I’m sure some of you have noticed that I’ve been doing less writing of late and focusing more on making YouTube videos. I’ll get back to writing eventually, but I’ve decided that I need to challenge myself with a new medium, as well as expand the THKD empire beyond blogging. It’s been a fun, refreshing change of pace and I hope you’ll come along on this journey with me while I try something new for a while.
I recently had a brief exchange w/ Revolver Magazine editor Brandon Geist via twitter in which I chided him for being excited at the prospect of a new Cobalt record after he had publicly praised the new Staind album approximately one month ago (give or take). Obviously I don’t know Mr. Geist personally, but given the nature of 99% of the bands that are covered by his magazine, I just couldn’t resist flipping the guy some shit over this, as it’s in my nature to give folks a hard time every so often (keep in mind, there’s a fine line between a little good-natured ball breaking between dudes and being a fucking obnoxious troll, I was going for the former). I was surprised when he actually responded to my teasing, and our conversation quickly turned into a brief discussion of the merits of certain nu metal albums. I said I should write a piece on nu metal for THKD and bum out my readers. I was only half serious about that last bit, but the exchange did get me thinking about the ridiculous concept of “guilty pleasures”.
You see, I’ve always hated the term “guilty pleasure”. Why should someone be made to feel guilty for liking something? Because other people don’t like it, or don’t have the balls to admit to liking it in public? Well, fuck other people. I like what I like and I make no apologies for any of it. Wouldn’t all of our lives be better if we could be free to enjoy things w/o worrying about whether or not others are going to piss on our parade?
If you looked at my CD rack right now, you’d find Darkthrone’s entire discography. You’d find everything Glenn Danzig has ever put to tape. You’d find albums by Celtic Frost, Voivod and Napalm Death. You’d also find Static-X’s Wisconsin Death Trip and (hed)PE’s Broke. If these aren’t instant underground metal cred-killers, then I don’t know what is. Yes, I like those Static-X and (hed)PE albums, and I’m not ashamed. I don’t hide them under the bed or lock them away somewhere where they won’t contaminate my “real metal” albums. Something about Static-X’s ultra-crunchy-club-banger-disco nu metal and (hed)PE’s dunder-headed-yet-catchier-than-herpes rap-metal swagger rubs me the right way (on those specific albums, at least) and makes me want to shake my ass (but, watch myself) and I don’t give a flying fuck who knows it. You got a problem with that?!
But in all seriousness, what are people so afraid of? Are you really that concerned about how other people are going to judge you based on your tastes? No one should be deciding what is “good” or dictating your tastes but you. I admit there might have been a time when I cared what other people thought, but at thirty-one years, “I’m gettin’ too old for this shit” to quote Roger Murtaugh. If people are going to pass judgement on you based on what music you listen to, what movies you like, what books you read, etc, chances are they’re petty, pretentious, not to mention all-around shitty human beings who aren’t worthy of your time to begin with. Why waste your time hanging around a bunch of pricks that are going to call you a “pussy” for blasting The Very Best of Prince? Crank up “Little Red Corvette” and tell ’em to get bent.
Here’s the conversation between Geist and myself in full, in case you wanted to read it.
Pictured above is one Harold Camping. Creepy looking old fucker, eh? Mr. Camping is the California-based Christian radio broadcaster who started all this Rapture nonsense that we’ve been hearing so much about lately. May 21st, 2011, Camping’s predicted date for when the proverbial shit would hit the fan, has come and gone without any signs of God’s wrath. Turns out the crazy old coot also predicted the end of the world for September 7th, 1994 and has now revised his most recent epic fail for October 21st, 2011 (probably so he could swindle more suckers out of their life savings over the next five months). Give me a fucking break. Nonetheless, it got me thinking, if any of this poppycock were true, what metal albums would I put in heavy rotation in order to ring in the Beginning of The End? After some deliberation and debate standing in front of my CD rack, I chose the following four albums as the soundtrack to the impending Twilight of the Idols.
