• Interview with Dirge

    Scratch the Surface talked to guitarist Stéphane L. about the band's experimental new EP “Alma | Baltica”.

  • Interview with Audrey Horne

    Scratch the Surface caught up with Audrey Horne lead singer Toschie to find out what pure heavy is.

  • Interview with Lazer/Wulf

    Scratch the Surface interviewed Lazer/Wulf guitarist and founding member Bryan Aiken to know more about this project and their exciting new record “The Beast of Left And Right”.

Dirge | Interview With Stéphane L.

French post-metal group Dirge have recently released an EP titled “Alma | Baltica”, which sees the band moving away from the monolithic heaviness of their early works to explore more ambient and atmospheric sounds. Yet as guitarist Stéphane L. explains in the following interview, “Alma | Baltica” is just an experimental release and their forthcoming new album planned for later this year will see the band going back to their usual heavy and riff-based post-metal.

Your previous album represented what many consider a gem of “post-metal” music, the new release Alma | Baltica though is very atmospheric and built on massive and ambient soundscapes. What inspired that change? Was there a conscious effort to break away from genre standards?

‘Before we go any further, and since there seems to be some confusion about the real nature of Alma | Baltica, you have to know that this is a totally “off” project. This means that, while still being Dirge's music, A | B represents more a creative break in our career, something like an experimental project (full of ideas and themes that wouldn't really fit in a more regular album), but in no way should be seen as a totally new artistic path. Even though we strive hard with each of our albums to remain as creative and audacious as possible, the purpose with Alma | Baltica was to dig further certain atmospheres and structures, trying another kind of liberty. But this EP cannot be considered as an album. So there was no real effort to break anything from any genre...’

So you could say “Alma | Baltica” is more an experimental release, not exactly the direction you want to explore in the future?

‘We've just finished the recordings of our brand new “real” album and I can tell you it has very few formal connections with Alma | Baltica. We have spent something like two years writing all the new materials, but this creative period was less about experimenting atmospheres and sounds than it was about working on how to reinvent what Dirge is all about in its rock structured formula.’

...Even though we strive hard with each of our albums to remain as creative and audacious as possible, the purpose with Alma | Baltica was to dig further certain atmospheres and structures, trying another kind of liberty...

Tell us a bit more about Alma | Baltica. What was the writing and recording process like for this release, the end result can be attributed to a team effort or did any member take the role of principal songwriter?

‘I'd say it was pretty much a team effort but mostly driven by Marc and myself. It was quite different from the writing process on our “regular” albums and there was a lot of experimentation etc, so the primitive matter came as a personal effort. Then it turned into a collective work at the very end of the process.’

How would you describe the overall mood of the album?

‘Floating and roving, wide open spaces and tiny cells, textured dreams and foggy reality, all of these ideas, feelings infused this EP.’

Your music’s very atmospheric. Do you feel like there's an ideal setting for people to listen to it?

‘I guess that the best setting for properly dive into A | B is the same as for all demanding and immersive music: being emotionally “available”. A good headphone is cool too. And vinyl even better!’

When you’re performing live shows, how does the atmosphere of the music translate? Are there things you can and can’t do in a live setting?

‘The five tracks from Alma | Baltic haven't been created with a view of a live execution so I can't tell. These works were designed to be frozen on a recording, which is another big difference with our albums, where songs continue their existence on stage. But to answer your question about the rendition of atmospheres in concerts, let's say it flows naturally from the songs themselves and from the DNA of our own sound. This is the combination of both that allow us to recreate the studio work on stage but in a more visceral, wild and vivid way (recreating the exact same copy of our records would be pointless). Assuming, of course, that no technical problems interact and parasite the whole thing.’

If you had to pick one song from your discography to introduce your band to a new listener, which song would it be?

‘It is a hard question because an obvious lack of objectivity and perspectives... But if I had to introduce Dirge's old school work (well, not the first era but let's say the 2000's albums), I would choose a track like “Epicentre” from Wings Of Lead Over Dormant Seas (2007); it represents the more experimental, organic, progressive and extreme aspect of our music (very long and crushing pieces, sonic corrosion, blighty atmospheres...). And concerning the last albums, I'd pick “Hyperion Under Glass” or “Morphée Rouge” for the more melodic, ethereal and melancholic curves that embodies the most our music today.’

Finally, what’s next for Dirge?

‘As I told you earlier, our seventh album will be released (surely on Debemur Morti again) after this summer. We're also working on a French/Spanish tour for September/October together with fellow Throane and Ovtrenoir.’

