Thursday, 25 May 2017

[ALBUM REVIEW] Nightbringer - Terra Damnata















Genre - Black Metal

1. As Wolves Amongst the Ruins
2. Misrule
3. Midnight's Crown
4. Of the Key and Crossed Bones
5. Let Silence be His Sacred Name
6. Inheritor of a Dying World
7. The Lamp of Inverse Light
8. Serpent Sun

Nightbringer have been making a lot of significant waves in the US scene the last few years with their ever developing and intoxicating black metal madness reaching its ninth year since Death and the Black Work, and while many would rather look down their noses at the USBM scene, Nightbringer are further proof with Terra Damnata that those opinions couldn't be further from the truth. Ego Dominus Tuus was always going to be a difficult act to follow, probably the album of theirs I would have ranked as the high water mark amongst their discography, so their latest release has a lot to live up to. Nevertheless I was quietly confident this lastest offering would be up to a similar standard as Nightbringer have a certain indescribable aura that some bands just seem to have that you get the feeling they can't put a foot wrong.

Certainly from the visceral, unbridled chaos of the opening you know they still mean business, “As Wolves Amongst Ruins” commences the album with a maelstrom of off kilter guitar leads and riffs which certainly give more than a slight nod to Emperor's work post Anthems... Coupled with the dual vocals, a contrast of a high pitched wretched rasp and more gutteral roar, it makes for an intriguing listen. It's theatrical in every sense of the word, a carnival of horrors, and as you listen through the album you're tore backwards helplessly like a rag-doll through the cathartic, dissonant delirium created by the band.

One thing that really impressed me on the last two albums was the sheer ability that their drummer Menthor displays, the guy is an absolute animal behind the kit, delivering a barbaric onlsaught that contributes so much to helping carry and control the flow and intensity of the album. You have tracks like the opener and “Let Silence be His Sacred Name” which are an all out aural assault, then you have some which take the pace off a bit such as the powerful dirge of “Inheritor of a Dying World”. The audible bass is also a nice touch as well, as there appears to be an epidemic in the black metal scene of bands apparently being allergic to utilizing it for some fucking reason.

It's the second half of the album where it really rises above everything else they've done previously though, the intensity of the spiralling riffs, convulsive vocals and pulverising drumming further coalesce and threaten to push you that much closer to insanity, once you finally wrap your head around it all, it's almost impossible to pry yourself back out of it again. “The Lamp of Inverse Light” is interesting in that it's more of an atmospheric piece with respite from the insanity shown previous, no harsh vocals, rather slow brooding leads layered with the spoken word of the infamous Italian fascist Julius Evola. It's almost Dance of December Souls like in its presentation. Final track “Serpent Sun” makes sure to end the album with a bang though, probably the highlight of Terra Damnata, a monolithic and pulverising death march, churning up everything beneath it.

What really impresses me about the band is how they manage to keep the album so varied continually morphing from one guise to another, it's technical, avant-garde and ambitious without ever losing sight of what actually 'is' black metal, without ever becoming a pretentious, experimental and self indulgent mess like many of their peers. It's not an easy listen, but then again if you're in anyway previously familiar with the band you know not to expect some bottom of the barrel generic black metal, for Terra Damnata is the absolute antithesis to 'generic'. There is so much going on it takes quite a few listens to disseminate all the layers and find a bit of breathing space, as it is very claustrophobic at times, but once you do you'll find it very rewarding. If there was any previous lingering doubt, for me Terra Damnata cements Nightbringer's place and evolution as one of the pinnacles of progressive and forward thinking black metal in the US today. One for the end of year list for sure. 

9.5/10

If you like - Dodsengel, Emperor, Svaritdaudi

Originally written for The Metal Observer 






Saturday, 1 April 2017

[LIVE REVIEW] Mayhem/Dragged Into Sunlight/Malthusian - Dublin, The Academy, 31/03/2017




It's nigh on a decade since Norway's most notorious black metal act Mayhem played that now infamous trainwreck of a gig in Dublin's Button Factory, a show where that shambling clusterfuck of a band stumbled their way through something that was hard to describe other than an utter self-parodying pantomime. So it wasn't unwarranted that I had some degree of trepidation upon hearing they were returning before finally deciding to give them another chance. What eventually sold it for me was the fact that this was them playing their magum opus 'De Mysteriis...' in full, because honestly if not for that I frankly wouldn't have bothered my arse.

