Wednesday, February 27, 2008

In the Dungeon of the Dark Quarterer

The first time I heard Dark Quarterer's self titled album I was rather turned off. Right from the very beginning. With impatience I waited for it to sound like something else. The opening vocal line delivered these following lyrics in a wavering amateur voice:

"What is my life
Without any sense
What is my life
What is music
Without my presence?"

Over the next few weeks I became sidetracked with other albums,other discoveries but I knew I would soon have to confront and really give my undivided attention to this album. I hadn't listened to it in full yet as I was very preoccupied with other albums and singles.
Hailed by more than a few as an amazing epic heavy metal record I knew in the back of my mind it had to rule..somehow. Investigating Dark Quarterer leaves you a bit mystified. There are no overtly "metal" graphics on this album at all,a metal archives search for Dark Quarterer reveals a picture of the trio looking like a back up band for Esteban. They are Italian as well which is usually a red flag for me. I have struggled with Italian prog rock "masterpieces" in the past. Everything just sounds so theatrical and showtunes from the vocals to the bombastic or sometimes carnival-esque melodies. So I was going into this album with a type of pre-disappointed feeling. I believe that I listened to it in full for the first time on a rainy day in August...

"Red Hot Gloves" is the first,and probably most normal,song on the 1987 self titled album. The vocals tend to sound fine after a spin or two and I really like the higher almost ear piercing delivery of "RED HOOT GLUVES!" Yes Gianni Nepi has quite the accent..but I find accents pretty charming.
The second song "Colossus of Argil" starts out with a lengthy instrumental intro with a bit of a progressive flair. The drums then begin to play a slow rock beat and the listener is greeted by a particularly doomy riff. About half way through this song a victorious passage pops up kind of out of nowhere. It's the kind of gallant medieval sounding stuff that wouldn't sound out of place on a Brocas Helm album. Dark Quarterer seem to do this frequently throughout the album mixing bits of melancholic doomish riffage with epic or bombastic interludes. I almost hate using the word "epic" as it is used to describe such a wide array of things(many of them being awful)
Imagine perhaps you are on some kind of underground journey,passing by rows of skulls piled to the wall. With rapier in hand you descend further down into this dungeon,your fate interlocked with that of the unspeakable forces of evil that await you in the main corridor. THAT is the kind of "epic" feeling that entraps my mind when listening to this album. Not Braveheart,or umpteenth visions of generic looking Norse warriors ready to do battle with ogres. An esoteric and obscure vibe. Let's take the song "Entity" for example.

"All my pores are oozing
white cold blood
while my soul
vibrates for you
oh my leader,my possessor
my unknown entity"

I don't know about you but I find those to be rather creepy lyrics. Lyrics like that have been written a thousand times over but never in such a strange way. "Entity" is rather typical in it's songwriting/structure but that doesn't take away from the sinister force that I feel when listening to it. I seemed to skip over "Gates of Hell" and "Ambush," but that is no matter. "Ambush" is a kick ass instrumental tune and "Gates of Hell" is a pretty good dark and doom laden metal tune. I want to talk about the song "Dark Quarterer" now because it's probably the best on here. Featuring a delicate guitar melody with quivering vocal work, it sounds like some lost psychedelic track from the early 1970's. Of course this is a metal album and the song picks up with a really great drumbeat(featuring a cowbell)and a simple but awesome guitar passage.
The whole end of the song I can just imagine them putting their everything into this recording..which is always important to me. After a lot of in depth listening it's clear that these songs were written and executed with the utmost passion and dedication to the craft of heavy metal. Obviously this record had to grow on me a bit but any feelings of disappointment were usurped by the overall atmosphere,transmitted to me successfully after but a few full listens.

