Saturday, 19 March 2011

[ALBUM REVIEW] Nychts/Mortualia - Nebelstern des Nichts

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.


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Thursday, 17 March 2011

[ALBUM REVIEW] Wald Geist Winter - Teufelskreise

1. Heimkehr
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

[ALBUM REVIEW] Thallium - Armanenschaft

1. Intro
2. Return From Near Death
3. Our Dreams Belongs To The Stars
4. Ordo Ab Chao
5. Eagle's Eye
6. II
7. Lay In Desease
8. Outro

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.


Buy it!

Originally written for Metalcrypt

Saturday, 5 March 2011

[ALBUM REVIEW] Dalriada - Ígéret

1. Intro
2. Hajdútánc
3. Hozd el, Isten
4. Mennyei Harang
5. Ígéret
6. Igazi Tûz
7. Kinizsi Mulatsága
8. A Hadak Útja
9. Leszek A Csillag
10. Leszek A Hold
11. Outro

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

[ALBUM REVIEW] Mordgrund - Omnia Tereunt

1. Leere
2. Neca Memoriam
3. Omnia Intereunt
4. In Dunkelheit liegt Stille
5. Lethargia
6. Marsch in die Finsternis
7. Todessehnsucht
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

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