Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Promotional Video Review: BATUSHKA "Chapter V: Funeral - Pierwyj Czas" by Ashara Armand

Band: Batushka
Location: Białystok
Country: Poland
Genre: Black metal
Video: Chapter V: Funeral - Pierwyj Czas (Первый час)
Taken from the full length Hospodi (Господи), released on Metal Blade Records July 12, 2019
Release date: July 16, 2019
HERESY! This band came from the abyss with their black metal. Born in 2015. They paved the way for modern black metal. They have established themselves with power, their ancient magic of dark worship. The Black Metal Band Batushka spits fire into their music. The fury in their lyrics. It brings back into a time of worship. A time of pride and death. They have unleashed some new work. Chapter V: Funeral - Pierwyj Czas (Первый час). When you watch this video. You hear small ticking. You wait until you hear the final tone of the music. It is ominous and draws you in when you are listening. The sound of rebirth is starting and you are doing your best to understand. There is death that surrounds this song. The tone of dark worship. The mysticism. The glory and the way of it. You hear the dark chanting, the violent strong undertones of the strong.
They bring you back to real power before they took away it. They are bringing it back to the people. A sign of rebirth and channeling the minds of many. It is a dark cry of poetic rage. When you first hear them it surprises you. This talent that came all the way from Eastern Poland. The song and their music enchanted me. It brings you of where they come from. How they rise from the shadows and appear out of no one. That is how it catches you. It draws you in. I am reminded of other bands that I admire, Gojira, Solstfir, and Mgla. They are going back to their roots, howling at the night like demons. They haunt you with their music. It means you to listen, to know, to feel, to love, and worship. They have a few different albums that take you to an unholy place. They call their newest album Hospodi (Господи). Take a moment and listen. See what you think about it and allow it to wash over you with their dark wave of horror. -Ashara Armand

Варфоломей: Vocals
Paweł Jaroszewicz: Drums

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Single Review: SHALLOWPOINT "Determined Angels" by Dave Wolff

Location: Lenoir City, Tennessee
Country: USA
Genre: Rock, metal
Single: Determined Angels
Recorded and mixed by: Travis Wyrick, Lakeside Studios, Knoxville, Tennessee USA
Release date: July 4, 2019
“Determined Angels” is the second official single from Shallowpoint since their full length “Infringement” was released in 2013; the first new single was “Fractured” (2016). Writing material has been extremely slow going for the band, though not for laziness or lack of excitement for composing. Their time has been spent hooking up with producer Travis Wyrick and sharing stages with Sevendust, Hellyeah, Alice Cooper and other name acts. So far this has worked for them rather than trying to churn out something every other month and having it sound mediocre. From the start Shallowpoint has consistently generated reflective, inner-directed and thoughtful songs (“Nothing Left,” “Self Inflicted,” “Broken Life”) and this is what you can expect here. Going by their growing social media popularity they’re evidently striking a chord with more people. If you’re familiar with those songs they’re what alternative rock could have been if it hadn’t become a trend, made relatable for fans of southern rock and metal. Despite their intense brooding and rumination, you somehow come away from those songs inspired to succeed independently. The first track completed for their upcoming EP, “Determined Angels” dives ever deeper into the quagmire of internal chaos and confusion that everyone skirts around the edges of in their souls. As always the band doesn’t preach about making the world a better place or expect you to change toward that goal. Rather it maintains the simple message of believing in yourself and what do you. Keeping your dreams alive and working toward them despite persistent admonitions that you’re wrong and should do as everyone else does. Remembering the immortal words of AC/DC, “it’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll,” this band is aware that you have to crawl before you can walk. Fame is fleeting unless you work to become famous and stick to your guns as a bottom line. As much as it shows how Shallowpoint have gotten to know each other and tightened as a unit, with more precise guitars, keyboards and drums, “Determined Angels” resonates of having been written by musicians who know what they’re doing and intend to succeed for the long haul after ten years of building from the grass roots. -Dave Wolff

Chuck Shallowpoint: Vocals, guitar
Heath Devine: Guitar
Heather Shallowpoint: Bass
Jason Drake: Keyboards
Jeremy Locke: Drums

Monday, July 22, 2019

Promotional video review: HELL'S GUARDIAN "As Above So Below" by Ghoul Shadows

Location: Edolo (Brescia), Lombardy
Country: Italy
Genre: Melodic death metal
Single/Video: As Above So Below
Fourth single from their full length “As Above So Below” released on Record Union September 14, 2018
Produced by Freddie Formis
Vocals produced by Marco Pastorino
Orchestrations by Samuele Faulisi at LyricArt Production
Recorded at Media Factory by Fabrizio Romani
Mixed and Mastered at The Groove Factory Studio by Michele Guaitoli
Directed by Lucerna Films
Actor: Frank Maiello
Release date: July 16, 2019
The latest single from the album of the same name is exactly what you want from a metal band. They play it straight down the line. No fancy gimmicks. No nonsense - just pure metal. This is what you are here for. The song is very reminiscent of early “My Dying Bride” in my opinion and if you like them you should definitely check Hell’s Guardian out. Formed in 2009 Hell’s Guardian has slapped us in the face like a not-quite dead turkey at Thanksgiving which makes us sit up and take notice. Like whoa, what the fuck? Did I just get slapped in the face with a turkey, yeah you did! Now shut up and enjoy this band! The double kicks from drummer Dylan Formis assault your ear cavity like a jack hammer without an off switch. Cesare Damiolini vocals preach to metal masses like a pissed off fast food attendant; sick of calling your order out even though you are five feet away and have yet to hear him; full of passion and vile! He joins Freddie Formis on guitar to plough through the quite Sunday neighbourhood with a driving guitar that was born to shred. And then bass player Claudio Cor moves you like an idling car engine which makes you wanna hit the road. Fuck dude, can we go back to when metal was good? Hell’s Guardian have! You should too! The only down side I could hear from this track was that they did play it safe but when you want your metal “metal”, why change a formula that works? 4 outta 5 fucks to give! -Ghoul Shadows

