Friday, 27 January 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Midnight - Satanic Royalty

Genre - Black/Speed Metal

1. Satanic Royalty
2. You Can't Stop Steel
3. Rip This Hell
4. Necromania
5. Black Damnation
6. Lust Filth and Sleaze
7. Violence on Violence
8. Savage Dominance
9. Holocaustic Deafening
10. Shock Til Blood

After nine long years, Cleveland based sleaze machine MIDNIGHT finally rise from the mire and unleash their debut album of unkempt and filth laden speed metal upon the rabble, and what an album it is. In short, what is essentially the grime enveloped bastard child of eighties Satan loving shock merchants VENOM. The VENOM influence is so obscene that “Satanic Royalty” could almost be mistaken for a lost recording from the UK legends, and I’d be fairly certain that they’d also be the first to admit that this is nothing but shameless adoration at the altar of Cronos and co. But when it’s as good as this, why the fuck should anyone care?

The album’s title track explodes out of the blocks with the energy of a caffeine soaked cokehead, riffing straight from NWOBHM legends TANK and Athenar’s obnoxious snarling. Hell, Athenar could well be Cronos himself minus the receding hairline. The central hook to the song is absolutely enormous, dragging you into MIDNIGHT’s vortex of bitches, booze and blasphemy before spitting you out a disorientated mess. First impressions were “They can’t keep up such a high level of quality and ferocity throughout can they?” Amazingly they do, every single track on “Satanic Royalty” is nothing but high octane Speed Metal strewn with blistering heavy metal soloing and neck breaking riffing tied together with maniacal vocals.

The lyrics are another thing altogether, they’ve got everything from the divine “Marching out from the catacombs of hell, Kingdom’s falling, Bred to destroy the children of Christ” to the peaceful “Skullz will crack brains explode” and they even manage to make room for a love song in the ever so subtle “Lust Filth and Sleaze”; “You give me lust you give me sleaze, I'm gonna bust when you're down on your knees”. And who says romance is dead eh? If you’re looking for the ultimate leather studded and alcohol soaked soundtrack for 2011, then you can’t look much further than this.

It never deviates from what would be expected of a VENOM worship band but remains surprisingly diverse and so engaging that even after repeated listens it never gets old. This is the hurdle where most others attempting the same fall, and MIDNIGHT overcomes this with spectacular ease. “Satanic Royalty” is nothing but pure unadulterated mayhem manifested from a gutter somewhere in Ohio with no aim other than to defile and disgust. Bursting with the raw energy of the genre progenitor’s DISCHARGE and VENOM’s NWOBHM-esque demonic racket with the vulgarity of Blackie Lawless, MIDNIGHT offer thirty minutes of altogether unholy and thoroughly indecent speed metal which is certain to get the adrenaline flowing and horns throwing. VENOM even released a new album this year as well, but why bother when MIDNIGHT are currently doing VENOM better than VENOM themselves?

Orignally written for The Metal Observer

Monday, 23 January 2012

M8l8th/Nezhegol' - Wotanjugend

Genre - Black/Pagan Metal

1. М8Л8ТХ - Эхо Грядущей Войны
2. М8Л8ТХ - Ран и Крови Пламя
3. М8Л8ТХ - Молот Белого Волка
4. М8Л8ТХ - Стражник Леса
5. Нежеголь - Хель
6. Нежеголь - Солнца Лучи
7. Нежеголь - Маршем Грома в Парад Осенних Ночей
8. Нежеголь - Скрежетом стали мечи запоют!
9. М8Л8ТХ & Нежеголь - Мы с тобой, Брат!

A lot of Eastern European NSBM to me for the most part tends to be nothing but a melee of uncoordinated Darkthrone and Burzum worship. On top of that you have the most extreme bands so transfixed on getting their own personal manifesto across they appear to completely leave all musical ability behind, or as unfortunately often appears to be the case, they never had the talent in the first place. This obviously isn’t true all the time, take the bands from the Blazebirth Hall scene in Russia for example, or acts such as Dark Fury and the Polish Arkona , bands who have the talent as well as a certain semblance of cohesion lacking in so many others. Moloth are one of these bands, they’ve been terrorizing the underground Black Metal scene in Russia for the last ten years or so and have two albums of tenacious and unsympathetic Black Metal bearing a flame of nothing but sheer hatred.

