Thursday, May 25, 2023

Single Review: Ex-Hyena "You Can't Run Away (from me) - Feat. Hororhaus" (Independent) by Brynn Kali StarDew

Artist: Ex-Hyena
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Country: USA
Genre: Dark electro
Format: Digital
Label: Independent
Release date: May 12, 2023
The 80's beat seems cheesy at first, but I like how it's kind of off-beat and it sounds kind of like somebody running. The lyrics are understandable after listening to it a couple of times. Even the more bass-heavy voices I could understand. I thought the bass voices gave it a good dark sound, but too much where it sounds like they are trying too hard. All in all it's a really solid track. The radio mix was good too I liked the more emphasized techno sounds in it and enjoyed it more than the original, to be honest. -Brynn Kali StarDew

Musicianship: 8
Songwriting: 8.5
Production: 8.5
Memorability: 8
Overall: 8.5

Bo Barringer
Reuben Bettsak
Scott Harris: Lyrics, additional kayboards

Track list:
1. You Can't Run Away (from me) (Radio Mix)
2. You Can't Run Away (from me)

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Full Length Review: TweeKs Corner "Past Midnight" (Independent) by Brynn Kali StarDew

Band: TweeKs Corner
Location: Michigan
Country: USA
Genre: Melodic heavy metal
Full length: Past Midnight
Format: Digital
Label: Independent
Release date: July 15, 2022
The first impression I got was that this sounds good but it just sounds like so many other melodic metal bands, their lack of lyrics didn't really help much either, just some original lyrics really would give it a lot more of a memorable sound. “Architect” was a good progressive metal tune, but didn't really sound different than bands like cynic so I was a little let down. I liked the bass solo on the Intro of synthetic but wasn't really very impressed by the rest of the track. The Youtube video was kind of psychedelic though so I give them some credit there. I also that the album art was pretty interesting and definitely gives it the “tweak” vibe. With the name TweeKs Corner I expected a hardcore screamo band and was pleasantly surprised to find such melodic and relaxing instrumentals such as “Right Lane Ends”. A lot of what I like about it is the guitar, but the drums are good too and not too heavy. It's all very meditative and I really enjoyed it. I listened to some of their older stuff too and it sounds pretty similar which was surprising but if that's what they are into good for them. -Brynn Kali StarDew

Musicianship 9/10
Songwriting 8/10
Production 8.5/10
Memorability 8
Overall 8.5/10

Eric G.: Guitars, drums
Eric W.: Bass, drums

Track list:
1. Architect
2. Synthetic
3. Circles
4. Right Lane Ends
5. Still Waters
6. Never Enough
7. Hurricane
8. F.E.A.
9. Nebula
10, Past Midnight

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Full Length Review: Cosmic Jaguar "The Legacy of the Aztecs" (Independent) by Dave Wolff

Band: Cosmic Jaguar
Location: Zhytomyr/Uzhgorod
Country: Ukraine
Genre: Technical/avant garde thrash metal
Format: Digital album
Label: Independent
Release date: April 30, 2023
Previously to covering Cosmic Jaguar, I interviewed Sergio Lunático aka Metal Priest for his previous band Bestial Invasion, and several of their releases were extensively covered. Though his previous band was a straightforward thrash metal band, Cosmic Jaguar extends both the aggression and range of the genre. “The Legacy of the Aztecs” blows any remaining stereotypes about the stagnation and lack of imagination associated with thrash clear out of the water, demonstrating even greater growth potential.
“The Legacy of the Aztecs” is a conceptual album about Aztec culture and mythological legends based on an extensive amount of research and preserved as closely as possible during the songwriting. To help immerse you in that ancient folklore returned to life, Cosmic Jaguar make a massive effort to juxtapose the sharp contentiousness and fiery leads of thrash and classic metal with a variety of genres including progressive rock, jazz fusion, folk, blues, and Latin music, enhanced with atmosphere and effects.
During the songwriting process, the band goes far beyond creating different moods by using slower breakdowns, time changes, and extended solos. Alongside Bestial Invasion, a higher level of avant garde musicianhip shown by guitarist Juan Maestro and everything is carefully arranged and presented. Sergio Lunático’s bass tracks contribute significantly to this, complementing the guitars and drums in a way that evokes the sounds of Geddy Lee and Steve Harris. With gratuitous double bass and constant fills, drummer Denis Tornillo creates background thunder as he handles classic metal, thrash, blast, prog and jazz fusion with equal conviction.
However, the story does not end there. The contrasting influences and the addition of acoustic guitars, strings, wind instruments, and traditional folk instruments create a sense of creating another world, similar to that of the Aztecs. All the band members work together from one section to the next, turning on a dime as a unit without skipping a fraction of a second. The sonic images they evoke gives impressions of seeing a movie inside your mind, much as Sigh (another band ahead of their time) did on albums like “Hail Horror Hail” and “Scenario IV: Dread Dreams”.
The lyrics of each song reflect the research that went into studying Aztec gods and beliefs, and present their ideas in ways that don’t sail over the listener’s head. The only negative aspect in my opinion is that the vocal style Sergio Lunático chose doesn’t fit the music the band composed. Guest vocalist Chimalma makes up for it however. Although she only appears on three of the ten songs (including their cover of the English band Babe Ruth from 1972) she delivers lyrics in Spanish and English in an impressive fashion and I would have liked to hear more of her here. -Dave Wolff

Sergio Lunático: Vocals, bass, lyrics
Juan Maestro: Guitars
Denis Tornillo: Drums, percussion, folk instruments
Chimalma: Vocals on tracks 6, 8 and 10

Track list:
1. Teotihuacan: City of The Gods
3. The Northern Underworld
4. Yoalli Tlauana (Hymn to a Night-God)
5. Our Lord the Flayed One
6. The Harbinger of the Sun
7. Burn Your Gods (New Fire Ceremony)
8. Chimalma: Mother of the Quetzalcoatl
9. The Bloodthirsty Aztec Empire
10. The Mexican (cover Babe Ruth)

Friday, May 19, 2023

Single Review: Incognito Theory "American Rebel" (Curtain Call Records) by Dave Wolff

