These were my comments when I revisited this release recently:
What a fucking ripper of a third album from one of the best couple of bands in the war metal space in Spain's Teitanblood. In fact, I rate "The Baneful Choir" more highly than the band's highly regarded sophomore effort "Death" to be honest. They tend to lean further towards the death metal side of the black/death equation a lot of the time with a super-dark production job & some outstanding dark ambient pieces combining for a devastating atmosphere. Imagine the savage war metal of Blasphemy & Archgoat crossed with the blackened death metal of Antediluvian & you'll come close to describing this cacophony, only these guys do it better than all of them in my opinion. There's even a brilliant doom/death track included early in the blemish-free tracklisting. Loving it!
Another early Burzum demo tape I picked up through the tape trading scene after falling in love with Varg's first couple of proper releases during the first part of the 1990's. "Reh/Demo 91" is once again a purely instrumental release, this time featuring an extremely inconsistent tracklisting as far as sound quality goes. There's more up-tempo traditional black metal here than on the self-titled 1991 demo tape too with the more atmospheric stuff being relegated to a supporting role but the end result is pretty similar in terms of overall quality. The first five tracks are virtually destroyed by a terrible (read: non-existent) production job but there are a number of more than decent inclusions amongst the remaining seven pieces, mainly due to the improved recording techniques. Interestingly, there are a couple of genuine doom metal tracks here that fans might not be familiar with & they show you a different side to Varg as an artist. Still... this is hardly an essential release with the first half being pretty tough going to say the least. If pushed I’d probably take the first Burzum demo over this one by the barest of margins. The strange, out-of-time metronome sound in the background of some of the tracks certainly doesn’t help it’s cause though. For Burzum completists only.
Varg's first demo tape is another one that I picked up at the same time his other demos during my tape trading days after becoming obsessed with Burzum's early albums. It's a crude three-song instrumental affair that sees him playing all of the instruments on material that would all be re-recorded for the first couple of proper full-lengths. The sound quality is terrible with the music being very soft & the tape hiss being significantly louder. "Lost Wisdom" sounds almost sickly in this format while "Spell of Destruction" is similarly pedestrian. It's only really the dungeon synth piece "Channeling...." that's of interest here as the lack of production seems to almost suit it. In saying that, I'm gonna go out on a limb by claiming that this demo may be the earliest atmospheric black metal release that I've encountered. The subgenre is generally thought to have kicked off a couple of years later in 1993 but these three tracks seem to fit the bill for me. It's a shame that "Burzum" is such an uninspiring listen though, despite the material covered becoming so significant over time.
One last album that is so amazing and unique, yet a reminder about how I should stop my melodic black metal exploration so I don't get highly committed to a genre still out of bounds from my moral comfort (among other reasons). Here are my thoughts:
Windir isn't a band that can be considered just black metal. This is epic melodic/symphonic black metal with colorful leads and mythological lyrics. All that and the genre's usual vocal screams and blast-beats make this sound a unique combo. Valfar was one of the more talented members of the Norwegian black metal scene. He could do everything except drums and clean vocals, which two other band members have done for him. He had an idea to make a black metal band that didn't follow the usual the genre's stereotypes, and he succeeded! Sadly, his life was taken in a blizzard during a trek to his family cabin in his homeland of Norway after his band's 4th album. He had an incredible technique of alternating between only a few powerful melodic riffs throughout the longer tracks. The instruments make the most change, taking turns playing each riff, whether adding more or less heaviness or harmony. All that makes this album an excellent unique journey. RIP Valfar
Yeah, I'm ending this melodic/symphonic black metal exploration early because these kinds of threads are frowned upon, and I've realized that I'm still not ready to travel further into The North. This means any suggestions for my exploration are cancelled (Sorry, Morpheus). Will I try to explore more black metal in the future? No idea, but the time is not now. That's all for this thread, folks!
Let's stick with what unites us and not what divides us, so saying I agree Vinny, the Mānbryne track was a standout and their album is near the top of my list of things to check out soon. As you've already listened to it, is it any good?
I thought it was solid enough but not outstanding. My fears of them being Mgla clones were not realised thankfully but I see little here to be attracting the top end of the rating spectrum, however I have only listened through a couple of times.
This is fucking fantastic Ben. Super-premium atmospheric black metal with a strong & highly original psybient component & some excellent extreme metal drumming. How could I not love that?! The mature use of melody, the knack for building tension & the inherent creativity are simply so impressive. "U.M.A." is the perfect Metal Academy feature release in my opinion as it's criminally underrated & underappreciated.
Austin Lunn (aka Panopticon) has released a single from his upcoming album, The Rime Of Memory, due out at the end of November. Sixteen minutes of atmospheric black metal wonder called Cedar Skeletons, Lunn shows that he is still producing great quality, nature-themed black metal that puts most of the competition in the shade.
The Brazilian extreme metal legends pick things back up after the disappointing "Satanic Lust" demo from earlier that year with a release that was more savage than anything we'd heard from them previously. In fact, I'd argue that this demo represents perhaps the earliest example of genuine war metal. The intensity blew my socks off back in the very early 1990's & it's still something to behold even today. I still prefer Sarcófago's first demo "The Black Vomit" overall though.
Nice list again Ben. Of the stuff I was unfamiliar with, Tsjuder and Profane Order chimed with me the most. I haven't ever listened to Rebel Extravaganza before and enjoyed the track from it a fair bit. I also enjoyed the Gespenst and Ifernach tracks.
I'm not sure about the last track by Bríi, I think I will have to check out a bit more from them, but it did pique my interest. Of the stuff I know, Ancient, Deathspell and Altar of Plagues were big yesses. Marduk sounded just how I expected them to and Trhä and Mgla didn't really set my world on fire.
