Saturday, 31 March 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Ketzer - Endzeit Metropolis



Genre - Black/Thrash Metal

1. Endzeit Metropolis
2. A Requiem For Beauty
3. The Fever's Tide
4. Aesthetics And Ecstasy
5. Farewell, Fade Away
6. Collector Of Worlds
7. Redeemed By Truth
8. He, Who Stands Behind The Rows


This has certainly got to rank up there with one of my most anticipated albums of 2012. Endzeit Metropolis, the follow up to German thrashers Ketzer’s debut album Satan’s Boundaries Unchained finally gets released on Iron Bonehead. They came to my attention a few years back when I heard their name casually mentioned in the same breath as genre front runners Destroyer 666 and Desaster, so naturally I had to go and uncover what all the fuss was about. And when a name is thrown around like that in the same circle as legends such as those, you can only be on to a winner.

2012 really hasn’t been a bad year so far for proper thrash, we’ve had Nekromantheon, Desaster and Aura Noir all having released albums already, and now we have Ketzer with an album which unquestionably cements their status right up there with the best of them. You’d almost be forgiven for thinking this was a new Destroyer 666 album if you didn’t know any better as Endzeit Metropolis harbours that same epic saw toothed ferocity their peers from down under are so effective at.

There’s no respite from what can only be described as an infernal firestorm of ripping guitar work and lacerating vocals that’ll pin you to the wall and leave you beaten, broken and bruised. When I say these guys can shred with the best of them, I really mean it. Take tracks like “A Requiem for Beauty” and its classic Destruction-esque surge or “Aesthetics and Ecstasy” and its neck snapping rhythm, ruthless riffing and Infernal Destroyer’s cruel rasp, they’re a black thrash aficionado’s wet dream.

“He Who Stands Behind the Rows” is the real blackened gem of Endzeit Metropolis though, a monolithic display of this bands talent is showcased here as it approaches the ten minute mark; one of those tracks which could easily go toe to toe with those such as “Trialed by Fire” and “Teutonic Steel” , it contains the same underlying epic feel that’ll tear your face to ribbons and then stamp on it for good measure. The only time to catch your breath whatsoever is in the short instrumental which splits the album in two, a brief minute and a half before you’re tossed headlong back into the melee.

The guitar tone is sharp and metallic and sounds as if it was tempered in the fires of hell itself. The riffing is top notch and never sounds familiar or rehashed, and the solos scorchingly intricate. Desecrator’s drumming similarly brilliant, a perfect mix of precision and power. The vocals of Infernal Desecrator could be likened to those of the legendary Tom Angelripper, a sneering and bloodied throaty rasp, all coming together to paint scenes of a somewhat dystopic and collapsing cityscape under siege by hell’s legions themselves.

Any other year this would have had no competition at all as my favourite thrash release, Ketzer’s only problem in this regard is that Desaster just happened to release an even better album already this year. Bearing in mind we’re only three months into 2012 its already shaping up to be a great year for vicious, old school thrash. Could decent thrash actually be threatening a comeback in place of the now fading ‘thrash revival’? I certainly hope so. Endzeit Metropolis is bursting with so much raw aggression and the musicianship it’s unreal, pretty much essential listening for any self respecting fan of this style of thrash.

9/10

Sounds like - Destroyer 666, Desaster, Watain

Originally written for Metalcrypt

Friday, 30 March 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Pandemonium - Misanthropy



Genre - Black/Death Metal

1. The Black Forest
2. God Delusion
3. Necro Judas
4. Stones Are Eternal
5. Avant-Garde Underground
6. Everlasting Opposition
7. Only the Dead Will See the End of War
8. Misanthropy

Polish Black/Death merchants Pandemonium have been at this game for a while now. One of the first extreme metal acts to materialize from Poland they’ve been in existence for somewhere around twenty years now. They identify their sound with the rather meaningless tag ‘Satanic Dark Metal’, where in reality they play a hybrid of crisp Black and Death Metal bound together with a variety of external influences and a touch of ambiguity. I wouldn’t go so far as to describe it ‘avant-garde’ but it’s certainly not your average extreme metal release.

