Review of the new Blacksword album, “The Sword Accurst”

Posted in Uncategorized on October 5, 2010 by Eric Stevens


Blacksword is a musical rarity, and one with which I am pleased to have been made acquainted. What is unlikely about their style is that they play top notch power metal, in the vein of the American Power Metal tradition—which is in stark contrast to the European variety of power metal. Why is this strange? They are not from America, but hail from Siberia of the Russian Federation instead.

I have always admired American power metal, as embodied by bands such as Helstar, Omen, Jag Panzer, Brocus Helm, Attacker, Manilla Road, earlier Iced Earth, as well as newer bands such as Skullview, Destiny’s End, Cauldron Born (which is more of the technical/epic/power metal variety), October 31, and others. The reason for this is that in general, metal has not really been mainstream in America for quite some time, not that real metal ever was really mainstream; but in Europe, metal has enjoyed a higher degree of success and exposure than it has in the States. This has resulted in a lot of the European metal bands playing a style of metal that sounds a lot trendier and more mainstream.

The lack of real success here in America for bands that play a purer style of heavy metal has resulted in a purer art form, since most of the bands that have carried the metal banner here in the States are in it for love of the music rather than popularity. Most of the metal musicians that I have talked to from the US, if they have been in a metal band and recorded an album, then almost invariably they have enjoyed a more positive response from metal audiences overseas in areas such as Greek, Germany, Japan, or somewhere else rather than here in the States.

With all that said, Blacksword does not sound like the poppy, wussy, cookie cutter variety of metal as is played by bands such as Sonata Arctica, Dragonforce, or Helloween (post-Walls of Jericho era). But they are also a metal band in which the very roots of heavy metal are evident, with a sound influenced by the likes of groups such as Iron Maiden, who are not an American Band but nonetheless have influenced most metal bands and musicians…indeed, you can hear their influence in a lot of the US Power Metal bands, and also in Blacksword.

The new Blacksword album is entitled “The Sword Accurst,” and it is an album that completely destroys. While these guys are obviously influenced musically and vocally by Maiden to some degree, as well as other bands, they play a much more aggressive style of metal. There is much about their style that is a bit more technical musically, reminiscent in a way of Cauldron Born.

The singer, Serge Konev at times reminds me of Bruce Dickinson, but at other times he kicks it up a notch higher and is more aggressive vocally with a higher range as well. The only other comparison that really comes to my mind when hearing Serge is that of “Earthquake” Quimby Lewis from Skullview.

There is certainly no lack of talent in Blacksword, as the bassist Ivan provides a solid and complex bass guitar backbone for this album, driving on a bit like Steve Harris, but maybe a bit more technical. If anyone is familiar with the bass playing on Cauldron Born’s first album, his style also in some ways reminds me of Shawn Kasack’s bass playing on that album, which was exceptional.

Another thing that thoroughly impressed me with this album was the lyrics. English is not even the first language of Alex Avdeev, who is the main lyricist for the band, but his choice of words and lyrical ability is top notch. He writes lyrics in better English than most native-English speakers I am familiar with. The lyrics primarily deal with dark fantasy themes in the vein of Swords and Sorcery, drawing influence from authors like Moorcock and David C. Smith, among others. In general, I do not expect to see great lyrics in metal songs, but I was a bit surprised with Blacksword’s lyrical content. Not only have they created a cult metal masterpiece with this album, but lyrically they have also produced a gem through the talent of Avdeev.

Fans of real metal should definitely check this album out….it is a must have for any underground and cult metal followers. Blacksword plays metal because they also live it and breathe it, and despite the adverse conditions and environment in which the band finds itself, these guys have produced an album that is absolutely noteworthy among true metal-heads everywhere. To fans of any of the aforementioned bands, you are doing yourself a disservice by not purchasing this album.

You may purchase the album at Echoes of Crom Records.

New BlackSword album out tomorrow, August 22, 2010

Posted in classic metal, metal, Uncategorized, underground metal on August 21, 2010 by Eric Stevens

Review of Briton Rites’ debut album, For Mircalla

Posted in classic metal, doom metal, NWOBHM, underground metal, US Metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2010 by Eric Stevens

For those who have been following the musical work of Howie Bentley, it has been eight long years we have heard anything new…but there is some good news: the wait is finally over. Many who were familiar with Howie Betley’s former band, Cauldron Born, will be thrilled to know that he is back to writing music with his new metal project, Briton Rites, and they have recently released an album, entitled “For Mircalla.” The album features Phil Swanson on vocals, singer for the doom metal act Hour of 13, and Corbin King on drums, who actually is the guitarist for Vainglory.

Click here to order the album.

