Ok, so anyone who knows me knows how much of a Sisters of Mercy obsessive I am. Thus I have decided recently to upload some of my bootlegs I own for download for anyone who is remotely interested. Some say the girls were the most bootlegged band from the eighties, a claim I can most certainly well believe.
The Return to Arkham
Lucretia my reflection
Body and Soul
First and last and always
Temple of love
A nice release from the fanclub taken at the band's 10th anniversary gig at Leeds Poly. Decent sound if a little thin, but a great coverage of their career on show.
First and Last and Always
Body and Soul
No Time to cry
Some kind of stranger
One of the best bootlegs I've heard sound wise. Recorded at the London Lyceum somewhere around 1984 I think, and has notably great versions of FALAA, Possession and Body Electric and a rare appearance from Some Kind of Stranger.
In the Shadow of Angels
Red skies disappear
No Time to Cry
A Rock and a hard Place (instr.)
Black Planet (instr.)
Temple of Love
One from the twins at Palazzograssi, notable tracks here are the 'Red Skies Disappear" demo originally "Marian" and the demo which to this day Herr Von still can't remember writing "Wide Receiver".
Kill the Lights
Lucretia my reflection
Driven like the snow
Another Palazzograssi, with the Floodland demos and some unreleased tracks/demos on the B side.
On The Wire
Bury Me Deep
Some Kind Of Stranger (early)
When You Don't See Me (remix)
Never Land (full length)
A recent bootleg which appears to contain the bonus tracks recently released on the rereleases of the 3 albums. Nothing out of the ordinary if you have the cds.
Enter the Sisters
Rereleases of all the early pre-falaa singles, without the Damage Done tracks. Again if you have Some Girls this is a bit pointless, but here it is anyway.
Live at the Electric Garden
A3 Anaconda (song)
A4 Temple Of Love
B2 Body Electric
B3 Kiss The Carpet
B5 Sister Ray
A live gig from Stockholm 1983 which has only seen recent release. Not a great sound quality, though a nice tracklisting nevertheless.
Victims of Circumstance/The Last Magician of Rational Thought/Good Things plus 2 Live Tracks/Floorshow EP/Nightmares
Uploaded these all as one. "Victims of Circumstance" and "The Last Magician" contain a few Falaa demos and songs which were later to appear on the Mish's debut. "Nightmares" is a short live EP recorded in norwich '83 with a fantastic version of Jolene. "Good Things" is what it says on the tin, with Sister Ray/1969 as the B. And the Floorshow EP has the great Teachers-Adrenochrome medley.
Sunday, 4 December 2011
Monday, 10 October 2011
Genre: Heavy Metal
2. Head Over Heels
3. Heavy Metal Demons
4. Paganini Horror
5. Night of the Undead
The Beyond is Italian horror-mad heavy metal mavericks The Sign of the Jackal’s debut EP. Recently signed to Heavy Artillery and a full length pencilled in for later this year, there’s not been a better time than the current for eighties throwback, spandex sporting testosterone fuelled heavy metal. With Enforcer, Cauldron, Portrait, In Solitude and Christian Mistress all making waves among a plethora of others, you’re spoilt for choice.
I mention Christian Mistress for they share one common asset, a female front woman with an ‘all out, balls out’ attitude, something which is unfortunately so few and far between these days. It’s gutsy, unadulterated metal ripped shamelessly straight out of the eighties, in the days where blonde perms and tight leather trousers were perfectly acceptable; a nostalgia trip perhaps, but when it’s executed as sublime as this, there’s nothing else in the world I’d rather listen to.
Our ‘Doro’ in question is Laura Coller, and she tears her way through this all too brief affair like a woman possessed. There’s no need to state the main influences by now, but if you guessed Warlock, Hellion and Maiden you’d be right on the money. Blistering duelling leads, high tempo drumming and Maiden-esque riffs driven by Laura’s compelling vocals, it’s a heavy metal aficionado’s dream.
From Killer’s styled intro on “Hellhounds” right through to the fantastic adrenaline pumping marriage of Bob and Max’s weaving guitar work and Laura wailing “Through the heat of the night” on“Night of the Undead” , I dare you to not clench your fist, even just once. Even the instrumental "Paganini Horror" is nothing but intense, flawless heavy metal, though something tells me they were listening to “You Give Love a Bad Name” before the recording. The resemblance is uncanny at times.
If you ever wondered what Enforcer would have sounded like with a female singer, well then here’s your answer. Straight from the church of true metal, The Beyond is twenty minutes of unrelenting metal excellence. If this is a taste of what’s to come, the full length better hurry the fuck up. From a country better known for its weak power metal and limp wristed ‘goth’ metal, I’m impressed!
Sunday, 9 October 2011
1. We are Gathering Dust
2. Beyond Embers & the Earth
4. Where We Believe
5. The Carrying Light
6. To Walk Amongst the Dead
It’s not hard to see why this pair of Scots were so quickly snapped up by Candlelight. A native band who perform the same organic and grainy style of metal Agalloch, Alcest and the ilk are renowned for? With its recent boom in popularity, people are going to lap this up, and quite rightly so with such quality music as is on show here.
Ever since news of this project broke, I was cautiously anticipating this release, for the project is named after the Falls of Falloch in Scotland, a beauty spot in the heart of the Trossachs which I have visited myself a few times; a very fitting foundation for the album if you ask me.
Andy Marshall, backbone of the band also happens to be the same guy who was responsible for arguably the best Scottish black metal album ever, Askival’s Eternity. This came as a huge surprise as it isn’t exactly the first direction you’d expect an artist with whom the NSBM tag has been bandied about to take. It’s in a completely different boat altogether, and that’s none more obvious in the startling new direction Andy’s vocals have taken.
I’ll not lie, as soon as I heard the vocals initially my first thoughts were “Fuck, since when did 30 Seconds to Mars get heavy?” I despised them, though as time has passed I’ve grown accustomed to them. Hell I might even be starting to like, nay, maybe even love them. They will be like marmite to most though; a heavy immature slant to them, they are reminiscent to something from Kerrang’s filthy vaults. Then again, so would Neige if he sang in English, there’s not a big amount of difference between the two and it’s no surprise Alcest are a huge influence on While Distant Spirits Remain.
It’s fairly hard to categorize While Distant Spirits Remain. Loathe to use ‘post-black’, a tag which appears to get hurled around fervently and applied to anything which fails to fall within the traditional black metal template, it’s closer to the folk metal mould than anything else, Celtic in style with a fair amount of post-rock influence. I can even hear a slight hint of shoegaze from time to time. It’s not really black metal at all, borderline at times but nowhere near enough to be classed as such.
From “We Are Gathering Dust” with its echoes of Primordial in the riffing to the punch and driving rhythm of “Beyond Embers and the Earth” meshed so elegantly with tin whistle and acoustics, it’s almost impossible to pick any faults whatsoever with the music. Harsh vocals only appear sporadically throughout the album, a shrill howl that is the only remaining link along with the folky passages that remain on Askival. “Where We Believe” contains some of the best vocal lines of the album, dreamy yet flow perfectly around the acoustic guitar and ebbing riff work and blasting on the kit.
A special mention has to go out to the brief four minute instrumental “Horizons”. Bodhrán and flute are used together with such well constructed ease to create such an atmosphere that I can’t picture anything else other than myself sitting on the shores of Lomond as the sun creeps below the western mountains. Utterly inspiring stuff.
Fans of Alcest, Empyrium, Agalloch and all such bands similar could definitely do a lot worse than to check this out. Weathered, airy post-rock influenced folk metal which utilizes seamless transitions between the harsh distorted wash and the serene calm. The folk passages are presented with tact and authenticity unlike so many of those plastic European ‘folk’ metal bands. Sit back and let Where Distant Spirits Remain seep through your veins. It may not be instant, but when it does finally settle, it’ll be worth it.
Saturday, 8 October 2011
3. In Purity and in Light
4. When No Animal Bled for Us
A Brighter Sun, the follow up to Blóðtrú’s debut The Death of the Spirit, is a strange one. On first impressions, judging by the eye catching cover art I was prepared for some sort of pagan-esque black metal. On the contrary, for A Brighter Sun essentially two parts black metal, one part droning ambient. I’m not going to beat around the bush here; initially I was extremely underwhelmed by A Brighter Sun, it is an extremely raw and inaccessible release. It will take time to sink in and get your head around what Trua has on show here, but putting yourself into the eyes of the figures on the cover and you may begin to understand Blóðtrú’s almost-nautical black drone.
The first two tracks are the weaker here, and they just so happen to contain the majority of black metal on the album. An obscure drone underneath some erratic drumming opens “Rising” which a pissed off sounding Trua rants over the top of like some sort of rally, before halfway through enters a dreary, continual black metal riff which follows Trua’s spite filled vocals to the end of the song. It’s extremely hateful stuff on show here, and by the time it gets interesting, it’s too late and the song is over. “Damaged” follows a similar pattern, a basic riff to begin before kicking up to some wholly unoriginal fast tremolo riffing and static drumming. I have to commend Trua’s vocals though, they have power behind them and when in unison with the final riff, it’s effective.