Misanthropy contains a foundation which basically knits the ugly and bizarre Black Metal lunacy of De Mysteriis... era Mayhem with the distinctive crunch of Polish Death Metal icons Vader. The final sound is something which is actually not too dissimilar to Triptykon, albeit not quite as obscure and outlandish. The album actually commences in rather stunning fashion, “The Black Forest” smashes in with its thick groove laden riffs, tight drumming and some rather strange vocals all finished off with some excellent soloing.

The vocal work from Paul throughout ranges from a deranged deep Death guttural to a higher pitched Black metal-esque drawl while the guitar work is for the most part heavy and clinical with the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face. The drumming though is for me the standout aspect of this release, Szymon blasts and tears through Misanthropy without ever giving an inch and injects some much needed vitality in what would otherwise for the most part be a slightly above average release.

The previously mentioned “The Black Forest” or “Stones Are Eternal” and the title track with their exotic and unorthodox Middle-Eastern undercurrent more than slightly brings visions of Rotting Christ and Melechesh to the forefront of your mind. “Avant-garde Underground” for me though is the pick of the bunch, with its ridiculously simple yet catchy riffing and obnoxious slant it’s almost Punk-like in its delivery. Unfortunately it just can’t keep up this level of quality though, aside from those mentioned though the album is just merely average. There’s brutality and blasphemy abound, but not that cutting edge to elevate this to the next level.

Certainly on the first few spins while evident Misanthropy wasn’t going to transcend any new boundaries, it was an entertaining and stimulating listen, but as for its replay value I’m not too sure because eventually a certain tedium did appear to set in. Still though, for those that prefer their Black or Death Metal (this should appeal to both schools) an oppressive, vulgar mid-paced procession with the focus heavily centred on the riffs this is recommended. For others I would suggest approaching with a little more caution.

6.5/10

Sounds like - Triptykon, Vader, Rotting Christ

Originally written for Metalcrypt

Thursday, 29 March 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Taake - Noregs Vaapen



Genre - Black Metal

1. Fra vadested til vaandesmed
2. Orkan
3. Nordbundet
4. Du ville ville Vestland
5. Myr
6. Helvetesmakt
7. Dei vil alltid klaga og kyta

TAAKE seem like they’ve been around forever, when they are in fact relative latecomers to the Norwegian Black Metal scene. “Noregs Vaapen” is their fifth full length in thirteen years and while not the most prolific of Black metal bands in terms of releases, it appears Hoest is a firm purveyor of ‘quality before quantity’, and it certainly shows. They’ve never released a bad album, and certainly some of them such as “Nattestid” deserve to be mentioned in the same upper echelons of Norwegian Black metal as say “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanis” or “Pentagram”. They’re one of the few Black Metal bands from Norway these days still worth giving a damn about, and “Noregs Vaapen” continues this trend, forty five minutes of first class Black Metal as infectious as it is ruthless and devastating.

TAAKE have always been heavily riff focused in their approach to Black Metal and this is no different; straight from the off Hoest spews out some fantastic catchy and almost up-beat cold scything riffs and together with his unmistakably crude vocals culminating in what can only be described as raw and raucous yet extremely ‘rocking’ Black Metal. Just listen to ‘Nordbundet’ and you’ll see what I mean or even ‘Du Ville Ville Vestland’ with its thick bass, soloing and groovy riffing which close it out in such a fashion where you can really see the Heavy Metal influence seeping through. Talking about the bass, it’s refreshing to have a firm and tangible bass presence on the album, something that’s missing from so many Black Metal releases; it’s strikingly effective in this style of Black Metal and really sets it off.

It’s all extremely high octane and fast paced stuff, from the opener right through to the end, the sheer energy pours out of “Noregs Vaapen”, this is chiefly due to the ever changing dynamic riffing of Hoest’s and overall general diversity that’s threaded throughout the whole album; no two songs sound too alike which is a big plus in this genre. One aspect of this release which i can’t go without mentioning is the track ‘Myr’. We all know Hoest is a rather controversial and enigmatic character, and in rather unexpected fashion and completely from out of left field we have motherfucking banjo. Ok I’m sure to some of you will run around screaming ‘scandalous!’ for such an instrument to be present in an otherwise fairly traditional rooted act, but let me tell you this actually works surprisingly fucking well as a unique touch and doesn’t at all come across as a cheap gimmick. Is there a future in Bluegrass Black Metal? I guess we’ll have to see, but if it at all sounds like this I’m game.

