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Blackened Phoenix Arise [2016-10-12]

Cacophonous Records is one of the more important labels to come out of the British/ Irish black metal scene- they released early releases from the likes of Cradle Of Filth, Bal-Sagoth & Primordial. Along with classic/early releases from worldwide black metal projects such as Dimmu Borgir, Gehenna, and Sigh. The label originally formed back in 1992, and has until last year been in a dark slumber.  This year has seen the label back in fully working order- with reissues, unreleased older albums( such as the original mix of COF’s classic second album Dusk…& Her Embrace), along with new albums from up & coming british black metal projects. I caught-up with one of the key mind behind the label Fra. Nihil for a email interview.

M[m]:What triggered the resurrection of Cacophonous, and how long had it been in the planning stages?
F.N: It was probably mid 2015, I'd spoken to Julie, the then label manager, about licensing the back catalog for reissue on vinyl, she just happened to suggest that I resurrect the label itself, so the planning took perhaps six months. My only stipulation was that I sign new bands and it not simply be a reissue label. I had a good idea of the bands I wanted to work with, and which of the back catalog would be re-released by the end of Summer 2015.

M[m]:Where you still actively involved with-in the scene during Cacophonous slumber?
F.N:I carried on with Mordgrimm in that time, and released the first two Anaal Nathrakh, the first Dragged into Sunlight, and other pivotal bands; the debut from Primitive Man on vinyl, Windhand debut etc.

M[m]:How do you feel the Black metal scene has changed since you first launched the label back in 1993?
F.N: The difference is mainly in the range of bands and styles of 'Black Metal', but there are many great bands coming out of the U.K. even now. Compared to that time though, there are many more labels, and so many releases to choose from now, unfortunately the market share for any one has shrunk and the proliferation of illegal downloading has meant sales are a fraction of what they were even 10 years ago, let along 20 or more. Musically however, I still see the same energy, the vibrancy that I did back then, I think the spirit is definitely there.

M[m]:Please selection 5 albums from the labels initial run that your most proud of & explain why?
F.N: The first would have to be the debut from Cradle of Filth, just because for me it brings back memories of the recording studio and the scene at that time, it's an instant transport to 1993 when I hear it. I think with that release we defied the critics, opinion from even well known rock magazines was that this was a fad and really a genre they didn't understand. We proved not only that Black Metal was groundbreaking and important, but that the U.K. could produce bands on a par with those in Europe or America.

Secondly 'Infidel Art' by Sigh. Again a lot of it has to do with the time that the releases evokes when listening to it. Dani Filth had taped me an advance of the 'Scorn Defeat' album and after the death of Euronymous, when the continuation of Deathlike Silence was unsure, I had written to the band and offered to put it out if there wasn't going to be any more releases on that label. The band decided to wait and see, but we agreed I would release their second album.

Next would be the second album from Bal-Sagoth, 'Starfire Burning upon the Ice-Veiled Throne of Ultima Thule'. The debut, 'A Black Moon...' is a great album, but I feel they really expanded on what they achieved with that release, even with what was considered possible in terms of musicianship and songwriting for the genre, and created a masterpiece.

Gehenna's 'Seen Through the Veils of Darkness' would be next. Again it's a combination of the songs with the time they're from. I went to a three day event in Oslo back in Spring of '94, Gehenna were one of the bands that played and I'd actually gone with the intent of signing them to the label. It wasn't a matter of having to have a 'Norwegian band', but they were something different, the use of keyboards especially set them apart from other bands at the time.

Lastly I would say either of the albums from Abyssos, I think one of the best melodic Black Metal bands to have come from Sweden, but sadly I think under-rated, both now and at the time. Again we had great times in the Studio and wandering about London, so I guess all of the bands listed have a personal connection.

M[m]:The thing that originally launched the label into peoples mind's was the Cradle Of Filth Debut The principle Of Evil Made Flesh- when & how did the label first become aware of COF?. And how did the signing of the band come about?
F.N: The band actually came to the then premises of Vinyl Solution in Portobello Road and left a demo for me. I phoned them up that night and we arranged to meet at the weekend. They drove to Chelmsford where I lived, and we all went to the pub to talk about things. I got the final contracts out to them in late Spring '93. At the time the label had released a few 7"s, which were popular in the underground, but the band's material was too long for that format so I suggested a 12" MLP. They went to record four songs for an EP, but scrapped the recording after a few days and went away to write TPoEMF.

M[m]:Oh Vinyl Solution- I have found memories of many of their hardcore & extreme metal  releases, such as the Hard-ons, The Stupids, and early Bolt Thrower. So where you involved with the label?
F.N: I started work at the shop in 1988, label and shop being the same address, but at the time Rob Tennant was in charge of VS A&R on the rock side of things, so I didn't have much involvement other than helping out with promo mail out or back stage at gigs. It was Rob's departure that led me to get the job of A&R, Cacophonous was born because Vinyl Solution, by that time, had become known for dance and rap (Bizarre Inc., Eon, Gunshot etc.) and I wanted to distance myself from those styles, so Vinyl Solution metal/rock became Cacophonous.

