Bullet – Dust to Gold

It seems that old school heavy metal revival is in full swing in Sweden. Bands such as Enforcer, and VOJD (formerly Black Trip) have grown their fanbase considerably since their humble beginnings, and even legendary musicians have gone on to worship the old school through projects like The Dagger. Since 2001, this has been the modus operandi of Bullet, and this year the band drops their sixth full-length album, Dust to Gold, after a four year wait.

The first time I encountered Bullet was with their 2014 release Storm of Blades, after going on about The Dagger‘s debut in the same year, and Enforcer‘s Death By Fire a year earlier (which admittedly, took me quite a while to digest and get hooked on). Each of the bands presented different tributes to various styles of old school heavy metal, with Enforcer taking on a speed metal approach, and The Dagger a more hard rock, Deep Purple-esque style. Bullet on the other hand manages to strike a nice balance between the two similar, yet rather vastly different styles, resulting in a release that is catchy as fuck, yet stands out from their compatriots.

With Dust to Gold, the band continues in their musical direction. Album opener brings back the familiar screechy vocals of Hell Hofer, that sounds like a cross between the screams of Rob Halford and the soprano of King Diamond. Immediately one is brought back to the glory days of 80s heavy metal, and the riffs that guitarists Alexander and Hampus unleash easily reminds us of the work of bands like Judas Priest, or more recently, White Wizzard. Every element that is included on the album screams old school, from the hard-hitting drums, to the duelling lead guitar solos, or the gang-shouts on songs like Highway Love. The inclusiveness of their musical influences even includes Black Sabbath and their titular Heaven and Hell on the title track, easily discernible through the Tony Iommi-inspired riffs, and Geezer Butler-esque bass lines. Hell, even the rather simple and cheesy lyrical themes on the aforementioned track, or opener Speed and Attack fit so well with the accompanying music that one can’t help but find himself grinning at the, erm, cheesiness.

While the material on Dust to Gold mostly sounds similar to what the band has put out thus far, they have seem to toned down a little bit in the speed department, and most tracks on the album take on a mid-pace. This isn’t to say that the music isn’t any less entertaining, as the band still manages to include catchy hooks with ease in their writing, though perhaps including a ballad would have made Dust to Gold a perfect old-school tribute album. If you love and miss the old school of Judas Priest, Loudness, with the swagger of Motörhead, Dust to Gold is one record that should not be missed.

Gaerea – Unsettling Whispers

The huge influx of extreme metal bands has made it rather hard for new bands to truly stand out. While more established bands have continued releasing a string of high quality releases, newer bands tend to find it difficult to leave their mark on the genre – that is, until I heard Portuguese black metal band Gaerea and their excellent debut full length album, Unsettling Whispers.

Bands like Schammasch and Batushka had already taken lead in the aesthetics department, with the latter in particular looking to be a fun band to watch live with the entire ritualistic getup. Gaerea joins the ranks of these bands in terms of their visual appeal, though it seems that it is for the entire experience rather than anonymity that the band seeks.

Album opener Svn gives a hint towards the mood and atmosphere that the band leans towards, and while it is hardly heavy nor noisy, the ambient that the band manages to create is dark and disturbing, aided by the indecipherable, desolate shrieks and vocals at the background. Things take a much heavier turn the moment Absent kicks off, and it is here where comparisons to Schammasch and Batushka becomes obvious. Right from the get go, the riffs take on a black/death metal vibe that is similar to the works of Schammasch or Behemoth. Yet the music is constantly shrouded in a suffocating atmosphere, though not as primitive nor cavernous as the ones on Batushka‘s Litourgiya, remains equally dark and ominous.

On Unsettling WhispersGaerea explores the entire spectrum of negativity, and often swings between complete desperation and hopelessness, and anger and aggression. Each tracks is intense in its own right, and the band often alternates between an emotional riff, to one of utter destruction, backed by the relentless battery on the drums. This is accentuated by the stellar production on the album, where everything is extremely clear and the listener is constantly buried under a barrage of sound, making the entirety of Unsettling Whispers an engaging listen.

If one wants black metal that is devoid of hope or light, Unsettling Whispers is one album that comes highly recommended, with the coherent fusion of crushing aggression and melancholic, melodic sadness all in one album.

MUWW Special: Interview with Truth Be Known

Local death/thrash/grind band Truth Be Known has over the years come to be known for their energetic and engaging live performances. This year the band joins the roster of the inaugural Metal United World Wide to once again bring joy, fun, laughter, and moshing to local metalheads. We catch up with vocalist Subash to have a short chat.

Hey Subash, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. I understand from the band’s Facebook page that there is a new album currently in plans this year. Could you tell us more about the new album?

