Exploring early funeral doom is fast becoming my favourite way to relax. It really is testimony to the knowledge of the creator of this clan challenge (The Fallen: Doom Metal - The Early Days) as to how good an introduction to the clan this list of releases is. Until recently I had only really listened to Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper as my only regular experience of funeral doom. Understanding where the whole sub-genre that influenced that record comes from is a real treat. As with my review of Winter's Into Darkness, I find the sheer simplicity of Thergothon's Stream From the Heavens to be remarkable in the sense of the immersive atmosphere that it creates. Not that Winter's debut was dripping with high production values, but Thergothon's debut sounds like it was recorded in a basement somewhere in their native Finland.
What makes this album more remarkable is that there was only three members who recorded all this. Sharing vocal, keyboard and guitar duties across all three of them (with drums handled solely by Jori Sjöroos), Stream From the Heavens is a real team effort. This is not only dripping in atmosphere folks, it is heavy as fuck as well. It takes the blueprint of Into Darkness and ramps up the weight dramatically. The funeral atmospheres are serviced brilliantly by the almost black metal vocal style that sits alongside those dreary clean vocals (that also have a fair amount of spoken word alongside them). These grim and deathly croaks add a real dimension to this record and are perhaps my favourite part of the whole experience.
I guess my only mystery here is why this album is called Stream From the Heavens when this sounds like it comes up from the opposite direction altogether. Consistently, the record pulls you further and further into the agonisingly slow and dense atmosphere that it creates without making the whole experience feel like it goes on for too long. At a shade under 41 minutes, this album is a perfectly palatable slab of music that never feels like it outstays its welcome. It is bizarre how such fetid sounding vocals and crushing riffs can relax me so much but this album replaces any weight on my shoulders with a much different and more interesting weight I guess.
Genres: Doom Metal
To the best of my knowledge, I have never heard any Hungarian metal regardless of any sub-genre guise. Somehow, over the last nearly three decades, I have never come across Sear Bliss. Whilst I cannot recall having heard even a fleeting few bars of any of Glory and Perdition, somehow it does sound familiar. After one full listen through I was already marking similarities with Summoning where Glory and Perdition used horns and synths to note its presence in the room. The fact that I do not mind a bit of Summoning one bit probably helps me to register and accept the use of electronic and symphonic elements on this month’s feature release even though I am not a massive fan of the symphonic black metal sub-genre overall.
Having said that, I do not find this album to be overly symphonic, despite a near constant feed of orchestral instrumentation. It certainly plays an important supporting role in proceedings but is never allowed to dominate. Instead, those brass instruments create a swell in their delivery, expanding the sound of the album as the intricate keys tantalise with the promise of further wonder to come. Often these elements are played in as simple stabs or flourishes and as such are beautifully paced over the album. In the traditional sense it is the guitars that drive proceedings the most, with their riffs propelling the tracks forward. The charging opening to Two Worlds Collide underlines this input superbly. Also noticeable are the drums as they thump away in just the right space in the background to support the other component parts and keep everything tracked together nicely. Check out the superb work being done on Dreams Spectre to properly capture the contribution the sticks make to this album. This balance of the instruments and the atmospheric and symphonic elements is expertly done; using the alien voice on Reverie is a bold move yet it sits well atop of the music without feeling intrusive or downright odd.
Sear Bliss also manage to carry off the inclusion of some interludes on the album, doing this well in the sense that they do not disrupt the flow of the overall record. Normally when I see such compositions dropped into any album, I die a little inside as I just find they often scream “FILLER!” in my experience. The three here (one is the outro I guess) are all around the minute and a half mark and do transition the album nicely.
Whilst not anywhere near as aggressive as I normally like my bm, Sear Bliss do deliver melodic bm well. There is a sense at first that it is put together a bit hap-hazard but as I revisit the album there is a sense of coagulation across all tracks and this makes me think it is more planned than it first appears to be. With repeated listens the blasting pace is most definitely there, and it never feels out of control or rudely cut off by any of the pace or tempo changes. Although not staggeringly so, the epic nature of the writing here belies a band that I at least need to give a little more attention to. I note that Mayhem’s Attila and proffers vocals on two tracks here suggesting that this is a band with a good degree of stature in the underground already. In many ways Sear Bliss are reminiscent of a more aggressive Negura Bunget. This mix of earthy structures interspersed with the astral bursts of rich and lush melodies such as on the track Glory to Perdition reminds me of the Romanians only with a much-reduced level of complexity or extravagance.
Ben seemed to be a tad pensive in announcing this as his feature for the month, but I think this has been an excellent choice and one that certainly rewards with repeated listens. With the cosmological parts set firmly in their place around the core bm elements, Glory and Perdition captures an experience as opposed to just being an album to listen to. In its more atmospheric moments, it reminds me of Darkspace / Paysage D’hiver and in the more traditional moments it can hold its own with any of the bands I mention through out this review. I think the only criticism is that it is not as instantaneous an experience as some might want and the fact that it does need a few listens may put some off. The work is worth the reward though and the album records a healthy four stars which may creep up as I continue to put this on rotation.
Genres: Black Metal
It is safe to say that I am a huge Altarage fan. I mean as someone who has heard a lot of death metal in my time it is hard for me to really get overly excited about much of what comes out nowadays in the genre, however Altarage share that rarefied atmosphere with the likes of Gorguts and Ulcerate whereby I am liable to buy pretty much anything they put out without hearing it first.
This methodology served me well with their last effort The Approaching Roar but I was a tad caught out by the predecessor Endinghent when using this admiration of the band to drive my purchase. I broke away from this tradition with Succumb and played a track on a promo CD that came on a cover mount. I didn’t enjoy it one bit in all honesty and couldn’t quite figure out why until I refused to believe that the band had finally dropped a real dud and went and bought the gatefold vinyl anyways. Altarage are masters of performance art, whether that be a conscious effort on their part or not, this is how Succumb plays to me.
Each track is in effect a shift, a progression, a development on theme. The album runs like a play on stage with each track being an act, building constant depth and expansion to the proceedings and therefore the single track on the CD I mentioned gained no traction with me – it was completely alien when taken out of the context of the whole album piece.
This is a very tactile listening experience for me. Seemingly designed for that one sitting listen through for you to fully appreciate the quality of the album. There are no real individual parts to call out as such as despite there often being clear breaks between tracks it all feels interconnected and cohesive to the point of being conceptual almost. Track lengths vary and at first glance the format looks busy and confusing (which is part of the charm for me of listening to a complex release and trying desperately to unravel it) however this structure to the composition of the album track listing is devilishly clever. The build that gets created here is superb and it sets some tracks up to be real eruptions of powerful and cavernous death metal that simply vents at various parts of the album.
