Greetings once again, Travel’rs, to the unhallowed halls of the dungeon beneath Castle Last Rites. This turn of the moon, a candle is set aflame in the darkest corners of the metals most black–not just for illumination, as this time the single flickering light is cast in vigil. The fire in this edition of Black, Raw, & Bleeding burns in memory of Robert Paquette, perhaps better known to the more ardent followers of this column as Necrovore Nosgoth of the unholy trio Paezor.
I must have first met Rob when Paezor popped up on a bill at the Milestone Club in Charlotte. A friend with particularly discernible taste was trying their hand at booking, and brought together some impressive talent from North Carolina’s black metal arsenal to support Atlanta’s Vimur for a night of blasphemy and debauchery: what we godless heathens shanghaied in the easternmost holes of the Bible Belt would refer to as an all around Good Time. Unfortunately, Vimur had to bail just before the gig due to a serious injury, but that certainly wasn’t going to kill the energy: The show was still on. All Hell always put on a rampage with their thrashy black’n’roll, and Vesterian have been regional legends with a pedigree tracing back as far as the late 90’s; Paezor were the only band on the bill I didn’t know. They fit immaculately into the trinity of remaining acts, a 60° angle between the icy, razor-sharp winds of Vesterian’s more Scandinavian style and the Venom-indebted gothic anthems of All Hell.
Paezor were bringing something different–something that conjoined the bestial primitivity of black metal’s early South American roots coupled to Northern Europe’s windswept intensity within the death-obsessed, brutal framework of US black metal’s salad days. The rhythmic, barbaric backbone took queues from I.N.R.I.-era Sarcófago, Deathcrush-era Mayhem, and especially (perhaps unintentionally) early Pentagram Chile, while Rob’s guitarwork carved out Finnish and Norwegian-inspired melodies–several of his tremolo sections wouldn’t have been out of place on Sargeist or early Gorgoroth records! It wouldn’t be a stretch, either, to trace some of the more death metal stylings back to the roots of USBM à la Von or Profanatica. Yet Paezor never felt overpowered by a singular aspect aside from an obsessive devotion to aggression and EVILNESS in their music.
No one element of the band took the spotlight. The bass of Matt “Mobius Strife” Goshow shared in carrying the melodic duties, bridging the gap between the guitar frenzy and the calculated ambushes of rhythmic fury from Dean “Glaurung” Stikeleather in a perfectly equal 60°/60°/60° triangle–a sheer display of strength and brotherhood where the sum of the talents made the whole stronger. The twin vocals of Matt’s animalistic war chants and Rob’s deathly growl added to their uniqueness as they exchanged fully committed lines of sacrilege across the songs. They understood the strength of the power trio and played to it with the chemistry of Motörhead.
Over the past few years I got the privilege of witnessing this bond strengthen as the band got more comfortable with one another onstage. The gears of their war machine greased nicely as they took Paezor from a single demo to a refined beast of butchery with an arsenal of two full lengths, an EP, and a pair of splits under their belts, all the while doing what any band who wants to beef up their game should do: playing together. From shows at pizza joints to dive bars and clubs to regional fests (such as John McEntee’s Carolina Chainsaw Massacre and a particularly explosive set this past August at Raleigh’s Medium Well In Hell Fest), Paezor continued to build momentum. They were just on the cusp of breaking out to a larger audience, playing with utmost confidence and unlocking the keys to their sound–and then the unthinkable happened.
Robert Paquette passed away on September 23, 2022.
Damn, it took a while to type that out. Reading back over the words it just doesn’t feel real. Paezor’s debut album is playing loudly from the stereo, and I can’t help but listen back over again and again with a mindful ear to the guitar parts. How can he be gone? I can hear him, I can feel his presence, right there in the music. It doesn’t connect in my brain.
