Friday, June 30, 2017

CD Review: SEDULOUS ROUSE The Valley Beyond

The Valley Beyond
Indpendent
It has been four years since Adelaide, Australia’s Sedulous Rouse released any material. Their first full length Seasons Of Triumph came out in April 2013 and was an exercise in redefining thrash in its own way. You can read a review here. Released independently by the band last December, recorded, mixed and mastered by Andy Kite at Against The Grain Studios in Adelaide. The Valley Beyond takes the experimental aspects of their debut recording and stretches them to whipcord. If you’re not familiar with Sedulous Rouse, a first impression of The Valley Beyond might be the crunch of Metallica fused with the adroitness of Megadeth, but if you’ve listened to them before there is much more to it. One difference from their debut is the despondent mood brought into many compositions on this album. I’ve always said it takes insight to enhance the inherent beauty in despondency. To quote the 1981 movie Omen III: The Final Conflict, “…the grandeur of melancholy, the divinity of loneliness, the purity of evil, the paradise of pain.” The Valley Beyond clarifies the idea that dispiritedness is tantamount to a genuine desire for something better from life. The title of the album also symbolizes the direction the band take on their own merit. The cover shows a snow-covered landscape with peaks and valleys, stretching on toward a distant mountain range. As the cover of Seasons Of Triumph does, this cover is a wordless representation of what you hear inside. This is apparent from the first cut Brutal By Nature which, in an unexpected move, is an instrumental Sedulous Rouse chose as the album’s introductory track. Writing quieter sections is nothing new for thrash, but on The Valley Beyond they are abnormally imposing and a stark contrast to its thrash aspects. The bass lines add to the rigid guitars and the somber sections with equal ease. Musicianship plays a prominent role here, as important as the lyrics. Examples of this are Enriched By Demons, Blood of the Human Spirit with its intro paying homage to native American culture, Relentless Oppression with its unexpected use of blast and black metal riffs, Robbed Of Solitude with its dissonant riffs, odd bass signatures and bizarre vocals and Killed By Hate with its black and death metal leanings. I just listened to this and I’m already looking forward to hearing what the band does on their next album. -Dave Wolff

Track list:
1. Brutal by Nature
2. For Crimes Unpunished
3. Enriched by Demons
4. The Day We Disappeared
5. Blood of the Human Spirit
6. Relentless Oppression
7. The Valley Beyond
8. Robbed of Solitude
9. Leviticus (Part 1)
10. Killed by Hate

Video Review: NEVER YOUR ZERO Push Me

Management: The Label Group
Lyric video production by 351 Studio
This song is high octane, full speed, and in your face. When you listen, you can feel the bands energy and motivation. These guys are not backing down. It just makes you wnt to get up and kick some ass. This track is a great one to start the day, work out to, or just amp up the energy in general. I like the vocals, very solid and versatile. The guitar is kickass, edgy, and razor sharp. The hard hitting drums and heavy bass make it all complete. Never Your Zero is from Dallas Texas. They have shared the stage with Sevendust, Pop Evil, Saliva, Powerman 5000, among others. Christopher Roberts-vocals, Darren Wise-guitar, Matthew Gene-bass, Clay Wise-drums. Never Your Zero is definitely a band to pay attention to. I can see these guys being a future powerhouse in music. -Deanna Revis

Band Interview: SINAGAYA

Interview with Za King of SINGAYA

Last month Singaya was seeking new members. How many times has the band changed its lineup?
Since July 2016 we’ve had three lineup changes. We started with Mike Sheridan on drums and me on rhythm guitar/vocals as the main songwriters. We went through a bass player and two guitarists before the current lineup. Jon Hamilton was brought in on lead guitar who I was previously in a band with (Ruins Of Akora). Coming from a mostly metal background, he brings a different and exciting dynamic to the band. We’ve got Billy Rozz on bass who is extremely seasoned in the scene and plays a stand-up bass.

Does your local area in New Jersey have a lot of musicians seeking bands? How does word get around that people are looking for musicians to hook up with?
Isn’t everyone looking to start a band? Or so it seems. But seriously when ninety per cent of the people you hang out with and talk to play an instrument there’s a lot of talk about starting a band, a side project, or doing covers. The problem I think a lot of people run into is just that. There’s a lot of talk about doing something. It’s extremely difficult to find the right reliable people you are willing to work with. There is hope out there, though a lot of it is by word of mouth or grabbing someone from a band that’s not doing too much at the time. Graiglist isn’t the worst way, just a long filtering process. The bottom line is if it’s a passion, you’ll find the time to put the effort in and keep patient. You’ll find the right musicians for what you are looking to do.

How long have the band been musicians, and were you all previously in different bands?
All of us have been in bands since we were teenagers, playing different genres. We come from different backgrounds such as Metal, Punk, Horror Punk, Rockabilly etc. There are a lot of different influences coming together and you’ll hear a lot on our upcoming full length. All of us have been playing instruments efor over fifteen years so everyone’s pretty well versed with what they bring to the table. It definitely makes the songwriting process unique. I think that’s a major key to successfully functioning as a band to surround yourself with the right musicians, to have a mutual trust and faith in each other’s ability and have a passion for what you do. I’ve been playing too long to be sitting there showing someone notes or chords on their instrument. COME PREPARED. I feel like everyone in this band brings that passion and desire to get the best out of one another.

How did you become interested in music as a professional career? Did you have like-minded friends or did you have to spend some time looking?
I grew up where music was easily accessible. My parents always had Beatles, Doors and Pink Floyd records out and my mother played piano. I always loved listening to her play. Around the time I was eight years old I saw Guns N’ Roses’ video for “You Could Be Mine” and from there I knew what I wanted to do. I started with piano and then took interest in drums. I realized that wasn’t for me and picked up my first guitar when I was thirteen thinking I could just plug in and play like Jimi Hendrix. I learned real quick that’s not how it works, so I switched to singing. A few years later I started getting serious with guitar and finding musicians to start bands with. By that time it seemed everyone my age had a band going or played, so it was easy finding people to play with. We had a really good scene as I was growing up. There was a show going on every weekend. I watched as some of my friends’ bands started to get signed to major labels and go on tours with national acts. It was a whole community of musicians and the place to be at the time.

What spoke to you and interested you in playing about the albums of your mother’s vinyl albums you listened to?
Just hearing the music I was interested. I loved listening to the Beatles records and still do. My father was more into psychedelic bands like the Moody Blues and Pink Floyd so I heard a bunch of that growing up. 

How many of your friends’ bands signed with major labels or toured nationally?
A couple of my buddies’ bands got signed or went on tour. Getting signed nowadays I could really care less about. All I wanna do is tour with this band. Record companies aren’t offering anything we can’t do ourselves.

Recall memories of attending your earliest shows. What was the rush of excitement like and how did it convince you to start a band?
I had seen a few local shows when I was young. The first concert I ever went to was Green Day and Bad Religion. I loved the energy of just being there hearing live music and the response to just let loose, and I thought that’s gotta be such an awesome feeling, having that power to just speak to people through music. I knew I had to start a band.

Most people think playing punk and metal are teenage phases and eventually grown out of/. How do you and the band account for keeping at it all this time?
We do so by having a passion for music and for playing. There is never any age limit for enjoying that. Look at bands like the Adicts, the U.K. Subs and the Buzzcocks. They’ve been going strong for the last forty years! It’s not because they are selling millions of records, they love what they do whether it’s punk, metal, hardcore or whatever you are into. Music is a timeless expression. You think anyone’s telling Keith Richards to slow down anytime soon?

