Over two years ago, I was listening to Harvestman, another persona of Steve von Till. The phone rang and my sister, who I don’t see much, told me my father had been given six months to live, he had gotten pancreatic cancer. I put down the phone and my whole perception was altered, this was a death sentence for him. The Harvestman album was like a soundtrack to intensified somber thoughts. It was a huge epiphany of rock bottom, a pure emptiness. He lasted only four months. The music I connected to deeply was Harvestman/Steve Von Till, Zoë Keating, Clint Mansell and the Nick Cave and Warren Ellis score for ‘The Road.’ All helped me cope with this mental state.
Music can evoke multitudinous thoughts and feelings which pass through our minds. It can reflect and even shape our environment rather than be just another product for us to accumulate until the next one.
German neofolk musician Art Abscons’ Les Sentiers Éternels LP was named one of CVLT Nation’s “Top 6 Neofolk Releases” last year, and with good reason. Though the mysterious performer only appears in public behind a green monster mask, his music is the opposite of monstrous: In my review of his 2012 LP, I described Abscons’ music as a “very refined — I would even say ‘classical’ — neofolk style that explores softer, even beautiful, melodies, usually sung in French or German. Les Sentiers Ternel is a drowsy and often downright pretty LP of lilting, dreamy neofolk music — not the sort of thing you would expect a Tolkien-esque goblin mutant creature to make.” Although there are obvious influences from What Ends When the Symbols Shatter?-era Death in June, Art Abscons reaches further back in musical history for inspiration, drawing upon old European folk melodies and themes.
Recently, I was able to ask Mr. Abscons about the mask, and, more importantly, his music. The following interview was conducted in May, 2013.
Text & Photos by Matthew Grant Anson
Sundays are weird days for shows – they bring out a strange hodgepodge of people who either don’t have work or school the next day or do but don’t care. Combine that with King Dude’s already peculiar fanbase, and you had the perfect recipe of strangeness at Los Angeles’ The Echo Sunday, March 31st. King Dude, accompanied by Of The Wand & The Moon and A Story of Rats brought the tunes to match, together providing a unique and off-the-wall combination of neo-folk, drone, and everything in between.
A Story of Rats began the proceedings with ten lit candles, distorted vocals, driving drums, and bwwoooonnnggggg-ing bass feedback. This amounted to their entire set…they either played one long song or multiple songs with no breaks in between; it was hard to tell. The audience for the most part didn’t know what to make of the act, so far removed from King Dude’s sound they were. A Story of Rats had at least five build ups where it seemed as if the music was about to crescendo and transform into something, only to peter out into nothingness like a 4th of July bottle rocket that’s reached the apex of its flight. Drone music isn’t for the faint of heart, and it takes a particularly warped mind to appreciate the intricacies that are (probably, hopefully) hidden beneath the repetition and the feedback. Needless to say, that type of audience just wasn’t at The Echo that night.
On their new album Sky Burial, ECHTRA from Olympa, WA boil the concept of combining Black Metal with (Neo-) Folk down to its purest essence. Simple acoustic guitars, sometimes strummed, sometimes picked meet a basic, almost shy percussion, very seldom accompanied by half sung, half whispered vocals. Mostly an electric guitar is just present as a background for the other instruments, except for one short moment in the whole 46 minutes of the album, when all of a sudden a quavering riff breaks out, which is the strongest reference to “classic” Black Metal you’ll get to hear on this record. The rest is just as described almost trance-like, monotonous, hypnotic and overly very quiet. Thus Sky Burial creates a tranquilizing atmosphere that is able to entrap and absorb you – if you let it happen.
Somehow Sky Burial is like the acoustic intro and outro of one of your favourite Metal records, but without the Metal record in between (and lengthened to a maximum degree). I find it quite astonishing how ECHTRA takes the concept of bands like AGALLOCH or the early ULVER and really strips the whole thing down to its barest bones, so much that there’s almost nothing left. Also on a conceptual level, ECHTRA doesn’t stray away from the pagan relationship with nature that’s also present in the works of those bands.
Shining darkness are the words that come to mind after watching the new KING DUDE video for “I Know You Are Mine.” The song comes from his album Burning Daylight that was released last year by Dais Records. This new visual was directed by TJ Cowgill himself and will have you unable to turn away from the screen. KING DUDE kicks off his West Coast tour with OF THE WAND AND THE MOON and A STORY OF RATS tomorrow in Seattle. Check all of the dates after the jump plus the new video!
October Falls is the project behind Finnish mastermind M. Lehto, who has been creating dark folk and melodic black metal for a decade. Over the years he has been honing his craft and fusing the two genres into a grandiose vision that results in the quintessential soundtrack to the beautiful North. His newest effort, The Plague of a Coming Age, is the most epic of his releases and sees the addition of new ideas, more dynamic sounds and the inclusion of a few other Finnish greats.
Congrats on the new album! Are you happy with the final result?