The attitude just oozes out of “Noregs Vaapen” from every pore, there’s not really a weak track here. Admittedly it’s rather slow to start but by the end it’s absolutely blazing. It’s crowded with riffs and if you like your Black Metal more ‘Metal’ than ‘Black’ there’s a lot on offer here. The best TAAKE release since “Over Bjoergvin Graater Himmerik” and a more than worthy addition to their continuously impressive back catalogue, so if there was ever a reason to buy it then there you go. Plus it has motherfucking banjo. Ergo that automatically makes it amazing.

8.5/10

Sounds Like - Vried, Darkthrone, Kampfar



Originally written for Metal Observer

Friday, 23 March 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Nachtruf - Geistwerdung



Genre - Black Metal

1. Nocturne
2. Tore in die Tiefe
3. Geistwerdung
4. Einst Trieb Mich Der Wind

Austrian Black Metal outfit Nachtruf finally get round to unleashing their debut full length Geistwerdung after a trio of demos, and spew forth their own brand of filthy raw, ritualistic Black Metal madness. It’s not your run of the mill Black Metal release; there are only four songs on Geistwerdung, of which only one is below ten minutes in length, so you’d be advised to brace yourself for an immersive and mentally challenging listen.

“Nocturne” begins proceedings, and we’re initially greeted with a rather unsettling intro before we’re thrown into a flurry of atonal tremolo riffing, ear shattering vocals and vigorous drumming which eventually becomes entwined with some slower atmospheric passages where the guitar takes on a peculiar discordant and altogether disturbing tone which is augmented by the increasingly maniacal vocals. Staying on the subject of the vocals, they’re like a bizarre hybrid between Atilla’s possessed whispering and the sheer insanity of Nameless Void from Negative Plane fame.

All the tracks follow the same basic foundation; “Tore in Die Tiefe” with its chaotic and dynamic drumming engulfed by a wall of sweeping guitar based dissonance and the title tracks continues in much the same format with churning riffs and interludes to keep the atmosphere hovering on the sinister and unnerving. They almost remind me of A Blaze in the Northern Sky era Darkthrone with an added touch of avant-garde weirdness. “Einst Trieb Mich der Wind” contains a bit of acoustics which gives it an added pagan feel on top of everything else.

Structurally it all appears to be bound together very loosely, as if it’s about to fall apart at any minute. The unmelodious and abstract riffing with those desperate vocals all play a part in creating the sophisticated yet obscure atmosphere which clings to this release. The apparent lack of bass present only amplifies this further.

It isn’t without its flaws though, the vocals while exceptionally good are a touch too overpowering and could have been dropped back a bit in the mix plus the songs suffer slightly from being a bit too overlong, they kind of just lose their way and taper off towards the end lacking that final third to set them apart from so the rest. But setting aside these shortcomings this is a far from poor release and if you like your Black Metal mentally abrasive and stimulating then give it a try. It will require repeated listens to fully absorb it but on this evidence I’m keen to hear more from these guys.

7/10

Sounds like - Darkthrone, Tormentor, Shining

Originally written for Metalcrypt

Thursday, 22 March 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Nyx - Satis



Genre - Black Metal

1. Stinne
2. Glimmen
3. Fenn
+ Special video for Glimmen

So this isn’t something you see every day in the Black Metal scene, a band consisting solely of female members. Off the top of my head the only others I can think of are the Greek outfit Astarte who to be frank, have become a bit of joke these days. Anyway, named after the Greek goddess of night, Nyx are a duo from Baden in Germany and they’ve just released their first demo entitled Satis, which while a brief listen at only thirteen minutes, is a promising insight into this young outfit.

Drawing their influences strangely from ‘the different natures of water’, the three tracks on Satis are competent and gloomy Black Metal that have that unmistakable ‘German’ sound to them. While it never threatens anything radical it is still impressive enough to hold its own. My main grievance with the release is really only the first song “Sinne” which comes across rather inconsistent due to its stop-start riffing and as a result is rather off putting. The guitar tone itself is also fairly thin and could do with a bit of power behind it for more of a presence which lets it down a touch as the guitar work here on Satis is actually very good. Other than that though it’s a decent release with “Glimmen” being the pick of the three tracks with its sullen, melodic guitar tone, brisk drumming and the coarse vocals flowing very well together. “Fenn” slows things down a touch in the riffing department but still maintains that typical Black Metal style and is a welcome change of pace to proceedings.

