Interview: HERCYN

1234597_545205382216513_1535978094_nIn early 2014, New Jersey-based black metal band Hercyn sent me a copy of their debut release, the excellent Magda.  To say that I was blown away by the twenty-four minute, single track demo would be an understatement; this was the kind of gloomy, neo folk-tinged black metal I had been yearning for more of ever since Agalloch released their classic The Mantle back in 2002.  A subsequent split with Thera Roya spoke to the band’s dedication to continuing to refine their sound, but it also left me wanting more.  Fortunately I don’t have to wait any longer, as Hercyn are about to release Dust and Ages.  Indeed, the band’s first full length makes good on the promise of the their previous shorter releases, delivering a pair of epic tracks (plus an intro and outro) that are easily the band’s most accomplished and fully-realized works to date. Curious to know more about the band’s inner workings and the creation of Dust and Ages, I sent the band a slew of questions which they graciously answered in great depth via e-mail.

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Goat Torment – Sermons to Death (Amor Fati, 2015)

a2181040547_10Like any good metalhead, I try to keep track of all the shows happening in my neck of the woods, even though I can only make it to a fraction of them.  This is how Belgium’s Goat Torment popped up on my metal radar.  Turns out the band will be tormenting Sacramento as part of a handful of West Coast dates in conjunction with their appearance at California Deathfest in Oakland (no, I will not be in attendance), which is right around the corner.

Goat Torment play the sort of burly, bulldozing, death metal-influenced black metal popularized by the likes of Blasphemy and Archgoat.  Indeed, this is black metal with plenty of low-end heft; you can actually hear what the bass guitar is doing.  Granted, much of the black metal scene has gotten away from the thin, trebly sounds of the good ol’ days, but Goat Torment sound particularly pummeling on their sophomore album, Sermons to Death.

You won’t find any keyboards, female vocals, or progressive flourishes on Sermons to Death.  You will however have your ass handed to you as Goat Torment barrel through seven tracks of grim and grimy black metal that rolls over the listener like a Panzer tank battalion.  An ambient intro, interlude and outro bring some atmosphere to the table, but for the most part this duo is all about snapping necks and breaking bones with a sound that rumbles along in delightfully no-frills fashion for most of the album’s forty minute duration.

Goat Torment aren’t reinventing the wheel with Sermons to Death and they sure as hell aren’t forward-thinking, but in listening to the album you get the distinct feeling that they wouldn’t have it any other way.  There’s something to be said for well-done black metal that doesn’t aspire to anything other than smashing your skull to bits, and in this respect Goat Torment are doing it better than most.  See you fuckers in Sacramento.

Goat Torment US Tour Dates:
Sunday, October 11 — Oakland, CA — California Deathfest
Wednesday, October 14 — Seattle, WA — Highline
Thursday, October 15 — Portland, OR — Panic Room
Friday, October 16 — Eugene, OR — Old Nick’s
Saturday, October 17 — Sacramento, CA — The Colony
Sunday, October 18 — Los Angeles, CA — The Black Castle

Saturnian Mist – Chaos Magick (Candlelight, 2015)

Saturnian Mist_Chaos Magick_CANDLE490CDEvery few years, Candlelight Records releases a really cool black metal album and then does jack shit to promote it.  Back in 2013, it was Throne of Katarsis’ The Three Transcendental Keys.  This year it’s Chaos Magick, the second full length from Finland’s Saturnian Mist.

Granted, Saturnian Mist didn’t exactly set the black metal world on fire with their previous output, but trust me when I say these guys have stepped up their game immensely on Chaos Magick, screaming out of the gate with a singular approach to the genre that I quite frankly didn’t know they had in ’em.

But what is it that sets Saturnian Mist apart from the hordes, you ask?  For one thing, an ultra-burly approach to black metal that’s clearly influenced by death metal and the heavier, darker side of hardcore (think Integrity, Ringworm, etc) with its chunky guitar tone, deep, throaty vocals and pummeling, prominent drums.  There’s plenty of the requisite evil atmosphere happening here, but the band sounds more like they want to stomp you into the asphalt of some dark alley than use you for a ritual sacrifice.  In spite of these influences, Saturnian Mist still sound like a black metal band through and through, not that blackened hardcore nonsense all the kids cream their shorts over these days.

Many of the tracks feature a groovy, quasi-industrial vibe that’s difficult to describe, almost like mid-nineties Prong or Helmet playing black metal.  This is bound to throw off many a black metal fan, but Saturnian Mist successfully incorporate it into their approach and come out the other end sounding nothing like the industrial black metal you’re used to (see: Aborym, Mysticum, Blacklodge, etc).  It’s a combination that probably shouldn’t work, but as a fan of those bands I find it refreshing to see a black metal act taking the genre into this previously uncharted (to my knowledge) territory.