The initial support was our very own Malthusian, a band who quite rightly are getting a significant amount of praise from a wider audience in the black/death scene outside of Ireland due in part to their two absolutely devastating EPs from the last few years. This was the my first time seeing these guys and by fuck did the exceed all my expectations, cleaving their way through just over half an hour of bleak malevolence, delivering their hybrid of devastating, noxious triple vocalled black/death metal like an unrelenting force of hell.



It was the perfect stage for which can surely only do the band good, as Mayhem are the type of band who have plenty of fans who fall into the category of armchair, once a year gig-goers who bemoan the lack of decent locals bands, without actually making any effort to find what's right beneath their noses, bands like Malthusian for example. I'd say they definitely had a few converts that night. Trying not to be biased at all as they're local, but standout band of the night for me.



Main tour support act Dragged Into Sunlight were up next and admittedly a band I wasn't particularly familiar with at all, a mysterious English quintet that peddle a technical hybrid of black/death/doom. Not particularly my cup of tea, I prefer my extreme metal a bit more 'dirty' for want of a better description, but there is no denying the band were extremely powerful and tight as fuck, with a beast of a drummer. One thing though, this whole 'backs to the crowd' shit, what is the point? I get that they want to create an atmosphere of sorts and stage set-ups certainly can help add that the music, but it just came off as nothing other than pretentious, you're not the fucking Jesus and Mary Chain, wind yer necks in.
 


So, then came Mayhem. A few thoughts running through my mind, would they further tarnish their legacy by destroying their masterwork? Or actually give a decent stab it? Surprisingly they went one step further, they were actually really fucking good. 'De Mysteriis...' needs no introduction to any self respecting black metal fan, it's an iconoclastic monolith that quite rightly sits at the very top of the tree for black metal as a whole. Appearing on stage in hooded robes looking like Nazgul or some shit, they tear through each track chronologically, beginning with the admittedly rough 'Funeral Fog', they iron it out for the anthemic and chilling 'Freezing Moon' removing any lingering doubts and showing as a band they may actually be beginning to take themselves seriously again in the live environment.



'Pagan Fears' is similarly well received, driving the crowd into a frenzy with that riff and 'Buried By Time and Dust' another highlight. At least this time around, even if the whole 'mysterious robes' shtick is slightly overdone these days, they actually managed to create an effective atmosphere with candles, altar, dry ice and the strobe lighting. It at least helps erase the horror of paper crosses and Attila dressed up like a gimped out paramilitary. It was certainly not flawless though by any means, Attila's vocals were a bit too buried in the mix and the drumming was overbearing, although I guess that is to be expected with the ego behind the kit, it just distracted a lot from the rest of the music which was otherwise impressively tight and intense, especially Teloch and Ghul in place for the now departed Blasphemer.



All in all a welcome surprise, yes some may argue the set was very short, I could easily have watched them for as much again, but when you're getting one of the greatest black metal albums ever written delivered in full, with some songs that have been gathering dust for god knows how long now, it was definitely worth it. They've been getting good reports all tour so far, so lets see if it continues. I would certainly pay to see them again after that showing. 

Originally written for metalireland.com 




Monday, 13 March 2017

[ALBUM REVIEW] Lunar Shadow - Far From Light



Genre - Heavy Metal

1. Hadrian Carrying Stones
2. They That Walk the Night
3. Frozen Goddess
4. Gone Astray
5. The Hour of Dying
6. The Kraken
7. Cimmeria
8. Earendil (Gone Are the Days)

One thing that can be said about Cruz Del Sur is while they don't release a huge quantity of stuff, what they do is generally always release quality material, and German heavy metal act Lunar Shadow are no exception. Upon first glance of their album cover, you almost expect it to be some sort of polished, sterile black metal, certainly the logo could certainly throw a unsuspecting few people off, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Far From Light, the debut album from these guys is nothing but pure gallant heavy metal with it's roots planted firmly in the classic style, and drawing from the same vein as acts such as Twisted Tower Dire, Slough Feg and Atlantean Kodex.