M[m]:You just recently released the original line-up version of COF second album Dusk...And Her embrace. Tell us a little bit about what has been done to the original recordings?
F.N: I'd had the 1:1 DAT copy in my back room for about 20 years. along with a listening cassette, and always hoped one day it would get a release. Going back to your initial question, one of the issues we discussed was the release of this recording, it was just a matter of getting an agreement with the band and the then re-emerged MFN (that our planned release wouldn't clash with anything of theirs).  Luckily Joel at MFN is a huge fan of the label and band, so was happy that our version would see the light of day.

As for the mastering, Dani has worked quite a bit with Scott at Grindstone, so it was there that the album was remastered. Unfortunately we only had the DAT, the difficulties with the album release originally meant there are no other versions available to us. I think Scott did a great job considering what he had to work from. We also had the demo versions of 'A Gothic Romance' and 'Nocturnal Supremacy' that were recorded in November '94.

M[m]:Still on the subject of the recently released version of Dusk.... am I corrected in thinking that the releases cover/artwork has been recently created? And if so was there any original artwork conceived at the time of the original recording?
F.N: Dani and I had bandied a few ideas about regarding cover art, and it was decided Drake Mefestta would handle the photographic direction and album design. There was fledgling ideas originally for the cover, and I still had the original photos we were to use, but it was felt they wouldn't have the same impact as 20 years ago, and trying to recreate the images would be difficult, so that's why the new art was adopted.

M[m]:Are you able to discuss what the original fledgling ideas where for Dusk's cover? And where it quite different from what was used on the MFN version?
F.N: The photo was by Chris Bell, directed by Nigel Wingrove. The background had yet to be finished but the centre image proposed was an Lilith type character symbolizing Dusk, the fall of darkness, topless and covered in blood. The MFN cover was a result of the band seeing imagery by Simon Marsden, but the female figure present still appeared to be the same personification as we had discussed, just a little more subdued in attire.

M[m]:I really felt your version of Dusk..., sounded much closer to The Principle of Evil Made Flesh, than latter work by the band. Was the recording process fairly similar between both albums?
F.N:I think the band personnel and their input into the song writing has much to do with that, it's as near the 'Principle' line-up as it was. Also, the recording budget and studio time shaped the sound, there was less time to hone the songs.


M[m]:talking of early COF- do you have any stories from around that time which come to mind?
F.N:There are loads, and far too many to share all unfortunately. One that comes to mind, we'd all gone to see Morbid Angel for the Covenant tour at The Marquee in London back in '93, the band, myself and Mark from Cruentus among others. We all wore TBGR shirts en masse, with the infamous 'Jesus...' back-print, and whilst walking to the venue we passed a group of people handing out leaflets. Now at the time it was a trick of some radical xtian groups to disguise their flyers with apocalyptic imagery, to appeal to rock audiences. I think this one had a reaper and hour-glass with the word 'Time...' with the reverse reading ' running out - accept Jesus Christ before it's too late' or something of that ilk. As we passed them one of the women obviously read the back of the shirts and howled 'but you don't even know him!'. A little further down the street and a cavalcade of police cars and vans screamed to a halt beside us, blocking traffic, and about 8 or 10 officers ran over to us, telling us to halt. hey then proceeded to ask addresses, and told us to either turn the shirts inside out or we'd be arrested. By this time security came out of the venue and remonstrated with the coppers over the overkill response. We decided against martyrdom and turned the shirts about, until we entered the venue at least.


M[m]:Two of the other key releases from the resurrected Cacophonous are releases from fresh black metal talent in the form of Necronautical & Old Corpse Road- tell us a little bit about how you became aware of each project?
F.N: I knew Necronautical  from their previous release, 'Black Sea Misanthropy', which I sold copies of through mail order. When the idea of the label was coming together they were one of the first bands I contacted. Naut sent me over a few demos of new material and I offered them a deal for the next album.

As for OCR, I'd also known them for a while, having done the layout for their previous album 'Tis Witching Hour…', and again they were one of the bands I thought would sit quite comfortably in the new label roster.

M[m]:What have you got lined-up next for Cacophonous regards new projects? And are there any plans to re-release classic like The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh, Hail Horror Hail, Stormblåst, A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria, Seen Through The Veils Of Darkness (The Second Spell)- with say extra unreleased tracks, expanded artwork, linear notes etc?..

F.N: Eastern Front is the next 'new' band we've signed, their third album, EmpirE, is due on the 30th September. They are on the best bands in the UK at present, especially live, and the addition of their new singer Marder has really helped focus the band. We hope to announce some new signings soon, just at the contract stage for a couple at present.

As for the back catalog, one of the limitations we have with reissues is the availability of extra material, or material that hasn't already seen the light of day in the interim (and been licensed elsewhere). All of these albums have been, or are being remastered for reissue on LP and CD, some with new artwork and booklet content. Bal-Sagoth and Cradle of Filth have been great to work with in terms of promoting the releases we have done, the reissue of Infidel Art by Sigh is coming soon, and I'm in contact with Mirai about it, there's some extra tracks on the album. I'm also talking to Shagrath about some bonus material for the Stormblåst album.

Thanks to Fra. Nihil for his time & efforts with interview.
He has recently made a Spotify playlist on 90s Black Metal, and this can be checked out here

Here are a selection of Cacophonous Records related links:   Store
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Roger Batty
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