Heavy Metal World Part Five: Gods and Devils

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Since metal music exploded on the scene in the 1970’s with the Boys from Birmingham, Black Sabbath, the style has always been controversial.  Geezer Butler’s terrifying song Black Sabbath, had people believing that they are “Devil Worshipers”.  Ozzy Osbourne is often called the “Prince of Darkness” and even their album covers were considered somewhat Satanic.  From the debut, self-titled album which is thought to have the ghost of an ancient witch on it, the album Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath which clearly displays the number of the Beast, 666, on the cover of the album, to the album, Heaven and Hell which has angels smoking and playing poker on it

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Then came the 80s’ metal music with Iron Maiden’s album The Number of the Beast, Venom having inverted crosses on their album covers and gleefully Satanic lyrics and Slayer with their invert crosses, pentagram’s and “Satanic” lyrics as well with songs such as Hell Awaits and I Am the Antichrist.  I’ve never been a fan of Venom, but Slayer’s lyrics are not true Satanic lyrics.  They started out has a punk band but then became one of the first “thrash metal” or “speed metal” bands on the scene.  Their lyrics are often anti-religious, and very political, but hardly Satanic.

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Also during the 70’s a young couple from Chicago, Wendi and Glenn Kaiser had formed a hard rock band, which did often bump into a metal sound and they had a special twist to their lyrical themes; they were Christians and their band was called Resurrection Band (later Rez Band).  Like the non-Christian bands, RB were considered controversial in that their music was “too hard” and Glenn had *gasp* long hair.

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Then during the 80’s more Christian bands started to appear, and like their “secular” counter parts, they created controversy.  One band called Philadelphia had an album entitled Search and Destroy which featured on the album cover a “devil” clutching a naked woman in its hand.  This was considered “too extreme” by the Christian community and of course, there was no way these guys could be Christians with that type of album cover and metal sound.

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With the onset of “glam metal”, there came a California based glam metal band called Stryper.  They caused controversy due to the fact that they did the big, teased hair, tight spandex and touches of facial make-up thing.  Their lyrics weren’t the best at the time, but they were full on about Jesus and did not compromise in their beliefs, nor their metal music.  Stryper broke the mold for Christian metal music and they opened the door for many styles to come.

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The latter part of the 80’s and into the 90’s saw quite a few Christian bands who were copy cats at best, but terrible at worst in their music.  But the lyrics tended to be very open about their Christian beliefs.  There were a few however, which were amazing in their metal sound, notably: Deliverance, Believer, Vengeance Rising and Light Force.

Steve Rowe, the founding member of Light Force had been a metal musician and Christian for many years and the musicianship of LF was a delight to listen to.  As the world of death metal began to grow in popularity, Rowe began to take the sound of LF and make it heavier and faster.  He eventually assumed vocals (he was also the bassist) and turned the band into full on death metal, changing the name to Mortification The name alone caused controversy; it is taken from the belief of Christians mortifying the flesh and becoming more like Christ.  Their self-titled album feature a hideous picture of these monsters being cast into Hell, but it did the trick…it sold the album.

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Drummer Jayson Sherlock is a multi-instrumentalist who had a love for black metal music and he created a black metal unit he called Horde.  This unit was full on ugly black metal music, dark, cold and scary to listen to.  But Sherlock’s lyrics were uncompromising.  Though I am no longer a Christian, I still listen to a few Christian metal bands and have no problem with their beliefs and what they do musically.  I highly recommend to any true fan of black metal to listen to Crimson Moonlight and Antestor.

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About those Satanic bands?  There are many out there and most tend to be black metal or symphonic black metal bands.  My favorites are:  Mayhem, 1349, Marduk, Dimmu Borgir, Emperor and Dark Funeral.

Black metal can trace its roots the early to mid-80’s with bands such as Celtic Frost (formally Hellhammer), Bathory, Mercyful Fate and the aforementioned, Venom.  The music and lyrics are often dark and brooding, and the roots can be found in classic metal as well has early thrash metal.

Then in the 90’s there arose the “modern” black metal movement in bands such as Mayhem, Emperor, Marduk, Dimmu Borgir and others.  Although Mayhem started in the 80’s as a more-or-less death metal band, it was when Per Yngve Ohlin, aka Dead joined up on vocals and lyrics, that the band took a much darker direction lyrically and the music became much faster and colder.

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The bands Emperor and Dimmu Borgir started up what was dubbed “symphonic black metal” incorporating keyboards to give the music a more haunting atmosphere to it.  The brains behind Emperor, Vegard Sverre Tveitan aka Ihsahn took his love of classical/symphonic music and incorporated it into the sound of Emperor and gave the music a darker and more sinister sound to it.

