Most of the time industrial, EBM and aggro-tech acts like to portray themselves as walking on the edge of darkness... but some artists don't just flirt with the abyss, they build a little dark house and live there. One of those bands is Infra Black, a pan-European group who started their career two decades ago by sounding all goth-gloomy, but like that quiet neighbor who “always kept to himself,” one day decided out of nowhere to start expressing their inner angst with axes and chainsaws... or at least that's what they sounded like to me. Where some musicians acknowledge their horror influences with movie samples or songs about surfing vampires from Uranus, this band just wades straight into the most horrific imagery imaginable and translates it into death-machine beats and scorching vocals. Naturally, I had to hear some more of this, so off to the magical interwebs I go.
A little investigation into the twisted history of Infra Black led me to the site of their current label, Hellektro Holocaust Records – the self-titled “home of sex, blood violence and living dead terror” and an independent European outfit quickly establishing a firm, bloody foothold in the subgenre which shares their name. A term often used to describe the most extreme, literally bleeding edge of electro-industrial, hard EBM or aggro-tech, “hellektro” is usually interchangeable with “Terror EBM” to describe bands following in the cloven-hooved steps of Skinny Puppy, who first drew heavily on horror movie sounds to create dense, layered soundscapes, but tended to employ those cinematic horrors as metaphors for real-life fears and anxieties. Although the Puppy influence is clearly there, many artists on the HHR roster take a more literal, visceral approach to those fearful elements, and play them for maximum scare power.
There's a certain aura of Lovecraftian mystique around this label's founders, so I decided to look up the main dude, owner and A&R manager Sebastian L, and seek some insights on his company's menacing musical mission...
FEARnet: So, Sebastian... tell me the story of your label and the people behind it.
Sebastian: The mystical story began some years ago, when a radioactive rat bit me. From that moment I have had the special ability to re-animate dead children in the near cemetery exactly at midnight... [laughs] Just kidding. The story isn't that mystical.
We founded the label in 2007 – me and Kat von Kallenbach – and about a year later one more guy, Viktor Unger, joined us for promotional work. We needed almost two years to start something that we could really call a label. We're still a small indie label, but finally it's working and everything's on the right track. We're going to release 6 to 8 CDs (mostly debut albums) this year, and another 6 to 10 next year.
There are very few labels out there dedicated to terror EBM/gore/industrial acts. Did you set out to fill a void in that area?
Yes, we would definitely like to fill some kind of void. There are two types of industrial labels, in my opinion: the first one releases many sorts of industrial music, some of them melodic, some of them danceable, but they don't dare to release REALLY sick, crazy stuff. The other type of label releases sick stuff too, but they don't care about the music itself, or the melodies. So we founded this label to fill the void of both label types. We dare to release ANY kind of sick, crazy, insane, evil stuff, and we are also highly concentrating on finding bands and music with good melodies too.
Unfortunately, nowadays some people have forgotten about the essence of music releasing or composing. Even if something is unique, dark or whatever, it has to have a style and the music has to be good. There are a lot of bands now who just buy the necessary synths, drum machines, and stupid gas masks, but they don't even have any ability to write good music. I can guarantee that all of our bands are very talented music composers and real, deep-thinker artists with revolutionary ideas.
Being unique is also very important to us... all of our bands have something interesting and new in their styles which never existed before (or in this combination). For example, Evlent Chapter combines Terror EBM with a circus/carnival feeling, which is totally unusual, but somehow absolutely reasonable in his music. Or check out Human End – the style of that band is absolutely new and never existed before. We named it "Astral Terror Industrial." The style of that band is combination of many interesting things, such as hardcore, gothic, industrial, Terror EBM, symphonic music with astral/space atmospheres.
And of course you have Infra Black...
Infra Black was the first band we signed. I really love what those guys are doing – better than most Terror EBM bands, in our opinion. Their style is based on Terror EBM, but with a lot of additional things, such as catchy melodies, real screaming vocals (instead of boring whisperings with tons of special effects), brutal lyrics and visual designs. They can't even be categorized as Terror EBM... this is why they call their style "Gore EBM.”
How would you personally categorize a Hellektro band?
Well first of all, I don't like to categorize anything. But if you're asking me that what makes a band Hellektro... well, Hellektro is an aggressive version of industrial/EBM music. The lyrical/visual conceptions are mostly about hell or other dark, scary things. The music contains mostly monotonous bass runs, dynamic (sometimes danceable) rhythms, and mostly simple melodies with aggressive, distorted or screaming vocals. The only thing I personally don't like in the style of an average Hellektro band is the simple melodies. But none of our bands could be described as "average.” I believe that this style can be much more – this is why Infra Black is much more than a simple Hellektro band. Why should anything be simple, if it can be rich and interesting too? That's my way of thinking.
