Sunday, 26 February 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Necrodeath - Idiosyncrasy

Genre - Death/Thrash metal

1. Part I
2. Part II
3. Part III
4. Part IV
5. Part V
6. Part VI
7. Part VII

NECRODEATH have been around now since 1985, and are one of those bands who in their day were hugely influential, and in their initial incarnation release two of the most important and criminally overlooked albums the Italian metal scene has ever seen. “Into the Macabre” and “Fragments of Insanity” were, and still are both essential first wave Black/Death Metal albums that stand easily toe to toe with the rest of the genre’s forerunners at the time. Yet to this day, asking 90% of extreme metal fans have they heard of them you’ll be met by a majority of blank faces. And then after a number of line-up and label problems, they just appeared to vanish.

So fast forward ten years and they’re back together, this time with OPERA IX drummer Flegias at the helm. I have to admit, other than their seminal first two albums, I had no idea they still existed until recently, but being the huge OPERA IX fan it was only obligatory I checked them out again. First impressions are that while notably different from their ‘classic’ material, that this contains some exceptionally good stuff.

Of course it was going to sound different, name me any one of the vintage Thrash bands who sounds the exact same now as they did twenty to thirty years ago? Almost none, it is to an extent almost to be expected, but where the likes of KREATOR, SLAYER and EXODUS are releasing lethargic, sterile trend hopping crap which screams ‘mid-life crisis’, NECRODEATH have managed to come up with something altogether fresh and modern and refuse to get caught in that trap of a band sounding as though they’re desperately trying to claw back the years.

“Idiosyncrasy” as their latest release is titled is now their tenth album comprised of one song without break split up into seven parts. Initially the alarm bells started ringing, this is something many bands have tried but rarely ever succeed at, but appears to be working here. There are a lot of different elements and influences at work here; the guitar tone is crisp, modern and almost Death Metallish, varying from dense crunching riffs to sharp lead work. Flegias’ vocals appear to be some sort of hybrid between a high pitched Black Metal shriek and Mille Petrozza from back when he could actually sing.

The frequent transitions between the slow, brooding bassy passages and the faster blast and flail sections knit together fairly well and are more than slightly reminiscent of SLAYER on “Seasons in the Abyss”. The frequent tempo fluctuations and overall dynamic approach to their song writing leave “Idiosyncrasy” an unpredictable listen, so much so at times it was more jarring to listen to than anything else, there’s not enough continuity of cohesion for it to stick. It also does tend to get caught up a little too heavy in the ‘groove’ end of the spectrum at times, something I’m not too favourable about, but it’s infrequent enough not to be a big problem.

In short “Idiosyncrasy” is a more than respectable release, ok so it doesn’t hold a candle to the early stuff but that’s almost a different era now. If glossy and modern Thrash is your thing then you might well find something here. Traditionalists may not be quite as enamoured with it, but I certainly found their brand of Prog tinged Thrash more listenable than some of the more famous names still toiling away.


Orignally written for

Saturday, 25 February 2012

February's Round Up

So I’ve decided that as well as posting up my reviews for The Metal Observer and Metalcrypt here I might as well start something semi-regularly encompassing all manners of new music that I’ve been listening to the past month or so I haven’t got the time to review, because let’s face it there’s just too much stuff to give everything an in depth analysis. Not necessarily new music, just a combination of artists new and old, metal and non metal that I’ve just been spinning a lot every month.

So, starting with the last CD I bought, Greek blasphemers Ravencult, who adhere to a rather more Swedish approach to their black metal than the style their country is known for released their latest offering Morbid Blood towards the end of last year on Hells Headbangers. On display here is relentless blasting and Dissection like riffing, which while not wholly original is certainly one for the traditionalists and more than an engaging listen [7]. And on the subject of Greek Black Metal, another band cropped up recently on my playlist, an act by the name of Burial Hordes whose vocalist actually used to be in Ravencult and share another member with Dead Congregation. Their sound is somewhat similar though more rooted in the first wave with bands such as Bathory et al. Vicious, spiteful and satanic if at times a touch too repetitive, Devotion to Unholy Creed is raw unforgiving brutality exemplified [7].