If you have the Eat Metal reissue like myself than you have the pleasure of experiencing the bonus track "Lady Scopolendra."
A lot of wonderful vocal melodies on this song seeing as the drummer is pitching in. This song has some really catchy parts much like "Red Hot Gloves" and "Colossus of Argil" and is top notch along with the rest of the LP. I didn't get too much into production here but if you are a real stickler for clean and professional sounding shit then you might find your listening experience a bit ruined. The production job is dirty and sometimes the louder vocal parts are distorted. I for one think the production is quite fitting in keeping with the fantasy world that I am teleported to upon playing the record. The final nail in the coffin is the album artwork. A close up profile? A head wearing a cross between a space helmet and some Roman legionnaire type of headgear? It looks like a wall mural or something and it's got this sepia/brownish green tone to it. So let's see who handled the artwork. The cover painting is attributed to Maribruna Toni. A google image search for that name doesn't reveal too much but we can guess it's maybe a friend of the band or some old and forgotten artist. The album cover is important because it intensifies the aura of this album and there nothing about it that gives away what Dark Quarterer are. It's not a typical heavy metal cover at all but dreary,ancient looking and leaving you with a slight feeling of uneasy dread. AWESOME record.

*Soft rock promo shot

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Matt has already written a more than adequate battle cry outlining our fundamental objectives in maintaining a blog, so I won't bore you (are there even any of you?) with a regurgitation of his post. I figure this short list will serve as a good introduction to both the blog and to me personally.

Without further ado:

Ten records I wish I could hear for the first time no particular order

I posted this a few months ago in my livejournal after giving it a lot of thought. After a couple of hours I had a list of 49 albums, so narrowing it down to ten wasn't easy.

The reviews we'll be posting will obviously have more substance that the few sentences in this list. I guess "review" isn't really the right word because our connection with the music we love is deeply personal and I don't feel like trying to go piece by piece through each album and rating it or anything like that. Ratings are stupid anyway. I will write about records that I love and why I love them. I'm not opposed to reviewing albums--there are a lot I wish I would've read before dropping $20+ on a mediocre record, but I don't feel like taking up webspace writing about records I don't like. There you have it.

Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath

I wish I could remember the first time I heard the rain at the beginning of "Black Sabbath." Sadly, I never will because there has never been a time in my life where Sabbath didn't exist. As one of my dad's two or three favorite bands, I grew up running around my house in a Batman costume screaming the lyrics to Sabbath, Zeppelin, and Alice Cooper songs. I can't begin to count the reasons why I love Black Sabbath, so I'll narrow it down to three: Tony Iommi (master of the riff), they are the undisputed originators of Heavy Metal, and after all my musical explorations I still find them brain-rattlingly heavy.

Black Sabbath isn't my favorite Sabbath record, that honor is bestowed on any given day to either Master of Reality or Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, but I've chosen it for this list because it is their first. What better way to make your stamp on the world than with the opening track? The rain, thunder, and bells began the storm of heavy metal, still raging after 40 years. Sabbath doesn't pull any punches, and I'd give a lot to hear the crush of opening for the first time.

When Ozzy belts out the first line, "What is this that stands before me?" the pointing figure in black is heavy metal.

Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti

Another band that has been with me for as long as I can remember. For my 5th birthday I got a tape player and my dad gave me taped copy of Physical Graffiti and I can only remember two things...1)"In My Time of Dyin'" was my favorite song and I sang the lyrics a lot, but I had no idea Robert Plant was saying "Oh my Jesus" so I kept saying "Oh my Teela" which was kind of fitting because I loved He-Man...2) I got into an argument with my kindergarten teacher when she told me she liked the Rolling Stones, but didn't like Led Zeppelin.

The debate about Led Zeppelin could go on forever, are they heavy metal or hard rock? Classic rock? What? It ain't metal, that's for sure, but it's certainly heavy. I figure I don't need to write much about Led Zeppelin, so I'll be moving on...