Were there times you were pressured into leaving your career in favor of living a “normal life” (getting married, having kids, getting a “real job” etc)?
Of course very few people get to tell “normal life” people they are musicians and not have them roll their eyes. It never really bothered me because I just knew in the back of my head they just don’t get it. You get one shot in this life to follow your dreams. I didn’t grow up with aspirations to become a garbage man, just like the average Joe walking the street probably didn’t dream as a kid he’d grow up and serve cold cuts at the supermarket. They are jobs you need to survive but it’s not something I have a passion for. Let’s face it, even if you are in a mildly successful band it’s still not paying the bills so you’ve gotta have income from somewhere else. As far as getting married and settling down I’m already at that point. I’ll be getting married this October to a woman I’ve been with for eleven years, and she’s been nothing but supportive of all my musical endeavors. I think aspiring to become a musician is about balance and finding a situation to make it work.

Do you consider yourself lucky to have a supportive fiancée who shares your passions? How do you see balancing your home life and professional life?
I couldn’t be with someone that didn’t. It works both ways. I support her in everything she does. Just like being in a band it’s about surrounding yourself with the right people in life. It gets tough sometimes to balance everything between both of us having jobs, a daily routine, trying to write music, promoting the band, printing merchandise etc. I get nuts sometimes with how much time I put into things so she helps me come back to reality at times. I’m sure with a kid eventually coming it’s going to become even more insane.

Are there as many zine editors as bands in your area? How long are zines usually active and are more print zines or webzines where you are?
There are a couple outlets around here for an unsigned band. A lot of stuff is mostly done on the internet these days. As far as promoting you just have to reach out and talk to people, have them write reviews or post about your upcoming shows. We have Steppin Out Magazine and The Aquarian Weekly who you can contact to promote an upcoming show or take a page out promoting your band. You just have to get the right information and network.

To how many different venues are Steppin Out and Aquarian Weekly distributed? Until how recently were more print zines in circulation before more webzines appeared?
You walk into any music store, venue, or convenience store and find a Steppin’ Out or Aquarian Weekly. I would say over the last decade we are getting fewer print zines. I think a lot of people probably find it easier and cheaper to have a website or Facebook page to reach a larger audience that otherwise would only target a local area.

Describe how Singaya’s first lineup formed and started writing. How long did this lineup work together from the beginning?
I had been out of the music scene for a couple of years. I had been playing in metal bands and was just losing interest in playing metal and doing screaming vocals. I wanted to get back to my roots where it started, so I had some songs laying around from when I was a teenager I kinda wanted to knock the dust off of. I contacted Mike about getting involved and maybe recording a couple to see what would happen. I answered an ad from a bass player, Johnny Madness, that was looking to start a punk band and had his own studio. I went down and checked it out. It was kinda weird ‘cause no one knew each other when we got there. We all got to jamming and it went alright. Madness told me not everyone would be coming back the next week so I took that time to say I had a drummer lined up, I’ve been sending some songs to you and do you wanna work on some of that material? So Mike comes in and we all get to jamming. Everyone was digging it and next was to find a lead guitarist. In came Elton who is a mutual friend of Mike and I from Mike’s previous band, Locked Together In Hatred. At first things were going good as we started writing new songs and played a few shows. As things started to take off everyone realized we need to put more time and effort in. That was when it started collapsing a little bit. Elton informed us he was gonna be taking time off to run his family’s business and Madness just didn’t have the time to put in we needed. Back to square one. We found a bass player (Billy Rozz) through Graiglist and I called up my guitarist (Jon Hamilton) from Ruins Of Akora. Since then we’ve been back on track writing new material. We have a bunch of shows lined up, radio interviews and some new recordings. Everyone’s hungry to move forward and see where this takes us.

How long was Ruins Of Akora active before Singaya? Were any demos or full lengths released by this band and if so. can they still be heard anywhere? How about Mike’s old band Locked Together In Hatred? Can we hear any material released by them?
Ruins Of Akora was around from about 2009-2013. They released a demo and an E.P. Just type it into Google and you will find what you are looking for: songs, videos, reviews. You definitely can find a link to Locked Together In Hatred’s Bandcamp https://ltihnj.bandcamp.com, or by typing them into Facebook you will find videos and songs.

How much experience has Billy Rozz had playing in bands, and how does his experience benefit the band?
He’s been around the NYC scene for over twenty years. Playing Rockabilly, Metal or Punk he brings that live show experience. He knows how to get the right energy out of a crowd and play to them. He’s got his stand-up bass and is all over the place with it. It lights up and is a real show within itself. Definitely something to come out and experience at one of our shows.

How was it to return to playing punk and hardcore after playing in metal bands? How many older songs did you uncover?
It was an easy transition even when I was just singing in bands. I always kept up on my guitar playing so I didn’t have to relearn anything. Punk always came more naturally to me I love the energy of it. At the time I had three older songs we ended up using two of them.

How many songs were completed around your first lineup change? Do you play them differently with new members?
We had eleven songs completed. When the new members came in we gave them freedom to add solos and their own touch. The core of the songs remained with added touches. I think that is important because everyone’s playing style is different so it’s cool to hear a different take on a song. It doesn’t feel like you are joining a cover band; at that point you make the songs your own.

How much of a difference did you hear in those songs when new touches were added?
Billy is a stand-up bass player so that alone changes the feel to the songs. Jon is a true lead guitar player so he’s got solos all over the place that weren’t there before. I think before it had the feel of two rhythm guitars; now you can hear the difference in the guitar playing and what everyone brings to the table.

Were your radio interviews for local stations or did internet stations air your interviews to wider audiences?
We did a call-in interview with Debbie Mazella for Debbie’s On the Verge. It was streamed online at Magic983.com and we are doing a follow up feature with her. We also did a premiere of our songs with Taylor Markarian from HXC Magazine. We have a couple reviews that will be available soon.

Which of your songs premiered with Taylor Markarian? How much listener feedback did those songs receive?
The two songs we premiered where Toxic and Get Away. So far we’ve had nothing but great feedback from everyone who checked them out. We’ve been grateful for all the reviews.

Did you know Mazella and Markarian before you hooked up with their radio programs? How much did those appearances help the band get exposure outside your area?
Mike and I met Debbie standing in line at a Zakk Sabbath show. She was there with her husband and we all just got to talking. She was telling us about how she was a DJ for a radio station. It turned out to be perfect ‘cause we have a band. She does a lot for local acts around NJ/NY and on Debbie’s On The Verge she interviews bands gives them a full writeup. It’s great there are people out there helping the local scene. Taylor and I met through a mutual friend. She’s active in the music community. I reached out to her about premiering our songs. She was more than happy to give us a write up and a premiere.

Now that there are internet radio shows worldwide, do you prefer that medium to promote the band or would you still contact physical zines for interviews?
Any press is good press in my opinion. Get the word out any way you can, talk to people and make connections.