By now it’s pretty obvious that the main focus is around the building of an atmosphere rather than creating something that you might be able to nod your head to, and that's none more evident than in the nineteen minute colossus “In Purity and in Light”. It crawls along for the first half in that droning black style, with its ebbing riff work and outro you may be able to see where I’m coming from with the ‘nautical’ feel. “When No Animal Bled For Us” is the real highlight here though, and where Blóðtrú show a significant amount of promise. Discarding the metal altogether, they adopt a minimalistic drone approach that’s flat out hypnotising. An isolated piano melody over a vague drone create an introspective soundscape that’s utterly bereft of life and downright depressing, and the way in which the wind and accordion together with the samples close out the song is nothing short of unnerving. My only gripe lies in the vocals which are heavily processed and far too loud, a tad more subtlety and less volume needed here.
It’s a testing listen; not everyone will appreciate it first time around, but give it a little time before dismissing it completely. A Brighter Sun is impenetrable, stripped down droning black metal built around a core of hate and desolation, which at times sounds as if it doesn’t really know quite where to go. My advice to Blóðtru? Drop the black metal, the ambient aspect of this release shows a lot more promise than third rate black metal riffing.
Friday, 7 October 2011
Tat Tvam Asi
1. Alfa: Genesis
2. Tat Tvam Asi
3. Soma ''Elixir of the Ancient Ones'' 0
6. The Final Harvest
7. The Dreamer
8. Omega: The Seal of the Dragon
Sic Luceat Lux
10. Velvet Aurora
12. Silentio Est Aurum
1. bnH cEb kH can A
2. Pestilence of Mortality
3. The Winged Skull Rising
4. Oath of Fealty
5. Legacy of Tiamat
6. Dreams of Adam Kadmon
9. Finis Coronat
10. Conjuration of the Five Negatives
...For the Temple of the Serpent Skull...
1. The Order of the Silver Serpent (I. Invocation / II. Sacrifice / III. Rising)
Greece has an extremely strong pedigree when it comes to quality underground black metal. Bands such as Varathron, Necromantia, Naer Mataron and Zemial among others have helped forge an undeniably important and oft overlooked scene in black metal. Acherontas itself is a relatively new venture, but are by no means newcomers to the Greek sphere, arguably stalwarts themselves having been around in one incarnation or another since their initiation as Worship in 1996. It’s not Greek black metal in the traditional mould; one listen to their previous project Stutthof will tell you that. Whereas bands like Necromantia and Varathron have that warm, bassy Hellenic sound, Acherontas adopt a rather more ‘Swedish’ sound while incorporating their own Greek mythology and various occult and spiritual themes. 15 Years Anniversary of Left Hand Path Esoterica contains four of their releases. Both albums Theosis and Tat Tvam Asi, and the two splits with Leviathan and Necromantia. So at the very least, you can’t complain about the value for money here.
The first album Tat Tvam Asi (Universal Omniscience), bears a lot in common with Stutthof, not quite as raw but still as vast and as downright abrasive as before. The guitar work is thick and scathing, the rolling riffing obliterating everything beneath it, the drumming is pedal to the metal and Acherontas’ vocals are absolutely ferocious. And the best part about it is? The fact they still manage to mantain an underlying melody throughout the whole album, and when those deep spoken word vocals appear, Tat Tvam Asi at times just couldn’t sound any more epic. They’re so fucking cheesy, but so good. It’s constantly morphing from one manifestation to another, never repeats itself and never leaves you with the chance to get bored, more impressive given the length of the album.
With an opener such as the title track, which bears a resemblance to Stutthof’s “Wampyric Metamorphosis” (one of the most barbaric and uncompromising black metal songs you’ll ever hear) to the grandiose, swaggering epic of “Kali-Yuga” and the intensity of “The Dreamer” with Acherontas’ spoken vocals making it sound like some sort of sermon, TTT is a great example of authentic and chaotic black metal. It isn’t completely without flaws though, one or two of the tracks drag a touch, and there are a couple of pointless instrumental tracks, but the vast majority of TTT is a tidal wave of pure unrelenting evil. The final four tracks on the first CD are off the Leviathan split, production remarkably worse, of which “Kornugia” is the only track worth anything. Fierce, hell-bent riffing for the grand majority before mutating into a sublime piece of guitar twiddling that sees the song to the finish.
Theosis, the second album here is the weaker of the two. It doesn’t quite have that ‘sweltering’ atmosphere TTT does. It’s a bit straighter up as well, although with tracks such as “Pestilence of Mortality” which is an absolute behemoth of a song, wall to wall of grinding riffs and thundering vocals, it’s still hard to complain. A special mention must go out to “Legacy of Tiamat” though, its echoing intro giving way to a piledriver of dense riffing, blasting drums and those spoken vocals which get me every single time. It’s occult and epic in every sense, and without a doubt the highlight of the two discs. The final track on disc two is off the Necromantia split, a huge number clocking in at seventeen minutes comprising of three movements, beginning with some creepy voices before the headbanging riffs and Acherontas’ huge vocals return. It’s impressive, though let down slightly by a shitty snare drum.
In the grand scheme of things, you’d be hard pressed to find a better collection of traditional black metal retaining the ethics and semblance of mystery of yesteryear, yet still incorporating its own unique identity at the same time. At times enigmatic and downright obscure and others flat out rabid, Fifteen Years is a glorification of everything occult, black metal that keeps you on your toes and as blistering as Satan’s sandals. Two words, buy it!
Wednesday, 5 October 2011
2. The Whispering Sepctrum
3. Fading Away in the Fog
4. Solitude & Despair
5. Her Ghost Haunts These Walls
France’s most wretched and pessimistic black metal band are back once again to spew forth their current pain and misfortune upon our unwitting ears. Reflections of a Sad Soul is their third outing and has recently been rereleased on Sun & Moon records, and our eternally perturbed duo of Lord Lokhraed and Herr Suizid are as downright fucking depressed as ever.
If you’re familiar with Nocturnal Depression, you’ll know what to expect; expansive dirges commonly reaching the twenty minute mark of a hypnotic and thought-devouring nature of which repetition is used to its full advantage. The formula hasn’t changed, but as the old cliché goes, why fix what isn’t broken in the first place? Nostalgia and Soundtrack were both very accomplished efforts which stand easily among the best the DSBM genre has to offer, Reflections of a Sad Soul maintains this quality, on a par with Soundtrack maybe but not quite reaching the devastating heights of Nostalgia, one of the greatest albums of this style ever, an album which encapsulates everything which is good about the DSBM genre.
So, getting down to the music itself, Reflections doesn't get itself off to the greatest of starts. A throwaway intro before it switches to the most disappointing track on the album, “The Whispering Sepctrum”. It knows where it wants to go, but is lacking that final quality catalyst to shift it up to the gear it needs. The guitars plod along at snail’s pace with a basic riff which it never really deviates from, backed by a relatively simple drum pattern and overlain by Lokhraed’s lazy sounding vocals. You could just split the song in half, remove the second half and double the first, and it would still sound exactly the same. Simply put, it’s just not very good.
It’s a good thing then that “Fading Away in the Fog” ups the ante a large amount, cranking up the speed a notch with more traditional tremolo style riffing with Lokhraed’s Kanwulf-esque vocals. The main riff which comes in around three minutes and recurs frequently throughout this song is fantastic, and the way in which it closes the song in unison with Lokhraed’s nauseating vocal lines and increased speed is fantastic. “Solitude and Despair” is a brief (for Nocturnal Depression’s standards!) instrumental minimalist piece containing rather hypnotic guitar picking which flows along quite effectively until the drums come in and totally ruin the whole fucking atmosphere.
Then, we have what I would consider Nocturnal Depression’s ‘magnum opus’, a track which they’ve never bettered. “Her Ghost Haunts These Walls” is eleven minutes of nothing but pure melancholy and torment, the light guitar picking throughout constantly hammering away at the back of your head like that one memory which just won’t leave, coming back horrifically more intense each time; An example of repetition being used to great effect. Things are kicked up a notch towards the end, and Suizid’s riffing together with Obeyron’s uneasy leads and Lokhraed’s vocals threaded throughout the closing stages of the song culminate in what is a crescendo of nothing but pure hopeless emotion. Any self-respecting fan of this style of black metal needs to hear this song; A perfect example at how to perform this style of music and avoid the pitfalls that snare so many other bands who end up degenerating into self-parody.
After such a stunning song, “Nevica” has a lot to live up to, though not a song about the ski brand much to my disappointment. Again, sticking with the brooding melancholy, in the same vein as before, while not as good as the previous it still keeps the bar high before with the second half of the song being a lot more engaging than the first.
One of the standout aspects of this releases is Obeyron’s lead work, subtle yet welling with misery, why this is his only performance with the band I don’t know. I guess only Lord Lokhraed can tell us. Yes it still has problems, flat and amateurish drumming at times and a shitty thin production, but fuck it, this isn’t Dimmu Borgir, this is a superb quality release which succeeds in being genuinely depressive rather than full of spotty teenage angst. It isn’t as good as Nostalgia, but being their out and out masterpiece they’ll probably never better it, but I am more than welcome to being made to eat my words on that. Roll on the next album, I already have my box of tissues.
