Welcome to the second part of my column “Label Introductions”! This corner is primarily focused on presenting underground labels that grasp my attention due to their releases, their presence or maybe also the label owners. This time, I asked Lycanthropic Chants‘ headmaster Steffen to introduce himself and his label to us. I probably can’t remember any more what initially turned my head towards Lycanthropic Chants, but as a matter of fact it probably was Steffen‘s younger project Repulsive Feast who played a local annual festival in Mülheim (Frostpunx) around the corner that I attended several times already. Going from that point, I was made aware of Lycanthropic Chants and then also Cryptic Brood, Steffen’s older band project. In order for you to get to know this awesome label a little more, we discussed aspects that might be interesting or necessary to get a closer insight.
Interview with Steffen from Lycanthropic Chants
Hi Steffen and thanks a lot for offering the opportunity for an interview in order to introduce your label Lycanthropic Chants – a label I have been following a lot recently. Anyone in Germany or in Europe digging deeper for filthy Death Metal underground releases probably came across your label already as well – but to get things straight, where and when did you get started with your label?
Guten Tag Roman and thank you for following my activities and your interest in form of this interview. I‘m active in the underground scene since ~2004 with setting up underground concerts, but my first label-release was the EP “Rebirth Of Horror” by the Finnish band GOD DISEASE in June 2016. They had this new material online. I was listening to it very often and liked it very much. Was looking for a physical (analogue) release, but there wasn’t any. I wanted to own this music physically. By that the idea grew to release the EP by myself and making it possible for other people to own that record physically too.
The fact of you having been in the underground scene since 2004 explains a lot, since I always felt as if you had quite a precise selection of artists within your roster. Do you still remember the bands from that first show you set up back then?
Yes, still remember all three bands that played on that night: EPICEDIUM from Frankfurt am Main/Germany, OBSCURE from my hometown Wolfsburg and my own band DISSOULED. If there‘s someone out there who still remembers those bands, this person will notice the wide range of genres involved: from „Neo Thrash Metal“ that evolved at that time to Death Metal/Grindcore. I still enjoy having bands from different genres at one show.
Although the Death Metal outfits you sign sometimes differ drastically regarding the sound, there still is something that connects those artists. When looking for albums or EPs you want to release via your label, what aspects do you especially look for?
It‘s not possible for me to name specific attributes. Maybe you can compare it to the effect you get when listening to a (new) band or record. You listen to it and decide if you like it or not. Do you wanna buy their records or not? And do you want to make more people to know about this band or record? If yes, ask the band if you may release their stuff!
Does the music you play with Cryptic Brood influence the selection of your releases? Do you precisely look for artists that clearly differ from what you play or do you maybe look for artists that convey the sound you also want to showcase with your band?
I wouldn‘t say it‘s the music I play with CRYPTIC BROOD that influences my selection of releases. It‘s the other way around: my general taste in music influences the music I play with my bands and also the selection of releases.
As mentioned already, you are involved in your label Lycanthropic Chants and the two bands Cryptic Brood and Repulsive Feast. Are there any other projects you are involved in in any way?
That‘s all at this point. I was playing drums for OPHIS from 2016 to 2018. Another project is brewing on low heat but nothing to talk about now…
Especially when listening into your 2020 releases, I feel as if a certain atmosphere of a sound can be heard quite often. When recapturing your personal taste in Death Metal, what impact do you think did Darkthrone’s Soulside Journey have on you and on Death Metal?
To be 100% honest, I have to admit I explored that album very late. I got to know DARKTHRONE with the music from their Black Metal-period first. So there was no interest from my side. When one of the guys from BONES played that album, I couldn‘t believe it‘s this band from Norway. Double-checked at home and it was true!
On the one hand it’s a shame I didn’t know this album (or the „Goatlord“ album!) before. On the other hand it‘s great that this album still convinces after listening to Death Metal for so many years.
When you first got going with Death Metal – do you still remember what it was that drew you towards this genre? What is it today (apart from your label and bands of course) that still draws you towards this genre?
Back then it was that extreme form of playing music, especially the drumming. One of the first releases I got in touch with – after the common acts you get to know – was „None So Vile“ by CRYPTOPSY. That drumming… argh!!!
Today it‘s more the freedom in how to play the music in this genre. If you avert from the musical trends, there are so many ways and/or elements to create and play Death Metal or Metal in general. It never gets boring. There are always bands out there who blend ingredients in an interesting way that keeps it fresh.
The major share of what you release on your label is brought to the audience on tape. When did you decide to choose tape as the preferred format and why?