How many artists are currently represented by your label?
There are six bands on our roster right now – Evlent Chapter, Human End, Hystakmine, Infra Black, Syndrome x209 and Xperiment – and two or three more coming this year. After we release these albums, we'll stop signing more bands for this year and we'll be only concentrating on promotion.
What qualities are you looking for in a potential HHR artist?
The most important things are: the music has to be aggressive to a certain point – we're not interested in easy listening [laughs]; it has to be unique, and should contain something new and interesting; good melodies are always important – cool appearance and band photos are not enough for us – and it has to be sick and insane to a certain point. We are not interested in very simple and straight things... for us, twisted things are the most interesting. For example, if you're dressed up like a cook and screaming like hell with a kitchen knife in your hand... then I'm quite sure we'll listen to your stuff.
I'll have to remember that.
Just a funny example, but I think you know what I mean.
Right now, your artists hail from all over Europe... where have the latest demos been coming in from lately?
I wish I could remember! [laughs] We receive about 10-20 demos every single day, sometimes even more. We receive and accept demos from all around the globe; it's just a coincidence that all of our artists are European. We'll also sign American, Japanese, or African bands if we find a good one.
Speaking of which... I would like to clarify some things here concerning nations, religions, etc. We received an interesting question some weeks ago, a magazine asked us if we are some kind of Nazi label, because of using the word "Holocaust" in the name. We were totally surprised about this question, because we've never thought about that actually, because the answer is so obvious for us. But even if it's obvious to us, it's doesn't have to be to everybody. So the question was useful, because it opened our eyes concerning this thing. Of course we are NOT a Nazi or racist label. The word "holocaust" as a standalone word usually means “massacre”.... even if we're talking about killing zombies! The idea of this name for the label came from old-school “B” horror movies such as Cannibal Holocaust, Zombie Holocaust, Satan's Cannibal Holocaust, Vampire Holocaust... we're great fans of some of them, and others are simply funny.
I knew right away you must be a serious horror-movie fan...
YESSS! Horror is an important part of my life. I like almost ALL kind of horror movies. I wake up with horror and go to bed with horror. I watch 2-3 horror movies every single day. Actually I don't even watch anything else! [laughs] Some years earlier, I watched a lot of other movies too, but I was wondering... why the hell am I watching those crappy romantic movies or even dramas if they bore me to hell? Nowadays I don't watch anything else.
That's what we like to hear! What are some of your favorites?
My favorites are all the movies with the title ".... of the Dead". I mostly like the Romero movies, but any kind of zombie movie can keep my attention for 2 hours. I also like John Carpenter's masterpieces, Clive Barker's movies and books... and all of Lovecraft's books (and some movies based on them). I also like Fulci's and Argento's movies pretty much. I mostly like the older movies... nowadays I don't see too many good ones.
A lot of people would agree with you.
Most of that shit is based on the same stupid story: A young married couple are fed up with the big city they are living in, so they decide to move to the countryside, and they buy an old little house. After a couple of weeks, the husband starts to act strange... sometimes a bit aggressive. The wife, when she's at home all alone, hears strange voices from the cellar, or from the attic. Later it turns out that the entire house is fucking cursed and there is a ghost of a child in the house. Do you know how many times I have seen this story? About 12-14 times! I really hate those "child-ghost" movies. I wasn't even scared the first time... and nowadays, I can't stand them at all. So I'm escaping to older and much better movies from real directors. But in movies, nothing can scare the shit outta me anymore... horror movies are only for entertaining me and giving me inspiration.
So what scares you in real life?
In my personal life, I'm afraid of the usual things that everybody's afraid of: being seriously sick, losing everything I have... or to die. I usually say that – when you've been robbed about 12 times in some bad districts of your city, then you won't be afraid of any kind of imaginary mutants or monsters anymore.
Real life is much more scary... and not entertaining at all.
There's a lot of creepy, cool and amazing stuff coming out from HHR this month and in the near future, including Infra Black's latest, That's Blood, That's Death! and new albums from nearly all of the bands Sebastian names above – including Hystakmine, Syndrome x209 and Evlent Chapter – all available for pre-order through their website [http://hellektroholocaust-records.host56.com/]. Also coming soon is Xperiment's first full-length CD First Headshot and Human End's debut Falling Stars... with even more sinister sounds on the dark horizon for 2009. For some sick sonic samples, take a cautious look around their MySpace [http://www.myspace.com/hellektroholocaust], and try not to slip in the blood!