There is not much of a point in comparing Briton Rites to Cauldron Born, because they are two different styles of metal. One comparison I will make, however, is that the style of Briton Rites is much more primitive in many ways than Cauldron Born, as Cauldron Born featured more complex and technical song structures. Briton Rites is more of a nod to early, traditional doom and British Heavy metal, particularly in the vein of Black Sabbath and Witchfinder General, and maybe early Candlemass. The end product here is a more primitive, but aggressive and fierce, dark and commanding work of metal music. Phil Swanson’s singing in particular adds to the commanding nature of the music, as his vocals compliment Howie’s songwriting very well, reminding one to some extent of Ozzy’s vocals in the early Black Sabbath material. Don’t be fooled, however—Phil’s vocals are very unique in their own right and he is no Ozzy clone at all—but his vocals are nonetheless reminiscent of early Sabbath, as is the music of Briton Rites in some ways. Truthfully, however, the music of Briton Rites is more aggressive, and most of the songs are a little faster than early Sabbath. The same can be said for Witchfinder General’s music…there are some similarities, but Briton Rites is heavier and a little faster for the most part. The guitars are tuned a bit lower, which gives it a heavier, more crushing sound in the vein of early Candlemass, particularly their Epicus Doomicus Metallicus and Tales of Creation albums, though the guitar tone is a bit thicker with richer distortion and less reverb.

Though you can find a bit of similarity in these bands to Briton Rites, Briton Rites is its own animal, with its own unique character. It could only have come from the person and mind of Howie Bentley. The music of Briton Rites sounds influenced by all of these bands in some ways, but it really sounds like none of these bands. Though the song structure is relatively simple, the solos are pretty intense and wicked sounding, and even a bit technical at times. Howie even uses the wah effect on a couple of solos on the album, which actually fits very well, adding to their intensity. The drums are pretty simple and straightforward, as are the song structures, generally speaking. Howie Bentley really is a great musician, and while for the most part he has tried to produce a metal album that is more simple and straightforward, at some points the technical guitar genius in him comes out in his soloing. I would say that this is the biggest similarity between Briton Rites and Cauldron Born, probably the most legitimate form of comparison between the two, as Howie has a certain signature sound to his guitar wizardry. Some of the solos on this album are just wicked, with my favorite solo being the one in the Exorcism of Tanith. Howie also plays all of the bass parts, and a lot of times when the guitars are just chugging away at some simple power chords, you hear the bass guitar coming through and doing some fancy leads and fills, which in some ways reminds me of Geezer Butler, but a bit more technical. While Howie really has attempted to simplify things by writing metal music of a more primitive nature (as opposed to the more technical nature of Cauldron Born), he still finds ways to kick some technical ass with Briton Rites. It is just in his nature to show out a bit, I believe. That is what makes his music so special—he plays the music that he loves first and foremost, instead of writing catchy hooks and riffs that sound trendy and cool, or trying to clone other peoples’ music.

Though Phil Swanson is a fantastic singer, I have to say that one of my favorite songs on the album is probably Karnstein Castle. Howie sings on this song instead of Phil, and it is probably the slowest paced song on the album, much more ominous and probably the most “doom metal” song on the album. Even though Phil is a better singer, I like the mood that Howie’s vocals create…they are very dark and ominous, and while he is not the most technically proficient singer, there is a lot of character that comes through in his voice, and I think that it uniquely captures the mood of his lyrics.

One thing that I have not really touched upon is the subject matter of the album. The first song, Carmilla, is based on the story of Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu which was later made into a movie, and is about a female vampire who preys on female victims. The second song is probably one of the most creative lyrically, as it draws heavily upon the short story Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne, combining this influence with the influence of H.P. Lovecraft –it essentially is like Young Goodman Brown meets Lovecraft. As if the Hawthorne short story was not dark enough, Howie found a way to darken it up a bit. The end product here is a pretty wicked tale which captures the imagination, though it is not for the fainthearted.
The next song, Vampire Hunter, 1600 actually is written from the perspective of a holy man who is also a vampire hunter. Vampires are a huge subject of the lyrical content of this album, with three songs about the subject, and if the songs don’t feature vampires, they at least feature succubae and lamiae. The only exception here is the song “All-Hallowed Vengeance,” in which Howie actually takes a Richard Tierney poem and sets it to music. This is a good song to follow up the previous song, Exorcism of Tanith, as both songs are sort of a departure from the vampire theme that is prevalent in this album. The songs are purposefully arranged in the order that they appear, as the album sort of flows together when it is listened to straight through. This album is recommended for all serious metal fans, particularly those who are fans of early British metal or doom metal. As mentioned earlier, however, it is not for the fainthearted. If you’re not much of a horror movie fan, you probably will not be able to appreciate much of the subject matter—however, at least you might be able to appreciate the music. Briton Rites masterfully has combined heavy metal and the horror movie genre in a way that ought to appeal to fans of both.

You can order the album here through Echoes of Chrom Records, a new metal label started by Howie Bentley himself. Also, if you desire, you can sample their music on their myspace page.

Christian Thrash Metal Band….Temple of Blood

Posted in Christian, Christian Metal, classic metal, thrash metal, underground metal, US Metal with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2010 by Eric Stevens


Truthfully, there is only one band that comes to my mind when I think of Christian Metal, and it’s these guys. Most bands today that are labeled Christian metal are not even metal at all, but far from it. Such bands may be heavy, they may employ double bass drumming, or some metal style riffing. But they are not real metal bands at all, but instead, the bastard offspring of metal. Hell, even Stryper is more metal than a lot of these new bands, and Stryper sucks (not to mention they are not metal).

