Cleveland’s own Vanik has been making waves lately with 2 kick ass, teaser tracks from their upcoming album, entitled II Dark Season. The tracks, “Jack’s Lantern” and “Heresy Undertow” are currently streaming on Decibel.com. What caught the Decibel editors’ attention was the vocalist and guitarist, Shaun Vanak’s previous work as a live musician for popular blackened, thrash and roll band, Midnight.
The fact is, all the members of the band have an impressive metal resume in the Cleveland area. Guitarist, Vic Stown and bassist Ed Stephens are former members of the Cleveland thrash band Vindicator and drummer, Al Biddle is a former member of both Toxic Holocaust traditional heavy metal band, Cauldron. One could say this is a super group, and based on the chops in the 2 teaser tracks, one can’t argue they sound like one.
What caught my immediate attention was the perfect balance of grit and clarity in the production along with the sheer catchiness of the riffs. These tracks are packed to the brim with sick riff magic and shreds — not to mention anthemic choruses that invoke fist pumping. The influence from both Midnight and Toxic Holocaust is obvious, but these guys get a little uglier — a little grimier. These tracks have the hungry appeal of a sick demo elitists brag about owning. I must say, I can’t wait for this album to drop. II Dark Season will be released on Shadow Kingdom Records on October 26.
You can pre-order the new release and all things Vanikhere. Before you do, though, prepare yourself for the inevitable whiplash that will ensue.
When I first listened to Witchgoat’s debut effort, Umbra Regit, a restored sense of excitement came over me. Its primitive intensity whisked through my veins, sending chills down my spine with every sick riff. I became curious to know more about these El Salvadorian thrashers, but Witchgoat was seemingly shrouded in obscurity online — with only a small digital presence. Fortunately, I was able to speak with Witchgoat guitarist P. Scyther about the details of the band’s writing process and future plans. Here’s what he had to say…..
Underworld– First things how are you?
P. Scyther– Everything is going well. We are somewhat busy with our jobs, working on the album’s release and our debut that we hope it will occur before this year ends.
Underworld– That’s great! To jump right in, “Umbra Regit” has been getting quite a bit of attention online by webzines and so forth. Besides it being a killer demo, what factors would you guys attribute to the album’s success?
P. Scyther– First of all, we would like to thank all metalheads for the support that the demo Umbra Regit has received, and also we thank the media that supports the underground.
It has been great to find people who are interested in the primitive elements of metal that we have tried to compose. In regards to the response received, we assume that the mix of elements such as speed, aggressiveness and visceral vocalization, all mixed with the sound of the riffs and melodies of old school thrash metal, has resulted in a great response from old school and blackened metal fans.
Underworld– It definitely had that primitive vibe. One of the first things I noticed was the classic feel of this demo and how it brought me back to metal’s heyday back in the late 80s/early 90s. Did you guys intend to recreate that kind of atmosphere on this album? Did any other bands influence the sound of Umbra Regit?
P. Scyther– This classic feel that you mention is a consequence of our own taste for the type of raw/blackened thrash metal which we have been fans of our whole life. Before being musicians, we were enthusiastic fans of these genres so we have tried to impregnate in our demo the elements of those times in which music was honest in its ideas and above all in its sound avoiding excessive technological refinements.
We believe that metal must have a dose of rawness such as the one this genre had when it began in Europe and Latin America in the middle 80’s. At the same time, we have tried to incorporate and admire very much, the melodic part that blackened death metal bands impregnated to the genre in the 90’s. All of this tried to preserve the tuning and a tone close to the standard used by the first old thrash metal bands.
In regards to the sound, we have various influences of thrash metal albums such as: Schizophrenia from Sepultura, Inverted Crosses from The Unsane, Fragments of Insanity from Necrodeath, this kind of stuff… and even classic bands like Bathory, Death, Possessed, Mercyful Fate, Aura Noir and Sarcófago, etc…
Underworld– Schizophrenia is easily my favorite Sepultura album. I definitely hear the same elements of raw intensity on “Umbra Regit.” El Salvador isn’t always the first country people think of when it comes to metal, but doing a quick Google search, it seems that there’s somewhat of a thriving scene in the country. Should metal heads be paying closer attention to the El Salvadorian scene?