I’ve been listening to a lot of Black Metal this month, and this continues with Mortifera’s monolithic masterpiece and altogether wretched journey of self ruin Vastiia Tenebrd Mortifera. An album which I would rank among the best the Depressive black metal scene has ever seen, and when you have the Celestia mastermind at the reins flanked by the illustrious genius Neige then you always were going to have something special on your hands. Just listening to the middle guitar harmony on “Le Revenant” will drug you into a reverie and tear your soul to shreds. An astounding release every Black Metal fan should own [10]. So while Neige may have played a bit part role in Mortifera, his contributions in Alcest are anything but. Being Neiges musical manifestation of his supposed dreams of a fantasy fairyland from his youth, the sounds and melodies present on Les Voyages De L’Ame sound exactly like the kaleidoscopic paradise of a ten year old child. Songs like the title track and “Autre Temps” are exactly why many people consider Neige to be the best thing to happen to metal in a long time. While Alcest are no longer a metal band, hell they haven’t ever really been one, the music is phenomenal, their pulsating guitars and rhythms channel the best from the early 90’s Creation bands and together with Neige’s subtle yet mesmerizing vocals with lull you into a trance unlike any other. As good as the previous two? Very nearly, perfect is very hard to achieve 3 times in a row, but then again he is human after all....Is he [9.5]?

The Meads of Asphodel are a band any self respecting British black metaller will know. The Murder of Jesus the Jew being their 4th full length continuing their experimental Black Metal madness. It’s extremely varied and has a lot going on, their influences are derived from everywhere and have a sound very hard to pin down. Not quite as good as Damascus Steel, it’s still good by many other bands standards. Sometimes it is outright fantastic and sometimes it will leave you scratch your head thinking “What the fuck?” [6]. Metatron’s other current project The Wolves of Avalon are much better, pursuing a more traditional English folk path and employing the services of the likes of Rob Darken and Roibeard from Mael Mordha. With personnel such as that it’s hard to go wrong. Carrion Crows Over Camlan is vast, epic and sounding suspiciously like Graveland, one I’d recommend for all you Black Metal pagans out there [8]. Aorlhac are a band I have been following closely for a few years now. Their debut was sublime stuff, bombastic Emperor and Peste Noire worship with hooks and riffs more infectious than the plague. La Cite des Vents doesn’t quite straddle the same heights as the debut but it comes damn close. The sound overall is very medieval and guitar riffing and various other instrumentations reinforce this. Just try and listen to the second half of “Les Enfants des Limbes” without wanting to don your sword and shield gear and prance around like a socially awkward LARPer [7.5].

Turn the clocks back around thirty years or so for Diamond Heads forgotten masterpiece Borrowed Time. An album any self respecting metal fan should have heard at least once in their life time, and one which has influenced almost as many bands as Yngwie has guitars. Genre breaking song writing, Purple-esque and Free like in structure yet so absolutely unique in itself, with blistering solos and songs which hark back to an era long gone. It also gets added cool points for the Elric references. One of the finest metal albums ever written, there’s so much more to them than “Am I Evil?” Thanks Metallica [10]. There’s an awful lot of French stuff being mentioned here and keeping in line with the theme is Blut Aus Nord’s latest effort 666-TheDesanctification. Follow up to the Sects album, keeping the same abstract, suffocating vision, Vindsval has created another fine album of all manner of Industrial Black Metal obscurities. It’s a consuming listen, and like much of their stuff will take time to digest. The closest comparison to hand? The musical accompaniment to the collapsing of a star. Ominous stuff [7.5]. Temnozor are a band well known throughout the NSBM scene, and not without good reason. Upon recently acquiring Folkstorm of the Azure Nights I finally got my hands on one of their releases. It’s high quality if at times slightly hamfisted Pagan Black Metal not too dissimilar to Nokturnal Mortum although with less emphasis on the Metal and more on the atmosphere. The clean vocals aren’t the greatest, but are rather endearing, and when you’ve songs as majestic as “Where the Lazure Skies Tear the Hearts Apart” you know you’re on to a winner. Their best album for sure [8].