Cesare Damiolini: Lead guitars, vocals
Freddie Formis: Rhythm guitars
Claudio Cor: Bass
Dylan Formis: Drums

Check out Ghoul Shadows’ horror stories at Tales of the Twisted on Facebook and Wordpress.

Full Length Review: ILLIDIANCE "The Iconoclast" (Independent) by Dave Wolff

Band: Illidiance
Location: Taganrog
Country: Russia
Genre: Modern electronic core metal
Full length: The Iconoclast
Label: Independent
Format: Digital, streaming
Release date: July 16, 2019
Illidiance from Taganrog, Russia started as a symphonic black metal band in 2004, having formed of the remains of Russian melodic black metallers S.C.A.R.D. S.C.A.R.D. released three demos from 2000 and 2003. Formed by Dmitry "Xyrohn" Shkurin, Ilidiance continued to expand on S.C.A.R.D.’s black metal theme until around 2008-2009 when their EP “Synthetic Breed” tested the waters of what they termed “cyber metal.” It was this time I began corresponding with Shkurin and interviewed him for the print incarnation of this zine. Illidiance was a band that took chances, compounding their futuristic approach with lyrical concepts about artificial intelligence and transhumanism (enhancing human intellect via technology) and the possibility of Armageddon for their 2010 full length “Damage Theory” and their 2012 single “Neon Rebels.” Perhaps Shkurin and Illidiance felt they carried those concepts as far as they could; after those releases they spent 2013 to the present exploring other lyrical concepts with a handful of singles. Released this year, “The Iconoclast” continues to experiment with cyber metal, now termed “modern electronic core metal.” There is still a futuristic theme here, cold and bleak, representing a world over-dependent on technology. By now the cost to humanity is obvious, and it seems there is no turning back from human folly. It’s an Armageddon far worse than that shown in the “Terminator” movies. It goes back to classic science fiction in which technology was created to make human life easier but becomes humanity’s guardian against its will. As before, this concept is enhanced by a myriad of keyboards and electronic sounds. While they were more prominent on past releases, they exist mostly as support for a guitar heavy sound (with occasional acoustic guitars), some classic metal and melodic, nu-metal-ish vocals. It’s mainstream-friendly but not commercial, still retaining potential to challenge musical boundaries. This attitude is reflected by the lyrics, which from what I gather symbolize man’s determination to persevere through any catastrophe. The impressions I get are of the last man alive under technology’s shadow. We never meet him face to face but he lives, seeing a nightmare future world where everything is mechanized and the human spark is almost completely snuffed out. As the final beacon of humanity’s hope, whether through spiritual faith or individual will, he will see humanity experience its rebirth. You might get similar impressions from the tracks “Modern Iconoclast,” “When There Is A Thunder,” “Last Dawn” and “Out Of Coverage.” “The Iconoclast” is yet another album that has something for listeners of aboveground and underground metal. -Dave Wolff

Dmitry "Rebel X" Shkurin: Guitars
Tommy Shockwave: Vocals, samples, synthesizer
Kirill "Kir" Boyko: Bass

Track list:
1. Defying Gravity
2. Modern Iconoclast
3. When There Is a Thunder
4. Heaven Denies
5. Last Dawn
6. Fuel For My Hate
7. Horizon of Days
8. Out of Coverage
9. My Divergence
10. The Afterglow
11. Defying Gravity (Russian)
12. When There Is a Thunder (Russian)
13. Heaven Denies (Russian)
14. Last Dawn (Russian)
15. Horizon of Days (Russian)
16. The Afterglow (Russian)

Friday, July 19, 2019

Interview with poet STEVEN MICHAEL PAPE (fourth interview) by Dave Wolff


You have a new anthology planned for release this month. What is the common theme?
The poems in “Inner Voices: 3AM Poems” are about me rather than society, like “Spring Sun on a Sick Face” and “I Got the Mechanism in Me”. This is a first as I’ve always tended to write about my observations and how things affect me.

How does “Inner Voices” reflect your older writings, and how does it differ from them?
I always try to write about what is happening in my community and in the UK. There are poems about knife crimes (“Area Code”), homelessness (“Eighteen and Homeless”, “Death of a Homeless Man”) and poverty and neglect in certain areas (“Decayed”, “This Road”). I’ve touched on drug addiction as this, as in a lot of countries, is a huge epidemic. “Junkie Parents” and “Devil” relate to it. There are poems that aim to explain why I still feel the need to write and the confusion that can sometimes follow (“You Can Be a Writer”, “Us Poets are Crazy”). It's an eclectic collection, with darkness and light, beauty and ugliness, hopelessness yet hope. And I’m happy with it. The poems were welcomed on social media. I tend to post them to gauge reactions, to see if the work is strong enough to warrant being in print.