P. Scyther– El Salvador is a country with underdevelopment in many aspects. However, like other regions in Latin America, the metal scene has been growing gradually and even though there is not a huge number of outstanding bands, there are some that we recommend and that have represented this region well such as: Conceived by Hate, Disorder, Invocation of Death, Morbid Stench, Dismal Gale, Tabú, among others.
Underworld– I’ll have to check out some of those bands for sure! Tell me a little about the process that went into writing “Umbra Regit?” How long have you guys been at this? Do you have time to practice as much as you’d like? Metal is DIY in my experience, with bands marketing themselves and buying studio time themselves etc. How much of your blood sweat and tears went into this demo?
P. Scyther– As far as the demo’s composition process and the long play, which is completely recorded and hoping to be released by the end of this year, I can say that music was totally composed in the middle of 2016 and 2017.
Since then, time has served to rehearse and assemble the drums and bass adequately, and to develop a complete concept that includes an agreement regarding the philosophy expressed in the lyrics, and that which we share among the members of Witchgöat. We consider this an important aspect of our music and Morbid Miasma, the band’s vocalist, has taken sole charge of this.
Regarding the composition of the music, sometimes it is easy and ideas come up without much effort. On the contrary, sometimes more time and inspiration is required to obtain the desired result. Either way we shape our creations and work in them until we are fully satisfied with the result.
The production of the Umbra Regit demo has been precarious and much of the sound is actually intentional. Guitars were recorded in my home study and the drums in the studio of a close friend. Vocals and bass were recorded in Devil’s Eve Studios owned by M. Miasma. The mixing was done by us and the mastering was done by a friend of the band. We are pleased with the demo sound because we believe that a demo should have a raw and honest sound but with enough power to show the music that the band is making and to demonstrate the concept. From that point of view we believe that this is an honest production.
Underworld– “Towards the Gulgalta” is one of the most emotional acoustic pieces I’ve heard in a long time. Ending the demo that way was a bold choice. Tell the readers a little been about what influenced you to make that choice. Were you just trying to show range, or was there some other inspiration?
P. Scyther– Thank you for your kind words. Towards the Gûlgaltâ is a piece played with acoustic guitars. We intended to evoke a state of melancholy and darkness in the way old Swedish bands of the middle 90’s used to do. Big influences such as Lord Belial and Dissection have absolutely impregnated in our minds their seal and have marked our path in metal.
A composition like this finale definitely intends to create an atmosphere that will take us to this era and is merged with our own composition essence. It was selected to finalize the demo with the intention of creating some kind of melancholic epilogue following the demo’s chaos and melodic violence.
Underworld– Given the demo’s underground success, do you foresee getting on the bill for fests in the near future? Is there anything already in the works?
P. Scyther- Thanks for saying that, we are taking this step by step so we are focused right now on releasing the debut album and try to get a good promotion and distribution for it. After that maybe we will start in some new material but so far there is no clear vision of possible live performances. We do have some ideas for future releases that we are working on.
Underworld– I’m sure fans will be happy to hear that? When can they expect the first full length LP to be released? What else can we expect from Witchgoat in the future?
P. Scyther– The short-term plans are the release of the full-length album by the end of this year 2018, which is almost a reality. We are working on the final details and hope to have news about the release very soon. Additionally, we are currently working on making new music and rehearsing for preparing new material in order to keep on dispersing in the future our musical pestilence worldwide through the underground.
You can purchase Witchgoat’s demo, Umbra Regit Here
Ahh Morbid Skull Records; a label continually delivering the ugliest, most terrorizing forms of thrash and death metal to the black-clad masses worldwide. El Salvadorian blackened thrashers “WITCHGOAT” are no exception.
Their debut to the world, demo tape “Umbra Regit” is blistering thunderstorm of intensity and sickness. If I were, like, 50 years old I’d be talking about how these bullet belt clad, Hispanic beasts brought me back to the tape trading days. The reality is, all true metal heads feel they were a part of the tape trading days despite their age, and a band like “WITCHGOAT” has the momentum and ferocity in their sound to catapult them right there.
The first adjective that comes to mind upon listening to this honestly killer demo is hungry. From the first blustering notes of “Emanations of the Underworld,” “WITCHGOAT,” sets the tempo for a raging thrash experience that’s steeped in technical virtuosity while maintaining that primitive ambiance that kvlt thrashers crave.