VON – Satanic Blood Angel (Nuclear War Now! Productions)
San Francisco’s VON only recorded a handful of material during their brief original incarnation, but that material, collected on Satanic Blood Angel, is encoded in the malformed DNA of black metal as we know it. The hypnotic repetition, lo-fi recording quality and themes of Satanism create a blueprint for the genre that is continually being copied, re-shaped and built upon to this day. Black metal is an inherently apocalyptic form of music, so including one of the fountainheads from which the genre sprang is a must for any Armageddon festivities. Unlike a lot of other black metal, VON’s recordings sound genuinely frightening and ritualistic without being comically over-the-top. This is raw, grim ‘n’ gritty stuff that just might be a field recording from the depths of hell, the invocation that begins our march towards oblivion. Pray Satan. Pray Satan. Pray Satan.
Triptykon – Eparistera Daimones (Century Media/Prowling Death)
Tom G. Warrior has been working on crafting the perfect soundtrack to the End of Days for almost three decades. He came close on multiple occasions with Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, but his vision seems to have reached a climax with Triptykon’s Eparistera Daimones. A lurching, heaving leviathan of an album, the Earth shudders under the sheer suffocating heaviness of tracks such as “Abyss Within My Soul” and “Myopic Empire”. Warrior refers to his lyrics as “epistles” (a term typically referring to parts of the Christian Bible’s New Testament which were written as letters to groups of people, i.e. First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, etc), but if anything they are sermons for black masses to be celebrated during the Tribulation. Eparistera Daimones is an utterly draining listen, physically and especially mentally. Prolonged exposure to its haunting blackness could ultimately lead to complete and total erosion of the soul, which might be the only respite from Hell on Earth.
1349 – Revelations of the Black Flame (Candlelight)
For Revelations of the Black Flame, Norway’s 1349 largely abandoned their monotonous, blasting brand of black metal in favor of noise and ambience, creating an utterly polarizing album in the process. Once the initial shock wears off though, the soundscapes 1349 conjure here slowly begin to seep out of the speakers and infest your ears, worming their way into your soul. It’s none too surprising that Tom G. Warrior also had a hand in the recording, as the claustrophobic blackness here is very similar to that of Triptykon and latter-day Celtic Frost, although the material on Revelations… is much more adventurous in its execution. It’s no mere coincidence that Revelation is the hallucinatory book of the New Testament in which the Apostle John describes the Apocalypse, because while some call this album 1349’s nadir, I call it their first (and so far only) foray into a sound that is utterly deranged, horrific and esoteric, a perfectly sublime sonic accompaniment to Ragnarok if ever there was one.
Godflesh – Streetcleaner (Earache)
“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” The quotation is from George Orwell’s 1984, but it perfectly sums up Godflesh’s 1989 debut album, the monolithically heavy Streetcleaner. The recording is the equivalent of having your skull marched over by a thousand dirt and blood-caked mechanical boots, while visions of a world irrevocably scarred by over-population, urban blight, unchecked greed and absolute power corrupting absolutely run through it. The crushing, metronomic pulse of the drum machine gives the album a soulless, mechanical vibe, while the grimy distortion of the guitar and bass, as well as Justin Broadrick’s beastly vocals, are undeniably human; the sounds of mankind struggling against the onset of subjugation via technology, only to be crushed under its aforementioned heel. Regular readers will remember that I recently used almost identical imagery to describe a trio of forward thinking Norwegian black metal albums. Streetcleaner is a direct precursor to those recordings and its apocalyptic visions are far more terrifying than any hellfire ‘n’ brimstone sermon, precisely because it is rooted in the all too tangible realities of our everyday world.
Of course the sad thing is that twenty or thirty years ago, before the of the internet, social networking and all the other platforms we now have in place for wackadoos to advertise their messages of moronitude (yes, I made that word up) across the globe, Harold Camping would only be known as California radio’s local nutcase for Christ. Articles such as this one wouldn’t be necessary because Camping would be a regional footnote at best. But regardless of what you think of faux-doomsday prophecies and whether or not the universe implodes, I think you’ll find these four albums well worth your time (though hopefully you’ve already explored at least some of them). If nothing else, they prove that Satan has the best tunes, even on Judgement Day.