More info at: https://www.facebook.com/DIRGE.fr

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Obituary - Inked In Blood | Review

Don’t know about you, but this is just what the doctor ordered, classic death metal with no frills, overflowing with catchy, cranium-crushing riffs. You can always count on Obituary for some neck-snapping, straightforward death metal and their new effort for Relapse Records, Inked In Blood, offers up plenty of crushing riffs and hooks that will surely incite some vigorous headbanging.

Inked In Blood is a strong album and as always sees Obituary masterfully combining a brutal and blasting death metal with some slower, groovy passages without ever losing the ability to crush. It’s nearly impossible to sit quietly to tunes like "Visions In My Head" and "Violence".

The album, however, isn't perfect as some of the songs get a bit samey at times, as if Trevor Peres and new boy Kenny Andrews are merely rehashing the same riffs, but still there’re enough classy tunes here to prevent Inked in Blood from turning into a tiresome experience. Plus, this beats most of today’s death metal bands who could certainly learn a thing or two about hooks from these veterans.

I reckon this is business as usual for the Florida boys and Inked In Blood doesn’t offer anything new, but they do it so well that it doesn't really matter that we've all heard it before. Accept it for what it is, just turn it up and enjoy some good, straightforward death metal, you won't be disappointed.

Band info: www.obituary.cc
Label info: www.relapse.com

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Execration – Morbid Dimensions | Review

I never quite understood the expression “forward-thinking” when applied to music or in this particular case, death metal. You may disagree, but there’s no such thing as forward-thinking death metal. The style was invented decades ago, perfected over the years and when you look at the most irreverent and innovative death metal bands of today, they’re simply following the rules laid down by classic acts like Possessed, Death, Morbid Angel and Entombed and adding their own personal touch. It’s not like we’re talking about science.

That said, Norwegian death metal troupe Execration can hardly be called for…err that, or even innovative as the press release suggests. Instead, these Norwegians play an old school death metal style that reminds me of Gorguts at times, so it’s nothing incredibly new or different. It’s not overly technical like the Canadians either, but Morbid Dimensions displays some labyrinthine, dissonant guitars chords amidst the murky death metal madness, which makes the whole experience sound extremely intriguing and confusing. Perhaps a more fitting description would be their fellow compatriots Cadaver, but with Carl-Michael Eide bringing in some of the eerie riffs he used for Virus and Ved Buens Ende. The ability to blend some of the most twisted and sinister riffing with blasting drums and demoniac growls is definitely the album crowning achievement, but unfortunately it’s also what sometimes prevents Morbid Dimensions from being a truly stunning record. See, “Ritual Hypnosis” is an intriguing track in sound and structure that displays such modus operandi with stunning results, with the guitars balancing between a chaotic onslaught to a more dissonant and angular approach. Yet, it’s the same intricacy of the riffs make a track like “Tribulation Shackles” (surprisingly the one that reminds me the most of Virus and Ved Buens Ende) sound a bit stale and lacking in power.

Still, Morbid Dimensions is fairly consistent and has plenty of stunning, disquieting moments that will surely leave a very good impression when presented to fans of Portal, Mitochondrion and Cadaver.

Band info: www.facebook.com/execrationnorway
Label info: www.duplicate-records.com | www.hellsheadbangers.com

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Audrey Horne | Interview with Toschie

For more than 12 years now, Norwegian quintet Audrey Horne has been synonymous with pure and infectious heavy rock and their new effort, the aptly titled “Pure Heavy”, doesn’t deviate one inch from such route. The 11-track recording is, per usual, an addictive and highly energetic heavy rock affair that surely won’t disappoint long-time fans, so we caught up with lead singer Toschie to find out what pure heavy is.

Let’s jump straight into your fifth full-length record “Pure Heavy”, which was released some weeks ago via Napalm Records. Do you still get excited when you release a new album or it’s just like “Look everyone, here’s a new record from Audrey Horne…”

“Oh, we still get very much excited. After a long period of writing and arranging the music, and then going into studio to record it, we are still just as childishly excited to get feedback on our work. Even though we primarily write music for ourselves, it is after all other people who are going to buy the album and come to our shows to listen to the songs. So the more pleased our audience is with the album, the better it is of course. We are still a long way from being superficial on this topic.”

I think “Pure Heavy” is really impressive, you’ve kept the catchiness and the live vibe displayed in your previous effort “Youngblood”, yet I sense that this time the sound production is a bit more clean and refined. And it works really well. Would you say this is the record the band is most pleased with?