How has social media response been since you started plugging “Inner Voices”? How much of an effort are you making to reach more readers?
The reaction on social media has been good. I sometimes get messages from people who work in the local newspaper trade or people who are compiling anthologies asking if they can use them in their publications, which I always agree to.

How much new material was penned for “Inner Voices”, and how much time was needed?
Inner Voices has about seventy poems in it; all of them are new. It started with five poems and over the next sixteen months I just kept writing and adding to it. The book is complete now. My editor Rose Terranova Cirigliano has done several edits, as I often take some poems out to replace them with stronger ones. “Inner Voices” will be published and available via Amazon on July 25. I'll have physical copies a week after to sell privately.

What made you decide to write from a personal standpoint?
It wasn't a conscious effort really; it just happened. None of the poems were planned. I was at first going to leave them out of the book, but I thought it through and realized people might like to see a deeper, more personal side to me.

How do you account for the sudden surge in creativity? Did it happen when you compiled past anthologies or did you have more inspiration than usual?
I've always written a lot. I’ve found when I’m working on a book I’m in a creative zone and my mind set is just to write. After 'A weapon called the word' was published my plan was to have six months off, but two weeks after its release I just continued writing.

Explain how introspective “Spring Sun on a Sick Face” and “I Got the Mechanism in Me” are, and what inspired them.
Both poems detail a period I went through at the start of the year. It was a particularly dark time and my way of coping with it was to write. Again my intention was to drop these poems from the book, but during production I decided maybe they would be understood by people who maybe were going through stressful times, so I left them in. With my previous books a lot has been about society and where I live and these sort of poems are still in this book alongside these more personal ones, it's something I’ve not done before but I thought it would give the reader a slight insight into my world.

Was writing all those poems of a more personal nature cathartic?
Writing poetry is always cathartic to me; it's a release. If I have words or ideas in my head I have to write them down. Most ideas arrive in the early hours, hence the title of this particular book. But some of the personal poems were more of a release than the nature themed poems or those of an observational manner.

Did you think it would be a risk to reveal your personal side to such an extent?
I wouldn't say it was a risk, but it was slightly out of my comfort zone, it was a ‘should I or shouldn't I’. I’ve no idea as of yet if it was a good idea.

How many edits did Rose Cirigliano made when working on “Inner Voices”?
Rose has made probably thirty-plus edits. It might be a small issue like a poem being two lines down from its title as opposed to one line. It's always minor things, but each edit has to be approved by me. Then I’ll probably notice other things so it's been a long process. Luckily the proof copy arrived and I’m happy with everything. Rose is a great editor. She adds her own touches. This always helps set the tone and tie in with the title and cover.

How many copies of “Inner Voices” will you be sent to sell? Will it strictly be in print or will it be available in downloadable formats?
Being the author I can order as many copies as I might need. I tend to order twenty or more copies to sell privately. I'm hoping to get copies into local libraries, and there's a shop in my town that stocks my last book, so I’ll keep a few for that. I tend to see how the book is received before I order more copies. I might publish via Kindle but I do prefer printed copies. I don't own or use a Kindle; I personally feel they're quite impersonal unlike a book. So it's doubtful I will publish this way.

Are attention spans becoming more brief due to the increase in reading on Kindle, as opposed to sitting down with a physical book or magazine?
For some. Again I’m not a fan of the Kindle but I understand why people could find the concept appealing. If you travel and can store countless books instead of bulky paperbacks, obviously it's more convenient. Also there's the environmental side; fewer trees cut down, less waste; and I’m all for doing my bit to help. But I don't think you get the same experience as you do with a book. It's just my preference and I know a lot of people who love them.

Who designed the cover artwork for “Inner Voices”? Is it the same artist who did the cover for your past anthologies or someone new?
The cover is by a friend of mine, Mark Tizard. He has a group highlighting his work on Facebook called The Hidden Gallery. I've liked his work for a long time and once I saw the artwork I wanted for the cover I just knew it would fit into the theme. Mark tends to do dark, pagan themed art that appeals to me. The theme of trees and forests runs through the book, with tree images on certain pages my editor had the idea of including. It's a dark, mysterious and, I suppose to some, disturbing piece of art. Some would say it’s a strange idea for a cover but I’m happy with it. The cover in glossy finish looks excellent. If people go to his Hidden Gallery group, all Mark’s work is there. He also has a Redbubble shop page. His art is available to buy as prints or as shirt designs. There's a wide variety of art and different styles there.

How many themes of Tizard’s are featured on his page, besides the pagan theme you chose to feature on the cover?
Tizard has loads of themes. He does industrial-like machinery art and photos but he also does nature art. He will add his unique twist by adding colour or text. He's done a few pieces with famous people in them like Hendrix, Burroughs and Strummer and added his own style for the piece.

