Saturday, 23 June 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Morbidity - Pits of Eternal Torment

Genre - Death Metal

1. Morbidity
2. Let there be Chaos
3. Pits of Eternal Torment
4. Killed by the Cross (Nunslaughter Cover)

Everything about the presentation of and image given off by Morbidity just screams ‘Old School’, from the fantastic logo to the depraved Xerox styled scrawling that passes for a cover to the song titles themselves. So you’d be forgiven for thinking in all their ancient idolatry that this death metal outfit crawled out of the gutter somewhere remote in Scandinavia, when in actual fact they hail from rather more unfamiliar climes, Bangladesh in fact. Not exactly a place renowned for its metal prowess never mind bone grinding death metal, and given the country’s highly conservative Islamic background is certainly not a style of music that would be looked down upon with much sympathy.

Even though only a demo, Pits of Eternal Torment actually contains some very promising material even if it does sound like it was recorded in an aluminium toilet cubicle. Musically the band is shooting for that erratically loose and rabid death metal sound exemplified by those of the Swedish scene such as Morbid and Nihilst together with the stripped back thrash rhythms and energy of Hellhammer. They hit it with a good deal of success, the riffing while suffering from a strikingly weak tone is pretty damn good at times, propelling through a welcome heavy dose of macabre groove. The drumming is similarly very impressive but the vocals are suffocated heavily by the poor production and it’s difficult to decipher any discernible patterns or power from them.

Basically with song titles such as “Let there be Chaos” and a Nunslaughter cover added in for good measure, Pits of Eternal Torment” does what it says on the tin, no nonsense filth laden death metal that’s rougher than a hooker’s arsehole. It’s extremely short and there’s still wide scope for improvement but nonetheless the promise is visibly apparent and there’s enough to make me believe the band are capable of taking that next step. With a decent label behind them, I can easily see Morbidity releasing something exceptional indeed, and it’s interesting to note they’re bringing out a full-length on Me Saco un Ojo Records soon, which should really give them that push to the next level. Here’s hoping, because this is the sort of encouragement bands like this need from those lesser known corners of the metal globe to get their music out there. 


Sounds like - Morbid, Nunslaughter, Hellhammer

Originally written for Metalcrypt

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Antisemitex/Selbstmord - We Bring Desolation

Genre - Black Metal/Death Metal

1.            Antisemitex - Smak Zwycięstwa              
2.            Antisemitex - Dni Ktore Nadchodzą       
3.            Antisemitex - Eihwaz    
4.            Antisemitex - Koszerna Świnia Przybita Do Krzyża           
5.            Antisemitex - Cienie z Nożami  
6.            Selbstmord - Gwałciciel Aniołów             
7.            Selbstmord - Żniwo Krwi             
8.            Selbstmord - Necrosadysta       
9.            Selbstmord - Dziś podpalimy cały świat

Originally released back in 2008, We Bring Desolation is the union of Polish hatemongers Antisemitex and Selbstmord which is now being given the vinyl treatment with a re-release on Darker than Black Records. Selbstmord I was already familiar with, in fact I hold Spectre of Hate in such high standing that I regard it as one of the greatest albums ever to come out of the Polish NSBM scene, an album as brutally unforgiving as it was hateful and stills holds up as such ten years on. Antisemitex on the other hand I was rather oblivious to, and going by the awful name which sounds like a self parody on the genre it’s that ridiculous it’s fair to say my expectations weren’t exactly high.

Surprisingly Antisemitex aren’t actually all that bad if their side of the split here is anything to go by and surprisingly it isn’t black metal at all, instead a more primitive style of death metal. Fair enough they aren’t exactly pushing the boat out stylistically with their brand of ugly, mid-tempo death metal which contains heavy RAC undercurrents most prevalent in the vocalist’s hostile performance which is a sort of shouted death metal style. The music itself is elementary as far as death metal goes; dense, downtuned riffing and an unremarkable one dimensional drum machine backing them up which certainly to these ears gives off vibes of early Unleashed among others, only not nearly as good. For as heavy as the guitar is, the poor production of their half is so weak it gives it no real power at all and this isn’t helped by the excessively loud production on the vocals which only proceeds to overpower the guitars even more.