So why the hell is no one talking about Saturnian Mist when they’ve released what is arguably one of the most uniquely innovative black metal albums of 2015?  I don’t mean to throw so much shade on Candlelight Records as they’re a great label, but I think the only way I found out about this release is because I saw it pop up at a distro I frequent, it wasn’t until later on that I found the promo buried in a single multiple band press e-mail I received, never to be mentioned again.  Whatever the case, I encourage all fans of bizarre, inventive black metal to look beyond this year’s over-hyped releases from the usual suspects and explore the myriad depths of Chaos Magick.

Dark Realm Records

oThis past weekend, my wife and I ventured down to Anaheim to get our Disneyland fix. But the magic kingdom wasn’t the only destination on our agenda; Mrs. IG built some time into our busy itinerary to make a stop at the mighty Dark Realm Records.  For those unfamiliar, Dark Realm is the Los Angeles area’s only all-metal record store and is run by brothers Rick and Bay Cortez of the legendary Sadistic Intent.  I first visited the shop roughly six years ago and was blown away by the selection of CDs, shirts and various other heavy metal goodies, so I couldn’t wait to finally make my second pilgrimage.

Dark Realm has recently moved to a new location, but don’t let the blacked-out windows and lack of signage fool you, the store is very much open for business with a killer selection of all things metal.  This time around I was able to fill a glaring hole in my CD collection, picking up a copy of Blasphemy’s recently reissued classic Fallen Angel of Doom.  Additionally, I grabbed a cassette copy of Morbosidad’s Tortura EP, as well as a black vinyl copy of Sadistic Intent’s Reawakening of Horrid Thoughts EP and a sweet Sadistic Intent shirt.  I could’ve easily spent a fortune, but sadly I don’t have a fortune to spend, so I had to limit my purchases.

10868229_993855767296139_7561354637916016331_nBut what might have been the coolest part of my visit to Dark Realm was getting to spend a few minutes chatting with Sadistic Intent guitarist Rick Cortez.  It’s not every day that you buy a record and get to talk with someone from the band about how it was written and recorded!  It was a pleasure to listen to a veteran underground musician talk about his band and their craft, and it was obvious that Rick genuinely cares about the folks that visit the store and listen to Sadistic Intent.  A very cool experience all around.

I encourage any metalhead who ventures to the LA area to be sure and stop by Dark Realm.  You definitely won’t regret it; just don’t be surprised if you leave with an empty wallet and a bag full of awesome metal.

Visions from the Fractal Generator

5V3A5060As Isolation Grind continues to evolve and grow, I’m hoping to do more “round-up” style pieces such as the one you’re about to read.  The reasons for this are many, but the main ones are as follows:

1. I hope to be able to cover more ground.  Let’s face it, a metric fuck-ton of metal albums get released each year, and my lazy ass covers only a small handful of them, meaning that year after year there are tons of albums I’d like to cover that slip through the cracks.  Round-up style pieces seem like a pretty good option for spreading the love and giving more worthy albums some digital ink.

2. The more I listen to metal and write this blog, the more I’m starting to realize that not every album needs a five hundred word review.  It’s entirely possible that I’m running out of shit to say about metal, but I honestly think a lengthy, in-depth review is a bit of a time-waster when you can just go listen to the damn album yourselves with a few mouse clicks and form your own opinion.

3. I discover and re-discover old shit just as often as I listen to new shit.  I often want to write about the older music I’m listening to, but not every used CD score or re-discovery of an old album is worthy of a Top 100 Albums post.  I’m hoping that this will give me the opportunity to talk about older albums, be they universally recognized classics or hidden gems on a regular basis.

coverOk, enough house-keeping, lets get down to business.  First up is Fractal Generator, a band I discovered only a few days ago as of this writing thanks to a hot tip from my sometime partner in crime Expiring Sun.  These Canadians play thick and chunky death metal with a futuristic/sci-fi vibe ala Wormed, Across the Swarm and Sickening Horror, and I’m always down for more forward thinking bands to help stem the tide of retro-itis that has afflicted the genre for so long.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the shit out of oldschool, caveman death metal (more on that later), but I also recognize that the genre needs a kick in the ass to evolve, and this is what Fractal Generator provides with their debut album Apotheosynthesis.

