Thursday, 3 April 2008

April Revival

The advent of British Summer Time is a good point to breath life back into this blog. That is not to say that the previous months have been spent in idleness or waste, on the contrary, the reason why the blog has been neglected has been due to the amount of other work demanding time, attention and effort.

The first week of February was written off by this year’s latest variation on the norrovirus. Getting sick comes with having kids, and one can look back on those healthy days before being a family man with a sigh and a smile. Back then it was taken for granted that a good night’s sleep meant eight or nine hours of unbroken rest, rather than two or three fitful hours crammed into a child’s bed along with a cuddly seal called “Sammy”. It was also taken for granted that there was enough hours in the day to eat well, or indeed at all, and to exercise and relax. These are now the stuff of memory and as such each winter for the last few years I have caught whatever horrible virus is doing the rounds. This year was a bad one, so bad that during the four days I was on sick leave I could barely eat although I did manage to get to ASDA to buy a copy of the newly released “Live After Death” Iron Maiden DVD. Scream for me Spennymoor.

The release of the “Demon Entrails” anthology on February 18th was a twenty-five year highpoint for all Hellhammer fans, although the forthcoming coffee table book of lyrics, art and photos will surely be another. If only I knew where that Celtic Frost guitar pic was that I grabbed at the Bradford gig last year, it can’t have gone far. The new albums by RYN, “Astral Death” and Eidulon have been warmly received, vast drifts of rumble and drone like the sun breaking through miles of dense inky cloud to illuminate nothingness. I will be writing more about both releases in time. The new Black Mountain album was bought as a gamble and half paid off, I’m sure it’s mix of heavy rock and folk will be looked on as the new sliced loaf by alternative college kids in ethical hats but to anybody who doesn’t think music started last week and who already owns records by Black Sabbath, King Crimson, Wishbone Ash, Curved Air, Atomic Rooster and hundreds of others it will be politely enjoyed and put on the shelf between Black Feather and Black Oak Arkansas. Hopefully not the new Isis or Pelican.

The first three months of 2008 saw Earth, Sir Richard Bishop, Ramesses, Burial Hex and Silvester Anfang all play gigs in Newcastle. Not that I went to any of them, a combination of poor health, lack of money and an unwillingness to make the 60 mile round trip kept me at home reading Sherlock Holmes stories. In late January I found a boxed edition of the complete Holmes stories in a charity shop for only £5.99. £5.99 later I was the proud owner of a boxed collection of Sherlock Holmes stories which I proceeded to read in strict chronological order. I am a stout fan of Edwardian fiction such as the ripping adventures of John Buchan and the anti-German spy stories of William Le Quex and although I had read several of the Holmes novels before others were new to me. To completely immerse oneself in the atmosphere and culture of another time through great fiction is a rare pleasure and there is none so good as Doyle’s skilful depiction of the criminal underworld of London between the 1880’s and 1910’s.

There are always other gigs. May will see Shift return to Newcastle with a blast walls of noise and raging power electronics, “Unable to bear the silence of the world” was one of the best albums I heard last year and I have already marked this on the calendar as essential, as well as the first UK tour of Zoroaster and Genghis Tron, who will be destroying hearing as they go. June 24th has Whitesnake and Def Leppard co-headlining Newcastle Arena, my love for David Coverdale’s bluesy heavy rock is equalled only by my scorn for Def Leppard’s plastic poodle cack. What’s got 9 arms and sucks? Def Leppard. Saturday 12th July is Doom Metal Inquisition V, all-dayer at the 1in12 Bradford. Unfortunately US doom titans Orodruin and The Gates of Slumber won’t be there as planned but with Pagan Altar, Warning, The River, The Lamp Of Thoth, Lazarus Blackstar and Witch Sorrow it is going to be the biggest doom gig the UK has seen in years. Or maybe ever. Tickets on sale soon.

I have been walking along the banks of becks and field margins, looking for straight sticks and poles amongst hazel thickets and blackthorn jungles. I have always cut sticks during walks but I have decided to finally begin making “proper” walking sticks, caped with antler and thonged with leather and ferruled in steel. So far I have a nice bundle drying slowly in the rafters of the garage. It is a gentle and contemplative art and maybe only a few steps away from having a tartan flask and a Jack Russell called “Scamp”.

Lying in the warm waters of the outdoor swimming pool at CentreParc in February, with the distant rumble of the A66 and the snow drifting through the trees I realised that the tracks I had been working on for the “Hunts & Wars” album needed something more, or maybe something less. So when we returned home and I was able get some free time to spend in the studio I overhauled the first track, cut it down, trimmed it’s fat and thinned out the murk to let some of the light shine in and the darkness shine out. I also recorded 3 short pieces to act as interludes between the 4 longer tracks, smaller and quieter with less emphasis on the sturm and more on the drang. What I have now is seven pieces of varying lengths which come in at a total of about 65 minutes. The titles reflect the Cimmerian/Howardian spirit that has informed these sessions from the start.

1 Before The Hammer There Was The Horn
2 Helmwind
3 Father Of The Frosts
4 Niord’s Theme
5 Reaching For The Stars We Blind The Sky
6 Night Must Fall
7 Hunts & Wars

Each piece will be accompanied by a sigil that I have dreamed throughout the workings for this album and I am making plans for the cover that will include a nidstang pole to earth the current that the horns draw down. “Hunts & Wars” will be occidental and ancient and will partake of the epic and barbaric in their true forms.

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