Will you hire Mark Tizard again, and possibly base poems on his artwork for a new project?
It’s a possibility for some time in the future. It all depends what I’m working on at the time. I saw a photo today that a friend had taken and knew it would make a good cover. It got my mind thinking of titles and possible poems straight away. Mark’s artwork is very visual and changes over time as he works on it so I’m sure we will work together on another project.

Along with the poems you discussed before, which ones do you consider the most personal?
In the collection I wrote one for my Mum, one for my Dad and one for my Daughter (She Melts My Heart). These are very personal pieces and close to my heart. There's also one titled, 'My Heart’s Not In It', one of the poems that describes how writing poetry can sometimes be confusing and self-consuming.

What sort of confusion do you sometimes experience while writing poems? What do you do to work through it when it happens?
Most poems I write arrive in the early hours, so there's confusion of where they have materialized from, the idea might be something I’ve not previously thought of. I've written two to three poems sometimes during these times. Artists are their worst critics so there's always that doubt that maybe it’s not good enough. I’ve altered poems so many times taking whole sections out and re-writing them. Some I’ve just erased.

Were there times when you were so inspired while writing you nailed a poem in its first draft?
I've written several poems automatically and left them as I wrote them, apart from making very slight changes. 'Decayed' and 'This Road' from this collection were written straight out as they came to me. There were several others that didn't need many alterations. It's sometimes the best way to write, obviously some poems take longer to compile. I tend to leave them and go back to complete when I’ve had time to digest or think about the content I want to add.

Will the poems you omitted from “Inner Voices” appear in another anthology or possibly your Facebook community page?
I’m sure once I’ve worked on the poems a little I’ll possibly put them aside for another book if I do one. After each book I always say I’m not going to work on another then a certain piece of artwork or photo will inspire me and I will think of using it for a cover. I saw a great photo the other day that a friend had shot that got my mind thinking of a possible cover/book so who knows a year or so down the line I may work on another.

Do you find you’re still writing now that “Inner Voices” is completed? How many poems do you think will be in your next collection?
My plan after a book is to have a few months off just to rest and try not to think too much, but I find on the back of any book release I tend to carry on writing. I've wrote a couple since the completion of this book and saw a really impressive photo that Alan Davidson had taken that got me thinking about it being a possible cover so that set my mind off again with themes and ideas. I can never say how many poems; I tend to aim for sixty-plus if I can.

Are the poems you’re writing after the release of “Inner Voices” likewise personal? How long do you expect to continue in this vein?
I've written three so far which are slightly different, one is complete the other two are in their early stages. One is called 'Dark Energy' which is about the forests at Night and the ambience it creates, another is called 'Poets create alone' which explains itself really with the title and the third is 'Automation' about how computers are slowly being introduced into mainstream society, self-service tills, depositing money into your bank account etc. It's a small poem so far so I’m not sure if I will leave it as it is or add to it. I need to research it more if I choose to extend it. I plan with the next book if I do one to maybe do less rhyming poems and to maybe write less about society’s issues just to alter my work slightly to see how it is received.

Are you still seeking to be published outside the UK? Do you know of independent publishing companies in other countries that would be interested in publishing your work?
For now I’m happy being independent and working with Rose, I enjoy the freedom of picking the cover, the poems and not working toward a deadline. Plus she understands how I work and my strange ways and takes it all in stride. Her company Rose Books is producing some nice pieces of poetry and literature. As writers know she will give 100% and see the project through from its infancy up to its publication. There's a saying that goes, 'If it isn't broke, don't fix it' so I stick with what I know.

Where can Rose Books be found on the internet and who else is the company supporting through distribution?
At present Rose uses Facebook as her platform, but she is working on a website to highlight and promote the authors she has worked with. This book is published by her through Amazon’s new service KDP. This enables independent writers the chance to publish and provides a free ISBN for the book it also gives the writer the freedom on pricing to a certain extent. I like to keep the prices of my books as low as possible. It's all down to page counts and artwork, so this book is priced slightly higher at £6.99 which is the lowest KDP and I could do, taking into account printing costs etc.

How long have you made an effort to keep your prices down? Does it help your readership to consistently sell at affordable prices?
I always try to keep my prices reasonable for “Inner Voices”. I put the cover artwork and another one of Tizard’s pieces in the front of the book and I wanted them in colour but that made the price rise significantly so I opted for black and white to keep the price down and they do look effective like this. Most of my books retail at £6, and slightly more on Amazon. Keeping the price low does help with sales especially private sales, I could put the price higher but it’s not in my nature to mislead the reader or for the reader to feel victimized by a sudden price hike.

Did you ever consider compiling audiobook versions of any of your anthologies? Or a compilation of your poems from all of them? If you decided to release one, who would you want to recite your work?
It's not something I’ve given much thought to, but I know many people enjoy that format. I’m not sure if I’d feel comfortable reading them out loud; it's something I don't really like to do. But spoken word does add a lot to a poem so who knows, one day I might look into that.