All in all though, an enjoyable couple of hours whilst decorating the living room. How about a new tagline, "The Metal Academy Playlist - makes household chores almost bearable!"
Norwegian melodic black metallers Windir & I have had a very rocky relationship over the years since I first encountered them very late in my late 1990’s tape trading days. I can vaguely remember digging their 1997 debut album “Sóknardalr” at the time however the melodic black metal movement was still in somewhat of a honeymoon period so it's appeal may have been a touch stronger than it is now that it's been so long since Dissection first ripped us all a new one. I didn’t come into contact with Windir’s more widely celebrated records until 2009 when I took in their three subsequent full-lengths in quick succession with none of them offering me very much in the way of enjoyment. Their accessible & often folky take on the black metal model was very much at odds with my own feelings on what black metal should ultimately be so I found myself struggling significantly the majority of the time. 1999’s “Arntor” & 2001’s “1184” did nothing for me whatsoever but I do have some recollection of Windir’s appeal slowly growing with each release with their final effort “Likferd” coming closest to the mark so this month’s feature release represents a good opportunity to firm up my position on what would ultimately prove to be Windir’s swansong.
Let’s be very clear from the onset, not a lot had changed in the two years since “1184”. Windir had maintained their six-piece lineup & their label Head Not Found Records must have been very happy with the reception for the previous album as they once again engaged former Thou Shalt Suffer bassist Torbjørn Akkerhaugen to produce the band’s fourth full-length album “Likferd” at Akkerhaugen Lydstudio so they were clearly looking to repeat the same formula that had been so successful for them previously. The result is a stunningly glossy sounding record that is as easy on the ear as any black metal release you’re likely to find. The performances are also outstanding with all of the parts being executed with precision. Admittedly the band stay relatively within themselves & keep things uncluttered in the interest of maximum accessibility but I’d still suggest that current Vreid & former Cor Scorpii drummer Steingrim could possibly have upped the ante a bit as his beats are a little lacking in the extremity we’ve come to expect from the genre over the years.
One of the elements that I couldn’t deal with about Windir’s sound previously was their tendency to tip-toe along the borders of the folk metal subgenre. I think most of our regulars will be well aware of my hatred for the vast majority of folk metal releases so I doubt that’ll come as a surprise. Thankfully though, “Likferd” sees Windir keeping their distance from the folk melodies for the most part which was a most welcome discovery. They also indulge in a little more traditional black metal savagery which was also well received with the tracks that offered me the most appeal unsurprisingly matching up with those moments very accurately. There’s still a lot more unintimidating use of melody than I’m comfortable with on “Likferd” though so let’s not get too excited just yet. They’re very much the epitome of the subgenre actually & often accentuate their more epic moments with some borderline cheesy keyboards to further test my patience. Valfar’s vocals aren’t particularly interesting either. They simply sound like ten thousand other black metal front men & don’t stand out all that much due to the fact that I’ve heard it all so many times before.
In fairness, the tracklisting gets off to a decent start with opener “Resurrection of the Wild” being pretty enjoyable. The next four tracks aren’t awful but I can’t say that they offered me too much in the way of appeal. Then we get to album highlight “On The Mountain of Goats” though which is a very solid black metal outing indeed & may even be my favourite Windir track overall to tell you the truth. It's no surprise that it's the least popular track on the album which should tell you something about my compatibility with a band like Windir. At this point I was wondering whether “Likferd” might actually be able to drag a decent score out of me which is a feat that Windir had never come close to achieving in the past. Unfortunately that’s where things descend fairly rapidly though with the last two songs (“Dauden” & “Ætti mørkna”) being absolutely none of my business & ensuring that the album would once again fall on the wrong side of my quality cut-off point.
Look, I don’t think anyone expected me to be dishing out any four-star ratings for a release that sounds like this one but I have to say that Windir had improved a touch with each of their last couple of records being better than the last. It’s perhaps a shame then that band leader Valfar would pass away before he’d had the opportunity to create the release that would eventually see me finally accepting his art. The rest of the band would go on to take part in other Norwegian melodic black metal bands like Mistur, Cor Scorpii & Vreid after Windir disbanded & if you dig those acts then you’ll likely get a lot out of “Likferd” than I do.
Having spare time to pursue my exploration of Canadian black metal is a real test at present but this does have the benefit of me being able to take it slowly and not just dive into any release that I find. Today I wanted to look at some demos and I stumbled across Tenebrae (Latin word for "darkness") and their short discography that matches their short life together. This five-piece managed just one full-length release before they split up. Their demo that arrived some two years before their album is a suitably raw affair that contains some Emperor style symphonic keyboards to add into the mix. The vocalist here is the guy who owns Sepulchral Productions (Martin Marcotte) and he gives a true to style grim and ghastly performance which is the standout performance on the release. Those keyboards are not well represented in the overall sound and come across as amateurish and border on dungeon synth a little also.
The twin guitar attack works well alongside busy yet not always clear drums. There's not really a lot on offer here that had not already been done by the Norwegians in the three or four years that preceded this release. For a demo though, you get thirty-five minutes of sluggishly structured black metal that tries to run before it can walk on some occasions yes, but on the whole is still interesting listening (the last track however is a clusterfuck). Not essential listening on my exploration but at least the influences are obvious.
Can be located on Bandcamp (on a "pay what you want" basis) or YouTube for anyone who is interested.
Yeah, it's true that I've never genuinely "loved" Ulver. I do have time for everything I've heard from them over the years though. I slightly prefer "Nattens madrigal" to "Bergtatt" as far as their classic metal releases go but neither would reach four stars for me personally.
And yes, I do have a Suffocation t-shirt that I'm wearing as we speak. I haven't owned a Burzum top since my grey "Filosofem" long-sleeve died in th