Sunday, 22 January 2017

[ALBUM REVIEW] Dread Sovereign - For Doom the Bell Tolls

1. For Doom the Bell Tolls
2. Twelve Bells Toll in Salem
3. This World is Doomed
4. Draped in Sepulchural Fog
5. The Spines of Saturn
6. Live Like an Angel, Die Like a Devil (Venom Cover)

Genre - Psychedelic Doom Metal/Rock

So, Ireland's doom metal trio Dread Sovereign finally return to the fold with the follow up to their 2014 effort entitled For Doom the Bell Tolls, and is the next logical step in progression of the Dublin doom leviathan fronted by the ever industrious Alan Nemtheanga. With All Hell's Martyr's the band showed brief glimpses of their experimentation with psychedelia woven throughout their sermon of St. Vitus influenced Doom on the likes of “Cthulu Opiate Haze”, but it was only that, a minor experimentation really, but here on For Doom the Bell Tolls it appears the band have decided to bring this further to the forefront to the point it's so significant you couldn't really class them as just traditional doom any more, certainly not on this release anyway.

First proper track “Twelve Bells Toll in Salem” certainly begins in the more traditional Doom vein, very Vitus like, and is an absolute devastating monolith of a track, but it isn't long before the noisy space rock influences begin to show their head, and just over halfway it transforms into a complete washed-out, drifting cyclone of pure psychedelic noise. Alan's vocals are as animated and emotive as ever, his wailing “I am the dread sovereign...” coupled with that filthy, colossal thundering bass just threatens to pull the world down around you.

One of the first things that struck me about this album was how similar the production is to The Devil's Blood The Thousand Fold Epicentre. Listening to “This World is Doomed”, which begins in a very traditional doom sense, the similarity in production to The Devil's Blood is very noticeable throughout the whole song, especially in the long scuzzy, drawn out hazy guitar passages, so in other words you have that sweeping feedback drenched pedal abuse of Hawkwind, just with a shinier production. “The Spines of Saturn” is probably the best example of their new sound, in fact you couldn't really call this doom at all this track really, Alan's vocals have a heavy distorted reverb effect on them, the guitar sweeps and swirls enveloping everything in a noisy hypnotic Hawkwind-esque haze all the while building up to a climax. The guitar playing is excellent here, and Alan's vocals on the first two tracks just as dramatic and baroque as ever. Closing up the album we have a cover of Venom classic “Live Like an Angel, Die Like a Devil”, a complete change of pace to the rest of the album (as you'd expect), which while a welcome blast of energy, does feel more than slightly out of place.

For Doom the Bell Tolls certainly won't be for everyone, doom purists may well turn their noses up at it, which is kind of ridiculous to be honest as the likes of St. Vitus, Pentagram and even Witchfinder General themselves were psychedelic in their own way. The main gripe to me is it feels more like an EP than a legitimate full length release, and once you factor out the intro, the interlude “Draped in Sepulchral Fog” and the Venom cover it is only three proper tracks really, of which from these guys being brutally honest you'd expect a bit more. There are periods where it seems they're holding something back, or it just never quite develops with the intensity you expect it to, nevertheless what is on showcase here on these three tracks is impressive enough if nothing exceptional. It is a real slow burner this album, and took a long time for me to get my feet cemented into it and immersed in the thick noxious smog of doom and noise, admittedly the first time it went completely over my head, but it is absolutely a grower of a release, so give it time. Just a shame it's altogether so short. 


Originally Written for The Metal Observer.

If you like - Hawkwind, The Devil's Blood, St. Vitus 

Monday, 16 January 2017

[ALBUM REVIEW] Goatmoon - Stella Polaris


1. Intro
2. Stella Polaris
3. Kansojen Hävittäjä
4. Wolf Night
5. Sonderkommando Nord
6. Warrior
7. Conqueror
8. Overlord

Genre - Black Metal
The Finnish black metal scene continues to solidify its position as the strongest and most productive of the Scandinavian countries in the last 15+ years or so, with acts such as Sargeist, Horna, Clandestine Blaze and Satanic Warmaster among many others, it's a hard argument to counter that there's any other country in the world continually producing as much quality black metal as Finland. Where-as with the likes of Norway where the scene stagnated long ago, mainly due to the fact many of the acts still claw at the coattails of residual past glories, the Finns appear to have a consistent knack for drawing fresh inspiration while still maintaining the core ideology of what black metal actually stood for.