Thanks a lot! I have to say, that after endless problems and delays, it feels great to overcome them and finally get this out. I’m very happy with the result, it has something new, but there’s still the old elements included. Naturally, as always, you can never be complitely satisfied with the result or if you’d be, there would be no reason to continue anymore.
The early years of October Falls focused heavily on instrumental folk music, but it’s been six years since the last release of that type. How has the focus of the music changed over the years and is that a style you would return to?
I think when Marko joined on The Womb of Primordial Nature, that inspired me to make more music with this direction as I knew he was a perfect drummer for this style and with him on board this could be taken into new dimensions. Yet, the acoustic style is not abandoned, there has been some new acoustic tracks on compilations or split-releases and within few years and I’d really like to write a new album with acoustic material again at some point, maybe next, then again maybe not. It’s all about the current inspiration I have, sometimes I write acoustic material, sometimes the music works better with harsher approach.
Here in the Pacific Northwest we refer to your sound as Cascadian Metal – black metal inspired by a folk aesthetic and drawing inspiration from the natural world. Do you have much knowledge of this scene? Why do you think this combination of styles is so effective and intriguing?
Not that much really to be honest. I know some bands that are labeled as Cascadian Metal, but I know there’s a lot more to be heard. I think this combination of styles is quite emotional and also reaches some people who might not be that interested about black metal itself, yet still enjoy the harshness of the music, but also needs it to have melodies and more nature oriented approach.
King Dude’s 2012 release Burning Daylight lit fires of recognition for him around the world! Yesterday he released a 4 song 7 inch entitled Holy Trinity via his Bandcamp. This is a different sound for King Dude, read why and check out the songs streaming below. Also, all West Coast heads peep his upcoming tour dates after the jump!
I wanted to record some songs from my past in the new arrangements played with my band of Demon Brothers, not only because the songs are so different with the band but because people (mostly in Europe) kept asking for it.
Last December we stopped off in Philly after a show and recorded four songs in one night with our friend Justin Pittney onto a Tascam 388 quarter inch real to real tape deck. We started at night, and stayed up till dawn, then drove to NYC to catch a plane to Chicago where we played our first show ever at the Empty Bottle.
The madness of the trip was all worth it, the recording came out incredible! I later mixed and mastered the songs at my own studio in Seattle.
What you have here is 5:15 of visual & sonic ear candy. It’s Chelsea Wolfe & King Dude performing together in Toronto. On the real, I had to watch this footage on repeat because it’s that fucking good! The way this video is shot by Carlo Cruz adds even more mood to these already very moody compositions. After the jump, check out this cryptic noir performance by Chelsea Wolfe & King Dude, plus a couple of surprises!
Rome recently released an official video for the song “Silver Coil” from their new LP, Hell Money. Most folks know that Rome is essentially comprised of one man, Jerome Reuter, and that the band’s name is actually a shortened version or nickname derived from his own first name. Along with Of the Wand and the Moon, Rome are one of the larger contemporary neofolk acts without roots in the original 80s apocalyptic folk scene. Their incredible 2009 Flowers from Exile LP brought them to the attention of audiences outside the narrow confines of the neofolk and martial scenes, leading to a following among goth, postpunk, and other crowds. (In fact, Rome began as a postpunk band.) Jerome Reuter’s expressive and mournful baritone voice is one of the trademark appeals of the band — their secret weapon, if you will — and the band’s take on Rose Clouds of Holocaust-era Death in June type neofolk continues to find new fans to this day.
I’ve wanted to interview Jerome Reuter for quite some time, especially since LPs like Masse Mensch Material grabbed my attention and refused to let go. By the time Flowers from Exile came out, I was fairly obsessed. The new LP, Hell Money, is a slightly more personal, confessional, and stripped down affair compared to the bombastic tours de force one could find in their last few LPs.
Jerome Reuter was interviewed by Oliver in February, 2013.
Oliver: The latest LP is called “Hell Money.” Can you tell readers what gave you the idea for the name of the LP — what the name means? Is there a unifying theme throughout the LP the way there seemed to be, for example, for the “Flowers from Exile” LP?
Jerome Reuter: I don’t want to dissect that title, to be honest, partially because this time around there was no specific concept or theme to the album or its lyrics.
The Black Heart Rebellion is a Belgian collective, and Har Nevo is their second full-length. After an impressive debut album, Monologue, which was received well by critics and was based in the composition of massive atmosphere with a hardcore approach, these guys decided to take their art a “little” further, stretching their boundaries.
But let’s cut the crap and talk about their latest effort. “Avraham,” the first of the eight songs compiled in this album, starts with the beautiful sound of wind chimes, mixed with crescendo percussion work, that collides with heavy breathing and finishes with the sung words, inviting all the listeners of The Black Heart Rebellion’s house to share all the “worries” and “sin.” You can see that this makes all the sense in the world, especially when you listen to the full record and you see (understand) all the changes which occur…these guys are trying to find their home, and I’m guessing this will be the work of a lifetime.