Ok so it’s not the most original composition you’re going set your ears upon this year, but it is certainly enjoyable if somewhat by the book. There is a wide for scope for improvement which can slightly be forgiven as it is only a demo. Vinterbarn and Blitz should have no problem moving forward from this, refining their sound a touch more and obtaining some degree of identity because they are both more than talented enough musicians upon this evidence.

6.5/10

video

Originally written for Metalcrypt

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Perdition Winds - Perdition Winds



Genre - Black/Death Metal

1. Intro
2. Purification
3. Corrupted Image of God
4. Perdition Winds
5. Path Revealed

Perdition Winds is the latest unholy manifestation from the vocalist from Finnish Black/Thrash psychos Neutron Hammer and along with a handful of members from Lie in Ruins they’re just about to release their self titled debut EP on Darker Than Black. They’re Finnish so immediately the expectations are high as those Finns appear to have a knack for constantly churning out quality Death and Black Metal at a frequency that puts all other countries to shame. Perdition Winds more than lives up to this claim, a brief but devastating descent into a maelstrom of filthy, murky and dense as fuck Black Metal.

I’m a big proponent of atmosphere in extreme metal, so generally Black and Death bands that employ nothing but technical wankery and a blast-like-fuck mindset can go ride themselves. This is where Pestilent Winds manage to succeed, and the atmosphere created on this release is nothing short of oppressive. The music itself is generally of the mid-paced Black Metal variety, thick stifling riffing which complements the atmosphere superbly, superimposed upon by Kaosbringer’s deep resonant gutturals which sound like they’ve been dragged through the blackest pits of hell.

There’s generally no let up in the intensity save for a few quieter outros, you finish one song you’re thrown straight into the chaos again with the next. The overall sound on this short release huge, the menacing riffing, the relentless drumming and the engulfing vocals all combine together into one big unpolished and vile cacophony that’s dripping in death, decay and madness. I’d liken them almost to a faster, blackened version of Autopsy. There's no doubt about it there is definitely a lingering Death Metal vibe hanging around behind everything.

This is definitely one for those who prefer their extreme metal focused on atmosphere and in keeping with the philosophy with which it was intended, and that is to sound as evil as humanly possible. If first impressions are anything to go by, I’d be fairly certain these guys are definitely going to go on to bigger and better things because there’s too much quality here to be ignored. The only negative obtained from it all? It’s too damn short.

9/10

Sounds like - Ondskapt, Neutron Hammer, Autposy

Listen - Perdition Winds - Purification

Originally written for Metalcrypt

Sunday, 18 March 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Drudkh - Eternal Turn of the Wheel



Genre - Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Вічне Коло (Eternal Circle)
2. Подих Холодної Чорної Землі (Березень) (Breath of Cold Black Soil (March))
3. Коли Боги Залишають Свої Смарагдові Чертоги (Серпень) (When Gods Leave Their Emerald Halls (August))
4. Прощання Зі Скорботними Птахами Осені (Жовтень) (Farewell to Autumn's Sorrowful Birds (October))
5. Ніч Зіткана Зі Снігу, Вітрів Та Сивих Зірок (Грудень) (Night Woven of Snow, Winds and Grey-haired Stars (December))


There’s no two ways about it, 2010’s “Handful of Stars” was awful; a blatant attempt to cash in on the current ‘Post’ Black Metal trend that was all the rage then. In what could basically be described as a blatant, utterly asinine and toothless attempt to jump upon the ALCEST bandwagon, DRUDKH hit the lowest ebb in their career. If it didn’t bear the DRUDKH name then it would have been hard to believe that it was the same band who released such atmospheric Black Metal opuses as “The Swan Road” or “Forgotten Legends”. So when I heard news that they were releasing a new album which claimed they were returning to their roots I was relieved yet quietly doubtful at the same time. Why? Because they were at least dropping the whole ‘Shoegaze’ facade, yet the couple of albums directly prior to “Handful of Stars” weren’t the strongest either, and how they’d fare after such obvious back peddling and the hammering that album took critically remained to be seen.