Stielas Storhett, Mop(Not the shaggy thing you clean the floor with, a Russian word apparently) and Liholesie team up for a split release and all acts here hail from the frozen wasteland of Siberia. So you’d expect the music to reflect the area then? Correct, well for the first two anyway, who perform rather polished sounding proggy Black Metal which manages to remain constantly alluring while all the while avoiding the usual pitfalls of prog music. Colder than a polar bear’s ballsack, you’d be advised to put on your Winter woollens for Death Comes From the North. Be that death from frostbite, or from the boredom of Liholesie’s attempt at neo-folk, that’ll be for you to find out [7]. Marblebog move things to the woods with their brand of foresty atmospheric Black Metal not unlike Burzum, utilizing repetition to maximum effect. And beyond. Forestheart tends to get a little too repetitive at times, but their brand of wind shorn musings is impressive enough to pass the time, and a lot better than their ambient works [6]. Sear Bliss make the long awaited follow up to the critically acclaimed “The Arcane Odyssey” with Eternal Recurrence and is unfortunately a huge let down. The trumpets are still there, but all the sweeping guitar passages and the astral, spacey atmosphere has been forsaken for a more proggy and restrained approach. It’s as if the band are caught in two minds as to where exactly they want to go, and the result is a directionless and altogether frustrating attempt at ‘grown up’ Black Metal that I really really want to like, but just can’t bring myself to it. Big disappointment [3].

One for all the Pagan Altar and Manilla Road fans out there are Swedish fantasists Quicksand Dream, recently getting their only full length Aelin rereleased on High Roller. And what a fucking album it is. Long, meandering and immersive songs with an admittedly sub-par production which actually just adds to the experience. Just try listening to “Aelin’s Oath” and not get goosebumps. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And is that Quorthon on vocal? I thought he was dead? Oh wai... [9]. So bringing me finally to my last album that I feel the need to pass my opinion on this month is cult pre Deathspell Omega act Hirilorn and their only full length Legends of Evil and Eternal Death. Shaxul and co were vastly different back then before they morphed into the Darkthrone cast offs they were renowned for in those early DSO days. I’ll be brief; this is one of the most underrated Black Metal gems out there, sadly overlooked due to the DSO connections. Epic and sprawling songs stretched out over a foundation of Nordic BM and Iron Maiden (yep, just listen to the guitar leads)that to this day I still maintain is better than anything DSO have ever done. I’d like to think that the day the final battle arrives and Hell’s legions pour out into the living, this would be their own WWE-esque entrance music [10].

Friday, 24 February 2012

Alcest, Les Discrets, Soror Dolorosa, Falloch - Stereo, Glasgow, 20/02/12

If you’re in any way at all half interested in the Black Metal scene it will have been hard to avoid the whimsical French outfit ALCEST. From their debut opus “Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde” up to the recent release “Les Voyages de l'Âme” which they are currently touring, it’s hard to deny that Neige has been somewhat revolutionary in creating the reflective fusion of washed out shoegazing and abrasive black metal.

It was Glasgow’s turn this time to experience the sonic din of Neige and co. Supported by gloomy goths SOROR DOLOROSA, LES DISCRETS and Scottish debutants FALLOCH, anyone into the lighter side that metal currently has to offer was certainly in for a special night. Which brings us to FALLOCH. In the chance you’ve been living in a dustbin the past year or so, FALLOCH recently released their critically well received debut album on Candlelight last year, and being huge ALCEST fans themselves, what better way to showcase your music than in front of a room full of like minded people? This was the only date on the tour that got FALLOCH, so it was an extra special night for some, and their brand of post rock influenced Black Metal certainly won them more than a few fans. Ok the singer may appear as if he’s just walked out of a HATEBREED gig, but disregarding such trivial matters it’s quickly apparent that their material crosses over into the live environment extremely well. It’s a pity they only got a couple of songs, but being a support band with tracks which average around ten minutes will do that to you. It’s a pity as Andy and co. were fantastic, especially remarkable given the gigs they’ve played so far you could count on one hand.

And so the French took over with SOROR DOLOROSA. Some may know the rather enigmatic front man Andy Julia from his brief dabbling in the Black Metal scene but other than that most of the crowd were rather oblivious. With what’s best described as one part Rozz Williams, one part Robert Smith and one part lunatic as he clutches at the microphone with the desperation of a nicotine starved Andrew Eldritch he howls and wails his way through the band’s self titled album and debut EP with a determination and pomposity that can only be applauded. Ok so they’re a bunch of leather clad Goths stuck in the eighties, which was visibly not to everyone’s taste, but to someone like me who adores everything black and gloomy from that period they were flat out awesome to these ears. If you’re at all a fan any of the old school goth bands from the eighties you’ll love them, as they stay true to their roots with their brand of guitar driven desperation comparable to THE CURE. Someone needs to give Andy a pound or two for a new t-shirt though, as his nigh unrecognisable excuse for a FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM t-shirt apparently worn since day one of the tour made him look like a Cathouse regular who had just wondered up onstage off the street after a fight with a tiger.