Steven Michael Pape on Facebook 

-Dave Wolff

EP Review: GRAVEHUFFER "Demon Face/Stalingrad's Cross" (NoSlip Records) by Alan Lisanti

Band: Gravehuffer
Location: Joplin, Missouri
Country: USA
Genre: Experimental grindcore
Label: NoSlip Records
Format: 7” vinyl, streaming
Release date: March 29, 2019
Demon's Face builds you up just to knock you down, but the intensity grows until the riff switches up and the feel alters. It's a subtle build, but the opening riff feels like it's leading you to something. The transition back into that riff is as seamless and effortless as it gets. The vocals play a big part in providing this sort of feel and the way they switch up slightly and gain some extra grit at just the right time is probably the secret ingredient to what makes this song work so well. The combination of the music and the vocals as a whole entity work together very well, and play off of each other and with each other excellently. Just when you think that the band has given you everything it has to offer, the song bursts into an old school punk onslaught that is coupled with some Death Metal like elements before it descends into a Doom-laden outro. It's as if one curveball just wasn't enough. The way all of this is executed is testament to the band's proficient bag of tricks that doesn't stick to just one style, approach, or genre. The riffing has a way of lulling you into a false sense of security, or seducing you into a sort of hypnosis before it unleashes its full reach and potential upon you.
Stalingrad's Cross sees the band channel a bit more of a groove based opening riff with harsher vocals in just the right spots that remind me of a few classic Death Metal and Grindcore mainstays. This is, of course, without sacrificing their own uniqueness. It's just reminiscent of those approaches mainly. The lead is well placed and well executed and fits seamlessly in with the bones and flesh of the song. The way the riff that follows slows and disintegrates is a great contrast to the groove of the song, and the added dissonance gives the ending to this track an extra bit of oddness in the best way possible.
Overall, Gravehuffer's Demon's Face/Stalingrad's Cross EP is a solid offering from a band that continues to grow and mold its craft. As a band, they are not afraid to throw a wide variety of heaviness and influence into their material, and follow their own rules and vision. And they do so by making all of their influences and output something that is undisputably their own. Spanning only two songs that clock in at a bit over 8 minutes, the band gives listeners a lot to digest. Yet, they do it in such a way that seems very comfortable and natural for them, and they don't sacrifice quality for ambition. Gravehuffer's Demon's Face/Stalingrad's Cross EP is available now on 7-inch through No Slip Records. -Alan Lisanti

Get the EP here:

Follow and check out Gravehuffer for yourself here:

James Hiser: Vocals
Ritchie Randall: Guitars
Mike Jilge: Bass
Kasey Denton: Drums

Track list:
1. Demon Face
2. Stalingrad's Cross

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Live video review: ALLEGAEON "Proponent For Sentience" by Dave Wolff

Band: Allegaeon
Country: USA
Genre: Technical melodic death metal
Video: Proponent For Sentience
Filmed live by Frank Garcia at Reggie’s, Chicago, Illinois, USA, July 14, 2019
Release date: July 16, 2019
These days it’s less of a rarity when I’m introduced to bands with one of their videos, promotional, lyric or live, but I’m more often compelled to hear more when I do. This video filmed by Frank Garcia (Blood Of The Wolf) is not my introduction to Allegaeon; that happened in 2016 when I came across their cover of Rush’s “Subdivisions”; but it’s the first I’m hearing original songs from them. The original songs in question are from the same album as the Rush cover, Proponent For Sentience. Allegaeon do all three chapters of the album’s epic title piece at a show at Reggie’s in Illinois this month. The picture and sound quality were such that I sought Proponent For Sentience on their Bandcamp profile to hear the studio versions. Onstage the band handles the material they recorded expertly, without missing a single note. This made so much of an impression I went on to listen to Proponent For Sentience in its entirety. This is a band you should listen to even if you’re not into death metal, as they cross brutal/technical death metal with melodic death-thrash, progressive metal and even progressive rock and classical guitar. And to such an extent that classifying them would be a task. What’s particularly impressive is how they combine 90s brutality and atmosphere with a 21st century sensibility. They push it ever farther while undermining expectations of extreme metal appealing to the most base and immature tastes. Allegaeon’s range and talent makes you want to challenge anyone to maintain intensity, blast beats and brutal vocals for eight minutes at a time before passing judgment, and add top quality acoustic guitars, soaring chorus and a mood similar to The Omen on top of that. Allegaeon do all of this at their show and continue to promise higher creative plateaus for extreme metal. The band’s latest album Apoptosis was released this past April. -Dave Wolff

Riley McShane: Lead vocals
Greg Burgess: Lead and acoustic guitars, orchestrations
Michael Stancel: Rhythm guitars
Corey Archuleta: Bass, backing vocals
Brandon Park: Drums, percussion