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The Satanism in the lyrical themes of some of the death metal and namely black metal bands is not the Satanism of Hollywood, Christianity, nor Anton LeVey (author of the Satanic Bible), but rather a Satanism of rebellion against Christianity.  They disdain the overall Christian attitude of believing in Jesus Christ as God Incarnate and view Him as a liar about His claims of Divinity.  Although as with Christianity, I do not believe in Satanism, I agree with the notion that Christianity is a cancer.  Christians do not respect other’s beliefs and have no tolerance for those whom do not believe in their way.

But, I digress.

It is often thought that Christian black metal should not exist as black metal is ultimately about being anti-Christian and indeed, as mentioned above, it is often held in disdain by those who listen to and/or perform black metal.  However, Mayhem drummer Jan Axel Blomberg, aka Hellhammer did session drum work for the Christian symphonic black metal band called Antestor on the ep Det Tapte Liv and the full-length album, The Forsaken.  Basically, this indicates to me what I’ve thought about metal overall.  It’s about a love of the music, no matter what your beliefs are.  So, if you’re just a metal head who likes good shit, listen to what you like and forget what others think.

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Hidden Treasures Pt. 6 Dream After Dream

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 You might think to yourself, why would I put Journey on this Hidden Treasures special?  After all, people who know classic rock, know who Journey are.  They have several gold and platinum albums and a string of singles which have charted quite well.  Escape, Frontiers, Raised on Radio and Trial by Fire, all are considered to be some of the greatest classic rock albums of all time.  Even albums such as Infinity and Departure are familiar albums.  Let’s face, Journey are very well known.

They are so well known internationally in fact, that in 1980 a movie studio in Japan asked them to compose a sound track for their movie called “Yume, Yume No Ato”, which became an album entitled Dream After Dream.  This rare gem has the Journey sound to it, but also has an unnamed orchestra (the musicians are listed on the album sleeve), giving the album a very unique sound to it.  It’s one of the last albums that pianist and keyboardist Gregg Rolie performs on and one of the first albums that drummer Steve Smith appears on.

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The opening track Destiny (which is Journey’s longest recorded song), starts with a beautiful string and woodwind ensemble and Steve Perry’s smooth tenor is mournful and beautiful, along with some complex vocal arrangements as it tells the story of the characters and has a dream-like feel to it.  It weaves softly at first, but then in classic Journey style, Neal Schon’s growling guitar slams into your ears with a frenzy and the rest of the band joins in, making the song seem more frantic.  But it then smooths out into the main theme, which is quite haunting.

 

There are several beautiful instrumentals on the album, which are able to enhance the sounds that Journey often makes, giving it a uniqueness to.  Even the album cover is different in that it does not feature the ever present Scarab beetle on it.  There are two beautiful swans flying on the front cover, keeping with the overall dreamy feel to the album.

I have never seen the movie itself and the album is very rare.  I’ve not seen it on cd, but I do own a copy of it on vinyl.  I’m sure in this digital age it could be found on various internet radio stations and I-tunes, so if you ever want to hear a classic album by Journey that is unique, I highly recommend this one to you.

Hidden Treasures Pt. 5: Three

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This is going to be part review and part tribute to the late Keith Emerson.  The album “To the Power of Three” came out after Carl Palmer’s band Asia went on a brief hiatus.  He rejoined Keith Emerson and guitarist, singer, bassist and producer Robert Berry and together they released this album, which although it didn’t sell very well, its track Talkin’ ‘Bout reached number 9 in the billboard top 200.

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Personally I have always liked this album quite a bit.  Berry’s vocals are on the level of Greg Lake and John Wetton and Palmer does his magnificent drum work as always.  And of course, the late Keith Emerson fills out the bands sound with his spectacular keyboards a piano playing.

 

The highlight songs on the album are not just Talkin’ ‘Bout, but a remake of the Birds classic Eight Miles High and the epic piece, Desde la Vida.  This last song is in the vein of classic prog rock music with three movements and featuring an instrumental piano break down by Keith Emerson.

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As I touched on above, Emerson’s playing is as usual fantastic to hear.  Sadly due to health issues, he took his own life earlier this year.  He had suffered from depression, a form of heart disease and he had nerve damage in his right hand, which he felt would inhibit his live playing and disappoint his fans.

Whatever else can be said about this album, the musicianship is great and Emerson’s playing will be missed by those who knew and loved him and by his many, many fans from over the years with the Nice, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and of course his solo albums.

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Interview: Jana Dark

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I came across Jana Dark’s “Darkrad” about a year ago through the website of the label Cold Meat Industries, which led me to You Tube to listen to her stuff.  The first song I heard was called “When They Scream”, which is an eerie piece that has an equally eerie video to go with it.  I have since listened to quit a bit of other Darkrad stuff and I enjoy it a lot.

