Top 25 of 2016: #12 Shataan – Weigh Of The Wolf

Shataan – Weigh of the Wolf

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Escape is necessary. The entrapments of our modern world seem endless. Even on “vacation” most people are still stuck in the matrix, keeping on eye on the e-mails and business calls as they flood our inbox. If someone wishes to truly leave behind the stress of modern world, they most go into the natural world. While the natural world is a source of inspiration for many great black metal bands, there is a noticeable focus on forests and mountain landscapes. On their debut full-length, Shataan set themselves apart by embodying the sound and spirit of the desert. In this vast, arid environment, Shataan craft raw, psychedelic black metal that is unlike anything else.

The first thing most are eager to discuss is the band’s use of flute. Shataan utilize flute as an integral part of their sound, not merely there to reinforce melodic content that already exists in the song. In addition, the song “Stand Apart” also features eerie and unsettling whistling, something I haven’t heard on a black metal album before. The use of wind instruments conjures images of open desert and hot winds. The guitar playing is sharp and bright like the sun, and the bass playing is highly melodic, slithering around the guitar like a snake. While this music sounds like a trip into the desert, it is also a trip into oneself. Introspection is a key aspect of this music, and from it comes the need to shed this skin, and become new. As I mentioned earlier, escape is necessary. Not just from society, but from oneself. Viewing ourselves from the outside, we are able to “Release” ourselves from whatever chains hold us to despair, and “Leaven Behind” the poisons of our past. Overall, Shataan prove to be one of the strongest of the Black Twilight Circle bands, combining the aggression and catharsis of black metal with desert psychedelia. Worship Black Twilight.

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Eternal Warfare Fest – Day 2

Day 2 of the Eternal Warfare was a very special day. In addition to the festivities going on that evening, it was also my 22nd birthday. I celebrated by exploring Portland, eating tons of delicious vegan food at Bye And Bye and Sizzle Pie (best pizza ever), and hanging out with friends and meeting plenty of lovely people at the show, which I’ll start talking about now.

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Starting the night was Vilkacis. Vilkacis is the solo project of Mike Rekevics (Fell Voices, Vanum, Yellow Eyes, literally a million other bands), and they put on one of the most captivating sets at the festival. The band’s primal and relentless black metal pierced my soul and drew me in the whole performance. Each song is storm of blast beats, waves of tremolo guitars, and wickedly entrancing guitar leads that are fierce and powerful. What really made the set was Rekevics’ stage presence. He absorbed the energy from their music and expelled it all onto the crowd. He donned the most serious and grim expression on his face when screaming, and screamed with a force unmatched by anyone I’ve seen before. When not screaming, he stood still, breathing heavy and fist extended towards the crowd. This powerful performance coupled with the music made for one of the most awe-inspiring sets I’ve ever witnessed.

Up next was Aelter, the only non-metal band on the festival. I had no idea what to expect going in and was met with the most emotionally heavy set of the evening. Their music is slow, mournful, and harrowing Americana. Their singer’s cold, ghostly murmur floated on top of very spacy and open guitar work and just filled the room with a thick air of despair and grief. The music was very repetitious, with many songs repeating the same chord progression the whole song. I feel like I would’ve had a stronger connection the music if it were more dynamic and got louder over time, but it did not. That said, this was still quiet the experience, and I’d heavily recommend anyone who is a fan of dark, sorrowful music give Aelter some of their time.

After two very serious sets, R.I.P. offered a change of pace with a fun set of traditional doom metal. The band wasted no time jumping straight into meaty iommic riffing. The singer’s microphone stand was a scythe, and looking back I’m surprised I haven’t seen that done before, so I have to give props for that. In addition to his lively stage presence, the singer also provided some comedic relief, with tongue-in-cheek banter such as “I’m glad your mom let you guys out of the basement to come to the show” and “I know this is a doom metal show, so you guys aren’t used to seeing such incredible musicianship, so I’m sorry about that”. It was a refreshing to see a band be goofballs when every other band had a sincerely serious demeanor while performing.

In what may be an omen for most of the festival’s attendees, Hell took the stage after R.I.P. Hell’s brand of doom is a concoction of the misery and sorrow of funeral doom, the loose groove of sludge metal, and the repetition of drone. Each song they played was a barrage of thick tone and even thicker riffs, and the sections with melodic leads seared into my soul. Their set harbored a sense of community and camaraderie, with many people in the crowd casually cracking jokes with the band in between songs. Seeing as how these guys are local legends and their bassist Nate runs Eternal Warfare and organized the festival, it makes sense the crowd showed the band so much love. It’s always a pleasure to see Hell.

Next was one of the festival’s main draws, Blood Incantation. The young death metal band has made quite the name for themselves recently with their cosmic take on technical death metal. The crowd’s excitement was evident, as tons of people crowded around the stage in anticipation for their set to start. This was also the only set the whole festival that had people moshing. The band was equipped with the most non-Euclidian looking BC Rich guitars I’ve seen, and I wouldn’t have hoped for anything less. The band were all great performers, each member playing effortlessly and moving around the stage and headbanging while performing. Each member showcased masterful musician ship. Both guitarists were shredding to the highest degree, whether it was for solos or just the crazy riffs these guys write. The bassist plays a fretless bass, which I’m always delighted to see, and had a really rich and round tone. I have to give the most props to the drummer, though. He put on the most impressive drumming performance I’ve seen all year, with some of the fastest and most ridiculous drum parts and fills I’ve witnessed. The frontman’s stage banter was great too, mostly pointing out how insignificant we all are in the grand scheme of the cosmos. The set comprised of an even mix of material from the Interdimensional Extinction EP and their new full-length, Starspawn. Blood Incantation’s set was one of the most fun at the fest, and definitely the most impressive display of musicality. I’m really excited to see them again in month at California Deathfest. Blood Incantation are currently trekking the east coast, so I highly recommend you go see them if they play in your area.

