Blyh vigorously burst onto the black metal scene with 2018's stellar Transparent to the World, and sophomoric effort Awake to Emptiness only serves to reaffirm the notion that this outfit is something special indeed. Balancing the visceral evocation of bleakness and despair with progressive and sophisticated songcraft, Awake is one of my personal favorite black metal offerings of the year, and shall be receiving a review within these unhallowed halls soon enough.
In the meantime, however, we are incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to ask some questions of Murul, Blyh's vocalist and instrumentalist. Read on:
Today, we're honored to have the chance to speak with Billy Konkel, guitarist and vocalist for HOT RAM, Atlanta's finest power trio. Their 2018 release, Where Light Goes To Die, remains one of the greatest recommendations the illustrious Fuzzy Cracklins has passed on from his swamp. Beyond that, we recommended it ourselves in our 4/20 deluge o' reviews: "HOT RAM fire on all cylinders with marked consistency...this mix of high energy riffage, pounding drums, and bass with ‘tude on one hand, and psychedelic meanderings on the other, is pretty damn potent." Still holds true.
In what I can only imagine is the spirit of HOT RAM, we Sleepy Villagers are gonna git ourselves outside on this fine Saturday, enjoy some sun, some bbq, and some beers, if luck has it. We hope you're able to do the same, dear reader! In the meantime, enjoy this interview.
What more to say about the maniacal Soul Grinder? Firstly, I'd recommend giving our review of their latest treatise, entitled The Prophecy of Blight, a healthy gander. Then I'd recommend throwing said album on for a glorious spin (or three.) That should pretty much tell you all you need to know. Soul Grinder are swiftly on their way to becoming the technicolor corpsepaint'd face of heavy metal in the modern era. Let's leave it at that.
On to the gratitude! We Villagers were honored to have had the opportunity to speak with the voice of Soul Grinder herself, the one and only April "Prilzor" Dimmick. As always, we appreciate the thoughtful answers, and April, as ye shall soon witness, provides said answers in spades. Special shout-out to that MASSIVE list of bands to check out. There's some goddamn gems in there.
And so, without further ado:
Given a certain embarrassment of riches, the current doomscape is a difficult environment in which to make your mark. Thus, the vibrant energy of Denver's own earthdiver immediately caught this particular Villager's (generally flighty) attention. Their debut EP, entitled Leave Something Witchy, remains a favorite 2019 discovery, and received a review here during our 4/20 deluge of reviews. At risk of self-plagerism, here's an excerpt of said review:
"The entire 3-track is delightfully raw, rough-edged, and nearly feral in its execution--like if Pan, the God of the wild things, decided to throw away the pan pipes and start a garage band...This thing grinds and bounces around with a deliciously organic bent, keeping the low end moving forward with an egregiously thunderous confidence."
There's no question: these guys are the real deal. And so, needless to say, this inksplattered scribe was quite honored that Eric of earthdiver was willing to provide such in-depth answers to prying questions. Read on! And when you've completed this opus, head over to earthdiver's bandcamp and give 'em a well-deserved listen.
Reign of Terror is, at this stage, no stranger to the Sleeping Village. In the past, we have both reviewed the death-metal worshiping outfit's debut, and premiered a single from their sophomore effort. To complete the trifecta, we're hitting you all with an interview. Big thanks to Jereth Fewings--Reign of Terror's instrumentalist and stoic UK contingent--for reaching out in the first place, for the sincere answers, and for the ridiculously quick turnaround.
For the uninitiated, Reign of Terror play brutal death metal and worship at the blood-stained altar of acts such as Deicide, Hypocrisy, Death, Bolt Thrower, and Dethklok. You know, the good stuff. These guys have riffs and heart galore...and they somehow manage to churn out new material at an increasingly alarming and impressive rate. Without further ado: we're pleased to introduce Jereth Fewings of Reign of Terror!
At this stage, Wisconsin's Vredensdal needs very little introduction in this particular Village. If you missed our review of the stellar Fealty of Diabolism, take a gander here. Otherwise, I'd like to preface the following exchange with a massive "thank you" to our guest, whose thoughtful and sincere answers genuinely mean the world to this inksplattered scribe.
Without further ado, we welcome our first subject of interrogation: the one and only Vredensdal.
Congratulations on casting Fealty of Diabolism into the world! How have the first few weeks post-release proven?
Firstly, I would like to say thank you! So far, from what I've seen, things look like they are on the more positive side. I try not to focus on it so much, I believe it is unhealthy for me but of course I'm hoping for the best!
Jumping right into the fray: Fealty contains all three tracks--albeit altered versions--from Gather, All Ye Hellions. (And incidentally, all three are very fine songs.) Was there a significant difference in the songwriting process between old and new material?
Well actually considering that there were minor changes from the demo versions, I would say so. The main difference came after the demo was released, I could hear things that I realized I did not emphasize the first time around and so I made sure to remind myself not to hold back. Not in the sense of unleashing everything I have but more along the lines of staying true to what I believe the music should sound like. I don't focus on the songwriting per se for the sake of songwriting as I do the emotion I want it to evoke.
Having been birthed in the backwoods and now living in the fetid cityscape, I'm fascinated by the role one's environment plays in the creative process. How does the landscape of Northern Wisconsin impact your craft? Would Vredensdal be feasible if the Goblin Reaper was located elsewhere?
The Goblin Reaper has no real home. I have actually lived in a lot of places with many different surroundings and climates. I don't believe that the landscape so much affects the music as does the experiences I've had in those places. Northern Wisconsin (Green Bay) is unique in the sense that, realistically there is almost no heavy metal presence at all. So I feel like I have an opportunity to defile its grounds with whatever wickedness I can conjure and hopefully mark my territory. However the winters can be quite frigid and I am always affected by the power nature has over us.