Who in the band is writing the lyrics and where does the inspiration come from?
I write all the lyrics. My inspiration is all over the place. I’ve been told I write really depressing lyrics. I like to write about real life, stuff I’ve gone through, stuff I’ve watched people around me go through. For instance Get Away is about addiction and breaking habits, thinking you’ve got it beat then falling right back into it. It’s something I’ve experienced and watched others go through. I like that it’s a very upbeat poppy kind of song but has a serious message. A lot of the songs you hear today, especially on the radio, can be upbeat and pop sounding and it doesn’t even matter what you are saying as long as people can move to it. I really think that sucks. When I was a kid I would go to the record store and get a CD, and my favorite thing to do was to put it in, open the booklet and read the lyrics while listening start to finish. I think that’s sorta become a lost art these days and it’s a real shame ‘cause there are some great writers out there who deserve to be heard.

How often do you take the time to listen to an album all the way through? What are the full lengths with lyrics that spoke to you?
Almost every day. I’m always listening to music at work or at the gym. Lyric wise I can always turn to Life Of Agony’s River Runs Red, Darkest Hour’s Undoing Ruin, Nas’ It Was Written, Alice In Chains’ Jar Of Flies, Social Distortion’s White Light, White Heat, White Trash. Some recent ones would be Weezer’s White Album, Descendents’ Hypercaffium Spazzinate and David Bowie’s Blackstar to name a few.

Attention spans seem to have shortened to where people listen to one song from an album and nothing more. Can people today get more out of taking the time to listen to a full album and read all the lyrics?
You can definitely connect more to the music, I feel. Everything is done online these days. A band will just do a dry release that’s all digital. Especially for a DIY band the cost to make a full release, a lyric booklet with artwork. It’s just not in a band’s budget these days. You no longer have to purchase an album for that one song anymore; you can just download the single from it. But you are missing out on that artist’s entire album which they put their work into. Seems like no one has the time to sit down and consume an album like they did fifteen years ago. It’s really become a thing of the past to experience music that way.

What songs from the albums you cited most spoke to you lyric wise?
There are so many to name. The one that sticks out is With A Thousand Words To Say But One by Darkest Hour: “And to reflect is to regret throwing it all away, and apathy my one way street it took so much from me, separated by this divide I created through my fears and in your tears, you tried to show blind eyes and tell deaf ears.” John Henry is an amazing lyricist. Through And Through from Life of Agony’s River Runs Red, and anything off that album really gets to me. Alan Roberts’ words delivered through Keith Caputo’s huge voice you just get sucked in immediately. The Message off of Nas’s It Was Written… not really something I can relate to but to listen to the story put in front of you and how it flows together is pretty amazing. I don’t care what type of genre it falls under. I appreciate good writing and heartfelt lyrics. A lot of the garbage that’s on the radio today has none of that to me. It’s all about partying and how much money you have. Something we can all relate to right?

Musical entertainment has been dumbed down since 2000. We have boy bands and pop singers to thank for that. Is a good lyric by an underground band more important than ever?
Pop music has always been around. In the 80’s you had Madonna and Michael Jackson dominating the radio. Bands like Metallica, Slayer and Iron Maiden weren’t getting any love on the radio. You found out about those bands from word of mouth and going to shows. Bands are still making great music; you just have to look for it. It’s not going to be found on your top 40 hits station. The music business is just that, a business. They are gonna put in front of you things will sell for that time period. It doesn’t matter what they are singing about as long as they look good doing it and they can market it to their target audience. You wanna find good music and heartfelt lyrics go to shows, check out bands you’ve never heard, see what’s going on in your local scene. Be part of it and support the local bands who are just getting by because that’s where the emotion, energy and hunger is.

Are there newer bands from the last ten years whose lyrics are as worthwhile as those you’ve known for a long time?
You just gotta look for them. A lot of my favorite artists are still putting out music so I’ll always pick their CDs up. As far as newer artists, they are out there. You like old school rock n’ roll? Check out the band The Answer from Ireland; they’re amazing artists. You into punk? Give Blitzkid a listen. You into Rap? Check out Immortal Technique, someone who actually raps about real world problems. Metal? Check out the lyrics from the band Darkest Hour. He may be screaming but the lyrics are poetry. The Decemberists, Doomsday Prophecy, Gotham Road, Thanatonic Desire are bands putting out great music. You just gotta go out and look for them; you aren’t gonna hear any of these bands on the radio.

How many releases does the band have out, and have you seen improvement in your lyric writing since the beginning?
We did a demo early on called You’ve Got The Bite. It was still in the early stages of the band and I think it shows. The guy producing it did us no favors; he was literally the most bizarre individual I’ve ever met. As far as the lyrics, I can’t really tell as I’ve always been writing. Whether it was for a song or just my thoughts I’ve always enjoyed writing things so I can’t really answer if it’s improved.

The lyrics you have written for the band so far are influenced by horror punk. Are they mostly based on old movies and TV shows or classic horror novels you have read?
The early material was horror influenced “Dr. West Strikes Again” was a song I wrote about fourteen years ago about one of my all-time favorite horror movies Re-Animator. You’ve Got The Bite was kind of an intro based on the movie Dead Alive and where we got the name Singaya from. They’re Coming was written about The Walking Dead that I more recently got into. That’s pretty much it as far as the horror themed songs go. We are all fans of the Misfits, Blitzkid and a lot of the horror punk bands. But as we started working on new material is kinda strayed away from all that. It’s like that’s their thing and they are good at it; let’s go in a different direction. 

How do your lyrics fit the songs composed by the band? Is the music usually written first and does it have bearing on the lyrics?
It really depends. There are songs I wrote the music for first and some I wrote the lyrics for first. It depends what mood I’m in. I’ll get a melody in my head and start putting lyrics together, then as soon as I can grab an instrument I’ll have the whole thing written in twenty minutes. Sometimes I’ll be working out something on guitar for a while then come up with lyrics afterward. 90% of everything I write is on acoustic guitar. If I come up with a line I really like I can base an entire song around it and everything just falls into place. 

Singaya has been playing several shows lately, including one with Misfits guitarist Doyle at Dingbatz (Clifton, New Jersey). How did you manage to book that show and how often have you appeared at that venue?
It will be our second time playing with Doyle on his Abominate The World tour. We have worked with two different promoters on these shows, Nice Guy Booking and DAA Entertainment. We have all done shows with them from previous bands and with this band so they have been around the scene for a long time. It was as simple as just reaching out to them about it. We all have played Dingbatz countless times. As far as Singaya playing there, it was our fifth time.

Many of New York’s older clubs such as CBGB, L’Amours, Right Track Inn, Coney Island High and Wetlands closed or were forcibly removed while new clubs have appeared in the last ten years. Where does the band most like playing?
In this band we only have a few shows under our belt. Besides Dingbatz in Clifton, New Jersey we’ve played the Blue Room Lounge in Seacacus, NJ and the Brighton Bar in Long Branch, NJ. We’ve got upcoming shows at Otto’s Shrunken Head in Manhattan, Crossroads in Garwood, NJ and we are doing a backyard BBQ. This band is still young when it comes to shows but we all have past experience playing all over New York and New Jersey.
Where else in the US do you want the band to perform? Are there any clubs that out of state contacts have told you about?
We’d love to set up a tour for next year and play wherever we can. We are gonna just try and set the whole thing up on our own, with contacts of ours and some of my friends’ bands that have toured and see how it all goes down. 

