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France has had its share of tyrants. There were the selfish ones like Louis XIV who arrogantly said “L’etat c’est moi”. There were also the beloved dictators like Napoleon Bonaparte and Napoleon III. But none of these matched the ruthlessness of Maximilien Robespiere whose one-year “Reign of Terror” resulted in the deaths of about 40,000. I suppose these Norwegian metallers had history in mind when they titled this album—which they just happened to record in France! You get the impression that they have mayhem and violence in mind.
Mayhem and violence is right. Under the Reign of Terror begins with a storm of brutal black death metal entitled “Deathmachine” and do not let up all the way through to their cover of Mayhem’s “Deathcrush” (which features Necrobutcher as a guest musician). Their sound is as brutal as ever and sounds more like a Polish Black/Death Metal band (Belfegor, Damnation) than most of the Norwegian ones. One might also be tempted to draw comparisons to Morbid Angel, or such Swedish black metal bands as Marduk or Nifelheim. In other words: heavy guitars, brutal vocals, blast beats, no keyboards that I can recall, and clear production. . The only atmosphere here is one of brutality. Truthfully, while I quite enjoy bands like Emperor and Dimmu Borgir, Bloodthorn represent more of what the founders of Norwegian black metal stood for, bands like Mayhem, especially on “Fields of Blood”. In fact, this is what Mayhem might sound like today if Euronymous were still alive.
CRITICALTOM: Did you choose the title because of its connection to Robespiere or the bloody French Revolution, or is it just a cool title? Is that why you recorded this album in France?
HARALD: No, the title had nothing to do with that, it's taken from the lyrics of "The Return of Wrath", the second song of the album. The title reflects the lyrical contents of the album, which actually is like the final chapter of the 'Bloodthorn saga' that was started on the first album. Recording in France was something that came about when the guy we used as a sound engineer (who was also a long-time friend of our guitar player Alex), started a new studio. It was supposed to be a really great studio [according to] the deal he gave us. Based on what he said about the studio it was a very good one but everything turned out to be shit. When we came down there the construction work on the studio wasn't even finished and we had to start a couple of days later due to this. When we finally got it up and running the tape-recorder broke down after half a day and it all got worse from there on... It was a mess all the way but we pulled through eventually.
CRITICALTOM: Do you consider Bloodthorn to embody the "true" black metal sound, or at least the original Norwegian black metal sound?
HARALD: I don't know, but opposed to many other bands these days we have taken a turn for the more aggressive and brutal and so we're definitely more back to basics. You know, compared to our first two albums, we took a 180 degree turn and really went for a traditional death/black metal sound. After the last album we were not happy at all with the way it sounded, so we did some major line-up changes and basically just said fuck it. We were fed up with the way the band was turning because of people who didn't know anything about the genre, so when we'd "cleaned up the mess" we started on the new songs and immediately knew this was going to be something different. This is the kind of music we listen to, so it was very natural for us to write this material when we finally had a new complete line-up that had the same musical goals and references. Do we have the "true" black metal sound? I don't know, it's not up to us to say that. Personally I think the original black (and death) metal sound--in it's different forms--where shaped by bands like Venom, Bathory, Sarcofago, Slayer, Sepultura, Sodom, Celtic Frost, Possessed, Morbid Angel, Mayhem and many others. All of these bands' weren't necessarily black metal per se, but they had a lot of the sound and imagery that is related to it. In the second wave it was bands like Darkthrone, Burzum, Emperor, Dissection, Marduk, Gorgoroth, Immortal, and whomever, Norwegian bands in particular, and again Mayhem set a new standard with the "Mysteriis..." album. So, I don't know if we sound like those bands, but if we've created some of that old feeling it's great...
CRITICALTOM: What musical philosophy drives your composition of songs? Lyrics?
HARALD: There's no particular philosophy behind the musical creations, as long as a riff sounds good and is heavy or brutal enough we'll use it. We try to combine heaviness and aggression so as to keep it vile and sinister, but at the same time dark, brutal and heavy. We're more focused on how things should sound now than earlier and we're more critical of our own songs. We feel that we've found our sound with "Under the Reign of Terror" and even though the next album will sound different, we will carry on the basic sound from this one. The lyrics aren't so important as the music, but they will always have a dark, violent theme. On the new album, they deal with the horrors of war and global destruction (not from an environmental point of view of course). Basically it tells of the end of everything, of how the earth is conquered by these evil, dark forces and laid to waste.
