Label Feature: Wise Blood Records

Wise Blood Records made a lot of glorious noise last year, with releases by a wide variety of bands. From the Death/Doom of Mother of Graves, to the Blackened Thrash of Nattmaran, Wise Blood means business! We caught up with label owner Sean Frasier late last year to chat with him about some of these records, as well as what he’s got in store for 2022. Something for everyone here, folks! So, grab a seat and couple beers. Sit down, read, listen, and enjoy!

J. Wukotich (JW): Hi Sean! Thanks so much for taking some time, here at the end of the year, to chat about Wise Blood Records. You’ve had quite a year! As I write this, you’ve got one more album to release in 2021, which I believe is going to make quite an impression. 

“The Mourning Hollow,” by Mydrød. Let’s begin at the end, shall we? What are you expecting when people get an ear full of this thing? 

Sean Frasier (SF): When I heard this I pictured the soundtrack for the cult film Begotten. It’s a grainy, black & white nightmare. I wanted to work with Mydrød earlier in the year, but the timing wasn’t right. I’m so psyched it worked out for our last release of the year. I’m drawn to music that’s difficult to categorize and blurs genre boundaries. I think this record is so heavy and chaotic that trying to determine whether it’s Death Metal or Raw Black Metal is sort of pointless. 

REVIEW: The Mourning Hollow Mydrød

By: J. Wukotich

Myrdød, according to the band, is “a pseudoword that melds the Norwegian translation for swamp and death,” adding that it is “the perfect description for harsh, gnarled music borne from the shadowy marshes of rural Pennsylvania.” I first read that description after listening to the album, but it fits perfectly. If you’re familiar with shadowy marshes from rural anywhere, couple that familiarity with the feeling of despair and stench of decaying flesh. That’s what Myrdød sounds like. 

“Elders Cave,” “Ritualized Cave Birth,” and  “Spellbound Tree” are stand out tracks, and, along with opening track, “Orb Weaver,” create a listening experience that blends the sounds of blackened, brutal, and old school Death Metal together. It’s like listening to Altarage, Deicide, Hate Eternal, Cryptopsy, and Portal at the same time, and somehow it works. 

JW: The first Wise Blood release I remember being in contact with you about was the Scarecrow album [“Scarecrow ll”]. You were really excited about this one, and it didn’t take me long to join you. A delicious Zeppelin-flavored treat, indeed! Can you tell us more about how you pursued this?

SF: Well, I was a huge fan of the first record, and Scarecrow was one of the first five band names I wrote down on a list of artists I hoped to pursue. I am a sucker for that sweet spot of Proto-Metal and Proto-Doom between 1968 and 1972, and Scarecrow share a spiritual bond with those great bands like Leaf Hound and Captain Beyond (and fuck yes, Zeppelin). The band’s musicianship is unreal, and I felt fortunate that they selected Wise Blood as their exclusive CD partner in the USA. They’re so talented that they have released a free bonus EP of amazing material with each LP as well.

JW: After hearing Scarecrow and Nattmaram (“The Lurking Evil,” which we covered earlier in the year), “The Sundering” by Krigsgrav was my next stop. Absolute brilliance! And quite different from the rest of your catalog so far. How did this band end up on your radar?

SF: The band reached out to me, and I realized I heard one of their previous albums. When I listened to “The Sundering” the first time, I was just minutes from a beautiful coastal beach. The album seemed to summon storm clouds; it’s so dark and intense and beautiful in its melancholy. I listen to 400+ records and demos a year, and only a couple stun me like this. I feel this album is a true piece of art, and is one of the top Black Metal albums of 2021. I’m not a Black Metal traditionalist by any means, so I think inviting other genre influences, like Katatonia-like melodic Death/Doom, makes the compositions even more powerful.

