In hindsight, Halo Of Flies is one of the labels responsible for dragging me into dark hardcore music. I was already into metal of all kinds and was into stuff like youth crew and got into more and more diverse hardcore bands until I got into the underground world where Halo Of Flies (and the European labels they work with) got my attention.
It's a shame to hear the label is calling it quits, but it's a good excuse to dive into my vinyl collection and play a couple of gems that Halo Of Flies was involved in. So in no particular order: a bunch of records that made a real impression on me. Of course, I'm curious to hear how label-boss Cory feels about these records and which gems I have missed and definitely need to check.
Thou/Black September - Thrive And Decay
Dennis: After discovering Black September's debut full-length—a full on death metal attack—I was looking for more work by this band and I found this split. The great thing about split records, of course, is flipping the record over and finding another band that deserves some attention. And so I did. This sweet EP contains one great Black September song, but also marked my discovery of Thou: heavy, heavy sludge. A discovery that cost me a lot of hard-earned money, as Thou is a really active band and have released a load of great records, splits and EPs.
Cory: This was a weird release, still part of the HOF "I can only afford to do 7"s" lifespan. I can't recall how this happened though I knew Chris from BS, and knew THOU kinda as I saw them twice on their first tour and we had chatted/I was into them, as I was BS. I have fond memories of this happening somewhat, though it was later re-released more lavishly by Gilead Media. Whatever. Weird blink-of-an-eye kind of split.
The Makai - Embracing The Shroud Of A Blackened Sky
Dennis: How many bands do you know that can get away with a 40 minute song? Not too many I bet! The Makai give it a go and do great. This record is crazily ambitious and but the band pulls it off.
Cory: This band was amazing. And members have gone on to other awesome bands. They wanted to do more (re: another song) for this release but I stopped it, because no way Jose am I doing a DLP of this. A sick, underappreciated band and record. Maybe we should have done the DLP.
Dennis: Well, Corey, I'm glad you stopped them in their tracks right there! One song like this is enough for one release. Two would have been overkill if you ask me. This one song is a lot to digest. Too bad the band is split up, otherwise I would say: perhaps something that other material they were thinking about is something for a future release. Am I right in thinking Amarok is one of those other bands? Pretty awesome stuff indeed, although in a completely different direction from The Makai.
Cory: Well, the next track was shorter. It just didn't fit on a single LP. I would love to see them do something though I don't think it will ever happen. Amarok IS one of the other bands, as is Usnea, and Cold Blue Mountain. Amarok has a new LP coming out soon and a summer tour to boot.
The Assassinators - I Disse Morke Tider
Dennis: This EP shows a slightly different side of Halo Of Flies. No darkness here, but wonderful melodic punk. Imagine Bad Religion with a shitload of metal influences (think Iron Maiden-like guitar work) and a woman singing in Danish. Powerful stuff! I love the explanation that is added to the lyric sheet on every release I own of The Assassinators. Perhaps you don't understand what is being sung, but they make sure the message can get across despite that.
Cory: This band rules/ruled. Amazing records before this, and I HAD to help with this EP and the split w DSB. I actually prefer poppier/catchier stuff over most of my catalog. They luckily toured the US and it was sooo great to meet them and see them live. 5 years from now I'll still listen to this band. Something I can't say about most of what i've released.
Dennis: Timeless music is really a gift. Over the years I've gathered quite a collection of music. There's only a small portion of it that I still go back to after the first couple of spins. The Assassinators is one of those bands. I especially play the full length, I have to admit though. That has more to do with me being lazy and not wanting to get up and turn the record over to often than anything else really…
I am curious though: which poppier records in your catalogue did I miss and do I really need to check out?
Cory: Accidente and Not On Tour I suppose. That's really it for 'poppier' stuff I have done. Both bands are great though! Luckily I got to see Accidente in Milwaukee. one of the best shows in recent memory.
Dennis: How could I forget Not On Tour? I own one LP and that is awesome stuff! Accidente is something I will check out later.
Dennis: Two crusty bands that bring out the best in each other. For both bands, this is their best work in my opinion. The artwork on this split is also worth mentioning.
Cory: I'm not sure it's the best work of either band, but it's damn close and sick for sure. Maybe the best opportunity to hear them both with less than a 30 minute commitment. First release I did over 1000 LPs on, and both bands deserved it. Their co-US tour was sick, they played here and I've been friends with both bands (overall) since forever.
Alex cf (Fall of Efrafa/Morrow/etc) did the art and it's maybe the best stuff he's done related to HOF, no offense to his band's work. I thought it was very unique.
Dennis: Well, whether it's the best both bands have ever released is of course a matter of taste. To me it's clear though: it is! I dig the full lengths of both bands, but this is the record I usually put on if I want to hear Alpinist or Masakari.
Enabler - All Hail The Void
Dennis: Halo Of Flies has released a couple of bands that dare to play with genre definitions. Enabler is one of them. The production on this album is a bit clean, perhaps a bit too clean, even, but the music is so over-the-top aggressive that it's impossible to not do the living room mosh if this is on the record player.
Cory: 1) This record is my favorite Enabler output, even though I liked them as "a band/members" more so in the beginning.
2) The main songwriter / leader of the band is a piece of shit, and I generally deny my association with them, fond feelings for other members aside.