Friday, July 12, 2019

Full Length Review: IMMORTAL "Northern Chaos Gods" (Nuclear Blast) by Dave Wolff

Band: Immortal
Location: Os/Bergen, Hordaland
Country: Norway
Genre: Black metal
Full Length: Northern Chaos Gods
Format: CD, limited edition digipak, streaming
Release date: July 6, 2018
After reviewing Abbath’s new full length “Outsrider” and hearing Demonaz Doom Occulta reformed Immortal to release new material, I wanted to hear “Northern Chaos Gods” for myself. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. I won’t dictate which album is better, but I will say that “Northern Chaos Gods” is a villainously executed return to form and worthy of Immortal’s history. It picks up where “Pure Holocaust,” “Battles in the North” and “At the Heart of Winter” left off, only cleaner, tighter and more extreme. From the eight shredding tracks comprising it, it’s clear age hasn’t been a detriment to the band’s musicianship after ten years; neither has the recent shoulder surgery Demonaz had to undergo for tendinitis. Here he takes the massive task of writing the music in its entirety and all the lyrics, as he did on his solo effort “March of the Norse” in 2011. Naturally there will be similarities to the Immortal of old, cleverly hybridized with enough similarities to “At the Heart of Winter” due to Horgh’s commanding, unfaltering percussion. Incorporating latter day Immortal is a good idea as it further legitimizes the chaotic storms the band formulated in the 1990s, according this aspect with the monumental grandeur of the 2000s and building a sound crossover between those eras. Albums from yesteryear captured the frozen atmosphere and never ending snowstorms as an isolated phenomenon happening in a small part of the world. “Northern Chaos Gods” extends it to every corner of the globe. As to whether Demonaz fills Abbath’s shoes as a vocalist, I personally miss Abbath’s presence but his absence is not as bad as, say, Slayer without Tom Araya. As Immortal’s new frontman, he has an abrasive approach that is distinctive but doesn’t stray far from the formula. He enunciates well and you don’t need the lyric sheet to understand him. I like the way his lyrics continue the narrative of past albums as the blizzards spread across the planet, as it was promised they would long ago. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this to longtime fans who want to travel the forbidden lands of Blashyrkh once again. -Dave Wolff

Demonaz: Vocals, guitars, songwriting, lyrics
Horgh: Drums

Track list:
1. Northern Chaos Gods
2. Into Battle Ride
3. Gates to Blashyrkh
4. Grim and Dark
5. Called to Ice
6. Where Mountains Rise
7. Blacker of Worlds
8. Ravendark

Serialization: "The Arcane Warrior’s Apprentice" by Roberta Downing: Chapter Thirteen

The Arcane Warrior’s Apprentice
Novel by Roberta Downing
Cover artwork designed by Jerry Langdon