“Every band will always say that their latest record is their best of course, and so do we, but I sincerely mean that. What we set out to do this time is exactly what you have pointed out. We wanted to keep the live vibe from Youngblood, but at the same time refine the sound and “produce-it” a bit more. We did a bit more overdubs, some more samples, like trains, church bells etc… and we also finished each song more or less before we started on a new one, in order to give each song the sound it deserved. I think it worked out well, so now we only have to outdo ourselves next time…puuh!”

What was the recording process like for “Pure Heavy” as opposed to “Youngblood”? Did you have all of the writing done beforehand, or some of it was done in the studio?

“We wrote all the songs together, starting just after we had released Youngblood, and had them all finished by the time we entered studio. We did some minor changes in studio, but in general they were all finished. Since we track all songs live we have to know how to play them as good as possible. The only song that was not written for this album is “Diamond”, which was written originally for the Le Fol album. We dug it out from oblivion and re-wrote the lyrics as we felt the album needed a short “berating point”.”

Are there any tracks from the new record that you are particularly stoked to start playing live?

“Yes. We have done some gigs in Norway already, and our live favourites so far are “Wolf in my heart” and “Holy Roller”, but in general we are looking forward to play the entire album in the future.”

You guys will be touring Europe soon with Pet The Preacher and 77, are you looking forward to this?

“Definitely. I think it is a very good package. All 3 bands are full on rock and roll bands and highly energetic, so I guess people will have one hell of a good night out. We have polished our live show, and judging by the shows we have done so far here in Norway, the audience seems to really enjoy it. We seem to be enjoying playing live more and more, and the spirit within the band has never been better, and I think this reflects on the audience too, so the tour will hopefully be pure magic.”

For anyone who hasn’t been to an Audrey Horne show, how could you describe it?

“It is a full on, no bullshit show. High energy and very entertaining. We try to build it up like the classic bands did. Bread and circuses you know. We are not preaching, just making sure that both we and the crowd leave with a feeling that we had a bloody good time, and that we made some new friends.”

What are some of your most memorable tours and who have you been fortunate enough to meet and play with?

“We have opened up for AC/DC, Motley Crue, The Cult and many other great bands. On festivals we have shared stage with most of our favourite bands, so in that sense we are extremely blessed. As far as tours go, I really could not pick out one, they have all been great, and each better than the previous one, so hopefully this next one will top everything we have done before.”

The band has been together for about 12 years now. Did you ever think when you got started that you’d still be making music together all this time later?

“I don’t know. I guess I hoped so, but we never thought we would take the band to the point where we are today, both commercially and artistically. We are as good as we ever hoped to be, and as happy as we ever hoped to be at this point, so I just consider us to be blessed in that way.”

If you could go back on your careers at this point, would you change anything?

“Well, we might have given some of our financial decisions a thought or two more, he he. Other than that, no. Everything has led us to the point where we are today."

More info at: www.audreyhornemusic.com
Photos by: Oystein Haara’

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Electric Wizard - Time To Die | Review

With four years having passed since the release of the monstrous Black Mass, there's a few landmarks to clear up before we gleefully delve into their disturbingly-titled eighth studio effort, Time To Die. This marks their first release on the excellent Spinefarm record label after a lifetime spent building a presence on Rise Above, and with a running time of 65 minutes it's also their longest to date. Otherwise, it appears to be business as usual.

Still, despite all these firsts, it appears to be business as usual. There is still layer upon layer of dense sludge, wall to wall reverb, and that bruising, blackened tone they carry so well. Their standard thematic barracking still rises to the fore and their repeating riffs are jammed into oblivion. On the face of it Time To Die is one foul, gnarly and steady descent into the jaws of death.

The album comes bookended with the soothing sounds of a babbling brook and all seems well until the slow-wind up of those splattering guitars firing out with a dark purpose. Immediately, the repeating motif is established as snippets from news reports which drive home the band's modus operandus - it's a gimmick inspired by a combination of the tape-trading, underground music scene and the associated scare-mongering documentaries of Jus Osborn's youth. Very rapidly, the pit begins to open and Electric Wizard's sludge-packing, doom-and-gloom begins to pour out. Optimists should find some solace in the early lyric "We wanna get high before we die" - doesn't everybody, at least on some level?

You'd think the the evil contained in the words of the title-track might be the album's nadir. "Wake up baby, it's time to die" certainly strikes a chord as it describes the vindictive wish for your soulmate to be lucid when the time comes. However, just when you think the Wiz can't sink lower they do as they churn out the filthy noise-blender of a track, "I Am Nothing". Being force-fed this murderous distortion and blistered overdrive truly does invoke the emotions of being inside the shittiest of sewers. Vomiting from this sonic chaos frontman Jus conjures his most hangdog delivery, each syllable potent with the whiff of remorse and self-pity. The track simply climaxes in nothing less than a slowly dissolving explosion of thick noisome brain matter - chaotic, psychotic and gloriously hypnotic.