Comparisons to label contemporaries Atlantean Kodex are going to be unavoidable, they both share that similar starry eyed, cavalier style of heavy metal which is filled with fantasy and imagination, weaving epic songs pushing ten minutes in length absolutely awash with atmosphere. But while they are similar in design, Lunar Shadow have a bit more 'oomph' and kick to their sound, with a nice variety of tempo changes throughout the album.

If you've heard their impressive debut EP released two years prior, it's along the same sort of theme, except this time round they've tightened the reins and backed by a decent production job, sound a lot more mature and focused.

The first thing that struck me was was how much at times on this album vocalist Alex Vornam sounds like Paul Mccartney, call it a lazy comparison or whatever but listening to the some of the slower songs especially or the opening to 'Hadrian Carrying Stones' and you'll see what I mean, I just can't get it out of my head. Vocally the album might put some off, but I think they suit the mood of the album well, though they could still potentially benefit more from something a bit more Tony Taylor like which would propel them into the same realm as classics such as 'The Isle of Hydra' and 'Traveller'. Regardless, 'Far from Light' is not too far off from this at all. Instrumentally is where the album really comes into a league of it's own though, the guitar work delivered by Max and Kay is absolutely sublime, awash with Maiden-esque twin guitar harmonies, ripping solos and acoustics passages which show some more traditional Wishbone Ash influences too.

Tracks like the opener with its interweaving guitar melodies, sustained by an absolutely pounding rhythm are the perfect examples of what I'm talking about, it's the type of metal that marches right up to you and kicks you square in the balls yet still leaves you wanting more. There's also a huge array of diversity as well, no passage ever feels like it's been rehashed, and it's technical without ever straying into prog territory. 'The Kraken' and 'Cimmeria' are similarly epic, long double bass driven narratives, the former a baroque journey with arguably the finest guitar work here, dynamic and crunching riffs, driving rhythm tied up with that sleek, Murray/Smith lead work; the latter while having a bit of a slow start, being a more aggressive and moody number.

'Gone Astray' and 'Earendil' take the foot off the throttle and break up the pace a bit and are pure acoustic ballads almost Blind Guardian like in their delivery, not too dissimilar to 'The Bard's Song' or 'Lord of the Rings'. The former is a tad cheesy though and does drag a bit, but is by no means terrible.

'They That Walk the night' is by far the standout track here though, one of those tracks that will become a live staple for years to come, a headlong sing along assault with a blistering intro not unlike something early Slough Feg might have come up with, with a tempo and chorus that absolutely grips you by the neck and holds on for dear life.

So, safe to say this is a fucking fantastic album and one that's sure to remain near the top until the end of the year. It seems traditional heavy metal is making somewhat of a small revival again, what with bands such as Summerlands, Eternal Champion and Ravensire all releasing stellar albums in the past year, and this is certainly an album that can go toe to toe with those, if not even better. If fist clenching, fantasy driven heavy metal that leaves nothing but a trail of burnt rubber and steel in it's wake is your thing, then this is a must buy, since this dropped through my post box I haven't stopped playing it. Now when's that next Atlantean Kodex release due? 

9.5/10

If you like - Twisted Tower Dire, Solstice, Atlantean Kodex

[ALBUM REVIEW] Manetheren - The End
















Genre - Black Metal


1. The Sun that Bled
2. And Then Came the Pestilence
3. The Ritual
4. When All is Still, There is Nothing 
5. Darkness Enshrouds
6. The End

Hailing from the US, Manetheren come as a completely new discovery to me, even though they've actually been grinding away since 2004 now, and currently onto their fifth album. The name actually intrigued me a bit, with the 'Wheel of Time' reference but rather than being based around sci-fi fantasy it appears the aptly titled 'The End' is a concept album based around the end of the world.

The style of black metal on show here is a sprawling, hypnotic and dissonant dirge of atmospheric black somewhat comparable to the sound and structure of that by Winterfylleth or Wodensthrone but with the nihilistic attitude of Blut Aus Nord, which I guess isn't surprising when you discover drummer Thorns is currently drumming with BaN.