“Eternal Turn of the Wheel” is anything but poor though, and with it they have managed to claw back some pride after the abortion that was their last release and banish it to the dark recesses of the mind. It’s essentially DRUDKH doing what they do best, and that’s harsh and unforgiving Black Metal swathed in atmosphere. They’re masters of that enduring hypnotic swirl which sucks you into a trance and into a journey through the elements. So in accustomed DRUDKH fashion the first track is an acoustic intro, a scene setter of sorts which lays out the foundations for the rest of release, nothing more or nothing less.

The first proper track is ‘Breath of Cold Black Soil’ and is the initial turn of the wheel starting from March. It’s intense pretty much from beginning to end and a well received blast of fury which harks back to previous efforts. The guitar maintains the traditional crunchy chord progressions and mesmeric riffs of old and Thurios’ vocals are back to their vicious, Slavic shaded best. It does tend to drag after a while though and a bit more variation in the guitar wouldn’t have gone amiss as it seems a bit flat overall, but nonetheless it’s a vast improvement at least on the previous material. And so the wheel slowly rolls round to August with Autumn’s dark hand on the back of your neck. ‘When Gods Leave Their Emerald Halls’ follows the same basic pattern as ‘Breath...’ with its crisp, primal guitar work and incessant beating drums perpetually chipping away at you like a bitter wind. About three minutes from the end there is a beautifully calm and serene interlude, a lull before the storm of blasting and ferocious guitar work which moves in at the end of the track. It’s moments like this that I absolutely love about DRUDKH.

So round we go to October and the ‘Farewell to Autumn’s Sorrowful Birds’ and its slightly more restrained face compared to the previous two, an expansive number awash with isolation and yearning reinforced by Roman’s excellent sombre guitar work. Blanketed by Winter’s harsh embrace, the extravagantly titled ‘Night Woven of Snow, Winds and Grey-Haired Stars’ completes the revolution. Amidst a backdrop of lustrous synths and abrasive drumming, enveloped by a hypnotic swell of guitar which is nothing short of majestic, i can easily cite this as one of the best tracks DRUDKH have penned to date. It’s utterly beguiling. And so the year ends and the cycle begins once again.

“Eternal Turn of the Wheel” is thankfully a great return to form by these Ukrainians. Ok, it isn’t flawless; it does have a tendency to drag, most notably in the first two songs, and a certain spark is missing that was present on their classics. Let’s face it, they’re probably never going to produce another release to rival the quality of “Autumn Aurora” or “Forgotten Legends” again, but this does show glimpses of that brilliance and is at least a damn fine effort and a more than befitting return to form for a band who I thought had lost themselves down a one way street. To those new to DRUDKH, there are better albums to begin with, and for those who were disgusted by the previous effort then fear not for their brand earthy, wind shorn Black Metal is back. Now let’s just hope this wheel doesn’t seize up again...

7.5/10

Sounds like - Burzum, Kroda, Walknut

Originally written for The Metal Observer

Friday, 16 March 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Angel Witch - As Above, So Below



Genre - NWOBHM, Heavy Metal

1. Dead Sea Scrolls
2. Into the Dark
3. Gebura
4. The Horla
5. Witching Hour
6. Upon This Cord
7. Guillotine
8. Brainwashed


ANGEL WITCH are one of those bands who, while influencing more bands than one cares to imagine, never got the mainstream appreciation they fully deserved. Their debut is widely regarded as a classic of NWOBHM by metal aficionados, and not without reason. Their brand of occult themed Heavy Metal is certainly deserving of being mentioned in the same breath as “Number of the Beast”, “Wheels of Steel” and “Borrowed Time”, but they never really got the media attention their material so merited due to the ever revolving line-up and a lot of bad luck. They’re a band I’ve always hugely respected and loved, so to say I was ecstatic when I heard news of a new album was a bit of an understatement.

So with “As Above, So Below” Kevin Heybourne is back for a fourth attempt, a release of which I’m pretty sure no-one saw coming. It certainly struck right out of the blue for me anyway, and again the only recognisable member being the band’s nucleus, Kevin. I will admit I was a touch sceptical that it could have ended up sounding like some horribly modern shit or a desperate dated attempt at recapturing something long gone, but thankfully my fears were allayed. They’ve managed to avoid these two traps and have produced a highly capable release that stays true to their ethos of old and still manages to sound fresh enough preventing it from ever coming across as a rehashed cash in.