Band: Incognito Theory
Location: Kearny, New Jersey
Country: USA
Genre: Southern groove metal
Single: American Rebel
Format: Digital
Label: Curtain Call Records
Release date: May 30, 2023
Last September in my review of Incognito Theory, I mentioned the stir they caused with their gritty sound and palpable energy similar to Southern metal. From my review of "The Brotherhood" or the reviews of their singles by Corban Skipwith and Brynn StarDew you might assume that they're based in Tennessee or anywhere in the southern US, since for a New Jersey band they continue to develop potential to become a leading talent. Few bands can surpass Pantera but Incognito Theory is fast becoming a contender.
In addition to aggressively promoting new material on the net and performing live, Incognito Theory is releasing new singles with rawer dispositions. Contacting producer Malcolm Springer seems to be another step in the right direction, as he has worked with everyone from Eric Clapton to Fear Factory. Springer and his experience as a producer and engineer has led to gold and platinum level sales. Clearly, his influence in the music industry is substantiated as his work with the band enhances their Southern appeal.
With the momentum they have been building, the band is still young, having released their debut album in 2017. There has been a recurring theme of fire in their work and the lyrics of "American Rebel" personify an ungovernable nomadic spirit similar to songs like "Born to be Wild" and "Heading Out to the Highway" and films like “Easy Rider” and "Natural Born Killers". Outlaw wanderers who mount motorcycles and travel to unknown destinations like yesteryear’s beat poets are portrayed as timeless and still relevant.
Although times have consistently changed since the 1960s, people are still drawn to this theme as much as they are to heavier music. Why is this so in today's world of pop culture? Possibly it is a sense of exploration into the unknown and unpredictability conveyed through music and lyrics. Perhaps it is what metal was described as being in the eighties: rebellion for the sake of rebellion. The fact that there remains a need to give the finger to everything conventional, as the band makes no secret of doing with this single. –Dave Wolff

Dave Incognito: Vocals
Mike Butchar: Guitar
Jay Brachman: Bass
John Mosco: Drums

Monday, May 15, 2023

EP Review: Wazzara "Ombreine" (Independent) by Brynn Kali StarDew

Band: Wazzara
Location: Zurich
Country: Switzerland
Genre: Post metal, blackgaze, moongaze
Format: Digital album, digipack CD
Label: Independent
Release date: April 30, 2023
“Guggisberg” is apparently a traditional Swiss folk song. I like that it has a black metal sound but it's not too harsh and I can really appreciate the ambient howling in the beginning it really sets the tone for the rest of the album. Album art is really cool, I like the concept of life, death, and re-birth being symbolized by a wheel; it's very Buddhist. The lyrics were mostly understandable which is always a plus for me. Track 2 “Visiûne” was really cool, definitely my favorite track on the album. “I Dream” and “I see” are very powerful lyrics but the drum break at 3:17 was what really got me. It gave it a really unique ambiance most groups wish they could achieve. Track 3 “What Lies Beneath” had a good progressive metal intro, also the heaviest intro on the album, but I thought this was a nice way to wrap it all up so good on ‘em! Her voice is great and the rest of the band is really talented. I really look forward to their next release! –Brynn Kali StarDew

Musicianship: 9/10
Songwriting: 9/10
Production: 9/10
Memorability: 9/10
Overall: 9/10

Barbara Brawand: Vocals, guitar
Marcel “Mäsi” Stettler: Guitar
Tom Kuzmic: Guitar
George Necola: Bass
Deniz Lebovci: Drums

Track list:
1. Guggisberglied
2. Visiûne
3. What Lies Beneath

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Film Review: "Vampyre Nation: True Bloodthirst" (UFO International Productions, 2012) by Devin J. Meaney

Vampyre Nation: True Bloodthirst
Directed by Todor Chapkanov
Written by Jeffrey Green and Rafael Jordan
With Andrew Lee Potts, Heida Reed and Claudia Bassols
Distributed by UFO International Productions
Release date: July 14, 2012
I recently watched the film “Vampyre Nation: True Bloodthirst”. Here is the synopsis taken from IMDb:
“Set in a not-too-distant future in which a synthetic blood substitute, dispensed by the Romanian government, allows humans and vampires to potentially co-exist.”
Here is the synopsis taken from Google: “Set in the future, where an uneasy peace exists between a growing population of vampires and the dwindling race of humans. When a suspicious murder takes place, vampire hunters are called upon for help.”
This was something I found on Tubi. Not everything on Tubi is worth watching but as it turns out this one was quite an awesome vampire flick! It didn’t appear to have the highest budget but everything was done well and the effects were visually appealing. What it did have in spades was a different spin on vampires and I can state that the plot and story line were both unique and original. I won’t give away too many details as I think watching the film would be the best way to digest the story—but what I will say is that fans of vampire movies should really enjoy this one—or at the very least I’d assume so!
The one thing I will divulge is that what when vampires and humans work together for the betterment of both species it makes for an intriguing watch—and again, even though the budget was not through the roof I’d be happy to watch more films like this one! -Devin J. Meaney

Free Tubi link:

EP Review: Mortify "Preliminary Hearing" (Independent, CDN Records) by Devin J. Meaney

Band: Mortify
Location: Ontario
Country: Canada
Genre: Death metal
Format: CD, digital
Label: Independent, CDN Records
Release date: 2008 (Independent), 2009 (CDN Records)
Yet again another CD I got from CDN Records was “Preliminary Hearing” by Mortify! This is an older disc recorded in 2008 and then released in 2009—but once I put it in the machine I knew this was something worth while!
Featuring six tracks including “Vile Blood”, “Compelled to Torture”, “Half Severed Cadaver”, “Miscalculated Judgement”, “Preliminary Hearing” and “Perplexity” there is nothing amateurish about this. The percussion is spot on and the guitar work is deep and heavy and chugging. There is some variation with the vocals but a lot of them are inward bree style gutturals. This is not my favorite form of vocal—but in this case it is done well and mixes great with the instruments. This may only be an EP but clocking in at over 25 minutes it has the vibe of a “short” full length and it feels as if the disc and its contents are perfectly complete!
I don’t have much else to say except that I’d consider this one a win—and for the price of 5 dollars from CDN I’d encourage others to try and snag it—and if you can’t purchase it I’d suggest checking it out online wherever it is available! -Devin J. Meaney