There have been other Christian metal bands in the past that have been decent, such as Deliverance and Believer, but those bands (to my knowledge) are not around anymore. There was also Barren Cross, but those guys seemed like such Iron Maiden rip-offs that I hesitate to give them much credit. Iron Maiden was and is a great band, but the problem with a lot of Christian bands in general is that they try to mimic what is popular, rather than being original. A lot of groups in the Christian music scene are just cookie cutter versions of secular bands with pop-Christianity sprinkled on top. Temple of Blood, however, is not really part of the Christian music scene, especially not the current “Christian metal” scene…they are just a bunch of guys playing the music they love, writing songs about what they believe. That, in my opinion, is what makes their music so noteworthy and sincere among the metal underground.

lineup from the last album, Overlord

So how would I describe the music of Temple of Blood? Top notch thrash metal, worthy of comparison with the best thrash metal bands out there. You can certainly hear influences such as Slayer, Forbidden, Annihilator, Helstar, and even Agent Steel in their music–which is characterized by ripping guitar solos, commanding vocals, and crushing (not to mention fast) drumming. On their latest release, Overlord (2008), they even tip their hat to thrash metal greats Forbidden by recording a cover of the song Forbidden Evil. Forbidden Evil was a favorite album of mine growing up, so it was awesome to hear these guys cover their music–and they do it well.

Temple of Blood currently has two albums under their belt, but the band has recently parted ways with guitarist Jim Lewis. Hopefully this won’t deter these guys from writing new music…because the metal world needs more bands like them. There are so many bands out there who simply do not know how to be original and choose to play a form of metal because it is cool, not because they really believe in it. These guys believe in it, however. And they also believe Jesus is the son of God. Weird huh? They are certainly not afraid to let their beliefs come through in their lyrics. From songs about the final Judgment to songs of redemption, these guys don’t pull any punches. The song Fearsome Warrior, on their latest album, retells the Old Testament story of Samson and his struggles against the Philistines, culminating in Samson bringing the roof down on his own and three thousand Philistines’ heads.
I have always thought that some of the Old Testament stories would make for good metal lyrics, and its good to see that these guys thought so too.

Even if you feel a bit skeptical upon hearing that these guys are Christians, do yourself a favor and check out their music. They are the real deal, and it is obvious that they are genuine fans of metal, rather than simply playing metal only as a means to an end–as a way of converting the unbelieving masses, for example. On their first album, they do a cover of the song “Deliver Us From Evil,” by Deadly Blessing. And even better–they get the singer from Deadly Blessing to appear on the song!!! This is certainly a treat for die hard metal fans who are familiar with Deadly Blessing, who are underground cult metal legends. Check out both of their albums if you can…and do yourself a favor and order their latest album, Overlord, while there are still copies available.

You can check out samples of their music on the Temple of Blood Myspace page as well.

A Taste of Siberian Steel….Interview with Alex Avdeev of Russian Metal Band, “Blacksword”

Posted in Interview, metal with tags , , , , , on April 22, 2010 by Eric Stevens


The other day I was able to interview Alex Avdeev, a member of the Siberian metal band Blacksword (formerly known as Stormbringer). Alex is their guitarist, and formerly was their vocalist, but now they have a more traditional metal singer by the name of Serge Konev. Ivan “the Viking” is the bassist, and he does acoustic guitars as well; Artyom Omelenchuk also plays guitars, and Vyacheslav Aparin plays drums.

Blacksword is an excellent traditional styled metal band that plays in an area of the world where playing their style of music involves commitment and sacrifice. They are dedicated to their craft, and for those unfamiliar with their music, you should check it out. There is a link to their official website as well as their myspace page at the end of this interview. Thanks again to Alex for agreeing to take the time to do this.

Here is the interview:

For those who are unfamiliar with your music and what you are about, would you mind describing the style of metal that you, guys, play?

The genre is Traditional US Power Metal-influenced Heavy Metal, where an intricate bass line goes into a powerful riff, while the vocals employ their wide range, and the drummer puts to use both of the bass drums. The lyrical content is inspired by Dark Fantasy (Sword & Sorcery) literature.

In the earlier days of the band there was a notable difference in your sound, with you doing the vocals—which were more of a death/black metal style if I remember correctly. Would you mind talking about some of the changes you, guys, have underwent, and how the current sound and vision for the band came about?
Ivan (the bass player and the founder) was desperate to start the band and find a vocalist. He just decided to commence playing, taking me from a local Death Metal band as a vocalist, thus setting off with a blend of Thrash and Death Metal genres. He tested the waters by changing guitarists, placing me at guitars and vocals, then, adding an extra guitar player, and eventually, a real singer came to our rehearsal one autumn day in 2007. Both Ivan and I were anxious to have him in Blacksword (Stormbringer then). That’s how we got to the current vision of Blacksword.

The philosophy of the band is the devotion to the genre. We’ve been trying to achieve something unique and effulgent that projects us from the other bands. The harsh Siberian environment has put a certain mark on our music as well (just for example, imagine yourself standing for forty minutes straight out in -27F waiting for a bus to come to get home and practice guitar).

