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 . 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 .
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 . 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?” . 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 . 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 . 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 .
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 . 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 . 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 .
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... . 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 .