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Friday, February 8, 2013

Review: Vassafor - Obsidian Codex

Special thanks to Scourge Witchfvkker of Exordium Mors and Axiom of the Elite NZMetal 'Zine for stepping up to the plate and writing the following review while I'm still to obtain my copy of this album.  Let hope I can convince him to contribute more....  Chris Rigby.

Like a lumbering leviathan reawakened from an eternity of slumber, set free from its icy chains from chasms deep and mysterious - Vassafor rears its ugly head to crush once more. Forgiving the obvious Lovecraftian tones of this article, it is simply the imagery that Vassafor's debut full-length 'Obsidian Codex' gives; the image of a gargantuan beast hauled upwards through torturous depths, up from the sewers of the world and into the torturous light - only to swallow it whole in it's own monstrous and ugly darkness. In short, this is one of the darkest, unsettling and evillest records I have ever heard and I'll explain why.

As I mentioned before, this record has a very uncomfortable, unsettling feeling to it. To evoke Lovecraft again, it's as if there's something not quite right, something abhorrently 'against nature' yet something altogether ancient like Lovecraft's 'Old Ones'. There are some bizarre riffs which form haunting melodies that for all intents and purposes, are being summoned by VK's possessed mind. I also note that the man behind 'Ritual Noise' project Vanargandr works behind the scenes on the record, which supplements VK's vision of bizarre, uncomfortable-ness. Yet with this uncomfortable-ness, also comes a sense of triumphant-ness as I previously stated the darkness swallowing the light in defiant glee.

The music itself, as always with Vassafor, is highly creative and you can tell that VK has put a lot of time and effort into perfecting each composition, each part of a song with careful and meticulous care to his highest standard. The riffs ooze with black filthy sludge and they leave their dirty imprint on you for days long after. Interesting too is you can hear VK's influences permeate throughout the tracks yet rather than being a mere imitator, he has surpassed the originators of the style. For instance some tracks have a strong 'Beherit - Drawing Down the Moon' theme which I know can be trendy for 'Bestial' bands to do these days. The exception with Vassafor is that it captures that atmosphere completely - and outdoes it.  With the doomier parts (which by the way are prevalent throughout and if you are not a fan of Funeral Doom then this may not be for you) you will hear elements of Thergothon, Skepticism and Bethlehem. On other tracks (particularly on Makutu - Condemned to Deepest Depths) you hear elements of the ritual-invoking and melodic riffage of Inquisition, early Rotting Christ, Varathron and Zemial. Obsidian Codex outdoes its masters and raises the benchmark for Evil Metal. Period.

More on the overall structure of the songs though. I mentioned that there are Funeral Doom-esque parts to the songs; these seem to melt and dissolve into rabid fast or mid-paced parts and then back into doomier territory but without sounding confused or lost. The structure of the songs sound very natural and purposeful - again a credit to VK's meticulous high standard of song-writing. You may also notice that a few of the songs have been recorded previously on other demo or promo releases. These songs have been almost being given a new visioning and although they sounded great on their previous releases - they have been given new 'life' on this record and really complement the album as a whole.

The production on the album complements the music perfectly. The vocals are just buried under the guitar, creating an effect of hidden menace underlying the music. It also, however channels the music and provides a dark current, seething underneath. The bass is bludgeoning and very present on the record - making an escape from traditional Black Metal records and more in-line with the Bestial Metal of the current years. The drums are restrained in the mix but I suspect this is purposeful as the drums are only there to provide the relevant artillery and retain the barbaric beat. BP (from fellow New Zealand feral Death/Grind band Malevolence) does a great job at this and his work is to be commended. 

I'd like to comment on the lyrics but unfortunately VK has not included the lyrics for this release. Judging by his past releases and the care/judgement he puts into the music itself; I expect nothing short of the darkest thoughts penned since Jon Nodveit. I would like to point out for readers that are not from New Zealand or not familiar with the Maori (indigenous people of New Zealand) language. Makutu is the Maori word for a curse, spell or bewitchment which also demonstrates VK's homage to New Zealand and its barbaric past. Furthermore on this track in particular, no guitars were used but two basses. I had the pleasure of witnessing this track live when Vassafor opened for Inquisition in 2012, and I have to say unfortunately the album track does not do it justice. It was an absolute crushing wall of noise that suffice to say, if you get the chance to see Vassafor live - pray they play that song and pray you have the good fortune that you have the best earplugs and are furthest from the speakers when they play it. You will not survive the onslaught of noise otherwise.