It’s the second half, Selbstmord’s side of the split that really saves We Bring Desolation from mediocrity though and only furthers to prove just how average Antisemitex were. These four songs was their first new material since Spectre of Hate and it follows on in much the same vein, their raw and uncompromising black metal further cementing their status as stalwarts of the Polish scene. It’s utterly frenzied; the drumming is ruthless and surrounded by the riffs which are brilliant, tearing through each track like a length of blood soaked of razor wire gouging everything it comes into contact with, which is none more evident than on standout track “Dziś podpalimy cały świat”. It doesn’t have quite the same impact as their previous material (not much else does) but then again I didn’t really expect it to.

We Bring Desolation isn’t a release for the weak willed and easily offended, nor one for those seeking any sense of melody or atmosphere and post-nonsense. What it does bring to the table though is a heavy dose of intolerance and hatred which won’t be to everyone’s taste but for fans of NSBM such as Thor’s Hammer, Sunwheel and Ohtar I would recommend this for the sheer frenzied brutality of the Selbstmord side alone. Antisemitex on the other hand while not exactly awe-inspiring, do enough to pass the time with their scorn filled sermons without ever really threatening much more and I can only imagine a full length would be a little too much mediocrity to handle. Still though, certainly not a bad release at all. 


Sounds like - Dark Fury, Thor's Hammer, Sunwheel

Originally written for Metalcrypt

Friday, 15 June 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Jess and the Ancient Ones - Jess and the Ancient Ones

Genre - Psychedelic Occult Rock

1. Prayer of Death and Fire
2. Twilight Witchcraft
3. Sulfur Giants (Red King)
4. Ghost Riders
5. 13th Breath of the Zodiac (CD Bonus)
6. The Devil in G Minor
7. Come Crimson Death

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of years, you’ll have come across at some point at least one of the many decidedly retro acts who would rather revisit a time when Rock music wasn’t an overproduced shambles and artists in the relative ‘mainstream’ were dabbling in the occult for the very first time. Such acts I’m talking about are the likes of COVEN, BLACK WIDOW and JACULA whose progressive rock and overtly satanic sermons gained them all significant cult followings and laid the foundations for many other acts who would follow suit. One such act is the Finnish septet (yes seven of them!) JESS AND THE ANCIENT ONES who have not one, not two but three guitarists of which believe it or not one who just happens to be Antti Boman, guitarist for none other than Finnish Death Metal legends DEMILICH. To say this is a big gulf in style from DEMILICH is an understatement.

Comparisons with the likes of JEX THOTH and THE DEVILS BLOOD are going to be inevitable, generally due to the fact JESS also like the two aforementioned have a fantastic frontwoman at the helm; though where JEX THOTH are more focused around all things doomy and Sabbath-esque and THE DEVILS BLOOD prefer dropping acid to riffs, JESS have a substantial and rather eloquent and catchy 70’s Prog Rock and even pop slant and are considerably more accessible than the others. Recorded in the infamous Necromorbus Studios which has a stellar reputation and past roster of releases, “Jess and the Ancient Ones” could not sound more impeccable, encapsulating everything great about this style of music with its fuzzy, analogue sound which is a welcome throwback to a time when music production wasn’t just a pro-tools plagued loudness war. For a slightly more accurate representation of their sound, take the occult blasphemies of genre progenitors COVEN and add the guitar genius of psych lunatic ROKY ERICKSON together with the rhythm and drive of IRON MAIDEN and finish it off with the fuzzy psych pop of THE SHOCKING BLUE. If that isn’t a dream amalgamation of musical styles then I don’t know what is.

