Some of the things I love about Germany, the beer, the food and the sheer abundance of killer death metal! One of the people I have to thank for that is Steffen Brandes and his label Lycanthropic Chants who have been polluting the airwaves, and my poor ear canals, with some of the finest putridity that the world has to offer.
Lycanthropic Chants is an underground label hailing from Wolfsburg, northern Germany, a city that is famous for its automotive history and futuristic town centre. The label started in 2016 by Steffen who features in, amongst others, the killer death metal band Cryptic Brood who, if you haven’t heard of, you need to go and check out. (Outcome Of Obnoxious Science out now via Lycanthropic Chants). After you’ve read this interview though…yeah?
Lycanthropic Chants are dedicated to supporting the underground extreme music scene by releasing music in an analogue format, whether it be cassette or vinyl via their label or their distro. The label has twenty six releases to its name and some amazing ones at that. These include the cassette release of Finnish death metal monsters Sepulchral Curse titled Only Ashes Remain which is a real highlight from this year. Other highlights include Minenfelds The Great Adventure, Panzer Squad’s self titled EP, Spanish heavyweights Orinicous’s La Maldición and the final release from Italian death metal mad men Haemophagus titled Stream Of Shadows.
I’ve been lucky enough to catch up with Steffen and ask him some questions about what Lycanthropic Chants are all about, the scene in general and how his band used to practice in a room full of mouse shit and merch eating moths. So, grab yourself a beer and enjoy my first ever interview.
Lets start at the beginning, how did Lycanthropic Chants begin and what enticed you to the world of underground death metal?
Hello Matt and thank you very much for this interview. I got introduced to underground music around the turn of the millennium, set up my first underground concert in 2005 and kept this going until the pandemic hit us in 2020. I’ve always been active with underground activities like setting up shows, trading records and booking tours etc. but decided to give these activities a moniker in 2016. At that time, I decided to release music from another band because I couldn‘t find it in analogue format but I liked it very much. So I got in touch with the band (God Disease), they agreed and so the label activities were born.
Was it a steep learning curve entering the world of the record label and were there any challenges?
I already knew some things from the pre-Lycanthropic Chants time but there were still tricks to learn. For example, packing bigger orders always took me a lot of time. I found the best way (for me) to pack the records and ship them safe and it‘s going relative quick now. There‘s still a lot to learn!
Are you looking for anything in particular in a band or artist when you sign them to your label?
This is a good question. I think it‘s the same as when you decide to like a band and gonna buy their record(s) and merch or not. The sound is important, absolutely. For me as a drummer I also listen to how the drummer plays his stuff. There‘s one thing, when I hear a drummer playing that way, then I‘m immediately out. Hehe. And I do also not buy or listen to records from bands with right wing attitude. So this is a no-go criteria for the label too.
I’ve always been active with underground activities like setting up shows, trading records and booking tours etc. but decided to give these activities a moniker in 2016…
What is your most anticipated release in 2020 for your label and also in general?
Depends on the point of view. I was looking very much forward to the release of Sepulchral Curse‘s debut album. Their previous EP was one of the first releases on Lycanthropic Chants (catalogue number LYNCH003). The release of the third opus by Exhumation from Indonesia was also something special because most of the releases on Lycanthropic Chants are by European bands. Working with bands from that part of the world was, and is, awesome!
Now, I‘m looking forward to releasing Dawn Of Obliteration on 12“ vinyl and tape. It‘s the first time since… years… that Lycanthropic Chants will do a release on 12“ vinyl. Also the release of a new EP on 7“ vinyl by Carnal Tomb… well I could talk about so many upcoming releases. There‘s no release I‘m not happy to be part of. That‘s the most important thing when running an underground label: be sure you won‘t regret any of your releases because they might not sell well, for example, but as long as you‘re 100% convinced, it was right to release it!
About the anticipated release in general: the new album from Defeated Sanity. Still have to get my hands on it. Argh!
How has the current situation with COVID-19 effected you and your label and are there future ramifications for underground music because of it?
The pandemic had a huge impact on my musical activities. First of all I booked a tour through Scandinavia for my band Cryptic Brood that had to be cancelled/postponed. We also had another tour planned for summer that also got cancelled. All the festivals in summer/fall got postponed.