On more than one occasion the hairs on my arms stand up and I genuinely must stop what I am doing with the final half of the last track on side two being one such moment that leaps out at me. The permeance of the wall of sound just reaches an absorbing and almost comforting crescendo during some of the most horrifying noise to grace my eardrums.
The guitar tone has an almost bastardised sense of groove to it on occasion and makes real use of the blackened tremolo influences that have been a trait of the band from day one. The vocals sound completely otherworldly throughout. Their extra-terrestrial sound acts as paroxysms of scathing and terrifying lyrical outbursts. I also must point out the understated yet atmospheric importance of the drums. They vary superbly across the record ranging from blast beats to soft cymbal “tishes” to adapt to the pace, tempo and atmospheres of the album.
Succumb is an album that occupies the space around it as it plays, placing the darkest of voids and most cavernous of chasms in the room with the listener as it goes along. One of the standout releases of 2021 so far.
Genres: Black Metal Death Metal
As I alluded to in the forum thread for this release, I had previously attempted to digest Achatius and found it to be a release that I couldn’t quite get my head around upon first attempts to unravel what seemed like a vast and serpentine soundscape. Upon repeated listens however there is a lot more to Achatius that appeals to my current taste in BM than first meets the eye.
A side from bountiful lashings of Darkthrone, with a seasoning of Bathory in those riffs there is the structural integrity of Mortuary Drape to most tracks. Achatius as such plays as a BM record powered by an Italian Prog Rock mentality. The style fits the song content perfectly (it is a story that is being told here after all) yet there is no sacrificing of the raw BM elements that cater for my more extreme tastes.
These song lengths that at first seemed so challenging (the shortest track being just over 11 minutes) are in fact superb chapters of this story made succinct that encourage you to move with the tale as it unfurls. What this does is help focus your attention, I find that I can stop listening after two tracks to digest what has just been presented and then pick up again later in the day the other half and still have that sense of flow to the record.
As well as nods to the classics there are also references to more modern sounds such as Malokarpatan and Master’s Hammer. The traditional/heavy metal credentials stack up well here amongst the other elements. For an album with eclectic artwork, it doesn’t actually come off as sounding the same as the cover art suggests. It is more of a well-balanced affair overall that can still stay true to its BM roots throughout. The blend of genres/styles is quite subtle and as such it is an album that requires much attention to truly get underneath the skin and appreciate the sum of all parts.
There’s chimes and bongs in the background that give an ethereal royalty to proceedings with their echoes drifting long into the ether of the record as it plays. The strength overall of the record though is its balls. To be able to take such an open approach to the delivery of such a strange theme takes guts and for a one-man project to manage to make it such a success is doubly impressive.
Genres: Black Metal
This is the work of a soul drenched in sorrow. Finding in the unimaginable weight of the darkness the creative ability to embrace multiple forms, styles and sounds of music to produce a work that is harrowing, avant-garde, expansive and above all else capable. Wrest is known for his work with his Leviathan project, rightly getting credit for the darkness he creates under that pseudonym for it's bleak ambience and death-hazy resonance. Lurker of Chalice was arguably the father of Scar Sighted and you will certainly pick up the vibes from Leviathan's 2015 release here.
I haven't heard many albums that in the midst of such organically generated fear and menace manage to still soothe and calm the soul at the same time. For all the perilous gloom Wrest creates here he blends perfectly elements of post-everything (I am not kidding) whilst adding doom like atmospherics and songwriting to the album at the same time. He concocts structures made out of pure desolation, emptying the contents of a damaged and fragile soul into a stark and arid desert of human misery.
In just less than an hour you will find yourself afraid, fearful of what lurks in every shadow of your own mind as this record twists and contorts itself around your very own psyche. Yet you will also find solace here. It is a dark dressing for the gaping wounds on all our characters, a soundtrack to all of our nightmares that rationalises and makes tangible their form. It is the nefarious voice in all of us that fears our ability to be anything other than pale shadows on this mortal coil.
Genres: Black Metal
Convinced that I am still happier when I only have a small selection of quality albums to listen through at any given time as opposed to trying to capture every release available by my favourites, I have of late taken to basing much of my listening habits around the physical copies of albums that I have. Proudly sat amongst my vinyl collection is the much discussed fifth album by Norway’s finest, Darkthrone. Panzerfaust is an alienating and challenging affair to some who prefer a more polished approach to their music, yet for those that prefer things as extreme as they can be, it is perhaps a much more enjoyable affair.
I have read some reviews that suggest that Nocturno Culto was blind drunk when he recorded the vocals for this album. Others suggest that the album is the victim of a terrible mixing job. There are even those that seem to view Panzerfaust as the ultimate show of black metal ever committed to tape. Whilst there may be some truth in the first of the above claims (I have no idea obviously), I have more agreement with how the second statement could be deemed to be true and I outright dispute the third statement. This is a great metal album. Outright black metal, it is not.
My reviews of latter day Darkthrone releases have seen me speculate on how Fenriz and Ted’s recent output is a “thousand football fields away from their black metal days”. Whilst Panzerfaust does not quite stretch to a similar distance away from the ‘Unholy Trilogy’ of albums it is a release that explores a broader scope of music influences. With a punk attitude and at times a doom-laden limb or two disrupting proceedings, this is an album that perhaps first showcased the duo’s ability to look outside of the cvlt box they had a huge hand in creating in the first place. Soulside Journey had shown them to me more than capable musicians, but Panzerfaust was a different shaped ball than we were used to seeing them play with.
Inebriated or not, the vocals Ted lays down here are obtrusive to say the least. They have been described as “sabotaging” the riffs and drums by some and I do agree they are too far forwards in the mix at the expense of other instruments. However, in terms of getting their message across, they are an absolute success. Yet, despite their prominence in the mix, I take more away from the riffs on this album than I do anything else. The clumsy yet still contagiously doomy riff of The Hordes of Nebulah is with me for life, likewise the raging black metal charge of Hans siste vinter is permanently fixed in my memory banks for the remainder of my time on this mortal coil.