CRITICALTOM: How do you expect this new deal with Red Stream will help get Bloodthorn noticed?
HARALD: We know Red Stream is pushing the band hard and doing the best they can to get the word out there, so we're looking with very positive eyes on this deal. When we broke with our first label we were all pissed and fed up with all the shit, but working with Red Stream has been really great and that gives us an extra push to work harder ourselves also. As they're based in the US, we hope to get the band better known there, and while they're a small label they're growing and gaining respect in the underground. They're totally honest and dedicated to what they're doing and that was what we were looking for in a label. So with Red Stream backing us up in every way and a new album that we're really satisfied with personally we hope and believe things will finally work out.
CRITICALTOM: What does the word "success" mean for a band like Bloodthorn?
HARALD: To be able to do what we want, to write and play the music we like, selling some records and getting gigs and tours. If we can manage that we've definitely succeeded in our eyes. We're not looking for superstardom or anything like that, we just want to do our shit and hopefully someone will appreciate that. The ultimate would be to be able to live from the music of course.
CRITICALTOM: Please give a brief biography and line up of the band.
HARALD: Well, Bloodthorn was started by Tom as a solo-project when he left Manes back in '92 or '93 or something. He did some demo recordings on his own but didn't really get it going until Krell joined him a couple of years later. They did the "Natteskyggen" demo tape, which came out in 96 and led to a record deal and eventually the first album "In the Shadow of Your Black Wings" which came out in autumn '97. When that was out they decided to try to get some gigs, so they got together a band--some of the new members worked as session musicians on the debut album, and it was at this time I joined also. We did our first gig in April 98, followed by a short tour and then we recorded another album, "Onwards into Battle", in winter 99 which came out in Sept./Oct. the same year. Even before the recording we had noticed that the line-up didn't really work, so a couple of months after returning from the studio we started changing out members, and first we got Alex and then a few months later Jehmod was part of the band. This process (of getting new members and getting rid of old) lasted until after the European tour that followed right after the album release, and when we returned from that tour we broke with our first label as well. So, we signed with Red Stream, did some more gigs, recorded the album last September and basically been waiting for it come out, which brings us up to now. The current line-up, which have been the same for almost two years now is: Krell (vocals), Tom (rhythm guitar), Alex (lead- and rhythm guitar), Harald (bass) and Jehmod (drums).
CRITICALTOM: What would you like to say to someone who has never heard you before?
HARALD: First of all, check out our new album, and forget about the old shit. Bloodthorn plays heavy, violent, blackened death metal - no more, no less. No bullshit, no compromise. Just in straight in your face death and destruction.
CRITICALTOM: Any last words?
HARALD: Thanx a lot to you Tom, for supporting and showing interest in Bloodthorn. Everyone, get in touch with Red Stream (email@example.com - www.redstream.org) for a copy of "Under the Reign of Terror" - on either CD or LP. Also, we got some killer shirts so check that shit out. We hope to be going on tour soon and see all of you there, drinking beer and banging your brains out!
I’m not familiar with this label nor this band, but I’m glad to know them now. Jack Frost appears to be a band who walk a thin line between Gothic and Stoner Doom. They lean much more toward the Gothic side and sound a little like Type O Negative and Love Like Blood with a hint of The Smiths. As the title suggests, the mood of this CD is grim but catchy. A real treat is their interpretation of “California Dreamin’”, which is quite different from the original! “You are the Cancer” is a really stand out tune. The key here is not heaviness but atmosphere. The album ends with the dirge-like “Beyond the Rubicon”. This CD, as I understand it, is being marketed in the U.S. by Red Stream. But I’ve included the label website below so that you can look at both.
