We here at Heavy Blog are proud to have been saying “what the hell is in Australia’s water?” for at least five years now. The music scene over there has been blowing up for at least that long, if not longer, creating some of the most innovative, crushing, intriguing and just plain excellent music in the world. To these by-now hallowed annals, we can add Cancer, a black metal band that’s all about ambiance, abrasive tonality and depressing atmosphere. Hot off of their second release, Into the Heartless Silence, Cancer seem poised to add to the growing plethora of excellent black metal being made today, offering their own version on the formula with their own off-kilter and disharmonious touches to composition.
Naturally, hearing more about what makes such a band tick, since they seem to fuse black metal with a whole lot more influences operating in the background. And, indeed, when you look at the picks that John Pescod (vocals) included below and their write-ups, you find classical black metal influences alongside more discordant and twisted takes on the classic genres. Thus, without further ado, we consign you to the able hands and vocal chords of Pescod, for a dive into what makes a modern black metal band work. Don’t forge to also head on over to the band’s Bandcamp below to listen and order the album. You won’t regret it.
Condensing a lifetime of influences, lyrically, artistically and musically is no mean feat and one I don’t take lightly. With every passing day, there is always something I draw inspiration from. Whether it be the nuances and drudgery of the corporation we all live in known as Earth, attached to everything yet dejected from existence; the mourning and celebration of a loved one’s trials or tribulations; the sheer frustration and callousness we endure from other people’s selfish and hypocritical ways; or the simplicity of being able to pause, breathe, reflect, levitate in one’s stream of consciousness on a bus, in a whiskey glass, or out in a barren forest. Everything shapes, everything ebbs and flows, and everything draws meaning to our lives.
With that thought, here are three albums that have drawn the most meaning to my life and shaped me in a way in which lead me to create, with fellow companions, at Cancer (Aus) the music you hear today:
Emperor – In The Nightside Eclipse
Though there is not much point me elaborating on the details of this album – we’ve all heard it, we’ve all distilled it to its bare essence – it does ring impactful to me even to this day. I can safely say this is the album that turned me from an inquisitive metalhead, who enjoyed losing himself in a mosh at a bar, or even in my car, into a person that wanted to write, create and paint the mental landscapes I dared dream. I remember in my teenage years being introduced to metal bands and was fascinated by the aesthetic of black metal. I never understood what drove people towards this musical realm, but still, it lured me with intrigue. Listening to commercially successful black metal bands like Dimmu Borgir was my first introduction, but it never pulled me. It wasn’t until I was on my first backpacking holiday when I 18 years old – away from friends and family on the opposite side of the world with fuck-all money but fuck-tonnes of freedom – traversing through the fjords and mountains of Norway, that In The Nightside Eclipse spoke to me. It may sound incredibly corny, but I honestly felt I was one with the forests and landscape, completely detached from the pointless noise and voices from demons in the past, submerged only in the present. Me, my own god. No one else.
Moonsorrow – Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa
I’ve always loved listening to this band, not only because of their clear black metal / pagan sound but because I hold so many of my dear memories while listening to them. A few close friends of mine used to hold a ritual piss up annually called ‘Finnfest’. Tonnes of Australian sun and sunburn, cheap Vodka and beers, meat, blue paint and Finnish music. Though it may have been a fun packed day, my jaw would drop anytime I heard one of Moonsorrow’s songs played. I couldn’t fathom how they made ten-plus minute black metal and pagan themed songs sound so engaging, so that even my friends who weren’t into black metal still windmilled and weren’t deterred by the sheer length. Even my girlfriend, who only dabbles a little bit in metal, has this band on her playlist because it reminds her of early Metallica albums! I have driven all the way through Finland, from Helsinki all the way up to the Norway-Finland border town of Utsjoki, listening to this band non-stop; I have been caught dry-heaving bile from a case of food poisoning at Metaldays 2014 in Tolmin, Slovenia, after losing my mind the previous day in the valleys of snow-capped mountains listening to their epic songs live; and I’ve lost count how many times I’ve drunkenly chanted with mates the main melody to ‘Sankaritarina’ off Voimasta Ja Kunniasta. I even took up learning to play Jaw Harp because of this band. They are the quintessence of everything I want to create but can’t because they did it first!
VI – De Praestigiis Angelorum
I have a confession to make: I’m obsessed with discordant riffs. I never used to be, and preferred leaning towards the melodic and emotional spheres of black metal; whether that be atmospheric, depressive or suicidal themes, with sprinkles of paganism and occultism. I was introduced to a few French black metals growing up in Perth through a person – who’d probably prefer I not name – who formally played in Wardaemonic but now plays in a handful of other great Australian black metal bands including Drohtnung, Pestilential Shadows and Advent Sorrow. Deathspell Omega, Blut Aus Nord, were a few I got introduced to. This album though by VI, I discovered on my accord trawling the internet one night.
The rest, as they say, is history. To this day, I keep wanting to push soundscapes VI have broached in my own music and love other bands who do the same, such as fellow Australian band Departé. In some ways, VI reminds me of the countless hours I spent growing up in front of piano, drilling myself to learn baroque pieces, or the times I felt like giving up altogether when I witnessed a far superior pianist play Rachmaninoff.