The sloppiness levels on Panzerfaust do seem a tad more uncontrolled than on later releases and this does diminish the experience of getting back-to-back quality tracks on either side of the vinyl. It is an album that revels more in the individual success of bits of tracks as opposed to breeding a handful of classics. Despite it clearly having its faults, Panzerfaust shows perhaps the most irreverence than we hear on many of the other albums in the discography combined. It might be more punk orientated irreverence than all out black metal misanthropic hatred but it still works and it is still Darkthrone.
Genres: Black Metal
The flames that engulf the horse and its surroundings on the cover of Miserere Luminis’ second full-length, hold a heightened resonance right now as various parts of the world start to set ablaze as global temperatures continue to rise. If that seems kind of a deep reflection to open the album review with then I can only add the context that Ordalie is very much a deep experience and one that certainly holds a level of hopelessness alongside some equally frequent moments of uplifting and engaging black metal.
Having missed the Canadians and their self-titled release some fourteen years ago I was drawn to Ordalie initially because of that striking artwork. However, once I got to the inner layers of the musical content then things started to get more interesting. The expansive opening track, Noir fauve sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the album. The sadness inherent in the track is veiled in the ethereal beauty of the atmospheric passages that are interspersed amongst the darkness of the more aggressive vocals and riff-driven fury of the more progressive parts. At over thirteen minutes long, it is a bold opening statement and one that stands up well in the main. The regular changes of pace do become a tad overwhelming after a while though and I do think the track would hold up slightly better if there was a little more focus in one direction for a while longer.
As the album progresses, I am increasingly reminded of Gaerea, most certainly in terms of the vocal delivery and in the melodic angst of the music that when in full flow sounds like it is bashing up against the more delicate textures of the music – as if not wanting to break them or ride roughshod over them. As such it creates an odd balance of the rough and the smooth. The guitars ring with an almost warming chime during the latter parts of Le sang des rêves whilst those vocals continue to grate away at the air around them.
This sense of being propelled by the rhythm of the record whilst being caressed by the applied melodies and atmospheres I found to be quite unsettling at first. However, I soon settled into this slightly esoteric pattern with repeated listens and feel like the album becomes more accessible with each listen. Ordalie does not need to dredge the depths of extremity to get its message across and nor does it need to rely on excessive shrouding of atmospherics to simply make its mark. Instead, it creates a clever maelstrom of the required component parts to deliver what is ultimately a clean and concise sounding record overall.
There are times when I want the bass to take more of a centre stage yes, but I cannot ignore that there is a presence imbued from it, nonetheless. The guitar and vocals very much steal the show on Ordalie but they do not shoulder-barge the rest of the instrumentation aside in doing so. There is always a sense of calmness and cohesion, like the bass and drums are more than happy to explore their role with subtlety and restraint to let the other two elements shine. The penultimate track being an instrumental piece acts as a palate cleanser going into the tumultuous album closer, De venin et d'os. Building with keys and sax we are soon back in the darker and more aggressive space that I have by now become accustomed to.
I sense a CD purchase in the offing…
Genres: Black Metal
Following my review of Old Star I soon found myself pressing on into the Darkthrone "latter day" discography. Having found very little wrong with the 2019 release I found my focus switched to the latest new release (at the time of writing) from the legendary Norwegians. I am aware that Eternal Hails is sandwiched in between the two releases I have now written a review for, and I have heard that through a few times also. However, it is yet to make as an immediate impact as Astral Fortress did after just a couple of spins. Once again the paired-back, non-black metal style of metal that embraces doom and heavy metal wins the day.
With the increasing sense that the number of fucks Fenriz and Nocturno Culto have left to give reduces with every passing year, Astral Fortress is a structure built with an almost nonchalant level of attention. The walls are not necessarily flush against one another and the floor is almost certainly not level either, but it is just still so fucking homely to listen to the record that you do not care if the roof has a couple of holes in it where polished production values and a high quality of technical capability got kicked out of the building. The guys are not trying to impress anybody necessarily, yet they organically manage to make an album that presses a sense of nostalgia on the listener without becoming oppressive as a "retro" record.
Those soothing synths on Stalagmite Necklace are trance-inducing, such is their level of dreamy and hazy magic. Who fucking cares if NC's vocals are cumbersome when there's a Mellotron to keep you company along the way? Fenriz's drumming is consistent throughout without ever straying anywhere near the realm of technical or overtly showy. There is a power in simplicity and this has never been better exemplified than the performance of the man on the stool behind the skins. Above all else though, it is the mournful and melancholic wail of the guitars on tracks such as The Sea Beneath the Seas of the Sea (great track title) that steal the dank limelight on Astral Fortress. Indeed, for a perfect example of "no frills" metal, we need look no further than Darkthrone's twentieth full length release.
By now a thousand football fields away from their black metal days, Darkthrone have almost undertaken a complete reinvention of themselves in terms of their sound and style. However, the true success of their modern day output that I have heard to date is that it does still retain that sense of irreverence for their art form that only black metal can ever truly teach. Whilst it may be so far away stylistically from black metal, the cult is very much still alive.
Genres: Black Metal Doom Metal Heavy Metal
The tragedy that encompasses the content of this album is an impossible level of suffering for me to understand, both for Aleah Stanbridge herself and also Juha Raivio. The album makes a strong case for helping me to at least try to fathom the anguish and desolation that the horrible loss of someone you are really close to and the ongoing grief. Indeed, part of the success of Moonflowers is that it does not simply dwell in acoustic ballads draped in gothic shrouds. The album takes time to explore a variety of genres and styles whilst still staying true to it melancholic and melodic gothic/doom tropes, as the band seek various pastures from which to showcase the tumultuous emotion at the centre of the record.
For the most part it works. I am going to go on record as saying that my least favourite aspect to the album are Mikko Kotamäki vocal's. However, the instrumentation is absolutely sublime in all of its shadowy textures and ethereal melodicism. I cannot help but be absolutely enchanted by those guitar leads and those chunky, simplistic and yet so effective riffs. The elements of symphonia are presented so eloquently that it is impossible not to be taken in the dense mournful atmospheres that they create. Tracks like Woven Into Sorrow and All Hallows' Grieve are absolute masterpieces of constantly shifting form and growing elements, some of which I miss after even a few listens through and continue to identify on later listens even now.
I do however get the sense that Mikko is tested beyond his capabilities on more than one occasion. This is not necessarily a challenge of his range (no Halford heroics needed here folks), more that I find his vocals at times lack conviction. This is especially true of the death metal vocals he deploys which border on contrived for me. Were it not for the obvious brilliance going on virtually everywhere else on the album then this could become an issue that would certainly pull down the rating of the record by a couple of stars. Thankfully the combination of the musicianship and the guest appearances (in particular Cammie Gilbert form Oceans of Slumber on All Hallows' Grieve) offer more than sufficient compensation here.