'The End' took a good few listens for me to actually get my claws dug into it, the first few attempts it basically passed me by without making much of an impression at all, but the longer I spent with it the more that began to emerge. As far as this style of black metal goes it doesn't particularly push the boat out at all, but it is decent enough for what it is. The guitar work on show here is pretty solid, drawn out tremolo riffing which remains diverse without ever becoming obnoxious. I particularly like the way in which the guitar contributes to the bleak and despondent atmosphere with the subtle off key lead work scattered here and there, especially on “When all is Still, There is Nothing” and “Darkness Enshrouds”, the stand out track on 'The End'. The vocals are powerful and delivered with menace and intent even if suffering a bit from lack of range and variety.

The biggest roadblock with 'The End' though is it's length, it's just so long it's absolutely exhausting to get through, over an hour in total, and with that a lot of the tracks just tend to overstay their welcome and spiral into a meandering monotony that has you reaching for the skip button. Which is unfortunate as there are a lot of great passages buried within this release, it's just you have to sift through all the dreariness to find them.

Certainly recommended if foreboding atmospheric black metal with a desolate and dystopian edge is your thing, there's a lot out there worse than this. Still though, as good as it is though at times there is a large room for improvement, especially on the quality control side of things. Too much filler in-between.

6.8/10

If you like - Mid Blut Aus Nord era, Winterfylleth, Wodensthrone
 
Originally written for Metalireland.com
 

Saturday, 11 February 2017

[ALBUM REVIEW] Firewind - Immortals















Genre - Power Metal

1. Hands of Time
2. We Defy
3. Ode to Leonidas
4. Back on the Throne
5. Live and Die by the Sword
6. War of Ages
7. Lady of 1000 Sorrows
8. Immortals
9. Warrior and Saints
10. Rise From the Ashes

Back after a five year hiatus from their last effort, the Greek power metal stalwarts Firewind return with their eighth full length entitled 'Immortals', a concept album about Greek history, specifically The Battle of Thermopylae, Spartans and all that subject matter that the Greek metal bands just love recycling to us under a million different guises.

For me Firewind always kind of sat on the fringes of power metal greatness, never quite reaching it, but coming close with 'Burning Earth', but for the majority of their discography they seemed to suffer from playing it far too safe and being all too predictable, with actual solid songwriting often being eschewed to make room for Gus G's flamboyant roller-coaster of guitar playing. Fair enough I get that it is solely his band, he can do whatever the fuck he likes, but still, technical wizardry and flashy arpeggios does not a good song make.

So how does 'Immortals' hold up then? Considering how busy the band have been in the last few years with other projects, guitar virtuoso Gus G jet-setting across the globe with Ozzy Osbourne, and long time singer Apollo being replaced by ex-Metalium vocalist Henning Base, it's pretty much like they never went away, pretty much what you'd expect from Firewind. So take from that what you will, Euro power metal is like chalk and cheese to most people, you either love it or hate it.

'Hands of Time' is a brilliant opener, your typical power metal 'anthem'. Really steely, crunching guitar riffs, a kicking rhythm and catchy, sugary as fuck chorus, it's basically what you want from them. I actually get a significant Lost Horizon vibe from them on this album (only nowhere near as good), vocalist Henning at times sounds very similar to the more aggressive side of Daniel Heiman.

As my previously mentioned ills with the band pointed out, 'Immortals' again suffers from the same problem many power metal albums do, they just completely blow their load on one song and kind of just seize up on auto-pilot for rest of the album. 'Ode to Leonidas' starts off with so much promise but kind of just fizzles out after the intro leaving you thinking, 'is this it'? While 'Back on the Throne' and 'Lady of 1000 Sorrows ' are just kind of awkward and exemplify my main grievance with the album, it threatens so much but never quite crosses that threshold, playing it safe and by the book. The last two tracks 'Warriors and Saints' and 'Rise from the Ashes' do pick up the pace again and are certainly decent, again standard fare cascading Stratovarius-esque neo-classical guitar leads, breakneck drumming and sing along vocal lines.

Fans of the band should definitely check this out, but for those on the fence or those who aren't fans it's not going to change opinions, they've cemented their formula and sticking to it. It's Firewind by numbers for the most part and aside from a few shining highlights here there it's just restricted by its inconsistency and average songwriting. 

