future, that’s what we did. No one’s surprised that everybody liked it more than me. It’s a gift. It’s such a difficult album. It’s a gift. But it doesn’t make it less difficult for me.

MMM: How is playing the songs?

TGW: It’s a little more abstract. It’s not so immediate. Live, it carries a different energy, and it’s embedded with other songs from throughout my career. It makes it a little different. If you play a song from this album between a Hellhammer song and a Celtic Frost song and a Triptykon song. It’s a different context, a different mood to it. So that’s different. It’s OK.

MMM: Is it a reinterpretation live, because you’re not in that place where you were when you were creating it?

TGW: I enjoy both venues very much. I enjoy the stage very much, and I enjoy the studio very much. I always have. But to me, they’re very different. They’re different aspects of the band. So, when you take an album to the stage, it’s always going to be different. But with this album, that’s a good thing. It makes it possible to honestly play these songs with enthusiasm. It’s not forced, because people like it. For example, a song like “Altar of Deceit” has become one of my favorite songs live, because it’s so heavy and so slow and I didn’t think that would’ve been possible that it would feel different on stage.

Next Tuesday, we look at the disappointing crumbling of Celtic Frost, the status of Warrior’s relationship with the members of that band, and what the future holds for Triptykon’s music. It’s the heavier of the two installments, and they’re words I won’t soon forget.

For more on Triptykon, go here: http://www.triptykon.net/

For more on the label, go here: http://centurymedia.com/