Archive for January, 2011

Tsjuder – Black Metal’s Discharge

January 22, 2011 1 comment

Tsjuder - "Desert Northern Hell"

Tsjuder – “Desert Northern Hell” (A Season of Mist, 2004)

I try to write a review at least once a week but I haven’t penned one in a while because, honestly, I was tired of listening to Black Metal that didn’t rock. I was sick of listening to bands that sounded like Black Metal Depeche Mode, Black Metal Journey or Black Metal Genesis. A metalhead has his limits, friends – it may be blackened but it’s still supposed to be heavy. And just when I despaired I would never find a Black Metal album that would stomp a mud hole in Satan’s ass, I stumbled upon Tsjuder’s “Desert Northern Hell.”

Tsjuder are a trio of insane corpse paint posse dudes from Oslo, Norway who have been traveling a dark path since 1993. Unfortunately, though, “ Tsjuder called it quits in 2006. But their last album, “Desert Northern Hell” has no silly, 5-minute, atmospheric, Gothic intros and no useless, dollar store Wagnerian symphonic pretensions – just lots and lots of uncompromising blackened metal. And it is a different sort of uncompromising from bands like Deathspell Omega. Deathspell Omega’s relentlessness originates in an idea, their theology, if you will. Their ideology came first and the music followed. Tsujuder is just the opposite – their intensity comes from the music.

Here, listen to the disc’s first cut, “Malignant Coronation.” It will give you an idea about what I am talking about:

Tsjuder – “Malignant Coronation”

Now I just want to give you the idea that “Desert Northern Hell” features the most creative or innovative Black Metal out there. It doesn’t. Tsjuder actually play pretty generic Black Metal but the difference is the fact that they play it harder and rougher than any of the other cats in blackened metal land.

You can really hear the punk influence on “Malignant Coronation.” Punk rock is always listed as one of the influences on Black Metal but it is usually difficult to hear it. I actually hear the influence of British punk icons, Discharge. Now let’s get this out of the way right now: Tsjuder are not even close to as good as Discharge, Tsjuder’s songs aren’t not as heavy or as hook-laden as Discharge’s work, and “Desert Northern Hell” isn’t nearly as well recorded or mixed as Discharge’s vintage Clay Records stuff.

“Desert Northern Hell” is the punkest, hardest and rockin’-est Black Metal record I’ve heard so far. I hope there are more like this one out there.


Beer Review – Haandbryggeriet “Odin’s Tipple Dark Norse Ale”

Beer: Odin’s Tipple Dark Norse Ale

Type: Russian Imperial Stout

Brewery: Haandbryggeriet (Norway). Imported by Shelton Brothers of Belchertown, Massasschusetts

Serving: 0.5L bottle

Welcome to Pitch Black Brigade’s first beer review. Appropriately enough for a Black Metal blog that dabbles in Viking Metal, the first beer we sample is “Odin’s Tipple Dark Norse Ale” made by the fine folks at Haandbryggeriet in Drammen, Norway. Never heard of this brewery? Well, I can tell you right now that you should support them by running down to your local beer broker and emporium and demand they carry Haandbryggeriet’s creations. Why? Because they are a small brewery run by four dudes and some volunteers in their spare time. Check out their website for the full story but let me tell you that everything, including bottling and labeling, is done by hand – there is no automation – because they are trying to keep Norwegian brewing traditions alive. My bottle is stamped, “Batch 277. Brewed 27.3.10.” They proudly make what they call “living beer,” beer “that is not filtered or artificially carbonated but naturally re-fermented in the bottle.” Pretty damn cool, eh?

Where can you find Haandbryggeriet beers? My beautiful bride picked up a bottle of this Norse nectar for me at the beer Never Never Land and dreamland, Charleston Beer Exchange, a veritable Toys-R-Us for beer aficionados. If you find yourself in Charleston, make sure you visit there because you can find everything from growlers of local products to exotic Swiss sour ale and everything in between.

Odin’s Tipple – that’s tipple, not nipple, as my bride was bound and determined to call it – is the first Haandbryggeriet beer I’ve had. “Odin’s Tipple was meant to be a strong beer,” Haandbryggeriet explains, “but we changed our minds…its still strong but we won’t follow the mega-strong trend. It should be possible to make great beer without the extreme alcohol potency. Odin’s Tipple is now approximately 11% abv, it’s a dark almost black beer from lots and lots of chocolate malt. Its the malt that contributes the flavor…no added coffee or anything else. It’s got a great body without being old engine oil and still very drinkable due to the wild yeast we use. This beer is made with a single strain of wild yeast and the recipe is dead simple.  We have now tasted the test beer and its gooood!”* They aren’t kidding when they say it is strong. Odin’s Tipple is a Russian Imperial Stout. What is a Russian Imperial Stout, you ask? A stout with high alcohol content. Just for a frame of reference, most wines are somewhere between 12-16% ABV so this 11%ABV stout packs a wallop not unlike Odin’s son, Thor, and his mythical hammer.

And now let’s get to the tasting.