Moonflowers is my first venture into the music of Swallow the Sun and despite my vocal gripes there is more than enough here to snare my interest in the wider discography of the group.
Genres: Doom Metal Gothic Metal
Another one of my MA Radio playlist discoveries, Fvnerals latest album has been on repeatedly in my house for pretty much all of April. I am partial to a bit of dark ambient you see and Fvnerals (like Wolveserpent) have found a suitable balance between immersive cold ambience and densely suffocating doom that just ticks plenty of boxes for me. I have spent much time just letting the album wash over me whilst doing pretty much nothing else. It is an album that serves a dual purpose in the sense that I can have it on as background music or utilise its depth for a more connected and personal experience.
The haunting vocals of Tiffany Ström are perfect alongside the gazey atmospheres and doom soaked passages. Seemingly at home in any scenario that her and fellow band member Syd Scarlet can concoct between them, Tiffany's vocal chords offer a cold and ethereal attraction that although is devoid of positivity or optimism is still utterly addictive. Add in to the mix some feedback seeping guitars and cavernous percussion and Fvnerals soon start to create dense layers of murky and absorbing music. Even when the focus is more on the instrumentation (as with the powerful Rite) it is hard not to engage with the efforts here.
Although impressive enough, I still do not believe there is enough here for top marks as there is still a tendency as you swim through Let the Earth Be Silent to find yourself treading water in the same channels for significant periods of time, with only a sudden wave of unexpected vocal direction to sweep you into new tidal paths. That having been said, this is still a monolithic undertaking that strikes enough of a chord with me to get itself a healthy four star rating.
Genres: Doom Metal Drone Metal
I had previously heard The Hecatomb back when it was released. It was another one of those releases that was getting lots of underground praise back when I bothered to try and keep track of new material. Whilst I had played it a couple of times before I recalled none of it going into this revisit which makes me think I most certainly did not give it the attention it deserved at the time.
Aside from being monolithically cavernous, The Hecatomb is perhaps one of the most desolate and bleakly devastating records I have ever heard. Listen to how those drums are deliberately suppressed in the mix to still allow them to have rumbling and at times thunderous impact and then note how the rest of the instrumentation still does not occupy much of front and centre at all. This album is all about the atmosphere. This is not just a bit of atmosphere either, this is the kind of atmosphere that coats the walls of the room as you listen, clogs your throat if you breath in too much of it and clouds your vision if you stand too close.
The riffs here mine the absolute shit of everything around them, spiralling the listener in their dark serpentine majesty, bristling your skin with their dank scales. Hecatomb means an extensive loss of life, historically seen through a great public sacrifice. The ancient Greeks and Romans would sacrifice 100 cattle to the Gods as a “hecatomb”. Based on these nine tracks, I cannot think of any better soundtrack to such events.
Ritualistic in the most solemn manner possible this is an album that delivers exactly what it sets out to do in the first place. Agonisingly heavy and anguish laden from start to finish, The Hecatomb is an extraordinary record. My only grumble being that the first of the three interludes is completely forgettable in the grander scheme of things and for me adds nothing to the record. On the flipside, aside from being the album highlight, final track Charnel Winds is perhaps one of the best closing tracks I have ever heard. It is one of the most immersive pieces of death doom I can recall hearing, period.
Genres: Death Metal
Inspired by the recent discussions here on the Metal Academy forums around Dismember and Like An Ever Flowing Stream, I realised that I had not taken time to review that record or indeed the highly lauded debut by fellow Swedish death metal legends, Entombed. With both albums coming out within twelve months of each other (Entombed’s being the first) I can remember a lot of noise around both of them to be honest. Back in the old Terrorizer forum days, Left Hand Path was always described as being “5 fists”, the ultimate accolade we regulars would give a record on that forum. It was dished out as the rating without any consideration to it being anything less, there was just no questioning the quality and importance of the Entombed debut as far as us Tez forumites were concerned.
Landing before even Carnage’s Dark Recollections, Entombed’s debut has the humble accolade of being known as the first true Swedish death metal release and one that kickstarted the whole scene. As such, no words I can use some thirty years after its release can detract from the fact that this album was hugely important (still is arguably). That buzzsaw guitar tone was the unique identifier that made the album standout from more or less everything else at the time. However, I would argue that on reflection this is not the album highlight or me. That award goes to the superb vocal performance of the late Lars-Göran Petrov.
Petrov’s throaty vocals are the clear standout for me as they are not overdone (unlike the buzzsaw guitar). They possess a hardcore gruffness with a guttural edge that is not as dramatic as John Tardy or Chris Barnes, yet was still perfectly suitable to the more melodic elements of the debut album. The explosive drums of Nicke Andersson are the second success of Left Hand Path. Not technically superb, but still such a complete performance, nonetheless. Now, the buzzsaw guitar is not lost to me obviously. As much as I stand by my statement that there is too much of it, it is impossible to not be hooked by the catchy riffing on the likes of Supposed to Rot and Bitter Loss. It is just that I find that this sound of riffing is suited much better alongside other elements in the sound so that the riffs really do standout. Whilst not quite background noise, they do fade quickly when you look at the whole album.
Structurally, Left Hand Path suffers from repetition track to track. It gets too much credit for founding a sound/style instead of doing anything all that remarkable with it. There is the odd, spoken word passage or shouted line into a cavernous echo that does little if anything to add any real menace to proceedings. Barring the sonic work of Alex Hellid, there is little technically all that impressive here. Whilst this review may have read a lot differently some twenty or thirty years ago, it is not an album that has aged all that well when placed in front of a metalhead of some thirty-five years at least. Important but not essential.
Genres: Death Metal
A band often talked about in hushed tones, Subrosa occupied a rarefied atmosphere in the world of doom. I have not heard anywhere near enough of them to place them in the same high regard as I have often heard them described, yet it is clear from the few listens that I have been giving to More Constant Than the Gods that these guys had a real knack for writing some obscure yet inherently wonderful music.
My first parallel with Subrosa must be Messa just on the levels of sheer majesty of sound alone. Their ability to combine, but not necessarily blend or at times mix elements of drone with pangs of psychedelia and stoner doom is key to the success of Subrosa’s penultimate full length release. Not making any extra special effort to let all these elements sit perfectly in unity alongside each other, the structure of songs have a Neurosis-like discomfort to them. Just listen to that ugly blues guitar on Affliction and tell me it does not make you itch, even just a bit.
