Those who know me well, are aware of my high interest about the Greek Black and Death Metal underground of the mid-late 80s and the 90s. This overall movement that was started and evolved during this particular period of time is still a subject for deep studying and discussion. Not only due the musical part of the whole thing which is of course the big priority, but also due to the special circumstances that generated the overall scene which was evolved day by day into a notable statement both musically and aesthetically, most of the times mainly focused to the overall underground attitude and its pure ways (ok I said… “most of the times”).
Almost three and a half decades later there are still discoverable bands that were born during this period, that catch our attention. Each and every story of such group becomes a good reason for further exploring of those obscure days. However there are some stories of some bands that carry something very special and if we add to the overall frame the sights and sounds they have offered within the years we can at least explain why a particular individual is up on six o’ clock in the morning, writing about a specific band, about their music and about their dark vision. Well this text is about ERESHKIGAL, one of the most obscure cases of a band within the Greek Black / Death Metal underground. A band that carries a very special story and some very special music. I could have used just two words to briefly describe their case: Total dedication. But I would like to write some more things. About their story and about their latest album.
The band’s roots can be found way back in 1988 under the name GRINDING DISGUST, an ultra noisy and cacophonous pandemonium – the only offering of this project was the rehearsal demo “Herthe Geli” (released January 1989).
Within the next couple of years the project transformed and adopted the name FLEGETHON, inspired by the legacy and myths of ancient Greece.
The first product was a low budget demo that was recorded in just a matter of hours, called “Repugnant Blasphemy” (released February 1990), which despite the coarse and unrefined sound sold about 350 copies.
In early 1993, FLEGETHON entered a proper studio and recorded material for an EP. The “Doomed in Eternal Suffering” EP was released in March 1993, on the Hellenic Molon Lave Records label. Rotten Flesh on bass, Pinhead on drums, Flesh on guitars and Marduk on vocals was the recording line up for the EP (Kthoulou and Snarl were on the guitars slots on earlier periods). For those who are reading and know I do not have to repeat how an important person on the Greek Black and Death Metal underground, Nikos “Flesh” was. For those who do not know, search about him, his music and his overall offering. One of the kindest and most dedicated person you could meet back on the day. May he rest in Peace.
The pressing of EP’s 500 numbered copies sold out within a month. Plans for repressings of the EP and a follow-up album never became reality since the project fell apart, the departure of vocalist Marduk being one of the reasons.
In early 1994 Rotten Flesh and Pinhead decided to continue the journey under the name ERESHKIGAL. In August 1996, Rotten Flesh and Pinhead, together with mastermind Nigel Foxxe, entered the studio to record 10 songs. Recording of all instruments was completed, except vocals, however due to studio damage and loss of initial master tapes, the project was temporarily put on hold. Completion of the recording, along with remixing and mastering, was done in Encore Studios during sessions in 2004 and 2005. Finally, in December 2005 “The Raping of the Divine” album was released on Temple of Darkness Records, on vinyl format only. I remember back on the day how excited I was listening this particular LP I have reviewed it and made an extensive interview with the band back then, stuff that I may republish in the future.
A long period of silence followed, during which several songs and ideas were tried, recorded, revised and re-recorded. The initial material took shape in 2006-2007, however the work on the final versions of 9 songs took place during several sessions between August 2018 and October 2019 in Nigel Foxxe’s personal studio. The result is their second album “The Erevos Arisen” which was released on Floga Records on vinyl (October 2020) and CD (December 2020) formats.
I guess that you have already understood reading this little biographical summary that here we are dealing with a band that actually changed three -in total- different forms and have actually faced difficulties that would simply made others to disappear from the globe at zero time: Basic member leavings, temporary loss of master tapes that lead a specific recording to be released ten years later, not to mention the long silent periods, a fact that actually rings the reader’s bell of “everyday life and its obligations”: a summary of circumstances that drives the artistic vision of each mortal to be put aside (I am typing those lines thinking that my Doom Metal band’s album should have been released 17 years earlier but this is another story sure not to be mentioned within an album review). No matter the above mentioned difficulties the band never gave up, their second album is here and we are going to refer to it on the lines bellow. But I guess that you now have understood why I used the word “dedication” on an earlier paragraph.
