Wednesday, 31 May 2017

[ALBUM REVIEW] Walpyrgus - Walpyrgus Nights

Genre - Heavy Metal

1. The Dead of Night
2. Somewhere under Summerwind
3. Dead Girls
4. lauralone
5. Palmystery
6. She Lives
7. Light of a Torch
8. Walpyrgus Nights

Walpyrgus' debut EP/demo impressed me quite a bit when it was released three years ago now, their brand of no frills 'in your face' horror themed metal ticked all my boxes, certainly tracks like 'Cold Cold Ground' and 'The Sisters' are pretty much everything I look for in a heavy metal song. Now this seasoned US quintet return on Cruz Del Sur with their debut album entitled Walpyrgus Nights and further continue their foray into tales of the macabre and things that go bump in the night.

So how does it hold up to expectations then? Well 'The Dead of Night' is just about as good an opener as you could hope for on a heavy metal album, solid fist pumping choruses and masquerading guitar harmonies aplenty spurred on with an absolutely kicking rhythm section, it follows on from where the demo left off. Think early Riot more than anything. 'Dead Girls' is similarly another absolutely infectious catchy combo where it's almost impossible not to sing along to. Credit to Jonny Aune, the man done a stellar job on the last Twisted Tower Dire album and slots right in here perfectly too, his voice is perfectly suited to this style of metal. One aspect of the release that I noticed quite a bit was the prominent underlying almost punkish tone to some of the tracks, songs like the aforementioned and 'Palmystery' it begins to seep through in the sheer raw energy emanating from the performance. The John Lord-esque keyboards further help augment the whole eerie b-movie horror vibe the band are aiming for, take 'She Lives' for example, one of the slower tracks here but no less impressive.

I still have one or two bones to pick here and there though with Walpyrgus Nights, the promo track they used to promote the album, 'Somewhere Under Summerwind' is probably in my opinion the weakest track here, there's just something about it which doesn't click for me, it's just not as memorable or powerful as any of the other tracks. The Witchcross cover as well while well performed just feels out of place to be honest and tacked in as filler, even one of the songs off the debut rerecorded would have been a better option than sticking an out of place cover on the album just before the last track, it kind of upsets the flow of things more than anything to be honest. And the production, it's just far too polished, as powerful and energetic as the album is, I feel the pristine production blunts the impact a bit too much at times, for album focusing around ghosts, ghouls and all things morbid I'd prefer a bit more aggression and grit in the production.

Still, regardless those are only really minor discrepancies, for Walpyrgus Nights is a more than solid debut offering, for if to the point, sing along choruses and cascading, gyrating guitar leads and a sturdy hard-rock backbone without an ounce pretence is your cup of tea then then look no further. It's simple and inoffensive, but at the same time oh so effective, yet I still think a band of this pedigree have even better and a lot more to come in the future. Fans of Twisted Tower Dire, Visigoth and the ilk could certainly do worse than give it a go. 


For Fans of - Twisted Tower Dire, Visigoth, Riot 

Originally written for The Metal Observer.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

[ALBUM REVIEW] Nightbringer - Terra Damnata

Genre - Black Metal

1. As Wolves Amongst the Ruins
2. Misrule
3. Midnight's Crown
4. Of the Key and Crossed Bones
5. Let Silence be His Sacred Name
6. Inheritor of a Dying World
7. The Lamp of Inverse Light
8. Serpent Sun

Nightbringer have been making a lot of significant waves in the US scene the last few years with their ever developing and intoxicating black metal madness reaching its ninth year since Death and the Black Work, and while many would rather look down their noses at the USBM scene, Nightbringer are further proof with Terra Damnata that those opinions couldn't be further from the truth. Ego Dominus Tuus was always going to be a difficult act to follow, probably the album of theirs I would have ranked as the high water mark amongst their discography, so their latest release has a lot to live up to. Nevertheless I was quietly confident this lastest offering would be up to a similar standard as Nightbringer have a certain indescribable aura that some bands just seem to have that you get the feeling they can't put a foot wrong.

Certainly from the visceral, unbridled chaos of the opening you know they still mean business, “As Wolves Amongst Ruins” commences the album with a maelstrom of off kilter guitar leads and riffs which certainly give more than a slight nod to Emperor's work post Anthems... Coupled with the dual vocals, a contrast of a high pitched wretched rasp and more gutteral roar, it makes for an intriguing listen. It's theatrical in every sense of the word, a carnival of horrors, and as you listen through the album you're tore backwards helplessly like a rag-doll through the cathartic, dissonant delirium created by the band.

One thing that really impressed me on the last two albums was the sheer ability that their drummer Menthor displays, the guy is an absolute animal behind the kit, delivering a barbaric onlsaught that contributes so much to helping carry and control the flow and intensity of the album. You have tracks like the opener and “Let Silence be His Sacred Name” which are an all out aural assault, then you have some which take the pace off a bit such as the powerful dirge of “Inheritor of a Dying World”. The audible bass is also a nice touch as well, as there appears to be an epidemic in the black metal scene of bands apparently being allergic to utilizing it for some fucking reason.

It's the second half of the album where it really rises above everything else they've done previously though, the intensity of the spiralling riffs, convulsive vocals and pulverising drumming further coalesce and threaten to push you that much closer to insanity, once you finally wrap your head around it all, it's almost impossible to pry yourself back out of it again. “The Lamp of Inverse Light” is interesting in that it's more of an atmospheric piece with respite from the insanity shown previous, no harsh vocals, rather slow brooding leads layered with the spoken word of the infamous Italian fascist Julius Evola. It's almost Dance of December Souls like in its presentation. Final track “Serpent Sun” makes sure to end the album with a bang though, probably the highlight of Terra Damnata, a monolithic and pulverising death march, churning up everything beneath it.

What really impresses me about the band is how they manage to keep the album so varied continually morphing from one guise to another, it's technical, avant-garde and ambitious without ever losing sight of what actually 'is' black metal, without ever becoming a pretentious, experimental and self indulgent mess like many of their peers. It's not an easy listen, but then again if you're in anyway previously familiar with the band you know not to expect some bottom of the barrel generic black metal, for Terra Damnata is the absolute antithesis to 'generic'. There is so much going on it takes quite a few listens to disseminate all the layers and find a bit of breathing space, as it is very claustrophobic at times, but once you do you'll find it very rewarding. If there was any previous lingering doubt, for me Terra Damnata cements Nightbringer's place and evolution as one of the pinnacles of progressive and forward thinking black metal in the US today. One for the end of year list for sure. 


If you like - Dodsengel, Emperor, Svaritdaudi

Originally written for The Metal Observer