This first half-hour, covering just three tracks, leaves the band free to make briefer, less-intense explorations into the subject. There's the joy of hearing a small child gleefully exclaim "Almighty Satan, destroy those who love god", a chance to bliss out to the deconstructed freak-out "Funeral Of Your Mind", to trap yourself inside the monotonous crush of "We Love The Dead", or to rock out to the dual head-bobbing "SadioWitch" and "Lucifer's Slaves".

Dramatic, fertile and intensively personal, Time To Die sees Electric Wizard digging deep into their psyches to extract something so morbid as to feel obscene. Perhaps the album's final intonation should be translated as a warning - "When you get into these groups there is only a couple of ways you can get out... one is death, the other is mental institutions or, third, you can't get out".

John Skibeat

Band info: www.electricfuckinwizard.com
Label info: www.spinefarmrecords.com

John Skibeat is a self-described word monkey hampered by cravings for strong ale and stinky cheese. He continues to practice surgical dissection on most genres of music with the leftovers currently reaching publication at 'zines like Heavy Blog Is Heavy, The Line Of Best Fit or Ave Noctum. When not smacking seven bells out of various sizes of orb, he tumbles at johnskibeat, tweets @johnskibeat and blogs at, yes, you guessed it, johnskibeat.

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Winterfylleth – The Divination of Antiquity | Review

My first encounter with Winterfylleth came via their 2012 album, The Threnody of Triumph. It was basically a two ships passing in the night affair. I heard it but didn't spend any time with it. I've spent plenty of time with their newest release, The Divination of Antiquity. Much of that was just letting in sink in. Sink down, layer by layer until it found its final resting place wrapped around my soul.

As it will yours through the inescapable pleasure of ancient windswept melodies coursing through the core of Winterfylleth's signature sound. They may ring with a bleak and icy tone but a warmth comes from within countering the harsh desperation of vocalist/guitarist Chris Naughton's screams.

Paired with guitarist Mark Wood, Naughton along with bassist Nick Wallwork create sweeping vistas of moving sound. A constant buzz of energy powers scorching rhythms and glorious melodies. As befitting the tracks, drummer Simon Lucas adapts to the changing landscapes. Whether keeping time with grace (“A Careworn Heart”) or more often blasting away the concept of time with ferocity, his commitment is never in question. Although the higher the bpms go, the higher Lucas pushes the band.

The title track sets the stage for what is largely a homogenous album, not straying too far from the foundations laid down early. Carnal black metal screams – the way black metal should be screamed in this writer's humble opinion – dig their hooks in and swiftly lift the listener up and away from the chaos and selfish existence of modern life. The listener is taken to a place still full of fear but of a different and more primal sort. Swollen-heart melodies, which are the album's lifeblood, protect against the thunderous percussion which sounds like the thudding feet of a predator in full pursuit.

As visceral as the searing black metal guitars and relentless percussion can be, Winterfylleth still conjure up images of great heights, natural beauty and a deep reverence for their homeland and its past. There is pain to be felt for certain but it's a cleansing pain.

Acoustic guitar and low chanting voices enhance the album's depth and overall appeal. The chants on “Whisper of the Elements” sound like the Earth itself is talking and the serenity and peace of the mostly acoustic “The World Ahead” calms the savage beast. You can feel the exhilarating rush as you're swept through endless valleys and hills, verdant with life and lore across stretches of time. Ghastly or ghostly, the album resonates deeply within the soul. The Divination of Antiquity is a treasure of conflicting sonics. The magical confluence of the sublime and the pestilential churns with the intent of a grand design, sending the listener forth under magnificent clear skies and favourable winds.

Few black metal albums display this level of balance and depth, merging menace with melody, brutality with beauty. The leaves are changing and so are the winds. Follow them toward the glory of Winterfylleth and The Divination of Antiquity.

Matt Hinch

Band info: www.facebook.com/Winterfylleth
Label info: www.candlelightrecords.co.uk

Matt Hinch lives an unassuming life on the backroads outside Forest Mills, Ontario, Canada. He packs in as much metal as he possible can amid factory work, raising three daughters with his wife and working the land. In addition to Scratch the Surface Matt also writes for Hellbound, Metal Bandcamp, About Heavy Metal and his own blog, Kingdom of Noise.
Keep up with him on Twitter @KingdomofNoise.

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