Thursday, 21 October 2010

[ALBUM REVIEW] Permixtio - Il Canto Dei Sepolcri

1. Introduzione 02:14
2. Il Canto dei Sepolcri 06:57
3. Notturne Rievocazioni 07:08
4. Trascendenza Mistica 06:14
5. Rivela a Te Stesso l'Essenza 04:38
6. Egoico Delirio Spirituale 06:04
7. Torneremo all'Alba di un Nuovo Sole 06:00
8. Epilogo 02:15

Permixtio come from Italy and upon the back of three demos and a split have released their first full length. I have to say, I'm not too pushed on Italian black metal, from experience most of it tends to be tainted with that nauseous 'gothic' sound which is seemingly so rife in Italian black metal bands. Permixtio thank god, don't sound anything like that.

Umbra, the sole member of the band claims the band are not what is known as 'suicidal black metal' rather they go a lot deeper than that. It's true, to an extent. Yes the lyrics avoid all the pitfalls of typical DSBM, taking up the rather more thought provoking subjects of chaos theory and transcendence in place of juvenile angst about wanting to blow your brains out. Unfortunately as I can't read Latin, the lyrics mean as music to me as Egyptian hieroglyphics. Regardless of Umbra's claims, the music lies firmly rooted in DBSM ground, and the main focal point on this release lies with the atmosphere with which the guitar and vocals help conjure. The music itself for the most part is fairly slow and brooding, with the exception of scattered acoustic passages and slow guitar leads. Vocals are well done, they are sporadic, and are a throaty rasp and work well together with the enigmatic air about the rest of the music.

Apparently Permixtio is Latin for 'chaos'. Slightly misleading as this music is anything but chaotic, more a thick dirge of oppressive black metal with a dense and malign atmosphere. The riffing is ominous and drumming is tight, almost like a dense fog enshrouding the music suffocating you, and with the scathing vocals this release ticks all the right boxes. The title track with it's colossal opening riff and “Egoico Delerio Spirituale” littered with it's unhinged acoustic flutters would be but two of the highlights of this very impressive release.

As for comparisons? I suppose fellow countrymen Beatrik would be apt, as would German band Anti. It isn't forging any new paths, but what Il Canto dei Sepolcri is, is a high standard piece of entrancing, archaic black metal, and if you want DSBM which avoids the cringe-worthy theatrics synonymous with the genre, and is focused on the music and atmosphere, Permixtio are your band.



Thanks to Robert @ Sun & Moon

Written for Metalcrypt

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

[ALBUM REVIEW] Hypomanie - Hypomanie

1. Zondagmorgen 05:55
2. Heimwee 06:38
3. Herfst 06:37
4. Innocentie 05:28
5. Slaap Zacht 05:12

Hypomanie is the relatively new project of Selwin, member of other bands such as Deep-pression, Isa and Zelfhaat. They are another one of the many shoegazey black metal bands which the underground seems to be awash with recently. Ever since Alcest's debut, everyone seems to be trying their hand at it. Most of them are nothing but poor imitators, merely jumping on the bandwagon not actually aware of what the whole aesthetic of what Shoegaze was about. On the other side of the coin, you have bands such as Hypomanie who are genuinely able to replicate that vibe of wistfulness and dreamy sound bands like Slowdive pioneered and fuse it with something different.

At this stage of the game, mixing Black Metal with post-punk and shoegaze is nothing startling, Alcest opened that door before everyone else, but it's spiriting to finally hear another band who are able to carry on that sound without sounding completely and utterly contrived, Musically this EP leans more to the dreamy, nostalgic side of the shoegaze spectrum rather than the sonic deluge of My Bloody Valentine.

The guitars are light and alternate between that 80's post-punky twang and pedal washed distortion of early 90's shoegaze. If you're looking for heaviness, then look elsewhere, I'd struggle to call this EP metal at all, more dream-pop in sound than anything else. There are some heavier, more metal moments in the release when the riffing takes on a heavier more Black Metal approach, but they're few and far between. At times it reminds me of the lighter moments of lifelover, the vocals are very similar to Kim Carlsson's squeaky high pitched shriek, not dissimilar to someone dragging a wire brush down a chalkboard. It's the bass which helps give the EP it's underlying post-punk feel as well, resonating through all the distortion with a constant pulsation, giving the songs a bit of muscle from which to base everything else on. The drumming sounds programmed, but it's not a hinder at all, the light cymbal splashing and restrained rhythms add to the hypnotic atmosphere if anything. The whole feel to the EP is extremely melancholic, but at the same time manages to be almost calming in nature. It's certainly on the better side of line than most bands trying their hand at shoegazey black metal today.

