So, besides championing the music I love to the masses here at Nine Circles, I also bash a bunch of instruments together under the perhaps ill-conceived name Necrolytic Goat Converter. I mention this for two reasons: 1) so it doesn’t feel like it’s coming out of nowhere when I mention my new album Isolated Evolution comes out August 18 and you can pre-order it here, and 2) one of the things that often gets mentioned in both reviews and interviews for ANY band or album is influences. Drawing comparisons and tracing lines to other music is par for the course when it comes to reviewing albums – heck, we do it ourselves here all the time.
So, since it’s been asked of me more than once and it gives me the chance to briefly wax poetic on some of the music I love, this edition of Nine Circles ov… highlights some of the specific songs and bands that served as a foundation upon which I constructed the album. Which I will again gladly point out you can pre-order using the link above. That being said, let’s dig in…
“Transylvanian Hunger” – Darkthrone, Transylvanian Hunger
Necrolytic Goat Converter wouldn’t exist at all if it wasn’t for Darkthrone, and if it wasn’t for this song in particular. Strip away harshness of the production, the (very intentional) sameness of the drumming, and focus on the guitars for a moment. There are three riffs/sections, but I want to focus on the first two, the first of which makes brilliant use of a descending line tremolo picked against the open A string before repeating the last two notes against E. Then that ominous section riff which starts in A before transitioning to the dissonant E flat power chord? Brutal as $#@! Don’t be fooled into thinking there’s no nuance or skill in black metal: the simplest lines have a power that drives the whole thing forward. Plus you know…this song just KILLS.
“Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” – Behemoth, The Satanist
Yeah…that awesome chorus? I’m not gonna say I specifically lifted it for the chorus to the song “Isolated Evolution” but when I came up with the riff, my first thought was “Wow, this definitely has a Behemoth vibe to it.” Behemoth have always been a band that never kills me with an album (although The Satanist comes close) as much as their overall musical vibe: ridiculously fast and tight riffing, those verge of (or is it ov?) death vocals, and a steadfast refusal to compromise their singular vision. Plus you know…this song just KILLS.
“K.I.N.G.” – Satyricon, Now, Diabolical
I don’t think people give Satyricon enough credit for expanding their sonic template with 2006’s Now, Diabolical. Both that and 2009’s The Age of Nero widened the scope of their blackened sound to let in some stomping rock, and it works. “K.I.N.G.” in particular has a great, almost industrial feel to some of the riffs, with the sequence right before the chorus being a big inspiration for the track “The Dark Within,” The structure of the song also was something I keyed in on, owing as it does more to 80’s hard rock than any of the classic black metal the band helped create back in the glory days of Dark Medieval Times or Nemesis Divina. Plus you know…this song just KILLS.
“Piina” – Horna, Musta Kaipuu
It’s probably not obvious anywhere on the record, but when I started mapping out what I wanted Isolated Evolution to sound like, this piece of necro rock and roll was the first song that came to mind. I’m not a huge fan of Horna, but the dirty, scuzzed out sound of this track is fantastic. It sounds like a bunch of dudes thrashing out in their garage, recording it using a boom box, then playing it back. I translated the lyrics into English from Finnish and it still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense (“Piina” translates to “torment”) but it doesn’t matter when the crunch of the guitars lock in with the drums. Plus you know…this song just KILLS.
“Your True Enemy” – Nachtmystium, Assassins: Black Meddle Pt. 1
Next to Darkthrone, Nachtmystium is probably the biggest influence on me from a black metal perspective – the first time I heard Instinct:Decay a bomb went off in my head as I could make a direct connection between the music and myself. The mix of black metal, classic and psychedelic rock, and electronic elements on both Black Meddle albums had a huge impact on me, as did Blake Judd’s ability to alternate between traditional BM staples and a more open, classic style on tracks like “Your True Enemy.” I’m also a sucker for solos, and this one has a great classic rock solo towards the end. It was tracks like this that made me want to take a stab at what I do on the end of “Eternal Winter (The Still).” Plus you know…this song just KILLS.
“Ontzielling” – Wiegedood, De Doden Hebben het Goed II
It was only released this year (in fact, I reviewed it), but the opening track from Wiedgedood’s second album is a great example of integrating numerous different riffs into a cohesive whole. Whether it’s simply repeating riffs, changing the underlying rhythmic pattern to mutate and evolve things, or just working some seamless transitions between ideas, the band knows how to make everything fit into a whole, and the fact that they’re doing at tempos this fast is…well, kind of insane. I tried to learn this lesson specifically on the song “Strange Symbols” which also owes a debt to the above-mentioned Nachtmystium but whatever you take away from this blast of an opening track, take a minute to count the sheer number of ideas being presented. Plus you know…this song just KILLS.
“Qunitessence” – Darkthrone, Panzerfaust
Short of doing a Darkthrone Nine Circles ov… (something, alas, already done back in the beginning of 2016), I figure this is the only way I can write about multiple Darkthrone songs. And I’ll shamelessly admit “Quintessence” was a huge influence on the album, particularly with the track “Seraphim” which was the first one written for the album. The way the beginning lurches forward with an early doom vibe is another clear example of the break Darkthrone was making with the established black metal sound at the time (though in now way were they breaking from their Celtic Frost worship), and it was something I was conscious of doing as well when I started writing the record. If it’s been a while since you’ve listened to Panzerfaust it’s worth a revisit: it sits at a unique time in the band’s career and foreshadows a lot of what they would do with last year’s AOTY (for me, anyway) Arctic Thunder. Plus you know…this song just KILLS.
“Printemps emeraude” – Alcest, Souvenirs d’un autre monde
The whole opening of this song is the inner soundtrack to a 16 year old kid sitting on a bus looking out a rain-streaked window, trying to make sense of his out-of-control feelings and hormones. It’s the Cure meets black metal meets loneliness and childhood and spring and wanting to know what’s out there for you and being afraid of finding out at the same time. It’s also classic blackgaze, and when I first wrote the riffs to “the Calamity of Not Knowing” you can bet your ass this was hovering somewhere in my brain. Plus you know…this song just KILLS.
“Perihelion” – Clouds Collide, All Things Shining
I have little perspective when it comes to Clouds Collide. It’s again a matter of finding music that connects so closely to you it becomes a little alarming. I had the basic riffs and song title to the closing track “The Calamity of Not Knowing” for over a year and had no idea what to do with them because it was so different than what at at the time was defined as my sound. When I finally realized what the song was about lyrically and conceptually I immediately immersed myself in Chris Pandolfo’s music to understand how to best evoke the feelings I wanted convey. The way the vocals, both clean and screamed, work in “Perihelion” are a marvel, as is the album in general. I’ve been making a joke this whole time about each song on this list killing, but in this one instance I’m going to change things up and tell you that Clouds Collide, despite how different the music is from what I’m doing, is my blueprint: sincere and honest expression through music. Everything this guy puts out not only KILLS, but reaffirms what music can be.
As much as I love the convenience and increased visibility digital provides, I’ve come to lament the inevitable loss of physical media, not so much for any supposed loss in fidelity (I refuse to enter into any vinyl vs. CD vs. cassette vs. digital debate) as for the great liner notes you would sometimes get where a band or composer or artist would go into the making of a record. I guess nowadays we have video documentaries, but nothing takes the place of someone carefully plotting out the things that informed them along the way.
If nothing else, thanks for indulging me as I, however, briefly, shined a light on a few of the touch points that not only brought about the making of Isolated Evolution, but that informed me as a musician, as a writer, and as a human being.