Talk about material you have out or anything the band is working on? What lyrical ideas do you have in mind for future releases?
Right now we have our original demo You’ve Got The Bite and we just released two new singles Get Away and Toxic. We have about an album’s worth of material altogether, and we are continuing to write new music every day to see which songs will make it to the album. We are aiming to be in the studio in the fall of 2017 and to release the album in the winter. The lyrics are shifting away from the horror punk we started with and dealing more with real life struggles, living day by day and of course partying! 

How many copies of the demo and singles have been sold? Are they exclusively available in hard copy or can they be streamed on internet sites?
We have everything available through our websites Facebook and Big Cartel. They are also available on Itunes, Spotify and other streaming services. We sell hard copies at our shows. They usually sell well: a demo with album art a poster and sticker all for five bucks. You can’t beat it. 

What real life subjects are you basing lyrics on for the next album? On what bases will you choose the songs to appear?
All the struggles you can face in life: heartache, rejection, self-reflection, addiction, overcoming odds. That’s why we just keep writing so we can have a whole bunch of songs to choose from when we do the album and put something together that makes sense and flows well together. 
Has the band been suggesting titles for the album? How will you be promoting it upon its release this winter?
We’ve got the name of the album; we are kinda keeping it under wraps for now. We will start with the album art and photos towards the end of the summer and will be looking to promote it on all platforms of music streaming media, and hopefully work with someone on a premiere release. We will be pressing a limited number of hard copy CDs that will only be made available at our shows and through our website.


-Dave Wolff

Thursday, June 29, 2017

CD Review: REQUIEM FOR OBLIVION Burning Nation

REQUIEM FOR OBLIVION
Burning Nation
Independent
Released June 19 of this year, Burning Nation is the second full length from Requiem For Oblivion, the follow up to 2014’s Dark Tales of Forgotten Mindscapes. The Pennsylvania band formed in 2007, released a six song demo in 2010 (Funeral For Futility) and between 2011 and 2013 released two EPs. On Bandcamp RFO describe their music as “progressive extreme metal” but this term doesn’t mean they are taking extreme metal in a direction similar to prog bands like Dream Theater. Perhaps this would be too predictable a choice in the band’s view, as their approach is far more imaginative and you wouldn’t expect them to add what they include in their songwriting. What first strikes your mind is their fusion of death metal, doom metal and stoner rock in Fuckisil. Making this fusion work by combining blast with slower, doomier percussion and guitar harmonies, RFO continues in directions that become increasingly bizarre from there. The following track Shards of Glass is built on old grindcore in the vein of Carcass on their classic Reek Of Putrefaction, treating the listener to more death-doom metal with inventive fretboard work and harmonies almost too strange to describe. The more I listened to these songs the more outlandish and unusual I found them. The time changes are not what you expect from death metal, the solos gloomy, atmospheric and macabre, the production raw, the throaty death metal vocals more monstrous than usual… it sounds as if many hours of writing, composing, arranging and practicing were channeled into the making of this album. If you want more examples, there are the Voiviod/Pink Floyd elements, Joey DeMaio (Manowar) reminiscent bass and electronic effects in Death Legion, the transitions from brutal to somber and back again in the title cut, the goregrind and flamenco bass of The Alpha, The Omega, the jazz elements of I Am Myth and finally the atmosphere and grunge (!) elements of Disguised. You get something different in each song, from a band that truly thinks outside the box to deliver a singularly pivotal listening experience. -Dave Wolff

Track list:
1. Fuckisil
2. Shards Of Glass
3. Trench Battle Chaos
4. Death Legion
5. Burning Nation
6. The Alpha, The Omega
7. I Am Myth
8. Disguised

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

CD Review: OATH Mustan Liekin Veljeskunta

Mustan Liekin Veljeskunta
The second full length from the Finnish band, this release contains five tracks of cold unforgiving black-metal. With cold production and bleak riffage, this CD promises to take you in the same direction as Burzum and Nargaroth, along with other lesser known bands. Although I listened to these tunes on a sunny day, I was instantly transported to a frost-bitten mountain half way across the world. All tracks are great, but my favorite would have to be ''Pedon Profetia'', the longest track on this release. All the songs are pretty long. There are no short blitz-tracks here. The use of background synth and vocal harmony are used well, I might add. I will sum things up by saying this. Fans of black-metal need to give this release a listen. You need to. -Devin Joseph Meaney [Mustan Liekin Veljeskunta is limited to 1000 CD copies and is accompanied by a 12 page booklet. -DW]

Track list:
1. Aamutähden Poika
2. Lankeemuksen Tuhannet Kasvot
3. Khaos
4. Amen Apollymi
5. Pedon Profetia

Video Review: FINAL VOID Thoreau (Official Lyric Video)

Thoreau (Official Lyric Video)
From their debut album Sounds Of Absence
Video Editing by Toni Hangasmäki
I really liked this one. This track has the perfect balance of singing, growls, and amazing guitar solos. It has a very powerful message, at least it does for me. The sound is mellow and powerful, has great pick-ups. Another great thing for me is it strong and powerful, yet melodic. The video shows both mellow and peaceful images as well as strong and powerful ones. That works very well because the song is both mellow and powerful. It is like emotional rock with growls. It makes me think about my journey in life, and wonder what the songwriter was feeling when the song was written, because it is so full of feeling and raw emotion. Final Void is made up of Tuomas Kotajarvi-lead vocals, Janne Puranen-growls\bass, Toni Hangasmaki-lead guitar, Eino Roihuvuo-guitar, and Roni Revell-drums. Albert Hyronen played on this track as a guest guitarist after being a finalist in the guitar competition Kitarasaskari. Final Void is from Tampere Finland and was founded in 2012. They started work on their debut album in 2015 and released in Spring 2017. This track is definitely a great one, it makes me want to hear the rest of the album. The band has a very unique sound and a lot of talent. -Deanna Revis

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Author Interview: WITCHDOCTOR UTU