You recently wrote--stirringly--about the Great Peshtigo Fire. Do you see beauty in so-called natural disasters, or are aesthetics simply incidental in the natural order's process of creation through destruction?
A "disaster" is commonly classified as a negative thing but I believe you can find beauty in anything, including negativity. We humans search so much for control over every detail of our lives that we often times wind up in a mid life crisis situation wondering who we are or "how we got here". What we fail to realize is that being without control helps develop an understanding for when it is most necessary. Chaos is the ultimate gavel and fighting for something as invisible as control is a literal waste of life. So what's the point in living then? Am I right?
It is this principle of chaos that is liberating and removes you from the confines of common herd mentality. When people realize there is no such thing as true freedom, they will feel the most free. Fire is pretty, though...
In terms of anti-Christian sentiment, one moment that stands out is the bastardization of John 6:54 on "Die By the Sword." Is this a mockery or rather a ripping condemnation of the verse in question?
The song itself is about being who you say you are. Hypocrites are not just found in religious groups. However, one of the most common and talked about travesties known to have been cause by the church or it's representatives have been the numerous acts of molestation and and sexual harassment. Not only am I attempting to stimulate the extreme image of terror but I want the listener to taste the disgust of what has actually happened and reflect on it to better themselves.
Not only does it mock the ideals of the christian or those who believe the words in the bible but it causes a conflict of understanding when you thing of it past the mockery. It's a condemnation to christianity yes, but also to those out there who are people pleasers, paper-thin or invisible.
Speaking of "Die by the Sword," the EP version, from a lyrical standpoint, ends on a seemingly self-critical note, whereas the album version is more outwardly critical. Is this representative of a larger development in your relation to the societal and religious powers that be?
The first time I recorded the lyrics for that song was really unrehearsed. I sort of just hit record with an idea in mind and I guess, vented. The change of the lyrics came from my own decision to no longer classify myself as an introvert. I had an epiphany! Haha!
But seriously speaking, this was the first song I wrote for Vredensdal after coming out of, basically, not being a metalhead for over a year to question myself entirely. After completing the song the second time through going over the lyrics again, I was enlightened with the idea of encapsulating psychodrama into my music. To make Vredensdal an essence that crosses over not only my personal boundaries but reaches them to listeners as if they are their own, a cast shadow or forgotten memory.
A notable aspect of this release is the cohesion. Is there a track or moment on "Fealty" that you are most proud of creating?
Well I'm happy I got it all done to be honest. "Mistress Of Mayhem" was the last song written for the album and the closest thing to what I want to do next... which is whatever I want. I feel like that track represents a variety of extreme metal sub-genres plunged together in a not so common kinda way. The opening riff for the title track is about 3 years old. I am happy I was finally able to use it for something important, I had to go through a lot of shit to come up with that one.
I question myself constantly, my decisions and just about every aspect of what I do. I change a lot and progress until I find something that really defines what I am. Considering I haven't changed anything yet is a good sign that I, for myself, am on the right track.
Something that intrigues me about Vredensdal is the balance you strike between a sociable demeanor and the classic image of a black metal loner. Do both come naturally to you? Is there an inherent conflict between those two images?
Conflict is everything. We are always battling more than one "person" internally whether we like to admit it or not. Edgelord metalheads should be a thing of the past by now... I'm so tired of seeing these idiots out there proposing that they are "the most brutal evil nemesis the human race has ever seen". We're all human and a fucked up ego just makes you look like Niklas Kvarforth.
I have always said that you may have seen both light and darkness but being able to define the line at which they cross internally, is the ultimate perception of oneself. Some people who are going to read this interview will read it from a skeptic point of view because I cause them to question who they are whereas there may be some folk who are dying to read it because what I am attempting to stir up agrees with their self exploration. I cannot emphasize enough the purpose of my hidden identity, to create a bias only to the individual who accepts it for what it is.
You are vocal about the albums that have influenced you, many of which contribute to a wide range of genre. That said, what are some USBM releases from recent memory that caught and held your attention?
I will be completely honest with you when I say... There are virtually no "USBM" bands that I thoroughly enjoy. I enjoy a lot of American metal and music but when it comes to black metal and the like, not so much. Of course I have to represent Necrokvlt, Algid Funeral, Burial Culture and Withermoon. Current up and comers I believe. I would gladly conduct another interview on specific musical interests and more regarding opinions of metal!
What's your favorite King Diamond associated album?
Melissa takes the ultimate sentiment for me as it was the first King Diamond associated album I heard, my first ever vinyl record and it really helped me understand what it meant to be extreme, in that sense.
But I really also like Them and many more... Grandmaaaaaaaaaa!!!
From what I gather, you aren't one to bask in languidity. What's next for Vredensdal?
To not indulge in life is against my core belief. I hate wasting time on unnecessary things. What is next is I'm already recording for the next album. Number 2 is going to destroy number 1 and I have this grand idea to take a step out in faith and try something I think no one is expecting. Especially to those who cling so hard onto genre specifics and classifying things like a Grade A douchebag. Simply put, I've thought of starting a separate project dedicated to my other metal ideas and then quickly destroyed that idea with another: to combine them.
I'd like to thank you for your time and consistent graciousness I'll hand off the last word to you--is there anything more you'd like to leave us Villagers with?
And thank you as well, I am always infatuated with atmosphere of the Sleeping Village and I am so glad to be a part of what you guys are doing. As always thank you so much to everyone out there for being a part of Vredensdal, everyone I talk to and those who take what Vredensdal does seriously, you are the truest Hellions. This is only the beginning.
Last words? Vinyl.