In case you haven’t already guessed, it’s probably quite obvious I like this album, in fact I liked it so much the day I heard the promo I bought the vinyl version straight away, so make of that what you will. Anyway, onto the actual music itself, the sheer amount of bass driven groove on this album is obscene, right from the outset with opener ‘Prayer for Death and Fire’ your assaulted by a barrage of absolutely fantastic bass licks, Jake’s eerie organ work and a web of interweaving guitar duels certainly to some degree influenced by the classic Smith/Murray partnership but more rooted in 60’s and 70’s psych. Just hearing Jess’ smokey and sulphurous vocals wailing “Hear my prayer for death and fire/ Love, lust and desire” is enough to draw you into their damp dark dungeon of starlit curiosities and induce you into that vociferous satanic ritual which Jess commands and delivers with an astute conviction. Technically, no they aren’t the best I’ve ever heard, but the sheer amount of passion and desire burning within suits this music so fucking well.

‘Twilight Witchcraft’ is a lot less direct, much more of a slow burner but no less impressive than the last, continuing with the captivating vocal performances, rumbling bass and fuzzy guitar riffs and is catchy enough I found myself singing along to it more than a few times. ‘Sulfur Giants (Red King)’ continues with a slow brooding, piano driven intro before descending into an almost anthemic epic, a devastatingly rapturous journey through the self, the astral and the arcane consummated by those transcendent vocals. Mid way it dies down again before exploding into a behemoth of galloping bass and blistering solos with those previously mentioned pop sensibilities; sublime doesn’t even come close. ‘Ghost Riders’ again tones it down a touch, but turns the bass up to eleven for what is probably the grooviest song here. Its one-two restrained and sullen swagger is provocative yet again outstandingly infectious; if these guys have written a bad tune then I have yet to hear it.

CD Bonus (which unfortunately us vinyl nerds don’t get), ‘13th Breath of the Zodiac’ is up next, and is a little polished up from the single, this time containing dual vocal harmonies on the chorus with Thomas and follows more in the direct suit of the opener in its punchy rhythm and snaking guitar work. ‘Devil in G Minor’ is the anomaly of the release, foregoing all things noisy and rock opting for what can only be described as a supremely noir, jazzy number with a piano melody which crashes over you like a cascade of fire while the superb organic vocals of Jess again set off every corner of it. There’s not much to say about ‘Come Crimson Death’ that I haven’t said about any of the others previously, again beautiful in its execution another twelve minute epic which builds up to a crescendo of DEEP PURPLE-esque organs and guitar genius.

So, in case you didn’t know, I liked this album, so much so it’s my favourite album so far this year. For every bit of press they’ll get due to having a female front and as impressive as she is, it’s every bit about the marriage of the fantastic abilities of the guitar trio as well and mesmerizing basslines as well as Jess’ straddling vocals that emblazon the music like an exalted spirit. Fans of the genre will love this, for me it’s the best album this vintage 70’s timewarp has produced yet; maybe not as ambiguous as THE DEVILS BLOOD but it far outstrips anything they’ve done so far, and I adored their last album. Your move then Selim...


Sounds like - The Shocking Blue, Coven, The Devil's Blood

Originally written for Metal-Observer

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Syn Ze Sase Tri - Sub Semnul Lupului

Genre - Symphonic Black Metal

1. Sorocul         
2. Născut în negură                   
3. Vatra strămoşească              
4. Legea străbunilor                  
5. Sub semnul lupului               
6. Sîmbăta apelor         
7. Nemuritor şi veşnic               
8. Înţeleptul întrupat                  
9. În pîntecul pămîntului            
10. Pustnicul munţilor               
11. Înaripat şi împietrit               
12. Venirea        

Featuring one time vocalist from NEGURA BUNGET’s last effort “Vîrstele Pămîntului”, SYN ZE SASE TRI are another one of those acts with connections, albeit loose, from that small cluster of atavistic and nature centred group that includes NEGURA, MARTOLEA and DOREDEDUH. But that’s essentially where the comparisons cease as this group of Romanian’s toil away at a rather more symphonic and accessible style of Black Metal that is vastly distanced from the primitive atmospheric endeavours of their peers, choosing to mould their sound around that exhibited by DIMMU BORGIR and ANCIENT among others.