The ever cool Fursey Teyssier is up next, looking as if he’d just walked straight out of 50’s New York, he and his crew of usually restrained shoegazers throw off their chains and crank up the distortion and volume to an intensity which could only leave me open mouthed. I was always a bit passive regarding LES DISCRETS, but after watching them blow the place apart with their hugely MBV-esque wall of noise, technical hitches included, my opinion has changed completely.

Which leads only to the main attraction, ALCEST. And holy fuck did they impress or what. Previous live experiences of ALCEST consisted of only an alcohol fuelled haze from Dublin where they were also very good last September, but this time around Neige, Winterhalter, Indria and Zero were utterly astounding, on a completely different plane altogether. Preffering the material off their last two albums they frequently spun the audience into a trance with their huge noisy waves of pulsating distortion and effervescent picking. Neige’s vocals were hard to pick up, but apparently that’s the way he prefers them when performing live, buried beneath everything else. Among the highlights were the vibrant “Là Où Naissent les Couleurs Nouvelles” and the beautifully delicate “Sur L'Ocean Couleur de Fer”. “Ciel Errant” and "Percées de Lumière" closed a performance which could only be described as nothing short of spellbinding. Until you’ve witnessed them in the live environment, you haven’t experienced the full grandiose majesty and beauty of ALCEST. It’s very rare I ever walk out of a gig totally mesmerized by what I’ve just seen, but they achieved that tonight. For those who have yet to see them, you’re sorely missing out.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Desaster - The Arts of Destruction

Genre - Black/Thrash Metal
1. Intro
2. The Arts of Destruction
3. Lacerate with Hands of Doom
4. Splendour of the Idols
5. Phantom Funeral
6. Queens of Sodomy
7. At Hell's Horizon
8. Troops of Heathens – Graves of Saint
9. Possessed and Defiled
10. Beyond Your Grace
11. Outro

So German Black/Thrash titans Desaster finally return with the long awaited follow up to 2007’s “Satan’s Soldiers Syndicate”, which was a glorious return to form after the uneven “Anglewhore”. I had extremely high aspirations for this release, as the previous was so blindingly brilliant I was hesitant they’d have lost that spark somewhere along the road. All apprehensions were soon put to the sword though as soon as the last track ended; winding my jaw up off the floor after being thoroughly drained of all thought due to the sheer overwhelming power that is “The Arts of Destruction”, they haven’t just followed “Satan’s Soldiers Syndicate” up with an equal album, they’ve arguably created what is their most accomplished and awe inspiring release yet. “The Arts of Destruction” is a totem of the Black/Thrash genre, a glimpse at what so many other bands can only dream of achieving.

For a band who have been around for as long as these veterans to constantly keep releasing quality albums and hit such a high at this period in their career is nothing short of remarkable. Only a handful of bands contain that fire which puts them on another level altogether from the rest, DESASTER along with the comparably awesome DESTROYER 666 have both now effectively come close to perfecting this genre. “The Arts of Destruction” is wall to wall venom, with vocals which appear dredged from the abyss of hell itself and a guitar tone and drumming which will grind your bones to dust, and it’s hard to see how this can be bettered.

So anyway, enough with the gushing praise, straight from the eponymous title track right through to ‘Beyond Your Grace”, the album is a sweeping behemoth of riffing that will get every static head in the room banging. Infernal’s guitar tone is and always has been the back-bone to Desaster, the huge crushing riffs and ripping solo’s have been a mainstay since their inception and is none more evident than here. Choice cuts would either be the DESTRUCTION-esque main riff during “Phantom Funeral” and the unequivocally epic “Teutonic Steel”-esque lead work in “Possessed and Defiled”. Sataniac’s vocals are just as impressive, stronger than ever and that underlying Cavalera like sneer still present. The vocals slash and tear through the everything like a feral dog, ranging from an almost Death like guttural to higher pitched Black screams delivered in such a way it sounds as if he’s delivering a hate filled sermon rather than a mere Black metal song. The drumming is similarly impressive, fast paced and earth shakingly intense yet always thoroughly varied hammering the riffs straight into your neck.