1. Blood of the Universe
2. Kinetic Dogma
3. De Magnum Opus Solis
5. Metatron and the Waters
6. Serpent Salvation
7. ...it Writes the names of Ghosts
9. Eternity is Pregnant
Mord’a’Stigmata are a band from Poland who have recently unleashed their latest offering on Sun & Moon records. Antimatter is fifty minutes of dissonant, avant-garde black metal containing various esoteric and spiritual themes which follow the same detached blueprints of the much lauded Norwegians Ved Buens Ende and French hipster darlings Deathspell Omega. This form of black metal certainly isn’t the easiest to replicate, and can be difficult to pull it off and avoid coming across a bunch of self indulgent pricks.
It’s a good thing then for Mord’a’Stigmata that Antimatter is actually a very solid effort but is extremely hard to digest on first go though, stick at it and you will be rewarded. Much like any prog album, it’s better to sit down with it, headphones in paying full attention. It’s an extremely varied and technical album, which being one of its strengths, is also its main downfall. It tends to lose focus after a while and any sort of structure collapses out beneath everything and it descends into a bit of an almighty free for all of guitar and drumming. The good points though do outweigh the negatives though, if only slightly.
Performance wise, Antimatter can’t be faulted, the drum work is fast, intricate and varied and the blasting is used tastefully throughout, something many black metal bands could do with a bit of help on, while the guitar tone is thick and disharmonic, ‘orthodox’ in sound, ranging from some huge riffs to off kilter leads. The guitar work on Antimatter does get notably heavy at times, and sometimes is more reminiscent of something off Altars of Madness or Cause of Death and this is also very noticeable in the harsh vocals of Ion, which are lower than your typical black metal shriek, a low guttural which occasionally ranges to clean vocals which are pretty weak. Not bad enough to spoil the album, but certainly nothing to write home about. One listen to “Serpent Salvation” and the death metal influence will be clear.
Antimatter musically is nigh flawless, the technicality and precision of the musicianship is superb, but its main problem as is the case with so much ‘avante-garde’ stuff is that much of it just isn’t very memorable. Towards the end of the album my attention began to wane, but there are a few inspired moments to be found here, most notably on the tracks “Kinetic Dogma” and “...It Writes the Names of Ghosts” which contain some astounding guitar and drum work. It lacks a certain cohesion and impact that may very well one day put them on the same pedestal as Deathspell Omega and Dødheimsgard. The ability is there, they just have to build on this.
Buy it Listen Here
Tuesday, 30 August 2011
1. Geomagnetic Erosion Beyond the Fields of Horizontal Solar Eclipse
2. Cyclical Sado Nature of the Planets
3. Unearthly Existence
4. Massive Particle Transcendence Indepths Through Wormholes
5. Minimalist Isolated Lifeform
6. Swallowed Into the Shattered Dusk
7. Inharmonious Frozen Sunlight Over the Cathedral Neptune
8. Descent Into Obscure Nihilism
9. Fall Into Sinister Spheres
With the impossible to ignore extravagant song titles such as “Geomagnetic Erosion Beyond the Fields of Horizontal Solar Eclipse” and “Massive Particle Transcendence Indepths Through Wormholes” you’d be forgiven for thinking this album was a bunch of art fags playing some tech prog death garbage or a new Bal-Sagoth release. Far from it, in fact pretty much the polar opposite. Womb of Decay, now central point of focus for former Cenotaph vocalist Batu Çetin, have recently unleashed their debut offering on Turkish label Extreminal Productions. Although it never threatens to break new ground, Descent into Obscure Nihilism is a commendable effort, if at times slightly predictable release of festering funeral doom.
Turkey is not a country which is known for its funeral doom, but Womb of Decay certainly make a fine stab at it. The out and out highlight of this release is Batu’s stunning death gutturals, monstrous and crushing in their execution, they add an interesting dimension to an otherwise fairly passive release. He is obviously experienced in this area and as a result I’ll certainly be looking at his work with Cenotaph, they do just enough to save Descent into Obscure Nihilism from becoming another inoffensive release in a genre which is notorious for its plethora of sub-par Thergothon clones. The music itself is heavier than a pair of concrete boots, passages of dense bass heavy dirges of hypnotic down tuned riffing with Batu’s inhuman roaring on top, of which there is very little variation throughout the full fifty minutes, save for the useless outros to the end of each fucking song. I presume they’re in there to help create atmosphere, but rather than adding anything they end up performing the complete opposite, synthetic organs which rather jarringly interfere with the evil, cavernous atmosphere which Batu manages to execute very well with just a bass, guitar and his vocals. They just serve no discernable purpose whatsoever and are completely obsolete. Other than that, the other major bone I have to pick with this release is the production; it’s just too damn... good? For this type of music I find a much dirtier, low-fi production would help push the atmosphere which Batu is aiming for.
Originality and diversity never is a priority in the funeral doom genre and Womb of Decay don’t try to be anything else. Descent into Obscure Nihilism does succeed in dragging you kicking and screaming into its filth laden clutches for a while anyway at least. Each song manages just about to never overstay its welcome which is a significant problem with a lot of bands in this genre as if there’s an unwritten rule that no song should be shorter than ten minutes, but after a while you realise that it’s all been done before, and better. Fans of Thergothon, Evoken and Dismebowelment may well find something in this, but if you’re a newcomer to this genre, there are better, more established bands to begin with. There’s a lot of promise here, unfortunately it just doesn’t capture the imagination for long enough.
Originally written for Metalcrypt
Tuesday, 16 August 2011
1. Unser Rommel
2. Der Gott (der Eisen wachsen ließ)
3. Flamme Empor
4. Wenn alle untreu werden
5. Hohe Nacht Der Klaren Sterne
6. Schwarz ist unser Panzer
10. Einmal im Jahr
Kriegshetzer are a Ukrainian black metal band who appear to have an extreme infatuation with Nazi Germany. Obligatory German band name (even though you aren’t German yourself)? Check. Cover depicting some item of Nazi military hardware and/or personnel? Check. Adoration of prominent Nazi figure? Check. Hell, we even have a reworking of a classical piece by the German poet Hans Baumann who coincidentally also happened to be heavily involved with the Hitler Youth. Now that is dedication to your ideology, never mind that poor Hans would be rolling in his grave if he ever heard this shit-encrusted, vacuous take on his work. Infact, the only thing this album is missing is the token Burzum cover which every single fucking NS band under the sun seems to have, as if it’s a prerequisite for releasing shitty, inane NSBM.
The music on display here really is nothing at all to write home about. There have been countless bands past and present who have performed and tuned this style of black metal that Kriegshetzer are aiming for to perfection; sadly you have to wade through all the muck to get to them in the first place, and unfortunately for Kriegshetzer, you better stick on your waterproofs.
The style of black metal for the most part revolves mainly around the fast break-neck riffing of Anders, which is a relief because the guitarwork is the only area on this release with any discernible quality whatsoever. Occasionally among the stock riffing, something half-decent will creep out and threaten your neck muscles, but before you know it you’re back to a jumble of derivative riffs again. The guitar tone is somewhat similar to that of Satanic Warmaster, the only difference is Satanic Tyrant knows who to write a decent track.
The vocals have (suprise suprise!) that unmistakable low, gruff German slight to them that so many black metal bands from Germany seem to like, and it’s not a style I’m a massive fan of. Too laid back and without any backbone or delivery. A tad more forceful and some genuine conviction behind them and we may be getting somewhere. This leads me on to the subject of the lyrics, which usually are something I never make a point of paying attention to in black metal, but when you hear “Deutschland ist der schönes Land” which pretty much literally translates to “Germany is the beautiful land”, it’s pretty hard to take seriously. The drum work isn’t too bad, but all too often it just ends up lost in the banality of the whole thing.
Panzer Vorwärtz all in all is just a bit of a non-event. It’s just flat out unremarkable and hollow. When most of the songs aren’t even five minutes long and they still drag, that’s not a good sign. It may be the case with a lot of black metal, but in all honesty you could play the album back as many times as you want and you still wouldn’t be able to pick out an individual song. It might as well be one song on repeat eleven times for all I’m concerned. There is much better coming out of Ukraine at the minute, with bands such as YGG, Ulvegr, Khors and the ilk, there’s really no need to bother with this.
Originally written for Metalcrypt
Friday, 29 April 2011
1. Baptised by Barron
2. The Covenant and the Sacrifice
3. Stregoica Dance
5. The Impure Wedding
It’s one of the, if not the most successful black metal album of all time, and as a result it’s influenced more than a few albums since its inception in 1994. It is of course De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, and Häxan is just another one of those countless albums that has its origins in that seminal album. Except it’s De Mysteriis... even more repulsive and grotesque bastard son. Every so often a band will come around and will divide opinions into polar opposites across the board, the sort of bands like Beherit, Von and Blasphemy, and although Cultes Des Ghoules may not be quite as primitive as these acts, they certainly contain the same aura of ugliness and inaccessibility.
This album caused quite a significant stir back in 2008 upon its original release, their brand of raw yet epic Lovecraftian black metal with its remarkably unpolished nature bore heavy resemblance to the aforementioned Mayhem album while containing a constant underlying atmosphere of such like bands such as Mortuary Drape et-all. It’s just not too often they come from a country like Poland though, more famous for its sawtooth blasting and nationalistic ideals.
As stated previously, Attila’s Mayhem are the biggest influence, just one listen to the vocals will tell you that that deranged, manic and obnoxious style can only be derived from our Hungarian crackpot Attila. Dynamic and sweeping, ranging from higher pitched rasping to low incomprehensible gargling, much more that just vocals, they’re downright terrifying and demonic and stir the atmosphere at will. The band has gone slightly over the top on the reverb at times, but on the other hand without it they wouldn’t sound half as evil, and the excess does help somewhat in filling out the void created by the lack of presence in the guitars.