Listening to Triptykon‘s Eparistera Daimones (Century Media/Prowling Death, 2010) is like running a marathon in a tar pit. Try as you might to escape its sludgy abyss, there is no hope. Before you know it, you’re in over your head, gasping for air, praying for the end to come. Listening to it is a grueling, draining experience. Of course I mean this in the best possible way. These are the sorts of feelings good doom metal can and should elicit, and Eparistera Daimones is most certainly a doom album, a blackened, harrowing take on the genre that effortlessly drags the listener down into its cavernous depths.
By now, the ugly dissolution of Celtic Frost has been well documented. But who could have expected guitarist/vocalist/dethroned emperor Tom G. Warrior to rise out of the ashes with such great vengeance and furious anger? Indeed, Eparistera Daimones sounds like Warrior spent not months or years, but eons harnessing his hatred into seething waves of pure sonic destruction, conjured to devastate anything standing in his way. Put the album on and you can almost cut through the rage and contempt coming out of the speakers with a chainsaw. There is an old, familiar cliche that says revenge is a dish best served cold, but Eparistera Daimones burns with real emotion; Warrior doesn’t just wear his heart on his sleeve, he violently rips it out of his chest and sets it on fire.
It is telling that the album’s lyrics are referred to as epistles in the liner notes. Epistle is a term typically associated with the New Testament, referring to a formal letter addressed to a group of people (i.e. The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, etc.). These letters consist of the writer’s teachings and are often read during a mass. Warrior’s diatribes read like a twisted sermon, recounting his own emotional/musical life, death and resurrection, complete with allusions to the biblical character of Lazarus (“Abyss Within My Soul”). However, it is clear from the opening lines of “Goetia” (“Satan, savior, father, constructor of my world.”) that Warrior’s salvation comes via intervention that is anything but divine. Taken as a whole, the album is a black mass, a curse upon the houses of all those who tried to block Warrior’s artistic quest for the truth.
Sonically speaking, Eparistera Daimones is one of the heaviest albums you’re likely to hear this year. Warrior’s trademark Celtic Frost guitar tone is completely intact, and has grown darker and heavier with age. His vocals are some of the most aggressive he’s ever put to tape, dripping with venom. Second guitarist V. Santura (whom I interviewed here) colors in and around Warrior’s hefty power chords, adding myriad layers of texture and heaviness. Bassist Vanja Slajh and drummer Norman Lonhard lock together to forge the molten rhythmic magma, the heaving backbone over which Warrior and Santura deliver their distorted sorcery. Produced, engineered and mixed/mastered by Warrior and Santura, the album sounds modern but doesn’t suffer from the over-compression and soulless gloss that plague most contemporary metal recordings. Songs and individual instruments are allowed to breathe in spite of its overall density.
Eparistera Daimones is over an hour long and generally sticks to the slower end of the tempo spectrum, yet remains compelling from start to finish, and is best experienced as a whole. As you might have gathered from my review of the recent Dawnbringer album, I’m a fan of recordings that can take you on journey. Whereas Dawnbringer’s Nucleus is a heavy metal fever dream, Eparistera Daimones is a waking nightmare that isn’t your own. It is a full-on experience, not just a piece of music that you can casually throw on the stereo. I take a strange comfort in being immersed in Warrior’s personal hell, in his fury and pathos. Instead of wallowing, Warrior gains inner strength from exorcising these demons, and I think that I gain some from listening.
In today’s metal landscape, it is difficult to find music that can transport you, music that challenges, music that speaks to you on a deeper level. Triptykon has tapped into that rare metallic midnight of the soul with Eparistera Daimones. Only death is real.
Note: I originally published this interview w/ the now defunct Sonic Frontiers site. With Triptykon having just announced their first US tour for Fall 2010, it seemed appropriate to re-present this interview w/ guitarist V. Santura to a more receptive audience. The interview was conducted via e-mail while Triptykon were gearing up for their live debut at this year’s Roadburn Festival…
Hands down, the best metal show I’ve ever seen was Celtic Frost at the House of Blues in Hollywood, CA in 2006. The band was touring behind their masterpiece album, the monolithic Monotheist, after many years of inactivity. That night they sounded absolutely monstrous. Having worshipped Celtic Frost for years, I couldn’t believe I was actually getting to see them live and looked forward to following the band’s (at that time) rejuvenated career.
