The place to be for black metal fans, extreme metal fans, worshipers of darkness and all those other clichéd terms this Saturday Jan. 21 is Bar Deluxe. Krieg is headlining with locals Winterlore, Blood Purge and the debut of Odium Totus, containing members of Utah’s black metal hordes. This is Krieg’s first show in Salt Lake City, and the (somewhat) one-man project helmed by Imperial will be back by a live band containing notorious Utah musicians who haven’t played live together for a long time. Tickets are still available for advance purchase for $7 at Raunch Records, or tickets at the door are $10. The show gets underway this Saturday at 8 p.m. For your reading pleasure, I interviewed Imperial of Krieg about his endeavors, US Black Metal and everything in between. As expected, we also have your weekly event rundown as well as reviews of Abysmal Dawn and Loincloth.
Thursday Jan. 19, Burt’s hosts some dark acoustic tunes with “Acoustic Subversion,” featuring Jesus or Genome (Mike Cundick of Loom), Bill Kincaid (ex-Parallax) The Stillborn King (acoustic black metal) and The Delpihc Quorum (avant-garde acoustic). $3 gets you in, music at 9 p.m.
Also at Burt’s on Sat. Jan. 21, YOB headlines with locals Oldtimer, Top Dead Celebrity and Dwellers. $10 gets you in, music at 9 p.m.
SLUG: A good chunk of people who may be reading this interview may have little to no idea of who Krieg is. How would you describe it to people who are probably familiar with black metal but haven’t heard anything you’ve done?
Imperial: Fuck, I’m going to sound pretentious anyway, but I‘ll go with this: it’s an honest expression of who I am and what my experiences are. It’s raw, very primitive, a lot of different influences all over the place with things outside black metal, but it still retains the core values of what black metal was founded on. I like to think that I have a fair amount of experimentation and various things going on. Then other people hear it and say like this doesn’t sound like whatever the flavor of the month is who went out and recorded a record in the woods with ukuleles or whatnot. It’s really difficult for me to describe because I think I hear differently than anyone else really—I’ve got a lot of pride going into it. Where the common person who has a passing knowledge of black metal [might say] “This sounds like Immortal or Darkthrone,” sounding like Darkthrone isn’t a bad thing—I don’t see that as a putdown. I don’t know if we really are doing anything different than anyone else and I really don’t care—I’m just doing what’s important to me.
SLUG: I’ve seen the naysayers say that there is a lack of originality in what you do, but I don’t think there is any new music that is vastly, uniquely original these days.
Imperial: Nothing is new under the sun. Anybody who is looking for originality, that thing can’t be forced. When you try to force something innovative and original, you’ve got a 50/50 shot either sounding like a complete moron playing at a carnival or you’re going to do something amazing. All great works of art and music aren’t done with the idea behind it to do something different, to be this top tier band or painter or author or whatever. All the best expression at all is just honesty and that’s it. I’m apparently a very polarizing figure in the underground—that’s fine with me. I look at people who ride my dick around or they shit on me no matter what I do, I could come out and do a record that sounds exactly like what they want to hear, I could solve fucking world hunger, I could put a hundred dollars in everybody’s pocket in the planet and their would still be a group of assholes that would be like, fuck that guy, he’s fat or he’s unoriginal. That’s just a byproduct of the availability for people to express their feelings everywhere, especially when the people who are the loudest with their opinions have the least amount to say.
SLUG: Krieg is known in the underground for being one of the longer standing US black metal bands. Experience is obviously not a stranger to you. Do you think USBM has evolved throughout the years, positively, negatively or somewhere in between?