A swift dissection of the cover tells you all you need to know about “Sub Semnul Lupului” really; on first glance it’s rather impressive, detailed and vibrantly coloured but typically full of the old clichéd CGI and wolves and warriors and all that twaddle. Closer analysis reveals an album that could have been so much more, one which often showcases brief flashes of brilliance unfortunately bogged down with a multitude of genre-notorious clichés and stacks of untapped potential for a hugely talented band. Given the rather awful name, which translates to “I’m With Triple Six”, first impressions weren’t too hot and on the first run through my opinion wasn’t exactly favourable.

The first half of the album is mediocre at best really, by the book Symphonic Black Metal with the keys and synths marauding around all over the place adding a ‘gothic horror’ type vibe which is the strongest aspect of the album and integral to their sound. None of the songs really stand out and grab you by the throat though, yet they threaten so much more. The guitar riffing is so flat and clinical, melo-death-esque thick chugging riffs with no imagination or thought at all really put into them, and at times it becomes comepletely overwhelmed by the keyboard infused blur that it often descends into. The lead guitar is better though nothing awe-inspiring; indeed it serves its purpose sufficiently without ever threatening much more.

It does have its pluses though, the title track does begin with some interesting and moody Gregorian styled chanting before commencing its faced paced symphonic assault and “Vatra Stramoseasca” contains echoes of SEAR BLISS in its subtle use of brass which is no bad thing. The dual vocals of Corb and Lycan are somewhat interesting and the deeper Death growls add a welcome touch of brutality to a genre not otherwise renowned for such, while you have the more typical high pitched Shagrath styled rasp slotting in alongside.

It’s from the middle of the album where it really shifts up a level altogether, notably in the acoustic grandiosity of “In Pantecu Pamantului” which bears a remarkable affinity to NOKTURNAL MORTUM’s “Sky of Saddened Nights” and is utterly enthralling in its astral stroked melancholy. This significant shift in their musical focus I feel is a direction they should delve into in the future, as these Romanian acts have proved time and time again how fucking great they are at this style. “Inaripat Sie Impietrit” continues this furrow of organic, introspective and atmospheric brilliance with more focus on the ‘metal’ this time summoing crystalline visions of freshly bloodied snow and the dwindling embers of a setting sun.

As it closes, I’m left so frustrated that they didn’t choose to produce the whole album in this vein; it’s that fucking good. Still, those in need of an acceptable dose of sugary Symphonic Black Metal from the same furrows as CATAMENIA, ANCIENT and GRAVEWORM I would say give it a shot, though the album's true power and grandiosity really doesn’t begin to materialize until its far far too late, though the potential is there clearly for all to see, it’s just what they decide to do with it next is the real question. 


Sounds like - Catamenia, Ancient, Dimmu Borgir

Originally written for Metal Observer

Sunday, 10 June 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Holodomor - Témoignages de la Gnose Terrestre

Genre - Black/Death Metal

1. Fall into Time
2. The Spell of Black Affliction
3. Tribulation Stigmata
4. Evoke
5. The Iconoclast

 War metal has always been a somewhat abstract and controversial tag for this style of music, it is a somewhat loose description for the uninitiated but when you look at its roots that go back to bands like Blasphemy, Bestial Warlust and even the thrashier Sarcofago it begins to become clear how this tag emerged. For me it’s a perfect description for the unforgiving brutal, primitive depravity that current acts like Revenge and Conqueror are peddling; the musical embodiment of bullets, barbed wire and barbarity, and a sound which this act, Holodmor lean themselves towards. My initial thoughts were “Wait, this isn’t Canadian?” No they’re actually from the rather more trivial South West England, certainly not an area known for its metal to say the least.  