You have a new album on the way, “Sword Accurst”. From what I have heard so far, this sounds like the best music you, guys, have done so far. This will be the first full-length album you, guys, have recorded, and will be released on the new American-based metal label, Echoes of Crom. When do you think we can expect this release, and what are your thoughts about it being released on this label?

Thank you very much, Eric! There’s nothing better than to be among the people you love to be encompassed with, a company of individuals sharing your thoughts and approving your decisions. The same is with Echoes of Crom, a label run by Howie Bentley, where only true metal bands are signed. You can talk to the label representatives without unpleasantness of being deigned upon and without having even the slightest chance of derided with being called “closed-minded” (which is actually a synonym for “focused”, whilst “open-minded” equalizes to “absent-minded”, so people don’t really take offense in that). These are my thoughts.

A person who is truly in metal, would have no trouble thinking whether he needs to buy a new release of Echoes of Crom, since the owner, Howie Bentley, has an elite taste in music, smiting away cross-genres like Groove, Folk, Nu, Alternative, Grindcore, and other unwanted material. You’ll most likely find Doom Metal, NWOBHM, Heavy Metal, US Power Metal on his label.

The street date will be soon after our artist, Lionel Barker, finishes the cover artwork for the album – he has been busy with it for weeks.

Your band has been compared to US power metal by some—do you like this comparison? What are some similarities (and differences), in your opinion, between US Power Metal and Blacksword’s music?

Certainly! We love it! We always admired the US culture, its music, literature, and amiable attitude to the others. Britain has invented the Heavy Metal genre, and the US took it to immeasurable heights. Ivan the Viking writes some elaborate and intricate instrument parts that you may find in US Power Metal, and at the same time, our vocals would remind you of the ‘80s US bands – those vocals that you’ll hear on Jag Panzer’s debut record, or all over the Attacker and Metal Church records.

We tried moving all the instruments in “the front row”. The difference with US Power Metal is, most noticably, that we are from the 21st century, and we are located in the middle of nowhere – that is, Siberia. I challenge you, the reader, to search for an outline of Siberia to find out where we live. (A tip: just search for “Siberian Federal District” on images.google.com.)

What are your thoughts on the current state of metal music—particularly in your area of the world?

There are many wonderful acts across the world, I could name a dozen off the top of my head; but there are, sadly, none in our area. I discover new great metal bands in many countries almost once a week – my friends and acquaintances on IRC and forums help me with that much, and I must thank them for that!

The other side of the coin, even with those bands, is that with so many people discovering torrents, social networks and file sharing services, the music industry is collapsing slowly, closing its portal to success for many bands that opt for quitting before even recording anything past a demo EP.

What is worse is that someone who listens to metal music would deride you if you say that you had bought a CD, or one would spew forth despicable gibber at a band that had asked the aforementioned person to take off lyrics or a song of theirs off their blog, social network page, or site. They think that they are sharing others’ property for pure advertisement purposes. Come to think of it: would you pilfer insignificant sums from a local small bank to give out the money to common folk, thus trying to attract more clients to the bank? That is not a laughing matter.

What does it mean to be a true metal band in your opinion, and what is it like being such a band in Russia? What have some of your experiences been?

Take a look at bands of the ’80s era, for example: Black Sabbath, Dio, Deadly Blessing, Trouble, Iron Maiden, or Helstar and you’ll see and hear the answer – the dark imagery, long hair, spikes and chains, attitude of rebellion, and natural philosophy of submerging into the atmosphere of such imagery with pleasure – try to put on a Heavy Metal record to someone who is into other kind of music, and he will flake out, ask you to turn it off and slide into spiteful depression from “hearing too much noise”.

Metal itself is prominent above anything else – its ingenious combination of lyricism and music, each of the highest quality, acquires its own entourage, a small retinue that venerates it, never giving up the respect. Let’s just say that when lyrically any other music restricts itself, metal is free from such fetters. Metal is a lot like English language – you spend your lifetime studying and listening to it, but you keep getting to the ultimate knowledge till the day you die.

Being in such a band is not quite too easy, but you always reap pleasure from the results, and I don’t even know how it’s possible to survive with it in Russia *laughs*. You can perpetrate Russian laws by wearing a shirt with Pagan symbolism, or, if someone reads a translation of your lyrics, your show can get banned, all the attendants might get searched for any sect paraphernalia. People in Siberia enjoy Russian lyrics in their metalcore, hardcore, grindcore, punk rock, folk rock, and symphonic -core bands. There’s no place for heavy metal music in the area filled with balalaikas, domras, xylophones, and saxophones.

Siberia itself would strike you as a place of the opposites: you get from -40F to 115F throughout the year, torrents of rain are taking turns with dry weather, snow covered with the wastes from the factories near rivers that doesn’t prevent us from swimming and swallowing the radioactive water there (I saw fish with exoskeletons and dandelions as large as a bobcat’s head!) The same goes to the world of music – a person here might listen to pop-rock and Death Metal and speak highly of both genres. Imagine playing something that sticks to one thing in these conditions while everyone around you tries to urge you to “try something different for a change”. That’s how we feel.