Imperial: I’d say there are positives and negatives. It’s a lot different from when I started out. When I started, there was only a handful of bands, doing just basic tape trading. No one really got spread too far, Europe didn’t really take us very seriously. There was just a few dedicated people in Europe that we stayed in touch with and just a kind of circuit around the states. Over the years once the internet became bigger and easier to access, it started blowing up, and once Myspace hit and everyone could post rehearsal recordings or shit, they recorded on the computer, bands were popping up left and right. It seemed that the people had a lot less to say, which is odd considering there were more people. I guess that tends to happen and it got really watered down. Then within the last few years with bands like Liturgy and Wolves in the Throne Room really catching more mainstream attention, it’s kind of blown u,p but it’s a different crowd now. You’ll go to shows and you won’t see people you saw five years ago, you’ll see—I don’t really want use the term hipster—but there is a lot of that. And then there is a lot of cross over with fucking hardcore now. You see bands wearing Darkthrone shirts that a few years ago they probably wouldn’t be caught dead wearing.
Those are the negative aspects. It no longer feels as personal. I guess for some of the older people it feels like you’ve either passed it on to those who are younger or just with more people finding out about it it’s not as special.
There are definite positives. Now we’re able to get our music heard worldwide a lot more easily. People are taking it a little more seriously—it’s no longer a bunch of corpse painted dorks hanging around in their parents’ basement talking about Dungeons & Dragons kind of shit. Now they’re moving more onto realistic factors—there are always going to be bands interested in goats and blasphemy and that sort of thing, and that’s fine ,that’s part of the roots of the genre and the movement. As you get older, I’m in my mid 30s now, so that sort of thing just isn’t as appealing now as it was.
SLUG: It kind of boggles my mind that some US black metal bands get big instead of others—I don’t understand how some of the better known bands got such mass appeal over so many other bands that could’ve taken their place. I could talk shit about bands all day, but that’s not the point.
Imperial: It’s just a lot safer for people now. It doesn’t seem as obscure or violent, at least to the outside world, as it did in the early to mid 90s.
SLUG: Staying safer kind of takes away what was cool about it in the past—it seems more commonplace and people are more desensitized in a way. It was better when it made you think, “This is pretty fucking scary shit.”
Imperial: It’s just like any art form. Once it’s become more noticed by the outside, more people jump in that don’t have much of an idea of the roots. It’s definitely safer and more homogenized than it used to be. It’s the same with punk and rock and roll. It’s an ongoing cycle of something new being different and more extreme and as more people catch on, it just dilutes and dilutes until you have what we have now.
SLUG: Speaking of extreme, raucous shit, I wanted to ask how did you wind up connecting with the Utah folks here the later ‘90s? I’m going to assume it was LD first and now you have all the other guys playing the show with you here.
Imperial: I met LD through tape trading in ’96 or ’97. We started sending shit back and forth, listening to each other’s bands, and we both played a fest in 2000 in San Antonio and that’s when we met in person. All these smaller festivals started popping up here and there and we wound up crossing paths all the time. In the old tape trading circuit with old internet shit like IRC and AOL chat rooms, we’d stay up late and get drunk and shoot the shit.
SLUG: There was a time here in Salt Lake City where Ibex Throne were the weird, crazy guys and the singer cut himself and all that shit. There was a time where I remember where people that were new to it would go, “Holy shit, this is in Utah.”
Imperial: From anybody else around the country, we think of the Salt Flats and Mormons and this hotbed of conservative religion. For guys like that to come out who would be weird fuckers in any situation, and even fifteen years later, they’re still the weird guys in the room that make people cross the street. They’re also some of the most well-spoken and most thoughtful people I’ve ever met, which is odd considering when you listen to their music it’s really harsh and direct and violent—yet they’re all incredibly intelligent people.
SLUG: I have a lot of respect for LD and all the things he’s brought to this state. I’d say a few years ago when I knew he was doing stuff with you I kept asking when he was going to get Krieg to come to Utah and now it’s finally happened.
Imperial: We’ve been talking about it forever and like six or seven months ago he said well I’m serious this time and he said Jan. 21 we’re going to do a show and I said I’ll definitely do it, but I didn’t really expect anything to pan out because I’m pretty much a fuck up at organizing my sorts of things and about two months ago we nailed it down.
