Saturday, 8 October 2011

Edinburgh - The black death

I've been interested in extreme metal for some time now and the more I  look around, the more I find in places I wouldn't expect. This feature looks at the the Edinburgh death metal band Acatalepsy and one of it's members, Guillaume Martin. I've feature Acatalepsy once before but felt it was right to do a bigger feature on them and also some other really interesting bands that feature the same members. So here goes.....


Acatalepsy




It all started with Acatalepsy for me in December 2010. That particular feature was only small, so I'll go into a bit more details with this one. I must point out though, that Acatalepsy are more death metal inspired band, but extreme metal is extreme metal, no matter which form it takes. Acatalepsy are made up of Ali on vocals, Guillaume on guitar, Chris on bass and Hamish on drums.



As there is a pretty strong death metal scene in Edinburgh at the moment, Acatalepsy have recently had the privilege of supporting Gorgasm and Defeated Sanity recently in their hometown.

Their sound is a heavy and grooving one, with strong chugging riffs and low end growls, so not constrained to the normal pig squealing that you tend to find with a lot of death metal bands nowadays.


They have their S/T EP up for streaming on their Bandcamp page at http://acatalepsy.bandcamp.com/

Also, Acatalepsy have a Bigcartel page, where you can buy their recent 4 track EP, which is limited to 150, handmade, PVC bound copies. Go to http://acatalepsy.bigcartel.com to order it.


You can also follow them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Acatalepsy.

Haar



The next project I came across was Haar. Haar are described as a progressive black metal band. Haar were formed in 2008 and specialise in a doomy, extreme version of black metal which has seen them recently supporting extreme metal acts such as Negura Bunget and Hate.

Their songs are lengthy compositions that include evil, high pitched growls and symphonic instrumentation.

You can listen to or purchase a digital version or their self-titled EP via their Bandcamp page at http://haar.bandcamp.com/

You can buy physical copies via their Bigcartel page at http://haar.bigcartel.com/.


You can also follow Haar on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/haarsounds.

Barshasketh


Barshasketh was originally a New Zealand based duo of Krigeist on vocals, guitar and bass and Maldoror on drums, but the band then took residence in Edinburgh and were joined by Guillaume on guitar, Steve on bass and Steve on drums for their live shows. They are currently on hiatus due to member commitments.

The band do have a page on Last FM, so you can check out some of their recorded output. Go to http://www.last.fm/music/Barshasketh.

The band also has a Bigcartel page, where they are selling a limited,handmade run of their debut album 'Defying the Bonds of Cosmic Thraldom'. Go to http://www.barshasketh.bigcartel.com/products. You can also purchase it on both CD and Cassette via Wolfsvuur records at http://www.wolfsvuur.nl/mailorder/.

You can follow Barshasketh on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Barshasketh

Quidditas

Quidditas is the solo black metal project of Guillaume Martin. At the moment he is currently recording various parts for a debut release.


Vostok


While reading about the bands above, I started looking at the other members bands, and was surprised to find that they were equally as productive. Vostok are an active but mysterious project.

Vostok are an atmospheric black metal band who formed way back in 2003. Their debut EP was released in 2010. 'From Lofty peaks...' was a limited pressing but has subsequently sold out in most places. The band say you should be able to still get a copy via At War With False Noise at http://www.atwarwithfalsenoise.com/. The EP is available as a name you price download via their Bandcamp page at http://vostoksounds.bandcamp.com/.

Vostock have been working on a couple of split releases this year. The first one was with fellow Edinburgh noise metallers Wraiths and the second is a four way split alongside Manchester based Denizens, Newcastle based Phaleg and Wiltshire band Diversis.


Don't forget to follow Vostock on their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/Vostoksounds.

Of Spire and Throne



Of Spire and Throne are another band I discovered recently. Again, they're another extreme metal band, with members linked to those bands mentioned above. They are a very doomy, slow death/black metal band, with a quite sludgy, old-school sound.

Their latest EP The Trial of Failure is available for £3 via their Bandcamp page at http://ofspireandthrone.bandcamp.com/album/the-trial-of-failure. You can also listen to their self titled release there as well.


