Monday, June 27, 2011

FUNERAL FORNICATION “Pandemic Transgression”

Full-length – Hypnotic Dirge Records
July 29th, 2011

DSBM has always had a limited niche appeal. While some acts can stand out, often times we are met with a bedroom black metal that isn’t well written, and doesn’t bring anything interesting to the table. While there isn’t as many artists in the genre as others it’s still hard to browse a list of artists and find a decent number of acts worth checking out. Canada’s Funeral Fornication, while not really bringing much else to the table, actually shows competence in the solo artist’s writing abilities, and has acceptable production quality which is more than enough to at least give it a try.

Not including a handful of demos, Pandemic Transgression is FF’s fourth major release, and while staying true to the depressive style established recently, more melodic passages are influenced while the timbre is as strong as ever.

Unfortunately, while there is a slight style shift, the same issue I’ve had in the past with the act still exists; things are rather stagnant. The atmosphere is great and fits the genre to a tee, but I wasn’t surprised by anything on the album, and I could predict where it was going to take me. The lyrical content appears to be generic for the genre, but I do not put much emphasis on it in my reviews. However, the execution of what is on this album is strong enough to mostly save it from the negative aspects.

To conclude, this album definitely does not stand out from the bunch. However if you are a devout black metal freak, it is well worth the pick-up.


Reviewed by; Matt Coughlin

EKOVE EFRITS “Conceptual Horizon”

– Hypnotic Dirge Records
July 29th, 2011.

It really amazes me how far and wide heavy metal music has gone over the past few decades. We are truly experiencing a global phenomenon even if it often lurks in the shadows of what is the mainstream. Whether it be the more successful styles or underground chances are it has found a place in almost every country in the world, even beyond western development. In fact many non-European nations are home to various hidden gems whether they are situated in South America or Southeast Asia.

One such region that while limited in quantity of bands but makes up for it with a nice ratio of quality, relatively speaking, is the Middle East. While the more popular bands of this area are likely to throw in the folk music of their indigenous areas to add flavor and stick out among the crowd, others keep the styles traditional and execute it well. From within this scene comes a nice black metal solo project hailing from Iran; Ekove Efrits. Throwing in a dark symphonic influence and more melancholic passages than your old school acts, yet still staying true to the genre, here is an act worth looking out for as I see only good things to come.

Conceptual Horizon, the act’s forthcoming release, offers an accessible but well executed musical passage that melts beauty and lamentation into an intricate and emotional journey. Each track is complemented by rich symphonic passages and down-tempo guitar work, which makes for a very melody driven release. Ambient passages are also to be found throughout which both are nature inspired and more technical other times. The only two complaints I could really have is that the clean vocals could be better performed, though they are still not bad. The other complaint is while each track is beautifully orchestrated, the listener isn’t given much variety here, save for a few tracks. While it is good that the general mood of the release is consistent, I feel experimenting with song structure could benefit Ekove in the long run. My favorite track of the release would have to be “A Celebration for Sorrow,” the acoustic guitar fuses nicely with the synth ambience, and reminds me a lot of Blut Aus Nord’s more transcendental works, before it goes into doom inspired symphonic black metal passages along with more well written ambience, which seems to be Count De Efrit’s strong suit. Overall this album just falls short of being an obscure classic, but it is well worth purchasing, as well as being one of Hypnotic Dirge’s best releases thus far.