Hypomnie is essentially one big hypnotic wave of distortion, all the elements that should be there, are. It captures the essence of Slowdive and depressive black metal perfectly and entwines those sounds together fantastically. It wont convert shoegaze purists though as both scenes are lightyears apart, most fans of bands like Alcest and Lifelover lie in the metal scene rather than shoegaze anyway, but if you're already a fan of those types of bands or are looking for a decent introduction to the genre, you could do alot worse.



Thanks to Robert @ Valse Sinistre

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

[ALBUM REVIEW] Exaltation - Tale of Total Sickness

1. Beaten, Butchered, Brutalized
2. Autostrangulation
3. Prenatal Violence
4. Crucified By Hellwrath
5. Necrobirth
6. Massive Mutilation
7. Human Bodybag
8. Intravenous Ejaculation

The first full length from German quartet Exaltation, titled Tales of Total Sickness is the follow up to their demo similarly titled “Tales of Mental Sickness”. This is my first experience with the band, and with song titles such as “Beaten, Butchered, Brutalized” I think it's safe to say what type of music I'm in for.

In short, the most accurate summary would be 'unrelenting blast beats', and upon initial listens it seems pretty hard to get past the incessant blasting. I'm being totally serious when I'm hazarding a guess that of the twenty nine minutes of this release, twenty fives of those consist of nothing but blast beats. The only time there's any respite from the unmerciful hellish blast beats are the occasional breakdowns in the middle of some of the songs where it's more of a slow pattern. It's on the rare occasion that when the foot is taken off the gas that the album is actually fairly promising, the breakdowns have a decent groove to them and you'll find that surprisingly enough, there are actually other instruments on this release besides the drums. The guitar, when I can hear it beyond the excessively loud drumming, is fast, typical death metal riffing. It's tight and rapid and surprisingly well played. I also think I can just about hear a bit of bass in there at times, or that could just be me imagining things again. Who knows, it genuinely is impossible most of the time to distinguish what's going on beyond the drumming. The vocals are your average brutal death metal guttural, never ever changing pitch, nothing really remarkable about them. They achieve what they're set out to, and that's about it.

I can't help but think the band have tried to use the drumming as a selling point of their album, and as a result have succeeding in completely choking out the rest of the band who seem to be pretty decent at what they do . Yes, we get that you've finally figured out how to blast beat, but that doesn't make you in any way good, you've just ruined what could have otherwise been a listenable release.

I prefer my Death Metal with sincerity and atmosphere, so-called 'Brutal' death metal such as this just comes across as sterile and a bit of a gimmick to be honest. If you want death metal drumming done well, take a leaf out of Autopsy or Impetigo's book. They know what they're doing, and how to mix things up a bit.

As it is, this is just another one of those ten-a-penny 'brutal as can be' bands, and they're all interchangeable. If that's really your thing though, and you don't mind drumming which is not just off the Richter scale, but fucks the whole thing up completely, then give it a go. As for me? Filed under 'Must Try Harder'. Tales of Total Sickness? Tales of Total Blandness would be more fitting.



Originally written for Metalcrypt

Sunday, 10 October 2010

[ALBUM REVIEW] Mare Erythraeum - S/T

1. I
2. II
3. III
4. IV

Mare Erythraeum is the debut EP from the Hungarian oddballs of the same name, recently released on the Valse Sinistre label. It's an extremely brief showcase of the band's material, and trying to pigeon hole this into any sort of genre classification at all for me has proved quite fruitless. The music straddles the borderlines between some sort of ferocious discordant black metal and a bleak psychotic form of post-industrial.

If you were to take the Odinist era abstraction of Blut Aus Nord and blend it with the expansive, spacey black metal performed by Darkspace, it could come close in describing the sound of Mare Erythraeum. The first track is an intro of sorts, a disjointed guitar tone backed up by a slow drum pattern, although I don't particularly see it as a separate intro, as the EP is better viewed as one entity rather than four separate tracks. The whole sound is extremely unhinged, as if it could 'unravel' at any time, the guitar never really follows any particular pattern, its extremely unconventional in tone, the riffs don't particularly sound like riffs at times, descending into an eerie wail, and at other times it takes up a higher, spacey tone. The vocals are fantastic, as if what I think is true, that the band are going for a deranged mentally unstable sound, they fit perfectly. They're a wretched sort of crying, but avoid the corniness of many so-called 'depressive' black metal bands. The drumming is brisk, pretty much standard fare, arguably the most conventional thing in the release, but still managing in keeping with the surroundings.

In the second track, constantly throughout the song there is a errant electronic beeping constantly chipping away, and the atmosphere this creates is incredible, almost like an abandoned satellite perennially orbiting nothing but terror, and the knowledge there's nothing that will ever break that orbit. It's something I've never ever really come across before, it's extremely unique.

It's fantastic work, as I've stated, it's impossible really to pin a sound on these guys, but it needs to be heard by anyone who remotely calls themselves a fan of Blut Aus Nord, Darkspace and industrial/spacey black metal in general. It's unique black metal wavering on the dizzy edge of sanity. If you want it, be advised, you'd need to get it quick, as it was only pressed in 100 copies. The only points that are lost are due to the length, it's too brief an affair, but hopefully we'll be seeing a full length soon, and seeing these guys making waves too.


Originally written for Metalcrypt
Thanks to Robert @ Valse Sinistre Productions


Saturday, 9 October 2010

[ALBUM REVIEW] Godless North - Fimbulvetr

Disc 1
1. Intro 01:39
2. Glory of the Past Returns 06:17
3. Dark Skies over Vinland 05:56
4. Under the Veil of the Night 07:23
5. Winter of Cleansing 07:16
6. Upon Heathen Battlefields 06:16
7. Dawn of a New Empire 07:50
8. Wisdom of the Ancient Cults 08:53
9. ...The Wolf Unleashed (Outro) 00:47
Disc 2
1. Intro 01:33
2. The Fading Cause of Light's Crusade 03:55
3. Sombre Reflections of Hate's Crusade 07:44
4. Carnage on Holy Soil 04:26
5. In Mourning for the Night 02:54
6. Dunkelheit (Burzum cover) 07:36
7. Intro 00:51
8. Northern Hordes 04:16
9. Wolf's Kin 04:02
10. Everlasting Winter Winds 03:32
11. Warmoon (Outro) 03:47

Fimbulvetr is the re-release of Godless North's debut album Summon the Age of Supremacy and a compilation of the band's demo material and split work. Basically it's a retrospective look at all the bands work prior to the hiatus in 2003, and at the same time a marker for the beginning of the new line-up. My only previous experience with Godless North lies with the split with French band Chemin de Haine, which was unabashed Darkthrone worship. Luckily for them, I happen to like a bit of decent Darkthrone worship every now and again.

The overall sound of Summon the Age of Supremacy could be comparable to a continual blast of needle sharp gales. It's extremely piercing, but not in an discomforting way. The guitar work is standard fair, high velocity tremolo riffing with a thin razor edged tone, and together with the barbed-wire, echoed vocals and chaotic drumming it equates to one thing. Pure old school Black Metal carnage. There isn't a whole heap of variation though, and after repeating listenings it can end up becoming derivative, as do most Darkthrone clones. The drumming is excessively repetitive though, continuous blasting only ever interrupted every once in a while by a short fill before falling back into the blasting. Coming to a band like this though and looking for originality and innovation is ignorance though. It's what you would call 'cult black metal', and doesn't try to be anything else.

The second disk is a bit of a duck shoot really, the tracks off the split with Chemin de Haine are similar enough to the album tracks apart from the atmosphere being a bit more suppressed and the drumming is a lot more professional and varied. 'Mourning for the Night' is from the Black Metal Endsieg II split, and shows a more premature form of the band we saw on Summon the Age of Supremacy, the drumming is hollow and sloppy, and lacks the icy atmosphere of the full length, and sounds like it was recorded in a biscuit tin. The same applies for the demo tracks at the end of the disc, with the horribly wet and weak guitar tone and nigh inaudible drumming. All this is forgiveable though as it was demo material and the band were just finding their feet. Hell, they adore the old school so much they even included a cover of 'Dunkelheit', which isn't bad but doesn't really hold a candle to the original.

Summon the Age of Supremacy is good for what it is, it's highly satisfying reverence of the genres progenitors, simple raw black metal going for that glacial atmosphere, and it succeeds in that. It does get old after repeated listenings though, and this is it's main downfall, It has limited replay value and lacks depth to a certain extent. When you've heard one track you might as well have heard them all, and thats where the old guard could work so well, their variation throughout the albums. The second disk is really hit and miss, but if you're a fan, and haven't got the rest of the bands material then Fimbulvetr is definitely worth the money. It's not reinventing the wheel, but it is enjoyable cold and abrasive black metal.

Originally written for Metalcrypt



Wednesday, 6 October 2010

[ALBUM REVIEW] Pantheon - Vargrstrike

This version of Vargrstrike by American NSBM trio Pantheon recently saw reissue with cult label Darker Than Black Record with the band's Thangorodrim demo originally from 1998. Musically, Vargrstrike on a whole to be totally honest, is rather flat and unremarkable, which I suppose is keeping consistent with all the 'middle of the road' bands that happen to be a part of the mini-scene Pantheon is from. From what I've heard of Gestapo SS, Valaskjalf, Hrodvitnir and now Pantheon, they've all got one thing in common, they're as dull as dishwater.

Vargrstrike isn't a terribly bad release, it's just there's nothing which stands out, nothing which would ever get me excavating the CD back out from my record pile to listen to again. Then you have the lyrics which primarily deal with paganism, but sometimes veer off into ridiculous NS territory. I'm no prude when it comes to lyrics, national socialist tendencies don't bother me at all in music, but when you're screaming out “Seig Heil” constantly for the first half of a song, for example in 'The Atavism into Ginnungagap', it's pretty hard to take them seriously at times. This really just leads me to believe Vargrstrike is more of a political plinth than it is showcase of the bands talent.

You can tell each member is good at what they do in the band, but it does not gel together well at all. The guitars are the best thing about the release, the riffing is one of the few things which could hold my interest for any period of time during Vargrstrike. It's typical black metal tremolo riffing and never gets overly irritating or repetitive. What's that I hear also? Bass on an underground black metal release? Yep, Reubus has a distinctive bass sound on the release, and it's refreshing to actually hear bass for once, there's only one problem though, it's way too loud and just ends up pushing the guitar sound down through the mix. The drumming again, is fairly competent. The drummer you can tell knows what he is doing, but again the production kills them, the snare sound is way to high and piercing, inadvertently throwing your attention away from everything else, and what Pantheon have succeeded in doing is rendering the one stand out aspect of Vargrstrike completely toothless, and that's the guitarwork. The vocals are a low rasp, and sound as if they were performed sitting down. They have no power or conviction in their delivery. They're slightly Rob Darken-esque, but completely lack his power, Graveland are obviously a big influence on the bands music, but they don't get anywhere close to the epic feeling for which latter day Graveland are famous. The production on the album is just rough and shoddy and one of the biggest pit-falls of the release. It may have been a slight more listenable with an even production.

The three bonus tracks, which are the Thangorodrim demo are significantly more promising than the album itself which is rather strange, back then the band seemed to be more synth oriented and the drumming isn't half as annoying as in Vargrstrike and the music is better produced. For a demo to have better production than an actual album is pretty poor it has to be said. Thangorodrim could actually pass off well for a decent underground black metal release, and with riffing like such is present in 'Divine Frames of Luciferian Light' with it's monstrous elite atmosphere , such is also the direction the band should have taken for Vargrstrike. When it comes down to it, this album has no real personality at all, and Reubus himself has stated himself that he doesn't care at all for this release, and I can't say I care a whole heap either to be honest. When the only saving grace is the three bonus tracks at the end from a demo release, it's a distinctly poor show all round.



Originally written for

[ALBUM REVIEW] Nocturnal Blood - Devastated Graves

Debut full release Devasted Graves – The Morbid Celebration from the occult US black metal act Nocturnal Blood has finally arrived. Previously only having heard their The True Spirit of Old demo, which was a fantastic piece of old-school South American-influenced venom, I was fairly eager to get this one on the decks. How does it shape up? Extremely well. A forewarning though, if you prefer your black metal abound with sugar coated synths, this is most certainly not for you. On the other hand, if you prefer your black metal primitive and downright dripping with filth, something akin to Beherit and Blasphemy, then look no further.

Upon the initial listen, it's quite clear the band aren't at all ever going to venture into new pastures, trying out something unique or less than ordinary, it was clear as daylight upon seeing the cover what type of music I would be in for. Devastated Graves... is pure homage to the old-school black metal and death metal scenes, worshiping at the altars of Beherit, Sarcofago and Autopsy. Nocturnal Blood is just a guy playing the music he loves, with no desire at all for originality or anything modern, and that's exactly why I love this release.

The music itself is basically the bastard child of Autopsy and Beherit. Long, slow, procession-like dirges interchanged with chaotic riffing and turbulent flaying on the drums. Occasionally we are also treated to short, twisted guitar leads, such as "Impure Devotion" and "Chaos Blood", and also some catchy riffing. The intro riff to "Ritual Lust" is monstrous. The vocals on the first half of the album are a deep death guttural, pretty much indecipherable and soaked in echo and reverb, while towards the last few songs, Ghastly Apparition opts for a nauseating whisper extremely like those off Drawing Down the Moon. Couple this with the stifling production it almost sounds as if this record was recorded in a cavern. I'll leave that up to you to decide whether that's a good thing or not, as for me, it's the perfect production for material like this. Some slight complaints about the album mainly lie with the drumming. The snare at times appears too high in the mix, and at times I can hear the infamous 'pots and pans' sound championed by Lars Ulrich, for example in track one "Devastated Graves". It's only a small complaint though as the rest of the album is such a high standard, it can be ignored.

There's no technical garbage here, little variation. The chances are if you are a fan of this type of music, Archgoat, Beherit, Morbosidad, Teitanblood and such like that, it's exactly how you expect it. This isn't black/death metal for the weak willed. If you're looking for originality and technicality, then you're looking down the wrong road, if you like your music putrid and with an extremely ominous and absolutely evil atmosphere, this is sure to please. A fine first album by a band I now have on my 'watch list'.



Originally written for Metalcrypt

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

[ALBUM REVIEW]Nuclear Throne - Demo IV

First impressions of Finnish band Nuclear Throne aren't that invigorating. First off we have the terribly generic band name, in a genre of metal which off the top of my head can think of countless bands with either 'Nuclear' or 'Throne' in their name, their name isn't going to make them stand out from the throng of sub-par talentless hacks who are continuously swarming in the lower echelons of the genre. In the extreme metal genre, to stand out from everyone else, first impressions are everything, and what is the first thing people notice about a band? It's name of course. It's as if one member spoke to the other and said “What's the most clichéd Black Metal band name you can think of?” and this was the tripe they thought up. Couple the name with the 'Hey look I can use photoshop!' cover, comprised of yep you guessed it, a nuclear explosion tacked over the back of a black background with the logo down the sides in finest Times New Roman which looks like it was thrown together in about five minutes, saying it's not a great start is a bit of an understatement.

Well enough of disparaging the external, ultimately it's all about the content. So how does the music stand up then? Not much better I'm afraid. The vocals are a deep death guttural and are jarringly loud in the mix, and on drawn out growls where the vocalists pitch rises, it's pretty akin to someone dragging a piece of plywood along a concrete floor. Technically the vocals are actually pretty good, it's just the horrendous production on them completely nullifies anything positive about them. The guitar work is heavy, but that doesn't make it good. The riffs are the fairly simple run of the mill black/thrash type, and the guitar tone is extremely tinny and thin, probably only exaggerated by the complete lack of bass anywhere on this release. Add to that the ridiculously predictable and flat drum programming the whole way through the release, it ultimately all comes off a bit lackadaisical. Music about nuclear devastation should be full of blast beats and double bass, not some weakly programmed limp nonsense. The music just feels bottomless and lacks any sort of depth or dynamics whatsoever. There are some positives about this release though, namely in the last song 'Gas Mask Cult'. The vocals here refrain from scraping the roof of your skull like the previous two songs, and has a rather effective main riff at the mid-point before bursting into a completely unexpected and wild solo that closes out the song.

When it comes down to it though, two minutes of acceptable material on even a three song release is just not acceptable though. They've been around a few years already and have a further three previous demos under their belt, and to be brutally honest, if they keep this up, I can only see it staying that way. The band need to concentrate on the riffs, as I can only recall one memorable riff in the whole release, and potentially hiring a real drummer as the music suffers badly without one. Either that or use a better drum program. This release on a whole is pretty sterile and completely lacks any sort of punch or impact at all, and when your 'war' metal lacks any sort of ammunition, it's pretty futile isn't it?



Originally written for