Oliver Nabico: Vocals
Ted Isac: Guitars
Lenny Isac: Drums

Track list:
1. Vile Blood
2. Compelled to Torture
3. Half Severed Cadaver
4. Miscalculated Judgement
5. Preliminary Hearing
6. Perplexity

Demo Review: Cranial Surgery "Promo 2019" (Independent) by Devin J. Meaney

Band: Cranial Surgery
Location: East Java
Country: Indonesia
Genre: Death metal
Format: Digital
Release date: October 12, 2019
A CD I snagged recently from CDN Records for five bones was the 2019 promo from Cranial Surgery. I bought this CD blind as I have never heard the band before…but when the disc came in the mail I was quick to put it on. On this promo there are 3 tracks—an intro and two songs including “Devoured Hate” and “Butchering Under Skin”.
First and foremost I need to mention the guitar solos on both tracks. They can only be described as “blistering” and remind me of the work of Dying Fetus on their Grotesque Impalement EP and all releases before that. Secondly—there are a handful of high shrieks—but vocally this is mostly of the “satanic cookie monster” style. The drum work is excellent I might add and overall this is a nice little blast of grindy death. The CD itself is a nicely printed disc with a single card insert in a plain paper sleeve—so nothing too fancy.
The only negative thing I have to say is that this was way too short—but as it is a promo I guess it is what it is. It leaves me hungering for more though! I will for sure snag anything from this band as it becomes available to me—providing the shipping isn’t too insane and the price is just right! -Devin J. Meaney

Orry: Vocals
Sanders: Guitars, bass
Arap: Guitars, backing vocals
Agus: Drums

Track list:
1. Intro
2. Devoured Hate
3. Butchering Underskin

EP Review: Metamorph "SpellBound Empress" (Independent) by Brynn Kali StarDew

Band: Metamorph
Location: Manhattan, New York
Country: USA
Genre: Gothic rock, pop
Format: Digital
Label: Independent
Release date: May 1, 2023
“Spellbound (Siouxsie and the Banshees cover)”: This was a really great intro track, I'm excited to see what the rest of this album has in store. The next song “Empress (The Plague: remake)” was really beautiful and flowed nicely to the beat of the previous song. The snares at 1:20 till 1:50 we're really nice in it as well! The third track “Empress (Eva X Remix)” started to get more techno but I really liked it! It's nice too because not only did they make a lyric video but I can totally understand the lyrics which are REALLY COOL! My helpful assistant says they sound like the bands Garbage and Sky Cries Mary. I don't know if they do so I'll let the reader be the judge. The instrumental version of the song was really good, but I liked hearing Margot Day’s beautiful voice in the intro a little bit more to be honest. “Empress (Caustic Remix)” was track five on the album. I thought that it definitely had sort of a dessert vibe to it, very ambient but had some good industrial qualities as well. I was really impressed by the flutes at 2:45; they just went well with the belly-dancer dessert princess vibe! The final track “Empress Instrumental (The Plague: remake)” was really nice and easy listening and a great way to wrap it all up! I rarely give a band all tens but I couldn't help myself. –Brynn Kali StarDew

Songwriting: 10/10
Musicianship: 10/10
Production: 10/10
Memorability: 10/10
Overall: 10/10

Margot Day: Vocals, flute
Julifer Day: Vocals
Erik Gustafson: Guitar, bass, beats

Track list:
1. Spellbound (Siouxsie and the Banshees Cover)
2. Empress (The Plague: remake) (Adoration Destroyed Production)
3. Empress (Eva X Remix)
4. Spellbound Instrumental (Siouxsie and the Banshees Cover)
5. Empress (Caustic Remix)
6. Empress Instrumental (The Plague: remake)

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Full Length Review: Sermon "Till Birth Do Us Part" (Bitume Prods) by Dave Wolff

Band: Sermon
Location: İzmir
Country: Turkey
Genre: Death/doom metal
Full length: Till Birth Do Us Part
Format: CD, digital
Label: Bitume Prods, also Earache Records (digital)
Release date: February 10, 2023
During my interview with guitarist Cem Barut last month, I learned enough about the band's struggle to gain recognition inside and outside their native Turkey that I wanted to see where their music is heading for myself. From the way he described Sermon, I expected an album that pieced death metal and doom metal together in the places where they could met. I got this and much more as their method of atmosphere, strings, and other refinements to transform the ensemble of "Till Birth Do Us Part" into a massive transcendent orchestra with nothing more than their resources at their disposal surprised me most.
If you’ve listened to death-doom metal with an attentive, discerning ear for a long time, it’s evident that Sermon spent tremendous thought and execution into songwriting and arrangement, and the process of recording the, to create an imperishable first impression on heavy music aficionados. Moreso, their desired sound was achieved with their own equipment in a private recording studio rather than professional, using their intuition and skill rather than the latest technology to make it as far from typical death-doom as possible. You wouldn’t expect this from an environment with limited resources, but it did all the same.
According to Barut, he and the band declined to draw inspiration from Turkish culture while they worked on the album. It would have been interesting to see them at some point incorporate some native music from Turkey, given the number of bands who have done the same. Despite this, Sermon still displays sufficient amounts of imagination to make up for it. Inspiration from Swedish and Finnish melodic death metal most productively fit gradual doomy progressions evocative of well-known bands like Trouble and Candlemass. Pieced together appropriately, this is only the canvas upon which the band chooses to paint.
In addition to Entombed and Paradise Lost, I hear Anathema and My Dying Bride in Sermon’s use of keyboards and strings. Usually used to introduce or enhance verses and choruses, these are the first elements adding to their solid foundation of melodic death and doom. In example, the otherworldly keyboards opening "Posthumous" are a perfect foreshadowing of the cold atmospheric keyboards and atmospheric lead guitars that follow. This sound is repeated throughout as bluesy solos and subtle vocal harmonies add new dimensions to the monumental guitars, bass and harsh percussion with sudden, abrupt fills. Whether or not the band intended this, it gives "Till Birth Do Us Part" a similar vibe to black and Viking metal a la Enslaved and Borknagar.
A wall of sound this large requires powerful vocals that consistently carry above the instruments delivering this musicianship in such an inventive manner. As Harun Altun projects brutal death growls that are often underscored by fine-drawn melodic singing, you get that experience here. Altun's former vocal style illustrates his skill at delivering it in the correct manner, from deep within the gut rather than from the throat. Projecting death metal vocals from that area is necessary to blend with the backing musicianship, with the exact same techniques of melodic vocalists, to maintain strong, clear diction from beginning to end. All in all, this album demonstrates how much Sermon deserve the attention they’re getting outside their home country. –Dave Wolff