The riffing while sometimes thin is devastating, ranging from slow funeral dirges to brief passages of a chaotic, crude and morbid mess. While the execution of the guitar work is remarkable, it’s the way Cultes Des Ghoules incorporate the bass into their sound. Where-as most old school bands tend to follow the Darkthrone school of thought and not bother at all with any significant bass contribution, Cultes Des Ghoules obviously prefer the Greek technique where there more bass there is, the better. The bass tone is pure filthy, surrounding the guitars and vocals like a thick cloud of sulphur threatening to overpower you at any moment with its noxious essence.
It's refreshing when a band such Cultes Des Ghoules come along and remind people that not all black metal has to be relentless blasting or full of sweeping keyboards, for they take the most hostile aspects of black metal and warp them even further. Slow paced black metal that invokes all manners of evil abominations. Black metal with an old school aesthetic and genuinely uneasy atmosphere that wouldn’t be out of place as a soundtrack to a number of Lovecraft’s works, the Devil is most certainly alive here.
Sunday, 24 April 2011
1. Black Realm of Satanas
3. Burning Horror
5. Rites of Endless Hatred
6. Destructive Saint
7. Flaming Magic Assault
8. Gateway to the Birth of Lunacy
Boasting a production handled by the infamous Necromorbus who’s worked with bands of a calibre such as Watain and Funeral Mist, Flame’s sophomore effort March Into Firelands has finally seen the light of day, and is a much improved step up from their rather lacklustre debut. A parallel project alongside cult Finnish thrashers Urn, Flame sound very similar, stripped down sand-blasted black thrash, obnoxious and uncompromising similar to that of their close neighbours Nifelheim. With their influences permeating from the usual sources such as early Bathory, Hellhammer and Discharge you can be certain you’re going to be in for brief but utterly intense half hour of vicious, bestial thrash laced with pure grit.
March Into Firelands isn’t going to win any awards for progression or originality, but then in this field of blackened thrash not much ever is. There’s never any harm in wearing your influences for all to see on your sleeve, and when you do it as well as Flame have managed to here it’s always welcome. The guitar shares that same low-fi sound production of Hellhammer while the riffing is just downright filthy and old school. Combined this with the malicious atmosphere from The Return and you’ve got the standard template as to what all self-respecting black-thrash bands should at least be aiming for. Blackvenom’s vocals are situated heavily on the black side of the spectrum and could be best described as a mix between Quorthon’s black metal rasp and Jon Nödtveidt’s, and then add on a heap of reverb for an extra evil cavernous effect. Pretty standard practise really but hey, it works.
With songs like “Destructive Saint” and “Gateway to the birth of Lunacy” it’s hard not to move your head even a little bit, catchy riffs, thundering drumming and Blackvenom’s feral snarl, and with the deliberately low fi production onto of it, it’s all unashamedly old-school. The one problem I have with it is that it’s just too predictable, whereas bands like Desaster and Nifelheim are able to inject a fair amount of identity into each of their song, the songs on March into Firelands begin to blend together after repeated listenings. When you’re not paying full attention it’s easy to miss the ending of one song and the beginning of another and you think you’re still listening to the same song you were ten minutes ago. It’s still a great album though regardless and fans of blistering blackened thrash should certainly check it out, the musicianship is top notch and the music is downright primitive and relentless. They’re going in the right direction, just a bit more focus and I can’t see why they won’t be up there with the leaders in the genre on their next release, but as it is March into Firelands is enjoyable if not wholly original, and has left a good impression on these Fins.
Originally written for Metalcrypt
Friday, 22 April 2011
1. You Never Gazed at the Clouds
2. She Couldn't Find a Flower, But There was Snow
4. A City in Mono
5. A City in Stereo
The mysteriously dark and introspective Dutch shoegaze (and ex-black metal) outift Hypomanie is back again this time with their follow up to the début back in 2008, only this time they have, or rather Selwin has, undergone a complete stylistic change and appears to have a new, much more positive outlook on things. Gone are the days where he'd prefer to sing about all things dark and depressing, it appears these days the general atmosphere in the Hypomanie camp has taken a turn for the good with Selwin now penning wistful and nostalgic shoegaze bearing more than a slight nod to one of the genre's perfecter's, Slowdive.
If you've heard either of the two EPs previous to this release though, you will already know Hypomanie have been undergoing somewhat of a transformation or evolution the way I see it from average DSBM to the self titled EP while impressive, still heavily shackled with their roots to what we have now. A City in Mono only retains an ephemeral glimpse at Hypomanie's origins, for now their feet are firmly planted in thick shoegaze territory. Five songs and forty minutes of a huge wash of pulsating guitar surges and subtle drum work, all purely instrumental, which upon reflection was probably for the best as Selwin's vocals on previous works at times lets just say left a lot to be desired.
Straight from the off the album is absolutely dripping in Slowdive influence, you can hear it in everything from the riffing to the fantastic guitar breaks and the airy electronics which appear from time to time. One of the albums highlights is without doubt the opener “You Never Gazed at the Clouds” with its intense wall of distortion and the guitar break around the two minute mark which bears an uncanny resemblance to that of “I Saw the Sun”, giving that same sort of feeling you get when sitting by the coast and the sun breaks on the water and floods your head with nostalgia and that feeling you haven't got a care in the world. Following this up with some exquisite guitar work and more thick riffing and you've got something pretty special indeed. Consummate shoegazing bliss. The song kicks up a notch for the closing minute or two in an almost post-rock styled climax with a passing nod to the bands roots with the accelerated speed of the drumming and guitar, and slightly more conventional riffing style.
Some of the songs do tend to suffer from being repetitive, Alison-esque “She Couldn't Find a Flower, But There Was Snow” (which is guilty of having one of the worst song titles ever) drags a bit towards the end and might have been better cut in half, as is “A City in Mono” which after a strong start again wanes. But it's the albums long player, “A City in Stereo” which is my other main highlight of this release. Clocking in at almost ten and a half minutes, from it's delicate electronic introduction which carries its hypnotic resonance throughout the whole song which could have as easily been composed by God is an Astronaut through the chromatic and reflective guitar melodies which sound as fragile as life itself. Astonishingly beautiful and captivating and best likened to observing the eerie lull of a large cityscape in the dead of a clear winter night, awash with a hazy blur of ambers, reds and yellows.
There’s no doubt Slowdive are a huge influence on Selwin, and at times it does sound extremely similar, which believe me is no bad thing. Few bands have ever come close to capturing that ‘feeling’. Yes it is stretched a tad in the middle, but the sheer magnificence that bookends this album is pure genious. Dropping the vocals is the best thing Selwin has done to date, by transferring all the focus to the music itself it really allows the guitar work to shine. I would say this is the logical progression onwards from their EP’s, and leaps and bound ahead of the generic debut.
Thursday, 14 April 2011
3. Into Submission
4. Slave to King
5. The Perpetual War
6. Exalt the Master
7. Dying Day
8. The Great Subterfuge
Three years after the highly impressive début Salvation Like Destruction, Aussie thrashers Assaulter have returned to the fore once again with their latest opus, Boundless. What it is about the constant stream of great old school thrash metal coming from our comrades down under I've yet to figure, with bands such as Destroyer 666, Denouncement Pyre and Razor of Occam among the many who've been busy with releases lately you're spoilt for choice with filthy blackened thrash when it comes to Australia.
Musically Boundless casts off most of the black metal influences from the début and as a whole is a lot more stripped down and focused bearing a heavy Teutonic influence especially in the vocal department. But where-as Berserker's vocals owe a lot to the Teutonic thrash scene, the rest of the music owes as much to the likes of Mercyful fate as it does Kreator and Destruction. Two of the most noticeable improvements upon the début are in the production department and the overall variation. As good as the début was, let's be honest, it had a horrible guitar tone and in general overall very hollow production. Now with Metal blade behind them presumably they were able to come up with something a little bit more substantial and produced something with a bit of weight behind it.
As for the variety, you have the straight up one two to the jaw with openers “Entrance” and “Outshine” with their huge riffing and blistering leads that could easily have come off Pleasure to Kill and then on to numbers such as “Into Submission” and “Dying Day” which have nothing really thrash about them at all other than their vocals. More than anything they sound like a dirtier and more depraved Mercyful Fate than they do anything thrash. Then you've got “Slave to the King” which at first listen to the opening guitar melody I did a double take to make sure I wasn't listening to Melechesh. The vocals, the middle eastern guitar tone and the drum arrangements are identical to those off Syphnx. Probably one of the last influences I expected to hear from an Australian thrash outfit, but no bad thing. This ethnic influence actually appears quite a bit throughout the album but it's at its most noticeable here. The standout number on the album has to be the closer “The Great Subterfuge” with its 'in your face' rhythms and overall 'epic' feel to it, utterly powerful and compelling.
What I like about Boundless is that while as successful as blackened thrash from Australia has been recently, they've decided to shake things up a bit. They still retain all their roots and core influences that got them noticed in the first place, but with Boundless they've injected a touch of influences from outside the circle, and it's worked impressively. It's a huge step up from Salvation Like Destruction and a wise move, because all Aussie thrash bands these days seem to be living in Destroyer's shadow, and Assaulter have sidestepped that to an extent and can only go onwards and upwards from here on in.