The production present here is magnificent, a flawless mix and clarity which does its best to complement every single riff and every single vocal line without ever sounding ‘modern’. A special shout must go to the duo of “At Hell’s Horizon” and “Possessed and Defiled”, the former being a four minute hellstorm of blasphemy with a central section violent enough to turn even the most reserved metal head into a fist clenching swagger, the latter an eight minute epic along the lines of “Teutonic Steel” and “Conqueror Supremacy” with the pace take down a notch or two and a grandeur of evil like that from early BATHORY. It’s songs like the aforementioned and “Metalized Blood” etc that are why Desaster are held in such high regard, their ability to write such enthralling Black/Thrash is matched at the minute only by that of DESTROYER 666.

All the usual influences are present, from early SEPULTURA to BATHORY to the Teutonic German scene of the 80’s, and even a bit of hard-core punk the form of “Queens of Sodomy”, so in the chance that you haven’t heard DESASTER before and your music taste is somewhat along those lines then “The Arts of Destruction” will be right up your alley and is as good a place to start as any with them. If there was ever any doubt as to their position, then this album has completely blown them off the map, because “The Arts of Destruction” is one of the finest militant Blackened Thrash releases yet. Every so often an album will come along and completely floor me and reaffirm just why exactly I listen to metal in the first place, why I persevere through all the shit and one which keeps blowing me away every single time I listen to it, and for an album to do that to me is rare. A rare full marks from me.


Orignally written for The Metal Observer

Saturday, 18 February 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Põhjast - Der Turm

Genre - Black Metal

1. Überwindung für Nichts
2. Der Turm
3. Nichts zu sagen
4. Chiromantie

Der Turm is the brief, four track debut EP from Estonian/German outfit Põhjast. Among the personnel is ex-Loits Guitarist ‘Gates’, a band who hold plenty of weight in their own country and peaked my own interest. Presumably this isn’t really much more than a preview as to what’s to come from this band in the near future and musically it’s rooted firmly in the Norwegian style of harsh, glacial black metal drawn from the likes of early Enslaved and Immortal.

It’s all rather straight forward as far as any Scandinavian black metal worship goes. The music is very riff-focused; the guitar tone is sharp and icy, piercing through each song and some of the riffs certainly wouldn’t sound out of place on the likes of Frost or Battles in the North. The main riff from “Überwindung Fur Nichts” could easily have been lifted from any of Enslaved’s early releases. The vocals are as you would expect, a dry rasp while serving their purpose don’t harbour much in the way of variation. The title track is fairly pedestrian but where Põhjast really show some encouragement is on “Nichts zu Sagen”, decidedly more Battles in the North than the rest, albeit slightly more tame, not helped by the rather too-clean subdued production. The thick riffing and hammering drums instil some much needed life into what would otherwise be a distinctly passable release. And the less said about the last track “Chiromantie” the better. Talk about disrupting the flow of the music completely, they’ve opted for a perplexing acoustic piece tacked on to the end which serves about as much purpose as an ashtray on a motorcycle. Completely mundane and out of place, just what was the point?

Der Turm is a competent enough effort though it lacks a certain vigor and identity which is badly needed to inject a bit of vitality into proceedings. It’s not that the music is poor, the song writing is decent and the instrumentation tight; it’s just very formulaic and walks a well trodden path we’ve all visited so many times before. Huge fans of early Norwegian black metal may well find something worth their time here, but for me I’ll wait for a proper full length to fully pass judgement.


Friday, 17 February 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Drowning the Light - Oceans of Eternity

Genre - Black Metal

1. As the Shadows at Dusk Reach Our Enemies Throats
2. Oceans of Eternity
3. The Cataclysmic Cycle of Renewal
4. Oppression & Tyranny
5. The Key Still Not Found
6. The Lunatic Tide
7. Drifting Away in a Sea of Sorrow (part II)
8. The Poison Kiss
9. The Runes are Thrown & the Bones are Spread (A Hymn to the Apocalypse)

There’s one thing you certainly can’t fault Azgorh for and that’s dedication to his work. With Oceans of Eternity now the twelfth full length release in seven years, not taking into account the endless sea of demos and splits as well, Drowning the Light have gradually progressed to become one of the most prolific and controversial black metal acts around at the minute. They’re a band who appear to divide audiences completely, you either love them or you hate them with very little mid way. Regardless of your opinion though, you can’t deny that they have done a commendable amount for the Australian black metal scene in recent years, intentional or not.