Hello everyone. Yup, there will be a new album coming out this year. Our third album and it will be entitled Equal in the Pit. We got about 15 songs ready so far. Our bassist, Josh (who writes all of the music) still has a few more up his sleeve so we gonna get that ready as well. It will probably be 16 originals and 2 covers. I know 18 songs sounds like macham we recording “Use your Illusions” like that but our songs are quite short, so it balances out, I think. Hahahahaha.

We will be recording full on in the month of June. Hopefully everything will be ready by August earliest. But then again we can be real cheebyes and change everything. Hahahahaha. But fret not, cheebye or not we will definitely release the album this year. Confuckfirm. (Which also happens to be the title of one of our new songs by the way).

Interestingly you guys have actually came out with a specific sub-genre of your own, termed “funcore”. Could you tell us how this term came about? 

This one also quite cheebye, I tell you. We played a gig at Parklane Mall years ago. As usual, we were all pissed drunk. RazorTV interviewed us. Before this, Josh and I always used to joke about different sub-genre titles like mathcore (knn, what’s next Pythagoras’ Theorem Metal ah), this core, that core and all and we should for the fuck of it, give ourselves a sub-genre title. So when RazorTV asked us what kind of music do we play? I replied drunkenly, “Funcore”. And that’s how it stuck. Good thing, I didn’t say the other title, we were thinking of. Tehcore (underwear in Hokkien).

He did find God after all. It was Tony Leung Chiu Wai.

In March, the band happened to have some minor line-up changes, with Vinod coming on-board. How did that come about?

Yea, guitarists also can be cheebyes. Hahahaha no lah just kidding. We’ve had a few changes with our guitarists. Damien left because he wanted to find God. Lyon Chua of Stillborn took over and he left when he found out the more we drank, the more naked we got. He wasn’t cut out for that shit. Brandon of Witchseeker then took over. It was like a young Damien but with hairless legs. But when he saw us naked and realised how hairy we all were, he was horrified and left. So Vinod came along. Fella could play the guitar, talk cock, drink and has hairy legs. He pretty much fit the bill. Oh yeah, Damien will be playing for us at the Metal United World Wide gig. He did find God after all. It was Tony Leung Chiu Wai.

The real God

Personally I have watched Truth Be Known live for couple of times, and one thing that always impressed me is the intensity of the band throughout the set. As a band that has performed over 10 years, does the band have any pre-performance rituals before going onstage? How does the band keep up with the physical demands of your live performances?

We have been doing this for about 13 years now and it’s like we “Benjamin Button” the shit out of every gig. The more gigs we play the younger we get. All this works because of our pre-ritual before a set. Back then, we used to rub each other with Kong Hee’s anointed oil before going up on stage. It worked out fine till our drummer, Gene started talking with a Jamaican accent and demanded to drink wine from China instead of Tiger Beer. Josh and I were having none of that shit. So we switched from Kong Hee’s anointed oil to Johnson’s baby oil (Smell nicer). Gene went back to Singlish and Tiger beer and we never looked back.

As we get older, it does get harder to keep up with the intensity but as long as there is love and appreciation in what we are doing, we will always fucking go all out. Plus getting drunk helps a lot.

TBK unleashing funcore in Vietnam, 2017

The band has performed in numerous countries such as Taiwan, Vietnam and Indonesia. Were there any memorable shows that still give you goosebumps till this day?

We have played quite a bit. For last year alone, the Vietnam gig and the Hammersonic gig were memorable to us. Those gigs were loud, fast and intense as fuck. We had to rub extra oil that day.

We had to rub extra oil that day.

Unfortunately, we didn’t play any gigs in Singapore last year. So for the upcoming one this Friday, I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be a memorable one for us as well.

The local metal scene has seen a surge of international bands coming by our shore in recent years, such as Death Angel’s and At the Gates’ show on 6 May, which is organised by Street Noise Productions. Having been in the scene for a while now, as a fellow metalhead and musician, what’s your take on today’s local metal scene?

I think it’s great and we are lucky to see so many bands which we listen to when we were young. Kudos to our Singaporean organisers who bring all these bands for us to watch. Mad respect to these guys lah.

As for our local metal scene, I have nothing but love. There are so many really good Singaporean bands that can and are capable of kicking TBK’s asses anytime. Well, musically they can but when it comes to drinking, we are like gods. No one can beat us. Besides the bands, there are so many youngsters of different races and culture coming to watch gigs now and that’s really wonderful. It truly is a good time to be a Singaporean metalhead now. Enjoy the music and the shows that come by.

This Saturday’s show is definitely one of the biggest shows featuring 11 local bands, and bands like Bastardized and Meltgsnow making their long-awaited return to the live circuit. What can fans expect from TBK?

TBK is a well “oiled” machine after all and as usual we will go all out.110%. We will be playing some new songs from the upcoming album. We hope you guys will like them plus the usual crowd favourites as well. If you have never been to a TBK show and don’t know what the fuck we are playing. You can check us out at Truth Be Known on Spotify. However watching us live is a whole new ball game, so be prepared. You’re definitely gonna love it.

