MURK, Drifting Mine (2009, Bylec-Tum)
Looking at this cover is like staring into the open casket at Chris Holmes’s funeral.
Murk sound like a souped-up Venom, playing proto-black metal that’s still 75% Motorhead. Raunchy and rudimentary, Murk are still kind of fun, if maybe not for the entire duration of this compilation. Drifting Mine collects a few EPs, some cover songs, and some rehearsal room demos, so the quality from track to track can vary quite a bit, and not just in the production department. “To Build A Wall” is almost unbelievably stupid, but “Perverted Behavior” is goofy fun. “Human Disaster” sounds like Obituary doing d-beat, while “Damage” sounds like a collection of the riffs Coroner would pack between the noodly bits. The whole thing has a deep underground feel without being unlistenably shitty sounding, although after a while, it all becomes a bit too much, and though it’s kind of impressive that a single guy handles all of the instruments and vocals (and we’re talking real drums here, not a machine), he’s not particularly great in any position. I’m not about to say that anyone needs to be listening to Murk, because even though I basically didn’t mind listening to Drifting Mine, I’m certain I’ll never be hankering for this again, but at the same time, if you like crusty, pseduo-black metal, then maybe there’s a place in your cassette deck for this.
— Friar Johnsen
TSJUDER, Atum Nocturnem (1999, demo)
This fanged fellow, emerging from the blackness and mist, would look a whole lot scarier if his eyes weren’t LEDs. If he leapt out at you you’d probably think, “Shit! How did I end up in Halloween Adventure?” before petulantly swatting him down and saying, “Knock it off!” And then he’d slink back into the shadows, his skully tears threatening to short out his diodic eyes, as he mumbles that no one thinks he’s scary and what good is a skull who can’t scare anyone, etc. He just needs to meet up with Rudolph and that dentist elf and maybe some holiday-themed redemption could be his.
“Tsjuder” is apparently the Norwegian spelling of “Chud,” although that sadly does not refer to cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers. Instead, it refers to any of a group of Finnic tribes from what is now Estonia. Doesn’t sound very evil to me, but what do I know? Anyway, Tsjuder are one of those black metal bands that has been around forever (they formed in 1993) and has a certain cult cachet, but who haven’t recorded all that much and whose main output came long after the peak of that scene. I never really cared to check them out, even though they’re fairly well known, and that’s worked out for me so far, because this is the kind of lame buzzy, braindead second wave black metal that I generally can’t stand. Strictly by-the-numbers stuff, corpse paint and all. I guess Immortal would be the closest point of comparison, but maybe there’s a more apt one to be made by someone more knowledgeable than me. Friar Wagner is our resident black metal experct, but I find it hard to imagine that he likes this all that much either. I think anyone still making exactly this kind of music in 1999 is unlikely to have been very clever about it.
— Friar Johnsen
RAM, Forced Entry (2005, Black Path Metal)
Another band that likes the concept of fusing animal horns onto a human skull, and it’s
usually ram horns that are favored (second favorite: bison horns), so this band is well-
named. The black and red makes an effective impact, complete with glowing red lights
emanating from the eye sockets. Pretty much looks how it sounds.
Swedish vocalists usually don’t come with much of an accent, not the way Italian or Greek
vocalists do, but this guy has a strange delivery, partly due to a weird accent that twists
every word into near-nonsense. He also ocassionally sounds influenced by the mid-range tones of Agent Steel’s John Cyriis and Sanctuary-era Warrel Dane (“Machine Invaders”), so the dude is clearly on the oddball side. His voice gives Ram a unique edge, for better or worse. The rest of Ram play pretty cool traditional metal that finely walks the line between elder worship and the hungry spontaneity only rookies possess. You get songs with multiple parts, tempos and sections, and a whole lot of energy; stuff like “Machine Invaders,” “Infuriator,” and “Venom in My Veins” captures the interest well enough. Their lead guitar work is suitably blistering, some great tones and melodic choices that help the Ram cause quite a bit. There’s no one obvious root sound that is Ram’s favorite…I hear flavors of Japanese, Danish, German, British, Italian and U.S. heavy metal here, all on the raw, dark and heavy-handed side. A few moments get stuck in a plod, like the band isn’t quite sure where to go (the title track), but for the most part it’s a fun if totally easy listen. This definitely could have been released in 1985.
— Friar Wagner