Recently you have changed your name from Stormbringer to Blacksword. Why the name change? Blacksword and Stormbringer are two different names for the same sword, as written about by Michael Moorcock in his sword and sorcery brand of fantasy, correct? What is the significance of this particular sword, and how does it relate to your music?

You are correct, Eric, it’s a direct synonym. We’ve been deciding changing our old name to something else for a long time. We did that not to disappear among all the other “Stormbringer”-named bands – we even had another local Stormbringer. One of those might eventually demand us or the label to drop the name.

The significance obviously lies in lyrical content, its Sword & Sorcery atmosphere.

Describe (briefly) your lyrical influences as well as your musical influences as a band—not necessarily who you might sound like, but rather—who has inspired you, guys.

Ivan wrote lyrics for two songs on the record, and I can tell you that he was influenced by M. Moorcock himself. I don’t have much influence from the world of music – I mostly have gathered my inspiration in stories written by Clark Ashton Smith and David C. Smith.

Musically, Attacker, Cauldron Born, Witchfinder General, Black Sabbath, Metal Church, Helstar, Manowar, Iron Maiden, Agent Steel, and Judas Priest have been our muse.

What are some of the themes you, guys, address with your music in terms of your lyrics and song content? Are there any dark themes or subject matter which characterizes any of your songs? Obviously Moorcock is an influence on your band’s name—so I am assuming your music is to a certain degree inspired by such literature. Would you care to elaborate?

In “Sword Arm”, for instance, the inspiration lies in David C. Smith’s work, “Engor’s Sword Arm”, which reveals the world of grim and dark atmosphere, as it commences to speculate on Bilitu, a vile wizard who takes a woman by force as his bride. Engor, a soldier of great strength, who misses one arm, comes to the rescue and steals away the girl only to have all his hopes shattered as the wizard traps his soul into his slave-bird ever making circles above his chateau.

But at the same time, “Hovering Plague” or “The Predatory Divine” speculates on the social and esoteric sides of humanity – the lyrics are original and almost independent of the aforementioned writers.
Ivan has written songs inspired by Moorcock’s writing, “Stormbringer” and “Elric’s Pride”, in a more straightforward approach, filling it with gloomy pathos.

Other songs were mostly influenced by C.A. Smith’s “Tales of Zothique” collection of stories.

Many metal bands often bring spiritual, religious or occult themes into their music, whether they are talking about Satanism, demonic rituals or whatever, or maybe speaking ill of organized religion. Is religion or the occult a theme that is ever addressed in any of your music?

Esoterica, as opposed to pragmatic things, were always a pivotal theme keeping Heavy Metal bands going on. When you read Sword & Sorcery literature, you always find wizards, ancient rites, denuciations of gods, and witches’ covens – I am sure this reflects in our music as well.

Do you have any favorite songs on the forthcoming album? And if so—describe what you like about them.

The favorite song depends on one’s mood – I can tell you that if you ask someone in our band about his favorite song at the moment, and ask him again in a day, you’ll get twain different replies. The key lies in the time Ivan put in composing the music – each track is like a whole new world!

What are some of the things which influenced you personally to play guitar, and what caused you to get into heavy metal particularly?

Near the time of my birth, I listened to various vinyl records at home, always favoring something, as I have perceived it as a boy in the period before puberty, with “screaming vocals drowning in loud guitars”. I had a long break from music in 1992 to 1996; but, as soon as I found at home a tape with Black Sabbath songs off their various albums at home, I started falling in real love with metal, resulting in an urge to pick up the guitar back in 1999. I was proselytized by Black Sabbath.

Are you or anyone else in Blacksword at all inspired by any non-metal bands or any other musical genre such as classical music or rock?

I am a metal purist, so you won’t find any non-metal CDs in my collection. Medieval music attracts Ivan the Viking, and he considers traditional English songs as masterpieces. Sometimes, he writes something in this direction, but that’s not for Blacksword.

I’ve noticed in one of your band pictures that you and Ivan seem to be flexing for the camera—who is stronger? I assume you guys have other hobbies such as weightlifting when you are not playing metal—what are some of these hobbies?

Ivan is the backbone for the band, and he needs to look that way to survive in the land where someone might endeavor to hurt you for long hair or loving metal. Ivan’s time all goes to composing songs and practicing his bass guitar, I think he’s good at girls and lifting weights too. My hobbies include reading Gothic literature of such writers as H. P. Lovecraft and E. A. Poe, reading Dark Fantasy (I’ve mentioned some authors previously in the interview), photography, the English language, and writing poems. The singer is sometimes busy with designing web pages, while all the remaining people are deeply submerged into practicing their instruments.

Do you guys currently play any shows around Siberia or anywhere else? If you could play shows anywhere you wanted to, what are some of the places you would play at?

Siberia is a poor Federal District, and we cannot afford going farther than our small part of the world. We’d love to play shows in Germany, Greece, the US, and many other countries. We need to release our CD first before thinking of any tours, and, of course, we need support to travel to play shows across Russia and the rest of the world.

Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, Alex. I wish your band the best and can’t wait for the new album to be released. Is there anything else you would like to add here—such as contact info or band news or anything else?

Thank you very much, Eric for the detailed interview! I hope you’ll like the CD!

If you wish to leave feedback, watch latest picture galleries, or read news, please visit our band website at http://blacksword-metal.com. My email is lunasyl@gmail.com. Or alternately, you can go to http://www.myspace.com/blackswordmetal and listen to our music before you buy the record! Feel free to add us.

Keep it metal guys, don’t forget to check Echoes of Crom (http://www.myspace.com/echoesofcromrecords) or our pages above for the further announcements!

Interview with Howie Bentley of Briton Rites

Posted in doom metal, Interview with tags , , , , , , , on March 20, 2010 by Eric Stevens

Howie Bentley, mastermind behind Briton Rites

I recently was able to do an interview with Howie Bentley, who is the creator and mastermind behind two awesome metal bands actually: Cauldron Born (epic/technical metal), and more currently, a traditional doom and British-style metal project, Briton Rites. Briton Rites features Howie Bentley on guitars and bass, Phil Swanson on vocals (Hour of 13), and Corbin King on drums (of Vainglory). Howie himself, like with the Cauldron Born material, has pretty much written all of the music and lyrics behind Briton Rites. He hails from north Georgia, the state where I also currently reside–where there has also not been much of a metal scene for years. The fact that he is a metal musician in this state is proof alone of his commitment to playing metal music.

Under the band Cauldron Born, he has released two demos (which have been compiled into one CD known as “God of Metal”) and two full studio albums, Born of the Cauldron and …And Rome Shall Fall. It has been about 8 years since the last Cauldron Born CD, however, and many were beginning to wonder if and when he would release any new material. Now we won’t have to wait much longer…Howie has written some new material with a slightly different direction, and this new metal project is known as Briton Rites. I have asked him a few questions regarding himself and his view of metal music, and also a few questions about this new material. Here is the interview:

How did you get into playing metal music?

My father played guitar and he encouraged me to play. I had a guitar when I was a kid but I wasn’t much interested in it. When I was around fourteen, a cousin called my attention to an Ozzy song on the radio. A little while later I heard the Black Sabbath album, Paranoid. I was really just pulled in by the sound and atmosphere of Black Sabbath. I picked up the first Ozzy album and some Black Sabbath. Then I started reading magazines about these bands and learned that this is Heavy Metal. So, I started trying to get my hands on any Heavy Metal that I could find: Priest, Scorpions…a little later on I got Iron Maiden’s Killers album. I t just took off from there. It wasn’t long before I was a full fledged Metal Maniac! This was the early ‘80s, the Golden Age.

What constitutes “real” metal in your opinion—what is your philosophy of metal if you will?

Real Metal is dark, ominous and speaks to your mind on a primal level. The roots are in the British bands: Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest. It is not “crotch rock” like Def Leppard, Van Halen and Motley Crue. Heavy Metal lyrics are about witches, black masses, demons, Atlantis, barbarians, wizards and so on. Even if it weren’t for the lyrics, the music would still give you this sort of feeling like you have escaped into this really cool, fantastic world for awhile. Heavy Metal is not about partying, relationships or whining (like some hippies and grunge bands do). This has always been a hard question for me to answer. I suppose I can better tell you what it is not in an effort to define it.

Do you have any non-metal influences, such as any classical music influences perhaps?

I do like a little classical music, though I used to listen to it more than I do now. I enjoy the standard stuff like Bach, Beethoven and Mozart but I prefer more dissonant classical music from composers like Stravinsky, Bartok and Holst. Outside of classical music, I don’t listen to anything but Heavy Metal on my own time. I will say that I am really tired of all of these guitar players who fancy themselves modern day Mozarts with electric guitars. This kind of music has gravitated so far away from the roots of British Heavy Metal and the guitar riff, and closer to pop music like Abba and pretentious “classical” influences. When the keyboards become more important than the guitar riffs, it is time to go.

What are your current thoughts on the state of metal music?

It is much better than it was a few years back. I think that Metal has become more refined in that most of the people who now play it really love it. There is no next level to go to with it aside from the Underground, so this pretty much shuts the opportunists out. The lack of support for Metal is so bad sometimes that it almost shuts out those who really want to play it, though. It is a good time for fans of True Heavy Metal music, but maybe not so good for those who want to play it, as it is little more than an expensive hobby for the musicians.

Let’s talk about Briton Rites. I have heard two songs from album so far, Carmilla and a Meeting in the Woods. This material seems much different from the Cauldron Born material…not quite as fast-paced and complex as CB, with more of a primitive metal sound. Whereas I can hear influences like Helstar/Iron Maiden in Cauldron Born, Briton Rites sounds more influenced by stuff like early Black Sabbath—can you elaborate on this change? What was your vision behind Briton Rites?