Harun Altun: Vocals
Durmuş Kalın: Lead guitars, keyboards, drum programming
Cem Barut: Rhythm guitars

Track list:
1. Posthumous
2. Silver Splinter
3. Flawless Entropy
4. Requitement
5. Cerulean
6. Destined To Decline
7. Gnostic Disensus
8. The Jupiterian Effect

Monday, May 8, 2023

Full Length Review: Aghast "Hexerei Im Zwilicht Der Finsternis" (Eternal Pride Production) by Dave Wolff

Band: Aghast
Country: Norway
Genre: Dark ambient
Full Length: Hexerei Im Zwilicht Der Finsternis (reissue)
Format: Cassette, CD, digital album
Label: Eternal Pride Production
Distributed by Infinite Fog Productions
Original release date: 1995 (Cold Meat Industry)
Re-released September 13, 2013 by Ordo MCM
Release date: September 1, 2020
I listened to "Hexerei Im Zwilicht Der Finsternis" for the first time in 1995 or 1996, and what else can I say about its impact? My interest in second wave black metal was piqued as I explored Aghast, Mortiis, Vond and Abruptum, I was beginning to discover the lightless, obscure depths that Norwegian and Swedish musicians could explore, and there was much more to explore in the years to come. The recording in particular expanded my perception of what these musicians were capable of musically, lyrically, and artistically.
Upon listening to it again, I am transported back to the pitch-black woods, the darker shadows, the ice-covered wastelands, the creaky rotting coffins, the sacrificial altars, and the haunting incantations I envisioned the first time I heard it. Nacht (Tania Stene) and Nebel (Andrea Haugen), the witches responsible for bringing to life these hymns to utter darkness, created an album that, even if it was their only release, captivated me and sent chills up my spine like no other I'd heard then. It was truly a landmark and remains so today.
There is no doubt that this album is miles ahead of the perceived simplicity of black metal and dark ambient genres prevalent in the first half of the 1990s. The minimalism and repetition brought to these songs are considerably deepened by a multitude of vocal and keyboard effects creating a stark atmosphere that invites you in and suddenly seizes hold of your consciousness, enveloping you in a world of fading twilight from which you cannot escape. Aghast’s confrontation of mortality leaves lasting impressions on your mind.
Their ability to captivate the listener, enhancing the mood precisely as required, can be observed in their use of chilling monotones, unnerving singing, sudden cries, and echoing laughter. Since each song has its own unique characteristics, I am unable to even give specific examples. Each song seems to be a deeper exploration of the witchy darkness the two of them create on this album. However, if I had to choose, I would say my personal favorite is "The Darkest Desire" due to my long-lasting interest in vampire lore.
Andrea Haugen continued to work on and direct more projects while expanding her own musical boundaries, including Nebelhexë, Hagalaz' Runedance and Aghast Manor, besides becoming a poet author and script writer. Sadly, she passed away during the Kongsberg attack in Norway on October 13, 2021, but her music is a testament to her exceptional ability as an artist. –Dave Wolff

Track list:
1. Enthral
2. Sacrifice
3. Enter The Hall Of Ice
4. Call From The Grave
5. Totentanz
6. The Darkest Desire
7. Das Irrlicht
8. Ende

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Full Length Review: 25th Mission "Resilience" (Independent) by Brynn Kali StarDew

Band: 25th Mission
Location: East Meadow, New York
Country: USA
Genre: Traditional heavy metal
Full Length: Resilience
Format: Digital
Label: Independent
Release date: March 21, 2023
Track 1 “Resilience”: I think this song was about war or something it kind of had an Iron-Maiden-esque vibe going on but it really didn't sound bad and I thought it worked ok with the album art. The guitar solo at 3:20 was nice too!
Track 2 “Clash of the Faiths” was pretty interesting. I could understand the lyrics better too! “The Knights in Red Crosses” was a cool line that gave it somewhat of a medieval-crusade aesthetic. It sounded anti-religious authority in the other lyrics. It's honestly kind of hard to tell. The guitarist rips pretty heavy at four minutes which I enjoyed.
“Fight Kill Die” was my favorite track on the album the lack of being able to understand the extremely high-pitched singer didn't bother me, it was definitely very speed-metal/ slayer sounding which just had a good energetic feel which was really good, a very solid track.
“Compelled to Kill” was definitely the shortest track on the album, but also one of the easiest to understand. “Gothic Lady” really was neat on a personal level. As a self-identified Goth, I think I speak for us all when I say we could all use a gothic lady in our lives.
I gotta give them some credit for making track seven “My Life” understandable to the listener. So much metal sounds like a dying skunk and it drives me up the freaking wall! A lot of metal is like well-written poetry, deep and full of emotion though much if it is dark sad, and depressing it's still extremely beautiful.
The other tracks were good too but the one that really got me was the rocky soundtrack throwback “Eye of the Tiger” redone masterfully. This song is really special to me and it really kicked them up a notch from okay to great! I give them an overall score of 9/10. -Brynn Kali StarDew

Mike Deyhle: Vocals
Pat Picarsic: Guitars
Vinny Carollo: Bass
Ed Brietkopf: Drums

Track list:
1. Resilience
2. Clash of the Faiths
3. Fight Kill Die
4. Compelled to Kill
5. Gothic Lady
6. Synystyr Mynystyr
7. My Life
8. Hitting the Wall
9. Centralia
10. Eye of the Tiger [Survivor cover]

Friday, May 5, 2023

Interview with Cem Barut of Sermon by Dave Wolff

Interview with Cem Barut of Sermon by Dave Wolff

Sermon formed in 1997 in Izmir, Turkey. What is the underground/independent music industry in your country like, and how has it grown and remained self-sustaining while you’ve been active?
The music industry in our country has not changed much since the 90s. Even though there are quite good bands emerging recently, the monopolistic view that refuses to accept good music hasn't changed at all. Although many bands go on sticking to the cliché, there are very good bands in the scene as well.
In general, we can't say that we are really glad about the scene here. There is a big number of listeners and metalheads in Turkey, but the scene is mainly monopolized by a few “decision makers”. This is making it hard for some good bands to advance and hold on to the scene. In such a scene, progress is impossible. As long as the organizations and promotion are in the hands of self-centered people, it is not easy to improve. That's why growing bands often try working with foreign people in other countries. During times in the past when we were active, we only tried to focus on our music and to improve our skills to keep going.