Goatmoon are one of these bands, now onto their fifth album of remorseless black metal barbarity, with Stella Polaris, and as with Voitto Tai Valhalla, Blackgoat Gravedesecrator (what a name!) continues with the band's progression from the primitive dishevelled black metal garage punk noise of the debut to a more structurally refined and melodic, yet still jagged and recognizable style of pagan themed black metal. If you pour a glance over the fantastic cover art, it actually does give you a good impression of the sound present on Stella Polaris. The main backbone of the music is still a heavily significant juxtaposition of the sadism of Satanic Warmaster and obnoxious punk styled riff work of Absurd.

One of the first things that stood out for me on this album was how much it reminded me Swedish band Vinterland. I don't think this was intended, it lacks the depressive attitude of Welcome to My Last Chapter, but at times the absolutely frigid, crystalline gleam of the atmosphere on Stella Polaris coupled with Blackgoat's harsh, bitter rasp, drew my attention to it more than once.

When the album is good, let me tell you it is fucking brilliant, the title track packs a punch with it's fast, icy sharp tremolo riffing, synths and upbeat tempo all tied up with some pretty flashy heavy metal styled guitar leads. 'Kansojen Hävittäjä', a track from the split with Der Sturmer early last year makes a return, and without doubt is one of the greatest tracks Goatmoon have ever wrote. The contrast between the sharp lively riffing and main 'chorus' riff is absolutely fantastic, and when it comes in again at 2:30 in the higher key wrapped in those synths, it is utterly astounding. The last three tracks are all very tight too, following the same paths between the caustic relentless black metal and the glacial folky atmospheres, even bringing to mind the likes of Emperor such as heard on “Overlord”, which takes a slightly more astral slant. What I like about Blackgoat's use of synth is that he obviously knows how to use it with restraint; synths used sparsely but at the the right time can be so much more effective than drowning the album in them like some overambitious Tolkien freak.

My problem with Stella Polaris has nothing to do with the actual music itself, and that's the really frustrating thing present here; the musicianship on showcase here absolutely stellar, it's Goatmoon doing what they do best, and the next logical step on from their last album. It's just once the last track finishes, I was kind of left sitting thinking to myself “Is that it?”. Because if you take out the intro, the unnecessary “Wolf Night” and “Sonderkommando Nord” (which is a nice almost Celtic-esque instrumental, but would have been so much more interesting with vocals) then you only have five proper tracks, one of which appeared on a split EP last year. And with the album as a whole only clocking in at 31 minutes, you almost feel a bit short changed, of which is only exacerbated by the fact that musicianship on those five songs is just so fucking excellent, it just goes by in a flash. And for that reason I just can't give this album the nigh-perfect mark I wish I could.

Still though, dis-regarding the previous aspect about the length, Stella Polaris should still most certainly be sought out by all self-respecting fans of the band and those into riff-centric, pagan-themed, atavistic black metal. Goatmoon deliver their doctrine with an iron hand, no compromise, and displaying everything that black metal should be, an ugly and raw middle finger to tolerance, pretentious 'progressive avant-garde' nonsense and just shite fucking black metal in general. It's short and straight to the point, just a pity it's all so brief.


Originally written for

If you like  - Baptism, Sargeist, Satanic Warmaster

Monday, 9 January 2017

[Album Review] Mesarthim - ".- -... ... . -. -.-. ."

1. .----
2. ..---
3. ...--
4. ....-
5. .....
6. -....

Genre - Black Metal

 Another band I've been keeping a loose eye on recently was Australian Black metal outfit Mesarthim, after a strong debut back in 2015 and a productive period in between, this duo have finally released their follow up effort. Now admittedly I fell behind in the metal scene last year due to varying reasons, but this among select others were a few that stood out for me. Peddling a highly symphonic and expansive, yet still raw and caustic variety of Black Metal, something not unlike Midnight Odyssey, Nychts and Lustre, was what drew me to them in the first place, because let's face it, I'm a complete sucker for this style of Black Metal ever since I saw the cover to Moon in the Scorpio all those years ago. Plus, it brings a welcome change to the immortal conflict over who can produce the most pretentious satanic bullshit these days which seems to be present in many corners of the underground at the minute.