As expected Témoignages de la Gnose Terrestre is just downright filthy and unpolished and while the aural assault only sticks around for a brief seventeen minutes or so it’s more than enough to appreciate what they have on offer as anything more would have started to become a bit onerous to say the least. Straight from the opening chords to “Fall into Time” and through to the end of “The Iconoclast” you’re bombarded with a flurry of incendiary riffing and drumming and Adam’s savage vocals dripping in desperation, almost verging on the edge of insanity.

You can instantly tell their main influences are derived from that of the Teutonic thrash scene with a major dose of dishevelled Helmkamp influenced barbarity clawing through in all aspects of the band’s music. Though while influenced by a lot of those aforementioned ‘war’ metal bands, it avoids the genre’s biggest problem in that as volatile and berserk as the blast ridden drumming, riffing and vocals are, it still manages to retain an element of a coherent structure that many others lack. You could argue a lot of the songs are pretty similar but then again this is a genre for which diversity was never a forte, though the riffing is varied enough and constantly shifting form to avoid needless repetition.

Fair enough it’s not quite as memorable as some of the acts that spearhead the Canadian and Aussie scenes, and it is rather short but it still is utterly potent, twisted as hell and never lets up in its unholy purge right until the very last note, leaving you nothing but a pile of smouldering ashes by the end. For those musical sadists who love their black and thrash metal from the outermost extremities of the genre, those that worship at the temples of Angelcorpse and bands of similar ilk then Holodomor’s Neitzschean influenced annihilation is an must listen. Violent doesn’t even cut it, with material as brutal as this they’ll be getting a GBH charge filed against them soon. 


Sounds like - Angelcorpse, Sarcofago, Bestial Warlust

Originally written for Metalcrypt

Friday, 8 June 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW]Fhoi Myore - The Northern Cold

Genre - Black Metal

1. Intro
2. Orage
3. Souvenirs (Anticosmic Version)
4. Miist
5. Untitled
5. Forest Of Doom
6. The Walkyries (Ancalagon Cover)
7. Songes Funestes (Acoustic Version)

French black metal has always been one of the more fascinating and dynamic scenes within the black metal sphere, it has a rich and oft overlooked history and never lets up in consistently yielding a wide array of new and impressive bands. Acts such as Aorlhac, Peste Noire and Celestia to name but a few are hard to ignore and remain testament to the quality of black metal being produced in the south of France at the minute. Fhoi Myore themselves are from Nice, bearing many similar traits to the ‘mini-scene’ which appears to exist in that region; a strong traditional DIY aesthetic and a heavy distaste for shiny production values and all things modern are the foundations of which The Northern Cold is built upon, and for what was essentially a ‘test’ EP for the band to hone their recording skills in preparation for a full length it’s a pretty damn fine effort.

The intro sets the tone for the rest of the release, a soft acoustic passage surrounded by samples of thunder cracks and rain which initially threw me a bit as I was expecting something much more rough from these guys. The guitar tone and riff structure throughout “Orage” is lifted straight from Autumn Aurora, not that that’s a bad thing, on the contrary. That hypnotic glare is replicated extremely well and lays a heavily haunting vibe which lingers throughout. “Souvenirs” though is a much more frenetic number containing some rather devastating riffs and a battery of drumming that lies somewhere between Horna and Peste Noire in its vicious and melancholic fervor. “Mist” would be my pick of the release though; a skull crushing bulldozer of a track driven by the hugely aggressive drumming and Balahr’s freezing, razor sharp guitar harmonies and Sreng’s piercing vocal delivery.