Interview with author WITCHDOCTOR UTU

Let’s start by discussing your background, your education and experience in your chosen field. What set you on your path and how meaningful have your travels been?
When it comes to a chosen field, it’s a strange one that has me straddling two different paths to a degree. While I have been involved in modern witchcraft since the mid 90s, and still am a part of that movement as a whole, at the same time I have been immersed in the North American conjure and voodoo traditions as well, with the music, magic and travel of the Dragon Ritual Drummers being the bridge that connects the two. The Dragon Ritual Drummers have essentially formed our own esoteric tradition of magic and reverence, focusing on obscure and primal serpentine entities that have been a part of North American lore for thousands of years, that being giant "horned serpents" akin for lack of a better word to dragons. These entities have been at times revered by various Native American nations and as time travelled, relegated by others as "evil", malignant, banished and slayed powers. They were once the epitome of the ancient earth and her cycles, but eventually became the representation of archaic chaos and destruction. Our drum troupe is comprised of members of a local Niagara pagan men’s circle, all our members over the years have come from that lodge, which has been in existence for 21 years, the Dragon Ritual Drummers are at this point a tribal troupe that has been going since the year 2000, albeit only in the last 7 or so years that we have been travelling and performing on an international stage. For us we had decided as a mish mash of tribal drummers, to reach out through magic and rhythm to the giant horned serpent of our region in Niagara that has a legendary if not controversial legacy. Giant horned serpents were once revered in our region by descendants of mound builders, who left their trace from the Ohio River Valley all the way to here in Niagara. However around the mid 1600s, shortly after French colonials arrived, the Iroquois nation routed the local tribe who were neutral in a long standing feud between the Iroquois and Huron nations, hence in history they are referred to as the "Neutral Indians", although they were called by their surrounding tribes the "Onguiaahra", or "Attawandaron". They were entirely routed and destroyed, and common to the conquering Iroquois at that time, the serpent was allegorically slayed by the Iroquois sky god hero in an epic battle at the brink of Niagara Falls, which was the lair of the horned serpent. Many of the regions that were once inhabited by ancient mound builders, eventually had the Iroquois thunder god slaying a giant horned serpent and freeing a human maiden that was its consort. We reached out to that still existent paradigm of power, and the tangible results is a major part of our troupe’s success. We performed a series of small shows to honour the serpent, thought nothing more of it than it being a magic for us to demonstrate some devotion and attention to its legacy, but in short time were invited on twice to the local rock radio station 97.7 Hits FM, a huge listening audience in Southern Ontario. From there in short time again were invited on to three different Television shows as well as a few more performances, we soon recognized we were in the midst of sorcery in motion. We figured lets record a CD, surely that would round out this magic endeavour, buy that only furthered the cause and lore and we are here now, over a decade later in the throes of a career we never thought we would be involved in, well a side career at least. All of our members over the years have adorned themselves with a custom tattoo in the likeness of the serpent, a gauntlet and rite so to speak, it’s our logo and mark of our troupe. Basically we recognize that without the devotion towards that ancient serpentine power, we would never have even began this exotic path of music, magic and travel. We owe everything to that tangible ancient entity, and as crazy as that sounds to many, its reality. We honour it still to this day, every time we travel, whether by car or being flown to as far as Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, Alberta, we hail our local horned serpent lore and power, it doesn’t get much more Viking that that!
That all being said, there is another spiritual force that we have become synonymous with, and that is the spirit world of North American conjure and voodoo, in particular the spirits of the Underground Railroad. We are based in a town called St Catharine’s in the Niagara region of Ontario, which has a unique legacy in that this where Harriet Tubman, the celebrated conductor of the Underground Railroad (U.G.R.R) brought her particular "track" of freedom to its end. It was here that she lived, prayed and planned out her many trips back and forth during the height of the U.G.R.R. bringing her freedom seekers north of the U.S. border, and something not focused on at all, is just how many of the freedom seekers escaping slavery, as well as Harriet "Mama Moses" herself were involved in root work, conjure and voodoo. These spirits themselves are very tangible and bring a great reward to those that exalt them and their legacy of freedom fighting and justice. Again it sounds crazy to many, but the spirits of the U.G.R.R. are tangible forces, and to shed light upon their legacy is a unique gift that our travel and music is associated with. While we do at times play at large mainstream events that is just about our rhythmic music, many of our performances are at spiritual, pagan, witchcraft or voodoo themed events across North America, so we also facilitate open ceremonies and rituals to connect and celebrate the U.G. R.R. spirit world with the attendees at the festivals we play at, something that has become as popular and desired as our shows, and our shows are totally interactive performances that celebrate the spirit worlds of many legacies housed with in North American voodoo and conjure. So when it comes to our travel, music sales etc., we truly do owe it all to the esoteric nature of our troupes focus. Everywhere we go, preform and travel is an extension of our troupes spiritual practices, its unique and never lost on us, so we keep it all sacred and at the surface. Doesn’t mean we forget that we are essentially Viking across the continent, and we certainly do worship the pantheon of Rock and Roll, so we have a good time doing it and savouring the at times hedonistic antics that a crazy, chaotic tribal drumming circus can bring forth. We live it like its sacred and live it like it could all end tomorrow. What better way to honour the sacred dead than to live a full life for and in honour of them, while drinking from their elixir of reverence, travelling and performing their stories.

What was your inspiration for studying modern witchcraft and voodoo to begin with?
Personally that would be hard to pin down exactly, I was born in Scotland, so in general our culture is very much intertwined with the world of ghosts, witches and spiritualism runs in the family too. As for modern witchcraft it was in my early 20s that I innocently came across an active coven of witches in St. Catharine’s where I had recently moved back in the early 90s. After becoming friends with that coven I eventually followed the gauntlet of entry and trust and became a member. I immersed myself for nearly a decade in that tradition and became clergy in it. It was an occult tradition centered out of Texas and was of a Sumerian flow, magic akin to the ancient Sumerians, which was very different from the Wicca that was more commonly known to many. When it comes to voodoo, that happened again by accident, as a drummer I was intrigued by the service of ritual drums in voodoo, drumming was a big part of the Sumerian tradition too, so eventually I was invited to drum at Santerian ceremonies that were in need of competent drums, and slowly but surely after serving various houses in the general vicinity of where I lived, began to get invites to others a day or so away of a drive, it just snowballed, and myself and a small group followed the trail of manifestation via the drums, which eventually lead me right to a ritual held by Priestess Miriam Chimani and Louis Martine of the New Orleans Voodoo Spiritual Temple, that was in 1999, and I have been a member of the temple since the year 2000. Once I met, saw and felt the unique spiritual blessings and tradition of the New Orleans Voodoo Spiritual Temple, I knew I had found a place I would be part of for many many years. I still serve the temple, and have also served as an Egungun drummer for Prince Bamidle Bajowa of the Royal House of Rebuja, in Youruba Land Nigeria for many years now. That’s paraphrasing a decade or more but essentially that is how I become immersed and involved in witchcraft and now to a larger degree North American voodoo and Yoruba Ifa. All of it was following the beat of sacred drums and the ritual service of the drum. It has taken myself and members of the Dragon Ritual Drummers to exotic travel and so much gratifying spiritual exchange. I now have my own tradition and temple here in St. Catherine’s to honour and exalt the spirits legacy of the Underground Railroad.

Why do you think the Horned Serpents are regarded as sacred to some cultures and malignant to others?
That’s because the indigenous native religions say so, some of the traditions of various native nations say as much, that they were archaic and evil entitles that meant to harm humanity, others say they were ancient and wise, chaotic and primal yes, but to some they are sacred and still revered. Its complicated for sure, I have befriended many a Native healer, and met many across the continent, some of them when I talk of the horned serpents are open and intrigued at what our band has done as far as working with the one here in Niagara, others offer extreme caution and question why, totally understood as well, it’s not lost on us that we are, and for the most part secretly other than the occasional interview, working with something that is controversial, but as they say you can argue with manifestation, and here we are, our troupe is totally connected to the horned serpent of the waters of Niagara, its reality, albeit one that rightfully challenges the very few. We have been very lucky that far more indigenous healers have offered support in our private workings from afar, offered us blessings as well as medicine and advice so that we can continue to do, all of that is very sacred to us, it means a lot that we receive the blessings and medicine we do from the native healers that offer it to us, because that is not common at all. Other cultures and their views of what ancient giant serpents were, called dragons by many, are not really a problem, those ancient religions are gone, there may be reconstructed versions of them, but dragon veneration will not insult anyone like it can to some of our indigenous peoples here in the Americas. When it comes to dragon veneration, no one takes it to the level of sanctity as the Chimers and Japanese cultures, and so whenever we have interacted with them in ceremony, and we have, they love that we are connected to that ancient power, because to them it’s sacred and celebrated.