Jana agreed to allow me to interview her and we discuss the difference between Dark Ambient and other types of Dark Music, as well as her project and any live plans.  Hope you enjoy it:

 

For those who are not familiar with the style, what is Dark Ambient music?

Dark ambient is a music genre, using elements of ambient music, but transforming them into ominous, dark, sometimes even sinister atmosphere. This music genre is somewhat melancholic, is often associated with dramatic feelings, such as loneliness, isolation, solitude… for myself, this is the music for meditation, for dreaming away. I often listen to dark ambient to escape from the real world, into the world unknown, explore myself, the dark and hidden passageways of consciousness.

As in industrial music, dark ambient uses drones, noises, distortion, processed sounds, different elements and effects, such as light percussion and rhythms, voice samples…not dynamic, but stretched, slow, meditating. It is an illustration to the darkest moods and phantasies.

I’ve read that Simon Heath of Sable Sun and Atrium Caceri goes out in nature and records a lot of different sounds for his music.  Are there any special sounds you use to make your music?

I record sounds, but I don’t use too much of field recording. I use a lot of voice recording. It is fascinating, how far a human voice can go and how much can be done with it. I think voice is one of my favorite instruments. Most of my sounds come from various synthesizers and gear. I currently don’t use live instruments, but I’m thinking of adding something from this area and collaborate with artists playing instruments such as cello and violin.

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What do you draw on for lyrical inspiration?

Lyrics are never a problem for me. Often a track starts with lyrics and then I hear sounds elaborating around them. I write quite a lot, sometimes short texts, sometimes poems, or longer stories. In fact, I will publish my first book soon. A lot of my lyrics for Darkrad are based on stories I wrote, but adjusted to the musical environment. I also have a dream diary and I write down dreams I had, that I consider can be of any use for future creative work. I often write passionately, quick and short, trying to capture the sense in a few words. This kind of writing is easily transformed into lyrics for my tracks.

 

Do you perform any other types of music?

As a musician I currently have only one project Darkrad. It isn’t quite a dark ambient project, rather experimental electronics, where I merge various styles, but still keep them under one dark thrilling creepy atmosphere. But I have a plan to start a new project, in minimal wave style of electronic music. I’m currently exploring this area and it gives me new inspiration. As a DJ, I have a vast style experience and play different kinds of music, starting from industrial, noise and finishing synthpop, techno, electro.

 

If you have the funding, would you tour and if so where?

Yes, I would definitely tour. I love playing shows. I’m particularly interested in South and Central America tour. In fact, I have already started working on it, and got in touch with promoters over there. Also, the fact that I currently live in the USA makes it somewhat easier to organize. I also dream about Asian tour. There is a lot going on there. Everybody is so centered on European scene, but I find that Asian scene has so much to offer.

Last, but not the least, I want to do more touring in my home country Russia and former Soviet countries. I have toured in western part of Russia, but I have never been to the east.

Basically, I’m interested in everything. The world is so huge and sometimes I feel life is not enough to cover it all.

How can one obtain your music?  I personally like to buy cd’s and vinyl.

You can always contact me online. I have official website http://www.janadark.net

And I’m on facebook with my personal page (https://www.facebook.com/janadark) and my music project page (https://www.facebook.com/darkradproject/).

Also, you can use bandcamp: https://darkrad.bandcamp.com/

And anything else you’d like to say?

I would like to thank you for your interest in my music and my activities. This means a lot for me! I wouldn’t be able to stay creative if not all those, who appreciate my art. And I wish you, your blog and its readers success and all the best. Let the darkness be with you…

 

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Interview: Harp Twins

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I came across the Harp Twins Camille and Kennerly Kitt recently, from an ad I believe was on either Facebook or You Tube.  What caught my attention was these two talented young ladies were playing heavy metal on Harps.  I like metal and other styles of music played on non-conventional instruments such as 2 Cellists, Apocolyptica and even Fade to Bluegrass.

Awesome!  We haven’t placed any ads, but many have found us from their friends sharing our videos!

The ladies had videos of them playing Iron Maiden’s “Fear of the Dark” and Metallica’s “One”, and I was hooked just like that *snaps fingers*.  I have since watched quite a few of their other videos and got my hands on of one of their CDs entitled, “Harp Attack.”

Not only do they arrange and record the music, but they produce it as well.  The way play the harp is hauntingly beautiful and stirs the soul.  They’ve been kind enough to allow me to interview them for this here blog.  Enjoy:

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What was it about the harp that first interested you in playing it?

We started playing harp in middle school after we had already been playing piano for years (actually on a keyboard because we couldn’t afford an actual piano).  We were both really drawn to the beauty of the harp.  It’s always seemed like a magical instrument to us.  However, it took us awhile to convince our mom that we were serious about learning the harp.  We had to show we were serious by earning some money ourselves.  We babysat, walked dogs, did office work, and worked in a local print shop to earn the money for our first harps, which were pre-owned.  For a while, we only had enough money to buy one harp, so we shared it!