Misfits - "collection"

I bought this CD the summer before 8th grade (or sometime around then) and listened to it 4 times in a row when I got home. I don't remember why I bought a Misfits album in the first place...the cover art maybe? Either way, the Misfits soon became my "thing" because no one I knew (which wasn't many people) liked or had even heard them. Short songs full of energy and horror lyrics enforced my "outsider" status (somewhat self-imposed...I remember getting pulled out of gym class..shortly after talk with the guidance counselor. I'm certain it was because I wore boots, army pants/jackets, and shirts with skulls on them. Anyway...his first question was "So, Zach, do you like girls?" to which I responded "None of the ones at this school." The rest of the meeting progressed in similar fashion). While I find punk in general to be hollow, pre '83 Misfits will always contain the power and emotion I look for in music.

Bathory - Blood, Fire, Death

Ultimate power is all I felt during and after listening to this record for the first time. I still want to stand up and scream at the top of my lungs whenever I play it. A perfect blend of harsh, thrashing power and majestic heathen power that will never be attained again, ever.

Hawkwind - Warrior on the Edge of Time

It's safe to say that whenever I put this album on I'll immediately be transported to some strange world of cosmic phenomena and motorcycles. There isn't a song I don't like, and I think of all bands to ever exist Hawkwind may be the one I'd choose to be in if you held a gun to my head and forced me to pick.

Amon Düül II - Yeti

I'd give almost as much to hear the intro to "Soap Shop Rock" as I'd give to hear "Black Sabbath" for the first time. And even more for the rest of the album. Yeti has been such a huge record in my life I've written essays about it, some of which may find there way on here eventually. This record opened so many musical doors; the floodgates of krautrock, the ability to utterly lose myself in the near perfection of sound, and the fueling of an already burning fire for more music.

"Losing myself" isn't a good phrase because I'm more "found" when listening to Yeti or any great album because my mind is working on so many levels. Listening to Yeti is like looking at satellite photos of earth...I realize how cosmically small and insignificant I am in the infinite expanse of the universe. That's certainly a sobering thought, but not a depressing one as I take a sort of comfort in knowing I'm a speck in the galaxy, so to speak.

Kebnekajse - Resa Mot Okänt Mål

Here's that Swedish Psych Matt was talking about. It's been two years since I first heard Kebnekajse, but this record still blows my mind every time I listen to it. I remember sitting on the edge of my bed repeating to myself over and over again "holy shit" and "what the fuck?!?" for the entire 40 minutes...sometimes with less space in between (like during "Förberedelser Till Fest" which was pretty much one long "fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck"). Kenny Håkansson's guitar playing in unbelievable in it's dexterity and utter beauty.

Sorcery - Sinister Soldiers

Heavy and catchy as hell. Sure that sums it up, but to leave it at that would be a travesty. There isn't a song on the album I don't like, my favorite being the opener, "Arachnid (The Dark King)." It was released in 1979, though it sounds like it should've/could've been released five years earlier. I don't mean that in a negative way AT ALL, because just like 70s Pentagram, it will remain timeless to my ears until it makes me deaf.

Cirith Ungol - King of the Dead

So heavy and loaded with full-out anthems. As soon as "Atom Smasher" started I knew I'd found a new favorite. By the time I got to "Master of the Pit" I needed no convincing. This album has everything that makes Heavy Metal important to me: speed, heaviness, hooks, honesty, power, and emotion. While I'd say without hesitation that Frost and Fire is my favorite Cirith Ungol record, KotD makes the list because I heard it first and it's what caused me seek out F&F. The glory of metal is evident from beginning to end, but I'll focus only on the lyrics to "Atom Smasher" to save some space.

The lyrics:

Welcome to the brave new world
The Future's here, or haven't you heard?
The sons of man have fell from grace
Till the Smasher comes to save his race

Here it comes, there it goes
Just a flash in the sky
Atom smasher, here he comes
Better run for your lives

He is the hero of the atom age
Born in a test tube raised in a cage
A reaver King his throne defiled
Roaming the streets to the call of the wild

As upstarts strive to rule the world
Against them Chaos legions hurled
The Smashers force has swept the land
Again begins the Dawn of Man

I've tried for a long time to put my love for heavy metal into words, but it's difficult. If these lyrics mean anything to you, you probably have an idea of what heavy metal means to me. The Smasher, like Conan and Elric, is the epitome of the outcast/loner individual who takes hold of life to forge his own destiny. He may be unwillingly forced into situations or out into them through no fault of his own (like the Smasher born into and from an age of atomic despair), or have to battle forces over which he has no control, but succeeds because he has the strength and will to make it happen.