Reviewed by; Matt Coughlin

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Living in the North Shore of Massachusetts comes with privileges. You’ve got plenty of beaches, restaurants, diverse culture, the seasons, and activities in general. Unfortunately one of the things that is lacking out here is a well established metal scene. Sure, we have noteworthy amounts of people (yet still a minority) who have heard of most of the genres. You got your death metal fans sporting their Amon Amarth, Death and Cannibal Corpse T-Shirts, your prog/power metal fanboys who have to get to the Symphony X and Dream Theater shows; your “thrash scene” which sadly has only heard of the Big Four, and of course with the rise of hardcore punk coming out of Boston, you have a myriad of metalcore fans, both of enjoyable acts such as hometown heroes Converge, and the countless mallrats spewing that if you don’t like Slipknot and other mallcore acts, “you don’t like heavy metal music;” The former of the two also seems to embrace stoner and sludge doom such as Sleep and Neurosis as well. Of course the majority of people, metal head or otherwise, most likely listen to the most mainstream of acts such as Metallica, Blind Guardian and Iron Maiden. While this is a lot better than some areas that pretty much have no metal exposure whatsoever, I find it depressing that all of these metal scenes in the area’s knowledge only expands to that which you’d find in a Metal 101 book. While these metal heads (sans the mall rats) do listen to enjoyable music for the most part, it makes you feel alone when you bring up anything underground and are greeted with a confused stare.

To make matters worse black metal has some of the worst exposure around here. Sure, people have heard of less than great acts such as Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir and Old Man’s Child (surprisingly no-one has really heard Satyricon even after they went “black ‘n roll”). I was shocked when I found two kids in my graduating class listening to Emperor and 1349, though still mainstream as far as black metal concerns, but nonetheless, leagues better than the former acts. In fact in my hometown with a population of nearly 40,000 I have only met two locals with the same knowledge of metal music as myself; one of which being someone I got into the genre, the other, a librarian who used to work for a progressive rock catalog.

It goes without saying; the limited exposure has its effects on the local bands. We have a handful of melodic death metal acts that aren’t bad in their own right, but upon listening you just see a B-Rate version of their favorite acts, In Flames, Dark Tranquillity and occasionally Opeth. Then you have some thrash bands that sound like midtempo versions of early Metallica; nothing more than barroom music. And don’t even give the metalcore bands a chance; you’ll only torture yourself doing so. We do have a decent collection of Jazz Rap, Progressive Rock and Jam Bands if you’re open minded to those genres, but metal doesn’t really have any gems around here, unless you commute about an hour to major cities like Boston and Lowell, where you’ll find some decent if not very good acts. With black metal being one of the least exposed subgenres around here, dare I attempt to find a solid black metal act?

Surprise, surprise! A friend randomly told me about an act called, Aura of Aquila when discussing USBM, so I figured I’d check them out. Not only is it a real black metal band, but a very unique one that has a wicked nice sound, that is genuinely organic. I immediately went to Encyclopaedia Metallum to see if there’s any information on this act, and find out they are from Danvers, Massachusetts, a neighboring town within walking distance from my house. I marked out like a prepubescent girl at a Justin Bieber concert. The same friend sent me a copy of their 2006 demo, “...Amidst Terrifying Silence,” and I was hooked. The production quality was perfect; low-fidelity but very decipherable. The lead guitars are beautifully inspired by blues rock, while the blast beats and vocals add a great depressive atmosphere. There is also a lot of clean guitar and vocal work that adds a nice touch to the release. Hell, I don’t know why but it really does feel like it has local flavor to it, but in the best possible way.

I’m already five paragraphs into this, so before I go on a huge rant about how awesome the experience is, I’ll cut myself short and say this is a band you should really look out for. They deserve a lot more publicity than they have, which is why I came in contact with Jim Joyce the band’s guitarist and vocalist to set up an interview about the band and other projects he’s involved in.

The Werkshed: Jim, thank you for giving us the privilege to have this interview.  First, could you let the readers know, about your earliest experiences playing music?

Jim Joyce: My earliest experience in playing music was really just finding an acoustic guitar with a few strings left on it and deciding to make some noise on it and record it....apparently not a lot has changed ha.

WS: What was the first album you purchased?

JJ: I think the first album i ever bought was Load from Metallica. They really caught my interest when i first heard them.

WS: As I mentioned in the foreground, black metal isn’t very well established in the area. How did you end up discovering this subgenre?

JJ: I was going through one of the many transition periods life throws at you and the drummer for Aura, Kilty showed me some bands and I fell quickly in love with the emotion of the genre.