Be sure to check them out on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/OfSpire&Throne.

Erowid



Erowid is currently a one man black metal project, that was formed in 2006 after the demise of another black metal project called Ex Infernis. Erowid have released to records to date. Pro Aeturnum and Void Beyond Sense. Both CD's are available through the bands Bigcartel page at http://www.erowid.bigcartel.com/


Ix


Ix were a sludge/doom five piece from Edinburgh, that was made up of Guss Mortimer on vocals and bass, Paul Wilson and Neil Armitage on guitars, Steve Taylor on keys and vocals and Hamish Mckintosh on drums and vocals.

Hamish was able to give me some details on IX which I've posted below:-

"Ix was an extreme doom band who took influence from bands such as Electric Wizard, Grief, Isis and Thergothon. The name Ix is taken from James Herbert's "Dune" novels. We formed in 2003 and gigged regularly until 2006 when I moved down to the south-east of England. The band continued for another year, with our friend Neil from Friday Night Gunfight filling in on drums. Upon my return northwards we all met again and decided that the band had run its course and disbanded. During our time we were fortunate enough to play with several amazing bands such as 27, SunnO))), Sourvein, Narcosis, Pale Horse, Black Sun, Kaddish, Zillah and also did a UK tour in 2005. We also had two releases - an EP titled "Mythopoeia" and a split release with Naked shit."

You can check them and some of their music out via their Myspace page at http://www.myspace.com/ixuk. They also have an entry on Metal Archives at http://www.metal-archives.com/bands/IX/40961.

Words from the shadows


Ali Lauder from Of Spire and Throne was kind enough to give an insight into how Of Spire and Throne came to be, their influences and their plans to crawl from netherworld...


"We’re a 4 piece doom/sludge band from Edinburgh. I couldn’t really pin down our exact style but we write each song with a basic structure in mind and keep it loosely in the camp of big, slow riffs and droning space. If I had to label it I'd call it our version of the blues, haha! It's more about heart and soul than the genre. We released a 2-song, 27 minute demo in 2009 which you can download from our Band Camp page and we’ve recently released our first EP which we’ll have available from our Big Cartel page soon."

Can you tell us what made you form Of Spire and Throne?

The band formed over a long period as a couple of us started messing around with music when we were teenagers. When we were younger we used to practice a lot playing different styles but we gradually settled on the sort of sound we have now. We'd never really heard doom or sludge when we were 16 or 17, we just slowly developed a taste for the slow and the detuned. The first 'doom' song we wrote (Through Time & Light - the first track on our demo) was inspired by Slayer's 'Seasons in the Abyss'. You can hear the chord sequence at the beginning has been blatantly lifted! Over a few years it turned into something all it's own though. We’ve only had a stable line-up since 2009 when we properly ‘formed’; coming up with our name, played our first gig and putting our demo together. We've just been following our own noses ever since.

What bands inspire you?

We draw influences from a lot of different bands, maybe not always in a direct musical sense but more in the overall feel of the music or the approach of the artist. As far as bands in a similar musical vein we’ve drawn from the likes of Neurosis, Crowbar, Electric Wizard, Yob and High on Fire as well as other metal bands like Slayer, Judas Priest, Nile, Morbid Angel, Bolt Thrower, Immolation – doom, death, sludge, grind, thrash, etc. We also take influences from further afield from all sorts of rock bands as well as post-punk, classical and blues stuff. There's parts of our songs directly inspired by the likes of Alice in Chains, The Doors, The Human League, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Elmore James, Magazine, Scott Walker, Mussorgsky and many more. Loads of stuff!

Your opening for Yob in October. How did that come about?

I’m good friends with the promoters (Eilean Dubh) who let me know that Yob were looking for a gig around the date (12th October). They’re one of my favourite bands and I had just been to Roadburn only to discover that Yob had cancelled, so when they mentioned that we could collaborate to get them to play in Edinburgh I jumped at the chance. I'm involved with the promotion and organisation and of course had to make sure that we were opening for them. I'm pretty chuffed about it!

How have you found playing live and how have audiences taken to your music?

Playing live for me is a little odd. It's hard to describe. It's a lot of fun but it's also quite difficult as the things I write about are all very personal and generally quite upsetting. I love the power of the music and that amazing feeling when the whole band is in sync and just crushing the place, but I often feel on the brink of tears. It's a strange mix of elation and anguish but I always mean it with total conviction. Hopefully that doesn't sound pompous but it's the truth, haha! Gigs can be hit and miss because the songs are so long and slow - I've often messed stuff up - and sometimes things just go wrong. Part and parcel I suppose. We've generally been very lucky and had a lot of positive feedback from people which I always appreciate. If someone comes up to me afterwards and says they enjoyed it, it makes the night for me. Even if they just say, "brutal vocals, dude!", haha! Some of the best feedback has been from people who don't listen to metal or heavy music who have said they really enjoyed what we do. Some people find it boring or too much which is fair enough, it's not for everyone and it is pretty bloody-minded, I just hope people who like it also feel it. 

What are your future plans for the band?

First off, promoting our new EP, sending it off for review and that, then getting some t-shirts together, getting a website up and eventually recording again next year. Our next release will be one 20 minute song which I'm really looking forward to getting down on tape. We're also keen to get some more gigs outside of Edinburgh and hopefully some outside of Scotland too.

What do you think about the state of extreme metal at the moment?

I think it's in great health. There's loads of amazing new bands coming out and even more already producing great stuff. I sometimes think metal fans are a little spoiled for choice to be honest! 

What bands from your local area should people check out?

Am I allowed to say my other band? I will anyway, haha! Acatalepsy if you like death metal! I also recommend Jackal Headed Guard of the Dead (doom), Haar (BM), Vessel (instrumental, trippy heaviness), Sufferinfuck (savage grindcore/powerviolence, maybe the best live band Edinburgh and the surrounding area's got) and the amazing Wraiths (blackened noise I suppose, but that doesn't really do them justice, they're awesome!).

Hamish Mackintosh from Ix/Vostok/Acatalepsy and Haar, also answered some questions for us on his projects and told us about some the other bands that make up the wider scene in Scotland:-

What influenced you to start Vostok? 

Since the year 2000 I've been interested in Black Metal. However, it wasn't until 2003 that I really felt compelled to write black metal myself. I found it to be the perfect vehicle for exploring human nature. Not a great deal has changed since then to be honest. I usually explore themes using historical and cultural settings, predominately the time around the Highland Clearances. However, that may change with time, I don't have a predefined idea of what kind of music I'm going to write and which lyrical themes I will explore, I just wait for things to come naturally. It's not always the quickest way of doing things - it took me 6 years to release the first EP! - but it works for me. It's an evolutionary process.

Atmospheric black metal is a challenging form of music, was it something you've always had an interest in?

I think you're right, it is quite a challenging type of music to do well. However, the atmospheric black metal "scene" is completely saturated with supposedly suicidal one-man projects that hold little or no appeal to me. At the other end of the spectrum there are a profusion of bands that essentially copy Alcest, Agalloch, WITTR etc. It's actually quite hard to find atmospheric black metal with a sense of integrity. My tastes in music are fairly broad, taking in electronica, noise and jazz in addition to most genres of metal. I'd never limit myself, or Vostok, to the genre of atmospheric black metal, things may well change with time. The newer material already has much more of an epic, nostalgic feeling than the earlier doomy works. There are plans to explore the use of other instruments such as the hammered dulcimer, bag pipes and low D whistle on the full length which will be my main focus following the release of the next two splits. 

How did you end up joining Acatalepsy?

I formed Acatalepsy along with Guillaume back in 2007. I was living in south east England but knew I was moving back to Edinburgh that September. I knew from previous experience how difficult it was to find like-minded, technically proficient individuals to form bands with, therefore I posted up an advert on a now defunct local metal forum. Guillaume was the only person to reply so when I returned we met up and just took things from there. It took us quite a while to find a stable line up. 

What do you think in about Edinburgh and Scotland in general that means it keeps producing really challenging extreme metal bands?