Rough, chaotic and unpolished; it’s what black metal is supposed to sound like, none of this gay fancy pro tools shit here, just pure authentic black metal hell. And aside from “Forest of Doom”, a track much in the same vein as the others, the black metal ends there. The others, a cover of the cult Parisian band Ancalagon which doesn’t really diverge too much from the original and an instrumental acoustic closer called “Songes Funestes” which I have to admit does nothing for me other than coming across almost as an extension to the intro and sending me half to sleep. As far as the black metal side of the release goes, it’s pretty much top drawer, the last two tracks are a bit unnecessary though but it’s only a minor fault as it’s only an EP.

The original material on this release I would recommend to anyone who’s into the whole ‘underground’ feel that comes affixed with bands like this and is an ethos more bands could do with adopting because Fhoi Myore show here on The Northern Cold anyway that it can still sound professional and allow appropriate room for all the different elements to interact while avoiding sounding like it was recorded by a socially reclusive teenager in his bedroom on a four-track. It recalls everything from Drudkh to Peste Noire and a lot in between, and any self respecting fan of proper black metal could do worse than check this out. Who’d ever have though when black metal was in its infancy that the rather sunny climes of the Mediterranean would harbour such cold and unforgiving music? I was also subtly impressed by the nice nod to Moorcock as well. Recommended. 


Sounds like - Peste Noire, Aorlhac, Drudkh

Originally written for Metal crypt

Friday, 1 June 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Gun Barrel - Brace for Impact

Genre - Hard Rock/Heavy Metal

1. No Survival On Arrival
2. Brace For Impact
3. Dancing On Torpedoes
4. Books Of Live
5. Start A Riot
6. Stand Your Ground
7. Diamond Bullets
8. With Might And Main
9. The Wild Hunt
10. Turbölence & Decadence
11. Big Taboo

It’s been two years since the untimely death of previous vocalist Xaver Drexler, and GUN BARREL have finally returned with their latest effort entitled “Brace for Impact”, continuing on their journey to deliver their own cheesy variety of hard-rocking Metal to the unsuspecting masses and further imprint their ethos that if a song doesn’t contain a catchy hook, sharp solo and reckless attitude then it ain’t worth a shit. Hailing from Western Germany and a region famous for giving us acts such as GRAVE DIGGER, RAGE, and BLIND GUARDIAN among many others, GUN BARREL have always had a lot to live up to. “Brace for Impact” is a fairly fun albeit simplistic release laden with a heavy attitude and foot-stomping numbers that take their lines from AC/DC’s riff driven sleaze and SAXON among many others.

Being the first time I’ve heard these guys I’ve no experience as to what their previous material with Xaver sounded like, but if it sounded at all like this then it can’t have been too bad at all. Their new vocalist Patrick actually sounds like some sort of a hybrid between Andi Deris and AXEL RUDI PELL’S first vocalist, Charlie Huhn, I mean as far as vocalists go in this vein of Metal he’s more than apt, but there’s no real personality or range in his voice and it gets rather mundane after a while. Again guitar wise it’s competent enough, by the book AC/DC and MOTORHEAD rhythms and short solos are littered all over “Brace for Impact” but there’s nothing that really hits you and makes you think “Wow!”

A handful of tracks I can stomach, but by the time it reached eleven though I just started to switch off; still, for those who have a penchant for that kind of thing along with those sugary HELLOWEEN and GAMMA RAY styled choruses like those ingrained on ‘Stand Your Ground’ and the title track then by all means take a shot, but for every one of those or ‘Big Taboo’ there’s another coma inducing ‘With Might and Main’ or trite and clichéd ‘Turbolence and Decadence’ to balance it out in the wrong direction. It’s far from earth shattering material, and though it lacks any real longevity and individuality it is a briefly entertaining, well produced listen with albeit limited replay value. The song writing could do with a little more flair and potency to add a bit more depth to proceedings as the way it stands it becomes a little too commercially safe and one dimensional  to these ears.


Originally written for The Metal Observer

Sounds like - Axel Rudi Pell, Deris era Helloween, AC/DC