WS: Was it difficult finding the right band mates for AoA? How did you guys end up forming?

JJ: Kilty and I started the band and went through a couple of singers and bassists. I wasn't originally supposed to sing for the band but we couldn't find someone on the same page as us so i decided just to sing. Bassists in black metal are all but nonexistent.

WS: How did you guys decide on the name Aura of Aquila?

JJ: We were looking at a map of constellations and came across one of an eagle called Aquila which stuck out to us. Not sure why we decided on Aura but it all seemed to fit pretty well.

WS: What other projects are you currently involved in and could you tell us a bit about them? Do you have any forthcoming acts you’d like to share with us?

JJ: I am currently in a Metallica tribute called Master of Beers, and an original progressive band called Autumn Above. You can pick up our first CD at Newbury Comics. And I am sort of in the process of starting a few more projects, probably a black or folk metal thing.

WS: Who are some of your biggest influences musically for this project? What about for your other projects?

JJ: The biggest influence for the band was really just life events. It was personally a very difficult time in my life and it sort of reflecting in the music how i felt as a person at the time.

WS: What inspires you as far as lyrical content? Do your lyrics reflect your ideals and daily rituals?

JJ: The lyrics are pure emotion. I tend to not write any music or lyrics unless i have something i need to get out. I can't speak for the songs Kilty wrote though.

WS: For those unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe the band?

JJ: Harsh, but hopeful.

WS: What would you say separates you from other black metal acts, especially as far as United States bands? Possibly on the contrary what makes Aura of Aquila a band that fans of the scene would like?

JJ: Not sure what would separate us from other bands. Probably just not giving a shit what anyone thought of what we were doing. Really we were doing it because we needed to for ourselves.

WS: Since the band’s formation in 2006, we’ve seen an EP, a split release and a full-length each coming out a year apart from 2006-2008. Could you tell us about the experience creating these releases? Also what was it like working with the New Hampshire based, Unknown Kadath on the split?

JJ: "...Amidst Terrifying Silence" came along very quickly. I believe we were a band for only a few months until all those songs were written. I did all the bass and guitars. The split didn't take long either, We had plenty of material at the time, some of which never made it to tape. "Ghostly Evening Light" was a bit more difficult. It was the first time we recorded with a bassist (Zak Nicastro) and I was moving during the time we were recording it. It ended up taking a lot longer than anticipated. I only met the guy from Unknown Kadath once, we tended to be on our own and talking to him through the internet so it was sort of a no issue.

WS: Have you ever experienced writer’s block while working on releases? If so how do you combat it?

JJ: I haven't ever found a way to get through writers block. I usually try and write something then scrap it a few hours later because it sounds terrible and I'm not feeling it.

WS: Where can fans purchase your releases?

JJ: Most of the stuff is out of print I have copies of GEL still which they would have to talk to me directly to receive one. I have briefly talked to a few people who would like to redistribute some of the material which I think will happen in the future.

WS: Do you guys perform live?

JJ:We don't preform live. We did for a while it proved not to be the audience and outlet we wanted for our music.

WS: If you could perform a dream gig, where would it be and what other bands past or present would you like to perform with you?

JJ: I'm not sure. Probably just and outdoors gig in the fall with some good friends and lots of campfires.

WS: What is a typical day in the life of Jim Joyce like? Do you have any interesting hobbies, work life, a family?

JJ: Just living day to day finding the things in life that keep me going. Just like everyone else does.

WS: In your opinion what are some of the most overrated bands in metal? On the contrary name some bands that you think deserve a larger following than they have.

JJ: Everybody will have there own opinion on either of these. The Overrated bands we all know them, they flood masses with there terrible chugging riffs.

WS: What country/region do you consider the “Metal Mecca” of the world?

JJ: England would probably be the “Metal Mecca” just for basically birthing the entire metal genre. Everyone else just took there own spin on it.

WS: If you’re not listening to metal, what other genres do you enjoy? Are there any specific bands/artists that you enjoy?