Wotanjugend is a split effort between the aforemented and compatriots Nezhegol’, who upon closer inspection appear to share a few members. It’s clear from the outset, this isn’t Black Metal for the casual or left leaning, the balaclava clad fellow on the cover certainly isn’t off to protest about socialism and the cuts anyway that’s for sure. Moloth kick things off with a steel toe cap right into the militaristic opener with its machine gun drumming and gritty riffing, which while thick and harsh manages to contain an astute sense of melody underneath as well. The vocals have that unmistakable Slavic accent to them and are rather well produced and complement the ‘no prisoners, obliterate all!’ attitude which Moloth are aiming to convey throughout. The next three tracks all follow the same formula and structure somewhat with some exceptionally crushing riffing at times. Though lacking a certain sheen and identity from the first, they still remain highly enjoyable; diversity is something you seldom find in NSBM anyway.

Nezhegol’ I’ve not heard before. They fall on the more pagan side of things, and refrain from being quite as assertive in their presence as Moloth, opting for the more atmospheric approach with their melodic guitar lines and cascading keyboard passages bringing a more ‘traditional European’ feel to proceedings. The clean vocals are unfortunately rather weak and don’t really fit with the style of music, they style of music to which they pertain is much more suited to harsh vocals. It reminiscent at times to Pagan Reign or a poor man’s Temnozor, which is no bad thing as both those bands are essentially benchmarks for the genre, but with a change in vocals they could really be on to something. Take the last song for example on their side, it is just screaming out for a Varrgoth styled vocal performance in place of Aleksander’s vocals. The riffing and drumming is flat out brutal and the keyboard arrangements are nothing short of exquisite, the vocals just prevent it from ever taking that extra leap into the territory occupied by Nokturnal Mortum or Temnozor. The last track is a collaboration between both bands (who are both essentially the same artists anyway?) and has a surprisingly Maiden-esque feel throughout with its riffing and is a glimpse of what could be were Nezhegol’ to take into consideration my previous points. The harsh vocals from the Moloth frontman work exceptionally well with this style of music.

As it stands though Nezeghol’ are nothing more than another slightly above average drop of water in the ocean of pagan metal acts which exist throughout Eastern Europe. Moloth on the other hand have proved themselves many times before, raw and abrasive NSBM which is much more bite than bark. First class musicianship with the attitude of Absurd, the Black Metal equivalent to a fist to the teeth. For those who like their Black Metal ugly and unforgiving, check them out, their debut especially is fantastic. The lyrical themes and band’s notoriety will turn many off, but since when was Black Metal ever about tolerance anyway?


Originally written for Metalcrypt

Friday, 20 January 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Peste Noire - L'Ordure A L'etat Pur

Genre - Black Metal

1. Casse, Pêches, Fractures et Traditions
2. Cochon Carotte et les Sœurs Crotte
3. J’avais Rêvé du Nord
4. Sale Famine Von Valfoutre
5. La Condi Hu

‘La Sale Famine de Valfunde’, or Famine as he shall be known from here on in, is somewhat of an enigma. The only way to describe his take on black metal is ‘unique’. He’s done almost it all, from bone grindingly raw to thrashy and Post-Punk to epic neoclassical dirges to eventually now what I can only describe as ’Carnival Black Metal’. “L’Ordure A L’Etat Pur”, the fourth full length to emerge from Famine’s deranged mind couldn’t be further from the magnificent, almost romantic “La Sanie Des Siècles”. This will only further the criticism of those exasperated at the direction Famine has steered the band in since then. Admittedly a return to that album would certainly be well received, but Famine doesn’t appear to be a man for nostalgia, and to these ears it’s almost as if “L’Ordure...” is another ‘fuck you’ to those who try to dictate what PESTE NOIRE should sound like. I don’t think Famine himself knows half the time what he wants them to sound like if this album is anything to go by. So what’s it like then? In short, one of those car crashes where everything is so mangled you can’t take your eyes off it.