6/10

If you like - Dragonforce, Lost Horizon, Stratovarius

Originall written for metalireland.com

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

[ALBUM REVIEW] Holy Martyr - Darkness Shall Prevail


















1.  Shores of Elenna
2. Numenor
3. Heroic Deeds
4. Darkness Descends
5. Taur Nu Fuin
6. Minas Morgul
7. Witch-King of Angmar
8. The Dwarrowdelf
9. Born of Hope

Genre - Heavy Metal

 Sometimes nothing can set you up for the head-in-hands disappointment when a band you loved releases a completely unexpected and out of the blue sub-par release. Such is the case I have found with Italian epic heavy metallers Holy Martyr, who release their first album in six years entitled Darkness Shall Prevail, trading the exotic ancient Japanese samurai themes of Invincible for the hobbits, elves and nazgul of Tolkien. I mean it's Holy Martyr and Middle Earth, how could you possibly go wrong? Theoretically this should have been amazing, how could it have been anything but? But in reality it bears all the scars of a band who have just by the looks of things have lost direction and don't know quite what they are trying to achieve with this release.

To begin, the production is really fucking bad for a heavy metal release, and let me tell you being a huge black metal fan I'm pretty immune to bad production jobs by now. Fair enough Holy Martyr always seemed to opt for the rougher side of the coin when it came to this, but it worked on their earlier releases; it added a sense of grit and fortitude to their sound, but here it's hard to describe as anything other than downright terrible. I get that they're going for a kind of darker sound here, but it just really doesn't work. For starters the vocals are absolutely brick-walled in the mix, they're far too loud and together with Ivano's slight accent it just comes off a bit disjointed and awkward and actually started to give me a headache about halfway through this.

Instrumentally it is decent enough, but for a band of this calibre who are so much better than this, 'decent' just isn't acceptable enough. The guitar playing lacks urgency for the most part, the tone is thin and weak. There are decent patterns scattered here and there and the odd riff which threatens to ignite some sort of spark but then it kind of just dwindles off into mediocrity each time, leaving you with the impression of lost opportunities every time. “Born of Hope” is definitely the stand out track here, containing some great riffs and vocals and was pretty much the only one to hold my attention, it's just a bit of a shame it's the last track.

What I'd love to know is where has that heroic, barbarian spirit of the past gone? When you compare the likes of “Tar Nu Fuin” to the likes of “Warmonger” and “Spartan Phalanx” there's just no comparison really. It seems like they completely lost their balls in opting for this 'darker' sound that they are shooting for on Darkness Shall Prevail. When you're attempting epic-metal in the vein of Manilla Road like these guys, you really need the hooks and melodies to hold peoples attention, and that's just not present here, the whole album kind of just passed me by like heavy metal elevator music.

I really hate to say it but the whole album was just a struggle to get through, not due to it being downright awful no, it's just painfully boring more than anything else. Where it threatens to break out into something epic and fist pumping it kind of just unceremoniously veers off into mediocrity. The likes of “Numenor” and “Witch King of Angmar” are decent enough but not what I come to expect from these guys, the whole album just sounds jumbled, incoherent and hastily thrown together, and with having had six years to work on it, is pretty inexcusable. I spent far too long looking/hoping to find something which wasn't here on Darkness Shall Prevail, so don't bother with it unless you're an absolute die-hard of the band, their previous three are so much better. These Italian warriors appear to have lost their way a bit and could do with re-finding their inspiration. 

4/10

Originally written for The Metal Observer
 

Sunday, 22 January 2017

[ALBUM REVIEW] Dread Sovereign - For Doom the Bell Tolls














1. For Doom the Bell Tolls
2. Twelve Bells Toll in Salem
3. This World is Doomed
4. Draped in Sepulchural Fog
5. The Spines of Saturn
6. Live Like an Angel, Die Like a Devil (Venom Cover)

Genre - Psychedelic Doom Metal/Rock

So, Ireland's doom metal trio Dread Sovereign finally return to the fold with the follow up to their 2014 effort entitled For Doom the Bell Tolls, and is the next logical step in progression of the Dublin doom leviathan fronted by the ever industrious Alan Nemtheanga. With All Hell's Martyr's the band showed brief glimpses of their experimentation with psychedelia woven throughout their sermon of St. Vitus influenced Doom on the likes of “Cthulu Opiate Haze”, but it was only that, a minor experimentation really, but here on For Doom the Bell Tolls it appears the band have decided to bring this further to the forefront to the point it's so significant you couldn't really class them as just traditional doom any more, certainly not on this release anyway.