The SunderingKrigsgrav

By: Deckard Cain

Krigsgrav is an interesting band. While their music has had Melodic Black Metal as their cornerstone, or primary medium if you will, they’ve constantly aimed for performing different iterations of the genre for each release. I came across them in 2018 when they put out perhaps their strongest release, “Leave No Path to Follow,” which had a Blackened Doom vibe. In fact, they put a cover of Katatonia’s “Brave” on it from their iconic “Brave Murder Day,” which literally broke the band into the global Metal circuit, heralding a sound that they’ve been known for since, missing perhaps Akerfeldt’s vocals later.  

That single cover captures the sound for Krigsgrav’s 2018 release. One that is dripping in melancholia, like taking a despondent stroll through darkened woods and bramble kind of Metal.  But you take the albums before them, it’s different still. For one, their debut, “Leviathan Crown,” sounds more traditional Norwegian Black Metal, albeit with a decent dose of saccharine melody nestled in there. 

The releases soon after aimed for a more steady and sustained development of the riff like a Drudkh would have, moving onward then to more or less Post-Black Metal territory, a la Agalloch. This also explains their releases being on Naturmacht and Bindrune recordings, as they are definitely labels with a clear proclivity for said genre. And all of them sound great without wearing you down one bit. Production values have changed, too, with “Leave No Path to Follow” having more room to showcase their deeper blackened doom bearings.

To that end, their latest, “The Sundering,” is perhaps harkening more to their debut sound but still different, reminding one of a Sacramentum-like aura. By that I mean to suggest that riffs are front and center here. The production and resultant sound changes here yet again to reflect that focus. Listen to the opening of “Dread the Night.” It rides out like the great wild hunt over an azure sky. Perhaps even like Necrolord’s reaper on Dissection’s cover art for “Storm of the Light’s Bane” coming alive, eyes aglow and scythe swinging. To be succinct, it’s just glorious! 

That said, the different iterations of the genre they’ve tread upon over the years do also come in to add on to the grandeur from time to time.  I am ashamed to say that the release completely did not appear on my radar till late into December. But I’ve atoned for this by listening to this album on repeat ever since. You must too!

“stay awhile and listen”

JW: Alright, now VHS has been making a ton of noise with their latest “I Heard They Suck… Blood,” which isn’t a total surprise. VHS has been constantly releasing unique Thrash/Punk/Goregrind independently since 2016. It’s awesome to see them getting more press, and well-deserved attention. I would say that “I Heard They Suck…” is their best to date, really drawing from all sorts of influences. How did you get involved with them? 

SF: I need to tip my hat to Trve Kvlt Coffee, because I think their awesome subscription service got Wise Blood in front of VHS. Without their Metal-themed subscription service, these Canadian gorehounds probably wouldn’t know who we are, since we’re in our first year. TKC usually gives two or more albums to subscribers each month as a way to reward them for their business. This is a creative way to keep customers engaged with underground Metal.

When VHS reached out, I knew I had to really step up and work my ass off with promotion. Releasing a vampire-themed Death Metal record is basically my teenage fantasy come to life. I was definitely a Vampire: The Masquerade nerd; my vampire character was a Malkavian ex-priest named Reverend Bathory. I agree this is their strongest album yet, and I love their sense of fun. Their music connects with the part of the brain that wishes it was still obsessively browsing video store shelves for banned horror flicks in the ‘90s. Plus, Mike Hochins is one of the hardest working people I have met in my first year as a label.

JW: We cannot end our chat without mentioning Graveripper’s “Radiated Remains” EP. What a magnificent bastard that one is! The kind of grimey, blackened Thrash that just tears you from limb to limb. I’d love to see these guys play live. Do you have plans to release any more music with Graveripper

SF: I first met Corey Parks of Graveripper at the Heavy Hell Festival in Indianapolis. He’s an exuberant dude who is motivated to bring their Blackened Thrash to as many new ears as he can. Hiring Joel Grind to master the EP was the power move those amazing “Radiated Remains” songs deserved.