What do you mean by bands that stick to clichés and decision makers? In how many different ways are they holding the underground back from progressing?
In our country, if you create something successful, some people don’t want your name to be heard and they try to pull you down. You don’t often receive support or get invited to organizations or festivals. They don’t let you use their opportunities unless you concede to them. There are many talented bands and musicians in Turkey but the people I mentioned decide on who will advance and isolate the bands or people who do not concede to them.

How long has this practice of favoritism on the part of decision makers been in place? Give specific examples of bands who have been overlooked because they refused to meet expectations? What impact does this have on underground music in Turkey?
This has been going on since the beginning. No specific time. I cannot give you the names of bands, but the bands who deserve appreciation are often the bands you rarely come across with their names in the Turkish scene. Because of that, some bands cannot be able to reach listeners since they do not gain a seat in magazines or live shows. And that’s why many bands quit being active and end their careers.

What clichés are Turkish bands expected to adhere to? How do these clichés relate to styles of music more popular than others?
You don’t have to stick to clichés while creating music. Of course there are some clichés in music - especially in metal - but the thing is what you can add on from yourself. If you don’t try to break the mold your music would have no difference than the others and this can be boring for people. If you want your music to be listened and appreciated you have to reflect your skills and creativity. If the original ideas you put on become noticed, your music can become permanent.

Which bands manage to progress on their own terms, and how does Sermon do so? In what countries are you able to contact fans and/or musicians and what sort of relationships do you build with them?
As far as I know there is only “Forgotten” who chooses not to talk much but create and progress on its own terms. We do not have close contact with many bands so I don’t have an idea about how they advance. Many bands go on by conceding to the decision makers and some try to do something in their own.
In order to gain a seat in the world scene, Sermon is somehow working by keeping away from these people and that scene denoted above. If you aim to be in a narrow scene you can’t proceed and can’t make people hear you. We are not making music for a compressed metal scene. As I mentioned before if you are a creative band some people neglect you and try to erase you from the local scene. If you become a passive band and obey them your prize would be some magazines and live gigs. Our target is not the local scene and we aim to be active internationally. We always try to do our best to improve our skills and create good music and make our name much more heard in the world scene.
We are in contact with almost every country in the world. Especially after the release of the album, we had really amazing feedback from zines and listeners and we are really glad about it. Mostly we are in touch with France, Germany, Poland, England, Greece, Belgium, USA, and Latin America. We are in good company and solidarity with musicians throughout the planet, and the fans who like our music are also showing their support by their compliments.

Does Turkey have any organizers or promoters who wish to help the underground move forward, or are most of them self-centered as you described them?
Yes, there are some but they are few in number and the decision makers are usually frustrating them. They avoid selecting some specific bands for their lineup to prevent a possible reaction from their ‘notables’. Or sometimes two different events take place at the same day to cut the audience. In general, they do what they want in their own favor and shape everything like they want. Mostly it is difficult to struggle with them in the scene.

In spite of the decision makers, do social media and streaming sites help Sermon gain listeners outside Turkey? In the countries you mentioned above, has the band received favorable reviews in magazines and fanzines? Are there any opportunities for the band to perform in those countries?
Of course, they are helping. The “decision makers” can try to block you off locally, but they can’t prevent you from making your name heard globally. Social media does not only belong to them. We have an opportunity to reach listeners through social media. We had amazing feedback from the countries we have mentioned above. People really like our music and they are supporting us. We are publishing all the critics we got throughout the world in social media. Anyone can read those reviews. At the moment there is no opportunity for that. We have received some offers but nothing is certain yet. We hope we can have the chance to meet our listeners everywhere. If any promoters are interested they can get in touch with us anytime.

Has the band had to release its material independently in order to establish its reputation? When writing and composing their music, how does the band maintain its creative spirit?
We only released our first demo “Cosmic Prisoner” independently. The second one “Sea of Meanings” was released by a local label. The main thing that maintains our creative spirit is our passion and loyalty for music. We always try to be ourselves when making music and we do not limit ourselves by a single genre. We are trying to reflect different inspiring feelings of each member mutually in our music.

To date, how many copies of your first two demos have been printed and distributed? Does the band continue to print copies of both albums even after your debut full-length has been released?
Our first demo “Cosmic Prisoner” was printed 200 and distributed. The second one “Sea of Meanings” was released by a local label with more than 1000 copies. 500 of them were distributed by us personally. They have never been printed again.

Is your expansion of influences as musicians a natural progression? In different countries, underground scenes develop in different ways. What is the significance of Sermon's music in terms of how Turkish culture relates to each band member? If you were to introduce your band to someone who had never heard of it, how would you describe it?
Of course it is a natural progression. Because a musician shapes his/her music by culture, thoughts & feelings, spirit, inspirations, choices and fields of interest, apart from his/her musical talent. That’s why there are so many bands containing musical wealth. Definitely, there are traces of his/her culture in the music of an artist. This is one of the significant elements to create original music. Based on the place we live, Turkish culture has so much diversity. It is possible to reflect these things to our music but haven’t done it for now. In our music we are reflecting almost everything we feel, and we did not have the need to use cultural and local elements currently. But I can’t know what will happen in the future… I can describe it as a Turkish Doom Death Metal band.

A long hiatus was observed by the band between 2004 and 2022. When you decided to get back together, what were the reasons for that decision?
In the past, because of some negative conditions and separations in the band, my motivation for making music was over. Two of my closest friends (one is Durmus – our guitarist) had an effect on me to activate the band again. Durmus convinced me by waking the passion inside me for making music and we reactivated the band and came back with a new album.

How did you spend time during the band's hiatus? When the band reunited, how easy was it to write and record the new album?
I didn't do anything as a musician at that time, because I wasn't in the psychology of making music. Like everyone else, I continued my classic world life, such as work and home. But while continuing my normal life, I didn't stay away from music and I constantly followed everything related to music. When we re-formed the band, we were just two people and it wasn't easy to make the songs as we had to adapt our musical ideas to today's musical developments. “Till Birth Do Us Part” has become an album that we have put a lot of effort into every second and minute.