To be honest, I don't think that the Edinburgh/Scottish scene is particularly exceptional. I really think there should be more doom and black metal bands in Scotland considering the rich source of inspiration available. We're surrounded by some of the most exceptional landscape on these isles, have a rich cultural heritage and an extremely interesting history. The fact there aren't more quality doom and black metal bands really surprises me... 

However, the Edinburgh metal scene has definitely improved relative to the Glasgow scene which has historically (at least since the late 90s) been stronger. I feel that is at least partly due to local promoters making the effort to bring bands to Edinburgh that would have at one time just played in Glasgow. GBH events and Eilean Dubh (who I help organise) have definitely helped the death, thrash, doom and black metal scenes. We also used to have an amazing hardcore scene that I've lost touch with over the last few years. Cold Dead Hands used to put on a multitude of quality, diverse gigs but the number of gigs they put on has sadly decreased over the last few years. The noise scene seems fairly healthy with promoters such as Braw gigs ensuring a host of international acts visit the capital.

What bands have influenced you over the years?

I'm not sure I could accurately answer this one. My influences are quite diverse, even if that doesn't come across in what you hear in Vostok. Something that has definitely influenced me is the culture, history and landscape of the Highlands. I'm originally from the Black Isle, just north of Inverness and my fathers side of the family is from Sutherland so I feel a real connection to those areas of Scotland. I find the collapse of the Clan system and the Highland Clearances particularly emotive/interesting.

You've been working on a couple of split releases with like minded bands. How did you decide who to work with?

I'll only work with bands that I like to listen to myself. If I like the music and don't disagree with the underlying ideology I'd then consider working with a band in some way. Another requirement is that I get on well with the member(s) of the other bands.  One way or another I know all the bands pretty well who are featuring on the next couple of splits.

The first split will be with Diversis, Denizens and Phaleg who I'd recommend you should check out if you have not done so already. It should hopefully be out towards the end of this year or early next year. The other split with be with Wraiths who are definitely one of the best noise bands around. That should be out sometime next spring I'd imagine. As I said previously nothing seems to happen quickly with Vostok so one of the two tracks featured on each of the splits will be from 2005/2006, with the other being from 2010. The older tracks were originally meant to be on the first EP but there were several problems with the recording and eventually they had to be dropped from the release.

What bands are you listening to and who would you recommend we check form your local area?

Things I've been listening to recently:

When - Drowning but Learning
Comus - First Utterance
Taake - Noregs Vaapen
Nightbringer - Hierophany of the Open Grave
Deathspell Omega - Paracletus
Tenhi - Maaäet

Bands from the local/Scottish scene who I'd recommend:

There are quite a few. Excluding bands I play in (Acatalepsy and Haar), I'd recommend Wraiths, Zillah, Secta Rouge, Erowid, Of Spire & Throne, Sunsmasher, Jackal-Headed Guard of the Dead, Barshasketh, Daemonolith, My Kappa Roots, Frog Pocket, Assynt, Black Talon, Bonesaw, Nerrus Kor, Kaddish, Sufferinfuck, The Dischordian trio, Anna Massie, Solstheim, Falloch, Cnoc an Tursa, Project Serendipity....I've probably missed a few. If so, sorry!

Also, Guillaume Martin from Acatalepsy, Haar, Barshasketh and Quidditas also told us how his many projects came to be and his inspirations:-

Firstly, I wanted to ask you what made you form all the different projects you have? Do you thinks it's important having variation amongst your bands? 

Well each one was formed for different reasons. Acatalepsy was the first I started, I had just arrived in Edinburgh in 2007 as a student and was very keen to start a band, so I posted on the now defunct 'Edinburgh Metal Scene' forum and met up with Hamish (drums). We then started getting our style together, but it wasn't until 2010 that we managed to complete our lineup and start playing gigs. 

Haar was the second I joined- one time at Acatalepsy practice, Hamish mentioned to me that they were in a tough spot because they had just lost a guitarist and had a gig booked in 6 weeks or so. As a favor to him I said I would fill in for that gig and consider staying on if I liked the music. Things didn't go according to plan, since I injured my hand quite badly one week before the gig and couldn't play it, but I enjoyed the music and banter, which is why I am now in the band on a long term basis. 