It isn’t an instantly striking release; I found it more of a slow burner and one that took a fair amount of time to establish any sort of impression. It isn’t perfect by any means though, the two tracks ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ and ‘Brainwashed’ which bookend the album are by a long shot the strongest tracks present here. ‘Brainwashed’ with the potential to be a classic with its old school vibe, imposing vocal performance and mazy guitar work. It definitely has a good deal more focus than some of the other material present. ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ has that signature NWOBHM gallop that harks back to the glory days so much that you could easily be forgiven for forgetting that over thirty years has passed since the debut.

Sandwiched in between is a mixture of some great material and some undoubtedly obvious filler. Apart from the aforementioned two songs, other highlights include the re-recorded ‘Into the Dark ‘ with its impressive vocals lines and ending full of all manner of layered guitar shredding pomp and the rather more sombre and subdued ‘The Horla’ with its fantastic instrumental section. The problem with songs like ‘Gebura’ and ‘Upon this Cord’ though is that they just don’t cut it at this level. They’re very pedestrian and flat out devoid of any memorable or distinguishing traits and those all important infectious guitar hooks and choruses just aren’t present and just come across as a band who are badly struggling for inspiration ideas.

As stated though, if you ignore the extra baggage on “As Above, So below” you’ll find it is a strong release full of first class vintage riffing and smouldering lead work bolstered by Kevin’s characteristic vocal performance. Fair enough his vocals may lack a bit of oomph from time to time but on the whole they’re more than suitable. There’s positive vigour and flare present here that alludes to an age when bad mullets and tight jeans were socially acceptable (It still should be!) and ANGEL WITCH were top of their game. Just don’t come into this expecting something as outstanding as the debut and you won’t be disappointed; but approach it with a degree of patience and you’ll certainly enjoy what is potentially their second strongest release to date.

7/10

Sounds like - Iron Maiden, Diamond Head, Satan

Originally written for The Metal Observer

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Furia - Marzannie, Królowej Polski



Genre - Avant-garde Black Metal

1. Wyjcie psy
2. -
3. Wodzenie
4. Skądś do nikąd
5. Kosi ta śmierć
6. Pójdź w dół
7. Są to koła


Poland has always been a hotbed for harsh and unforgiving black metal, whether it’s the bitter winters or the past economic climate, there’s certainly something there which breeds hateful and misanthropic black metal by the bucket load. Furia are one of those bands; active since 2003 they have some impressive material under their belts. Marzannie, Królowej Polski is their third full length and while not quite their best or as good as their compatriots Mgla’s latest release, it’s an involved album with a lot of merit if you have a bit of patience with it.

The closest comparisons I could draw would be a less intricate and obscure Deathspell Omega. It’s not quite as multi-layered and doesn’t have as much going on but the disjointed and left field guitar melodies together with the overall avant-garde atmosphere definitely appear influenced by DSO at times. The album actually has quite a number of upbeat passages strewn throughout, something which is obviously unusual for a lot of black metal, take the opening riff in “Wodzenie” for example or the repetitive almost psychedelic overtones threaded throughout “Sa to Kola” which remind me Nachtmystium of all people. For all its obtuse rhythms and fractured, dissonant atmosphere Furia’s core is still firmly rooted in the old school. The experimentation fuses well with the vicious flurries of blasting and Nihil’s deep, reverbed vocals.

While there isn’t really any standout aspects of the release, Marzannie, Królowej Polski is an engaging listen all the same, it does take some time to get its claws in. It’s experimental and unconventional black metal which while different, most importantly retains the foundations of traditional black metal while injecting something a bit different. If unique, ugly Eastern European black metal is your thing then you’ll certainly find something here, just don’t expect anything groundbreaking.

6/10

Sounds like - Deathspell Omega, Nachtmystium, Massemord

Originally written for Metalcrypt

Sunday, 4 March 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Mgla - With Hearts Towards None



Genre - Black Metal

1. With Hearts Toward None I
2. With Hearts Toward None II
3. With Hearts Toward None III
4. With Hearts Toward None IV
5. With Hearts Toward None V
6. With Hearts Toward None VI
7. With Hearts Toward None VII

It’s been four long years since their first full length, but now Polish Black Metal duo Mgla have and have finally got round to releasing their follow up to Groza. And if Groza was a decent effort, a glimpse at what the band may have been capable of, then that potential has been fulfilled with a superiority and self assurance that puts many of their peers to shame. Fair enough their various splits and EPs before the debut were all high quality material indeed, but With Hearts Towards None is a greater manifestation altogether.