Rob had become more than just a familiar face in a local band I believed in–he had become a friend. He was the kind of guy that you’d nod to on the back porch of a club they were playing that night; maybe you’d mention something about a patch on his vest and next thing you know you’re both cracking up over some joke he made, usually just out of left field but oddly still within the bounds of fair play. His sense of humor struck a chord that was undeniably his own: He’d have you laughing and groaning in equal amounts, his delivery masked in a knowing chuckle as he plucked at just the right nerves. Next thing you’d know he’s taking the stage, and the second that warpaint was smeared across his face he was all business. In Paezor, he became a different beast. When he was playing guitar he was unleashing the demons, and perhaps exorcising them in a way that helped him be the humorous, lighthearted individual he became again when the paint was again removed post-performance.
Rob was exceptionally easy to talk to–I’ll never forget the night I let Paezor crash at my cramped, shitty apartment between gigs while they were on a little regional run through the Carolinas. It was a weeknight and I had to be up at six a.m. the following morning. I figured I’d get the band set up in the living room and responsibly slip off to my room to catch a few hours’ sleep. Hours passed, and all of a sudden it’s five in the morning and I’m still up talking with Rob and Matt on the porch, swapping stories, laughs, music, observations–wherever the conversation went, Rob made a home in it. He matched the energy and enthusiasm around him. I ended up sleeping not only through multiple alarms, but repeated calls from my boss wondering where the hell I was after being four hours late for work the next morning. I didn’t regret it in the slightest–neither at the time nor especially in the present.
The manner in which Rob found home wherever he ended up was certainly not limited to his conversational skill. He moved down here from Mastic Beach, New York and had no trouble setting up shop in the community he was seeking. And, like his ability to add his irreplaceable touches to personal interactions, he contributed his talents to those around him. He applied for a job he just barely qualified for and ended up wrangling it in the same way he’d wrassle his guitar onstage. Seriously, he made those six strings look like the instrument was a creature possessed as he masterfully bent it to his will through sheer passion and unwavering commitment as his fingers moved like a horde of massive spiders scurrying up the fretboard in his signature noisy dive-bombs. He was constantly honing his iron, be it in his work as an art director, a black metal guitarist, or a mixing and mastering whiz behind recording desk. If he had passion for it, he jumped in head first. Not only that, but he freely shared his experiences with those in his reach of influence–fueling that eternal circle of steel sharpening steel.
Despite (jokingly) his Yankee roots, Rob bled for the Carolinas. The sweat of his labors went not only into bettering himself, but bettering those around him. While I can’t speak on it with impunity, I cannot help but imagine he found inspiration and fulfillment in the contributions he made towards crafting something he was proud of be a part of. Anyone who knew him would be honored to claim him, and in this way his spirit remains forever unfallen. It lives on in the music, the art, and the memories he made in the lives in which he left his mark.
“Rob was one of the coolest, nicest dudes I ever knew–and he was my brother. He was a true metal maniac through and through and one hell of a fucking shredder. He had this encyclopedic knowledge about all things metal and he taught me and Dean a lot of things we didn’t know about black metal specifically. Losing him left a huge void in this world for the both of us because we lost our best friend. Our partner. Our brother. Continuing on without him will forever leave a hole in our hearts. But it must be done to honor our fallen friend. He wouldn’t have it any other way. We will never forget you.
PAEZOR LIVES. NECROVORE FOREVER.”
-Matt Goshow, Paezor
This edition of Black, Raw, & Bleeding is dedicated to Necrovore Nosgoth. As his final years were dedicated to his North Carolinian home, so shall the flame of his memory vigilently spread illumination upon the region he dedicated his tragically short time to. Each of the following bands hail from North Carolina and represent a taste what’s going on currently in the shadowy realms of North Carolina underground metal–some he worked with or played alongside, others he surely appreciated. This one’s for you, Rob, I’m going to miss the hell out of you. We’re going to miss the hell out of you.