Lastly, the only negative I can pull from this full-length is the artwork. I get that it's meant to be a sludgey, filthy, demonic creation, pulled from the depths of humanity but I do not think the artwork was as effective or as striking as the music therein contains. Regardless, if artwork is stopping you from listening to an album then you should probably kill yourself.

My final words on the album would be despite its length (it's a Double LP with an approximate hour and a half running time), it's a mesmerising album that pulls you in and you forget that time exists. The production is very analog so if you are listening to a download of this then you will miss the full experience of this album. Get the vinyl - it will serve you better.

People were right about the end of the world being in 2012 except they had the date wrong. It was December the 6th, 2012 when the Obsidian Codex was released. Buy this record now.

Praise Satan - Hail Vassafor!

666 stars out of 5.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Meth Drinker interview + Open Tomb split review


A few words from Sam Thurston of Wellington's filthiest sludge merchants METH DRINKER!

1- The music and name of Meth Drinker creates a mental image of the band being a bunch of filthy, derelict, glue sniffing, methylated spirits drinking drop kicks. How close is this to the truth? Who would you actually describe yourselves personally (not musically)?

Picture a scummy flat in Newtown that hasn't seen a vacuum cleaner in 15 years. There is assorted crap strewn everywhere, used plates with dried crusted floor all over the floor. The occupants are unconscious... occasionally coming out of their drugged out methylated spirits haze to start jamming on the various instruments set up around the room. Nah seriously we're some of the most cleanest, tidiest civilized people Lance knows.
Lance - "sam, tony and james are probably the most cleanest/tidiest/civilized people that i know of "
2- You released your Self titled on Vinyl and CD in early 2011 through AlwaysNeverFun Records to what seemed like a huge underground response internationally.This included a rave review in Terrorizer magazine and my review on Subcide Webzine has attracted more than double the amount of hits of any other article I've posted. What do think has attributed to this level of attention being paid to Meth Drinker?

We just tried to write music that we wanted to hear and didn't think there were all that many bands these days doing sludge that wasn't 10 minute long self-indulgent wanky boring shit. Trying to write nasty shit as heavy as possible. So we're not surprised that other people may be into it.
Meth Drinker s/t album reissue cover
3 -Still on the subject of the debut s/t Album. It’s been re-released for Europe by Raw Birth Records. How did this come about? For those that missed the original release how can they get this version? Why should people get the album?

We were compared to Bottom Feeder from Denmark on a blog review and one of the members co-runs Raw Birth Records so they liked us and wanted to repress the 12" and got in contact. So we're stoked about that and they're gunna help out large with a Europe tour in May next year. People can get the album off Raw Birth Records blog. Why should people get the record...? Why not? 

4) Going back to the first question, you say that your music doesn't reflect the members of Meth Drinker as people. Yet it's (your music)  up there with some of the most dark, sick and twisted sludge there is.  Where exactly do you draw your creative inspiration from for these dark musical and lyrical themes?

We never said our music doesn't reflect us personally but it's not hard to draw influence from the ongoing pain and suffering endured in this world.

5 - You own and run “AlwaysNeverFun Records” (and Zine?) that released the Meth Drinker debut. Tell us abit about the label,it’s focus, what it’s released and going to release. How can people check out your catalogue and make orders? Additionally, Tony does a blog and label called Drug Violence. What can you tell us about these?

I just started Always Never Fun to release records on my own terms and there were no labels in NZ I wanted to be on. I've released mostly our own shit with the exceptions of a 12" NZ comp and the Electric Mayhem /Numbskull split cause they're good cunts. Tony started Drug violence to make local NZ demos available to local friends but there has been subsequent international interest.

6 - You have just released a split album coming out with Hamilton band ‘Open Tomb’. How did this come about? What can we expect from it? Musically how does it compare to the debut? How can it be obtained?