 

The harp is one of the oldest instruments in existence, can you tell a little about the history of the harp?

The history of the harp could take up an entire thesis paper!  We’ll try to give the highlights.  The harp is believed to be one of the oldest musical instruments in the world.  Evidence of primitive harps have been found in various places throughout the world, so it seems that many cultures were creating their own different harps simultaneously.  The earliest harps were most likely developed from the hunting bow.  There are ancient Egyptian tombs dating from as early as 3000 B.C. that show a harp that looks like a hunting bow with strings.  These harps had very few strings because the frame couldn’t support very much tension.  The harp with a straight column/pillar, also called the frame harp was developed in medieval times and appeared in Western Europe between 800 and 1000 A.D.  Art from that time shows these harps with about 10 or 11 strings.  In the 1700s the pedal harp was introduced to more easily achieve some chromatic notes.  Since that time, great developments have led to the modern day pedal harp.  Currently, there are many, many different kinds of harps in a plethora of styles and sizes.

As a person who has listened to hard rock and heavy metal for a long time, I appreciate your take on performing both styles.  When I first heard you, I listened to songs such as Metallica’s “One” and “Nothing Else Matters”, as well as Iron Maiden’s “Fear of the Dark” and “Dance of Death.”  In fact, I enjoyed it so much, that I got my hands on a copy of “Harp Attack” and can’t stop listening to it.  What is it you like about making this kind of music on a harp as opposed to a more classical style of music?

We love classical music and classical music will always have a special place in our hearts.  However, we started arranging the kind of music that we liked listening to the most (e.g. rock, classic rock and metal) because we felt like that type of music was “calling” us.  Many people don’t realize that at the core of many rock and metal songs is a complex and beautiful melody and rich emotional depth.  Perhaps metal is not as far from classical music as some people would think it would be.  Harp has been an instrument that has been relegated to the back of the orchestra and weddings for far too long.  We love the challenge of arranging music for only two harp parts that was originally played by an entire rock group or orchestra.  We love taking the harp where it has never been before and introducing the world to what we can do with the harp.  We want to show the world that harps can rock!  The people who listen to our music are listening to our music because we’re not average harpists…We’re rock harpists! 😉 😉

 

I recently saw your “Viking” video, featuring a bear, and it was the first song I’d heard with you two singing in.  Are there any singers who influence your singing?

We don’t really consider ourselves singers!  Our Vikings Theme and “The Hanging Tree” covers are the only times we have ever included singing while playing the harp.  We sang in our conservatory choir, but the harp is really our true passion.  Our favorite singer is Stevie Nicks, but our singing isn’t even close to her level of singing awesomeness. 😉 😉

We love to sing, but we prefer to show what we can do with only two harps.  When someone sings with an instrument, the instrument becomes background/accompaniment to the vocals and we love our harps to have the center stage!  However, our fans seem to enjoy our singing, so we try to occasionally include a bit – even if it’s just at the end of the video (as in Lord of the Rings, Scarborough Fair and The Rains of Castamere).

 

I’ve read that you produce and arrange your own albums.  How did you get into that part of the recording business and what do you like about doing that?

Our “producing” job really came out of necessity.  We wanted to start releasing music, but didn’t have the funds to go to a recording studio or hire professionals.  So we invested in a mac and learned how to record ourselves into Garageband (free recording software).  We have continued to progress in our skills and continued to upgrade our equipment and software as we have the budget.  To this day, we have never recorded at a recording studio – all of our CDs and recordings have been done in our living room.  We have recently been working with our friend Kevin Bartlett of  The Smash Room Studio to have our music professionally mastered.  We love being able to produce our own CDs and music videos.  We’re A-type personalities and we like having control over every aspect of our career and music.

 

What other instruments do you play, if any?

We’re classically trained in piano.  We were actually able to validate out of the piano requirement courses at our conservatory of music studies.  We also dabble in singing and percussion.

 

On your website, it says that you are both third degree black belts in Tae Kwan Do and you are experts in rifle shooting.  Over the years, I’ve read how musicians have different hobbies to help unwind while on the road, such as Alex Lifeson of Rush took flying lessons, Alice Cooper is an avid golfer and Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden has been a sport fencer for many years.  What do you like to do to unwind while on the road?

One of our favorite “on the road” activities is actually exploring old cemeteries!  We love the interesting history and peacefulness.  We also love hiking and spending time in nature.  We’d much rather spend our free time in a National Park than in a big city!  A silly thing that we like doing while on the road is the person who isn’t driving reads the “terrible” hotel reviews on Trip Advisor for local hotel/motels.  They give us endless amusement and as a side-bonus…we can even avoid the worst hotels, 😉 😉

Thank you so much for your interest in us and our music!

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