At the same time, as well as this removal of the listener from their comfort zone, the album offers up some surreal beauty in almost every track. Violins, cellos, flutes, clarinets and pianos combine with the more familiar guitars, drums and bass to offer a spectrum of tactile layers to those wise enough to allow the full experience of More Constant Than the Gods to fully embrace them. Those alternative, disharmonic and at times sluggish vocals were an initial issue for me, but in all honesty I could not see any other style fitting anywhere near as well after multiple listens.
There is more here than just some crushingly heavy riffs and mournful atmospheres. There is some genuine anguish shared here that is heavier than any of the mighty riffs the band can muster. You have many layers to pick away at here dear listener and this is an album that takes time to get to know. The rewards for the time spent are nothing short of amazing though. More Constant Than the Gods will make you work for it’s treasures though. This is one shipwreck that you will need to take more than one dive on to truly appreciate its barren husk.
Genres: Doom Metal
My initial exploration of the early funeral doom albums is coming to an end with Skepticism's debut album from 1995. This near-hour length experience is possibly my favoured to date and I am writing this review have just done a 90 minute walk through the cold and grey countryside near my house and it was the perfect grim accompaniment to my heavy footfalls. With repeated listens over the last few weeks of this album and the other funeral doom releases in this challenge I have come to finally understand the connection I am so easily able to make with this kind of music that appeals to me so much the more I discover of it.
Stormcrowfleet is a weighty offering. It never tries to present itself as being anything else, right from the off its dismal keys and crushing riffs hide none of its monolithic nature. Those slow and deliberate drums alongside those deep, guttural vocals only add to the tortuous pace of the album. I have already on previous funeral doom releases how important repetition is and of course we have that in abundance here again. The fact is that. end to end, Stormcrowfleet is utterly deathly. It creeps at the pace of the ages of time itself, showing now urgency to end its futile progression. In a world where I (like all of us) have my fair share of burdens and weight to carry on my shoulders, albums such as this are a welcome distraction.
The best visualisation of this is a deep silo, chute or vertical tunnel with a huge weight being slowly pushed down it on vast hydraulics. This weight (in this instance Stormcrowfleet) creates pressure that pushes the weight of my woes and worries up and away as a greater mass that needs to occupy the space they constantly reside in. This dispersal of the day to day banality of life is so welcome that I find albums such as this quite cathartic. There is a moment of such a subtle yet emotionally devastating explosion at about two-and-a-half-minutes into By Silent Wings that it genuinely stops me dead in my tracks every time I hear it.
Whilst not perfect, the production job here is better than on the debuts by Winter and Thergothon and this gives this album just enough elevation above those two releases to get it top marks out of the three of them. My best find to date on this journey without a doubt and I am looking forwards to more long walks with this as my soundtrack.
Genres: Doom Metal
In my book, 1990 was a sterling year for releases. Just take a look in the Releases section on the site folks and tell me otherwise amigos! It was one of the key formative years of discovery for me in metal and one that is close to my heart as a result. Now, although not on any "top" release list of mine for the year, I am already aware of the existence of Winter and their classic debut album Into Darkness having read much love for it and venturing into numerous listens over the years. The fact is, not having been that into most of the doom metal world and associated sub-genres, I hadn't really paid it that much attention until having to revisit for The Fallen clan challenge I am undertaking.
Having heard it several times in recent weeks I would describe it as a very functional album. Backhanded compliment though that may be it is most certainly true to my ears at least. I don't recall an album that marries the sum of its parts so well in all honesty. Servants of the Warsmen for example is so simplistic yet effective that it actually makes me smile (not the intention of the record - I know!) with its almost arrogant presentation. At the same time, the album overall is a (deliberately) monotonous affair that uses repetition extensively. This does not get boring at any point since the idea is to create an atmosphere and inhabit that dank space for the entre 46 minutes of the album run time.
My "functional" comment therefore is aimed as nothing but praise, certainly when we add the context of the timing of this record (there wasn't much of anything like this out there at the time). To create such an immersive experience with such a stripped back and down-tuned set of parts is truly interesting to me. It is almost an effortless record to listen to because it does the job it intends to do so well. As if opening up the album with an instrumental track is not bold enough a move, we get another one in the middle of the album which kicks off the whole tortuously slow second half of the record.
I would describe Winter's one and only full-length as "nonchalant" in delivery, designed to baffle by the sheer weight of the basic arrangements alone. But the bafflement is dulled by the slow doping your brain gets track after track as Into Darkness washes over you. One of the most relaxing listening experiences of my Fallen clan journey so far.
Genres: Doom Metal
When it comes to Darkthrone I have a bit of catching up to do. I have all the usual albums in my collection from the heyday of the second wave but I would not class myself as a mega fan or indeed rate the band as much as some of my peers appear to. To be honest, after Panzerfaust I lost interest. Barring a brief revival of my attention with Ravishing Grimness I just simply haven't bothered with any Darkthrone album since. I have sat from afar watching Fenriz go off on his many tangents, releasing albums and EPs in various side projects under a plethora of sub-genres that never seem to get beyond a couple of releases before dying off, never to be heard of again. It was always his standpoint with Darkthrone back in the day that the band would not be doing any experimenting with their sound and so it makes sense that he would need outlets for his various interests in music.
Recently, I have seen various internet acquaintances frequenting the forums I am involved with comment or discussion around more recent Darkthrone output and this past week I was tempted to sample some more current releases from the band. There is likely to be more reviews in the coming days and weeks so I will try not to give too much away in my first album review, but what has struck me after listening to a variety of releases from 2007 onwards is how that old viewpoint of Fenriz around keeping Darkthrone as a simple black metal band is now long gone. Whilst I will not profess to having listened to all of his side projects and experiments to know their exact pigeon hole in the world of metal and beyond, I can say with confidence that the breaking down of the walls I refer to above is much to the benefit of Darkthrone's sound. With the freedom to let their various influences expand across their records I would go as far as to say that they are in fact a better band for it.
