Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Endtime Minstrels - Radio Werewolf's "Songs For The End Of The World"

Radio Werewolf – Songs For The End Of The World

Gymnastic Records, London 1991

1. Something As It Really Is
2. Operation:Carnival
3. Dark Ages
4. Trinity
5. The Gulf Of Black Grief
6. Voluspo (The Voices)

In 1991 I received a tape that would leave a lasting impression. I had made a connection through the vast and fertile tape-trading network to somebody with a large library of radio interviews and documentaries from American talk-radio stations, this archive included recordings of the Reverend Jim Jones, Ted Bundy, Henry Lee Lucas and Charles Manson as well as discussion and documentary programmes on all manner of counter-culture topics from CIA mind-control experiments to satanic child abuse, which was the fashion of the day. As I busily obtained copies of these recordings the connection mentioned that he had an album by a band called Radio Werewolf and that I might enjoy it.

Several weeks later a package of tapes arrived and in amongst the TDK C90’s was “Songs For The End Of The World”. I had spent the whole of the 1980’s in a heavy metal ghetto, beginning the decade with the young guns of the NWOBHM and progressing to increasingly louder, heavier, faster and nastier metal bands until by end of the 80’s metal no longer fixed me and I was beginning to wonder what was outside the walls of Metal-Land. I had began to dabble with stuff like Swans, Skullfower and Godflesh, all guitar-based bands and not a million miles away from my comfort zone but it was Radio Werewolf who would light the way with their black fulguration.

“Something As It Is Really Is” begins the album with a spoken word diatribe which I later found out to be written by acid-fascist harmonica-playing commune-Generalisimo Mel Lyman but then it was just words, bleak dark words spat out with a coldly furious contempt, threatening to destroy the world to reveal the truth. This was the sound of ideas lighting fires in cities, the crackling of flames might be real or imagined. “Operation:Carnival” continues with its off-kilter merry-go round musak, weird and wonderfully eerie, bizarrely happy fairground ambience given unreal and malignant meaning by its juxtaposition to the rest of the album.

It was the track “Dark Ages” that really grabbed my attention – haunting voices invoking, for once that word is not used as hyperbole, a shadow-Europe of secret missile silo’s, blood-grails, plague-pits and brooding gothic cathedrals whilst timpani and kettle drums rumbled and thundered their apocalyptic paranoia. Rex Mundi was coming! Thule Erwachen! It sounded like it had been recorded in the crypt of the Wewelsburg with Goebbles on the mixing desk.

The album climaxed with “Voluspo” distant, ghostly voices – male and female – reciting passages from the Eddas, telling of monsters breaking loose their fetters at the end of the world, Fenrisulfr devouring the sun, the wraith-ship Naglfar riding the whale-road to herald Ragnarok, war, strife, kin slaying kin. Would you know yet more? This was not the summer of love.

And that’s all I had. No details, no cover, no idea who the band were or where they came from. Just a tape with the album on one side and a documentary about the MK-Ultra programme on the other. I would become obsessed by this recording, playing it hundreds of times in the coming years. Lying awake at night listening to it in the still darkness as the rumble of trains grew closer, in the grey wet mornings immediately after waking. I was word perfect and knew every drone, wail and cryptic chant. It was not a healthy time. The early 90’s in England were a time of recession and doubt. The country was waking up with a hangover after the party of Thatcherite consumerism, although those of us not invited to the party still had to sweep up the empties and swill the puke off the pavements. The Fin de Siecle was upon us and the end-times were just around the corner. Murders and cult suicides filled the news. The economy shuddered and ground to a halt. Through all of this I played “Songs For The End Of The World”, and when it’s hopeless, nihilistic weltanschauung got too much I would listen to the Grey Wolves or Sutcliffe Jugend for light relief.