As far as sheer ruthless Black Metal assaults go this has got to be one of the most formidable efforts I’ve heard in a long time. No keyboards, no obscure folk instruments and no melody, With Hearts Towards None is comparable to being trapped by a raging whirlwind of knives, hacking away constantly at your every bit of your being. Firmly set in the ‘orthodox’ Black Metal mould, with lyrical themes mainly revolving around theistic Satanism and various other esoteric subjects bands like Funeral Mist, Ofermod and Ondskapt would be the nearest comparisons.

The scything and oppressive riffing together with M’s deep abrasive roar and the scorching drumming all ties in together perfectly and the clear yet devastating production enhances this perfectly. Variety is one of the album’s great successes, no song ever sounds the same and the tempo is constantly switching from a restrained pounding dissonance to an all out aural onslaught thrashing down on your skull. It also must be noted that when a straight up Black Metal band can produce a ten minute monolith without any threat of monotony making it appear half the length it really is, then you know you’re on to a winner.

It’s primitive and obnoxious yet still manages to come across very refined it in its delivery. There is an air and authority about Mgla present here which is missing from so many Black Metal bands these days. For those who appreciate their Black Metal punishing, engulfed in a hazy bleakness and burning with spirit then With Hearts Towards None has got to be one of your first stops this year. This has cemented these blackened hearts as one of the best Polish Black Metal acts around at the minute and it’s not hard to see why. Pure unholy Black Metal that bows to no-one. More of the same please.

9/10

Originally written for The Metal Crypt

Saturday, 3 March 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Nargaroth - Spectral Visions of a Mental Warfare



Genre - Black Metal/Ambient Electronic

1. Odin's Weeping for Jördh
2. An Indifferent Cold in the Womb of Eve
3. Diving Among the Daughters of the Sea
4. Odin's Weeping for Jördh - Part II
5. Journey Through my Cosmic Cells (The Negation of God)
6. A Whisper Underneath the Bark of Old Trees
7. Spectral Visions of Mental Warfare
8. March of the Tyrants


Anyone even remotely into Black Metal will have come across NARGAROTH at some point on their travels. Kanwulf’s stories and antics in the past are so infamous these days it’s easy to see why they’re a hugely polarizing band. For a guy whose head is lodged permanently up his own arse, surprisingly he still has a canny knack for creating some fantastic music. “Jahrezeiten” was a somewhat return to form after the rather mundane previous two efforts. But let’s face it, he’ll never make another “Herbstleyd”, that was an almost genre defining release, and Kanwulf has said as much himself.

While “Spectral Visions of a Mental Warfare” is an exceptionally good release, their best in many years in fact, it’s sure to divide fans right across the spectrum. Why? Because this is very, very different to anything Nargaroth have done before. Basically anyone that’s looking for a straight up Black Metal album will be coming away very disappointed, for “Spectral...” is essentially a bizarre experiment comprised of one small part classic NARGAROTH consumed by a wave dreamy ambience fuelled by what almost appears to be the electronic waves of TANGERINE DREAM and VANGELIS of all people. Not your everyday Black Metal album then eh? Of course this will just further stoke the fires of Kanwulf’s critics, but if you take this not as a Black Metal album, but as an Ambient piece in general, you’ll maybe begin to fully appreciate its majesty.

The three ‘Metal’ tracks present here would be loosely tied into the ‘depressive-suicidal’ vein of Black Metal for want of a comparison but the guitar plays a distinctly reserved role anyway. Take ‘An Indifferent Cold in the Womb of Eve’, it appears to drift around dejectedly beneath the sea of synths and electronics, playing an effective role in creating an atmosphere of suspended desolation. Whether it’s the sub-oceanic minimal electronic journey of ‘Diving Among the Daughters of the Sea’ or the terrifying “A Whisper Underneath the Bark of Old trees” it’s hard to escape that feeling that we are but a an insignificant fleck of corrupt light in something altogether vast and complex beyond our own comprehension.