I like the same stuff I always have: Sabbath, Maiden, Priest, Venom, Mercyful Fate and so on. But in the last few years I have been on a big Doom kick. I read that one of the guys in Candlemass was really high on a band called Reverend Bizarre, so I picked up Reverend Bizarre’s CRUSH THE INSECTS album. At first I wasn’t sure if I really liked it, but sometimes you have to have repeated listenings of a good Metal album to really appreciate it. After awhile I got really hooked on it. That song “The Devil Rides Out” reminded me a lot of an old favorite band of mine-Witchfinder General. So I dug out my Witchfinder General albums and that got me missing early Black Sabbath. Even though I grew up listening to early Sabbath as well as the post Ozzy albums, for a long time I just gravitated away from Ozzy-era Sabbath. I think it might have been because a lot of grunge bands (my enemies) were citing Ozzy [era] Sabbath as an influence, which none of them really sounded anything like. Anyway, that was a very superficial reason for me to lose touch with an old favorite. It was a combination of the Witchfinder General influence and rediscovering those first eight Sabbath albums that made me decide on this new musical direction.

Backtracking a little, I was reading Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Gothic Horror novelette, CARMILLA, a few years back. CARMILLA is a story about a female vampire who preys on young girls. That story made such an impression on me that I thought, “I have to make some music that makes me feel like this story does.” I didn’t think the style I was doing with Cauldron Born really embodied that aesthetic properly, and I had been listening to early Sabbath, Witchfinder General, and Trouble a lot, so things just naturally started to go in that direction.

I really enjoyed the short story “Young Goodman Brown,” which is what your song meeting in the woods reminds me of—except it’s like Hawthorne meets Lovecraft. What was your idea behind this song? What are some of the other themes that are explored on this album?

I read “Young Goodman Brown” back when I was in high school, and it left a lasting impression on me-the protaganist coming upon a witches’ sabbath in the woods. I really like the atmosphere of that story, how Hawthorne seems to see the Devil everywhere he looks. I was looking back on that story with my vision tinted by Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith. It was perfect subject matter for Briton Rites lyrics.

Other themes: Vampirism, witchery, and demonic possession with a twist.

I like how you also draw influence from obscure horror films, as on the song Carmilla. What are some other movies or books that have been influential in your music, particularly in your Briton Rites material?

Well, my favorite authors are a constant source of inspiration: Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft ,Clark Ashton Smith, Richard L. Tierney, David C. Smith and Karl Edward Wagner. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Carmilla” novelette is really what inspired me to start writing this kind of music, though. Also, reading “Carmilla” got me watching all of those old Hammer films again, which in turn inspired me even more.

I have noticed, both with the Cauldron Born material and with the Briton Rites material I have heard so far, that some of your lyrics have some pretty dark themes. I like the fact that you draw upon many different sources and influences when writing about these subjects, whether these sources and influences are mythological, literary, historical or even sometimes religious. It seems that a lot of modern bands, rather than being creative when exploring such themes in their music, usually just jump on the satanic bandwagon, since it seems to be a quick way to get attention. Just paint a pentagram on the album cover, have a couple of song titles with 666 in the name, and since about satanic stuff. It really does seem to me, however, that this has become quite trite and does not take much imagination….it seems like a lot of these bands are just posing. What are your thoughts on this? Also, do you think exploring “dark” subject matter is something that is indispensable to writing metal music, or is it merely indispensable to your style of metal?

I am sure there are some bands who just throw these things around for attention, but there is also a reason that Satanic imagery is such an important part of Heavy Metal music. Satan, as a mythological character, is probably the most powerful symbol of rebellion in Western culture. Heavy Metal is the music of true rebellion so it is just natural that it would embrace the image of Satan as a figurehead. A lot of Satanic imagery and dark occult symbolism reach the mind on a subtle level and excites it-so does Heavy Metal music. People who perceive this feeling usually react one of two ways: metalheads enjoy and embrace this feeling. The other people are disturbed by it. So when you see pentagrams, inverted crosses, goat-headed images, Baphomet and so on…these things are staples of Heavy Metal music, just like long hair, black leather, spikes and wild, pointy- shaped electric guitars.

Exploring dark subject matter lyrically is indispensable to making real Metal music and certainly has always been a part of my music. These dark themes are what originally drew my attention to Heavy Metal. I see all of these guys playing all kinds of music making the horned-hand sign. I say they have no business throwing the horns unless they have at least one song about the Devil.

What is the degree to which religion (whether pagan, Christian, or otherwise) plays a part in your music and lyrics?

Heavy Metal is my religion, but I really enjoy using different types of mythology to tell stories in my lyrics. A lot of guys in Black Metal bands [condemn] Christianity, not realizing we have all of these wonderfully macabre stories and legends that are a byproduct of the religion. Powerful stuff! Same thing with Paganism. Supernatural horror is one of my favorite topics, lyrically, and if it wasn’t for Christianity, these stories of witches, warlocks, demons and lamiae wouldn’t exist, at least not in the potency that we know them today.

None of the Cauldron Born albums featured any instrumental songs….have you ever thought about writing a song that is purely instrumental?