Originally written for Archaic Magazine
Monday, 4 April 2011
1. The Morrigan
2. An Ancient Fire Burns
3. Beneath the Frozen Sky
4. Heathen Burial
5. Visions of the Dawn
6. To Face the Black Tide
7. Poem to the Gael
8. The Last Caress of Light Before the Dark
There are a huge amount of bands in Ireland that are constantly vying to catch the eye of some bigwig metal exec hoping to propel them on to bigger and better things, some more deserving than others, but at the end of the day if you put in enough effort and get your name out there through whatever means necessary, if your motives are clean, then there's nothing stopping you.
Darkest Era have proved exactly that, through endless gigging every bar in the country and cementing themselves on some high calibre support slots throughout Europe, they caught the attention of the high rollers up in Metal Blade. That's not to say the fantastic demo The Journey Through Damnation didn't have any part to play in that, it certainly did, but your 'fantastic new awesome' demo release isn't worth the plastic it's recorded on if you don't put in the effort to 'get it out there' so to speak. I'm not naming names but there's many bands in Ireland who should take precedent from the sheer amount of blood, sweat and tears that got them into the position they are now. The fact they had a decent amount of exposure in Europe as early as the demo release, eventually culminating in a distribution deal with Northern Silence speaks volumes in itself.
One thing which seems to be completely unavoidable with Irish bands these days is the inevitable comparisons both musically and non-musically to Primordial. Maybe it's to do with what the media expects Irish metal to sound like, and it's a stereotype which can't and probably wont ever be shaken. It's everywhere and I'm sure most bands are sick of it, but with Darkest Era it is certainly justified to an extent so they might as well make the most of it, but they are much more than just a cheap Primordial knock off. The influences permeate from every nook and cranny throughout the album, whether its the classic Slough Feg approach to the guitar leads, the atavistic doomy atmosphere with which Primordial are synonymous to the traditional Irish folk music influence.
“The Morrigan” is one of two songs which survived the cut to make it onto The Last Caress of light from the demos, and just as well too, as it was the stand out track from The Journey Through Damnation. It's one of those songs that encapsulates the whole paradigm of everything metal is and should be, evocative, powerful and downright invigorating. With it's NWOBHM influenced guitar riffing and Krum's commanding vocal performance reinforced by a thunderous drum performance, you really couldn't ask for more. The monotony of the vocals are my only slight gripe, and remains an issue throughout the album, but it's only a minor issue at that, the sheer effort and vigour in the delivery more than make up for it.
This is the standard pretty much throughout the whole album, from the surging “Beneath the Frozen Sky” with its vocal lines bearing a striking resemblance to Storm Before Calm era Primordial to the desperation shrouded “Heathen Burial” to the eleven minute opus of “The Last Caress of Light Before the Dark”, a spine tingling journey of foreboding and anxiety, and one of those riffs at the midpoint which basically reaffirms why you began listening to metal in the first place. Utterly phenomenal. They even managed to fit in an acoustic number, “Poem to the Gael”, a gorgeous bleak introspective ballad of Irish melancholy with nothing but Krum and an acoustic guitar for the most part, almost like what Agalloch would sound like if they were Irish.
It's infectious, galloping folk metal, but without all the pretence and frills that only the Irish know how to do, and not a fiddle or tin whistle in sight. None of your saccharine and synthetic faux-folk tripe most of central Europe is peddling these days, it's music performed straight from the heart and with an unbound maturity which only shows just how far Darkest Era have come in these few short years. And long may it continue.
Originally written for Archaic Magazine
Saturday, 19 March 2011
1. Nebelstern des Nichts
Fresh off the back of the tremendous Let the Devil In released at the back end of last year, the ever industrious Shatraug returns with Mortualia this time, and teams up with Swiss stargazers Nychts who themselves have been on the receiving end of a fair bit of acclaim lately. If you've heard “Zwischen Leere und Nichts” off the split with Wedard then you should have a good idea as to what Nebelstern des Nichts sounds like, and when combined with Shatraug's ability and experience the foundations are there for something very unique. Each band has their own 'movements' of sorts, they don't play in unison as I first thought, but Nychts handle the first twenty minutes or so and the last five, while Mortualia take the reins for the middle, with each section entwined by sampling and ambient work handled by the mastermind behind Nychts, Trähn.
Some brief electronic gibberish gets the ball rolling we're engulfed by Trähn's meandering guitar wash pierced by his wretched screams which I suspect wont be to everyone's taste, but when you're a Silencer fan I suppose you can pretty much stomach anything. I've yet to hear a metal band who can capture that astral sound anywhere near as good as Nychts, the way Trähn utilizes acoustic guitar, organs, piano and that Tangerine Dream like ambience is astounding, it's the same sort of sound present on Limbonic Art's Moon in the Scorpio but with more of an overall desolate and vacuous semblance with a massive funeral doom influence beneath it all. Some of the sounds and samples are just downright bizarre, emphasizing the sheer alien nature to Nychts music. Diverse doesn't even come close, hell we even get what appears to be a guest appearance from something that sounds suspiciously like Darth Vader at the nine minute mark. Trähn's vocals are strange, they aren't actually harsh in the typical black metal manner, more of a wailing scream submerged among the huge wall of spatial obscurity, creating an overall vibe that this track is one big acid trip through an astral wasteland gone horribly wrong. They've been described as 'musical jewelry' and in a way seems a very apt description, scintillating and absolutely enamoring.
After an interlude of a few minutes of strange beeping and a heavily echoed bass drum the Mortualia section kicks in and is a lot more orthodox than Nychts contributions, the vocals are raw and vicious, unmistakably Shatraug, a lot of the focus is centered on the guitar riffs and colourful lead work which remains tasteful throughout. The drumming is another excellent aspect about this release, it's comparable to the way Summoning programmed their drums on their later work, focused centrally around building the atmosphere first rather than just a backbone for the music, the sound off the bass drum is vast, echoing in the background as if it were a bell tolling doom. The last five minutes where Nychts take over again are incredible, the culmination of the destitute guitar melodies and Trähn's lost vocals backed up by that huge drum sound along with the night like ambience and what even sounds like a backing choir is pure audacity, but absolutely genius.
Ambitious would be one word, the concept of two bands performing alternating passages back and forth together throughout a forty minute song is something which as far as I'm aware has never been attempted before in black metal let alone metal itself. You'd expect something as elaborate as this to have some slight faults and potential conflicts and inconsistencies between both bands, but the execution and seamlessness with which it is performed and stellar arrangements which are truly astonishing. You can tell when each performer comes in and leaves again, but at the same time it doesn't sound as if it's two separate projects at all.
Bands like Darkspace etc take note, this is how it's supposed to be done. Atmospheric black metal which is as limitless as the universe itself, Nebelstern des Nichts is a terrifying journey into the undiscovered infinities of the cosmos; black metal which is utterly platonic and thoroughly engaging throughout every single minute of this release. The sooner Nychts release a full length album themselves the better. With Nebelstern des Nichts, these two black metal wizards unleash what could only be described as one of the finest attempts ever in the black metal genre at putting to record everything that is contained in the thought devouring wilderness of night's firmament. Essential.
Thursday, 17 March 2011
2. Der Nacht entrissen
3. Schwärze zersetzt die Farben des Morgen
4. König Lorak
5. Leblos im Moor
6. Kalter Schein
7. In so manch rauer Nacht
'Atmospheric' is one of those tags that many bands seem to get categorized with, more often than not solely due to the lyrical themes and even album cover alone at times. It's a tricky type of sound to achieve, when it's executed right it can be extraordinary, but more often than not when it boils down to it, it's no more than a group of chancers trying to pass off repetitive minimal tremolo riffing and vocals slapped with a huge dose of reverb as cold, frostbite inducing black metal. When in truth it's not, and is the category that Wald Geist Winter fall into.
Teufelskreise is their debut, and is thirty three minutes of middle of the road raw black metal bearing a passing resemblance to the second wave Norwegian scene with some elements of DSBM thrown in for good measure. The musicianship itself isn't actually too bad, the drumming is tight enough if slightly repetitive and the vocals par for the course with much of this type of music, alternating between a Dakrthrone-esque croak and something that wouldn't be out of place on a Xasthur album. It's the guitar work and shallow production which are the cause of much of Teufelskreise's shortcomings. The guitar work itself is weak and without any real substance, monotonous and lacks any sort of presence, and at times falls remarkably in and out of tune and as a result is severely jarring. The riffing in general is just flat out forgettable, not helped by the poor tinny production. The album might as well be one thirty three minute song split up into seven parts, because they all sound exactly the same and follow exactly the same formula.
Where Wald Geist Winter go next remains to be seen, but if they're to make any sort of headway onto better pastures they could do with some fresh inspiration, for Teufelskreise doesn't contain any unique elements whatsoever to make it stand out from the thousands of other bands peddling the same thing. One of those albums you put away into your CD rack and find a year or two later and think “Oh, I forgot I even had that”. Must try harder.