The only traits that “L’Ordure...” keep in common with any of the previous PESTE NOIRE albums is the huge amount of nationalism ever present throughout the course of their career. From borrowing various works from French poets to naming your album “Ballad Against the Enemies of France”, it’s something Famine is obviously hugely passionate about. And of course the fact it’s Black Metal, albeit very different from anything they’ve ever really done before. “Casse, Pêches, Fractures et Traditions” sets the ball rolling with some light acoustics and peculiar guitar work before we’re lashed with Famine’s vocals, which if you’ve not heard before can be hard to get your head around initially. They cite themselves as ‘Hooligan Black Metal’, and you can see why when listening to his crude throat scraping howls which at times sound like a drunken Frenchman throwing a tantrum. Initially it doesn’t sound too far off “Ballade...”, and contains some fantastic strong riffing before the freak show comes around; horns, trombones, accordions and various samples including Famine belching and a cockerel proceed to warp what initially sounded like a solid Black Metal tune into something which leaves you with that initial thought of wondering just what the fuck you listened to. If I had to make any sort of comparison at all I’d compare it to a Black Metal carnival on the banks of the Seine full of zombies. I even hear what almost sounds like a French TOM WAITS in there at times. I realise that sounds a little absurd, then again so does half this album.

Now we come to the hard style-esque (yes that’s right) “Cochon Carotte et les Sœurs Crotte” with its incessant horrible thumping drum track and Famine’s demented wailing, it’s like a Black Metal equivalent to the music you’d hear at your local funfair. Only with lots of drugs.

“J’avais Rêvé du Nord” continues with the repressed pulsating electronics with added munitions sampling for around three minutes before transforming into an acoustic, folky passage with our ever enchanting Audrey Sylvain providing her alluring vocals as well as dove impersonations (that’s talent right there!). Eventually we get some welcome unashamed Black Metal after some medieval guitar work, thundering drums, razor wire riffing and slightly less bizarre vocals and the relief floods in that Famine still definitely has it. For a twenty minute song it’s incredibly diverse and engaging throughout, though monotony was never a problem for PESTE NOIRE; one of the attributes that set them apart from the others in the first place.

The final two tracks are more straight forward with the anomalies less frequent, though Famine still sounds as if he’s shouting random incoherent nonsense than singing lyrics more often than not. “Sale Famine Von Valfoutre” still has that melodic yet piercing guitar tone and altogether unattached and chaotic attitude PESTE NOIRE are known for while “La Condi Hu” for me is the highlight of the release. It’s shockingly laid back for PESTE NOIRE never mind the album itself, sounding more like something Neige would release with its light picking coupled with heavily distorted melodic riffs, Famine’s rather distressed vocals and spoken word by Audrey. This showcases Famine’s song writing abilities at their very best, proving that when he’s not fucking around he can write some extremely stirring music.

Casual fans of Black Metal I would suggest avoiding this, for it’s not an easy listen. The first half of the album is basically a menagerie of deranged inspirations and obscenities that Famine has concocted in his bizarre mind and unleashed them onto a disc. The latter half is unique, but still unmistakably PESTE NOIRE as we know them. At times it’s utterly fantastic and immersive, sardonic and brash; others will just end up giving you a headache and the rest will leave you perplexed, bemused and feeling a little bit used. You want a perfect representation of the album? Just look at the cover, their own amusing take on “Liberty Leading the People”. There’s a guy with a fucking toilet seat for a head for god’s sake.


Originally written for Metal Observer

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Satanized/Framferd/Plutonian Shore/Katari - Nocturnal Tyrants

Genre - Black Metal

1. Satanized - Xahhak
2. Satanized - Doctrine Of Thralldom
3. Framferd - Aatseleter
4. Framferd - Med Blottet Nakke
5. Plutonian Shore - Invoking Ereshkigal
6. Plutonian Shore - Lunar Rites
7. Katari - Darkening all
8. Katari - Mutilated and Reversed

Recently out on Turkish label ‘Extreminal Productions’, Nocturnal Tyrants, a split comprised of four up and coming black metal bands of various styles showcases the talent (or lack of) that these artists have to offer. Personally I have never really seen the point of split albums containing any more than two bands, they tend to lack any sort of continuity and end up feeling like some sort of half-assed promo, which is essentially what this feels like.

Satanized actually get things off to a brisk start, from Istanbul they bring to the table a style of Black Metal I’ve only really heard before in Saudi Arabian band Al-Namrood. The ethnic riffing weaves around Angramainyu’s deep deathy gutturals and bolstered by an almost Melechesh-esque atmosphere, Satanized actually sound fairly sharp and promising if these two tracks are anything to go by, which is more than can be said for the next band Framferd.

Out of Norway, the supposed ‘home’ of black metal, you’d probably expect them to be rather more accomplished at this than their Peruvian or Turkish label mates. Far from it in fact, for their two tracks are the weakest on this release. If monotonous raw black metal with horribly uninspired thin guitar riffing is your thing, then fire away. Personally I prefer my black metal with a touch of imagination. Dragging along without ever remotely threatening an interesting riff, you can pass these guys up and not be too worried about missing anything.