“Umbra Regit’s” production is clean enough to sound professional without stripping the band of their intensity. Their effort here was perfect and allowed for their cool, Destruction like riffs and emotional solos to really shine through. The drumming, while pushed into the background, was still audible and complemented the guitar heavy atmosphere on this album incredibly well. I thought it was perfect. I mean, these guys aren’t “Archgoat” or “Revenge.” This approach worked well for them.
What was really cool was the way the raspy growling vocals sounded over the dual shredding. The blueprint here was perfect for creating that nostalgic feel that brings you back to the golden age of extreme metal. “WITCHGOAT’ is more than just a tired band that’s copying the reverberations of their thrash forefathers, however. The closing track “Towards the Gulgalta” proves these guys are killer musicians with a versatile range. It’\s slow, acoustic ambiance really sets the tone on the album in a cool way.
I have very little negative feedback for this effort. The only thing I might say is that they didn’t bring much new to the table in terms of sound. But with the weird, post-metal direction a lot of bands are going, a balls to the wall blast from the past is refreshing. I honestly loved this demo and am looking forward to seeing more from these guys in the future really soon. Share this and buy their stuff. It’s always a drag when good bands peter out because of lack of support. Let’s not let that happen.
Europeans just do it better. What can I say? Legendary, Polish, death/thrashers, Vader simply outdid themselves with this release. As a formative band in the death metal genre, Vader has manged to maintain their energy and aggression after thirty years and remain a dominant force in the death/thrash genre, with riffs that cut to the bone, leads that blister, and drums that pummel. The Empire is the band’s thirteenth full length release and I give them a lot of credit, as it’s notably difficult for many bands to maintain the kind of hungry energy Vader does on this release after so long in the game. Perhaps their black leather ensembles have melded to their skin and they’ve become some kind of death metal super villains set on destroying the world with blast and leads. Who knows but whatever they’re doing is working for them.
Many of the tracks on The Empire focus on the band’s thrashier elements. The opening track, “Angels of Steel”, is as bludgeoning as ever in its ferocity, causing listeners to immediately take notice. Vader is not intended to be background music. By the time the third song rolls around, you’re ready for an anthemic kind of thrash hit, like “Prayer to the God of War”. I wasn’t too impressed by the decision to immediately follow the fist pumping thrasher, “Prayer to the God of War” with another slower, thrashier tune, “Iron Reign”. I was admittedly craving something a little more crushing. Thankfully, Vader delivered with the following track, “No Gravity”.
The two songs that really stuck out to me on this album were “Genocidius” and “Parrabellum”, which is arguably the heaviest thrash song released all year. Ending the album with the slow, chugging, thrash track, “Send Me Back To Hell”, was a bit weak in my opinion, but I have very few complaints about this album overall. The Empire is old school to the core and I give Vader props for sticking to their guns after over thirty years at it. This is a good one.
If there’s one set of memes floating around on social media that everyone seems to believe, it’s that 2016 was a shit year. The election was particularly messy, with proponents for both candidates treating their pick for POTUS as though they were some sort of elderly messiah. People deleted each other on Facebook, protested in the streets, and everyone seemed to believe their political acumen was that of a tenured law professor at Harvard.
On top of the media circus, everyone fucking died. Lemmy died at end of 2015 and ushered in a wave of celebrity death in 2016. First we lost David Bowie, then Nick Menza, then Glen Frey of The Eagles, Prince (he was he one everyone pretended to love after he died),Leonard Cohen, and George Michael. It wasn’t only music that took a hit; we also lost Gene Wilder, the mom from the Brady Bunch, Alan Rickman (better known as Professor Snape), and, the one that hit the hardest, Carrie Fisher. More celebrities died of course but the list is exhaustive so I’ll just stop there.
2016 only redeemed itself with its metal. This year saw great new releases from giants like Testament, Darkthrone, and Destruction. Even the new Metallica album was an adorable attempt from them at being a thrash band again. The underground metal of 2016 was particularly exciting. Here are my top six picks.