These astral, ambient passages are just so fucking effective, and none more remarkable than in the duo of ‘Journey Through My Cosmic Cells – The Negation of God’ and the aforementioned ‘A Whisper...’, the former a pure electronic track that is so utterly chilled out, relaxing and arcane; a trip into an abyssal celestial void, drugged by repeating electronic pulses of the synthesizer. It could easily have walked right out of the eighties, probably just why I love it so much. ‘A Whisper...’ is arguably one of the greatest tracks Kanwulf has ever penned, and it’s a pity the rest of the album isn’t quite up to this standard, as some of it does have the tendency to drag a touch. It’s the most ‘Black Metal’ track on the album and it sounds suspiciously like he might just have been listening to NYCHTS and MORTUALIA’S latest collaboration before writing this one. The marriage between the melancholic guitar work, Kanwulf’s sparse vocals and the empyreal soundscapes created is mesmerizing. Take the guitar line that comes in around 4:40, it’s just soul destroying. I cannot stress enough how beautiful and crushing this track is, transporting the listener to another consciousness where all dreams and aspirations are destroyed.

Comparing it to the other notable ‘spacey’ Black Metal acts, it’s less suffocating and foreboding than DARKSPACE and not as harrowing as NYCHTS, it’s comparable to a star cloaked out of body trip through the endless forest of space, an attritional battle between sanity and insanity. Aesthetically it isn't Black Metal at all, the focal point isn’t centred on riffing and blasting drum work, it’s all about the atmosphere. It may be their least metal release yet, but it’s Kanwulf’s best composition in years. NARGAROTH have never given two shits about what path they’re expected to take, we’re never going to get another “Herbstleyd”, but if he decides to stick to this route I’m more than happy.

8.5/10

Origianlly written for The Metal Observer

Thursday, 1 March 2012

[ALBUM REVIEW] Pergale - Horizontalios Maldos Palaima



Genre - Black n Roll

1. Aš Tave Subadysiu (I Will Stab You)
2. The Addiction Song
3. Sado Mazo Vokietija (Sado Mazo Germany)
4. Viešnamio Harmonija (The Whorehouse Harmony)
5. Viskis (Whiskey)
6. Horizontalios Maldos Palaima (The Felicity of Horizontal Praying)
7. Sado Mazo Vokietija (McKaras Remix)

What’s this then? Another one of these eighties throwback black metal bands dipping their toes into post-punk territory? With that opening bass line I initially thought so, sadly no. Lithuanian’s Pergale refer to themselves as “Victorious Psycho Black Rock”. Any such act who have the gall to affix such an outlandish label onto themselves are going to be either very very good, or extremely fucking bad. I really hoped for the former, especially after the opening, but my head was telling me the opposite. It was right, this really isn’t very good at all, in fact at time’s it’s hard not to burst out in fits of laughter or cringe at how contrived, awkward and downright fucking stupid it sounds.

Now I’m no metal prude, I have a lot of time for any band who brings in outside influences of any sort against the metal grain, but truth be told more often than not it just doesn’t work. Horizontalios Maldos Palaima could be categorized as some sort of bastardization of Lifelover and Finntroll, only astoundingly somehow manage to set aside everything that’s good about those bands, intentionally ignore them and focus on the absolute worst aspects of both bands, add in a plethora of jazz and commercial rock influences and the result is this. Whether it’s the eye wateringly harsh vocals which at times are fucking atrocious or the sickly sweet guitar rhythms which keep raising their ugly head from time to time, Horizontalios is just too obscenely ludicrous to take seriously.

Redeeming qualities are few and far between; the bass work is the best thing about this release but sticks out like a sore thumb. The black metal passages are competent enough when present, no more, certainly nowhere close to Lifelover’s level anyway. “The Addiction Song”, a wispy piano number and the acoustic “Viskis” are the only two decent tracks on here. The rest are just completely forgettable. It sounds like the sort of thing you’d get after placing four musicians from random backgrounds into a bar and kept pouring alcohol down their throats until they were inebriated enough to come up with something. And the result? Forty minutes of shallow rambling nonsense which is completely devoid of any substance whatsoever.

It’s the type of album where the only thing you can extract from the end of it is a state of bewilderment and a thumping headache. There’s many more bands out there doing this ‘Black n Roll’ thing much better, and not many better than Vried. Some may even call this ‘Depressive Black ‘n’ Roll’. To me it’s just fucking depressive.

1.5/10

Originally written for Metalcrypt