Any last words for your fans for this Saturday’s show?

Don’t be a cheebye and support your scene. See you on the 5th. Cheers!

Catch Truth Be Known, and many other quality Singaporean bands this May 5 at the inaugural, Singapore edition of the Metal United World Wide. More details at this location.

MUWW Special: Interview with Balberith

Local bestial horde Balberith has come a long way since their formation in the early 2000s, with band mastermind Khaal juggling duties between his band’s musical output, and the management of Ravage Records, one of Singapore’s last remaining pure metal merch stores. We speak to Khaal to learn more.

Greetings Khaal, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Could you give us a brief introduction of the band for the benefit for fans who might not be familiar with Balberith and its bestial style of black metal?

Hails, it’s an honour brother, Balberith was formed back in the early 2000s, initially as Shadow Throne. But I change it as the concept of the band changed over time, and I was the drummer back then.

The band will be releasing a new EP entitled False Flag Messiah this year through Ravage Records. When can we expect the new EP to be released?

Yes, we have already recorded the new EP. Ravage Records, which I am managing will release the EP by mid-2018, and we are already at the final stage of mixing.

Balberith 2017

The band has come a long way since 2003. With you as the only original member left in the band, could you tell us how the current line-up came about?

Indeed, I am the only member from the original line up that’s left. Previous members came and left, due to work or family commitments, and some also lost interest in metal itself. The current line up so far is the best that I have had since the band’s formation. Hazathoth (lead guitars), I have knew him personally since the early 90s, and we used to have a band back then called Revile but nothing came out of it. As for Hazlam (drums), he was a customer back then, and he used to play drums for a band call Inferno, which was heavily influenced by thrash metal. Lastly, Joverkill (bass) was also a customer back then, and he has musical background, which was why I invited him to join the band.

Aside from being a musician, you have also been running Ravage Records since 1998. How do you manage to juggle your time between music and running a store? What was your motivation of running the record store since 1996?

Yes, most of the metalheads know I have owned Ravage Records since 1998. I was a young metalhead back then when I started the label, and all of these started when I was in my school days. My schoolmate got interested in what I was listening to and word spread fast about me, and they wanted me to sell them CDs, t-shirts, etc. That was how it got started and the rest is history. All of these are my passion since I have been listening to extreme music for more than 25 years. Also, the shop is very important for me and the metal community here as its represents Singapore.

Balberith Live 2016

Ravage Record in recent years have started to organise metal festivals such as the annual Morbid Metal Fest, which will return this year. This year’s festival however is different from previous year, as it will feature 3 days of full-on metal shows. Could you tell us more about this year’s Morbid Metal Fest?

Yes, for me, I like to move up and do something different for the masses. This year will be the fourth edition of Morbid Metal Festival, and the last 3 editions were one day events. So this year I decided to do it 3 days of pure extreme metal as Ravage Records will be celebrating its 20-year anniversary. This is also a way for me to give back to customers who have been supporting since 1998. Without them, the label/shop wouldn’t exist till today. This year’s line-up will showcase more than 20 bands locally and internationally. For now we have bands like Archgoat, Humiliation (Malaysia), Shambles (Thailand), and many other big names in the extreme metal world. It is a show not to be missed which will be happening on 2-4 November 2018. Not forgetting the S.B.M.S Festival happen on 29 September 2018, featuring Blasphemy, Horna, Balberith, and more bands that have yet to be announced.

Personally, you have been in the Singapore metal scene since the early 90s. How different was the scene back then and now in terms of local bands and the metal crowd and their support?

Today metalheads have the chance to watch international bands here very often, which is nothing compared to the 90s where one can just dream of it. Back then, local gigs were events that everyone looked forward to, usually packed with metalheads who were eager to attend shows. Today we can see lots of difference as concert-goers can pick and choose .

Balberith has also performed regionally in countries like India and Malaysia. Could you share with us some of your most memorable overseas shows till date, and how it has impacted you as a musician?

For me, the show in Bangalore was one of the most memorable ones. The Trendslaughter bosses and crew really went extra miles for us, with world class treatment at one of the shows which I can’t forget. The crowd was crazy too.

Balberith will be performing for the upcoming Metal United World Wide on 5 May alongside other notable local metal bands. How did the opportunity come about for the band to be onboard this global event?

I was told by Vent Box Production that they wanted to host the MUWW, and for us we are always ready for local shows here as we support local shows, no doubt about it.

Lastly what can Balberith fans expect from this Saturday’s show?

We will be selling our promo CD that consist of 2 songs from the new EP, and also extra tracks from our live shows. Balberith will destroy the stage with DEATHSQUADS LEGIONS 0241!