When playing or setting up shows, I often have a small distro with me. No shows = no distro = no sales. But, fortunately, the people spend their money they cannot spend at shows buying records online. So my online sales grew more than usual and I hope I can keep this up.
It‘s hard to tell how the future looks. Will there be shows like before the pandemic again? What about festivals? I hope so.
What is your proudest moment as head of the label?
When bands you like ask if you‘re interested in releasing their new record or when you send them a message and then they get back to you with a positive response! One time I was allowed to produce 25mm pins for one of my favourite bands. These are really great moments.
When the old school sound got bigger again, bands were sounding raw, like recorded in the rehearsal room…
What do you think of the current OSDM revival scene, can it keep going? Is it really a revival or is it just more at the forefront of the metal scene currently?
It was always there but not in the focus. I remember seeing Dismember live shortly before they split up. Only a very few people attended. And there were still underground bands releasing this old school type of sound. I think it will keep going but it might not be as lit as it currently is. When the old school sound got bigger again, bands were sounding raw, like recorded in the rehearsal room. Now they sound big and fat with a lot of loudness. But there are also still bands keeping it real!
What do you think is the next big sound shift is in extreme music?
Some of the new bands that spawned (especially from the US) remind me of Dehumanized, early Devourment, Eternal Suffering or Internal Bleeding. Are slams coming back?
What are your current must hear artists in music?
I will name bands not linked to Lycanthropic Chants, okay? Atavisma, Church Of Disgust, Obliteration, Outre-Tombe and Suffering Hour.
Germany seems to have an abundance of killer labels (Lycanthropic, Fucking Kill Records and Ván to name a few) is there something in the water that makes Germany the place for underground extreme music?
In the water? Maybe in the beer?
I don‘t know for the post-COVID-19-time, but there are – and hopefully will be – a good number of places for underground bands to play shows. The geographical position of Germany means many bands having dates on their tours in our country. You can go to these shows and be part of the underground scene. Getting inspired and if you feel motivated to do so, start your own activities.
Who are the other labels to keep an eye out for currently?
When speaking about labels from Germany, I would also like to introduce you to Lo-Fidelity Assaults. Releasing tapes only, mostly live recordings. But they pay a lot of attention to the outfit of their tapes. For example, a fishnet to house the AHAB live tape. Excellent!
You might have heard of Rotted Life Records from the USA because of their constantly great output but I wanna name them here too. Albums from Coffin Rot, Molder and demos like that crushing one by Night Hag were released in the past months, just to name a few highlights.
We were sharing this room with mice that emptied their bowels on everything, destroyed cables and lived in our merch boxes…
What’s the most ‘Death Metal’ thing that’s happened with one of your roster?
Our rehearsal dungeon was in a very old building in Wolfsburg. We were sharing this room with mice that emptied their bowels on everything, destroyed cables and lived in our merch boxes. And if that was not enough, we also had moths that ate our merch, so we couldn‘t sell it anymore. This place is getting redecorated now. Let‘s see what happens to our room-mates when we may return sometime in 2021.
And last but certainly not least, would you rather have hair for teeth or teeth for hair?
Depends on the position of the hair or teeth. If the teeth would be at the root of the hair I would prefer this option because it could save me from loosing my hair and I could keep banging the shit out of my head when I‘m old 😉
So now you know that the head of an underground label from Wolfsburg, Germany would rather have teeth for hair than hair for teeth! What I love most about the label is the sheer passion Steffen has for the scene, whether it be in his native country or around the world. His DIY ethic, friendly nature and relaxed outlook are really welcome in a increasingly scary world. It’s been a blast putting this together. I’d like to thank Steffen personally for taking the time to chat to me and answer my questions. I’d also like to thank him for his recommendations for music to listen to as they’re always killer!
If your thinking ‘I need something new to listen to’, ‘I’m not sure what to listen to next’ or ‘I haven’t heard anything that has made my ears bleed (in the best way) in a while’ then I urge you to head over to Lycanthropic Chants website and check out some of their releases. You won’t be disappointed and, like me, you’ll come away with a load of new killer bands to listen to.
And Finally, Steffen I’ve got the new Defeated Sanity record and can confirm that it’s awesome. Also, great shout out to the Canadian band Outre-Tombe those guys produce some seriously good death metal!
Interviewed by: Matt Alexander