Originally written for Metalcrypt
Sunday, 6 March 2011
2. Return From Near Death
3. Our Dreams Belongs To The Stars
4. Ordo Ab Chao
5. Eagle's Eye
7. Lay In Desease
Thallium are a rather mysterious project from which the only member, Warwolf, also contributes to the vastly overrated Brazilian act Evil. What it is about South American black metaller's and their penchant for national socialist ideologies I'll never know, but they seem to be everywhere at the minute and are hard to avoid. The majority of them are absolute shit, but occasionally you do get the odd one who's worth their salt. Thallium happen to be one of them, and while being nothing revolutionary, do bring to the table an intriguing take on the notorious sound from the early nineties Polish scene from bands such as Graveland, Infernum and Veles.
With a title such as Armanenschaft and the works of Guido Von List as the pool of inspiration for this release, you can hazard a guess at what the lyrical content is, but regardless of ideologies Armanenschaft is for the most part a fairly competent piece of work but at times suffers from almost over-ambition and lack of ideas which is evident in the similarity of all the tracks bar “Eagle's Eye” and the throwaway interludes which serve no practical purpose whatsoever. This can be forgiven to an extent though as Darken's work is extremely hard to emulate with only a handful of bands such as Nachtfalke ever producing anything of note.
As Thallium are a one man project, Warwolf handles all the instruments and does so sufficiently well, the guitar isn't focused on technicality, Warwolf utilizes simple repetitive riffing which is raw yet retains a crude sort of melody and when combined with the interwoven keys similar to those that appear on Following the Voice of Blood, culminate in an emphatic atmosphere of victory and ascendancy. Exactly the sound Warwolf was aiming for I'd imagine, and is Armanenschaft's forte. “Our Dreams Belongs(sic) to the Stars” is testament to this with it's surging riffs and reckless drumming closing off in stunning fashion with a passage even Rob would be proud of himself. Unfortunately the rest of the album doesn't quite scale these peaks again but “Eagle's Eye” is a welcomed change in tempo, setting brutality levels to eleven with persistent blasting and wretched vocals. Warwolf's vocals are well performed though lack bite due to the large amount of processing used on them. They remind me more of Nazgul of Satanic Warmaster fame than the obvious choices on show.
Armanenschaft does contain some fatal flaws though, as previously stated the lack of variation and Intro/Outro and “II” which serve no conceivable purpose whatsoever other than to fill up space, and the production. The production is ragged and awkward and sucks the life out of what would otherwise be a couple of outstanding tracks. At times the music sounds like it's just going to collapse in around it's foundations, lacking an overall tightness holding it all together and would benefit from a lot more presence in the vocal department. Setting these predicaments aside though, Armanenschaft is still an enjoyable release, not least because its from a style of Black Metal which seems to be waning. They're not ever going to win any awards for technicality but that's not where this records vision lies. They've still a fair way to go yet before getting anywhere near the imperialistic sound of Graveland, but it's still a laudable effort indeed.
Originally written for Metalcrypt
Saturday, 5 March 2011
3. Hozd el, Isten
4. Mennyei Harang
6. Igazi Tûz
7. Kinizsi Mulatsága
8. A Hadak Útja
9. Leszek A Csillag
10. Leszek A Hold
Bands like Dalriada don't get much of a chance when in comes to the mainstream media. Apparently only two female fronted bands have ever existed of any worth, so when someone new crops up, they get compared to one of those two bands, Arch Enemy or Nightwish. With the press these days you'd think no-one else existed, and I'd stagger a guess that Dalriada are nigh sick on comparisons to Arch Enemy. Why? Because they happen to have a female frontwoman who growls. The truth is, Dalriada couldn't be any further from the sterile melo-death travesty that Arch Enemy have become. If you want a somewhat accurate representation of their sound, Russian counterparts Arkona would be a good comparison, but even comparisons to them are doing Dalriada a disservice, as they began a full four years before Arkona under a different guise, they just never seemed to get the breakthrough they deserved. Ígéret is, believe it or not, Dalriada's sixth studio release! That begs the question “Why have I never heard of them before?”, which is a question I presume many people will be considering. Many reasons maybe but I imagine being stuck on a tiny unknown Hungarian label with fuck all publicity doesn't help your case a lot. So with their latest effort they finally have a bit of a platform from which to get their stuff out there with AFM records, and it's not before time because Dalriada are just as good, if not better than Arkona.
A meadow of poppies and daisies. Doesn't exactly scream metal does it? Then again Dalriada aren't exactly metal's most masculine band. Satanic warriors and true defenders need not apply for Ígeret's roots are firmly buried in Eastern European tradition and the type of folk music Korpiklaani are infamous for. At times it's hard to keep straight-faced throughout the album, whether that's due to the overwhelmingly brazen and cheery attitude or Laura's unintentionally amusing clean vocals (which I've grown to love) I'll leave that open for debate. I'm not going to lie, I laughed when I first heard “Hajdútánc”, the way Laura delivers those clean vocals, it sounds almost like a karaoke version of the Numa Numa song, not least helped by the fact I haven't the faintest clue what she's singing about.. It's the type of thing if your mate walked in on you listening to, you'd turn the volume down as quick as you could to avoid any embarrassment. After repeated listenings though the song grew on me a lot. In-fact so much so I'd say it's up there with my favourite songs of the year so far. That chorus, one exposure and you're fucked, trying to get it out of your head is like trying to get rid of the clap. Then add on a fret tearing solo and you've got a formula you literally cannot go wrong with. This is one of (unfortunately) the few songs on the album where Laura utilizes her harsh vocals consistently, which is a shame because they're brilliant when they do appear and put so many of her male counterparts to shame. Think Masha from Arkona, they're pretty much identical.
Setting the amusing opening vocal lines aside, the rest of the clean vocals throughout the album are actually very good, especially on “Hozd el, Isten” and “Kinizsi Mulatsága”, though at times tend to suffer from a lack of variation. And back to the subject of Korpiklaani, Jonne performs guest vocals on track ten, which is the best thing he's ever put his vocals to, which wasn't really a tough feat to be honest. Metal-wise the album is firmly in power metal territory with the upbeat melodic guitar riffing and bridge-chrous structure, Andras and Mátyás contributions should not go unnoticed, along with Laura's vocals and the vast array of folk instruments are a major contributing factor in keeping the whole light-hearted vibe with the album.
They've come along way since the primitive beginnings of Fergeted, the development in the song writing and their ability is remarkable. With songs such as “Hajdútánc” and the title track, Igeret could well be a legitimate treatment for depression. Animated and with a wild, ragged enthusiasm, Ígéret finds that difficult balance between eccentric and serious, pompous and flamboyant. They sit firmly in the middle of both Korpiklaani school of “drink till you pass out” folk and the rather more subtle route of Arkona and Skyforger. Strongly recommended to all fans of folk out there, Ígéret is a damn fine effort by a band who are due some press, and with this album they just might get it. Drink, strange dances and instruments you never even knew existed, it's got to be Eastern European folk metal right?
Originally written for Archaic Magazine
Friday, 4 March 2011
2. Neca Memoriam
3. Omnia Intereunt
4. In Dunkelheit liegt Stille
6. Marsch in die Finsternis
8. Apokalyptische Visionen
Little known black metallers Mordgrund released their début album upon the masses through Black Devastation records at the end of 2010. After the short, and quite frankly throwaway introduction which so many average bands seem to think is essential for a black metal, Omnia Intereunt kicks in to half an hour of unbridled, old school black metal mayhem. With an overall atmosphere and riffing style not unlike Imperium Dekadenz or Nargaroth, this release sounds incredibly 'German', which is no surprise as Mordgrund are in-fact from Germany themselves.
Intimidating riffing, thick basslines and some superb work behind the kit from Mephir combine to produce an extremely commendable first release for this band. One thing I like a lot about this release is the constant variation between the flat out, and at times almost thrash like passages and the more drawn out sections where the focus is primarily on the hellish atmosphere being created by the guitar riffing and prominent bass work. The vocals of Apokalyptor are full of intent and delivered with a large amount of force, they do at times remind me of Joel Grind in both sound and delivery. The standout of the release though has got to be the drumming, varied and concise, Mephir gets the balance of blasting just right, something a lot more bands should focus on.
Helped with the remarkable production work, Omnia Intereunt is a more than acceptable debut release from these Germans, and puts some considerably more well known bands to shame at the minute. If you're in the mood for some no frills, stripped down, bare bones hellish black metal done the traditional way, with a hellish atmosphere to boot, then Mordgrund should set you on the right path. It's not treading any new ground but on the basis of this they certainly have the talent and material to take them a lot further. A great effort.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com
Friday, 25 February 2011
1. the furious march
4. parallel worlds
5. flowing textures
6. two steps for the gods
7. the faith woods
8. the frozen enchant of warmth
9. warm winter
10. cloud colossus
Rather than just being another run of the mill ambient/post-rock act, Portugese band (aura) have decided to shake things up a bit here, rather than doing what most bands do such as creating the music in their heads and then developing an image from that , (aura) have opted to do things the other way round first. Start out with the images and construct the music out of them. Andre has selected a few chosen works from photographer and fellow countryman Jose Ramos and attempted to build a story connecting the photographs (which are in the booklet) together in a sequence. Certainly intriguing to say the least, as the concept is something I’ve never come across before, but one which (aura) have left me interested in hearing more.