First proper track “Twelve Bells Toll in Salem” certainly begins in the more traditional Doom vein, very Vitus like, and is an absolute devastating monolith of a track, but it isn't long before the noisy space rock influences begin to show their head, and just over halfway it transforms into a complete washed-out, drifting cyclone of pure psychedelic noise. Alan's vocals are as animated and emotive as ever, his wailing “I am the dread sovereign...” coupled with that filthy, colossal thundering bass just threatens to pull the world down around you.

One of the first things that struck me about this album was how similar the production is to The Devil's Blood The Thousand Fold Epicentre. Listening to “This World is Doomed”, which begins in a very traditional doom sense, the similarity in production to The Devil's Blood is very noticeable throughout the whole song, especially in the long scuzzy, drawn out hazy guitar passages, so in other words you have that sweeping feedback drenched pedal abuse of Hawkwind, just with a shinier production. “The Spines of Saturn” is probably the best example of their new sound, in fact you couldn't really call this doom at all this track really, Alan's vocals have a heavy distorted reverb effect on them, the guitar sweeps and swirls enveloping everything in a noisy hypnotic Hawkwind-esque haze all the while building up to a climax. The guitar playing is excellent here, and Alan's vocals on the first two tracks just as dramatic and baroque as ever. Closing up the album we have a cover of Venom classic “Live Like an Angel, Die Like a Devil”, a complete change of pace to the rest of the album (as you'd expect), which while a welcome blast of energy, does feel more than slightly out of place.

For Doom the Bell Tolls certainly won't be for everyone, doom purists may well turn their noses up at it, which is kind of ridiculous to be honest as the likes of St. Vitus, Pentagram and even Witchfinder General themselves were psychedelic in their own way. The main gripe to me is it feels more like an EP than a legitimate full length release, and once you factor out the intro, the interlude “Draped in Sepulchral Fog” and the Venom cover it is only three proper tracks really, of which from these guys being brutally honest you'd expect a bit more. There are periods where it seems they're holding something back, or it just never quite develops with the intensity you expect it to, nevertheless what is on showcase here on these three tracks is impressive enough if nothing exceptional. It is a real slow burner this album, and took a long time for me to get my feet cemented into it and immersed in the thick noxious smog of doom and noise, admittedly the first time it went completely over my head, but it is absolutely a grower of a release, so give it time. Just a shame it's altogether so short. 

7/10

Originally Written for The Metal Observer.

If you like - Hawkwind, The Devil's Blood, St. Vitus 

Monday, 16 January 2017

[ALBUM REVIEW] Goatmoon - Stella Polaris















   

1. Intro
2. Stella Polaris
3. Kansojen Hävittäjä
4. Wolf Night
5. Sonderkommando Nord
6. Warrior
7. Conqueror
8. Overlord

Genre - Black Metal
 
The Finnish black metal scene continues to solidify its position as the strongest and most productive of the Scandinavian countries in the last 15+ years or so, with acts such as Sargeist, Horna, Clandestine Blaze and Satanic Warmaster among many others, it's a hard argument to counter that there's any other country in the world continually producing as much quality black metal as Finland. Where-as with the likes of Norway where the scene stagnated long ago, mainly due to the fact many of the acts still claw at the coattails of residual past glories, the Finns appear to have a consistent knack for drawing fresh inspiration while still maintaining the core ideology of what black metal actually stood for.

Goatmoon are one of these bands, now onto their fifth album of remorseless black metal barbarity, with Stella Polaris, and as with Voitto Tai Valhalla, Blackgoat Gravedesecrator (what a name!) continues with the band's progression from the primitive dishevelled black metal garage punk noise of the debut to a more structurally refined and melodic, yet still jagged and recognizable style of pagan themed black metal. If you pour a glance over the fantastic cover art, it actually does give you a good impression of the sound present on Stella Polaris. The main backbone of the music is still a heavily significant juxtaposition of the sadism of Satanic Warmaster and obnoxious punk styled riff work of Absurd.

