Sunday, February 20, 2022

Lucidity in ash - Interview with Kato

Right from their first demo Nadir in 2020, Kato showed signs of a unique presence in the underground scene. The signs become reality with the project's debut EP Conflagration this year, a majestic, multifaceted work of complex black / death metal that includes turns in a lot of different directions, well balanced heaviness and striking songwriting. A short Arson Cafe question and answer session with the mastermind behind it, simply named George, sheds some more light into this growing project.

  • Welcome to Arson Cafe, go ahead and share a short introduction of Kato.
Thank you for the interest. Kato is my music project that started in 2020. From that start, a demo and now an EP have been released with hopefully more to come. I’m not interested in adhering to standard genre classifications, so the way I like to describe the music is layed and caustic metal. 

  • "Kato Kosmos" means the underworld in Greek. What led you to pick such a name?
Contrary to what most people would think this has nothing to do with the biblical underworld. As a whole, the intention of this project was to explore the true human reality. From my experiences in the US, a facade has been built to distract and offer some semblance of meaning to our existence. That truth that lies beneath is where I draw inspiration for this project.

The use of the Greek language stems from the influence Greek culture had in the formation of the civilization which has permeated at least through much of the Western world.

  • Already from the first demo, Kato's production is quite professional. Do you self-produce your material?
Thank you for the compliment. For the most part, yes, I do handle the producing and production work myself. One big exception for this most recent release was handing over the mastering work to Greg Chandler at Priory Recording Studio. Truthfully, Greg also offered some feedback as I was finishing up the mixing so his influence is also notable to how this release sounds. 

  • "Conflagration" can be considered the first main release of the band. First of all, what does the artwork represent?
The artwork depicts the eradication of the walls that have been built in our deceptive consciousness. I think it’s also important to note that the title and artwork were the very first seeds of this release. From their creation it influenced and was used as a guiding light throughout the whole creation of the EP. 

  • The EP has several interesting twists and turns, what is the concept behind it?
The full flow of the EP is indeed that process of clearing the mind; removing the walls of the conscious. You burn within to reveal your essence : the absence of everything.  

  • I could listen to slight elements of more dissonant black metal, but also tremolo picking similar to the modern Norwegian scene. What are some of Kato's musical influences?
Yes, what you were hearing were all very much influences in my writing. Beyond that, my goal wasn’t to have this project limited to one singular sound or genre. I’ll pull influences from all sorts of art and artists. In the musical realm it can go from Abigor to Aluk Todolo; from King Crimson to King Diamond. As long as it fits the theme and doesn’t feel forced, it’s fair game in my book. 

  • Great melodic passages, especially in "Within". What is the creative process for your project, and how do you decide what fits to be put together?
Having that overarching theme and concept while building the music really helps me in figuring out how the music should flow. For this project, I wasn’t interested in adhering to a standard verse-chorus structure to the songs and I tried to make them more through-composed in nature. 

In the end, it’s hard to really put into words why certain decisions are made while creating a song. It ultimately has to feel right and support the larger goal at hand. 

  • The lyrics bring a bit of Ulcerate in mind, showcasing fair amounts of desperation and hopelessness. Where do you draw inspiration for writing them?
I think that’s a fair assessment on the overarching emotion in the lyrical themes. Philosophy work around Existential Nihilism for sure was a big influence around this concept. Peter Zapffe’s The Last Messiah is an important work along with even René Descartes and his exploration of human consciousness. 

  • To whom is the last line of the third track, going "Your Essence", referring to?
That’s to everyone. The stark nightmare nirvana is our essence. It’s fleeting and hard to fully grasp, but it’s a reality we’ll eventually discover. 

  • Is Conflagration a result of constant work since the 2020 demo? Are you also working on the next material of the project?
More or less, yes, it was a constant process from the demo. The forming of the concept and artwork took some time after the demo to coalesce, but from there the writing process was pretty steady. 

The idea for the next release is just about there. I'm planning out the artwork and the beginnings of a song are emerging, but it’s too early to say what it will look like in the end. 

  • What would be the take-home message the listener should take after a few listening sessions of the EP?
Hmm, that’s an interesting question. I mean on one hand, I would hope that the overall concept of the EP I discussed would translate to the listener, and that’s where I think the lyrics are an integral part of the experience. However, as with any art it’s really open to interpretation, and far be it from me to stand in the way of someone finding a different meaning in the work. At the end of the day, if someone willingly sits down to listen to the project and explores what’s within, then that’s all I can really ask for. 