Dennis: You addressed the elephant in the room. I was doubting whether to put this one on my list, really. I'm not sure how to deal with this yet (same as with the #metoo stuff going on in the (movie) world). I still dig the art, but at the same time it leaves a bad taste in my mouth thinking about the stuff the main songwriter did. Should I allow this or should I accept the music as it is? I'm still undecided so I decided to include it on my list for now. At the same time it has stopped me from buying other records of the band…
Cory: Yeah, he's a piece of shit, but was mostly surrounded by great people from beginning to end. A shame. The first 7" is pretty good as well, get it on Discogs for a buck.
Cloud Rat - Moksha
Dennis: I do love my grindcore every now and then. The downside of grindcore is the tendency to focus to much on extremities instead of writing actual songs. Cloud Rat was well aware of this and do a great job of writing real, but very extreme, songs. Is this their best work, or do I like this record best because this was my introduction to the band? I don't know. Does it really matter? No, this is simply a brilliant grindcore album!
Cory: I was kinda chided into a van to listen to final mixes of this LP, and then I agreed to help with it. And so began my dealing with the best grind band in the USA. It's NOT their best LP (Qliphoth is better), but it smokes and they are, THE BEST DIY PUNK/HC/GRIND BAND IN THE USA.
Dennis: There's a funny thing going on when you get to know a band. A lot of times I find that the record that is my entry into their discography becomes my favorite. I do remember listening to Moksha for the first time. I dropped what I was doing (reading) and just sat there listening. Not a lot of bands manage to do that. What they are doing is so awesome. Based on your recommendation I will give Qliphoth another chance, but to be honest, I doubt it will ever have the same impact on me as Moksha had. The thing is: by the time Qliphoth was released my expectations were so high, based on Moksha, it's nigh impossible to match my expectations. Perhaps now, after some time it has a fair chance, but…
Cory: Moksha was the first time I 'really' believed in them, so I totally hear you. Their later output is better, more balanced I think.
Rorcal - Villavege
Dennis: Villavege was my introduction to Rorcal. It is not an easy record to listen to. It's harsh and punishing. Sometimes doomy, sometimes venturing deep into black metal, but from the first to the last second there's a threatening atmosphere oozing from your speakers. It is also a bit punishing to your ears as it sounds really compressed. This can be a dealbreaker for me, but somehow it fits right in here.
Cory: Like the boys below, I like this kind of post hardcore/black metal. I don't have any emotional connection to it though.
Hexis - Abalam
Dennis: Another blackened piece of art. Hexis is truly suffocating black metal with a hardcore edge, not unlike Celeste if you want some comparison. Sometimes music can help you deal with emotions. Abalam was one of those records to me. Feeling fucked up, looking for catharsis? I put on Abalam and it would help me let go of all that anger and frustration.
Cory: This LP is really, really good for the style… And one I'm into or was for quite some time. I really liked the care they took with it, and I do think it's their best LP/output so far.
Protestant - In Thy Name
Dennis: You can’t do an article like this without mentioning Protestant. On In Thy Name you must have used equipment that can go up to eleven. This is a truly punishing mixture of crusty hardcore and black metal.
Cory: Well this is my band, and honestly it's my favorite record of ours, mostly because it's our last. We did tell our sometimes soft handed (distortion wise!) studio guy that we wanted everything in the red. And it was.
Dennis: Just curious: is this something you can still listen to in a couple of years? Also considering you mentioned digging the poppier/catchier side of HOF a lot.
Cory: Maybe, I dont listen to Protestant ever to be honest. This one has the best chance though.
Svffer - The Lies We Live
Dennis: Svffer is a German band that plays with genre definitions. This is their debut album which contains a brilliant mix of hardcore, crust and grindcore. Very powerful and very energetic.
Cory: SVFFER FUCKING RULES. Done.
Dennis: When Empathist was released the feedback of a fellow reviewer was it was a lesser record than this one. My opinion was (and still is) that Empathist rules as hard as The Lies We Live. He said he missed groove though. How do you feel about Empathist? And something I always felt sorry for was not seeing this band live. Ever… Have you had the opportunity?
Cory: Empathist was / is great. Probably a step up actually. The Lies We Live was more raw, but this band kills regardless. They've never been to the US, so no, I haven't seen them live either. They play not so often either.
Svalbard - One Day All This Will End
Dennis: A recent review of the new Svalbard record leaves no doubt about my love for the band. This is their debut, which contains an interesting mix of hardcore with a pinch of post-rock with lyrics with a strong message.
Cory: Svalbard are great people and a great band. If I'm going to listen to hardcore of any kind (aside from classic 80's stuff), I will listen to this. Post-HOF I will still push this band and they're one of the few post-HOF bands I want to see live.
Dennis: These were (a couple of) my favorite HOF-releases. Which records did I not mention that absolutely deserve attention, which records are you most proud of?
Cory: I've released a TON of records. I think Protestant, Fall Of Efrafa, Light Bearer, Cloud Rat, Vile Creature are my proudest moments. I don't know, I have a soft spot for most of them for different reasons. check out the End Of All LP I did. It's a great!! crust LP.
Dennis: And what is live going to look like for you post-HOF and post-Protestant? You've been active in the music world for quite a while. Where and when will we see you again?
Cory: Trying to recover from debt, do adult stuff, work more (my job and life have suffered due to the label). I'm in a new band called Wargames with another member of Protestant, and two others. It's very "Protestant-esque", but more fun and I suppose more melodic. It might be an accident or not, but it's kind of where Protestant would have headed at some point.
Dennis: Thanks for your time and input, Cory!