It was mostly an economical decision. When starting the label, I wasn‘t able to invest the money you have to pay for a vinyl production, in the first release(s). Now, after running the label activities for three+ years, Lycanthropic Chants will also put out the releases on vinyl format.
Do you think that the tape format perfectly fits for Death Metal regarding listening experience or other factors?
Besides that nostalgia stuff that you get to hear from several people before (nothing to add here), I‘d like to add that the format lies in your hand like a bottle of beer. Perfect, haha!
Some of your releases nevertheless came out on vinyl, such as Brewing Rancid Stew by your second project Repulsive Feast. How do you decide what format you are going release an album or EP on?
What format would I like to see this release on? And how much interest will there be? I think, that‘s it.
How much Punk is enough for Death Metal? How important do you think is DIY for the Death Metal scene taking place around you and in general?
Especially when it comes to underground music and all its niches, a lot of DIY is necessary to keep things going. There are no big labels and no big money involved. You have to promote your music by yourself, because no one else is going to do it for you. Same applies for booking activities and everything else. And to speak about myself, I dig to do things myself. I could just order some standard inlays for my releases. But I prefer to think about what if something special could fit this release and then start to think about how to realize this idea. And then it‘s hours of handcraft work…
On Instagram it is also possible to see that you are a lot into gardening on a secondary account with your girlfriend – I liked that a lot. Do you see these gardening efforts as a natural progression of a general DIY stance towards life or do you just do this for personal experience?
Yeah! Thanks for also following those activities!
It’s personal experience, it’s freedom, it’s learning and many other positive things. Growing your own food is an enrichment of life. You also safe money so you can get free from the economical rat race of going to work from nine to five each day. Ugh!
That definitely is an absolutely positive stance towards this project. Going back to Lycanthropic Chants, though, I definitely have to ask – what future releases can we expect you might already want to talk about?
There’s a lot of great stuff coming. First of all there will be a new 7″ EP with four exclusive tracks by REPULSIVE FEAST. Hope this one will be out before the end of the year 2020. Next in line is an EP by DAWN OF OBLITERATION from Hamburg/Germany on 12″ vinyl and tape. Third one in the row is a 7″ EP by CARNAL TOMB with one exclusive and one re-recorded track from their demo. There are more releases planned but I will stick to the first three upcoming releases with this sneak peak.
Thanks for all the time you sacrificed answering the questions for our blog. One of the major aspects of this blog is to broaden the scope of your musical preferences, which is why I eventually wanted to ask – what are your current top 3 underground recommendations you think everybody should be listening to right now?
Just have a look at the current Lycanthropic Chants releases – none is gonna disappoint you. Haha. But to keep away from the own releases or bands that are directly connected to the label activities, I’d like you to check out ASSUMPTION, ATAVISMA and OBLITERATION.
Lycanthropic Chants on Social Media:
Lycanthropic Chants Releases 2020
Filthdigger – Defied Mummified
This release by Norwegian Death Metal outfit Filthdigger is an absolute must-listen when you are into Death Metal with a harsh tendency towards Black Metal and lo-fi production. What stands out the most are the incredibly savage vocals that sound as if they were straight from a 90’s Black Metal album placed on top of rotten Death Metal. This is exactly what I look for when listening to Death Metal. The first half of this EP shows larger Doom tendencies, remaining on the slower pace throughout the record. There are, however, several outbursts into fast drumming and riffing, where the lead melodies are absolutely outstanding. Beginning at track four, though, there are also four tracks from their Demo 4, which definitely drift into faster rotten Death Metal. If you are into what Filthdigger play when increasing the speed on this release, the additional demo tracks should be what you’re looking for as well. Keep up the rotten Death Metal!
Oniricous – La Maldición
When it comes to music, I often struggle a lot with my mother tongue (German), especially in the Death Metal genre. There are only a few bands who actually succeed blasting great Death Metal in that language. This does not, however, say that my Death Metal needs to be English particularly. Oniricous has not been the first Spanish Death Metal band I got interested in, but they are yet another example showing that the Spanish language is also quite fitting for Death Metal music – I can’t tell why but on Death Metal releases, this language has a certain nasty undertone (maybe I just watched too many Spanish-spoken horror movies). Apart from the distinctive language, we are delivered with US-worshipping Old School Death Metal on mid-tempo and partly faster basis that comes along with an obvious love for thrashy riffs and tempo changes into grinding speeds. The drums absolutely tie to a Punk-driven Grindcore rhythm as soon as the speed is turned up, during slower passages, however, they are definitely within a straightforward Metal scope. The vocals also showcase influences that suggest a love for Black Metal as well. This is a great release to maybe also dig a little deeper into the Spanish Death Metal scene.
