REVIEW DRAFT - The North
Definitely Lunar Aurora for me. I know I really like this album, but I've never rated / reviewed it. Now's the time!
You around Xephyr?
I am! I failed my test attempt but I'm not going to limit myself on stuff anymore, gonna try again in 2-3 months. So I'll be around again.
I'll take the Cult of Daath.
I will take the Epheles EP.
Glorior Belli - "The Apostates" (2018)
"Black Metal (early); Stoner/Southern/Black Metal (later)". That is how a well known metal website describes the genre for Glorior Belli. Given that I had already picked the latest release in the band discography for my Review Draft for The North this month I soon found myself wondering what the hell just how the hell Stoner/Southern and Black Metal would go together. At first it is not so obvious a blend, with album opener Sui Generis sounding like a modern take on French bm with those familiar Deathspell Omega/Aosoth style vocals soon giving cold pleasure to my ears. As the track seems to have ended though, it kicks back in with a melodic sweep (vaguely Southern sounding in fact) and goes on for a few more seconds. Not sure why they chose to do that but it does not actually ruin the song as you might expect it to. With my interest piqued already, onwards into The Apostates I ventured.
The first thing that I note as being as different with Glorior Belli in terms of traditional bm stylings are the drums, they are a strong and powerful entity in the bands sound but are not your traditional blastbeats. They undertake varied runs and fills that provide individual entertainment whilst somehow not being distracting from everything else. The stoner influences seem to grow with every track as the album weaves its way through this expansive and intriguing landscape - like being drip-fed the band's wider influences, track by track. Part of me was flat-out ready to hate this album before I ever heard even one note of it and although I will not pretend to be madly in love with it, I cannot help but doff my hat in the general direction of Glorior Belli for having the balls to at least attempt something different.
The Apostates never seems to entirely lose sight of its bm roots, no matter how far away it sails from them at times (the title track in particular). Just when you get the sense the band have switched sub-genres altogether they soon bring you back into the coldest of our clans here at Metal Academy. For the devout, second-wave worshippers amongst you, this is probably an album that borders on the sacrilegious. If you like a bit of variety in your black metal then you would do well to give this one a few spins as it only grows with repeated plays I have found. It does not always work brilliantly (Hangin' Crepe is just a bad attempt at Stoner in all honesty) but it could have been a lot worse if the mix of these elements was even slightly off for the majority of this record. There is a strong argument here for dual-clan existence for The Apostates as it embraces both elements of its promise well enough to do a quality delivery of the equal parts. Hi ho, hi ho, off to the Hall of Judgement we go.
Lunar Aurora - Andacht (2007)
This is a wonderful album that more black metal fans should experience. I first heard back when it was released and it's one of those albums that I find myself going back to over and over for another fix. I know it seems redundant to use the word atmospheric when describing a release in a subgenre that contains the word itself, but these Germans completely filled all 54 minutes of Andacht with it. The black metal itself has a heap of emotion enducing riffs and (surprisingly audible) basslines, but the addition of moving synths, gregorian chants and snippets from various sources (I recognise Bram Stoker's Dracula for one) take it to a whole other level. These aspects also help to give each of the six tracks their own identity and, unlike many atmospheric black metal albums, I'm never in doubt as to which track I'm listening to. I've always assumed that this is an album deserving of five stars, but now that I've given it a few concentrated listens in the past week, I've come to realise that it does lose steam towards the end. The final two tracks are not quite as great as the first four, and it's this drop that has resulted in me settling on a high 4.5. Andacht is still an album I highly recommend to anyone that enjoys black metal.
As a final note, I discovered today that the band utilised a drum machine for this recording. I'm sure Daniel will tell me it's obvious, but I must admit it's never even crossed my mind throughout all the listens over the years. I'm not one of those elitists that think drums have to be real for the music to be authentic, so it makes no difference to me. Either way, they're clearly done extremely well here.
Epheles - "L'ombre de la croix" (2001)
Epheles were formed in 1997 by french brothers Malphas and Nephtys (possibly not their real names!) L'ombre de la croix is a four track mini album that marked the band's debut release, being released in May of 2001. It does suffer from some production issues and sounds like a reasonable quality demo, but as this is black metal we are talking about that is by no means an insurmountable hurdle. This is viciously feral-sounding black metal that is also incredibly atmospheric, despite some of the atmosphere being lost in the production. Along with the blasting and Nephtys' keening, shrieking vocals there is a liberal use of keyboard layering, ambient sections and slower riffing parts which makes the tracks feel quite narrative. Opener Winds of Despair, for example, tells the tale of the narrator's bleak existence since the death of his beloved, with lyrics that My Dying Bride would be proud of and sorrowful ambient parts that are usurped by rabid, raving shrieks and intense blasting as if his sorrow is unable to be contained.
Epheles songwriting is actually quite strong, especially the first couple of tracks which are the longest at nine and fourteen minutes and displays a strong sense of atmosphere and variety, whilst maintaining the fundamental essence of evilness that is the basis of black metal. Look, if you like your metal to be crystal clear and well-produced then you are best looking elsewhere, but if you thrive on the lo-fi gloriousness that really good black metal can possess then I think you may be pleasantly surprised by L'ombre de la croix.
P.S. They actually have a brand new album out which I will have to check out soon.
Time for another Review Draft for The North. This month's pick order will be as follows...
The six releases to select from are... (drumroll)...
There are some good options in this draft. Sonny's the lucky first pick...
I will go with the Nordjevel album.
OK Vinny, you're up next.
Raventale looks interesting - over to Ben
I've never properly listend to Mgla. Now's my chance!
I'll go with the Hulkoff album.
For Cult of Daath:
Slit Throats and Ritual Nights definitely lived up to its expectations as a bare bones, classic Black Metal album. There are zero frills about this one as it hearkens back to the genres roots with incredibly low quality, evil sounding vocals, simplistic but effective riffing, and a sturdy bass-forward mixing that makes the whole thing sound enveloping and massive. It's sadly one of those albums where I feel like I've heard a lot of it before, but it definitely works as a palette cleanser if you're tired of the more "sophisticated" Black Metal that you tend to hear nowadays. I had a pretty good time with it on in the background and while I think that 50-minutes is a little long for what it is, I couldn't really find anything particularly bad about it. Can't find anything that really surprised me either, so it's just a solid, classic offering for those looking for that sort of thing. I'll see if I can write out a better review for it in the coming week or so, it's definitely a cool one to keep in the back pocket.