As for Barshasketh, Andy (the main songwriter) posted on the local forum (http://www.cappunishment.org/forums/) to try and start a crust-punk band, he posted a link to his Barshasketh stuff to show what he had done in the past. I wasn't really interested in joining the crust punk band, but offered my services if he wanted to get a live lineup started for Barshasketh in Scotland since I was so impressed with his songwriting. I was really keen to join as a full member from the start and I've recently been asked to join in the writing process. I'm very happy about that since I think Andy is one of the best songwriters I've ever met and hope to learn a lot working on music with him. 

Quidditas kind of happened by accident, I wrote some black metal that didn't fit any of my existing bands and I thought I may as well do something with them, it was also a good opportunity to collaborate on a split EP with Marlon Friday's solo project, Selbstmord. I'm a big fan of his, especially his work in Abhorrent, so I look forward to that.

I think being involved in projects that are different stylistically has made me into a more well-rounded musician as I think it's easy to stagnate if you're stuck in a niche. I think that most types of music have something to teach me, so I like to study jazz and classical music in my own time as well. They are a nice change of pace from the unrelenting intensity of extreme metal and have lots of scope for interesting arrangements and use of harmony.

Obviously, you're in Acatalepsy, but your other projects, Haar,Barshasketh and Quidditas are more influenced by black metal. What made you gravitate towards that genre of metal?

It was just by chance really. For quite a long time I'd dismissed the genre as I'd only heard some of the more mainstream stuff (Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth, Gorgoroth etc... ) and that didn't impress me at all. Meeting Hamish was a revelation as he introduced me to a lot of interesting black metal and I slowly developed an affinity for the genre. Although I still have a hard time identifying with the image and ideology that are pervasive in BM, it's a lot of fun to play and a bit more laid back than Death Metal, which can be hard work at times in rehearsal!

Barshasketh were originally based in New Zealand as a duo. How did the band eventually uproot and end up in Edinburgh? And how did you end up a part of their live band?

Maybe you should ask Andy Cambell that as I don't really want to speak for him ;) he's in my friend's list on facebook!

You've played with some big underground bands, Which bands have been the biggest influence on you of the ones you've played with?

Death Metal-wise definitely Defeated Sanity. They are one of the few bands really pushing the genre forward with clever use of rhythm and harmony, whilst retaining the heaviness and brutality which is traditionally associated with DM. In terms of Black Metal, I think I would probably say Negura Bunget. They were one of the first BM bands I really enjoyed. I also enjoyed playing with Mithras, Diamanthian and Burial a lot.

Are you able to give us any insight into future plans, I know your progressing your new project Quidditas, but do you have anything else that you're excited about?

Sure, I believe Haar is about to start recording the upcoming split with Subvertio Deus. We are all very exited about that. I am working on material for Barshasketh at the moment too, although it is difficult to say how long it will be until that sees the light of day. I'm just waiting for the drums to be recorded for Quidditas as all the music is written and ready to go. Hopefully the split EP will be out in the coming months. Acatalepsy is a difficult band to write for and is also the most personal of my projects, so songwriting can take a long time. I have 3 new songs finished, but there are no immediate plans to record them. I would like to tour with Acatalepsy at some point and there will be some opportunities for that in the medium term, so I'm very exited by that prospect. 

On a side note, I have just started a spastic grind band with Jack from the excellent Secta Rouge on guitar and Steve from Barshasketh on drums. It will be a studio only project, but should hopefully be lots of fun!

What influences you to write the music you do?

This is quite a personal question. I'm quite a negative and pessimistic person by nature and I think much of my musical output reflects that. I'm compulsive about playing and writing music, as you may gather from the amount of projects I'm involved in! I can't really pin down exactly what drives me to do it so often, but I know that I get an incredible high after writing a song I'm proud of or playing a really good set live! I can be quite introverted at times, so I guess music is a handy way for me to communicate with people indirectly haha.

Are there any similar bands in your area that we should check out?

Zillah, Sufferinfuck and Secta Rouge definitely get my vote!

So there you go, a look into what's crawling around in the Edinburgh underground. Now, go forth and start digging.

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