Fractal Generator are ridiculously heavy and execute their music with terrifying precision, exuding a cold, mechanical atmosphere peppered with synths and samples. It’s the kind of music you imagine the T-1000 listening to while impaling pathetic humans with liquid metal blades.  The band aren’t overly technical, making for album that’s strangely catchy in spite of its killer-cyborgs-with-guitars demeanor.

T-1000_telling_sarah_to_call_for_connerUnbelievably, Fractal Generator are offering Apotheosynthesis as a pay-what-you-want download via Bandcamp.  That means you can get this mechanized beast for free if you want. Personally, I’d love to see a label like Willowtip pick these guys up, but I’m not sure if the world is ready for their mechanized death metal assault.

AP_cover1500x1500On the opposite end of the spectrum, I was pleased to learn recently that Unique Leader is reissuing The Anomalies of Artificial Origin, the second album from Russia’s Abominable Putridity.  This album had the misfortune of originally being released back in 2012 on Brutal Bands, arguably one of the sketchiest metal labels that ever existed, which means it wasn’t promoted for shit and good luck trying to find it at your local shop.  It’s a damn shame too, because this album might just be the absolute pinnacle of knuckle-dragging slam.

Basically, The Anomalies of Artificial Origin is just one massive mosh part, designed as an optimum soundtrack for mouth-breathers to beat the living shit out of each other to. It’s one of the most awesomely ignorant slam albums I’ve ever encountered and that’s what makes it such a ridiculously fun, not to mention neck-wrecking listen.  It’s also probably the best sounding slam album ever, with an absolutely huge production that just flat-out crushes everything in its path.

I think I’ve said this before, but I’d love to know what the hell is going on over in Russia; between these dudes, Katalepsy, Disfigurment of Flesh, Traumatomy and 7H. Target, they’ve got the brutal/slamming death metal thing on lock, even more so than the Japanese at this point.  The reissue of The Anomalies of Artificial Origin is out in October via Unique Leader, but in the meantime you can check the album out on Bandcamp.

PromoImage (2)It’s been a while since I last checked in with Cattle Decapitation in spite of being a fan of their earlier work; I somehow missed The Harvest Floor all-together, and I was put off by the overly robotic/triggered-sounding production on the one track I heard from 2012’s Monolith of Inhumanity (whichever song had the gross video).  But I was prompted to come back to the band after seeing Wes Benscoter’s nifty cover art for The Anthropocene Extinction and was subsequently hooked when I heard “Manufactured Extinct.”

There’s much to enjoy about The Anthropocene Extinction, but for me the immediate highlights are the subtle black metal elements they’ve incorporated into their sound and Travis Ryan’s highly varied vocal performance.  There are some seriously burly black metal riffs that pop up from time to time on tracks such as “Circo Inhumanitas” and “Mammals in Babylon,” recalling the likes of Marduk and Dark Funeral, and this lends even more darkness to Cattle Decapitation’s already overwhelming assault to the senses.  Meanwhile, Ryan’s performance ranges from putrid gurgles to bizarre, quasi-clean croons and pretty much everything in-between, making the album as interesting vocally as it is musically.

Cattle Decapitation is one of those rare bands that evolves from album to album rather than continually putting out more of the same; I can’t say how much they’ve progressed from Harvest to Monolith to Anthropocene since I’ve not heard the former two, but I can say that their development since I last listened to them with regularity is both significant and impressive.  Better production, better songwriting, better performances; this is a band that has improved vastly in pretty much every way since their early days.  Cattle Decapitation always felt to me like a band that were on the cusp of releasing something great but could never quite reach that next level; with The Anthropocene Extinction they’ve blown the next level to bits.

Welp, that wraps it up for this time around.  Here are a few other albums that are currently yankin’ my crank…

Melvins – Nude with Boots (Ipecac, 2008)
Weezer – Pinkerton (DGC, 1996)
Krisiun – Forged in Fury (Century Media, 2015)
Hercyn – Dust and Ages (self-released, 2015)
Rollins Band – Weight (Imago, 1994)

Nocturnal Blood @ Starlite Lounge, Sacramento, CA 08/08/2015

11817267_1061987837159767_5049974786752808206_nSacramento gets a ton of great shows, but we’ve been more than a bit lacking in the black metal department of late.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed the shit out of seeing the likes of Melt Banana, Ufomammut and -(16)-, but I’ve also been absolutely dying for the visceral experience that only a straight-up black metal show can bring.  So, I was extremely grateful to Wretched Earth Productions for treating us to this killer lineup of Cali-bred BM at Starlite Lounge, which is quickly turning into my go-to spot for kick-ass metal shows.

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