Rotten Flesh on bass, Pinhead (now J-Head) on drums and Nigel Foxxe on guitars and vocals is the band’s current line that have recorded the “Erevos Arisen” album. Nigel is a living piece of history on its own as band member in very important bands of the Greek extreme Metal scene –FLAMES, THANATOS.INC, VOMIT etc-, however he never refused his love for the more classic Metal stuff -from the FLAMES riffing to the sound evolution of his band NIGEL FOXXES.INC, the examples / references to the above fact are many and let me tell you that his guitar work on the latest ERESHKIGAL album is another piece on this puzzle-.
From the very first time that I have heard the album one very specific thing became crystal clear: ERESHKIGAL’s sound in this particular release is the key that opens a specific gate: a gate that would take us to the early 90s again. A period when Black and Death Metal carried a very special vibe. This particular vibe is spread around the album and there are a lot more to be discovered as the listener focuses into the music.
Musically the album is a combination of Black Metal -mainly of the first wave with some second wave references as well- with early 90s Death Metal plus lots of 80s classic Heavy Metal accompanied with many Thrash Metal references.
Basically if I had to use just two words to describe the material of this particular album I would use just two words: old school. I know that it sounds a little bit cliche but in the case of ERESHKIGAL we simply have musicians that continue to play the music they love. No we are not talking about a bunch of youngsters who are trying to sound like a band of 1988 or 1991. ERESHKIGAL WERE a band back in 88 / 91 and they simply go on from there.
The album’s early Black Metal elements are mainly reflecting the “Under The Sign of the Black Mark”, “The Return…” era of BATHORY. Yes it is mainly due to the overall atmosphere of the music, so do not expect any copy and paste case in here. I can also use this tombstone-shaped, obscure and almost cursed vibe of “The Return…” in specific as I am referring to the Death Metal vibe of the album as well, but I have to include some other classic bands like OBITUARY, MORBID ANGEL and NECROPHAGIA. There is no need for me to write a lot more in here. I will let you to just put the record on and let the interlude of the “Into the Endless Black” opener to fill the room space followed by the two first opening riffs and the verse: You would realize all the above written stuff by yourself.
There is a lot of Heavy and Thrash Metal on the album as well. Listen to the two opening riffs on the “Valley of the Unrest” if you want a good example especially for the “classic Heavy Metal” mention on my words -although that the very specific opening riff on this specific track is carrying a serious epic vibe as well-. Niegel is an amazing composer and I have already mentioned his love for the classic Heavy Metal sound. He puts a lot of Heavy Metal vibe in this particular album both in riffs and lead / solo parts. This was often a case with many Greek musicians that simply put classic Heavy Metal as a serious influence on more extreme genres during the 80s and the 90s. This particular mixture actually gave birth to the Greek Black Metal sonic trademark from the early till the almost late 90s.
As far as the Thrash Metal elements on the overall record, we can meet them again on the riffing and especially on the vocals of J-Head that brought in my mind the mighty Dave Hewson of the Canadian Thrash Metal titans SLAUGHTER and their “Strappado” classic from 1987. We can also hear many early Black and Death Metal touches that are mainly reflected to the anger / hate that marks the overall expression on the vocals. I have to repeat it again. This is old school. No no, it is not SOUNDING old school. It IS old school.
I like also the more technical moments that appear is some of the songs, as far as the riffing and the rhythm structures, they are wisely balanced with the almost chaotic parts of the album.
The band’s ability to combine all the above stuff on a solid result simply brings to front their overall talent. A band should be able to transfer all the passion and all the inspired ideas to a bunch of finalized songs that matter. I can assure you that this is the absolute case on this album.
Favorite songs? Difficult to choose. “Into the Endless Black”, “Legion” (the most “Progressive” track of the album!), “The Valley of the Unrest”, “Forsaken” (for its minimal-symphonic interlude and the amazing opening lead) and “Erevos Unleashed” -due to the amazing tech themes ala ATROPHY– and “Eternal Winter of my Soul”.
The production is good and it does justice to the material. It sounds heavy and warm enough and it fortunately lack the usual “lets try to sound as shitty as we can to prove that we are back in 1985” intention of many today’s bands.
In my hands I got the vinyl version of the album. It comes on a wonderful gatefold. Floga Records has done a wonderful job in the packaging as usual.
There is a very strange kind of darkness rising from the music of this album. And if you seriously ask me about one thing that I would keep from this record, this would be my one and only answer. Darkness. It stands above and within all the 5 elements of the Pentagram of the vinyl gatefold: Earth, Fire, Air, Water and Spirit.