IN THE PATH
Paezor – Ascension Of The Beast
It would be unfair to say Paezor return with Ascension Of The Beast as they haven’t slowed down in the slightest since releasing their first demo just shy of four years ago. After steadily hammering out and refining their craft over a series of EPs, splits, increasingly bloodthirsty live performances, and a notable appearance on the Dutch label Knekelput Recordings’ Underground Ritual Vol. 1 compilation, Paezor’s sophomore full-length showcases a more dynamic and streamlined interpretation of the sonic abomination of Paezor.
The near-hour runtime of the debut is carved down to a more digestible thirty-four minutes that packs nearly twice the fury in nearly half the time as the band hone in on their sound like a tighter burst of buckshot. The bass is thunderously present, the guitar bites harder, the vocals are delivered with greater conviction. Paezor burn through the album’s seven tracks with primal bloodlust–they aren’t reinventing themselves by any means, but they have learned to be more efficient. The intro and interludes serve the flow of the record, building tension before succumbing to the flames. The grooves dig deeper on tracks like the opening “Graveyard Of Empires” and the “Ascension Of The Beast” title track, largely due to synchronicities in the rhythm section.
Covers on full albums are often iffy ground, there is certainly valid skepticism in assuming they are mere space fillers best regulated to bonus tracks and the like. However, Paezor’s mid-album inclusion of a more blackened, metalizied take on Rudimentary Peni’s “Vampire State Building” shines with homage. Covering something like “Black Metal” or “Welcome To Hell” would have stood out like a sore thumb, but the unlikely reimagining of the anarcho-punk legends fits snugly into the flow of the album.
“Blood Oath Eclipse,” the song Paezor had recently been using as a set closer, would be the obvious single. The ominous choir giving way to perpetual thrashing string vibrations sets a brief moment of building tension before Necrovore calls the band to evil, sinister black thrashing metal with the simple command of “DO IT.” It’s a whiplashing, headbanging, ripper of a number; The punky, animalistic 1-2 beats of Glaurung drive the song across the energetic guitar/bass pairings and into a grave of a slower, synth-infused, ritualistic bridge in which the bass paces like a wolf in the shadows of a campfire. The wolf strikes through the flames with Necrovore’s noisy, Slayer-esque dive-bomb is delivered at the speed of doom as it shrieks into oblivion.
Ascension Of The Beast demonstrates a more feral, concise, Paezor, with the band leaning further into their primal tendencies. In the context of their discography, it’s as though they are working backwards in the best way possible, diving deeper into their collective medulla oblongata and allowing the beast to ascend to the forefront.
Mo’ynoq – A Place For Ash
Given the current state of the world, its no wonder the bleak, hopeless approach of contemporary black metal still pulses strongly. Mo’ynoq channel despair through threads of disorienting, wallowing dissonance punctuated with moments of melodic clarity on A Place For Ash, the Raleigh-based band’s sophomore album with pleasing results.
Perhaps “pleasing” isn’t exactly the right word–the record is “pleasing” in the way dissociation is pleasing in comparison to depression. It feels like a step closer to giving up, but goddamn if there’s freedom in no longer having the beast of feeling on your shoulders.
Perhaps that isn’t exactly the correct metaphor here either, as there is a lot to be felt through the lens of A Place For Ash–but the record’s mood mirrors that desperate, helpless feeling.
Perhaps “helpless” isn’t exactly the right word. There’s power pulsing through the through the music–it sounds, for lack of a real word, anti-triumphant. Their style is certainly informed by post-2000s black metal. There’s a strong Wolves In The Throne Room presence at the start of the album, with tracks like “Penance” and particularlly “Throes Of Ardent Disposition.” The latter quickly became a favorite track on the album, largely in part to Justin Valletta’s explosive drum work. Note the mid-section starting at about 2:25–that groove he locks into is something fierce, and unlike a thousand bands have been doing since hearing Exercises In Futility, the Darkside-trademark cymbal play doesn’t feel forced. Keeping the steady 1-2 hits of the kick and snare pulsing, Valletta glides across his cymbals from the pocket, accentuating the whole affair with a particularly delectable hi-hat sizzle. It’s a delightful bit of flair that serves the music rather than being flashy for the sake of being flashy–drummers take note!