Did the band decide it would be a better idea to record the album at a professional studio or with your own recording equipment?
We recorded the album with our own recording equipment in the home studio of our guitarist Durmuş. Because we have all the necessary equipment for a recording in his home studio. For this reason, we did not feel the need to record the album in a professional studio. Only vocal recordings were made in a professional studio.

Since the release of “Till Birth Do Us Part”, which record label or labels have licensed and distributed the album outside Turkey? What has been the general response to this album?
The physical copy was released by Bitume Productions from France and the album is also broadcasted at some digital platforms by them. It is also released digitally on most popular digital platforms by the world-famous Earache Records. We really had and still have so much positive feedback from almost all over the world and we are trying to share these reviews from our social media for people to reach them.

How well-known a label is Bitume Productions? Are you generally satisfied with the way they and Earache Records have treated the band and handled the album?
Bitume Productions is an independent label and I don't know how well they are known by everyone. But they are slowly announcing their name and I am sure that over time they will announce their name to a wider audience. We have very good relations with both labels and we are pleased to work with them. They take care of us in every way, and they do their best to help us.

Is all of your material, including your early demos, available on social media and streaming sites? Where can people hear them if they are available there?
We did not share the previous demos on social media and streaming sites. But soon we will share them on streaming sites and inform them about where to listen from our social media for people to listen.

Is “Till Birth Do Us Part” entirely made up of new material, or were any songs from your early demos re-recorded for it?
“Till Birth Do Us Part” is an album of completely new songs. There are no songs that we have done in the past on this album.

Which of the songs on “Till Birth Do Us Part” most accurately represent where the band is headed musically and lyrically?
Not all, but most of the songs are about the same issue in this album. So it is hard to choose one. Maybe 'Flawless Entropy' or 'Destined to Decline'.

Besides the exposure you received outside of Turkey, has Sermon been offered the opportunity to open for touring bands or perform at metal festivals abroad?
We have never had the chance to give concerts in other countries besides Turkey. There are several offers that have been submitted to us for concerts, but these offers have not yet become serious. We really want to play in other countries besides Turkey and I hope that there will be people who are interested in us and they will give us the chance to play and tour.

When the time comes you start performing outside Turkey, which countries do you want to appear in first? Would you want to play in countries where “Till Birth Do Us Part” received the biggest responses?
We want to play in all countries, especially France, Germany, England, Poland, and Greece. But we would have liked to start from France first, because France is the first of the countries where we have the largest fan base and where we get the most reaction. Then we want to play very much in Germany, Poland, Greece, and all other countries respectively. Of course, it would be great to play in the countries where we get the most fans and reactions because in these countries people know Sermon. I hope one day we will have the chance to meet with everyone who listens to us.

-Dave Wolff

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Book Reviews: "The Land That Time Forgot: Commemorative Edition" (Edgar Rice Burroughs, Mike Resnick) by Devin J. Meaney

The Land That Time Forgot: Commemorative Edition
Written by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Mike Resnick
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Length: 434 pages
Publisher: Bison Books
Release date: March 1, 1999
Many years ago my uncle recorded a copy of “The Land That Time Forgot” on his VCR for me. As a kid I watched this many times and even now in my thirties the film still intrigues me. It wasn’t until many years later though that I found out this was originally a book written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I did read it years back—but recently I had an urge to give it a re-read.
I went to the library and ordered a copy. This version was the “Commemorative Edition” and features all three parts. The Land That Time Forgot, The People That Time Forgot and Out of Time’s Abyss. It occurred to me that I never actually read the second and third installments so I was happy that I had snagged the commemorative edition.
All three parts take place in Caspak on the Island of Caprona. Caspak is riddled with many saurians and other pre-historic creatures—a lot of which are vicious “carnivora” that make journeying through the island a struggle. There are also different evolutionary forms of man ranging from primitive apes to speechless men known as Alu all the way to Galu (rope men) and a handful of different variations in between.
There is a lot to be said about Caspak and the adventures that take place in the land that time forgot—but I will just state simply. The first installment is a narration of the adventures of Bowen Tyler and his company, the second the escapades of Thomas Billings (a man who journeys to Caprona when he finds out Tyler was lost there) and the third the adventures of Bradley (one of the original party members that accompanied Tyler).
Many encounters are had—ranging from fights with dinosaurs to abduction by the “wieroo”—a higher form of winged humanoid that live on Caspak. I’d say more—but I think it would be best to just give a read yourself. The Land That Time Forgot and its second and third installments are lovely (although dated) stories—and aside from some old-timey sexism and racism it makes for a nice read in the wee hours of the morning—making the brain spiral with intrigue and thoughts of adventure—and really—who would have it any other way? -Devin J. Meaney

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Full Length Review: Sonikdevil & Mach Fox "New Dead Wave" (Independent) by Brynn Kali StarDew

Band: Sonikdevil & Mach Fox
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
County: USA
Genre: Darkwave, electro
Full length: New Dead Wave
Format: Digital album
Label: Independent
Release date: April 1, 2023
“Little Monster” was okay but nothing really that great. A fun jam, definitely has a Heavy Metal/Darkwave sound. I feel like it needs some more techno-electronic sounds. There is definitely potential here but it just kind of sounded like a traditional 80's punk song.
Track three “Let Us In” had the techno stuff going more for it! I liked the poetic lyrics too, I give them major credit for posting them on their Bandcamp! 10/10 for memorability since most band just assume you can understand their insane screaming over a whole band. I'm just like, “no I can't understand you, you honestly sound like a pissed off chipmunk”.
“Garden Of Dust” I could also understand thankfully. Great title and the lyrics were very relatable to me as a writer “but you grew up kind of strange, your mind was rearranged and you've been dead for years don't need their crocodile tears”. Such a great line.
Track five was a real Banger! I kind of was hoping every track would be like this. It sounded good with the techno sounds and had a ‘Rob Zombie’ feel that I haven't heard in a while! My favorite track on the album so far, keep up the good work!
“Barstools and Broken Fools” was fun. It just has too much traditional punk sound to be Darkwave in my opinion. I guess it's really more of just a name, or really is a “new type of Darkwave”. I'm just used to there being some techno element in “Dead Wave”. A pretty cool punk song still.
The horns at the beginning of “The 4th Kind” were excellent and definitely gave it an old school vibe. I was hoping to hear more of them but oh well. I liked that this song was about an alien woman. A very sexy concept. Maybe in the future, she would make good album art? All in all, I would recommend this band and I give them a 9/10. -Brynn Kali StarDew