What other similarities do you see between witchcraft, Native American lore and voodoo?
The similarities to witchcraft, voodoo and Native American religions are really not that many. Witchcraft is what it is, its magic, and there are vast differences between even numerous witchcraft traditions, whether they be European ones; the older cultural traditions that are intertwined with saints and other Catholic and Christian paradigms, vs the newer or neo pagan traditions such as Wicca, which is goddess oriented and a reconstruction of sorts, with much more emphasis on ancient European pagan lore. Native American religions and spirituality is still intact, has not needed to be reconstructed, and for the most part is practiced by Native Americans and first nations here in Canada. Their spiritual practices have been hyper appropriated by many new age and eclectic workers, which is not a very celebrated reality, depending on whom you ask I suppose. As for voodoo, again a tradition that has many branches and many opinions on who should be involved in them. Voodoo is an African American legacy, part of their experience and various cultural celebrations, albeit many people of non-African heritage these days are involved in it, and again, depending on who you ask is whether that’s a good thing or not. They are all similar in that they can at times be animistic, depending on the tradition, as well as ancestral based, but neo pagans are only recently really getting that part and putting into their practices. One would think they would make great allies, but it’s not always the case. There have always been bridge builders from each that will share and connect with each other, and it’s always great when that happens.

Do you read books on the subjects you have covered up to now? Who are the most knowledgeable authors you have read?
I am not much of a book reader, not anymore although I have a veritable library in my home. I do go through ones colleagues or friends of mine have written or get published, if they have sent or given me one. Those tend to be books on magic, witchcraft, conjure etc. When it comes to giant horned serpents, at least the ones of North American lore, all that information is gleaned from sections of dozens of books on Native American mythology in my library, that and my own general research over the years including time spent with Native medicine people that are familiar with them and or willing to talk about them. For witchcraft and voodoo, I am clergy in those traditions, so I was taught and schooled person to person, there really is no books a person must read, but authors on subjects ranging from magic to the occult, voodoo to root work, there are a few that stand out. For witchcraft; Judika Illes, Raymond Buckland, Silver Raven Wolf and Raven Grimassi are well known and prolific authors on the subjects, from historical to hands on. For voodoo and or root work/conjure; Denise Alvarado, Starr Casas and Louiis Martine have all written a good few books each, again from the historic to hands on. If I read a book, at this point it’s most likely a dry one that is research oriented, or written by a friend, or one that is about some historic rock and roll band or personality, I do like to read about the rock gods.

Does Native American folklore and legend come into your studies? What wisdom have you gained from their parables?
Only as mentioned before in regards to the lore of the horned serpents. Any wisdom I have gained from the Native American or First Nations has been from their healers or teachers, usually in conversation or during a ceremony. And as I mentioned before if it’s about the horned serpents it’s a mixed bag of response, anything else gained is usually of a personal matter that I hold close.

Who are some of the rock and roll personalities you have read about in recent years, and in which books?
The most recent rock and roll bio I read was Ace Frehley's from KISS, of which I am a big fan, at least the little kid in me still is. I always had a fascination with KISS as a youngster, and truth be told our drum troupe sort of emulate them in as much as we can when it comes to stage show. While not in the same universe or budget, we do try to use certain props, fog machines, lights et cetera to enhance the tribal vibe we play, we joke among ourselves for certain events if we should do the "KISS" show or not at some venues. At one of them it’s simply not possible, we play at a fire pit sometimes, other times a great indoor venue with a day to set up. When we were flown down to the Florida Pagan Gathering a couple of years back, we were checking out the stage area that the bands play at, we noticed that the stage was in a weird spot with an empty field behind it, whereas on the other side of the pavilion was a pile of palm trees and this cool weird concrete riser, about four feet in height. We told the guy in charge of set up that we wanted to maybe movie the stage to other side of the pavilion and incorporate that riser and trees... he was not too thrilled, I said to him, "You flew us down here, do want the cool show we can do, or do want the full KISS show?" he laughed and got on the radio and said "We need some guys here to move the stage" and then looked at me said, "obviously we want the KISS show". But I have a huge collection of rock and roll bio books, everything from The Doors to Zeppelin, Beatles to Grateful Dead, Genesis to Hendrix, I love all the salacious stories as well as the rise of a group of nobodies to world renown, always a great tale with many lessons to be gleaned. Not to get too sidetracked but in our modern group of public witches, is a good friend Jason Mankey, who has a whole series of workshops and rituals that are totally about rock and roll and paganism, and how they are interconnected, especially with certain bands that did indeed weld magic or sang about it, pretty cool stuff.

I read about Jason Mankey’s ritual for Jim Morrison; I believe the publication was Metal, Magick & Mythos zine. If you’re familiar with this, what are your thoughts on it?
Yeah Jason Mankey's Jim Morrison ritual. I have participated in it. It’s far from a traditional witchcraft ceremony but cool nonetheless. Guided meditations are not uncommon at neo pagan festivals, most of them being about finding your animal totems, awakening your inner something or other, all respectable in their own right. Some are better than others, so why not have one that is guided by a rock music legend. Jason gave me a copy of the mixed Doors music CD he uses for that guided ritual. Here in Canada when he was doing one I had a broken leg at the time, and had my Jeep down at the fire pit where it was happening, which offered up the much louder stereo for it. I think it’s a great guided mediation/ritual, explores the esoteric nature of the Doors’ music in general, the Dionysian aspect of the Jim Morrison legend, has folks moving about the circle, and while it’s a romantic journey into a strange world, there is a great humour to it all as well. Jason is for sure a fellow rock and roll lover, and again, he connects it to pagan lore, magic and sorcery. It’s a part of rock and roll here in the Americas where it was born. Gotta remember that rock and roll is a fusion of African rhythm and song, with European, in particular Irish and German instrumentation from the fiddle to the accordion. That fusion which birthed jazz is what gave way to rhythm and blues, and much of the early rhythm and blues is steeped in sorcerous lore, from historic players claiming to gain talent in midnight graveyards and remote crossroads; summoning entities to enhance their craft, along with just how much early blues were songs about black cat bones, mojo hands and hoodoo hexes. Magic is a part of the fabric of rock and roll, a huge legacy that is culturally pertinent to America, a unique expression that could have only happened here, and while its soaked in the blood and deplorable legacy of slavery and poor ostracized immigrants, it has become the cultural expression of America, which is now the foundations of pop culture and music worldwide.

If you were ever to base a ritual on a prominent singer, who do you think it would be and why?
Hmmm, well to be honest pop culture magic is not really one of my fortes, but I think Jason Mankey hit a good one with Jim Morrison, despite the hedonism and debauchery associated with Morrison. His lyrics, poetry and philosophies were very much based on the esoteric, ritual and role of the shaman. That being said, legends are leaving us these days at a saddening rate. It’s up to the person to find that link, that passion for the cultural figure, a person so inclined could find a rhyme or reason to do a ritual for everyone from Elvis to Prince, Bowie to Chuck Berry. I don’t talk about it much if ever outside of my inner circle, but I am related, albeit distant but related nonetheless to Bon Scott from ACDC, so maybe one day Ill include him in an ancestral rock and roll rite of some sort. 

Which books by Raymond Buckland have you collected, and how informative would you say they are?
Raymond Buckland, I mentioned him for his sheer prolific legacy of writing books on modern witchcraft since the 80s. For the most part too his books were hands on methods, which was very popular for many. He comes with some controversy as far as some of his historical facts, but many read his books back in the day, and to a degree many new comers still do. A great modern writer of witchcraft is Christopher Penczack. He has written many books, hands of formula galore, and a great guy too, I know him well.