6. Desaster- Oath of an Iron Ritual
I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Desaster is probably the most fun band to see live on this list. The German black/thrashers have steadily been upping the ante with their most recent releases and The Oath of an Iron Ritual the pinnacle of circle pit, fist pumping success for the band, as far as quality goes. Memorable thrashy riffs, breaks, and soloing set this album apart. Blackened Teutonic bliss.
5. Murdryk- Antologi MMXV
Murdryk’s Antologi MMXV makes the number five spot despite the band’s weird aversion to being compared to being compared to Dissection. Killer riffs nonetheless, as well as emotional solos, and haunting atmosphere made this one memorable for me.
4. Baphomet’s Blood- In Satan We Trust
Thrash! Death! Sex! Destruction! Baphomet’s Blood easily takes the number four position for top picks of the year with their release of In Satan We Trust. The band’s flirtation with Motorhead’s gritty vocal stylings and riffing, combined with anthem-ic choruses and slaytanic solos make for an unforgettable sound. Think fist pumping, pentagrams, and broken necks.
3. Wode- Wode
I got hip to this album later in the year. Holy shit! Amazing! The riff progressions on Wode’s debut self titled release are masterful. This is definitive orthodox black metal tempered with unparalleled melody and emotion. The raspy vocals and slightly lo-fi production give this release a chilling atmosphere. Truly memorable.
2. Destroyer 666- Wildfire
D666 always destroys but 2016 was a particularly good year for the Australian blackened thrashers. Ignoring the whole racist scandal, the band released Wildfire, which stands alongside Cold Steel as an equal. Fearlessly epic and heartlessly blackened simultaneously, Wildfire gets a lot of rotation on mine and so many others laptops and record players.
Mare Cognitum- Luminiferus Aether
This is the album I can’t leave alone. Blackened melodic atmosphere with depressive and ambient interludes woven throughout, pair beautifully with Jacob Buczarski’s tortured vocals and melancholy guitar solos. This is a memorable release that I’ll continue to return to for years after its release. Luminiferus Aether slides easily into the number one spot for 2016.
Embalmer- Emanations From the Crypt: This one was well worth the wait. Probably the most brutal release this year.
Dark Funeral- Where Shadow Forever Reign: This was a great comeback for the band. Melodic and frostbitten.
Nokturnal Mortum & Graveland- The Spirit Never Dies: Epic and amazing. Double props to Rob Darken for ruffling Antifa’s sensitive little feathers.
As a long time D666 fanatic, I had been anticipating this release for some time and spent the weeks prior to its release panting like thirsty groupie. Wildfire proved to be worth the six-year wait. Blistering with intensity, this album yanks listeners into a fist pumping, patch covered netherworld from the first Tom Araya inspired falsetto scream of Traitor.
Wilfire is filled with crowd pleasing anthems like Hounds at Ya Back, Traitor, and the title track, which is refreshing in an era when pretentiousness seems to have become somewhat the norm. Who doesn’t want to drunkenly shout song lyrics in a crowd full of long hairs? The band has certainly taken a primitive turn with this release, harkening back to days of Satanic Speed Metal, but with more sophistication.
Cool, Destruction-like riffs coalesce with blood curdling howls, and expertly executed solos to create a truly anthemic sound. The production is clean but not overly emphasised, which allows for an arena-like atmosphere.
The album deviates from the thrash anthem at times, however. Tracks like Hymn to Dionysus and Tamam Shud break into slower, more emotional passages at times. Hymn to Dionysus is probably the stand out track on the album. Besides being ingeniusly named, (in case you’re a dolt and don’t know this, Dionysus was the Greek god of wine and partying, which is pretty much the only god worth worshipping) the track is perfectly executed. It takes listeners on a journey that begins with lightning speed riffing and ends with the kind of melody that causes you to close your eyes involuntarily.
I hate to gush, but Wildfire could easily be in the running for album of the year. The whole thing just drips “classic”. My only fear is that this album was released too late to cause the impact it is capable of. Had this come out twenty or thirty years ago, it would have been an instant classic, but since it came out only a few months ago, it could read as an overly contrived attempt to recreate Hell Awaits. I guess I really just don’t give a fuck though. This album had me head banging in front of my computer and hitting repeat on more than one song. Memorability is the true hallmark of this release. Wilfire is an album that will surely stick with me for years to come in an era when music is so accessible it’s disposable. I highly recommend this one.