One of the first things that stood out for me on this album was how much it reminded me Swedish band Vinterland. I don't think this was intended, it lacks the depressive attitude of Welcome to My Last Chapter, but at times the absolutely frigid, crystalline gleam of the atmosphere on Stella Polaris coupled with Blackgoat's harsh, bitter rasp, drew my attention to it more than once.

When the album is good, let me tell you it is fucking brilliant, the title track packs a punch with it's fast, icy sharp tremolo riffing, synths and upbeat tempo all tied up with some pretty flashy heavy metal styled guitar leads. 'Kansojen Hävittäjä', a track from the split with Der Sturmer early last year makes a return, and without doubt is one of the greatest tracks Goatmoon have ever wrote. The contrast between the sharp lively riffing and main 'chorus' riff is absolutely fantastic, and when it comes in again at 2:30 in the higher key wrapped in those synths, it is utterly astounding. The last three tracks are all very tight too, following the same paths between the caustic relentless black metal and the glacial folky atmospheres, even bringing to mind the likes of Emperor such as heard on “Overlord”, which takes a slightly more astral slant. What I like about Blackgoat's use of synth is that he obviously knows how to use it with restraint; synths used sparsely but at the the right time can be so much more effective than drowning the album in them like some overambitious Tolkien freak.

My problem with Stella Polaris has nothing to do with the actual music itself, and that's the really frustrating thing present here; the musicianship on showcase here absolutely stellar, it's Goatmoon doing what they do best, and the next logical step on from their last album. It's just once the last track finishes, I was kind of left sitting thinking to myself “Is that it?”. Because if you take out the intro, the unnecessary “Wolf Night” and “Sonderkommando Nord” (which is a nice almost Celtic-esque instrumental, but would have been so much more interesting with vocals) then you only have five proper tracks, one of which appeared on a split EP last year. And with the album as a whole only clocking in at 31 minutes, you almost feel a bit short changed, of which is only exacerbated by the fact that musicianship on those five songs is just so fucking excellent, it just goes by in a flash. And for that reason I just can't give this album the nigh-perfect mark I wish I could.

Still though, dis-regarding the previous aspect about the length, Stella Polaris should still most certainly be sought out by all self-respecting fans of the band and those into riff-centric, pagan-themed, atavistic black metal. Goatmoon deliver their doctrine with an iron hand, no compromise, and displaying everything that black metal should be, an ugly and raw middle finger to tolerance, pretentious 'progressive avant-garde' nonsense and just shite fucking black metal in general. It's short and straight to the point, just a pity it's all so brief.


7.8/10

Originally written for http://www.metal-observer.com

If you like  - Baptism, Sargeist, Satanic Warmaster

Monday, 9 January 2017

[Album Review] Mesarthim - ".- -... ... . -. -.-. ."














1. .----
2. ..---
3. ...--
4. ....-
5. .....
6. -....

Genre - Black Metal

 Another band I've been keeping a loose eye on recently was Australian Black metal outfit Mesarthim, after a strong debut back in 2015 and a productive period in between, this duo have finally released their follow up effort. Now admittedly I fell behind in the metal scene last year due to varying reasons, but this among select others were a few that stood out for me. Peddling a highly symphonic and expansive, yet still raw and caustic variety of Black Metal, something not unlike Midnight Odyssey, Nychts and Lustre, was what drew me to them in the first place, because let's face it, I'm a complete sucker for this style of Black Metal ever since I saw the cover to Moon in the Scorpio all those years ago. Plus, it brings a welcome change to the immortal conflict over who can produce the most pretentious satanic bullshit these days which seems to be present in many corners of the underground at the minute.