Unfortunately, the band imploded once again in 2008, but from the ashes of Celtic Frost, the even mightier Triptykon has risen, ready to swallow up the Earth in a churning vortex of blackened, atmospheric doom. Their debut album, Eparistera Daimones, is quite simply the most suffocatingly heavy album of 2010 and possibly the past ten years, darker, gnarlier and even more devastating than Celtic Frost at their most dense and harrowing. I contacted guitarist V. Santura to discuss the inception of the heaviest band on the planet and the creation of Eparistera Daimones.
THKD: You served as a touring guitarist for Celtic Frost in 2007. Was this experience in any way a lead-in to the genesis of Triptykon?
V. Santura: Well, Tom and me got along very well during the time I played in Celtic Frost and we both really enjoyed working with each other. But the actual reason for the genesis of Triptykon was not my involvement in Celtic Frost, it was the demise of Celtic Frost.
THKD: What was running through your mind when Tom G. Warrior asked you to be a part of Triptykon?
VS: It’s hard to describe. I was extremely disappointed when Celtic Frost broke up in April 2008. I was hoping to play many more shows with them. Having the honor to play in a band like Celtic Frost was for sure one of the most amazing things that ever happened to me. Actually, it was Martin who called me on the phone to inform me about everything, that it was over. And since I had a good relation with all three members of Celtic Frost, I knew about several problems before. Just a few days after Martin told me about the end of Celtic Frost, Tom called me. Although he was for sure going through one of the hardest times of his life, he still seemed to be very energetic, with a strong will to go on and create new music and there he told me about his new plans and asked me right away to join Tritptykon. I really didn’t expect that and I was blown away and I asked him to give me a few days to let me think about everything. I also had to digest the split of Celtic Frost first. And I was fully aware, that starting a new band with Tom is a serious task and would demand lots of energy from everybody. But after a few days I decided that I want to do that task and now I am extremely glad that I said yes to Tritptykon!
THKD: What was the recording process like for Eparistera Daimones? Are you pleased with the results?
VS: I am very pleased with the result and I’m blown away by the reactions we are getting at the moment. In my opinion the recording process went very well and in the end everything paned out, but the pressure was immense. We recorded and mixed the album at my own studio and for me Eparistera Daimones was probably the most important production I had to do as engineer so far. So there was some big responsibility on my shoulders… Right now I’m really enjoying just going to the rehearsal room and play some music again…
THKD: The guitar tones on Eparistera Daimones are absolutely crushing. What was your equipment setup for the recording?
VS: I’m not sure if I wanna tell you all secrets of our sound, hehe. Well, it’s actually classic equipment, basically the same equipment we use live: Ibanez Iceman guitars, a good old Marshall JCM 800 Modell 2203, Marshall cabinets and of course an Ibanez tubescreamer (TS10). A trick is to close the tone pot. The rest in your fingers and the attitude how you beat the strings. If you wanna have that kind of sound, you really have to hit the strings instead of caressing them.
THKD: How much input did you have in the songwriting process for Eparistera Daimones?
VS: Every band needs a main driving force with a vision and in Tritptykon Tom is for sure that person. He is the main songwriter, but nevertheless, I wrote the music for two songs, “In Shrouds Decayed” and “Descendant” and we made the final arrangements for the songs together as a band. So everybody was able to bring on some ideas and most of the harmony guitars are the result of a really nice team work between Tom and me.
THKD: What is your favorite song on the new album and why?
VS: I don’t know if can pick out a single song, I really like everything. At the moment maybe Descendant, because it’s so fucking heavy and The Prolonging, because it’s so fucking heavy… But that counts for all of the album, hehe. But my favorites can change every day, because every song is unique and has it’s strength on different levels. I love playing The Prolonging in the rehearsal room and in fact we will have our first shows in a few days already and I can’t wait to play those songs live. For me, playing The Prolonging feels much shorter than 19 minutes. This song is a mass, a perverted mass for sure, a celebration, almost even more intense than Synagoga Satanae, which has always been the highlight for me at the end of every Celtic Frost show.
THKD: What does each member of Tryptykon bring to the table?