Plutonian Shore thankfully raise the quality again with their brand of melodic black metal awash with keys that’s not too far away from latter day Ancient or Swedish band Noctes. The drums are very muffled, though both songs contain some fantastic passages, especially “Lunar Rites” and its triumphant feeling to its guitar riffs. Along with Satanized, they’re definitely the only two who show any promise and any potential longevity.

Katari don’t fare much better than Framferd with their take on the raw end of the spectrum. The vocals are far too weak to have any impact for one, and the riffing thoroughly unremarkable for another, there’s just nothing that stands out and would ever make me want to listen to them again.

In fairness, none of these bands are doing anything revolutionary, but they’re all young enough and there’s plenty of scope for improval there, it’s just that some have a lot more to build upon than others.


Originally written for Metalcrypt

[ALBUM REVIEW] The Devil's Blood - The Thousandfold Epicentre

Genre - Psychedelic Rock

01. Unending Singularity
02. On The Wings Of Gloria
03. Die The Death
04. Within The Charnel House Of Love
05. Cruel Lover
06. She
07. The Thousandfold Epicentre
08. Fire Burning
09. Everlasting Saturnalia
10. The Madness Of Serpents
11. Feverdance

Retro 60’s/70’s psychedelic rock throwback seems to be somewhat on the rise lately. With bands such as GHOST, JEX THOTH, BLOOD CEREMONY and YEAR OF THE GOAT and such you’re spoilt for choice. THE DEVIL’S BLOOD were one of the first to appear on the scene with their sublime debut EP “Come Reap” full of memorable hooks and awash with psychedelia, and they’re back to show everyone how it’s supposed to be done.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last three years, THE DEVIL’S BLOOD are an occult obsessed act from the Netherlands peddling their wares from the JEFFERSON AIRPLANE, COVEN, BLACK WIDOW and even HAWKWIND’S school of rock. So basically, expect lyrics which would have your local priest running for his crucifix and traditional rock arrangements supplemented with long meandering passages of abstract psychedelic fuzz.

So onto the music itself, let’s be frank, debut full length “The Time of No Time Evermore” was just above average, only saved by one or two fantastic songs while suffering from a large amount of filler. “The Thousandfold Epicentre” is a vastly different and superior affair. From the utterly majestic and almost ceremonial “On the Wings of Gloria” (Ignoring the throwaway intro) right through to the fifteen minute labyrinth, “Feverdance”, “The Thousandfold Epicentre” almost never lets up the quality.

F., the band’s vocalist is what really sets them out from the crowd though; just take the closing vocal patterns in “On the Wings of Gloria”, they’re absolutely sublime and chillingly seductive. Couple this with the ever increasing sonic tidal wave of scuzzy distortion and compelling bass work and you have something very special indeed. Other highlights throughout include “Cruel Lover” with its initially snappy rhythm and subtle guitar work before descending into three minutes of obscurity. “She” has some fantastic lead work and vocal lines which slowly embed their claws in a little further each listen. “The Madness of Serpents” is probably the strongest track here. A simmering melody that just flat out radiates evil for its backbone and effect laden guitar work shimmering throughout before succumbing to a spacey, chromatic instrumental oddity which almost feels improvised, as a some of this album tends to feel at times, like a live performance without the crowd. “Feverdance” though I just don’t get, half a song of almost inaudible guitar twiddlings and sparse vocals before eventually coming to end with some pretty average instrumental work, what’s the point? Filler for the sake of it.

One thing that certainly can’t be faulted with these guys is the sheer effort put into the packaging. If you were one of the ones who got the 8/9” CD edition will know what I mean. A thirty six page showcase of artwork and lyrics which I must add is fantastic, it really makes this album feel like something special, and it is.

It’s also welcome every once in a while to come across a band in the rock/metal end of the spectrum who don’t solely exist to exploit the fact their vocalist is female. The Devil’s Blood are genuine to the core. They’ve improved vastly upon “The Time of No Time Evermore”, the song writing is more audacious and utilises some great experimentation. Yes a lot of it harks back to bygone times, but at the same time they manage to make it appear fresh and put paid to the claim they’re just a nostalgia act. Maybe before, but the truth is they’re much, much more than that now.