Volahn took the stage next. In a haze of red light, Volahn dove right into their ritual chaos. Their music is fervent, with waves of savage blasting and furious, melodic riffing. They took little to no time in between songs, leaving little time for me to give my neck a break. I really like how Volahn incorporate the signature spring reverb of Fender guitars into their sound, giving some of the riffs and melodies they play a surf rock vibe at times, conjuring images of jaguar warriors shredding the gnar at the beaches of Tulum. Jokes aside, witnessing Volahn’s violent ritual gave me a sense of pride and a connection to my heritage I’ve never felt before. I never expected to get that from a metal concert, so I’m now very thankful that Volahn and the Black Twilight Circle exist.

Ending the night was the band I was most excited to see at the festival, Ash Borer. Ash Borer have been mostly silent over the last couple of years, so when it was announced they were playing this festival I knew it was going to be special and I had to go. Before the festivities started one of my friends informed me that Ash Borer would be playing their new album in its entirety, and my excitement went through the roof, and I made sure to snag a spot up front for their set. Around 11:00, the house lights went down and the stage was set with purple lighting and clouds of fog and my anticipation was overflowing. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I know the music I heard during their set far exceeded any expectations I had in my mind. The new material they were playing was the most powerful I’ve heard from them yet. While their music has always been aggressive, this new shit is the most intense stuff they’ve written. I was entranced and compelled to headbang for the entirety of the set, overcome by their psychic violence. This set was a very cathartic experience for me, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one left speechless after they were done. They have a new album coming out later this year on Profound Lore. Be sure to pick it up, cuz it’s the best black metal you’ll hear this year. And probably next year too.

Eternal Warfare Fest – Day 1

So, two months into the blog’s life and I’m already taking over a month in between posts. As I’m sure you all know, life gets hectic at times. I’ve been keeping busy though, and in the time that’s past since the last post, I’ve gone to two amazing metal festivals, Migration Fest and Eternal Warfare Fest, and have been keeping up with a lot of great music that I will share with you soon. Oh, and I started my last semester at university. Now that I’m all settled into my schedule, I’ll be posting things more regularly. The first thing I’d like to share with you all now that I’m back is my amazing experience in Portland last weekend at Eternal Warfare.

September 8th marked the first day of Eternal Warfare, a metal festival dedicated mostly to black metal and doom metal. The line-up consists of bands from many of the underground’s best labels, namely Psychic Violence, Black Twilight Circle, and Eternal Warfare, with Vrasubatlat, Dark Descent, and House Of First Light also seeing representation.

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Unfortunately I missed the first two bands, No Trial and Crawl, while I was on a quest for dinner. It should also be noted that Aylwin cancelled their performance day of show. I made it to the venue in time to catch Triumvir Foul.

Triumvir Foul was one of the main reasons I was drawn to the festival. Their chaotic and destructive approach to death metal made their self-titled debut one of the most intriguing records I heard last year, and I’ve been wanting to catch the live ever since. They did not disappoint in the slightest. Their live sound is oppressing; their guitar tone is as murky and suffocating as it is on record, and the bass provided a thick low end that punctuated the heaviest moments of the set. There was almost no lighting during their set, only one red light behind the band shining, providing a dim atmosphere. Each song they played is a descent into madness, with fast dissonant riffs and guitar solos that sound like whirlwinds of flame.

Next was Blue Hummingbird On The Left. They were the first of many bands representing Black Twilight Circle at the festival. The band’s name is a translation of the Aztec sun god, Huitzliopochtli, and their lyrics focus on Aztec war culture and heritage. I’ve recently started exploring my Mesoamerican roots, so this performance couldn’t have come at a better time. The stage was engulfed in fog and red light, leaving the men on stage looking like shadows. The set started with a ritual like drum circle, with members playing drums, indigenous rattles, claves, and the front man playing an aerophone that produced a golden eagle like scream. This lead into a foray raw, militant black metal. Each song is a short burst of relentless riffing and blasting, and I was furiously headbanging throughout the entirety of each one. The band ended the set the same way they started it, but with an aerophone with a much deeper pitch. Blue Hummingbird On The Left put on a mystifying and entrancing ritual. They rarely play outside of southern California, so be sure to catch them if they’re ever in your area. If anyone is interested, I was able to snag a BHL setlist, which I’ll post below.

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The night continued with Sanguine Eagle. Sanguine Eagle are new black metal from the hotbed that is New York City. This was the band’s third ever performance. Their set started with the front man banging out thick, dissonant chords for a couple of minutes to set the tone for the rest of the performance. Once the rest of the band joined, the rest of the set was mesmerizing. Each song is a cascade of fierce and brooding black metal riffing that only becomes more intense and hypnotic over time.

Closing the night was funeral doomers Merkstave. This was their first performance in three years and the excitement was radiating in the room. After they started, it was obvious why so many were excited. Merkstave played some of the slowest and most entrancing funeral doom I’ve heard. The guitars crept from chord to chord at tectonic speeds, and they had a cool vocal dynamic between the drummer’s low gutturals and the guitarist’s melismatic chants. Merkstave’s meditative doom was the perfect way to close out Day 1.