VS: It’s pretty obvious what Tom brings to the table: More than 25 years of experience in extreme metal, a unique charisma and a vision. Norman is a fantastic drummer, he sounds extremely heavy and he is very skilled. Therefore he is very dedicated and reliable as a person. Vanja’s Bass sound reminds of an an old post-nuclear-war Russian tank and she is just a great person and a pleasure to be in a band with her. And I don’t wanna talk too much about myself now. I think the dedication is one thing that unites us all.
THKD: Who/what are your main inspirations/influences as a musician? How do you incorporate these influences into Triptykon?
VS: Everything you listen to can be an influence. But now matter what influences you, you always should aim for an individual style. My influences go from old Thrash Metal to Norwegian Black Metal to Massive Attack and everything in between. Playing 60 shows with Celtic Frost left a big mark on me and of course I incorporated this influence into Triptykon.
THKD: Does the fact that all of you come from well known, long-running bands (Celtic Frost, Dark Fortress, Fear My Thoughts, etc) put any pressure on you to produce a great album?
VS: As I said before, this time I felt a very high pressure, but mainly because of my responsibility as engineer. I was aware that we could get lots of attention with this album and that people would look very critically at it. And I had the feeling that we had to prove something with Eparistera Daimones. But besides that, our experience from our former or other bands (Dark Fortress are still active…!) help us a lot and grant us self confidence.
THKD: What is it like working beside a legendary figure like Tom G. Warrior?
VS: It’s amazing, but not because of the fact, that he is a legend, rather because of the fact that I just enjoy working with him and that something extraordinary comes out of that. When I had my first test rehearsal with Celtic Frost I was very excited and I have to admit very nervous, too. I have lots of respect for Tom and what he achieved, but if I would behave like a fan boy he couldn’t work with me. So when you play together in a band and create something new, you should be colleagues and friends and not idol and fan.
THKD: You’re also a member of Dark Fortress. What are the pros and cons of being involved in two high profile bands?
VS: The cons are pretty obvious. If you do something with one band you have no time for the other band in that moment. So you need lots of discipline and good time management. On the other hand it’s hard to find good and dedicated musicians, so it’s a normal thing nowadays, that many musicians are involved in more than only one band. And if you do different things, everything you do stays more exciting. Both bands mean a lot to me and I really wouldn’t not like to give up one of them.
THKD: The members of Triptykon are spread around different countries. Does geography present any difficulties for the band?
VS: Tom and Vanja are both living in Zürich, Switzerland, or at least in the Zürich area. Norman lives pretty close to the Swiss boarder, so it’s not so far for him. I live in Southern Germany, north east of Munich, so it’s a four hours drive by car to the rehearsal room in Zürich. Well, usually we rehearse for two or three days straight. So I know, that I can’t do anything else on those rehearsal days, but that’s OK for me, since I’m enjoying those days. And everybody has to make sacrifices.
THKD: H.R. Giger provided the cover art for Eparistera Daimones. Were you a fan of his work prior to this?
VS: I truly admire his work, he is an exceptional artist and one of the most important artists of our time. Having a cover art from H.R. Giger is an incredible honor.
THKD: Holland’s Roadburn festival will mark Triptykon’s live debut. Are you excited by the prospect of playing these songs in front of an audience?
VS: Totally. And I’m also very excited to play some of Celtic Frost’s classics again after 2 ½ years. We will play two warm up shows before the Roadburn Festival, but yeah, Roadburn is in fact the first “big” show of Triptykon.
THKD: Will Tryptykon tour extensively? Do you think you’ll make it over to the US?
VS: Yes. Everything else would be a huge disappointment.
THKD: Are there any final words you’d like to add?
VS: No, I just want to thank you for the interview!
For the life of me, I can’t understand why Tom G. Warrior was so disdainful of Hellhammer for a time. This is some truly godly stuff, timelessly kvlt. For those that have possibly been living under a rock, Switzerland’s Hellhammer was a raw, morbid and utterly evil proto-death/doom power trio who only managed to record a series of demos and an EP before calling it a day; not to mention being the precursor to the utter metallic brilliance that was Celtic Frost. Largely considered a laughing stock during their short existence, the band would posthumously go on to become one of the most influential extreme metal acts of all time. The fact that about 5 million metal bands are still currently using the word “hammer” in their names (i.e. Crucifixionhammer, Nuclearhammer, Warhammer…) alone is testament to the group’s long-lasting effect on the metal scene.