Catch Balberith, and many other quality Singaporean bands this May 5 at the inaugural, Singapore edition of the Metal United World Wide. More details at this location.

MUWW Special: Interview with Ilemauzar

5years since the return from their hiatus, Singaporean black metal band Ilemauzar managed to put themselves on the international metal scene, performing in such places as China in support of their debut album, The Ascension. We catch up with Mike to learn more, and what to expect this 5 May.

Greetings Mikael, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. The band’s debut full length album The Ascension was released back in 2016. How was the response upon the release back then?

Hi HMT! Nice to talk to you guys again. We launched “The Ascension” in September 2016 and did a launch party at Hood Bar and Café with a pretty decent turn out and sold quite a good amount of merchandise during the show. We also had very good presale orders before the launch and pretty much depleted all the merchandise we had from our side. People are still asking for the CDs and T-shirts till date. We also have our stuff distro out by our previous label, Sepsis Records in many parts of Indonesia. Our current label, Transcending Obscurity also sent the album out for reviews and we have pretty much 90% positive reviews from a few webzines.

The band is currently signed to Transcending Obscurity, which is also the label for local bands Rudra and Assault. How did the deal come about, and how was the experience working with them?

Rudra went into the label first and followed by Assault. I got introduced to the boss of TO by Clarence. And that’s how we started talking about the deal for Ilemauzar. Kunal Choksi is a very hardworking person and a really great label owner. He went all out and send Ilemauzar’s debut for review even though it’s not released by Transcending Obscurity. Totally blown away by his dedication and the way he is helping all his bands!

The band was formed back in the 1996, with a 3-track demo entitled Pit of Despair released in 1997. Are there any plans to re-record the tracks from the demo in the near future?

Hmmm… maybe, but will need to make some improvements instead of recording directly like how they were originally recorded. Probably on an EP. However, we are looking at Ravage Records doing a reissue of the 3 track demo somewhere in 2018.

The band split up and went on into a hiatus in 2000 and only came back in 2013. Looking back, would things be different for the band if there was no hiatus back then?

Hahaha! This is one question I did ask myself back in 2013 when the band first came back. But my conclusion, the band will not exist today if I had continued. If you look at it, many active bands in that 1999 – 200X era are gone. Reason being it’s hard to be 100% active when you are just out from National Service with no stable finances to sustain the band. You get really tired after a while and just leave the band aside. No difference from a hiatus.

Ilemauzar at The Ascension Asia Tour in Zhuhai, China

Let’s talk about your latest album, The Ascension. Could you tell us about the background of the writing process for this album? Based on the album credits, it seems like there were a couple of musicians involve in the song-writing process who are currently not in the band.

The Ascension was written between 2013 – 2015. We have many line-up changes between that period thus you see the many different musicians who actually contributed their idea to the tracks. But I am still the main song writer for “The Ascension”.

It’s been 2 years since the release of your debut album. Is the band currently working on the follow-up to The Ascension?

Yes. We have completed the song writing portion and going into lyrical phase for the next full length. Hopefully we can enter the studio by June or July and get it released by end of 2018 under Transcending Obscurity’s flag! Title to be announced.

The band has been around since the early 90s. In terms of the local scene, how has it changed?

I am not going to lie about this one but if you look at the 90s, local metalheads are very enthusiastic about attending local gigs. We have seen local gigs with attendees of more than 500pax before. Today, it’s very difficult to even getting 100pax to come to a local metal gig. Sometimes, you can’t even have 100pax for a touring band from Europe or US. The metal scene in Singapore has changed over the years from people supporting almost every show to cherry picking shows to support. But we can’t blame anyone for this because our living standards in Singapore is so freaking high that people can’t possibly support every single show anymore.

Ilemauzar, 2017

Let’s talk about the band line-up. I understand that bassist, Azazel joined the band last year. How did that come about?

We had been playing without a bassist since end of 2015. We did the Ascension Asia Tour without a bass player. But we have been in contact with Azazel aka Zeon for a long period time and in actual fact, he was supposed to join us in 2016 but due to his work commitment and him newly relocated to Singapore from Penang, he has to put it on hold. But he has proved to be a great addition to the band.

Ilemauzar will be performing at the upcoming Metal United World Wide on 5 May alongside other notable local metal bands. What can fans expect from the band?

We are still playing the same old shit like previous gigs. Hahahahaha! But of course there will be some minor changes to the set-list. And no, we are not going to preview any new songs from the upcoming full length. But, we will still put up the best performance. 101% effort!

Any last words for your fans?

Buy your tickets to Metal United World Wide, Singapore!

LET THE SACRIFICIAL BLOOD BE SERVED!

Catch Ilemauzar, and many other quality Singaporean bands this May 5 at the inaugural, Singapore edition of the Metal United World Wide. More details at this location.

 

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