I can’t reveal too much yet, but the band is definitely working on new material. This was our best-selling album of the year, and they have been the perfect ambassadors for Wise Blood. They work hard, play hard, and love interacting with new fans. I am beyond proud of these guys, when I look into the audience of (one of) our local shows and see a bunch of those yellow Graveripper shirts in the crowd. Between them and Wraith, Indiana Thrash is sounding lethal headed into 2022.

Radiated RemainsGraveRipper

By: The Great Mack

Oh lordy, doesn’t this little gem kick you right in the eighty fives and the eighty sixes if you get my drift. At a simple glance, Indiana’s GraveRipper might strike you primarily as a Thrash band, but if you listen a little harder you will very well discover some very strong Black Metal sensibilities underpinning the whole show, so much so that one could quite comfortably say that this is the kind of thing that would have been born had early Destruction decided to have a bastard love child with Tribulation after going on a date with Exodus who rings up a week later and says it is pregnant and may well name the offspring Yoth Iria. Yeah okay they may not hit ALL of those mighty expectations in every single moment, but dig hard enough and you will see what I mean.

And just now reading the description of the band on Bandcamp, is seems like I wasn’t too far off the mark at all! “Radiated Remains” cuts out all the pompous wankery that some of the aforementioned may exhibit at times (the Black Metal ones), and keeps all the nice chunky riffery of the Thrash type scene right at their proverbial fingertips for us to enjoy in reasonably sized and easily digestible forms of ear candy. Opener “Instinctive Extinction” goes straight for the groin region like a well trained Pit Bull, and as that type of snapping bitey thing likes to do, does not let go even to take a short breath.

One could be forgiven for thinking that Evile had stepped into the room on second track “Atoms Divide,” such is the ferociousness of the riffs on display, as it casually breaks into the kind of pace that a Leopard would be proud of. Pretty sure if you played this loud enough several Antelope may also shit their dacks just as if they saw said Leopard approaching them at such velocity as well and I must test this out on my next vacation to the local zoo. All bad animal jokes aside, this is only two songs in!

All life Decays” and “Cherenkov Light” are the finest mix of early Euro Thrash and Black for mine, where short but sharp bursts of vocal brutality intertwine with razor sharp guitar tones and pounding rythmic sections that would bring any decent Metal fan to their knees regardless of genre stereotypes. This is the kind of shit that unites one and all under a banner drenched in the blood of the weak and the tears of the pitiful, and I fucking love every second of it.

More highlights (yeah I often get yelled at by the Editor for waffling on too much – fuck you Joel haha) include the rough and ready rumble that is “The One Reborn,” which sounds pretty much like any good Bay Area venues toilet cleaner would despise due to it’s ability to make one suddenly come down with a sudden case of dysentery, and also the closer “Bite of a parasite,” which should have a warning on it saying “And You Thought Napalm Tickled.” Yep, a right crowd pleaser here people, one for all of us to find much joy in. This ain’t no Tech – Death fuckery or Progressive Rock Opera shite, this is plain and simply testicles to the grinder and not a single fuck given music that every single one of you should be loving from start to end. Magnificent stuff!

JW: Sean, I can’t thank you enough for taking some time out for us. You’ve really had an excellent year, and made available an impressively wide range of different heavy music for Metal fans to consume. Nicely done, my friend! What’s on the horizon for 2022?

SF: We have two albums announced so far in 2022: Milquetoast’sCaterwaul” has their debut of heavy Punk Fuzz, out January 25th. It was mastered by Chris Fielding of the mighty Conan, so it sounds super thick, and it’s insanely fun. In February I release another debut, this time from anthemic/melodic Hardcore quartet SUNDOWN. “Keep Moving” was mastered with Alan Douches, who has engineered albums for Converge and Cannibal Corpse and numerous other heavy-hitters. 

I’m focusing even more on elevating local bands this year, because I firmly believe in the talent Indianapolis boasts. I’ll just keep releasing the music I like, and it means the world that so many people have responded with support. Thanks to you and The Metal Wanderlust for all you do to share underground music!

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