Pour: Pouring Odin’s Tipple into a pair of glasses stunned my beautiful bride and me. We had never seen a beer so dark and with so little head. You think Guinness is dark? Brother, you ain’t seen nothing yet. This beer is the color of espresso. It’s appearance is “deep and intense,” as my bride noted. And, based on the pour alone, Odin’s Tipple is the perfect beer for a Black Metal blog; it was blacker than Satanic Tyrant Werewolf’s black thong underwear (Werewolf is the “brains,” if you can use that word, behind the Black Metal band Satanic Warmaster). The stout had a thin, dark, but creamy head like the type of foam you see in a cup of espresso.

Smell: The bouquet is all malts – intense smoky, coffee, molasses, and licorice aromas.

Taste: Smooth, unexpectedly smooth. I expected it to hit like a ton of bricks because of the high alcohol content. Coffee and chocolate flavors dominate. It is very dry; there is no sweetness at all this dark Norse ale.

Mouthfeel: Just like it was smoother than we expected, Odin’s Tipple was lighter than we imagined. I was expecting the Guinness “I’m-drinking-a-pint-of-oatmeal” feeling but instead was surprised by how comparatively light it tasted. The high level of carbonation probably contributed to the lightness. The stout’s earthiness lingers on the palate and the burning of the alcohol flavor only emerges later.

Drinkability: Odin’s Tipple Dark Norse Ale goes down a lot easier than we thought it would. Here is the evocative image my wife used to described it: She thought we should be drinking it in front of a fire in some North Sea-facing pub in the middle of a cold, drenching rain. She also mentioned that there should be a large hunk of meat rotating on a spit in the enormous fireplace. This, it seems to us, is the perfect environment for enjoying this beer. If you aren’t traveling to northern Europe anytime soon, my bride recommends you enjoy it with a hearty beef stew.

Would we have another one? You bet. We are intrigued by and want to support Haandbryggeriet’s approach to business and brewing and Odin’s Tipple is a hearty, complex beer. Because of the high alcohol content, though, I can’t see pounding them one right after another.

* accessed 1.4.11

Behexen/Satanic Warmaster EP Review

Behexen/Satanic Warmaster EP

Behexen/Satanic Warmaster Split EP (Hammer of Hate, 2008)

Split EPs are a great idea theoretically. You throw your hard earned money down on them because you hope they contain an “A” side and a “B” side from both bands. In practice, though, few bands are willing to surrender their best – “A” – material for a release they are sharing with another aggregation so split EPs usually end up being the place where bands dump their leftovers, tracks that weren’t good enough to make their last album, or – worse – tracks that have been languishing in the vault for years and never should have been released to see the light of day. This problem cripples this EP in particular: It features the best of underground Finnish Black Metal and the worst of underground Finnish Black Metal all on one release.

Behexen hold up their end of the bargain. Formed in 1994, Behexen are one of the granddaddies of the Finnish Black Metal scene. 2008 was a busy year for the “Lords of the Left Hand,” as Behexen also like to be known as (whatever the hell that means); they released two Beelzebub-centric albums, “From the Devil’s Chalice” and “My Soul for His Glory,” in addition to this split EP with Satanic Warmaster.

The first song on the EP, “Mouth of Leviathan,” is a wild six-minute ride. It begins at a moderate pace featuring a hellaciously good riff at the 1:00 mark. For the rest of the song it switches between frantic thrash beats and the moderate pace and back again. It also features one of the craziest, most extreme vocal styles in all of Black Metal land. It is – all in all – one of the best Black Metal songs I’ve ever heard.

Behexen – “Mouth of Leviathan”

The other song, “Where the Devil Spoke,” is simply traditional, generic Black Metal. It isn’t bad – it just isn’t as innovative or as interesting as “Mouth of Leviathan.”

Behexen – “Where the Devil Spoke”

This brings us to Satanic Warmasters’ two songs, “Where Eternity Awaits” and “The Burning Eyes of the Werewolf.” Lauri Penttila – or “Satanic Tyrant Werewolf” to his mates and family – is the driving force behind Satanic Warmaster, a Black Metal band from southern Finland. “Werewolf” has been performing and “recording” using the band name Satanic Warmaster since 1999.

I put the word “recording” in quotes because the tracks on this EP sound terrible. They are poorly recorded and poorly mixed. The tracks were recorded between 2004-2007 on an “analog 4-track” and so they sound like they were recorded one afternoon after school in the damp recesses of Mr. and Mrs. Warmasters’ basement. The words “amateur recording” doesn’t begin to cover it.

“Where Eternity Awaits”

“The Burning Eyes of the Werewolf”

It is unfortunate that guitars and Werewolf’s slimy, constipated vocals dominate the mix because the drummer, VHolm, kills it within the very narrow confines of Black Metal drumming.

The song writing – the craft of putting a song together – is immature. Satanic Warmaster sound like British Oi band, Anti Social, with fizzy Black Metal guitars. The worst part – the “amateur hour” moment – comes during “Where Eternity Awaits” at 3:50 when the “spooky” keyboards come in and they can never quite get in tune with the guitar (and then they return in all their out of tune glory at 4:45).

The final verdict on Satanic Warmaster’s contribution to the split EP? Bands that say they follow Lucifer obviously never prosper because they can’t afford a decent recording studio session.

The good: Behexen songs – satisfying traditional Black Metal.

The bad and the ugly: Satanic Warmaster songs – low-fi recordings of low-rent songs.