Mach Fox: Vocals
Sonikdevil: All instruments

Track list:
1. New Dead Wave
2. Little Monster
3. Let Us In
4. Garden Of Dust
5. Circus Of The Damned
6. Barstools & Broken Fools
7. The 4th Kind

Monday, May 1, 2023

Interview with Shady Abdelkhalek of Bovem by Dave Wolff

Interview with Shady Abdelkhalek of Bovem by Dave Wolff

Bovem’s biography states the band formed in Alexandria, Egypt in 2014, played Cairo twice in 2015 and '16, then went on hiatus until 2022. Is there a large underground in Egypt with many clubs? What prompted you to put the band on hold for several years?
There’s a large underground scene in Egypt but most of the scene is not active. We have a few venues in Egypt that allow metal concerts to be set, especially extreme metal bands. Most of the other venues only allow metal bands to perform if they have clean vocals, putting them in the category of rock.
The band was originally formed by Ahmed Samy ex-drummer and myself, Shady Abdelkhalek, currently on lead vocals and guitar. After 2016 Ahmed had to leave the band due to his military service and he quit music altogether. Other band members left the band or were in an inactive state. I got busy with my studies until I met some old friends who played metal and wanted to form a band, so I proposed to bring Bovem back to life.

During the period Bovem was on hiatus, what were you studying? Was anything accomplished as a result?
During the period of hiatus, I was studying Mechatronics Engineering and my engineering degree lasted for five years. I managed to graduate from engineering with an excellent grade. This only took me away from music for that period of time but the spirit never died.

At present, which clubs in Egypt support extreme metal bands? Is there any reason why most of the venues are biased against bands unless they use clean vocals?
At present, only Cairo Jazz Club 610 in Cairo and Jesuit Cultural Center in Alexandria allow for metal concerts with brutal vocals. Other venues either totally do not allow metal concerts to be held or only if bands have clean vocals due to the national taboo that links metal music to Satanism. This problem has been going on for ages with major media propaganda that happened in the 90s and early 2000s which fortified the ideology that metalheads are Satanists which metalheads were opposed to by Egyptian society. There’s also another problem that recently arose, the Musician’s Syndicate released legislation that states that for any musician to perform in any concert they must have a membership at the Musician’s Syndicate.

Was the media's propaganda against metal in Egypt during the 1990s and 2000s as intense as it is today? Do you think it was as bad as the propaganda in the United States or was it worse?
There is no propaganda today. I don’t have the full details about the propaganda that happened in the United States, but these propagandas happen every once in a while. One time it was because there was a popular Egyptian TV Series at the time that had a small story about one who was a metalhead and they portrayed metalheads as satanists and drug abusers and so the media amplified the case and it led the authorities to speculate and some people got arrested but they were released just after that as they found out that it is just a type of music and a style of clothing.

In what capacity does the Musician's Syndicate function and what connections, if any, do they have with the Egyptian government? When it comes to bands' ability to appear live and gain a following, how long has religion been an issue?
I don’t have a lot of details on how the musician’s syndicate functions. We only face a small problem with some venues as we are not members in the syndicate. Regarding religion, we never faced any issue regarding appearing live or gaining a following. It was only the propaganda of Satanism that caused a lot of public backlash, but nowadays Egyptian society is much more knowledgeable and they either just accept metal or don’t.

Who comprises the new lineup of Bovem, and how have they fared since joining? Based on your music being aired on radio stations in Mexico, Venezuela, and Indonesia, as well as receiving exposure in Africa, it appears that the new band is doing well.
The band currently is comprised of myself, Gaber Shimony on guitars, Gasser Helal on bass and backing vocals (Mythos), Mahmoud Aly Filth on drums (ex Nathyr, ex Mythos), and Peter Samir as a session guitarist who wrote some the solos on our debut EP. The new members helped in making a lot of changes to the original tracks of Bovem and had many connections with local and international metal heads that got us the chance to be heard worldwide.

What are some of the radio stations adding the band to their playlists? In what African countries do you receive exposure, and how active is the underground there?
The radio stations that played our tracks are online radio stations, Guatemetal Radio from Mexico, Seven Rock Radio from Venezuela, 1921 Baliheadbangers Online Radio from Bali Indonesia, LAUT.FM from Germany, Combativos Radio from Argentina, Metarockfosis Radio from Mexico, and Heavyhops Africa. For the exposure, we have some exposure in Morocco and there are several African metal Facebook pages. There’s a page called African Metal that puts a weekly ranking for the new releases and then a monthly ranking for the top releases of the month. The African metal scene however suffers a little from lack of festivals and continental concerts, but the scene is active and hoping to develop.

What changes have been made to Bowen's original material since the new members joined? Name some connections and how much exposure they helped the band gain.
The new band members helped in the restructuring of the original tracks making them way more powerful. Gasser Helal our bassist has a lot of connections in the metal scene and with venues so he added a lot of PR to the band. That got us a lot of exposure, we got from being barely known to a popular band among the other local bands.

What connections in your local underground has Gasser Helal helped establish for the band since he joined?
He is the one responsible for all of the PR work in the band, and he managed to get us to perform our first concert after revamping the band in our hometown Alexandria which was the first concert for extreme metal since 2008 to 2010.

Have the new members reworked your first singles, "Annihilation of the Idols" and "Tribulation of Plagues"? How did those songs come to be written and what inspired them?
The new members and I reworked some parts of “Annihilation of the Idols”. We did not make any changes to “Tribulation of Plagues”. These songs were written mainly in 2015, they were written during jamming sessions. We would just go to the jamming room improvise and come up with all the parts and we would record them with our phones.