Gradually the quality of Drowning the Light’s material has improved from one album to the next, with the early releases patchy, right up to the latest which are formidable pieces of raw, unforgiving black metal that could easily stand up alongside many of their peers. Oceans of Eternity continues the trend and should really remove all doubts as to Azgorh’s motives as this is possibly his most accomplished work yet.

For those who aren’t familiar with Drowning the Light, a disease ridden bastard child of Mutiilation is the initial comparison that comes to mind, specifically the stifling, furnace like mayhem of Remains and you have something which comes pretty close to Oceans of Eternity. Upon delving a little further you can also pick out some Satanic Warmaster and even what I believe at times to be some slight Absurd influences, certainly in the riff structure anyway. The music on display here just oozes evil; Azgorh really has that barbaric underworldly sound down to a tee. Just take “As the Shadows Reach Our Enemies Throats”, it plays out like some mystic satanic war hymn with its pounding drums and surging riffs. There’s only one or two songs from the first half that I would say aren’t quite up to scratch, not poor by any means, just not as lasting as the rest. “The Poison Kiss” and “The Runes are Thrown and the Bones are Spread” are select highlights from what is essentially a constant rain of loosely bound malevolence, something which the production does a lot to enhance. Intentionally manipulating your sound to achieve a shitty production which is effective is a tough thing to do, though Azgorh has had more than enough experience at this.

It must be noted that Azgorh isn’t the most technically gifted on drums; he appears to only have two options at his disposal, a slow one-two beat and very-fucking-fast blasting with nothing in-between. But where his drum work may not be the most inspiring aspect of Drowning the Light, his vocals are absolutely savage, delivered with a manner and force that could tear the dead from their graves and bear more than a passing resemblance to Meyhna’ch. The guitar tone has been buried in so much distortion to the point where at times it resembles a swarm of angry bees in a biscuit tin. No bad thing though as it adds to the overall chaotic vibe, and Azgorh has always had a knack for writing some memorable riffs.

If you like your black metal unrefined and crude while still retaining some form of identity, Oceans of Eternity should be next on your list. It is the very essence of what underground black metal should sound like, although Drowning the Light themselves could hardly be described as being that underground these days, their sound is firmly rooted in it. Utterly unforgiving and stirring black metal from which there’s no respite, and dare I say it Azgorh’s best work yet. He may have his detractors, but when listening to this you can’t help but wonder why.


Originally written for Metalcrypt

Monday, 13 February 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Zgard - Spirit of Carpathian Sunset

Genre - Pagan Black Metal

1. Sunset
2. Svarga
3. Invocation
4. Destiny Molphar
5. About Russ
6. Stream of Memory
7. Eruption of Anger
8. Autumn Buried the Ground
9. Spirit of Carpathian Mountains
10. Misty Skyline

Folky Slavic black metal is a vast subgenre in the all encompassing world of black metal, there’s an immeasurable number of bands that tread a precarious line between the unassailable status of Kroda and self parodying cheese . Sifting through the crap can be laborious, but when occasionally coming across a band like Zgard, it does have its rewards.

Spirit of Carpathian Sunset, the first of a duo of albums released by these Ukrainians, and upon first glimpse it’s damn near impossible not to be completely absorbed by the absolutely stunning artwork. One thing’s for sure, it’s certainly a fitting embodiment for the music on display here. Championed as recapturing the early pagan fire of Nokturnal Mortum and being among the finest in Slavic black metal today, it’s an audacious statement of intent for a band so new.

As is standard, the album kicks off with a token scene setting intro containing a menagerie of instruments I’d have severe trouble pronouncing never mind naming them. Such is the case for the whole album, the folky atmospheric aspect is hugely significant in Zgard’s sound, so much so occasionally it seems they’ve altogether forgot about the metal side of things. The folk instrumentation ends up completely overwhelming everything else at times mainly due to the lack of any sort of bass presence whatsoever and the paper thin guitars. The music noticeably suffers from this.

Looking beyond these dilemmas though and Spirit of Carpathian Sunset isn’t without its highs. The extended passages of meandering folk blended with traditional churning tremolo riffs and abrasive (if slightly one dimensional) vocals hark back to Kroda’s classic material and have more than enough for avid fans of the genre to sift through. Tracks like “Svarga” and “Destiny Molphar” are diverse and rewarding listens if given the time but more often than not I found the songs beginning to wander directionless and trailing off without leaving much of a lasting impression. It’s when the band crank the metal up a notch that they really begin to show their colours though, the aptly titled “Eruption of Anger” is just that; flat out brutality to remind you that you’re listening to metal and not some ambient forest sounds CD.