What does Dr. Evil listen to when he is in a Metal Mood! Okay, I’m sorry. I’ll be serious. First off, JI is so raw and evil sounding that I feel myself transported back to the early 80’s when listening to Bathory and Destruction into the late hours of the night made me feel both dread and excitement. Back then it seems people didn’t analyze music so much. They just said, “here’s my attitude!” Well, though most of us don’t agree with the apparent “philosophical” viewpoint of Akhenaton ( I wonder if he does?), we can certainly enjoy the primitive vibes of this COLD, DARK, and FURIOUS e.p. And there is variety too. While the CD blazes through “Descent to the Abyss” and “Benevolent Whore Dethroned for Eternity”, track 3, “Journey Through Visions of War” is slower paced and melodic . . . uh, kind of. It reminds me of Horde somewhat, though philosophically these two one man projects couldn’t be further apart! Then comes “March Upon a Mighty Throne” which is even slower and even more melodic, but still chillingly cold. The CD then ends with the same fury it began with in the blitzkrieg version of “Spill the Blood of the Lamb”, a tune I assume comes from an earlier release. I know everybody has an opinion about Black Metal, but I have always liked the primitive stuff. The only real weak point here musically is that songs 1, 2, and 5 all seem to have the same drum track. No lyrics were included with this promo, so I have nothing really to say about that.
Waterhells is a release that is at once atmospheric, creative, quirky, unexpected, heavy, and who knows what else. I confess to my ignorance of their previous works, but I can say that I have never quite experienced something like this. These three guys certainly aim at something of a Black Metal sound on songs like “Waterhells”, but they also incorporate elements of Death Metal, Progressive Metal, and even trance music. Add to this occasional female vocals, the combination of baritone and gruff male vocals, keyboard effects, etc. As a matter of fact, the fact that this group is from Austria and the vocals on “Drown Symphony” make me suspect that there is a connection between Koravakill and Trylok. I may be way off on this, but both groups are from Austria and the singer on this song does sound a lot like Strategy of Trylok. Anyway, of all the juxtapositions I’ve ever listened to of diverse musical styles, this one is the most mixed and yet most unified I think I’ve heard. Something like this must happen by intentional accident, for I cannot imagine anyone sitting down and saying, “I’m going to do an album just like this . . .” My suspicion is that these guys got together and said, “let’s combine all these ideas and see what comes of it.” Not only this, but they must also have sought at new subject matter, something that hasn’t been done before. In this case, there is the concept of being adrift at sea. It is a very powerful image that translates well into this Bermuda Triangle of an album. In the end I am still at a loss for words to describe this album. All I can say is that it is strangely fascinating and I feel myself being drawn to it repeatedly when I am in a mood for something profound.
Interview done by Christof Niederwieser:
[the reader will notice some weird punctuation on the responses. I have edited the grammar of this interview but left the weird punctuation so the reader will see the text as Christof intended].
CRITICALTOM: This is one of the most unique metal albums I've ever heard. Did you have any idea it would turn out this way?
CHRISTOF: Thanks for the flowers, Tom. We didn’t orient on anything while bearing this album. We didn’t want to pollute our inner pictures with outer influences, so we had no idea if we would just reproduce some rumination of trendy Rubbish or unearth new Origins from beyond the official World. In the End it seems as if the latter had happened. I stopped listening to Metal Music Years ago, so I don’t know what Fashions the Collectives run after at the Moment. And the Category “unique” is always relative dependent on the Norms of a certain Time or Scene.
CRITICALTOM: How did you guys set out to make this record?
CHRISTOF: “WaterHells” was nothing that we were willing to do, it just happened to us. The Matrix of “WaterHells” started three Years ago when suddenly this Picture arose in my Head of a Man awakening in the Middle of the Sea without knowing his Name, his Past, nothing. He was just thrown there into the endless Monotony of the Waves. There drifted for a long Time, and after a While, when I already was wondering what this was supposed to be, Voices arose from all around and nowhere. The Man in the Picture in my Head was very surprised, looked all around, but no Ships or Islands were there to be the Source of this weird Murmur. Then he realised that these Voices were calling his Name from deep [far] below...and there he sinks and sinks.
For many Months I had all these Pictures in my Head like a dismembered Movie never stopping; of bleeding Undines, of the subaquatic tower-horned SkullPalace; of a pale-white Hall with sleeping Marble-Statues and of the blazing Heart of the Sun, buried deep underneath this all. I nearly went insane because these Pictures began to live and talk to me. And the less I wanted to see them, the angrier they got. So I had to investigate these strange Fragments and drew them down on Maps.