Exhumation – Eleventh Formulae
I have to be honest that this album by Indonesian Death Metallers Exhumation totally slipped my attention when it was released – which is an absolute shame. Again, there is a huge tendency towards a more lo-fi production of Death Metal that already gains my favor in the first hand. The production and the vocals carry a refreshingly straightforward Soulside Journey vibe that marks a distinctively frightening sound. Apart from that, the drums add this slight amount of Punk that it needs to have Death Metal that immediately triggers an underground feeling. What is quite striking, though, for the entire feeling on this album is also marked by the samples and interludes. As for example, the third track increases the atmosphere towards this obviously inhumane beast of a record when we are faced with what seems to be the soundscape of a dungeon, flies in the background and manic, indistinctive gnarls. If you are into raw, powerful and chaotic Death Metal, this should be an album you need to listen to this year.
Moribund Scum – …only Death
Moribund Scum marks the link between my two personal favorite music genres. This combo from Braunschweig plays somewhere in between Punk on the Crust side and Old School Death Metal. This time though, Moribund Scum left the field of Crust a little more and ventured deeper into the Death Metal area. The sound seems to be slighty more distorted, the riffing still moves in between Punk and (a little more frequently) Metal as well as the drums that still make use of a lot of D-Beat, but the vocals clearly shift this release towards the Death Metal (Entombed-ish) side. I absolutely favor releases that move so damn close on the border between (preferably several) genres, because it just broadens the entire scope towards the music you like. The energy that comes across on this release is overwhelming, the guitar sound is fully in-your-face and the drumming pushes this release into a wildfire.
Minenfeld – The Great Adventure
When talking about this release, I actually don’t know where to start. Better make it good and head off with the absolutely amazing framework of the release itself, being set during WW I fighting nationalism at the very damn core. Politics aside, this release also convinces musically. The sound is coined by very classy Old School Death Metal with a slight hint at Death Doom that slowly paces into your ears in the beginning, but eventually ventures into faster mid-tempo yet still melody-driven Death Metal tunes. After the first two tracks, though, the tempo is accelerated and the drums change into a grind-laden outburst. The entire release is underlined by repeated snippets of US American broadcasts and songs during WW I proclaiming this war as “Great Adventure.” – which of course feels quite oxymoronic. The entire idea always reconnects with D-Beat and Crust and organically upholds Death Metal’s inherent connection to Punk music, which is something I favor a damn lot. Apart from that, we get an absolutely solid output of great OSDM that puts the pieces together for an overwhelmingly convincing concept album. MAY THE WAR ON NATIONALISM NEVER END!
Panzer Squad – S/T
All you guys out there who still can’t get enough of the early Sodom sound have probably already heard of Panzer Squad, playing a furious mixture of Death and Thrash Metal. The full-length debut “Ruins” left a damn good impression in my opinion, and now they’re back with their S/T EP. This time, the sound drifts a little away from the sound of the album regarding the puhsing low-end of the production. To a certain extent, this introduces quite a Black Thrash vibe on this release, although it still upholds a massive Old School Death Metal influence when crushing into riffs, reminding a lot of Thrash Metal when it was on the verge to Death. The energy and the speed on this release combined with the deliberately raw production is absolutely convincing and feeds the interest for more releases to come from this band.
Sepulchral Curse – Only Ashes Remain
When the formula receives the headline of Finnish Death Metal, it’s always quite a gamble where you’re heading at. This special style of playing Death Metal has now prominently been coined by a very experimental stye of playing that can hardly be compared to anything else. However, this is pretty much what fits Finnish Death Metal combo Sepulchral Curse best (apart from the fact of actually being from Finland, obviously). From the first track on it initially feels as if we’re diving into straightforward, well-produced Death Metal in the vein of Corpsegrinder era Cannibal Corpse regarding the vocals as well as the in-your-goddamn-face drums. A little further into the album, though, it gets evident that this sound is crossed with quite distinctive Black Metal vibes that unexpectedly kick in at certain sequences. Not enough about the genre blending, it feels as if the crushing Death Metal sound is also crossed with a love for powerful NWOBHM riffs that are always accompanied by a thrashy vibe. If you expected the inability of expecting anything easily distinctive at all when hearing Finnish Death Metal, you’re damn right listening into this release.