The influences on Invisible Landscape are vast; I can hear everything from Massive Attack-styled trip hop to echoes of God is an Astronaut and even contemporary classical. It’s an ambitious record and doesn’t really slot properly into one single genre, it’s extremely dynamic and compelling with a surprising amount of variation for ambient influenced works. From the fragile serenity of the oceanic lull of “The Furious March” and “Vacuity” right through to the glowing electronic overtones of “Warm Winter” and impending nature of “Cloud Colossus” it coils a mesh round you right from the very beginning. One special thing to note about “Cloud Colossus” is that it’s the only song on the album with vocals, which was a surprise as vocals in this style of music full-stop are a rarity. I would go as far as to say this is my favourite track on the album, the sombre guitar picking with the distortion and almost post-punk styled vocals works extremely well together, and as much as I love my post-rock, I would love to see the band continue down this route.
Invisible Landscape is a great debut effort by this Portuguese act, they manage to blend all the different styles together pretty much seamlessly and the whole album has a great continuity about it. The music does fantastic justice to the photos which I must add, are absolutely stunning themselves. It may not hit you at first listen, it didn’t for me, but then this is one of those albums you have to sit down alone and listen to with headphones in and immerse yourself in it. If ever there was a better argument against the mp3 fad, this is certainly a good one, for without the booklet, it wouldn’t even be half as enchanting.
Thursday, 17 February 2011
1. The Fall
2. Lamentations & Ashes
3. Angels of Veiled Bone
4. The Third Hour
5. The One and the Many
6. Charnel Spirit
7. All Souls
8. The Number of the Word
9. Stained Glass Reflections
10. Stained Glass Revelations
Et in Saecula Saeculorum caused quite a stir in the underground back in 2006, and not without good reason. Out of the blue, this album appeared and floored everyone. Why? The fact that something so ingenious and erratic was still possible in a genre in which many have dismissed as exhausted through and through of anything innovative and original. This is true to an extent, black metal is a genre which has been suffering majorly from a drought of inspiration of late, though occasionally a band comes along every once in a while to try out something new and against the grain. Sometimes it works, but more often than not it doesn't and said band fades away to languish in obscurity. This is always going to be the way because black metal fans more than most are always skeptical of changes, they can be a tough bunch to satisfy at the hardest of times. This is where Negative Plane come in. If you've ever listened to a band for the very first time, and after one listen to the album sat up and thought to yourself “Wow, this is unlike anything I've ever heard before, yet absolutely astounding; these guys are going to be big” then you've felt the same as to what I felt when I first heard Negative Plane. They retain enough of the traditional ethics and basis of traditional black metal and fuse it with a bizarre amalgamation of gothic horror and archaic styling that will unite even the most fickle of black metal fans.
Picture yourself in a vast cathedral, enshrouded in an ancient horrific mist, gradually dragging you down into a fear induced delirium, a swirling myriad of primeval voices strangle the remains of any rational thought you may have left like the rat in it's dying throes to the python. Extravagant, yes, but an album such as this deserves nothing less. I have heard various people liken it almost to a Lovecraftian horror soundtrack, and in a way there could not be a more apt definition for the sound of Stained Glass Revelations. It's ominous, foreboding and terrifying, yet at the same time it has this almost ridiculous macabre carnival-esque atmosphere. This is due in no small part to the contributions of Nameless Void, who provides both the guitar work and the vocals. The guitar is swathed in layers of reverb and with the slightly more prog route they have taken in regards to the guitars this time around they have veered off into a more definitive psychedelic route, something along the lines of “A Church in Ruin” off their debut. The sheer variation and multiform nature of the guitar work is astounding, no second riff is ever the same, one minute NV is playing something similar to Celtic Frost, the next it's a totally abstract guitar lead where every note reflecting off every corner of your mind. I mentioned Celtic Frost before, and they probably are one of Negative Plane's main influences. Certainly on the debut at least, maybe less so on this album which is so unique it's a challenge in itself to try and compare it to anything. At times the album doesn't even sound metal, as I stated before at points it morphs into something almost like dark, twisted circus music, and the vocals of NV are the voices of cast; twisted and unhinged and spitting corruption. “The One and the Many” is a great example of this, rising and falling around the vocals of Nameless Void. The bass and drum work definitely shouldn't be ignored either, the bass resonating beneath the chaos above it and one of the main components of the overall atmosphere, while the drumming is best described as extremely unpredictable and unconventional. Bestial Devotion is a big fan of his cymbals, chaotic and complex at the same time with no holding back on the quality.
The atmosphere pours out of this record in waves, it's an atmosphere not dissimilar to that of Drawing Down the Moon or De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, one which is extremely dense, ambiguous and warped, an atmosphere that completely makes the album what it is. They also are one of the few bands who actually manage to use interludes to their full effect and not just for aimless filler, using them to build the suspense in between each song, and avoid using shitty samples and actually composing the interludes themselves. If I had to pick one song which would sum up the album thoroughly, it would be the enigmatic “Angels Veiled in Bone”. As dark and as depraved as the dungeons of Hades while throughout it all flicking a wry smile. Grandiose riffing and chromatic leads, psychopathic vocals and an atmosphere that puts almost every other band out there at the minute to shame.
With Stained Glass Revelations, Negative Plane move up to the top rung of the ladder and it would be a horrendous injustice if they don't get more recognition on the back of an absolute gem such as this. The move in a more psychedelic direction was an utter masterstroke by them, but I still don't think it's their 'pièce de résistance' as such, because I honestly think they have even better in them. I guess only time will tell. A work of unassailable genius. Obscure, mysterious and at times downright petrifying, all the while wearing a masque of perverse humour. Two words; get this.
Originally written for Metalcrypt
Monday, 14 February 2011
1. In den Nachthimmeln Transilvaniens
2. Tränen des Dionysos
3. Mit einem Herzen voller Verachtung
5. Das Sterben
6. Return of the Necromancer
7. Nacht des Werwolfes
8. Das Schloss
9. As Flittermice as Satans Spys
10. Mit einem Herzen voller Verachtung (live)
11. In den Nachthimmeln Transilvaniens (live)
12. VON (live)
13. Nacht des Werwolfes (live)
Every genre of metal has its own group of wide-eyed imitators aiming to recapture the sound of their heroes, it's part and parcel in the process of evolution within a given genre. On one hand you have the bands who bring new concepts and elements to the traditional sound, and then on the flip side, you have bands who have no qualms replicating the sound of their idols note for note. Todesweihe sit firmly on the latter side of the coin, and having read that they've previously played with Warloghe and Inquisition, two fairly reputable bands, first impressions were positive. But it's all downhill from here.
From the 'I'm too lazy to come up with an original cover so I'll just use the old faithful Gustav Dore' option to possibly the second most covered Darkthrone song ever, everything about Necronomicon Ex Mortis (or rather the sound of Todesweihe as a whole as this is a compilation) is amateur, derivative and downright tedious. Refraining from just pressing the stop button as I sat through this was frustrating to say the least.
Necronomicon Ex Mortis is a compilation of their second demo, Nachtmahre, their EP and a bunch of live tracks, but reviewing them separately would be fairly redundant as each song is equally as excruciating as the next. The vocalist does his best to capture Nocturno Culto's ice cold rasp and it does come slightly close but lacks in delivery and no amount of reverb will mask that. It's the best aspect of this release, but when placed against the guitar work and drumming, that's not saying a lot at all. The riffing is insipid and just flat out weak, following the three chord tremolo pattern but containing no discernible qualities whatsoever, none of Darkthrone's signature 'cold' sound or catchy riffing. For the most part it sounds like a couple of kids in their garage miserably attempting the “Transylvanian Hunger” riff over and over again. The drumming is no better either, haphazard, sloppy and lacking any sort of variation or timing whatsoever, anymore and I'd be wasting my breath.
The two EP tracks off the Nachts am Alten Friedhof release are of better quality than the rest, only marginally though, and are what save this release from getting an embarrassing score altogether. Whenever Todesweihe slow things down, they are actually surprisingly listenable. The guitar tone has some muscle to it and the music doesn't sound like a washing machine stuck on spin. Unfortunately this is only present on the two EP tracks. As for the live tracks tacked on at the end, they aren't even worth discussing at all. I guess if you're a completist they might be of some value.
Todesweihe may need to reconsider their vision of what they want to be if they're to make any sort of an impact, because as a Darkthrone clone, it doesn't work. There are much better bands out there who do it so much more effectively. They need to find the appropriate balance between their infatuation with Darkthrone and some distinct element to set them apart from the others. At the end of the day this is all demo material, so the shoddy production can slide, but it's still no excuse for crap music.
Darker than Black"
Saturday, 5 February 2011
1. Dawn of End
Whenever someone metions Dutch black metal, the first bands that initially come to mind would be Countess and Urfaust. Not one of the Netherlands most productive genre's that's for sure. Nachtvorst's debut album Stills, released by Black Devastation Records in 2009 presents an extremely fresh perspective on European underground black metal, for it's compelling approach at blending the 'post-' with the 'depressive'. And for an attempt at blending in a style of which is for the majority American by name and nature, it's a commendable effort.