In the End I had 12 Maps which all together formed the Map of the Great Sea. So the Pictures did calm a bit, but not for long. The ShadowHordes started to haunt me once more, so I was forced to catch the Tunes and Melodies that flew out of these 12 Pictures, into 12 Songs.
So “WaterHells” was no Act of Art, it was just an Act of Self-Defense to survive. When the Songs were finished, I recorded a Preproduction in my Homestudio and gave those Rough-Versions to Moritz Neuner, a Specialist of Liquid Rhythms. On his WaterDrums he swam the Beats and Feets of this Album. Like the Moon he encircled the Floods and angled them into certain, periodical Structures. Then Renaud Tschirner, the Gatekeeper of Destiny, forged the Keys to the SoundDoors. He locked the Kaleidoscopes of the All into the Crystal Dams of Many. The Shape of the Tunes was finished. The last Step of this Odyssey [though “OdysSEA” would be a neat word play] was to visit Markus Stock. In his Studio we turned the Crystal Dams of many into the Crystal Dams of One. The Crystal Dams of One are more known under the Abbreviation “CD” in the official World of the Herds.
CRITICALTOM: What influences did you carry into the making of "Waterhells"? I'm not sure that I can detect any unless you are into "Pet Sounds" or something.
CHRISTOF: Thanks for this beautiful Listening Tip. After I have read the Comparison to BEACH BOYS “Pet Sounds” in your Review I asked my Hippie-Uncle if he knew that Album. He loaned it to me and it’s really a great Work. Well, as I told you in the Beginning, we’ve tried to escape the Infiltration with the collective Play of ephemeral Vogues and Mass-Models by just ignoring them. I like some Sounds of the 60s and 70s, for example VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR or KING CRIMSON. This Music is much more individualistic and visionary, but there have only been 12 glorious Years between the End of Post-World War-Conservatism and the Rise of the Man-Machine, the Victory of the Market Ideology, which opened our Eyes to a new Horizon that never came. It just was a beautiful Illusion.
Maybe the Song “The Bleeding Lap of Undines” could be seen as a Reminiscence of those gorgeous Times. The Damned Drowner thinks for a while about entering the Honey and Opium of the Mermaid’s sweet Realm of Dreams just like the 70s, that stumbled over their unreal Reveries for a While. For both it has been a short Fata Morgana before being swallowed by the Skull Palace. If those Hippies hadn’t lost so many Braincells in Drug Deliriums maybe they would have realized the Molochs of Mammon creeping silently into all Life. They were just fooled by the ShadowHordes, and now they toil slavishly in their Offices, Factories and goggle into their Computers and Televisions to receive their Synchronization-Programmes.
CRITICALTOM: Do you have any connections to the Austrian band Trylok? (Maybe I'm just imagining things)
CHRISTOF: I’ve never heard about that Band. That’s pretty strange, because Austria is a very small Country where everybody knows everybody. So I looked them up in the Internet and saw that they are just living 100 Miles away from us. Even more strange...Your Imaginations did lead us to new Discoveries.
CRITICALTOM: What is the overall theme of "Waterhells"?
CHRISTOF: “WaterHells” is about the eternal Cycle of the Great Sea. The Great Sea is the total Sum of all Atoms, Waves, Things, Movements and Stimuli in all Scales and Zooms of all Times, Places and Ages all around in all Directions together in one Entity, the World of Worlds...the All. The Great Sea is where all comes from and where all will end.