Anyway, to focus on Old Star for the last part of this review. It is clear that their 2019 release is riddled with heavy metal. All the great sounds that I heard that got me into this fantastic genre of music over 30 years ago is encapsulated in this 38 minute, 6 track album. I would argue that barring the familiar grim vocals, there is no black metal content on here and that I find Old Star shines (see what I did there?) with more of a nod to doom and heavy metal than it does to black metal. Infectious tracks like The Hardship of the Scots and Alp Man do not need necro posturing. There is enough Manilla Road style riffing in here (a feature that grows on subsequent releases) to banish any reference to pretty much anything that Darkthrone put out in the 90s. Here be bashing drums and open riffs with melodies that chime in your head as they are introduced into tracks. What really is important though is how entertaining it all is. This is no-fucks to give metal made by artists who are thriving in their influences and revelling in the legacy of a whole music genre.
Hitting Sabbath, Bathory, Celtic Frost and countless other reference points, Old Star is a triumph for a band who's prime is still very much here and now.
Genres: Black Metal Heavy Metal
Rising from the ashes of various bands dating back to the late 90s, Belgian tech-death band Pestifer boast a three album discography of pretty much exactly what you would expect from any performers in this sub-genre of death metal. We have twangy bass lines, melodic and crisp leads and grim vocals uttered over racing passages. I will not profess to be a massive fan of technical death metal (unless it is done really well with some avant-garde and progressive elements at least) and so Pestifer do have a slight disadvantage in falling into my hands for Review Draft this month.
Getting the negatives out of the way first. Where are the drums here? There appears to a light (thankfully not clicking) tapping noise in the background but I am getting no real sense of inclusion from Philippe Gustin here (his brother plays bass btw). As a result, Reaching the Void lacks any power overall. The riffs are too sterile to carry any power and in all honesty the only prominent parts of the album are the vocals and bass. I do not think that the drums suffer from any issues with their placement in the mix either. It sounds like they were deliberately recorded to be timid.
Now, although I highlight the riffs as sterile, this is a common sound in tech-death to my ears and actually works as a standalone and memorable section to proceedings. The lead work though is the main success from the guitars. It resonates through the tracks it inhibits leaving a clean, intricate and rich experience as it goes. Although I might not be entirely onboard with all of what Pestifer do, I cannot deny that there is some talent here and this does shine through on a consistent basis. With a bit more strength behind those drums (just a bit of presence really) then I sense that Reaching the Void would present more of an intriguing listen.
Genres: Death Metal
My choice of ECDER for feature release is based on the fact that after many years of trying to find a Brutal Truth release that I could get on with, I had to go all the way back to their beginning to finally locate their master opus. Arguably one of death metal/grindcore's best kept secrets, I found the debut release to be for Brutal Truth what Harmony Corruption was for Napalm Death. Both albums represent the perfect fusion of that grinding chaos and abrasive death metal, done with a thrash metal riff mentality all rolled into one album. It is all here for me. The mining death metal riffs, the blitzed structures of the tracks that last mere seconds, and the all out spazzing tsunami of noise that slams over you time and time again.
Brutal Truth do range themselves very nicely on this album. The variation of tempos and pace are not predictable in any way, shape or form and I often find myself not realising the track has moved into a completely different space until I am a few seconds into the moment. My point is that this feels like a very organic and natural album that did not need to be forcibly pulled out in to the open. The experience of the artists comes though both in instrumental aptitude and the social/life awareness that bleeds through in the songwriting.
It is an album that cries out for music videos shot in post-apocalyptic parking lots with burning husks of cars behind the band who just play on relentlessly. The death metal vocals of Kevin Sharp are reminiscent of Benton in the albums more dark moments yet he possesses the perfect grindcore scowl as well. Sharp is also credited with handling all "power tool" duties on the album also I note. Standout performance has to go to Scott Lewis behind the kit though. He is nothing short of astonishing here and drives a lot of the success of ECDER.
For a debut full-length, ECDER is a real strong statement of intent that never really got realised post-release on future records. Had the band continued on this hybrid approach then they would have eclipsed the likes of Carcass and Terrorizer in all honesty as this album scratches the dual dm and grindcore itches so well for me.
Genres: Death Metal Grindcore
I recall rating this as being my AOTY for 2018 somewhere on the internet, so when it got thrown up as a suggestion on a playlist recently it gave me good excuse to revisit this, the fifth full-length from these Australians. It is my only experience of the band in all honesty, so I have no benchmark from previous releases to gauge how this sits against the rest of their discography. I also have very brief forays into funeral doom as a sub-genre, limiting myself to the odd spin of Bell Witch every now and again, so I am no expert on the finer points of this style of metal.
The first thing to point out is that is probably one of the cleverest uses of such a crushing and oppressive style for what equates to a very artistic and richly positive experience. To me, throughout the whole dank and gloomy experience, there is an ever-present light (albeit muted for the most part) that shines a pallid beam onto proceedings. Along the way it highlights the ethereal creativity of one of the most expressive albums I have ever heard. This positive slant is perhaps not what regulars of the sub-genre would expect but it works well here to emphasis the beauty that lurks in the equally obvious darkness on The Incubus of Karma. This contrast is one of the albums absolute triumphs.
The other major standout for me is the quality of the compositions on display. Mournful Congregation know how to write captivating material and apply a clarity to their sound that again is unexpected in the style. Their long track lengths sound expansive beyond just the mere passing of time itself. They carve out atmospheres and eco-systems of their own as they swell and swallow the space around them. This is the soundtrack to stars collapsing in on themselves in a universe recreating its very being with bursts of light exploding in the ether as interplanetary collisions occur causing dense clouds of dust that threaten to envelope everything. These guys can play and you will have to look hard to find many other bands as capable of delivering such an impassioned and rewarding performance as this five-piece can.
Ironically, I find my one criticism to be the very thing that the genre is renowned for. As much as I enjoy the album immensely, it does go on for too long. An hour and twenty minutes is too much for one sitting and so I must split my listen through into two separate runs. In a way this captures the brilliance of the title track showcase its clever use of melodies ahead of the behemoths that make up the final third of the album. However, a twenty-two minute closer is a tad too much of a stretch for me. As crushing as the albums last track is, I do not have the patience to sit and focus on it for the whole duration; if my ears permitted me the luxury of being able to use headphones this may be a different scenario. However, the tolling of the bell after around nine minutes in reminds me that this album will chime in my head for days after this (split) listen and that is the real success of it.