Chapter Thirteen

The Great Summoner refused to see RavenDance but granted the audience with Demona. As she walked in she remembered her etiquette and it came natural to her. She kneeled before him.
“Well, my, my. You have changed in a drastic way apprentice. You gained the attention of Arcanos Demonos as a Mentor, you were given your name by your God, you bonded with your circle, you charmed your Information Imp to give you names and other information that he would not have ever revealed to you and lastly- you summoned a Bazatu and a Prince at that far beyond what your level of training should have been able to do.” He said
She was silent and kept her gaze away from his face. She waited.
“Demona, this is the first time in the history of the academy that this has happened with one as young as you. Your armor is no longer armor but your actual skin. You are two years from being able to go out with your Instructor to work toward your journeyman ship yet I have no choice but to send you. There is a war in the far north west of Whalesong. You shall go there. Learn about war and what you can do for the side you choose to serve on. While you are there, you must find the last member of your inner circle; one who is not an arcane but is more than able to protect people should you have to engage in demonic battle in public. And I want you to work with RavenDance on your magics because it is quite evident that the magic has awakened in you. Now, go and make your preparations and congratulations.”
With that she bowed her head and stood up, took her three steps backwards and left the room. RavenDance was waiting just outside the double doors. He wanted to know why she was the only one granted an audience.
“Demona, what happened” asked RavenDance.
“That is Journey man Arcane Warrior Demona if you please” she said with a huge grin on her face. “We are to go to Whalesong and join in the battle there. I must find the last member of my inner circle and I must work with you, RavenDance on my magics as the Great Summoner has said they have come upon me.”
“Well! Congratulations Journey man Arcane Warrioress Demona!” everyone said.
“There will be time for celebration later but now we must all go and make preparations. Damon and Jasper, you should know what I will need. We leave in two days so make ready. Meanwhile I have some letters I must write. I’ll be in my dorm room.”
Demona sat down at her desk and wrote a letter to her mom and dad explaining everything in great bardic flair! She wondered as she wrote the letter if there would always be some part of her that would always be a Singer. She left instructions for them not to tell her brother because she knew he and Satyr were in Whalesong on their journeyman ship and this would finally show Clef that for once in her life, she had actually surpassed him.
She had a lot to do and a short time to do it in. She went to see Jasper to have him update her last will and testament. It is one thing to have a generic one while an apprentice but journeyman ship changes things. A lot.
Demona pondered which side she would join in the war. Would she help defend Whalesong or would she help the invading side. Her brother and his best friend were helping to defend Whalesong and she could so easily aide the other side but in doing so would that really turn the tide and cost two of the people she loved to lose their lives? No, she put that notion out of her head because that would be pride and revenge and she knew neither was useful. And so it was decided.
She went to the magic instructor to be tested at what level she was currently at. He knew that prior to summer vacation, she had only the use of the most basic of magics. He tested her by having her attempt to read the different level magic books. Demona had reached her third circle of magic and thus was given her belt with the appropriate pouches, she purchased her blank spell books that she would need to write the spells down as she learned them and she bought pre written spell scrolls to use in case of emergencies.
Prior to sending the letter home to her parents, she had a miniature portrait pained of herself to include in the parcel. She hadn’t had a lot of time to be able to sit for portraits to send home or to anyone. While sitting to have that done, she thought that instead of taking the most direct route to Whalesong that she would swing down and go into Singerville for a quick visit and then travel north west to reach their destination.
Singerville seemed like a long lost dream of a place she visited once instead of the notion of home. She knew she would be welcome there at any time, that wasn’t the issue. She began feeling like she had no home – that somewhere out there was a place waiting for her to settle into, to have a life and to be what she was.
She studied her spells prior to prayers and going to sleep. This would be the last night in the gods only knew how long that she would have a bed to sleep in. Tomorrow would be tents and the earth underneath her.
In the morning they all mounted their horses and rode to the docks to take the two day trip from the Arcane Island. She loved the trip more now than she did when she took it for the first time. That artic air- it was so comfortable and soothing.
As they arrived in Ashland, she remembered the minstrel Jake who she had given all her bardic things to and written a recommendation for him to attend the bardic academy. She wondered how he was and thought he must not be doing all that well as a bard since he had not written her, which meant he either didn’t care or he couldn’t find out where she was. That now seemed like a life time ago.
They rode for weeks and were finally getting close to Singerville.
“Master RavenDance, would you mind hanging back a few hours and let us ride in alone. I’m interested if anyone will even recognize me.” She said.
“Didn’t you write a letter home?”
“I did write the letter- I just forgot to mail it off. I’ve got it in my satchel.”
“Very well. I’ll camp out here for the night and arrive there in the morning. Is that ok with you journeyman?” He joked. She nodded and off they rode.
They were stopped by the village guard. Each of them handed them their identification papers. Her identification only said Arcane Warrioress Demona, not Bell Singer.
“State your business” he demanded.
“Visiting family.” She said.
“Very well, welcome to Singerville, Arcane Warrioress Demona and your inner circle.”
With that she dismounted, and handed the reigns to her courtesan as did Jasper. Damon took the horses to the stable and was instructed to get them rooms at the inn.
Demona now moved like a master arcane warrior. She headed in to the shopping district of the village to her father’s music shop. She opened the door and walked in. He welcomed her to his shop but without using her name. She browsed around looking at drawing paper, chalk and pencils.
“Arcane Warrioress is there anything I can help you with today?” Jotar asked.
Speaking in the arcane tongue she replied “Do you not recognize me father? A hug would be nice.”
Jotar Singer had a confused look on his face. “I’m sorry arcane warrioress, my daughter is still at the arcane academy, and perhaps you have me confused.”
“No, Dadda, I am your daughter. Your only daughter. You knew me as Bell. I am now known as Demona. Your friend RavenDance will be arriving tomorrow.”
“Oh my goodness Demona! What has happened? You must have had some really intense training and combat to get you looking like that” he said.
“I have graduated to my journeyman ship and have all but one of my inner circle.”
“How did you manage that? You were not supposed to start that for another two years. You know your brother just left for his journeyman ship too.”
“Dadda, please don’t tell him that I am now in the same year as he is. I want to see the surprise on his face when he sees it for himself. Promise me!”
“I promise. You still have me wrapped around your little finger. Perhaps some would see that as a weakness however, I see it as my biggest strength! You should attempt to go see your mother. She’s at the temple for test results from her visit last week.”
Demona walked to the temple of Cwell and entered. She saw her mother sitting in the outside waiting room just before the nave of the temple.
“I’m…I’m sorry but there is no way that someone such as yourself could enter into such a holy place” said one of the priests of Cwell.