A Thunder explodes and a little Drop is born into the visible Part of this World-Work, out of the Invisible. The Man awakes drifting aimless and nameless in the Sea. After Untimes of drifting without ever stranding he recognizes that all Directions are meaningless except the Way down to the Ground. He drowns beyond the final Frontier and enters the Realms of the Underwhirls. At the Bottom of the Sea stands the Skull Palace, a Castle built of Bones with the Shape of the Devils Head. Mermaids and Undines wait in the beautiful Gardens before the Castle and try to decoy him away from this awful Place with their hypnotic Song. Heavy and drowsy he gets from the Honey and Opium of their enchanting Voices, but in the End he decides not to follow them into their delusive Paradise of eternal Dreams. He has to enter the Skull Palace of painful Conclusion, the ulcerous Skeleton-Brain of hollow Models and dead Images, the drunken Shadows of his Imagination. Inside there is a pale-white Hall filled with Myriad Marble Statues. All Time is frozen, all Feelings are stunned in there. All Unredeemed stand there frozen in Stone and just waiting for one Drop of his Blood to come to Life. In the Middle of this Marble Hall there’s an Altar with a voluminous Book. Into the Cover his Name is carved. He opens it and in there 3-dimensional moving Pictures, Shapes and Figures are printed and Words which he doesn't understand. As he leafs through these living Pages he cuts his Finger on the Edge of one Page. It falls down on the Ground and all Statues leave their Stones. They come to life and turn into a raving Storm of ShadowHordes. With ripping Swords and bestial Screams all silent Devils awake from their Sleep. Red sparkle their Stallions’ Eyes on their furious Ride through every Pore of his Body. They guard the Gate to the final Secret, but all their Threats are just a Game, a Mirror Play of powerful Nothings. It’s just a Fool’s World. In the Black of the Void waits the Gold of the All. An all-coloured, golden Kaleidoscope of Pictures, Tones, Smells and Sentiments overflows him. He crosses the last Bridge, and at the End of the Tunnel he reaches the Heart of the Sun. All the Waters melt and he sees lucid and clear through Neptune’s broken Nets. The last Chord of the last Song is a Cluster of all 12 half-Tones, each one standing for one of the 12 Songs. So the whole Album is united and gets one in it’s End.
As you see, the whole Concept just consists of Pictures and Symbols and builds an archetypical Landscape into which every Listener can project his own Interpretations. The Meaning of this all is multidimensional, and by unearthing one Dimension all others would extinguish. So we don’t want to canalize [limit?] the Thoughts of the Listener by forcing him into our own Interpretation of this Journey. Our personal Opinion and Imaginations about this symbolized World-Structure is irrelevant therefore.
CRITICALTOM: Will this album do well in a live setting? What adjustments will have to be made if any?
CHRISTOF: We don’t know yet if we will do any Live-Performances at all. I don’t like Situations where more than three People gather, and a Concert is definitely one of those Situations. I also hate to exhibit and strip my Feelings to a Myriad of gaping Eyes. I also taste Vomit in my Mouth when I have to think about all those Star/Fan-, Master/Slave-, King/Subject-Relationships. We would live in a better World if there weren’t so many Assholes trying to be important. And Concerts are nothing else than some stupid Musicians having the Illusion that they would be important. We’ve liked this whole Fool-Theatre when we were young, but nowadays I prefer to spend my Time with Friends and Humans, not with Fans and Exhibitionists. CRITICALTOM: Do you know of any plans to come to North America?
CHRISTOF: Maybe we will come there for some Weeks to spend our Holidays. I’ve never been to the States so far and would like to visit your Country. [censored]. CRITICALTOM: How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard you before?
CHRISTOF: Words are just Illusions of Worlds. I am glad that it isn’t our Work, but the Work of the Press to violate our Music into the hollow Prison of Descriptions. Our Promoter chose the Words “A Trip into New Metal”. Some of the Reviews chose Terms like “Epic Avantgarde” or “Death Pop”. We can live with everything.
CRITICALTOM: How is the Metal scene in Austria these days?
CHRISTOF: The Austrian Avantgarde covers a wide Horizon of very different Styles that find their Focus Point in the Metal Area. There are the bizarre Classic-Folk-Metal-Theatre-Landscapes of ANGIZIA, kidnapping the Listener into Realms not of this World. There is the great Debut-Album “Cybionic Black Art” of the Satanic Science-Fiction Biomechanics SPRAWL with outstanding Concept and incredible Techno-Jazz-Black Metal. And there is also HOLLENTHON, the new Band of Martin Schirenc (Ex-Pungent Stench), a really original Output which I like very much [me too!]. But the best Band always has been GRADE A FANCY, an atmospheric Progressive Metal-Band, of whom most Bands in Tyrol stole “their” Ideas. They never got a Record Contract and split some Years ago.
CRITICALTOM: Would you like to say anything to your fans in the U.S.?
CHRISTOF: Yes, we want to thank all American Pro-KorovaKill-Individuals and Magazines for their great Support. It really was a strange Surprise to be appreciated that much by our Friends from the other Side of the Sea!
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