Perhaps “delightful” isn’t the right word given how the music feels, but we’re kind of past that point now. Mo’ynoq shift tack on “Effigies Adorned In Fire,” the meat of the song leaning more towards atmospheric black metal realms. Instead of the drums, the guitar gets a feature with the inclusion of an emotive, bluesy solo that takes form at the 5:30 mark. The reverb-drenched tone triggers the Pink Floyd section of the brain, even when the mid-tempo drive hits unrelenting blasting beneath it.
It’s not all about the little features though–a the closing track illustrates Mo’ynoq at their best as a cohesive unit. The building tension, peppered with brief moments of release before the final big delivery is a display of tenacious songwriting, with each musician lending their strengths at just the right moments. The production does a more than competent job of translating the urgency in the music to record and applying plenty of volume, if, at times, it’s a bit too much. Giving each instrument just a smidgeon more space would do wonders in presenting the dynamics of Mo’ynoq.
A Place For Ash continues to reward with repeat listens, with fresh touches revealing themselves as the album’s theme unravels like the bandages around helpless torso on the cover, lifted by beauty as the figure horrifically discovers the horrible truth of just how little can be done to determine their own destiny.
Nganga – De Muerte
Another band from North Carolina’s capital city, Nganga began as a two-piece collaboration between multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Eyn and drummer Jordan King (Worshiper, Heron). The two piece played a few gigs before adding the talent of lead guitarist Charles Mayer, who would help bring Eyn and Jordan’s ideas of pushing Weakling and Krallice-inspired USBM to life on their first recorded offering, De Muerte.
Rather than follow the path of so many that take Weakling worship to its well-trodden conclusions, Nganga focus on the weirdness that made their primary inspiration so great. There is something to De Muerte that feels like its not merely copying Weakling as much as it is drawing from similar wells. Their blending of black metal with post-hardcore sensibilities seems to come so naturally–particularly at moments like the disintegrating breakdown around halfway through “Cinis Cinerum.” The conclusion of the song taps into the deconstructionism that was going on in the Dischord and Sub Pop labels in the mid-nineties, translated, of course, through the obsidian mirror of black metal.
Rob Paquette’s production is fairly clear–far from sterile but discernible enough to recognize finer points like the veiled reverse-guitar sound on “Vita Amans” or Charles’ disorienting, shimmering lead work on the all-too-brief closer of “Taxes Baccata.” The sound is just raw and primitive enough that it keeps Nganga from sounding too pretentious as so many disciples of this style seem to be prone to–there’s a brutal honesty behind the delivery that keeps Nganga in touch with their inspiration and away from the “2000s black metal hipster” tag. Nganga are tapping the root on De Muerte, and should be a band to keep a watchful eye on–particularly for fans of post-second wave US black metal.
Moonlight Sword – Elven Blood
Greensboro’s Moonlight Sword–a side project of Carmilla II Dracul of Winter Lantern–first entered the material plane back in January with the release of their promising Elfenwinter demo. September marked the arrival of their first proper EP, released on cassette in conspiracy with Labyrinth Tower Records.
Billed as raw symphonic black metal, the classification somehow feels both correct and misleading–the composition itself is clearly striving for symphonic pomp, yet in execution it’s restrained within the strict sandbox of Casio keyboards and lo-fi guitar. Initially, the result feels more attuned to dungeon synth over raw black metal than symphonic black metal proper, however a keen ear will pick up on the multiple levels of composition occurring beneath the mainly synth-driven lead melodies.