OK, while on the subject of 'pretentious' you can't ignore the absurd title they have given the album which is '.- -... ... . -. -.-. .'. Yep, that is Morse code. Back in the day when us old farts used to go into physical shops to buy our cds/records, could you envision going up to the cashier and attempting to ask if they had this album? So if, like me, you're not exactly fluent in the nautical vocabulary, you'd be a bit... well... fucked. So after consulting my oft-used Morse code to English dictionary, the title translates to Absence. So that's what I'm gonna call it from now on. I guess in a sense it kind of fits the whole stellar demeanour and panorama Mesarthim are trying to create, that of insignificance, as speck of a lone ship, lost and drifting on a celestial sea. But yes, it still is pretty ridiculous. Track wise each tracks translates in the corresponding Morse code for it's number, that at least is relatively simple.

One of the aspects on Absence which struck me the most was how similar the core Black Metal arrangements are to those composed by Aussie scene powerhouse Tim Yatras, otherwise known as 'Germ'. Now not much is known about the members on this album as far as I know, but I wouldn't be surprised if he was involved in some way. It's a massively rich and layered album, tortured vocals tear through the tumultuous maelstrom of pulsating static guitar riffs like tendrils of ice while the brooding, glittering synths weave in and out. Superimpose Austere on top of the chromatic soundscapes of Summoning and a bit of “I am the Black Wizards” and you've got Mesarthim basically.

I find Black Metal like this can be a difficult one to pull off correctly though Mesarthim manage to strike the right balance between repetition and variation without going too overboard on the synth work. It's a style where so many other bands fail, either it's just overtly pretentious and not interesting enough, or they end up diving in feet first suffocating themselves in cheese. The album feels like one big track split into smaller sections, though each track still contains enough to differ it from the next.

I don't really have much other way to put it but Absence is an absolutely stunning and captivating release by these guys, its glittering soundscapes are absolutely dripping in atmosphere, where Limbonic Art were more on the psychedelic side, these guys on the nostalgic and wondrous. Definitely one to stick the headphones on, lie down in the back garden on a clear night and have a mid life existential crisis to. An impressive piece of progress from Isolate. Some would say Death rides a pale horse, but here he straddles an intergalactic motherfucking battleship. 


Originally written for The Metal Observer

If you like - Midnight Odyssey, Limbonic Art, Austere

Thursday, 5 January 2017

[ALBUM REVIEW] Witchery - In his Infernal Majesty's Service

1. Lavey-athan
2.  Zoroast
3.  Netherworld Emperor
4.  Nosferatu
5. The Burning of Salem
6. Gilded Fang
7.  Empty Tombs
8.  In Warm Blood
9. Escape from Dunwich Valley
10.  Feed the Gun
11. Oath Breaker

Genre - Black/Modern thrash

Truth be told, Witchery were a band that had been completely buried in the recesses of my my mind for the last ten years or so, and not without good reason either as except for their pretty solid "Restless and Dead" debut, they were utterly middle of the road and run-of-mill as far as black thrash bands came. So upon receiving their latest "In His Infernal Majesty's Service", part of me while still surprised they still actually existed, was hoping for something a little more engaging than previous efforts.

So how does it hold up then in relation to their previous endeavours? Well as feared it's more of the same unfortunately. They're still at the Blackened Thrash, Aura Noir-ish side of things, though have managed to create a sound here which edges closer to the modern day Exodus end of the spectrum rather than the old Slayer influences from the debut.

The production is big and bruising and the guitars have a substantial groove to their fast riffing, one such thing that there is plenty of here, it's just a pity they're all rather vanilla with very little hooks on the album that stand out. Vocals have always been a weak point for Witchery, and again is such the case here consisting of a rather one-dimensional and half-assed Black metal rasp from the Legion replacement, Angus Norder.

Tracks range from the high-tempoed and frenzied such as "The Burning of Salem" to the more mid paced tracks "Empty Tombs" and "Nosferatu", the latter having one of the most mind numbingly irritating chourses ever.