  • Thanks for your time and efforts, I'm leaving the closing remarks to you.
Thank you very much for the interest and the great questions.
Listen to Conflagration:

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Venom Prison - Erebos (2022)

Band: Venom Prison
Country: United Kingdom
Album: Erebos
Label: Century Media Records
Website: Instagram

Another act that made its presence known quickly after its formation, Venom Prison's debut Animus in 2016 contained its fine amount of hardcore induced death metal and it was quite expressive when it comes to the contents and the messages it conveyed, an expression that started from the album's splendid and afflictive cover art. I'm really glad to see that they stick to the same kind of aesthetics in their albums, as it is evident from the equally dense design of their fourth full length album to date, Erebos.

From day one, the band didn't fall in a specific genre well, yet the different elements in their music come from styles that are already well connected. I would definitely put them into the category of modern death metal, but one who goes into a Venom Prison album expecting just that would be, quite possibly, repeatedly surprised. Personally, as much as I find some aspects of the band interesting, more often that I would have hoped for, I found myself having difficulties appreciating the musical directions because of a feeling of idleness it gave me, as it is in a sense, a jack of all trades example of a band. The music scene praises them for their genre-defying work, yet I am not clearly seeing that: you have heard of some deathcore, Carcass, groove metal, and then you have already mapped almost all of Venom Prison's content.

At the same time, it's quite clear that they try to push their own boundaries with every release, without that meaning that the situation changes that much. There's more attempts of experimentation, or to put it more accurately, not real musical experimentation but an addition of song types that you wouldn't think they fit here, which is the case in Erebos for example with "Pain of Oizys". Much like "Immortal" in Der Weg Einer Freiheit's latest opus Noktvrn, "Pain of Oizys" sticks out like a fly in milk and features a pop rock song with a few moments of angst, screams above clean guitars and eerie keys, but also with lyrics much closer to the heart and of personal struggle rather than a social one. In my opinion, apart from an interesting (almost post-rock, if you listen to it as a stand alone melody, it would easily fit in a God Is An Astronaut or If These Trees Could Talk session) solo towards the end, there's no smooth transition in this song and it crumbles because of its own ambition, a quite clear weak point in Erebos. At the same time, it will be one that might be the favorite for many out there, so probably it's a great piece!

Thankfully, this mellow / indie trickery is contained in just one track and the listener gets immediately repaid for his patience with an ultra bombastic piece "Golden Apples of the Hesperides", bringing back the loathe of modern society and its rotten foundations. Erebos deals a lot with oppression and inequality but its more particular target against misogyny, which was central in previous works, is also present here, for example in "Gorgon Sisters", which has some of the nicest and most visceral breakdows of the record, much like in "Judges of the Underworld", also spewing a seriously heavy part towards its end. Forceful grooves are employed in "Nemesis", along with some short clean guitar lines that make Venom Prison different from the whole lot, and there's plenty of riveting riffing and soloing throughout Erebos to make its case solid.

At the same time, we shouldn't exaggerate by how much innovation the band has. Take a track like "Comfort of Complicity", which is a clear reproduction of Lamb of God riffs and fast paced As Blood Runs Black patterns, and that's all. If it wasn't for Larissa Stupar's unique vocals, you wouldn't tell the difference, it's just too close. I hear almost Swedish melodic black / death metal in "Technologies of Death" and slight The Black Dahlia Murder influences might be hidden here and there, especially in the vocals.. "Veil of Night" is a solid track, yet "Castigated in Steel and Concrete" is not nearly as heavy as the title suggests. These comments don't stand as pure complaints for Erebos, however I see Venom Prison in accordance to their magnitude at the moment and while the band is fully deserving of someone times, and that goes also further than the music, I don't see myself lifting them higher than at the level of an above average band.

If you're into implausibly heavy death metal, Erebos will feel like a Christmas cookie to you. If you're into socially angry, groovy deathcore with some death metal influences, and a couple of twists towards lesser aggressive sounds, Venom Prison is for you. The band has a singer with a great vocal variety, striking lyrics, a mind for new ideas which might not work for this author sometimes, yet the intentions are pure. Since I listened to the new Acranius album at the same day as Erebos, the comparison with more ear punishing clamors might not have helped them, but Venom Prison are surely a more multifaceted band. I'm slightly offput by the possible misspelling of the album title too. Anyway, in the end, just listen to some Dyscarnate when you're in this mood.

Release date: February 4th, 2022

1. Born from Chaos
2. Judges of the Underworld
3. Nemesis
4. Comfort of Complicity
5. Pain of Oizys
6. Golden Apples of the Hesperides
7. Castigated in Steel and Concrete
8. Gorgon Sisters
9. Veil of Night
10. Technologies of Death


Sunday, February 06, 2022

Darvaza - Ascending Into Perdition (2022)

Band: Darvaza
Country: Italy / Norway
Album: Ascending Into Perdition
Label: Terratur Possessions
Website: Facebook

This release has been highly anticipated. I have waited and hanged on for a full length release from this project for half a decade now, especially after getting more and more into their first three EPs. And the fact that they made such a mark with them from the very beginning shows what kind of band we are talking about, one that had laid the groundwork for a debut way after it was established in the scene, creating this feeling of desire to the fans, including me. Every time I went back to The Silver Chalice or The Downward Descent, I would think "but really, where is the full length from these guys?" and keep waiting. 