Slowly, in the pre-internet age, I pieced together information on Radio Werewolf. The first edition of Adam Parfrey’s “Apocalypse Culture” book had a manifesto from the Werewolf Order that was removed from later editions, laying out their agenda as transmitters of an end-time message. I found out that Radio Werewolf was lead by Nikolas Schreck and Zeena LaVey, that they had participated in the 8.8.88 Satanic Rally in San Francisco and that Schreck had appeared, albeit in a very minor role, on Death In June’s “The Wall Of Sacrifice” album recorded in London in 1988. I picked up Schreck’s book “The Manson File” and shortly after a video release of his film “Charles Manson Superstar”. I read an interview in Divinity magazine with Boyd Rice in which he distanced himself from Schreck and in the long tradition of former friends bad-mouthing each other cast doubt as to his reliability. I was hungry for knowledge about this enigmatic recording and asked everybody I knew if they knew yet more. Somebody who had met them when they had lived in Vienna dropped snippets of information and another who had seen them perform in Switzerland told a tale of their onstage exploits with a bull-whip but I could not find any of their records. I must have scoured every record shop and distro between Newcastle and London and turned up nothing.

In the early months of 1993 Stephen and I began to record what would become “Dreams Of Dark Waters” – the first Endvra album. The influence of “Songs For The End Of The World” on me at this time can not be understated although Stephen, in common with almost everybody else I played the tape to, didn’t get it - or maybe got it perfectly well and found it abhorrent. In 1994 a friend in Europe sent me a copy of Radio Werewolf’s “Love Conquers All” album but apart from the track “Barbarossa” it was lighter and less sombre than it’s predecessor and did not speak to me as deeply. I eventually found a copy of “Songs For The End Of The World” in a small record shop in Koln in the winter of 1995. The Rhine had flooded, large sections of north-western Europe were under water, a small city of ramshackled shelters housed a ragged army of homeless tramps and alcoholics who had decided to live in the lee of the cathedral and stood drinking and dripping beneath it’s dizzy towers. They spat on the stones and cursed at passers by, looking like extra’s from a Breugel painting. Maybe the end-times were closer than I thought. But I didn’t buy it. For some reason when the chance came I let it slip away and decided my marks would be better spent on half a dozen Dead Can Dance bootlegs instead.

One day in the spring of 1998 I received a letter from Nikolas Schreck, writing from a PO Box address on Los Angeles’ Sunset Boulevard. It came as a bolt from the black. In his letter he mentioned that he had read an interview with Endvra and that he was interested in hearing our music. We corresponded for a while, discussing areas of common interest such as the decadent artist Felicien Rops and the Leviathan zoomorph. At this point Schreck was still linked to the Temple of Set and had been initiated into its’ Order of the Leviathan, acting as the Master of the Order. It was a strange, cyclical moment considering how “Songs For The End Of The World” had become so embedded in my consciousness over the past 7 years and how much of that record I had tried to impart to my recordings with Endvra.

The Millennium came and went. The world did end but was born anew, maybe weaker and paler than of old but with just as many joys and frustrations. Endvra faded away and in its absence I brooded and plotted, awaiting the reawakening that would finally be revealed to me as TenHornedBeast but still in my heart was the unremitting darkness that I had ingested a decade before from “Songs For The End Of The World”. It’s bunker ambience, viscous nihilism and cold-war aesthetic was a reflection of a current far removed from the Californian death-rock of the bands formative years and in this one recording Radio Werewolf simultaneously pre-empted and gave birth to the dark-ambient and ritual-industrial scene of the 1990’s. I can count on the fingers of one hand the records that have impressed me as deeply as “Songs For The End Of The World”, it arrived at a time in my life that was a true cross-roads and it filled me with its darkness, a darkness that glowed and glittered with the rays of the Blackest Sun/Son.

There was mention of a Radio Werewolf box-set to be released in 2004 but this project does not seem to have been realised. All Radio Werewolf recordings are now out of print and Gymnastic Records appears to be defunct. There is a Radio Werewolf fan-site at

Nikolas Schreck and Zeena LaVey left the Temple of Set and inaugurated their own order, The Storm, dedicated to the realisation of Sethian principals. It is believed that they now reside in Berlin.

Nikolas Schreck has written widely on Satanic and Left Hand Path occultism, his books are available from Creation Press.

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