Demona had no choice but to play the part, perhaps it was her being in her grandfather’s temple or maybe it was some of that bardic blood that was still within her but she just could not help herself!
Speaking in the common tongue she said “If this was such a holy place would I then be sent back to the ninth plane of hell from whence I came? Perhaps someone has defiled your so called holy place priest.” It was difficult for her to speak in the common tongue now after the time she’d spent at the arcane academy.
The priest held up the holy symbol of Cwell, a golden ornate mandolin. “In the name of the most Holy Cwell, I command you, demon be gone!”
Demona’s mother stood up in a fright. She was literally shaking at the sight of her unbeknownst daughter.
Demona reached out and held the holy symbol and laughed with delight. The poor journeyman priest was now frightened. He couldn’t understand why his deity would not send this beast of hell back to the fiery pit as “unholy” as it was.
“Let me introduce myself priest to put your mind at rest. I am Queen Demona, a journeyman arcane warrior. I’ve come to see the woman awaiting test results.”
“May I inquire the reason you wish to see my patient?” the priest asked.
“I’m sorry I can’t discuss that with you as this is arcane business. I do hope you can forgive me and understand. I am truly sorry for any inconvenience or stress this may cause you or your patient.”
Demona was going to play this out for all it was worth. Perhaps her grandfather would be looking down upon her seeing that she still had the humor, imagination and artistic abilities. Maybe he would even smile to see just how convincing she was being- playing out this little skit.
“Of course, arcane warrioress, I shall make sure you have privacy to talk to my patient.” The priest said as he motioned for her to continue on into the waiting room and he walked away.
“Greetings Mrs. Singer. I do apologize if I upset you or caused you any fear. It was not my intent.” Demona motioned for the woman to have a seat.
“What can I do for you arcane warrioress? I haven’t done anything in which to cause any harm to the current arcane warrior’s domain.” Lily said.
“I have come to visit my family here in Singerville. It has been some time since I’ve been here.”
“Oh, do you need assistance in finding your family? Have they moved away?” Lily asked.
“No, my parents still live in the same home I was born in and I know that my father still owns the local music store.” Demona kept a straight face as those words passed her lips.
The blond elven woman’s eyes though lit up with joy but also had the look of confusion.
“My father’s name is Jotar, my brother’s name is Clef and your name is Lily. Hello momma” she smiled.
“No momma, my name is now Demona as I was named by Arcanos himself. Far be it from me what I did to earn that honor.”
“Well! In that case, why don’t you and your inner circle come to dinner this evening and we can catch up” Lily said.
“Momma, I am on my journeyman ship. I’m here for a few days to visit and then I must move on to where I’ve been ordered.”
“Journeyman?” Mrs Singer paused. “But you still have a couple of years before that is supposed to happen.”
“Things happened over this past year and especially this summer that have caused the Great Summoner to change the rules. I wrote a letter before I left the island but I was so busy that I forgot to mail it. In the missive, it explains in great detail the past year.” Demona handed her mother the letter and the portrait.
“I’ve changed momma. I faced my greatest fear and lived to tell the tale. I feel strong, confident, and I’ve grown into the role of a journeyman. There wasn’t really anything else that the academy could teach me at this time. Now, Clef doesn’t know about this. I want to be there when he realizes who I am and that for once in my life I have finally outshined him. This is something that I have dreamed of long before I ever left for my apprenticeship.”
“Oh I remember my dear girl. He was always pushing you, daring you, challenging you to do more- to be more.” Her mother said.
“It was more than that momma, Clef was teaching me that life is not always kind, that it is not always fair and most of all, if you want something bad enough, you have to work hard to get it because it is not going to just be handed to you.”
Her mother nodded and realized that her little girl was growing up to be a wise woman. She had always hoped that she would grow up and be the best she could be and perhaps even be a much better bard than her grandfather, Cwell- the God of the Bards. She could not be more proud.
She kissed her hugged and kissed her mother. “We shall arrive about six and my courtesan would be more than happy to help you in the kitchen.”
“Oh wonderful, I haven’t been feeling well lately and have been a tad drained. I would welcome the help of your courtesan. Is he or she well versed in cooking yet?”
“Oh yes! Damon is a whirlwind of crazy person in the kitchen but everything he makes is wonderful and is fit for my station.”
“And what station would that be if I might ask”
“Well I suppose I shall introduce myself properly to you just this once. I am Arcane Warrioress, Bazatu Ice Queen Demona.”
“Queen.” Her mother whispered.
Her mother was somewhat surprised by Demona’s rank because after all, when she was a little girl, her only dream was to be better than Cwell- better than the God of Bards. Here she was, a queen in her own right.
“Alright mother, we shall see you at six. I must go and freshen up and rest for now.” With that Demona excused herself and headed for the Mandolin Inn.
Damon had procured her a room best befitting her station. He had anticipated her arrival by having a bath drawn and ready just as she walked into her suite.
“We have dinner plans this evening at my parent’s home. I’ve offered your services to help my mother in the kitchen. She says she’s not been feeling well and has felt drained lately. We must arrive by six so if you could be there about four to begin helping her that would be a godsend.” The warrioress said.
Demona was wondering how Tessa fared over the summer. She missed her. She didn’t have the chance to see her before leaving and she took up a fair amount of time writing home to her parents and preparing to leave the Arcane Island. It had been some time since the two of them had any time to spend together getting caught up or having a girl’s day or even to spar. She decided that after her bath she would write a letter to Tessa and get her caught up.
She knew Tessa all too well. She would not be happy that she was left behind to endure the next couple of years before taking on her journeyman ship. Tessa was the jealous type but she was in no way as noble as Demona. Nowhere near as graceful, though she had learned to be tactful in dealing with instructors and students at least when in the classroom.
Singerville was exactly as it was the morning she left it. It seems nothing really changes. People come and go but it was still the same. There were hundreds of bards from all over the globe and all of them Singers either by blood or marriage. Strange to see street buskers in the party capital of Arret yet there they were and per usual all of them were apprentices gaining experience in the craft.
Every day someone was throwing a party, a feast, a banquet and sometimes it was for a birthday, anniversary or for no reason at all other than for the students to learn how to do it. The real test was if a bard could pull one or all of those things off and have the clan enthralled then it was a safe bet that a mastery had been earned in that category.
“Momma, is everything alright? I hope that was just your yearly physical and not anything serious” Demona said.
“Oh, everything is alright or will be after I get rid of this bug.”
“Ah you are sick, I can have my priest take a look and see if there is anything he can do for you” she said.
“Demona, my darling girl, this bug is going to be with me for the rest of my life” Lily said as she placed her hand on her stomach.
“Oh my! You are with child. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Ya know that will put me smack dab in the middle” she teased. “I’m happy for you.”
“Let’s keep it between us for now- Jotar doesn’t know yet.” Her mother said.
“How much you wanna make a bet Clef already knows.” She laughed.