The similarities with early Nokturnal Mortum are there, sans the horribly dated keyboards and crucial hooks. All things considered I can’t help but wonder how much better this would have sounded had a touch more focus been placed upon the metal end of the spectrum, because when they do up the ante it sounds a lot sharper. Regardless, Spirit of Carpathian Sunset for its shortcomings shows a lot of promise and holds the attention more than long enough to fill a gap. As for its staying power though, that remains to be seen.


Originally written for Metalcrypt

Saturday, 11 February 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] The Obscene - The Torment of Sinners

Genre - Death Metal

1. The Storm to Come (Intro)
2. Embrace Oblivion
3. Grim Discovery
4. Beyond the Hold of God
5. Skiprat Jane
6. The Final Silence
7. P.S.A.S.
8. Destroying the Heavens
9. The Man, The Martyr
10. Circle of Despair
11. And the Rivers Ran Black

“The Torment of Sinners” is the debut EP offering by UK Death Metal newcomers THE OBSCENE and is comprised half of new material and half material from the band’s previous incarnation. And if you look past the horrendously uninspiring band name, this actually contains some very competent Death Metal which musically isn’t a million miles off the likes of compatriots BOLT THROWER or MORBID ANGEL. Honestly with a name such as THE OBSCENE I was expecting some tech death or core nonsense, but this is nothing but old school to the bone.

The “The Torment of Sinners” half of the release is essentially six tracks of no-nonsense to the point pulverising Death Metal comprised of chaotic drumming (which thankfully remains from ever becoming overbearing) and an alternating twin vocal onslaught of high pitched scraping and more traditional deep gutturals which adds a welcome touch of variety into an at times otherwise uniform release. The riffing is a thick metallic grinding with a touch of groove (of the good variety of course!), which certainly more than hints at a touch of classic Trevor Peres. And like every self respecting Death Metal band, they make enough room for a good old horror sample. At least they’re better than MORTICIAN though eh?

The latter five tracks are from the bands previous guise, SALUTE TO THE SUN and follow pretty much that same path, with an even worse production but more variation and hooks to get your teeth into. The production certainly isn’t the most refined aspect of “The Torment of Sinners”, everything sounds a little thin and the vocals are slightly overpowering, especially on the first six songs. Regardless of this though, I would have to say I prefer the older tracks, overall they’re noticeably more engaging that the newer ones.

One thing’s obvious for certain though here, all the band members are visibly proficient in their own areas, and show more than a glimmer of promise between them. “The Torment of Sinners” is good for what it is, regulation unforgiving blasphemic brutality. On this evidence, THE OBSCENE are on the right track and with “The Torment of Sinners” have a formidable base on which to build from here on in, but shouldn’t be under any illusions as they have a long way to go before approaching the likes of the current underground UK Death Metal heavyweights CRUCIAMENTUM.


Orignally written for The Metal Observer

Friday, 10 February 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Ildra - Edelland

Genre - Pagan/Black Metal

1. Sweorda Ecgum
2. Rice Æfter Oðrum
3. Hrefnesholt (Dæl I)
4. Esa Blæd
5. Ofer Hwælweg we Comon
6. Nu is se Dæg Cumen
7. Earendel
8. Swa Cwæð se Eardstapa
9. On þas Hwilnan Tid

Not a whole lot is known about this mysterious ensemble from England. ILDRA happen to be one of the very few Black Metal bands who sing in the ancient Anglo Saxon language. A number of bands recently have dipped their toes into ancient English history, most notably those such as WINTERFYLLETH, FOREFATHER and the only other one who I can think of who recorded a full album in Anglo-Saxon, EALDULF. None have really delved into it though to the extent which ILDRA have here on “Edelland”. It’s a welcome variation from the usual ancestral European pagan and celtic beliefs and a window into a history that seldom gets any attention at all in the metal scene.

The music itself is a lot more Black Metal focused than FOREFATHER though, there is a significant mid-period GRAVELAND influence throughout the structure of the material here, and not to forget also a large “Hammerheart” influence to proceedings as well. This is none more obvious than in the vast meandering instrumental passages to many of the songs; the dense surging riffing and the booming coarse vocals driven by the warlike pounding on the drums give the music a real presence of triumph. On top of this there is also that weathered organic sound constantly existent throughout, augmented frequently by some rather illustrious work on the acoustic guitar.

