Archive for NWOBHM

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.

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:

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:

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: