Sunday, 28 November 2010
1. Intro: Requiem for Tommorows
2. Part 1: Night Struggle
3. Part 2: Just a While Before
4. Part 3: Awakening
5. Part 4: All This Pain for Today
Ignoring the ridiculous attempt at a pun for a name, Polish act Deep-Pression have been somewhat of a revolving door to various members over the years. Having split up in 2009, 4: Void of a Morning is that last release before the split. Recorded over a rather long timespan of two years, and nine performers in total, it's certainly an intriguing piece of work. Previous Deep-Pression releases would have generally fallen into the ambient, droney black metal bracket, but Void of a Morning has pretty much forsaken all black metal elements in favour of an apocalyptic form of dark ambience that at times could be comparable to say a variety of Cold Meat Industry acts. Described as a concept album 'from dreaming, through awakening to the devouring mouths of reality'. Maybe bordering on the edge of pretentious, but when you apply the description to the music, it couldn't really be any more fitting.
Introduction 'Requiem for the Tommorows' (Glaringly obvious spelling mistake aside) is, as far as setting the tone for an album goes, pretty much ideal. It's nothing more than a bleak, oppressive droning with an isolated industrial-esque pulse breaking the monotony a few times. It works well in encapsulating the final throes of consciousness before sleep, before the nightmare arrives in the form of 'Night Struggle' with it's barren soundscape structured by the dissonant, distorted ambience created by the guitars and electronics. There's sparse vocals in the song, performed by a guy called Razor and are a restrained whisper, who does the vocals for part two and three as well. Each track, or movement, is split up by an interlude, and really serve as nothing more than a transition between each stage of the protagonist's dreamstate. 'Just a While Before' continues with the detached air, though more-so this time due to the almost Fields of the Nephilim like atmosphere created by the bass of none other than Vrangsinn of Carpathian Forest fame. It almost sounds as if it could have been taken off Elizium and completely stripped down of everything except vocals and bass. I don't know if it's supposed to make me feel uneasy or what but when listening to this song I actually end up more relaxed than anything. 'Awakening' is pretty much the same as the first track in its ambience, with an unfettered air of torture hanging around it like a wet fog while the protagonist enters the neon realms of the end of his sleep. Then the reality of 'All this Pain for Today', the only song with any connection at all to Black Metal, and that's only in the extremely scant guitar and howling vocals performed by Letaliis.
It's extremely repetitive, but it works. If you know anything at all about the dark-ambient genre, you'll know progression is most certainly not it's forte. There's a certain satisfying feeling of dread in the subtlety of it all. A lot of metal fans wouldn't normally listen music like this, thus is why Deep-Pression probably get so much flak when people do come across their music. With their background in Black Metal and associations with bands such as Trist and Happy days it doesn't help. If obscure dark-ambient is your thing I'd definitely recommend this. It's by no means ground breaking for music of this style, and it does tend to drag on a bit at time where it could do with a little variation, but it is certainly competent enough, and in the right mindset is an engaging listen. If you're a newcomer to the genre though, there are probably better places to begin.
Thanks to Robert @ http://www.valsesinistre.com
Saturday, 27 November 2010
1. The Truth
2. Ghost Ship
3. Blood Of The Heroes
4. The Greed Is Blind
5. Sydonia Bork
6. Goddess Of Death
7. Night Of The Sin
8. Secrets Of The Black Water
9. Man Of Stone
10. Black Leviathan
Polish heavy metal upstarts Crystal Viper are back again with the follow up to their critically acclaimed 2009 release Metal Nation, and this time continue their crusade for everything true and heavy with the subtly titled Legends. The debut, The Curse of Crystal Viper was unashamedly retro, the nonchalant old school vibe was what attracted me to it in the first place, with Metal Nation they somewhat lost some of that appeal to these ears, although it was still certainly an entertaining listen nevertheless. What I've always admired about Crystal Viper is that they avoid exploiting the fact they have a female vocalist, thus they avoid all the pitfalls and pigeon-holing that snare so many other bands. It's not very common in metal in general, never mind power/heavy metal, and when you do come across it it's usually some faux romantic gothic tripe, but Marta Gabriel's vocals are firmly rooted in the orthodox heavy metal style, of which many budding female metal singers should take note.
Crystal Viper wear their influences on their sleeve. A short delve into their recorded history will tell you that, covers from bands such as Running Wild, Accept, W.A.S.P. and Agent Steel will tell you all you really need to know about their sound. If I had to put a slightly more accurate description on things, a reasonable combination of American legends Omen and German privateer's Running Wild with the attitude of W.A.S.P. I'd say is accurate enough. If the thought of that doesn't get your metal sense tingling then I believe the low level lighting should guide you safely enough to the nearest exit in the hall. Legends is in pretty much the same boat as Metal Nation, a great piece of heavy metal, but this time it seems that there is something not quite right, lacking a certain staying power or that final clinical veneer that made the début so great.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's bad, not by any means. This is Crystal Viper as I've always loved them, but where the band was able to run riot on the début, I can't help but notice they sound a little restrained here. First and foremost the album appears to lack any anthems such as as 'Metal Nation' or 'The Last Axeman', although I'd say the album is a lot less 'impact' and a bit more of a 'grower'. Opener 'The Ghost Ship' is one of the stronger tracks on the album, the guitar riffing could easily have been lifted off Death or Glory, it's quite literally that obvious. It even sounds 'piratey' for want of a better word. The chorus is almost what you've come to expect with Crystal Viper, catchy and flamboyant, and with a guitar solo thrown in for good measure. But it's this predictability which is Legends downfall as well. It's all too easy to tread the same beaten paths over and over again. Every song follows the same verse-chrous-verse structure. “Sure they've always done this?” Well yes, but whereas the first time around they sounded genuinely inspired and fresh, it now just sounds tired and slightly tedious. This is most noticeable in the choruses throughout the album, just as it threatens to reach it's pinnacle, it hits a glass ceiling and doesn't really go anywhere before falling back again. The musicianship is top notch, as always, the guitar riffing is tight, though slightly more melodic than before almost verging into power metal territory as is the drumming, but it sounds as if there's something restraining Marta, holding her back from shifting into top gear. All songs follow the same pattern pretty much, except the ballad 'Sydonia Bork' where Marta actually sounds very like Kimberly Goss only with an accent. This song shows Marta's vocal talents best, at her most prominent and powerful. The band still maintain all the pomp and extravagance from before, most evident on the closing two tracks 'Black Leviathan' with it's Running Wild-esque swagger and the lead littered 'A Man of Stone', but the majority of the album just never quite reaches the dizzy heights they are capable of.
This viper may have had some of it's venom removed, but it's still just as vicious regardless. All the main attributes of Crystal Viper are still there, the melodic yet ripping guitar work, Marta's unmistakable vocals, galloping bass and drums. If you've already a fan of Crystal Viper and power/heavy metal in general you should get this, just don't expect anything quite as immediate as before. Since first listening to this my opinion has improved considerably, but I still think they need to come up with some new ideas, as the current formula is starting to sound exhausted and stagnant. It may be a little tame this time round, but they're still showing the wannabe Nightwish's and Epica's how metal is supposed to be done.
Originally written for Archaic Magazine
Tuesday, 23 November 2010
2. Rotting of Soul
3. Renouncing from Light
4. Codded Untouched Creatures
5. We Are Eternal
Defile of Innocence is the short debut release from young Russian band Blood Devotion. They play a form of Black Metal not dissimilar to the style of the Scandinavian bands from the early nineties. Anti-Christianity is the order of the day here, as if that wasn't obvious by the ridiculous cover, and though not in any way treading new waters, it is somewhat competent with some brief glimpses of what may be to come, from a band who still sound like they're trying to find their feet.
Chaotic riffing, unbridled drumming and throat shredding vocals, all the basic aspects of Black Metal are here, but on a whole it is extremely generic. There is nothing about this release which really stands out and grabs your attention, it's all just very passable and formulaic. The frustrating thing is Blood Devotion, who go by the monikers 'Inside' and 'Gorgon' are not average musicians, technically they are fantastic, and I believe they are capable of performing material way above this station. The drumming is the stand-out aspect of this release, fast, unrelenting and most importantly, varied. The vocals are powerful and raw and the riffing is tight, but lacks any sort of lasting qualities. It does remind me a bit at times of Windir if anyone surprisingly. Some of the songs actually contain short guitar solos which is a bit of a surprise and you can tell the guitarist is more than your average bedroom warrior who's just picked up a guitar and learnt the riff from 'Transylvanian Hunger'.
It's just that as a collective, it lacks a certain cohesiveness to form any sort of lasting impression. Defile of Innocence has a shockingly professional production for such an underground release, and being the bands first recording, I can only commend them on that. It helps accentuate everything , especially the drumming, which is as I've stated is nothing short of brilliant. But in emphasising the good; the drumming, it just removes any doubt as to the passive effect of everything else. 'Codded Untouched Creatures' is by far the best song on the EP, impressive riffing and has a certain spark to it the rest of the songs don't. Not that there are many songs though, three others and two pointless attempts at atmosphere for an introduction and an outro for which the time could have been better allocated to another song.
The unfortunate thing for bands releasing music in Russia, is just that, the music very rarely ever gets any attention outside of the country, and if Blood Devotion are wanting to make any sort of waves outside of their homeland on their next release they're going to need to up the ante quite a bit, for Defile of Innocence in a nutshell is just an extremely tepid release from a band who are capable of so much more. They're clearly talented musicians, but together on this release it just comes across as rather uninspired and just flat out drags.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com
Sunday, 14 November 2010
1. Empire of Suffering
2. A Spell to Awaken the Temple
3. From the Black Coffin Lair
4. Burning Voice of Adoration
5. Nocturnal Revelation
6. Discovering the Enshrouded Eye
7. Let the Devil In
8. Sanguine Rituals
9. Twilight Breath of Satan
10. As Darkness Tears the World Apart
One of black metal's most famous vagabonds, Shatraug, is back again, and this time with the latest Sargeist album. Shatraug likes to keep himself occupied, already having multiple releases with various projects already this year. And who can blame him when you're one of the most critically acclaimed artists still operating in the black metal scene? Sargeist were always a band I had an extremely large amount of time for. There is a subtle malevolence about Satanic Black Devotion and Disciple of the Heinious Path which always keeps dragging me back to them. They're not groundbreaking releases by any means, but it's Shatraug's penchant for being able to write an infectious riff and Hoath Torog's fantastic vocals patterns that always kept my Sargeist albums at the top of my CD pile.
If you're a fan of any of Sargeist's previous releases, then in short, this album will blow your skull clean fucking through. Whereas the previous albums did tend to be fairly inconsistent at times, Sargeist take the best aspects of everything produced before, and conjoined them all into one grandiose manifestation of pure old school black metal genius. The general sound of Sargeist isn't really comparable to much of that say in the original Norwegian Scene, Sargeist quite clearly have that recognizable Finnish sound, in fact he had a significant hand in helping develop that sound. It's the overall attitude and atmosphere within the recording that is comparable to bands such as old Gorgoroth and Emperor. It has always appeared to me that Shatraug is a clear believer in doing things the traditional way, and with material such as this, how can you argue?
If you've heard Behexen, which you most likely have if you're a fan of Sargeist, Hoath Torog's vocals are pretty much identical to theirs. As he's a member of both bands, that's pretty much a given, but whereas Behexen are an all out blasphemic hailstorm, Sargeist are much more brooding. Hoath Torog's vocals are utterly intense, when I say he's one of the strongest vocalists in the scene at the minute, I mean that. He coils each phrase, each word, writhing perfectly around each chord. Budding vocalists take note, this is exactly how black metal vocals should be done, delivered with an iron authority, driving the music without ever becoming distracting. The vocals have a good amount of reverb on them, as Sargeist have always done, and when done properly, such as here, add that tormented touch perfectly. The riffing is deceptively melodic, Shatraug's style here varies from fast to slow, mainly utilising traditional tremolo riffing, but with a certain almost rockish feel to it a times. The riff in “Discovering the Enshrouded Eye” for one is a good example to this. Horn is still the drummer, and adds a heady amount of brutality to the proceedings, from hyper-speed blasting and fills, to almost punk like rhythms, it compliments the melodic guitar lines flawlessly, avoiding ever becoming overpowering. My only problem? The album name. I can't help but get an image of old Lucifer standing outside your house soaked to the skin in the pouring rain, knocking to get in, and your nagging wife telling you to let him in.
Of all Shatraug's projects, and there are many of them, I can safely say this is the best release by any single one of them by far. It was a fairly unexpected drop, this album, but oh so welcome. In a scene which some may say is starting to lose sight of it roots, Let the Devil In is a modern benchmark of how it should be done for any burgeoning black metal band to strive for. Combining the 'true' ethics of old, and building upon their previous work, Sargeist have created a majestic work of tyrannical black art, spiralling oblivion. You can tell they put a hell of a lot of work into this release, because it shows. With Let the Devil In, Sargeist have evolved into something mighty. The bar is set, people.
Written for Metalcrypt
Saturday, 13 November 2010
2. Earth Rites
3. The Pilgrim's Song
4. Abode a Rats
5. Helleva Screams
7. Demon Rides the Nuns
8. Satan is My Pride
9. Satan War Spit
10. Satanic Devotion
Usually France is reasonably reliable for black metal, a lot of the albums coming out of the country at the present time are absolutely fantastic. Unfortunately for Diamatregon though, they are certainly not one of the better acts to come out of the Grenoble region, never mind France itself.
First thing's first, it's hard to even tell initially if the band are being altogether serious or not, when you have song titles such as “Demon Rides the Nuns” and “Helleva Screams” which begs the question, 'Are they just bad at English or are they genuinely trying to be humorous?'. In which case if it's the former, I prefer bands to sing in their native language rather than embarrass themselves, and if it were the latter, which I suspect, then they should just give up altogether.
Apparently they have been around for thirteen years or so, and if this is the quality of material they are happy to produce then more power to them. On the basis of this release, I'm just glad my eardrums won't have to experience such sonic torture ever again.
The music itself completely lacks any sort of cohesion or consistency whatsoever. Right from the outset, the very first thing which you cannot in any way fail to notice is the excruciating feedback screech coming through the guitar in every single song. Leaving stuff like this in the final recording is farcical, you wouldn't find a production job as bad on this on ninety percent of any black metal demo out there today never mind for a full length album. It's actually so bad at times it quite literally did hurt my hears and I had to turn the volume down. It's pretty much the way the rest of the release goes as well. The vocals are heavily processed and as a result sound extremely unnatural, the complete lack of bass presence only manages to emphasise this. The drumming sounds like a child randomly beating a biscuit tin, infact I'd even hazard a guess that there are kids out there who could perform better behind the sticks than Antoine. The guitar riffing is the only aspect of this release which is remotely interesting, and on “The Pilgrim's Song” or “Satan is my Pride”, it at least works towards at least some way of making a sitting through the song bearable.
The Satanic Devotion is certainly an album I won't be revisiting again in a hurry, and the same can be said about the band themselves, because on the basis of this, a half-assed attempt at offensive black metal, I'll be glad never to even hear of the band again. Beneath the mind numbingly bad production attempt, the music itself just doesn't cut it, because there is not one iota of any identifying factor or aspect of this release that would set them apart from the hordes of sub-par black metal projects. I am never specifically looking for originality and revolutionary new techniques when exploring new bands, but I do expect the music to at least be able to stand on it's own two feet.
I wouldn't recommend this abomination to anyone, unless you like your black metal sounding exactly like it was recorded in a mishmash five minute session in a toolshed, then avoid. Apparently it's been re-released, but I have to ask myself, how in the name of hell did this manage to shift enough copies to warrant a re-release in the first place?
Originally written for Metalcrypt
Thursday, 11 November 2010
1. Days Of Revenge
2. Paid In Blood
3. Hammer Of The Scots
4. Highland Farewell
5. The Clans Will Rise Again
7. Valley Of Tears
9. Whom The Gods Love Die Young
11. The Piper Mcleod
12. Coming Home
13. When Rain Turns To Blood
Grave Digger need no introduction to any self respecting fan of heavy metal. Being at the forefront of the German metal scene since their debut in 1984 has engraved their name into many metal fans hearts. 2010 sees the band return to the album that many fans regard as their 'magnum opus', Tunes of War. Kilts, bagpipes, clans and war, it can only be about one thing, Scotland. In-case you've been living in a cave for the last number of years, Grave Digger play a gruff, anthemic variation of power metal.
The recent output of Grave Digger to be totally honest left a lot to be desired. Ever since the fantastic Rheingold, Grave Digger's releases have been pretty unremarkable. The Last Supper was just flat out dull and the equally boring Liberty or Death no better. Ballads of a Hangman was somewhat of an improvement but lacked the spark of previous releases. The Clans Will March Again fortunately amends this recent dip in the Digger's form, and is certainly the best since Rheingold, if not better.
What Grave Digger manage to do so well is create a levelled mixture of bombast and infectious choruses, refraining from ever entering into self indulgence. This is what makes them one of the most effective live bands you will ever see. The songs just carry over so well into the live environment, and it's where Grave Digger really shine. If you ever get the chance to see them live, I would highly recommend you do so.
Songs like “Paid in Blood”, which is pretty much certain to be a live staple with its unashamedly catchy chorus are exactly what's been missing from the Grave Digger roster recently. The album is riddled with solos and substantial, crunchy riffs, which is owed to the introduction of new guitarist Axel Ritt. He appears to have added some much needed ardour into this metal behemoth. Chris Boltendahl's vocals never change. They sound almost identical since day one, and set Grave Digger far apart from everyone else and give them their identity. Name another vocalist who sounds similar, because I can't. Technically no, he's certainly not the best by any means, but it's his token gruff accent that makes Grave Digger who they are. “Coming Home” again is another highlight of the album, as is the headstrong “Hammer of the Scots”. The obligatory ballad appears at the end, “When Rain Turns to Blood”, and to be honest is probably the weakest song on the album, certainly not one of their best ballads, it's almost as if something is stopping it from going anywhere, in the end it just trails off without really ever provoking any sort of emotion. There isn't anything quite up to the standard of songs like “Rebellion” or “William Wallace (Braveheart)”, but they're stone cold classics of not just Grave Digger themselves, but of metal itself. It's also good to see the bagpipes making a return again, and used in moderation, we wouldn't want a metal version of Runrig now would we?
This a very welcome return to form by these German veterans, it's classic Grave Digger and Grave Digger by numbers at the same time, and Grave Digger by numbers is better than ninety percent of anything in being called power metal today. It's majestic, dynamic and inspired, it's great to see they can still cut it in the studio.
Originally written for Archaic Magazine
Wednesday, 3 November 2010
1. And Fall The February Snow
2. A Life To Suffer
3. Intermezzo Pt I - Fragments Of The Past....
4. Suicidal Metal Anthems
5. Intermezzo Pt II - ... Lie Broken And Lifeless
7. In My Dreams
Nocturnal Depression are somewhat of a cult act in the depressive black metal scene. They've been around for a good six years now and weathered the worst of the storm when the 'depressive' scene was at it's most saturated a couple of years ago. Now it's started to recede quite a bit, and Nocturnal Depression are still around, and still going strong with an album out this year, so that must must count for something at least? Add also to that they're French, and from my viewpoint the French scene is one of, if not the strongest scene operating at the present time. Without going into to much detail, it's swarming with fantastic bands.
Nostalgia – Fragments of a Broken Past or Nostalgia as I'll just call it from here in, was the début full length from Nocturnal Depression, originally released in 2006 on a limited run of tapes, and has seen a reissue on CD by Romanian label Sun and Moon. As far as releases by Nocturnal Depression go, Nostalgia has always been their strongest release, and with the re-recording and general improvement on this re-release, has only made it even better.
First impressions of the cover is that it is extremely cheesy, but the more you dwell on it, the more you realise that the cover is the perfect symbolism of what this album's whole concept is, the bleak sentimentality Nocturnal Depression are aiming to portray. Nostalgia by name, and most certainly nostalgia by nature.
From the hypnotic repetition of the opener with it's isolated guitar drifting beneath the wall of distorted riffing to the almost ballad-esque 'Lying Broken' with it's lone piano and Lord Lokhraed's jagged rasp the only other accompaniment, the album emits nothing but but nihility and hopeless melancholy. The real highlight of the album though lies within the longplayer 'Nostalgia' (of which there is a video of on the album as well), a sixteen minute suicidal dirge into a vacuum of emotions, again we have the melodic lead guitar working well with the oppressive riffing and thick bass. Think something like Nagaroth's Herbstleyd album, but substitute the rawness for melody. Even Lord Lokhraed's vocals are nigh identical to Kanwulf's, but Nocturnal Depression are much more that Nargaroth imitators. They draw the best out of early Xasthur and Forgotten Tomb as well and combine it with sublime effect. Plus when a band are able to include a Clint Eastwood movie sample in the middle of a song, they've got to be awesome, right?
The album isn't completely without fault, the drumming has always been Nocturnal Depression's weak point, and such is the case here. It's extremely hollow sounding and lacks weight behind it, it's not terrible by any means, but you can't help but notice with the standard of everything else around them. It's the guitarwork which is the real highlight of the album though, the riffing and leads have a soft, haunting tone and the riffing; foreboding, managing to keep authority and that typical black metal tone all at the same time.
Each song uses it's repetition to draw the listener in, while the album itself contains enough variation and identity throughout to make this album completely unique and a benchmark in a sub-genre full of bands who are content to sound exactly like each other. It requires a lot of listening and attention to let this album sink in, at least it did for me, but it's extremely rewarding. It's not too often you get DSBM which genuinely succeeds in being totally and utterly despondent, but when you do, it's fantastic. Nostalgia is much more than a simple black metal record, a misty eyed gaze back through life. Someone hand this man a tissue and some prozac, he needs it.
Written for Metalcrypt
Thanks to Robert @ Sun & Moon
Monday, 1 November 2010
1. Lonely emptiness of a burning god
2. Come whore come bastard
3. Forever on the dark side
4. Az Én Poklom
5. Az Én Szenvedéstörténetem
It's not very often that both bands on a split are from the same musician, but Shadowthrone and Funebre are both the respective projects of Hungarian Khrul, though he does have some help in the guitar department for Shadowthrone with a guy by the name of Padre. I suppose one advantage to this is that with the same musicians in both projects, there's never any concerns about the other bands material. The packaging and artwork to the release is very murky and minimal, does it reflect upon the music? Not at all.
Shadowthrone are presumably named after the monumental Satyricon album, and it is instantly noticable in the riffing style Shadowthrone incorporate, Satyr's style of slow, razor sharp chop. It's a slow, dirge of black metal, but in no way doomy. It's clear that Khrul is aiming here predominantly for an under-worldly pestilential atmosphere, with help from the caustic vocal delivery together with the whispering vocals which crop up from time to time, and bass heavy sound. It is very listenable, if a little rough along the seams but it's the Funebre side of the split which is by far and large the most impressive material on this split.
You would expect with both bands sharing the same member they'd sound somewhat similar, but far from it. Khrul's involvement with fellow Hungarian act Siculicidium is crystal clear here, they sound extremely alike. The vocals vary. From the Inquisition-esque croak to a harsh rasp more akin to Shadowthrone, it's a welcome variation. It's slightly faster than the material on the Shadowthrone side of the split and where my attention with it would wane, with Funebre's material I was immersed in the ominous haze for the full fourteen minutes. 'Az En Poklom' has some fantastic triumphant riffing and warlike drumming while 'Az Én Szenvedéstörténetem' has a more mournful feel to the guitar and overall atmosphere.
This is definitely an EP worth picking up if only for the two fantastic tracks by Funebre. The Shadowthrone material isn't bad at all, but if Khrul had to pick one project to stick with, I know which one I'd prefer it to be. This is one for the fans of black metal with genuine atmosphere and feeling. If you prefer older Gorgoroth and Inquisition to norsecore such as Dark Funeral and Setherial, then it's definitely worth your time.
Thanks to Robert @ Sun & Moon
Written for Metalcrypt