JJ: If im not listening to metal its basically just various rock genres; from the Misfits to Flogging Molly.

WS: What does the future hold for both Aura and yourself? Is there a new album we should be anticipating? Do you have a goal for how far you want the band to go?

JJ: I dont know the future of the band. We haven't talked about anything new in a long time, pretty much just being on an indefinite hiatus. If there will ever be new material, I couldn't say yes or no. I will be releasing more stuff with different project that fans of Aura may enjoy.

WS: You’ve been great, so I’ll let you conclude this interview with any final notes you want the readers to know.

JJ: Thanks for listening, and thanks for being so patient with the delay of this interview.

You can also check out Aura of Aquila’s myspace page at:
Or contact them at

Interview by; Matt Coughlin

Thursday, January 6, 2011

NETRA - "Mélancolie Urbaine" Review

Full-length - Hypnotic Dirge Records
December 16th, 2010

It seems over time, even the most diverse of genres eventually will reach a point of creative stagnation, and while dedicated fans will always find the good in many releases thereafter, skeptics such as myself will perpetually long for change.  This wouldn’t be such a problem if innovation was as easy as fusing two things together.  Unfortunately many acts will in turn capitalize on this false notion and try to mix water and oil by taking two or more genres of music that alone are perfectly acceptable but do not share complimentary characteristics that make such fusion acceptable.  While at first the general public might praise these as something new, (such as the abysmal rap rock styles that dominated the late 90s and early millennium) eventually the popularity wanes as people realize it is too gimmicky and stale.  Instead of progress we suffer listening to musical regress.

That being said there are always cases where acts can do one of three things. They can completely create a brand new genre. This being the most revolutionary, was common place in the formation of modern music, but with many genres and subgenres in existence today is very difficult to do.  Also uncommon but more likely is an artist reinventing a specific genre’s foundation.  The rise of progressive rock acts in the 60s and 70s is a prime example of this.  Finally more common would be an artist who incorporates various stylistic influences particularly well.  Experimentation and understanding of music concepts is key to this, and like mixing different foods, the result can be hit or miss.  A smart musician will make note of what works and what does not, and continue from there.

Through all this I am left with a depressive black metal band called “netra.”  The name derives from an old Breton word loosely translating too “emptiness” and this one man project from France offers us a musical styling that fits somewhere between the latter two options from those three forms of progression I’ve mentioned.  Intelligently and organically this artist takes a primary influence from doom and black metal and incorporates influences from gothic rock, various jazz genres, blues rock, and downtempo electronica genres such as trip-hop.  While other acts would fail miserably to incorporate such fusions in a natural, meaningful and mature way and simply take the quick way out by cashing in on a cheap gimmick, netra differentiates himself by putting a lot of thought and effort into creating a truly unique and groundbreaking creation, that while experimental in nature developed a distinct sound which is key to critical acclaim in any artistic endeavor.  With the debut full length Mélancolie Urbaine seven depressive and meditative tracks await listeners with almost forty two minutes of progressive music experience.

This monumental release begins with “City Lights.”  From the opening listeners will question if they are actually listening to a metal release as a trip hop rhythm welcomes us into the harsh inner city lifestyle accompanied by thought provoking nü-jazz saxophone plug-ins.  In fact no metal is to be found until over two minutes into the track when a cold power chord crashes in accompanied by the painful wail of a black metal shriek.  The passage doesn’t last too long as the contemplative acid jazz returns further soundtracking the nature of metropolitan life.  Another couple minutes and the black metal really takes it’s toll; swaying back and forth between depressive angst and melancholic downtempo and ambiance.  The whispers and screaming accompanying this art only further explore esoteric reflections and suffering within urban decay.