Genres: Doom Metal
As I continue to explore doom metal and I get to revisit previously tested artists and albums I inevitably come across the good, the bad and the ugly. My patience is tested more than once on The Silent Enigma with its wailing theatrics and at times frankly dull passages. However, I find it hard to state that I do not enjoy the album overall. Even given my challenges with it, I cannot ignore that it is well written and commands an almost royal level of respect. Having heard precisely no Anathema going into this I have nothing to benchmark it against in terms of the discography as a whole and so I get to judge it purely on its own merits, of which their are many.
Vincent's vocals (when not in wailing mode) tread a path of aggressive and emotive expressions that suit the level of aggression behind the riffing and percussion remarkably well. There is never a sense of conflict with any of the component parts on the album, instead things feel measured and balanced and for the main part this delivers an album that sounds a lot more mature than a sophomore release normally would do, let alone one that had seen a significant line up change from the previous album. It is in the attempts at the more sincere moments that I find issue with the vocals. Whilst I understand the need for the drama, I just feel the vocals are a little over the top and get to the point of making me cringe in all honesty.
When they are in full flow, I find I have little to argue with though. Opening track Restless Oblivion is a perfect example of the content that appeals to me and even the instrumental track that closes the album has a real presence despite me not normally enjoying instrumental tracks as a rule. Tracks such as Alone are the ones that lose me, as they stray into the realm of meandering despite their obvious promise and instrumental prowess. I end up wanting to move the song along by the sheer will of my mind which is never a good sign on any record and usually results in me hitting the skip button. At the same time, the soothing density of the guitar tone on Sunset of Age is an unexpected pleasure following the aforementioned sleep-inducing track that precedes it.
So whilst I referenced the three different possible outputs in the opening line of my review, The Silent Enigma only contains the good and the bad and never actually displays any of the ugly. Even the bonus track version that my stream threw up to include the orchestral version of the title track and some unreleased track manages to hold the attention through its extras.
Genres: Doom Metal
Melodic thrash metallers Hexen are one of metal's unsung heroes in my book. Their ability to deliver interesting, accessible, intricate and yet still inherently beastly thrash metal is unrivalled and it is sad that their recorded output is limited to just two full-lengths. Hailing from L.A. the band occupied a space in the world of thrash metal that was shared with the likes of Coroner, Heathen and Vektor. I would argue that the levels of technical wizardry on display in Hexen is not as heavy on the detail as with either Vektor or even Coroner and sharing a similar timeline in terms of forming and releasing demos as Vektor (both formed within a year of each other), Hexen have a unique sound all of their own that draws on the more traditional elements of thrash, allowing for progressive elements to compliment as opposed to rule the trajectory.
The debut release from Hexen is a solid affair, stacked with energy and ability in equal amounts. Unafraid to explore the full extent of their skills the band drop in a couple of instrumental tracks along the way that prove to be no distraction to the rest of the album. With a clear focus on society and politics evident in their lyrics and song titles, Hexen plot an intense yet well-measured path across the thirteen tracks on show. Repka's trademark artwork adorns the album cover and is a perfect summary of what State of Insurgency aims to share with the audience.
Vocally, I found the album initially to be a challenge; most certainly when compared with the more polished instrumental performances of the guitars. Andre Hartoonian has a narrative style to his vocals that avoids singing being used for the main. It is not a rap style by any means, but there is similarity in methodology at times in how the vocals drop and stumble over the music as opposed to feel immediately a part of proceedings. Initially the guitars provided suitable distraction to encourage me to press ahead with the record which was a good decision as I now recognise how well the vocals work in that almost juxtaposed position in the band's sound. Ronny Dorian and James Lopez are superb on guitars, their melodic leads and technical prowess easily fit into the record as opposed to flooding it and overwhelming the whole piece. Album highlight Knee Deep in the Dead shows perfectly the riffing capacity of the band; backed by a thunderous percussion section with Warbringer's Carlos Cruz delivering a capable performance as Hartoonian's bass rumbles along under the wav of the higher sounds in the mix brilliantly.
Another band that I have discovered as I expand my range of knowledge in The PIt, Hexen have been one of my best finds to date and one I would recommend any thrash metal fan checks out.
Genres: Thrash Metal
My taste for rabid thrash metal is well documented here. Be it death thrash or blackened thrash, I lurve me some nasty shit in my lug-holes. Put my name down for some Sadus, Devastation, Morbid Saint or Demolition Hammer any day. That is not to say that it can get away with being flat out shite just played like the first Sodom demo though and I do require some structure still to the frenzied attack (see my thoughts on Sadus' Illusions for proof of my desire for standards). Regardless of however many bands I list here, I always overlook Num Skull. Maybe it is because they only released two full-lengths and the debut is light years away from their more death metal orientated offering in 1996. Or maybe it is because I do not feast on this style of thrash for very long before I get burned out so never quite get passed Epidemic of Violence, Spectrum of Death and Unstoppable Power before I run out of steam and go back to something a little less imposing.
Whatever the reason for me overlooking it, the debut from Num Skull is without question the bands finest hour. Clocking in at around forty minutes, the album contains some of the most evil and nefarious thrash riffs ever created without sacrificing on catchiness (Off With Your Head anyone). Produced so the whole instrument set is clear on their individual contribution you can hear the chop of the riffs, the rumble of the bass, the fury of the drums and the demented scowls of the vocals as they all form a gloriously dark and majestically nefarious experience. As the album title suggests, Ritually Abused is a nasty piece of work. Eleven tracks of late-eighties thrash metal that references similarities with all of the aforementioned bands plus Kreator, Possessed and Dark Angel to boot.
It is not perfect end-to end and does suffer from a little bit of repetition (inevitably I would argue) but it maintains intensity well and occasionally does incorporate some speed metal style shrieks into the vocals of the superb Skip McGullam (still active in US death thrashers Luna In Sanguinem if anyone cares) who for the main part has a style that could easily be early Schuldiner by way of comparison. Lead work tends to be swarming and chaotic in the sonics that they blaze into tracks and the drums often sound like war horses charging into battle. The bass remains urgent throughout proceedings, charting not exactly its own path but certainly making its presence known. If like me you continue to overlook this record then you are missing a treat and I really need to move it the front of my rabid thrash metal nights.
Genres: Thrash Metal
The Obsessed seem to get spoken about in hushed tones (at least in my experience) as being this cult band in the world of doom that are often overlooked and/or underrated. My limited listens to them over the years have not caused me to leap out of my chair with amazement and having discovered something amazing - not that I leap out of my chair much for anything nowadays. As I continue my curiosity with doom metal as a whole I found myself looking at this release from 1994, their final one before their break up in 1995 according to what I have read although they have released an album in 2017 also as far as I can see.