At one time I wanted to do some instrumental music. I think instrumental music is more for guitar players to show off. I am kind of past that now. I am more into just creating a particular atmosphere with the music and lyrics. I have such a great time writing lyrics that I get much more satisfaction out of that than just wanking endlessly on the guitar. Now, if there are any future Cauldron Born albums, there may be some long instrumental passages in context of some vocal songs, but they will exist to create that atmosphere that I spoke of instead of being there to say”look what I can do!”

Will you attempt to play any live shows if the fan response to Briton Rites is significant enough?

Sure. If the other guys are up for it, then I am.

What is your favorite song from the forthcoming album? Can you describe what it’s like and why you like it the most?

That is too hard of a question. I think that there isn’t a weak song on the album. Karnstein Castle means a lot to me. I got an immense sense of satisfaction from writing that one. There is a little surprise there. I can’t say what it is yet.

How are things coming with your record label, and what can we expect regarding the release of the new album? Is it going to be released under your own label still? I know there have been a few snags along the way of the album’s release—will it be released soon?

So far, so good. There were some delays, mainly due to the artwork. We are almost finished with everything and the album will be going to the manufacturer in the next few days. The album will be released on my label, Echoes Of Crom Records. For those who have yet to hear Briton Rites you can listen to a couple of songs here:

http://www.myspace.com/britonrites

I will also be releasing a band called Blacksword. They are a phenomenal band from Siberia but they sound like good ol’ USPM. They have a rare and original sound. I think this is partly due to where they originate from. Nice Sword & Sorcery lyrics inspired by the likes of Michael Moorcock and Clark Ashton Smith(they sing in English, of course). Their debut album is called “The Sword Accurst”, and you can check them out at:

http://www.myspace.com/blackswordmetal

Thanks for taking the time to do this interview…it is a pleasure to hear from you, and it is always exciting anticipating another album from you. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Thanks to you, Eric, for your support and the opportunity to talk about my new band and my label. To all of you who are into traditional Doom Metal and/or NWOBHM, buy the album(don’t download it), so I can afford to keep putting this stuff out. You can contact me at: mail@howiebentley.com

mail@britonrites.com

echoesofcromrecords@yahoo.com

Metal in Savannah!

Posted in underground metal with tags , , , on February 26, 2010 by Eric Stevens

Last night I checked out Skeleton Witch in concert here at the Jinx, located downtown Savannah. I had listened to them on their Myspace, so I knew they were pretty good. Musically, they remind me of old school thrash akin to Exodus and Testament, with maybe a little Destruction thrown in the mix. Vocally, however, they were more death/black metal influenced, with the singer reminding me a little of Abbath from Immortal. Very good show. Outstanding show, both for the band and for the crowd…I really couldn’t believe the turnout and the crowd response considering this was a metal show. By the end of Skeleton Witch’s set, everyone had their fists raised in the air in agreement–so much energy in the place. At one point, the singer asked the crowd “I just wanna know….is Savannah still considered part of the Bible Belt?” Very good question indeed–metal has not always gotten a great reception in the Southeast United States, but it is certainly encouraging to see that there is hope.

Another surprising highlight of the show were Texas metallers, Iron Age. I had a feeling they might be good since the singer had a Candlemass shirt on…good influences usually make for good music. And they didn’t disappoint. They also had an old school metal sound, reminding me at times of Kill ‘em All era Metallica, Possessed, Death, and some other earlier bands with a thrash metal/early black metal sound almost. And they actually sounded better live than they do on their Myspace page. At times, the vocals on their recorded material remind me of Chuck Schuldiner from Death, especially on the song “The Way is Narrow.” Live, however, I guess he still sounded a bit like Schuldiner, but his vocals were way more piercing…bordering on Black Metal vocals almost–like maybe Chuck Shuldiner meets the singer of Possessed. Tremendous stage presence. At one point it looked like the guitarist did a sign of a cross with his guitar…and looking at their song titles (“The Way is Narrow,” “777,” “We’re Dust,” “A Younger Earth”?) I couldn’t help but wonder if they were a Christian band. Regardless of whether this is the case, they rocked just as hard as any other metal band…if not harder.  It would be funny if this were the case, with the comment that Skeleton Witch’s singer made about the Bible Belt…plus some guy in the crowd kept yelling “hail Satan”…apparently he was a big fan.  I don’t know if that was a complement to either band’s playing, however, since neither of them were Satan.  This guy definitely seemed to be more excited about Satan than Skeleton Witch or Iron Age, since he kept saying it over and over.

Anyway, tremendous sets by Iron Age and Skeleton Witch, tremendous show. Skeleton Witch and Iron Age were the real deal.  There was another band that opened, called Howl, but they played sludge metal, something I’m not a big fan of.  Plus, the other two bands were just way better.  I still cannot get over the idea that we actually had some metal bands come to Savannah…for a night, stepping into the Jinx actually felt like being in another country, or stepping into a time warp–it just seemed so strange to be attending a metal show in Savannah, where people were dressed in leather and spikes and had their jackets with patches of bands’ logos all over them, and people wearing Candlemass t-shirts.  A glorious night indeed.

Maybe they’ll come back around again…and maybe we’ll actually start getting some other metal bands to play here.

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