To follow up this solid opener the most accessible track of the release finds us in “La Page.”  While still relating to the sound that defines Mélancolie Urbaine there is a slight shift to a more gothic rock inspired release.  Humming feedback along with shimmering ambient notation greets an intrusive drum beat rather intimately as this magnificent piece slowly builds up into an epic outcry of mournful rage almost in protest of the very nature of modern society.  As the metal sound returns we reach the climax of the emotion which over time fades to a more somber tone. “… I lost my family, I lost my friends, I lost my love… nothing left but memories, false moments…” these are very simple lyrics but so effective.  The song then builds up again and crashes into grief to conclude.  If the listener is weaning himself into the netra sound, this one is the best song to start with.

The follow up tune, “Outside… Alone” keeps the gothic inspiration though heavily incorporates 12/8 blues patterns to offer the most saddening track of the release.  This one is also the longest as it clocks in over nine minutes.  While the bass drives repetitiously the listener is greeted to a solid blues rock guitar lead, which keeps things interesting.  As this passage fades the bass changes and guitar feedback drives in as a tough spoken word from The Wackness. “Never trust anyone who doesn’t smoke pot and listen to Bob Dylan.” The voice builds up in exasperation as the guitars transition gradually from mere distorted chords to melodic passages. “Stop fucking around…” the voice goes into a panic, and then fades out to the sounds of seagulls by the ocean as the guitars while still distorted mellow out dramatically.  Trip-hop singing then comes in as the music slows to a halt just momentarily.  The music continues without field recordings and results in a much more anxious sorrow to slowly bring us to the electronic closing of this mature work.

“Through the Fear” is next up and brings the trip-hop rhythms back in.  This time with Tricky inspired bass and piano rhythms met with a similar distorted timbre in the background as track two.  We are met with chill-out style singing and eventually downtempo trance textures that cacophonously (in an appropriate sense) fuse with more black metal chords and suicidal cries.  The singing doesn’t leave at this time either.  Listeners upon leaving this passage will find a variation of the opening theme and more somber expression of yearning eventually heading back to the blackened doom metal inspired refrain.  We are met with an ambient bridge of more spoken word which pivots into blues rock and more of this Tricky inspired trip-hop piano to bring us to the refrain one final time. We end the track with the phrase from the Johnny Depp film, The Brave, “watching a painful death can be a great inspiration for those who, who are not dying, so that they can see how, brave we can be when it’s time to go.”

“Terrain Vague” is a short little interlude.  Nonetheless it has a great alternative rap beat to fit the mood of urban lifestyles.

It then enters “Outside… Maybe” and of all the tracks has the largest depressive black metal influence on the release.  With the exception of the prior piece, this is also the shortest being only about four minutes long.  While the black metal riffs play throughout with a downing lead crying every now and then, the electronica does not entirely leave the piece as ambient textures hide in the background.

Finally the album ends with the closing song “Blasé.”  This piece exalts the jazz inspiration of netra to its highest level thus far.  The rhythm seems very much like Dixieland shuffle notation wise, though in a strange but welcomed twist the tempo is very slow and we are only met with the slow throb of bass tones on the down beat.  Piano eventual accompanies this as the lead, in a slow and dismal melody.  In closing the music cuts with a low and dark tone played every other measure.  Quietly a voice speaks and eventually breaks into whimpers as the tones continue.  Concluding the album a scream of anguish followed by a slam, results in silent nothingness.

In my honest opinion of everything I have heard this album is the best release of the 2010 year not only in metal music but music in general.  There is never a dull moment and as mentioned this Quimpérois solo project did the unlikely and gave us an experiment that hits and truly breaks new ground for music in general, almost redefining the genre of black metal.  Not only does it stand above anything of the previous year, but this has secured a spot in my favorite albums of all time.  I must thank not only the artist but Hypnotic Dirge Records for helping me discover this modern classic.  For such a small label, they release some of the most underrated CDs in metal today, and this is no exception.  As one may already assume I highly recommend this release, not only to metal fans, but eclectic music fans in general.  Be one of the 1000 copyholders, you won’t be disappointed and for $13 ($15 outside of North America) it is well worth the investment.  You can order it here:

Reviewed by; Matt Coughlin