And by guys, I don't really mean your common black metal musicians. For people unaware of Darvaza, this band is a duo consisting of these two individuals: vocalist Wraath, who has been an active member of Celestial Bloodshed during their time of prime, as well as singing for One Tail, One Head and has also played - among others - in Mare, Fides Inversa and Behexen. The instruments are handled from Omega, one of the most infamous drummers of the last twenty years, who started playing in Handful of Hate back in the late 90's, and since has been drumming for Acherontas, Frostmoon Eclipse, also Fides Inversa, he was involved in Macabre Omen's debut The Ancient Returns in 2005, he has played in Moloch for several years and in Chaos Invocation / Blut Aus Nord for a couple of albums, not to mention that he was part of the supergroup Martröð (a project that will have you shiver when you see its line up, even though the resulting EP may not have lived up to its expectations).

And now, that the Italian and Norwegian counterparts of Darvaza have been explained, there's no question the two members have been rather busy but still maintained activity with this project, which could explain the absence of more material until now, yet I don't think they would rather feel the need to rush things for any external reason. Nevertheless, I have always yearned for an actual full release under this name and it has finally taken form in this 43 minute opus, named Ascending Into Perdition. And thankfully, it continues the habits of the previous smaller releases very closely: worn out black / gray art, simplistic design, and admirable music. Much like before, Darvaza goes hard with dry and as organic as possible sound, like an unfiltered spirit straight from the cask in the cellar.

Ascending Into Perdition has something I am always after in black metal, and it makes everything shine brighter right off the bat: sincerity. Listening to the album, you probably won't find unbelievably heavy, technical or new parts, the guitar lines are plain direct and quite melodic, as it is mostly focused on a lot of middle-paced playing, and when it gets faster it is not out of heaviness but to reinforce the black curtain the band lays with their material. In this way, they don't need to be too loud, every riff is wonderful, the drumming is excellent and the bass also has its moments, the raspy vocals undergo a lot of variety and the compositions as a whole are well thought and well executed. Darvaza don't want to impress anyone because they don't need this kind of validation, and Ascending Into Perdition is an ultimate, pure example of this forbearance for pretentiousness.

Such intentions are manifested in the whole of the record, as for instance in "The Spear and the Tumult". Opening with a fast paced but moderate and repetitive section, the atmosphere sets as Darvaza plays on with simple in design but highly efficient guitar lines and excellent vocal work, which makes the 8 minutes of duration of this track feel like nothing. Equally prominent is "Mouth of the Dragon" for the same reasons, as more and more guitar textures unfold and the album fully sets in, consisting only of this kind of indirectly dominant content. The lyrics are mostly understandable and, heavily into the occult, darkness and satanism, are just a pleasure to listen to coming from an honest source like Darvaza. Interesting lines are featured in "This Hungry Triumphant Darkness", where the band picks up an otherwise played war metal line before entering a more rock-ish part in the middle of the song, which combines some of the heavier moments of the album and some of the mildest, at the same time.

The ending part of Ascending Into Perdition is the real highlight of the release. "The Second Woe" starts off with slow drums and introduces its assertive semi-DSBM guitar melodies as well as harsh vocals immediately, with a chilling turn towards the middle and closure of the track. In an album full of high quality pieces, that track stood out for me for all the reasons I like Darvaza and their composing stance. An equally amazing orchestral introduction opens the final tune "Silence In Heaven", which is the longest number in Ascending Into Perdition and a bliss to listen to from start to finish, as it features all the band's elements at full force. In many ways, this record is more forceful than many extreme metal releases out there that rely purely on playing in the most frenzied manner possible, as if the listener will get spooked by the noise. Here is a truly powerful release.

After 2018, any time was a good time for a Darvaza full length album. With Ascending Into Perdition, they leave me satisfied with some of their most complete material to date and finally a discrete point where you can refer to when listening to them, it only took four years as it seems but I will be listening to the record repeatedly for a long time now, just because of how easy it makes it for you. There is no unnecessary complication in this release, while it still doesn't compromise for a second and it's not here to bullshit you with useless adornments. Straight to the point, Darvaza confirm their quality and ensure that our waiting was not for nothing.

Release date: February 4th, 2022

1. Mother of Harlots 
2. The Spear and the Tumult
3. Mouth of the Dragon
4. This Hungry Triumphant Darkness
5. The Second Woe
6. Silence in Heaven