How much controversy regarding historical accuracy has arisen from Buckland’s books on witchcraft?
When it comes to Buckland's books, depending on who you ask is the determination as to how controversial his historic accounts were. He was far from the only author on hands on witchcraft from his day to do so, he just happened to be one of the most popular. For the most part it’s probably a time and era sort of thing. Research capabilities have dramatically changed from the 70s and 80s, history has a way of always being reinterpreted or redefined, so I think it’s more in that vein, as opposed to outright misinformation. There were and still is a lot of myths and misconceptions about European witchcraft and witchcraft in general in many books from hands on to academia. We could fill a book on the topic to be honest. Raymond Buckland is a living legend, I have met him, and he is a humble guy. As time wanders, research and views, some at least, can become obsolete, it’s the same for everything whether its science, history or witchcraft. The hands on work his books entail still holds up in my opinion. He is in a rare club.

Can you think of other examples in which historical facts are refined or rediscovered?
Bear in mind some of these details are still being debated and my opinion, while the opinion of many, would still be argued I suppose by some, but this is an example of a part of witchcraft history that has changed, or been debunked so to speak. In some of the modern witchcraft books of the early 80s and 90s, which were pretty much the only hands on ones available at the time, there was a narrative put forth, in particular by the Gardnerian tradition founders (circa 1950s) that there was an unbroken line of covens and pagan worship in Europe going back hundreds and hundreds of years, in particular in the British Isles right back to the "burning times", the burning times being a purported era of women witches and pagans being exterminated by the "millions" by the Christian overlords of Europe. These narratives are for the most part now debunked, not a popular reality but one none the less. The burning times were not pagan women being rounded up by the millions, most of the witch burnings were for political reasons and land grabs, not to say there were not witches burned at the steak, we know that happened, and happened a lot, they were tortured in all sorts of horrible ways, but it was not "millions", and there was no "pagan faith" still holding out. By medieval times whatever ancient pagan religions that were once in Europe had long since been gone and forgotten. Folk traditions survived, celebrations surrounding solstices and equinoxes etc. still to this day survive, but that was hardly a clandestine intact pagan faith being handed down coven to coven over hundreds and hundreds of years, it simply was not true, and this we now know. As well any of us, myself included that were born in Europe know, “witchcraft" in Europe, survived, or grew out of, aligning much of the cultural folk magics with Catholicism and Protestantism. Witchcraft is magic, magic and witchcraft exists within Christian, Jewish and Islamic cultures. So there really wasn't countless covens passing down intact secret European pagan religions and circle casting. The way many modern "wiccans" cast their circle is based upon mysteries from the storied "Order of the Golden Dawn", as well as a host of other Masonic and ceremonial practices, it’s all a great formula, very effective, but a few men started it, combined mysteries in the post Victorian era, it was not secretly handed down as a pagan faith surrounding goddess worship, it just wasn't true, and sadly some of the early writers said it was, a narrative that was furthered for almost two decades till the good ol' internet and modern research became more accessible to the average person. Hasn't really mattered munch, witchcraft adapts, it always has, communities build and new mysteries are formed, formula handed down, witchcraft continues to grow, we cast magic, share and blend mysteries to this day, it’s just done so without having to make up a story in order to justify it. That false narrative gave way to folks claiming that they were the guardians of an ancient family tradition of European traditions surviving a thousand years, it’s kind of funny actually but it happens in all faiths, all circles. Famous Salem witch Laurie Cabot, who came to Salem in the early 70s, to build a modern witchcraft legacy in a town mired in murders in the name of witchcraft, she came there to bring a healing legacy, one that celebrates witchcraft in a place known for its persecution. She did not make up a story of being a descendant of Salem witches, did not make up a story about how she came to be a witch and that legacy is now a multimillion dollar tourist and educational Juggernaut. Whereas a Salem "witch" named "Lori Bruno", who came along after Cabots beginning the community there, has a total fabricated story of being a descendant of historical figures and Sicilian witchcraft going all the way back to medieval times, laughable to most, especially those in our community that are historians, researchers etc. or just people exercising common sense. Thankfully this is rare nowadays in modern witchcraft, not completely eradicated ala Lori Bruno and her made up legacy. Sadly the "community" that exists, if one can say that, among those that practice hoodoo, conjure and root work, is now the new laughable lot where so many out of nowhere claim to be taught by their grandparents some sort of previously unknown conjure by a never before heard of root worker. For the most part these folks both black and white, are combining elements of Santeria, Haitian vodou and many other Caribbean or African based practices into a pot and calling it a handed down hoodoo tradition. Theses crazy claims are called "granny stories" by many, it’s just so senseless. I use myself as an example, while I have been taught, mentored and initiated, my Niagara Voodoo Shrine tradition, practices of working with and exalting Harriet "Mama Moses" Tubman, "Captain" John Brown, Auntie Sojourner Truth and a host of other spirits from the Underground Railroads legacy and lore, there is no mystery, I created that tradition, and have taken nearly seventeen years to exact it to a formula. But I created it, and everyone knows it. Well not everyone evidently, because now supposed "traditional southern conjurers" are emulating some of my work, assuming it’s always been there and so now they incorporate it as something historic, which brings much amusement to many. It’s just human nature I suppose, and I should probably take it as a compliment, and before you ask I will not name who any of these root workers and conjurers are, not now. So long story short, history in the esoteric and occult has always been in flux, always been in motion, but for true workers, true sorcerers it matters not, because at the end of the day each person is their own witch, their own warlock, they decide if what they cast and conjure is effective, and as long as we are honest with ourselves and our peers, it’s all good, and if treated with honesty and if its effective it will be handed down, shared and withstand the test of time.

How long have you known Christopher Penczack and how long has he been publishing?
Christopher Penczak is of my generation, and we have lots of respect for the one or two generations before us that were authors or teachers, but he is a modern day legend in the making. He may not say as much, but you would be hard pressed to find someone in our community that would argue that. I have known Christopher for probably ten years now, and we see each other at many events we both present at, whether in Canada or the U.S., we have hung out and had some great times. I have drummed for some of his unique rituals he facilitates at pagan festivals, he does a good job of incorporating integral witchcraft techniques to his own unique and original mystic approach. He is a mystic, an educator and a great teacher. He has his "Temple of Witchcraft" in New Hampshire, run along with his partner Steve Kenson. My favourite book of his is "The Mighty Dead", for the fact that it’s about working with your ancestors and spirits in general, which is paramount in my opinion. But all his works are good for any person wanting to learn as well as work magic akin to modern witchcraft.

Name some of the events where you and Penczack have appeared together.
I have been at festivals with Christopher Penczak over many years in Canada and the United States. We have been at "Wisteria Summer Solstice Festival" together, the "Festival of the Dead" in Salem, "Hex Fest" in New Orleans, and "Between the Worlds". I’m sure there is a few more but off the top of my head those ones stand out.