With four tracks no fewer than eight minutes long each, and an instrumental thrown in for good measure, Stills is no easy listen. Everything from funeral doom, sludge, death, depressive black metal and even post-rock is present in Stills, it's an assorted mix of genres which when combined most of the time can just sound awkward, but Nachtvorst manage to execute it well. Right from the off, opener “Dawn of End” comes crashing down like a colossal wave of misery, constantly lashing away with the ebbing guitars and heavy bass. The bass is prominent throughout the whole album, which is something which helps gives Stills a touch more identity. It contributes a great deal to the ominous, asphyxiating atmosphere Erghal and Leopold are aiming for. And talking about a crushing atmosphere, one listen to track two “Murmurs” and you're utterly crippled. It's nothing more than a crude wall feedback and bile encased distortion of guitar and hellishly low bass. It's no easy listen and I can certainly hear a bit of SWANS influence among others here.
The final three tracks are more in the traditional vein of black metal but it's the constant diversity in every aspect of the music that keeps Stills so engaging. “Wandering” would be without a doubt the best track on the album, and at times feels like it could have been an outtake from Storm of the Light's Bane. It's one of the more 'upbeat' tracks of the album if you could call it that, and in total contrast, closer “Epitaph” is pretty much just that, with it's roots firmly buried in the depressive black metal scene with it's hollowed out guitar lines and fervent desperation.
Whether it's Leopold's transitions between his higher pitched nail spiked shrieks or his guttural death growls more akin to something off a Dismember album, or the guitar riffing ranging from traditional tremolo riffing, to post-rock interludes to dirging sludgy passages. If you're one who complains about black metal being too monotonous with lack of variation and talent then I can't recommend this album enough. For the majority it's a slow paced, meandering behemoth of oppression, ranging from depressive black metal to sludge and everything in-between, and definitely makes Nachtvorst one to watch for the future.
Orignally written for Metalcrypt
Monday, 31 January 2011
1. Trick the Vicar
2. The 95 Thesis
3. Materia Prima
4. Free Market Barbarian
5. Lycanthropic Fantasies
6. Ask the Casket
8. The Tell-Tale Heart (Alan Parsons Project cover)
10. Second Coming
11. Tactical Air War
Slough Feg are one of those bands who deserve a lot more recognition that they have, eight full lengths of immaculate, classic heavy metal with a quirky manner and saturated with energy, there's really nothing to dislike about them. Toiling away in heavy metal's semi-underground ranks for the past twenty years now, Mike Scalzi has been around a bit, although you wouldn't think it as they sound just as fresh now as they did with the self titled fourteen years ago.
With The Animal Spirits now their eighth full length release and third in four years, they appear to be drawing from a freshly discovered pool of inspiration. I will admit I was slightly apprehensive as to the quality of material on this, as Hardworlder had a noticeable dip in quality to the previous material, and Ape Uprising wasn't a heap better, bar one or two outstanding tracks peppered here and there. Ever since they cut “The Lord Weird” from their name I felt there was slight decline in their music. As soon as the album had finished playing though, I felt the need to hit the repeat button straight away. This was the true Slough Feg I used to know.
It's not quite as immediate as their golden works, none of the songs jump right out and shout 'classic' like “Vargr Moon” or “Sky Chariots”, The Animal Spirits is a lot more subtle in it's execution with the grainy almost warm riffing taking time to pierce you with their doom tinted talons. Scalzi's vocals are as you'd expect them if you've heard Slough Feg before, his signature drawl with a slight nod to cult U.S. Metal hero Mark Shelton. It's primarily his unique vocals that set Slough Feg aside from everyone else, he's always been in a completely different league than most when it comes to his vocal abilities. Take for example the patterns he utilizes in “Second Coming” or even “Free Market Barbarian” with a chorus as good as such hasn't been heard in a while from these guys. But let's not just heap all the accolades and acclaim on their iconic frontman, Harry Cantwell's drumming is intricate yet not overpowering and complementing that 70's hard rocking groove created by Adrain Maestas' crude throbbing basslines and the guitarists Thin Lizzy-esque riffing. Song's such as “The 95 Thesis” and “Heavyworlder” both hark back to the days of Traveller yet at the same time have a unassailable uniqueness to them, an almost primal feel which is present throughout the whole album. Plus “Tactical Air War” has Bob Wright from Brocas Helm on vocals, one of the bands who has played the biggest part in Slough Feg's sound. How can you possibly beat that?
There's one thing you can always count on the 'Feg for, and thats the outlandish and ridiculous lyrical themes, here we have song's about vampire love, shameless puns on religion and Mike even has time for a brief spot of reminiscence in “Second Coming”. Unfortunately there isn't anything about canine space ship pilots. Maybe next time eh? The Celtic influence is even greater this time round and a major factor in the improvement in the quality of the material on this release, this is their 'softest' release yet, for want of a better word and has more in common with the celtic icons Thin Lizzy than anyone else really. At times it remains refined yet bewitching, and others saunters on in a hazy drunken swagger. This is right up there with Down Among the Deadmen and Traveller, and if you thought the previous two were a bit drab, sweep them under the carpet and buy this!
Originally written for Archaic Magazine
Sunday, 30 January 2011
1. Intro - The Lament from the Horizon of Events / Raging Eagles
2. Dance of the Shadows
3. Four Fucking Wolves
4. Astral Journey
5. Into the Fog
6. Seeking Inside the Memory
7. Silence Squadron
8. Old and Cold
Chelmno play some of the most raucous, dis-harmonic black metal you are likely to come across. Harsh and downright primitive, Horizon of Events is the second outing by these Italian chaos merchants. Veering closer to Clandestine Blaze territory with the sheer filth clad attitude to their take on black metal, Horizon of Events isn't going to be one for your casual fan of black metal. Stormlord this is not.
Take Darkthrone at their best and early Graveland and completely remove the bottom altogether. There is a bassist credited on the release, and call me a cloth eared false if wrong, but I struggle to hear anything remotely resembling that fabled four string instrument. I know production and lack of bass is common place in obscure black metal but when I mean the production on this release is bad, I mean it is absolutely fucking horrible, not quite transcending Ildjarn boundaries yet though. Luckily for Chelmno though, the music is downright brilliant.
I'll admit, the cover did throw me at first, I was hoping for something similar to Kataxu or even Darkspace, but I'll certainly take this though. Right from the opening drone of the intro right through to the fade out of “Old and Cold”, Horizon of Events is thirty seven minutes of almost punkish riffing which at times is disgustingly catchy (see “Four Fucking Wolves” circa 2:20) and others totally malign and immersed in feedback. Repetition is used tactfully and within reason throughout, remaining just long enough to envelope the listener in the austerity before transforming into another riff before ever becoming monotonous. The songs range from the higher tempo (early) Bathory-esque punk influenced numbers to longer mid paced numbers such as “Into the Fog” which is rather more gradual and foreboding. Asides from the fantastic guitar work here the other stand out element of Chelmno's sound is the drumming, performed by Vidharr of Tenebrae in Perpetuum fame, who effectively dictates the tempo of the music with the drumming acting as the backbone. It's simple yet at the same time alternates frequently throughout each song, avoiding many of the snares other drummers get caught up in. The vocals are typical to most underground black metal, they float about just behind the guitars and appropriate enough. Not amazing by any stretch but fit for their purpose.
When I first approached this record I was hoping for something 'atmospheric' you could say, and that's what I got, but not in the manner I anticipated. Syrupy keyboards and clichéd sampling foregone in favour of the more traditional form of creating an atmosphere of blood curdling malevolence solely with a guitar, a set of drums, a voice and that elusive bass as well; that takes a whack more talent than some idiot playing with his downloaded nature sounds CD. This album wont appeal to everyone, not least because of the drab attempt at production, but I suppose in a way it adds character to the release, but I still think a lot more muscle could have been put on the guitar tone and the bass turned up to an audible level, if it's there at all. As for the music itself though, it's an illustrious attempt a style of black metal which is becoming somewhat endangered of late. Definitely one for the fans of Clandestine Blaze, early Bathory and Graveland.
Sun & Moon
Saturday, 29 January 2011
1. Cognition of Fear
2. Masskilling Masshealing
Notes of Antihate Profound is a short two song EP by Polish black metal stalwarts Massemord. Active since 2000 and with three full length albums already on the mantelpiece, Massemord know what they're doing. They've been around long enough to establish their name as one of the more relevant and successful acts to come out of the Polish scene in recent years.
First thing's first, if you have heard Massemord before, then you should know exactly what to expect, for the two tracks on this release follow exactly the same procedure as before; hammering the shit clean out of the drums until they're obliterated, traditional styled tremolo riffing and raw scathing rasping vocals straight from the book of Legion. “Textbook definition of old Marduk?” you say? Almost but not quite. The comparisons are inevitable to anyone playing this style of Black Metal these days but the two song's “Cognition of Fear” and “Masskilling Masshealing” are saturated with dynamic and pulverising riffs speared by Namtar's savage vocals, and conjure an arctic, knife laced atmosphere to boot, which is where so many of these bands fail. It may follow a fairly washed-out formula, but Massemord are one of the few in the small percentage who can pull it off without sounding completely derivative.
Notes of Antihate Profound is extremely well performed on a whole. It is only an EP so it was always going to be short, but I suppose is an apt showcase of the bands sound, because the rest of the material doesn't differ from this at all. It's the band's forte for being able to create some distinctly impressive riff driven black metal that snared me. No it's not original or revolutionary, but it will fill a gap and is certainly more than engaging. In short, fans of Marduk will love this short chaotic release of unholy violence, for others who aren't too sure, it's a good sampler of what the rest of their releases have to offer. One thing though, have they been taking lessons from Dimmu Borgir on how to name their releases?