Your second single's cover artwork is quite striking; it bears a similar impression to Celtic Frost's “Into The Pandemonium”. Who designed the cover and who else he has designed for?
The artwork for “Tribulation of Plagues” is truly fascinating. It is an AI artwork using Midjourney and some Photoshop by Gasser Helal. It mainly shows the concept of the ten plagues of Egypt. This was a much more convenient option for us as we are on a tight budget.

Has the release and exposure of your two singles resulted in favorable reviews in zines and webzines? How much more material do you have that has not yet been released?
We received favorable reviews directly from our friends and audience but not from zines or webzines. At the moment we have three more songs that have not been released yet and we are planning to be releasing these tracks along with the first two singles to be our debut EP really soon.

Can you tell the readers how Bovem secured a slot at Egypt Wacken Metal Battle 2023? Considering this was the band's first festival appearance, how did the audience receive you?
For Bovem to secure a slot in Egypt Wacken Metal Battle 2023, we had to apply the band's portfolio, two or three original tracks, and band member's passports. Then that went through a preselection process by the jury to assess which bands would participate in the battle. We were selected among; Mythos, Erasing Mankind, and Medic. I am also a member in Mythos along with Gasser and Peter Samir so we were increasing our chances of winning haha. Our performance as Bovem was absolutely crushing; the audience could not stop headbanging and started making mosh pits and circles even though that was against the rules of the venue and most of this audience had never heard of us before, yet we absolutely broke their neck and we were the first band to perform in the battle. After the show, I was met by many cheers from the audience and from the other bands joining the battle by how powerful our performance was.

Does Egypt Wacken Metal Battle take place every year? Do you think Bovem and your other bands will be invited back based on your performance?
Egypt Wacken Metal Battle is planned to take place every year but it was on halt since 2019 until this year 2023. In the next battle, the bands that participated in the previous battle should have higher chances of passing through the preselection phase.

Has Bovem received invitations to perform outside of Egypt as a result of the exposure they received in other countries? Is there any interest abroad in the label?
We didn’t get any invitations yet to perform live in other countries, but we are planning on working on getting more exposure very soon and finally releasing all of our music as we only have two released singles. We are interested to become a part of a record label abroad as they are going to help us get more exposure internationally and hopefully be able to perform abroad. At the moment, we have some talks with Misanthropik Records. They have been very helpful and excited about the band.

How long have you been in discussions with Misanthropik Records regarding signing with them? Does this represent the first US-based label you have contacted or have you contacted others?
We have been in contact with Misanthropik Records for a couple of weeks now. They are the first and only US-based label that replied back on our band submission. Labels tend to take forever to reply back but Misanthropik Records replied in one to two days.

What made the people at Misanthropik Records enthusiastic about the band? Are there any plans to release more singles, an EP or a full-length in the near future?
We sent out an email to Misanthropik Records asking if we could be a part of their label. They reached out to us, they are interested in our music and they told us about the services they provide. We are still in talks to draft a contract. Very soon we are going to release our debut EP “Ominous Dawn” and we are working on some ideas for a full-length.

Would you consider contacting labels in other areas of the world such as South America or Europe, in addition to labels in the United States?
I would consider depending on the nature of the label, if it can provide us with distribution and promotion in the US as well as Europe for example it is better to work with one label. If it is not the case we will consider contacting labels elsewhere while working with the US-based label.

Name the three songs you’re planning to release on “Ominous Dawn” with the two we discussed earlier and explain what they’re written about.
The concept of the album is the apocalypse. The first track “Annihilation of The Idols” is the beginning of the apocalypse at which we are destroying the ideas of the idols of this world. The second track “Tribulation of Plagues” talks about the ten plagues of Egypt. The third track “Ominous Dawn” talks about how the darkness came and the rise of the dead. The fourth track which is our favorite “Cryptic Desolation of Chaos” talks about the state of chaos in this world and the fight between light and darkness. Represented by the fight between Apophis and The Guardians of Light. Fifth track “Torment” talks about the pain and torture suffered but yet we still should fight against the darkness and never give up.

What was the process of writing the lyrics for the EP? Did you conduct a great deal of research on the subjects? If so, what sources did you consult in print or on television?
The idea of the lyrics for the EP came from our ex-frontman, Mostafa Sokkar. After his departure from the band I wrote the lyrics with the ideas he gave me, mainly using the internet for maybe historical references or legends and building the concept of each track and writing the lyrics. I also had some help with a friend of the band, she helped us in writing ideas then I transformed her ideas into the final lyrics to fit the context on the song by adding or removing some lyrics.

What were the reasons behind Mostafa Sokkar's departure from the band? After he left, did he give you and the band his blessing for you to develop the ideas he conceived?
Mostafa Sokkar decided to depart to focus on his career and he was very supportive that we continue the work with his ideas.

Do all the songs on the EP incorporate Egyptian beliefs to one extent or another?
Not all the songs incorporate Egyptian beliefs some do have references.

What was the name of the friend who assisted with the lyrics and how helpful was she when it came to contributing more ideas for the EP concept?
Her name is Farah Bassem and she helped us in writing from the description we told her about the concept and she helped us get more ideas.

From your description of the EP, it appears that the songs are united by the traditional concepts of good and evil, where good represents one's own free will. Do you think the concept is generally positive despite any perceived negativity?
The concept is generally resolved into a positive outcome of never giving up and keeping on fighting yet it was a difficult journey and everything was destroyed in the process.

What are the ideas you and the band are considering for a full-length album? Will this album consist entirely of new songs? How soon do you expect to start writing the material?
For our full-length album, we are looking to create a very dark and powerful record. We want to write something that will set us apart and deliver what our few fans and friends are expecting from us. This album is coming to be written completely from scratch. We are excepting to start writing the new material just after we release our EP.

Is there research you are conducting for a possible concept? Will they also be inspired by or have references to Egyptian beliefs?
We still have not done any research regarding the concept of the new release. The new concepts or ideas we get are not inspired by Egyptian belief yet we might have some shallow references.

What lasting impressions do you imagine your musical and lyrical statements can leave on underground/extreme metal in your country and in other countries?
I guess the solos on our unreleased song Cryptic Desolation of Chaos will keep fans of extreme metal always wanting to go back and listen to the solos one more time, we as a band literally keep on repeating the solos whenever we play the song for friends of ours. For our lyrical statements what we are trying to example is that we are always facing the apocalypse everyday but we are still fighting and never giving up.

-Dave Wolff