SLUG: Speaking of your experiences and all that fun stuff it would probably take a little bit of time to explain all the connections you’ve made with the players in US black metal and outside the US. Just in general things not related to Krieg that you’ve been a part of, is there anything that stands out as a favorite for you?
Imperial: I just finished vocals for the new Royal Arch Blaspheme, which is me and John McEntee from Profanatica. It’s our second record. That really stood out for me just because I grew up listening to Profanatica—they’re one of my favorite bands. I have Profanatica angel tattooed right above my heart. So for him to ask me to be a part of that project it’s a huge honor. I’m always satisfied when I work with the guys in Twilight. I don’t know if we’re going to be able to do a third record or not.
SLUG: That was a weird entity in itself with the Aaron Turner association on the second album.
Imperial: Aaron Turner being involved was [because] Blake Judd from Nachtymystium is friends with him and he dug the first record a lot. One day we were figuring out the second record and Blake said Aaron wanted to be involved, and me and Wrest had no real issue with it. He did his part from California and sent it out to us. He was cool about it, he did a lot of different tracks and he let us pick and choose what we wanted to use and what we felt would be appropriate for the record. He came out for the mixing and photos and shit—he had no real ego about him, real nice guy. The third record would just be me and Blake and Wrest again, and maybe a few other guest appearances. Those stand out— I should throw in playing bass for Judas Iscariot for a few shows that was great, especially since I was really young when I did it, it gave me a good shot of motivation.
SLUG: Likewise what players that have played on your records/splits stand out?
Imperial: Anybody who has the patience to work with me over the last 17 years, I definitely appreciate their contributions. Andrew from Judas Iscariot, he was on the Black House album. That was really satisfying because that was the record I wanted to stop being as chaotically noisy and focus on song structure, and he helped me out a lot with that. Satanic Tyrant Werwolf from Satanic Warmaster, who was on the Blue Miasma album, he was great to work with. I’ve respected everything he’s done since he was with Horna, so getting a chance to write with him was a great experience.
SLUG: I’d love to get a hold of some of the splits you’ve done, but I imagine some of them are long out of print. I think the Gravecode Nebula split you just did is almost gone…
Imperial: I think the guy from Baneful Genesis Records is going to try and repress it, but it would be on black vinyl instead of grey. I’ll try and bring out a few rare things to have at the show—it’s my first time doing a show in Salt Lake, so I’m going to try and make it special.
SLUG: How different is it for you putting together live performances as compared to recording music? Is there one that you prefer over the other?
Imperial: They’re so completely different. Recording, you have a lot of leeway to experiment and see what works and what doesn’t where live you can experiment to see what works and doesn’t work but you have people watching you and any sort of mistake, that shit’s going right up on the fucking Internet for a ton of people to dissect and everyone is an armchair critic on there so there’s a little more pressure. Playing live is more of a trance-inducing experience and more focused on the atmosphere, whereas when you’re recording you have to occasionally stop and watch the time and worry about things like your budget and trying to make sure everything is a cohesive statement. Live, no show is the same. The guys have been rehearsing for at least a month now normally before I go out on tour there is maybe a couple rehearsals so it’s not tight some of the songs can go into general directions - sort of like listening to old bootlegs of the Velvet Underground live when they would extend a song to like 30 minutes - I wouldn’t say we go that far but there’s definite extensions - I try to make the two completely different entities.
SLUG: Being around before there was the Internet makes me feel old in a way. Shit was a lot harder to find out for yourself, and the opinions you saw were from people who had actual experience with things—well, some of them were the new guys spouting their shit. There was more credibility to critiques before the Internet—now every Joe, Dick and Harry has a fucking opinion about something.
Imperial: There hsbr always been morons since the dawn of time, it’s just easier to hear them now—also easier to ignore them.
SLUG: I did enjoy the track that was on the Gravecode Nebula split.
Imperial: That was the first time I’ve gone in and done every instrument myself. That definitely took way longer than it should have, but I’m really happy with myself.