Manilla Road - Crystal Logic

While on the subject of heavy metal's glory...

Manilla Road, for the past two years, has been a staple of my daily listening. A day doesn't go by where I don't blast at least one song and revel in it's sheer greatness. More often than not, that song (if it's not a full album) ends up being "Necropolis," a killer riff, Mark "The Shark" Shelton's unique and thoroughly awesome vocals, and of course the great lyrics that accompany most Manilla Road songs.

Each and every time I play Crystal Logic from beginning to end I find myself wondering two things: how did anyone record such an amazing bit of music, and will I ever even come close matching the greatness of it. If anything, it will definitely foster the creative drive to attempt it.

Honorable mentions:
Pentagram - First Daze Here (a compilation, I know)
Pagan Altar - Volume 1
Alice Cooper - Love it to Death
Uriah Heep - Demons & Wizards
Budgie - Bandolier (try picking ONE Budgie album)
Thin Lizzy - Live & Dangerous (it's a live album, deal with it)
Death in June - Brown Book
Black Widow - Sacrifice
Bodkin - Bodkin
Pugh Rogefeldt - Pugish
The Band - Music from the Big Pink
Yes - Close to the Edge

Only some from the original list of 49.

Expect more substance in future posts, this is merely to give a hint of what I/we will be writing about.


Lengthy Introduction?

This blog is basically going to document the ongoing and ever intensifying obsession of music shared by two males in their mid 20's. Being obsessed with music demands a bit of an explanation I suppose and therefore I will give you one. For starters I will tell you what being obsessed with music is NOT. Being powerfully moved by music is not simply loving a song on the radio or having strong sentimental ties to a mixtape of songs from your first girlfriend. Being obsessed with music isn't being obsessed with bands per se, and concert events aren't all that important either. If you walked up to me in a smoky tavern and asked me about favorite bands, I would offer you a seat at my table and talk to you about my favorite records instead. I supposed we're obsessed with listening to music, we're music listeners, fans of albums and songcraft. Most of the music we will be discussing/referencing in here can be summed up in this clumsy list.

1.Heavy Metal:Embracing the golden long gone years of 80's heavy metal, NWOBHM and whatever amazing forgotten records that slipped through the cracks. Early thrash and death metal, black metal, bizzaro metal, speed, power, progressive. Of course we will also be worshiping at the megalithic altar of traditional doom metal. Most of the albums we like are older, the original "this sound" or "that sound" perfected back when we were toddlers/pre-teens. Not to say that there aren't, or haven't recently been, praise-worthy heavy metal albums released but the best metal is buried in the past.

2.Progressive Rock:Next to the buried metal resides a whole bunch of bones. Dinosaur bones. An orgy, a cluttered stew of dino bones: krautrock, psychedelic rock, early electronic music, left field folk and jazz..mind expanding yes, thank you.

3.Both Zach and myself listen to classical music but I don't posses the writing skills/terminology/historical knowledge to get very in depth and I don't believe Zach is currently planning on writing anything at length on the subject.

Most of what we will post within Shattered Imperium will be essays, reviews and expansive lists. You will not find any MP3's on here. Though I am willing to share out of print digital records, I have very few and they are probably already ripped beautifully and hanging out in mp3 format in a blog somewhere. The reviews can be expected to be analytical, personal, and long winded. So I guess you will have to enjoy reading and/or also be obsessed with music to appreciate them. I am a bumbling idiot when it comes to writing a "shopper's review." I don't really care to sell, or even encourage a download, with a review. It's all about how the album interacts with me and how it may interact with you, but primarily it's all about me. I have a feeling Zach will be writing 22 paragraph essays........