For example, the particularly feisty third track, “Elvesbane,” opens with a singular, overdriven guitar that quickly takes second fiddle beneath the bombastic introduction of the synths peppered with increasingly intense drum fills. It’s easy to get distracted by the drawn-out notes of the synth mimicking the tremolo guitar, however there are at least three different synths adding not only additional layers of tone, but underlying compositional value. Sure, it’s all Casio keyboards, but squint your ears just a bit and you can hear the bravado of far away trumpets, blaring through a mythical fjord, summoning the song’s climax: a particularly zesty guitar solo that was no doubt delivered in no more than a take or two. Swirling hammer-ons capture the brilliant intensity of Qurothon’s simple solos on The Return… with an added dash of epic grander. It’s all energy and feels like Dracul is firing from the hip in a burst of inspiration before the song cools to its conclusion.
Of additional note is Dracul’s drumming style. The beat shifts on a whim between standard blast beats that most artists of similar calibre would lean on throughout the EP’s entirety and this double snare hit gallop that stamps a percussive trademark to the skinwork.
Overall the EP concretes the expansion of the budding Winter Lantern circle, as well as furthering Moonlight Sword’s promise in an admittedly saturated style. I’d love to see what Carmilla II Dracul could do with some less muted production. it works for the softer passages, like on the organ instrumental feature “Lament Of The Fullmoon Queen,” but adding more abrasive aggression behind the guitars on closer “A Knight-Maiden’s Pride” would only accentuate the dynamics. Sure, it’s raw black metal, but it’s vampiric, let’s get some Vlad Tepes bite behind it! The compositional chops are there, all Moonlight Sword need to really stand out is to strike for the fucking jugular with confidence.
Urocyon – Urocyon
Sure, the Rockies may evoke images of jagged, towering, snow-capped mountains that beg for Immortal-inspired black metal, but the Appalachians sing a different tune. Weathered by time and dust, the Appalachian Mountains speak of patience, and, above all, endurance.
Asheville’s Urocyon attempt to deliver the winds that weathered the Appalachains on their first offering since reforming from the ashes of regional legends Shadow Of The Destroyer. In comparison, Urocyon feel less infatuated with the immediate conflict, relying more on a subtle, atmospheric style than the aggressive form of the band’s previous incarnation.
Make no mistake, Urocyon still have plenty of bite, as witnessed on, well, “Witness”–the opening track of their eponymous demo. Still, the band’s emphasis on melodic aspects takes front-and-center , smoldering with the wisened anger of time. The drums smoothly tattoo their rhythm as the melodies roll from the abrasive attack of the guitars like the rounded peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Urocyon are speaking to something old, something weathered and truly ancient.
If anything, the only real complaint to be had with Urocyon is their fairly strict adherence to traditional songwriting–I want to see what they can do when they go off-trail and blaze their own path. Urocyon is a more-than-competent debut demo, but I’m still holding out a bit to see how they forge their own identity from the ashes.
Angel Massacre – Blood Of Fallen Angels
While Black, Raw, & Bleeding generally focuses on rounding up releases throughout the current year, it would have felt wrong not to mention Charlotte’s Angel Massacre.
A favorite style of Rob’s – classic, pure black metal with the niches and angles grinded away. Angel Massacre are the kind of band that tap into the more aggressive, post-Transilvanian Hunger and De Mysteries Dom Sathanas vein of Scandinavian black metal that leans into the aggressive edge of bands that followed that initial wave. I’ll put it this way: there’s a lot more Tsjuder in Angel Massacre than anything, particularly in the way their riffs translate to violent, icy death.
Of course, such is to be expected from any such project involving Mathis Greene–as with his death metal band Altar Blood, Angel Massacre pays homage to a certain time in extreme metal–an entity devoted to keeping an era of metal shrouded by the likes of Pantera and Machine Head alive and breathing. Want to experience what the true underground of the mid-90s had to offer? Pick up some Angel Massacre, and if you can, catch ’em live for the the full experience. Seriously, if you’re into pure, unadulterated, hateful black metal, the title track of “Blood Of Fallen Angels” scratches an itch from the glory days in a way so many younger bands fall short of capturing–It evokes the feeling of “you had to be there to truly appreciate it.” The past is alive, indeed, and Angel Massacre carry the black flag proudly.
Until the flame is lit again, Travel’rs…