We're friends with the old cunts from Open Tomb so it was natural to do a split with them. It was originally gunna be a Gawj / Drug Problem 12" but both bands broke up. Musically, it's more of the same. It's available for not much longer stunsmas@yahoo.co.nz and opentomb666@gmail.com 

Note: See the end of this article for a review of this release
Open Tomb split cover art
7- Meth Drinker members are also involved in a number of other bands including Scab, Shortlived, Influence, Rogernomix, Invertebrate, Drug Problem and Baboon King. Could you please give a brief description of each band including styles, which members are involved, current status and any links or releases that readers can check out.

Too many bands to go into. Just search them and you can easily figure it out or check drugviolence.blogspot.com

8 - You’ve made a pretty unsettling music video for the song ‘731’ off of the Open Tomb split. Who put this together and where did the footage come from? What was the intent of it?

We got the footage from Doctors of Death (Killer in a White Coat). It's basically about the history of humans testing on humans. 



9- You played a gig a short while ago at ‘Strathmore Gun Placement’. What was that all about?

There is a lack of decent AA venues in Wellington and we got sick of playing at the shitty bars so we decided to release the 12" in a bunker on generator power. Keeping it punk as fuck. DIY. There will be more generator shows in Wellington to come so stayed tuned. Illegal shows are the best shows.

10 - What is next for Meth Drinker? Any last comments?

The future for Meth Drinker is a European tour in May/June of 2013. The first two weeks are with US sludge band Graves at Sea and then one week with Danish Grind band Dead Instrument. Then we head to Ireland to play three shows over there. Hopefully coinciding with the tour will be another repress of the s/t 12" on Raw Birth Records(Denmark) a new 7" on crucificados records (Germany)and Raw Birth records, a split 12" with UK sludge band Moloch on crucificados records and Feast of Tentacles (UK) and we're also working on something new which may or may not be ready by then too, we'll see. For info on the tour dates with Graves at Sea checkhttp://killtownbookings.com/?page_id=6 and for the rest of the tour details will be posted on http://alwaysneverfunrecords.wordpress.com/


Meth Drinker/Open Tomb split 12” (Alwaysneverfun/United Blasphemy Music)

This split vinyl 12” contains two tones of filthy sludge doom. One ‘Open Tomb’, a dark grey sewage silt with streaks of darker grey effluent. The other, ‘Meth Drinker’, a disgusting dark green bile with curdles of brighter green pus. Both are improvements, particularly in the area of songwriting, from each band’s previous recordings.

First we get three Meth Drinker tunes. ‘Dehumanize’ continues in the vein of the dirty sludge we heard on the s/t album. ‘Beyond The Grate’ starts moving into new territory with creeping climbing riffs, rising into an aggressive peak which includes samples of suffering, torture and insanity. Both of these songs seem to build up toward the ultra disturbing, and most musically diverse, epic that is ‘731’. Despite the lack of visuals from the music video, I still find the level of unease in ‘731’ to be up there with a rare few things I’ve ever heard in recorded music. Those include the ‘Khanate ‘Things Viral’’ album and the first time I heard ‘Altar of Sacrifice’ while listening to ‘Slayer - Reign In Blood’ aged fifteen in the dark through walkman headphones. A quick Google search shows that the theme of this song is based around the WWII Japanese biological warfare and human testing ‘Unit 731’. I think Meth Drinker have succeeded in capturing the horror of that place accurately. 

The two song ‘Open Tomb’ contribution (‘Off with his Hands’ and ‘Hostile Womb’) for some reason reminds me of the atmosphere that is projected the first ‘Grief’ album ‘Dismal’ (The really good album they did in ‘93 before all their albums started to sound exactly the same and kind of boring) i.e. a kind of grind sludge that is engaging rather than a wash that plays as droning background music. My observation over the past 20+ years of bands with Sean Carmichael (and associated musicians) in them is that they seem to last a couple of years, start getting really good and then end before they get a chance to develop into something really awesome. Therefore I’m going to be an optimist here and hope that they stick with Open Tomb and see where it goes. In the meantime I can tell you that the material on this split is some of the best and most engaging music I’ve heard from the Sean Carmichael collective in the last almost quarter century....... Jesus we’re a bunch of fuckin’ old cunts! 
Get it if you still can. Beg for a re-press if you can’t.