OK, while on the subject of 'pretentious' you can't ignore the absurd title they have given the album which is '.- -... ... . -. -.-. .'. Yep, that is Morse code. Back in the day when us old farts used to go into physical shops to buy our cds/records, could you envision going up to the cashier and attempting to ask if they had this album? So if, like me, you're not exactly fluent in the nautical vocabulary, you'd be a bit... well... fucked. So after consulting my oft-used Morse code to English dictionary, the title translates to Absence. So that's what I'm gonna call it from now on. I guess in a sense it kind of fits the whole stellar demeanour and panorama Mesarthim are trying to create, that of insignificance, as speck of a lone ship, lost and drifting on a celestial sea. But yes, it still is pretty ridiculous. Track wise each tracks translates in the corresponding Morse code for it's number, that at least is relatively simple.

One of the aspects on Absence which struck me the most was how similar the core Black Metal arrangements are to those composed by Aussie scene powerhouse Tim Yatras, otherwise known as 'Germ'. Now not much is known about the members on this album as far as I know, but I wouldn't be surprised if he was involved in some way. It's a massively rich and layered album, tortured vocals tear through the tumultuous maelstrom of pulsating static guitar riffs like tendrils of ice while the brooding, glittering synths weave in and out. Superimpose Austere on top of the chromatic soundscapes of Summoning and a bit of “I am the Black Wizards” and you've got Mesarthim basically.

I find Black Metal like this can be a difficult one to pull off correctly though Mesarthim manage to strike the right balance between repetition and variation without going too overboard on the synth work. It's a style where so many other bands fail, either it's just overtly pretentious and not interesting enough, or they end up diving in feet first suffocating themselves in cheese. The album feels like one big track split into smaller sections, though each track still contains enough to differ it from the next.

I don't really have much other way to put it but Absence is an absolutely stunning and captivating release by these guys, its glittering soundscapes are absolutely dripping in atmosphere, where Limbonic Art were more on the psychedelic side, these guys on the nostalgic and wondrous. Definitely one to stick the headphones on, lie down in the back garden on a clear night and have a mid life existential crisis to. An impressive piece of progress from Isolate. Some would say Death rides a pale horse, but here he straddles an intergalactic motherfucking battleship. 

9.5/10

Originally written for The Metal Observer

If you like - Midnight Odyssey, Limbonic Art, Austere

Thursday, 5 January 2017

[ALBUM REVIEW] Witchery - In his Infernal Majesty's Service















1. Lavey-athan
2.  Zoroast
3.  Netherworld Emperor
4.  Nosferatu
5. The Burning of Salem
6. Gilded Fang
7.  Empty Tombs
8.  In Warm Blood
9. Escape from Dunwich Valley
10.  Feed the Gun
11. Oath Breaker

Genre - Black/Modern thrash


Truth be told, Witchery were a band that had been completely buried in the recesses of my my mind for the last ten years or so, and not without good reason either as except for their pretty solid "Restless and Dead" debut, they were utterly middle of the road and run-of-mill as far as black thrash bands came. So upon receiving their latest "In His Infernal Majesty's Service", part of me while still surprised they still actually existed, was hoping for something a little more engaging than previous efforts.

So how does it hold up then in relation to their previous endeavours? Well as feared it's more of the same unfortunately. They're still at the Blackened Thrash, Aura Noir-ish side of things, though have managed to create a sound here which edges closer to the modern day Exodus end of the spectrum rather than the old Slayer influences from the debut.

The production is big and bruising and the guitars have a substantial groove to their fast riffing, one such thing that there is plenty of here, it's just a pity they're all rather vanilla with very little hooks on the album that stand out. Vocals have always been a weak point for Witchery, and again is such the case here consisting of a rather one-dimensional and half-assed Black metal rasp from the Legion replacement, Angus Norder.

Tracks range from the high-tempoed and frenzied such as "The Burning of Salem" to the more mid paced tracks "Empty Tombs" and "Nosferatu", the latter having one of the most mind numbingly irritating chourses ever.

Certainly I feel some may find something of interest here, but for me it just all sounds a bit too sterile and methodical in my opinion,  they just end up sounding like another decrepit old thrash band where any ounce of inspiration dissipated years ago. For me they've always been a minor irrelevancy and with "In his Infernal Majesty's Service" this pretty much remains unchanged. With the likes of Destroyer 666, Desaster and Vektor all releasing fantastic albums this year, this just begs the question; why bother? 

4/10


Sounds like - Aura Noir, Modern day Exodus, The Haunted


Originally written for http://www.metalireland.com