How would you describe the festivals where you and Penczack have attended, and the local scenes they are held in?
The festivals I attend are pretty vast in as far as content and energy, some of them are mainstream events whether musical or cultural with large stages, which are great. It’s really fun to play to large crowds and to be ambassadors in a way while performing at them. Others that fall under the "pagan" or "spiritual" are also very different at times depending on the size as well as what state they are in can make a big difference, whether they are in Canada or the U.S. can also make a big difference as well. But when it comes to the "pagan" festivals, despite the differences or nuance they tend to be similar; very open and welcoming to folks, very celebratory, usually in a remote area surrounded by nature. They are mostly a few days of camping, so at times there can be an ethereal vibe and energy. Pagan festivals are not just about music either; there are workshops during the days, rituals at night, and usually a revel fire or communal area to hang out at, that is where there are usually drummers and dancers around the fire at night, a highlight for many in attendance. At night there is usually a show from a pagan musical ensemble or performer. That’s what we are always a part of at any pagan festival that has brought us to their event. The guys from the troupe back me up and I usually facilitate a ritual or ceremony for the attendees to participate in, and it’s almost always a voodoo ritual to honor Harriet "Mama Moses" Tubman and the spirits of the Underground Railroad. A pagan festival is like a gathering of the tribes, many traditions are in attendance by folks that may or may not be practicing witches and is just there for the good time, good energy and open concept. Nothing is perfect, but the pagan festival is a great cultural event, great fun and has a unique way of facilitating revelry as well as hands-on education in various forms of magic and spirituality. All done by headliners, authors and experienced practitioners sharing their way of witchcraft, sorcery etc. As for a local scene, sometimes the festival is run by folks near the area it is being held in, but there is almost always a decent showing to a pagan festival from folks in the surrounding regions. A pagan festival is indeed a timeless event, a neo tribal celebration of the ancient gods, freedom and the joys of being alive.

Do you currently host your own pagan rituals? If so, describe them to the readers.
I do indeed host my own rituals and ceremonies, especially in my general vicinity that includes Ontario, Canada and Western New York. Those are usually ceremonies akin to Underground Railroad conjure and voodoo. They happen at various locations from my home; The Niagara Voodoo Shrine, as well as public parks or privately owned properties that can accommodate them. I also along with a small gang of close friends organize a yearly retreat called "The Canadian Conjuration Camp Out" which is an intimate event for about fifty or so folks. We bring in a couple of presenters each year to teach or share their particular brand of conjure, root work etc. and we hone it to focus on the legacy of Harriet "Mama Moses" Tubman and the spirits of the Underground Railroad, which is our region’s spiritual legacy as it pertains to conjure and root work. This coming one in August will be the fifth year of the camp out.

How do you usually spread word about the Niagara Voodoo Shrine? Do you plan to reach more people or do you prefer to keep the event intimate?
I do both. We, or I, on behalf of the Niagara Voodoo Shrine are often main gusts or presenters at large popular pagan, witchcraft and conjure related events all year. I teach classes and lecture at stores, meet up groups etc. akin to the esoteric, and I try to keep certain events or ceremonies I do intimate. It just all depends, it’s a constant ebb and flow. When it comes to events or workings I do personally, intimate is good, as a guest at other events I have had literally hundreds in attendance, and those are great.

Is writing books on witchcraft and voodoo something you would consider doing? How many could you compile?
I am in the midst right now of finalizing a book actually, about what else; voodoo, root work and conjure for Mama Moses and the spirits of the Underground Railroad. Not only finishing it up, but in talks with a publisher in the hopes to get it out there through a respectable means. It’s a pretty big piece of work as it stands now. It’s a Grimoire of conjures, spell work and formula for working with and exalting the heroic and unique figures that were integral in the Underground Railroad. So it’s a full on formula to interact with and revere as well as commune with those spirits and the blessings they can bestow upon the living. I hope to know soon some actual info on if there is some traction with one publisher of great renown for such subjects. I think I have a few books in me for sure, and this year and next is pretty much about me getting on it and working on them, but I have to get this one done first. Truth be told I did write a drink recipe book a few years ago, but that’s another story for some other time.

How much study and research did you do for information about the Underground Railroad for your events and printed work?
I have been immersed in research and applying formula to the conjure and root work for the spirits of the Underground Railroad since the year 2000. It never stops either, one could spend a lifetime immersed in it, and by the looks of it I will continue to be so. It has taken me to meet and discuss the U.G.R.R. with some of the movements most celebrated academic authors and researchers, albeit what I focus on; voodoo, conjure and root work of the movement and its historical figures not something many of them want to touch, but they for the most part are intrigued at my angles and work, some not so much. The U.G.R.R. is very much associated with Christian values, and the Christian faith has a proprietary stake in its history, and there was indeed a heavy Charlatan foundation to many of its historical figures and those that travelled the roads to freedom, but at the same time, conjure, voodoo and root work was as much a part of the legacy of those that sought their freedom as any other part of the history of the U.G.R.R. The topics of voodoo and conjure are not celebrated subjects at the best of times in academic circles let alone as a focal point of one of North America’s most endearing and historical movements of freedom and justice. So it’s no surprise at all, and nothing that I can control.

What Christian values were associated with the Underground Railroad, going by your research?
The Underground Railroad is completely defined by and associated with Christianity, at least on the surface and narrative presented by academia, for reasons I mentioned. It was indeed the spirituality of many that fled for freedom, as well as many that were the enablers of the movement, Christianity is the ruling religion of the Americas right now, and was even more so in the 1800s. All the spirituals, prayers and figures of the Underground Railroad’s foundations are Christian based. I am just one of those that sheds light upon the fact that while Christian values were indeed a paramount part of the wheel, so too was African spirituality and religion, and in many cases a combination of the two were employed, which is what voodoo, conjure and root work is, also not arguable, just not a topic that is popular in academia when it comes to the Underground Railroad.

How soon do you expect your book to be published? How many publishing companies have you contacted so far?
I hope to have it out to the public as soon as possible, or as soon as such things are possible. It’s kind of complicated; there really isn’t much I can or should say other than I have one in the works, and I’m doing what one does to try to get it out there for folks to read and work with. It’s a hands-on work book, while there is history to a degree in there, it’s also a hands on formula to work with the many spirits of the Underground Railroad.

Do you have ideas in mind for other books once your current project is completed?
I do have a few book ideas in the works, but I don’t want to mention them. I have enough folks nipping at my heels and trying to circumnavigate around me. Just keep your eyes open. Once I get some finalization on the one for the spirits of the Underground Railroad I’ll start going full throttle with a few more.

How would you want to be remembered for your contributions to the world of magic and occultism?
Ha! Not sure what to say about that. I’m hopefully going to be around a good while so who knows what the future has in store or if the "occult" would even care to remember me at all. As it stands now, the Dragon Ritual Drummers have achieved a few milestones. We are the most successful pagan drum troupe ever, not that there are a ton of them out there. But if any of them following, and a few have, they do so following in a few footsteps and a trail or two we have clearly left behind, from music awards to number one on charts for genres we sort of fit into, to getting flown from one end of the continent to another. We blindly set a bar while minding our business and just doing our thing. I suppose my work with the spirits of the Underground Railroad and the conjure and root work surrounding it would be worth a line in my memorandum, but who knows, while life is short it’s also very long. My work here is not even close to being done, and I don’t have the manual, not yet anyway. Hey the Dragon Ritual Drummers will be in NYC in July for "Witch Fest USA", come meet the gang! This will actually be our first official trip to New York City, we start the day of "Witch Fest U.S.A." leading the parade into the event area with none other than legendary NYC witch "Lady Rhea", and then we close out the day with a full show, which we are super excited about. The Saturday of Witch Fest U.S.A. is free, and we plan on shaking the buildings with some tribal thunder.





-Dave Wolff