Certainly I feel some may find something of interest here, but for me it just all sounds a bit too sterile and methodical in my opinion,  they just end up sounding like another decrepit old thrash band where any ounce of inspiration dissipated years ago. For me they've always been a minor irrelevancy and with "In his Infernal Majesty's Service" this pretty much remains unchanged. With the likes of Destroyer 666, Desaster and Vektor all releasing fantastic albums this year, this just begs the question; why bother? 


Sounds like - Aura Noir, Modern day Exodus, The Haunted

Originally written for

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

[ALBUM REVIEW] Soulburn - Earthless Pagan Spirit

1. Where Splendid Corpses Are Towering Towards the Sun
2.  The Blood Ascendant
3.  Howling at the Heart of Death
4. As Cold as Heavens' Slain
5. Withering Nights
6. The Torch
7. Spirited Asunder
8. Diary of a Reaper (Outro)

Genre - Black/Death Metal

Soulburn, another one of the side projects from ex-Apshyx members Eric Daniels and Bob Bagchus have returned with their latest offering and follow up to 2014's 'The Suffocating Darkness'. Originally conceived as a side project or 'off-shoot' to Asphyx back in 1996 for Daniels and Bagchus as their way to pay homage to the likes of Celtic Frost, Bathory and Venom, Soulburn returned to the fold after a long hiatus in 2013 to continue with their onslaught and seemingly the main focus of their attention at the minute.

'Feeding on Angels' is the only one of their previous works I'm familiar with, and it is a solid piece of work, a twisted slab of intense Black/Death/Doom-whatever in the same strain of the aforementioned acts amalgamated with that recognisable Dutch ruthlessness from that era.

The production duties on 'Earthless Pagan Spirit' were handled by Magnus Andersson, currently Bassist for Marduk, are one of the first things that immediately strikes you about this album, it has a very significant Scandinavian feel as opposed to their debut, much more aligned with the likes of Watain, Necrophobic and indeed Marduk than expected, dropping even more of the Death Metal foundation from which these guys originated.

Tracks such as the opener "Where Splendid Corpses Are Towering Towards the Sun" (what kind of a shit title is that btw?), Mayhem-esque "Howling at the Heart of Death" and "The Torch" showcase the more ferocious side of 'Earthless Pagan Spirit', chunky bludgeoning riffs of Daniels propped up with Bagchus' powerful drumming.  Then you have the utterly pointless addition of the generic 'siren' female vocals in "Withering Nights" that achieve nothing and just sound completely out of place and disjointed, jarring the otherwise relentless flow of the album. The outro track of "Diary of a Reaper" is a complete waste of space as well, a ham fisted attempt at a 'moody' and atmospheric closer with spoken vocals that serves no discernable purpose whatsoever.

It is on the numbers where the band shift gears down a bit though and they incorporate more of the dwindling  Doom elements they used to utilize so effectively that the album actually picks up a bit, tracks such as the dirging "Spirited Asunder" and extremely powerful "The Blood Ascendant" which begins slow before erupting into a furious and uncompromising colossus.

Vocally I feel the band miss ex-vocalist Wannes Gubbels the most, he brough
t a sense of depravity to the debut that seems to be missing here, don't get me wrong, Twan van Geel does a decent shift here, powerful and dominating, but Gubbels was on a different level altogether. The guitarwork is definitely highlight on an otherwise generic album, strong punishing riffs and cryptic leads scattered throughout, but even at that it feels at times Daniels is playing on autopilot.

"Earthless Pagan Spirit" is for the majority, baseline Swedish style Black Metal interwoven with Death and Doom elements that appears to be moving away from the homage of old. If undaventurous, the album while nothing extravagant, and not exactly pushing the boat out, will appeal to fans of the last album and is certainly acceptable enough for what it is. But for me they're heading down a dead end and it's just another album in the vast sea of Swe-Black Metal clones that so many others do better, and that's ultimately the most frustrating thing about it, because these guys have such an impressive CV. They're just capable of so much more. Time to roughen it up again I think.

Sounds like - Watain, Ofermod, Bathory

Originally written for Metalireland