SLUG: Who knows, maybe 5-10 years from now it will be some big collectors item…
Imperial: Not my shit… (laughs)
SLUG: Any recording or touring plans for this year?
Imperial: I’m trying to talk Candlelight to [about] my budget. I signed for two records—The Isolationist was the first. I want to have a new record out by October or November. I’m trying to put together a European tour, but that’s proving difficult. Trying to do shows on both the west coast and east coast. I’m going to be recording a collaboration record with The Body. I’m doing vocals for a new band called Lithotone, witch is Esoteric from Chaos Moon’s new band. And like I said, the new Royal Arch Blasemphe. I’ve got a few splits that have been in the works, just waiting on labels and things to finalize.
Exclusive CD Reviews
Abysmal Dawn = Suffocation + Unhallowed era Black Dahlia Murder + Origin
If such tripe as "pop-death" really exists (you know what I'm talking about), grizzled death-metal purists might be quick to slag off L.A.'s Abysmal Dawn as such and move on. From Ashes slides out the gate like a polished harpoon, crispy and produced and more than a little bit derivative, leaving this reviewer to wonder why in the world Relapse saw fit to re-release it in the first place. Still, for any wheels left without reinvention, Abysmal Dawn prove nascent scholars of the vast gamut of extreme metal, incorporating lightning-fingered Gothenburg flutters, phlegmy Floridian grooves and a hint of inky scandi-shrieking into their stew. "Blacken the Sky" boasts premiere axe-work that cuts through the doomy overgrowth like a white hot cleaver, "Servants to Their Knees" features a sinewy off-kilter time change channeling the late-great Chuck Schuldiner and "State of Mind"'s leaden crawl provides a much needed breather from the onslaught. Ultimately, the group's strength lies in the successful crafting of a heavy metal cuisinart lending Carcass, At the Gates and Suffocation equal treatment. Unfortunately, the lack of new ideas hinders its flow, while extreme attention to finesse and technicality overpowers most instances of unique songwriting ("Salting the Earth" and "In the Hands of Death" are basically reworked versions of each other). For jerkoff curmudgeons (like myself), the re-release features three demo versions of cuts found within, all sounding a little rawer and a little less spit-shined (personally, I prefer them). Nothing wrong with meat and taters...but a little seasoning might have done the trick to set this thing apart. -Dylan Chadwick
Iron Balls of Steel
Loincloth = Voivod + Botch + Breadwinner + Helmet - everyone but Page Hamilton
"Minimalist metal" is a corny term, especially when used in conjunction with this North Carolina trio's gargantuan sound, but the cheekily titled Iron Balls of Steel (a debut released a paltry nine years after its demo) takes a strictly bare-bones approach to "thinkin' man's metal" with shortish songs that create a dense pastiche of...wait. Hold up. Loincloth? Iron Balls of Steel? Here I am, a delusional internet loudmouth, slobberin' at the bit in frenzied misguided excitement that this will play out like some sketchy quasi-sexist "Manowar meets Peter Steele, kill it with your hands and sodomize it, thermonuclear warrior" kinda deal and all I get is sixteen geeky instrumentals? Hmmm. Think Melvins. Think Don Cab. Think obtuse barn-burners that resist getting all jazzy and unbearable and then drag a razor across your neck (cuz you're probably into that weird time-signature crap). Urgh. Hell of it is, where this stuff normally tends to get all experimental and genre-bending, Loincloth beats it into a dull niche corner, rehashing the same groove over and over again with little distinguish ability. Yeah, it packs a wallop and it's not without its moments ("Sactopus" and "Stealing Pictures" for example), but don't mistake its clobbering volume for variation. Somewhere in the blogosphere, a legion of goofy horn-rimmed dullards in Mastodon hoodies are smugly stroking their beards, ready to declare this one of 2012 premature bests...but this one's a-longin' for the days when Southern Lord was basically synonymous with Pentagram riffs and Grief worship. -Dylan Chadwick