The first proper track, ‘Kingdom After Kingdom’ bursts in with aplomb, like some ancient British war hymn laced with the undulating riffs and thunderous drumming. The vocalist could just as well be the commander barking orders to his men. The accented delivery of the Old English lyrics certainly adds a certain grit to the overall spirit of things. The same could pretty much be said for the rest of the metal tracks here, and the frequent marriage of acoustic and electric guitar passages is incredible, and keeps everything sounding sharp. On top of this “Edelland” is also woven with frequent tact lead work, which can be difficult to achieve in Black Metal. Few bands can pull it off as well as this.

Most of the songs contain extensive brooding instrumental sections which accentuate that earthen, triumphant atmosphere to such an extent it’s pouring out your ear holes. And on the subject if instrumentals, this album has quite a few breaking up the main songs so to speak, and for once on a Black Metal album they complement the overall multi dimensional atmosphere perfectly, stirring that already present tempestuous air further. They pretty much sound like some arcane war tune with their acoustic melodies and menacing drum work.

Some of the rhythms do have a tendency to repeat themselves at times, you’ll be thinking “Did I not hear that riff before?” but thankfully this is only a minor gripe as it doesn’t occur too often to be a major problem. “Edelland” is an extremely mature and accomplished piece of work. It brings a certain degree of welcome inspiration and freshness to an area of Black Metal which is sorely missing something like this of late. Fans of WINTERFYLLETH and GRAVELAND need this, because while GRAVELAND have released some seminal albums, they also have the habit at times of sounding very contrived, especially these days, “Edelland” can easily stand on its own two feet against the best of the genre. And to be totally honest on this evidence, ILDRA aren’t light years away from making a “Thousand Swords” themselves. This will be a tough one to match not just by ILDRA themselves, but by anyone aiming to ply their trade in this area.


Originally written for The Metal Observer

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Nekromantheon - Rise, Vulcan Spectre

Genre - Thrash Metal

1. Cast Down to the Void
2. Blood Wisdom
3. Embrace the Oracle
4. Coven of the Minotaur
5. The Usurper Command
6. Rise, Vulcan Spectre
7. Twelve Depths of Hades
8. Raised by Dogs

Hailing from the hometown of none other than black metal legends Darkthrone, Nekromantheon unleash their sophomore effort to the formidable debut of unholy blackened thrash, Divinity of Death. So what would our true metal crusader from Norway make of all this then? Something tells me he wouldn’t at all be disappointed.

Rise, Vulcan Spectre follows where the previous Divinity of Death left off, thrash with a philosophy, and one philosophy only, to play as brutally fast as humanly possible. Only this time the production has been cranked up a gear or two to an acceptable level, clear yet gritty without ever venturing into Sneap territory, allowing all the components and various intricacies to shine yet still retaining an evil primal atmosphere that is required for this type of thrash metal.

An accurate comparison musically would probably be Morbid Saint, or as the sticker on the front said “For fans of old Sepultura, Slayer, Sadus and Sacrifice”. There is also a slight Teutonic influence among things here, certainly in the excessively vicious reverbed vocals of Arild which immediately bring Destruction to mind. The riffing is filthy and aggressive and never lets up for a second in the brief thirty minutes on show here and the leads are volatile and wild, breaking out of the mayhem with the ferocity of a feral dog. The drumming is as relentless as the guitar work and all combine together in what can only be described as a juggernaut of old school thrash which obliterates everything in its path leaving behind devastation and exhaustion. It is a short affair, clocking in at just over thirty minutes but probably no bad decision as thrash such as this does tend to get rather predictable after a while.

Rise, Vulcan Spectre will trample right over you leaving you broken, beaten and bruised. It’s no holds barred thrashing savagery with a pace which never gives. Indeed if you’re a fan of the aforementioned Sadus or Morbid Saint this will be right down your alley. Nekromantheon essentially present what is a big middle finger to the fashion thrash brigade. You can keep your Eviles and Gama Bombs, this is thrash performed the way it was designed to be. Raw, merciless and unsympathetic, and along with the likes of Midnight and Cruel Force who are making huge waves in the same scene as well, could decent thrash finally be making some sort of a push to usurp the current front runners? Let’s hope so.


Originally written for