The Church Within starts strong with album opener To protect and to Serve stomping early authority on proceedings with an unexpectedly upbeat tempo and dare I say hooky riff to bolster the memorability. From there on in however I find the album to be very inconsistent. The tracks are for the main part a bit staid and bordering on boring (thirteen tracks is an ambitious number to put out here) and the album relies heavily on flashes of brilliance - usually from the guitars - to do the bulk of the heavy lifting. Neatz Brigade just meanders for nearly seven minutes without ever getting going proper and somehow Wino's mournful vocals and his gloomy riffs do not always complement one another. I guess am expecting more of the doom and gloom but A World Apart places for the main at a frenetic pace for just a minute and thirty two seconds and goes absolutely nowhere at all. It reeks of classic filler.
Listening through I get tones of Soundgarden and I do not mean just once or twice, I mean with a large degree of regularity. Not a criticism as such (this is a nineties record after all) but an unexpected comparator for me. It might be that the doom metal here is more stoner influenced and something is off in the recipe that throws in the grunge curveball; some may say it is an inexperienced doom listener hearing things that are not there indeed. Overall, my experience of the album is disappointing. Clunky song structures and fluctuating influence and pace make for a very inconsistent experience that although does not come off as disconnected as such it just feels wide of the mark in terms of the expected landing ground I was waiting in.
Genres: Doom Metal
The social, cultural and political commentary of D.R.I. tends to operate on two levels for me on their final full-length. The sarcasm still drips from every punk-edged pore of their sound as Kurt Brecht inflicts his gruff vocals on the listener, but at the same time the obvious and genuine anger is reflected in their frenetic pacing and punchy rhythms. I think it safe to say that we all knew what to expect from the band by this stage and Full Speed Ahead does not disappoint in that regard; it is D.R.I. through and through. It relies only on the sum of all parts to get its message across without needing to express any extreme outburst in just riffs or vocals alone. That bouncy, crossover tracks its jolly way through the majority of the album, scoring the derisory commentary with an almost engine like tenacity.
Crossover thrash is basically hard to get wrong of course. As a sub-genre it is very niche of course, relying on that crude accessibility to garner appeal. That is not to say that Full Speed Ahead is one dimensional. Tracks like They Don't Care use variety of pace nicely, opening with a doom-paced riff before becoming a more choppy affair. As such it is easy to pick high points on the album as opposed to the album just literally going full speed ahead and passing the listener by in some frenzied fashion. Not all bands who have something to say are able to articulate this beyond predictable intense riffing and furious tempos. D.R.I 's experience shows on their sixth full-length. They are able to use their full repertoire of hardcore punk, and crossover thrash metal to great effect and I think their appeal to both more mainstream as well underground audiences is clear.
I know they have suffered criticism from other hardcore punk bands for their success but this album shows the inevitability of their appeal. I cannot help but feel dialled into this record with each listen, that balance of dark comedy and scathing social angst is mixed really well on here and if you listen repeatedly I find the album sounds angrier with each spin. No crossover album is liable to get full marks from me but I can safely give four stars to this.
Genres: Thrash Metal
The Belgian death/thrashers have returned triumphant in 2022 with their first full-length release. Coming back from the success of their Voices EP from 2020 was always going to be a challenge for the four-piece from Antwerp. The immediacy that was present on that five track release some two years ago does actually still remain somehow over the longer format. At the same time the band continue to show glimpses of expansion to their sound which is certainly leaning more towards the death metal part of the equation of their sound.
It is clear that with a rapid sense of maturity the band are now deploying almost progressive elements to their death metal lead work at least. The sprawling Sea of Sorrow showcases this really well and is a real standout moment just some three tracks into the album. Unafraid to stick with their more thrashy roots, tracks such as Monolith show that the guys are able to let rip in a more basic structure following their more established format. Recollections of the Insane probably qualifies better as memorable death metal that does not rely on overtly melodic delivery to stick to the old memory bank. The anthemic Inside the Walls of Madness is a fine example of anthemic metal that sacrifices nothing in the way of extremity yet leaves an accessible aftertaste in the mouth.
Schizophrenia - although rooted in the same death/thrash realm that Sepultura once inhabited - offer a different level of intensity to the Brazilians who's second full-length no doubt inspired the band name. I would describe the Belgian's sound as less heavy but a lot more racing and although I keep saying that they are more death metal than thrash there is always something inherently thrash about the attitude of almost every song they deliver here. Without necessarily straying into Sadus territory, Schizophrenia maintain that scathing attack to their sound and impose a tempo that befits a 90's heyday death metal band that started out as a thrash band before stretching their legs into the death metal world.
My only criticism is that whilst they are mostly definitely there, these moments of variety are so subtle that you really need to sit down to focus and catch them, which is not something I often do with death/thrash record in all honesty. No getting away from the fact that Schizophrenia are getting stronger with each release though.
Genres: Death Metal Thrash Metal
The criminally underrated Wiegedood are straight out of the blocks in 2022 with their fourth full-length. With the band name literally meaning “death in cradle” it is a safe bet that there are zero strains of happiness on any Wiegedood release. Having completed their trilogy of albums the band have now ramped up the darkness on album number four and this is most certainly the ugliest black metal release I have heard this year.
However, there is a lot more to this album than just blasting black metal that is delivered with an almost inhuman fury. The band have upped their game in the experimental stakes without sacrificing any of their traditional sound. Unafraid to drop in synths and distressing sound samples to create real atmosphere and menace, Wiegedood deliver an experience that transcends just being auditory in nature. I have a real sense of connection with what is going on during TABATEOTR not just because I like the blazing intensity of the tempo but because the band know how to dial things down when needed by giving my brain something else to focus on. The harrowing spoken word sample in And in Old Salamano’s Room, The Dog Whimpered Softly is one such example of this, but even just by applying the subtlest amounts of melody to proceedings, Wiegedood snap my attention into nothing but this record when it is playing.
The hint of jazz on Now Will Always Be is unexpected but brilliantly placed at the opening of the middle track on the album. The track overall retains this jazz like structure (there is no trumpet guys – fear not) as it undulates the riffing against that harsh and abrasive backdrop of blistering pace, with the looming vocals imposing their own sense of dread on proceedings superbly. This shamanic masterpiece is the high point of the album, weighing in at over eight minutes (and I could honestly listen to it all day). The sublime misery of the instrumental track that follows this, Wade, with its horrific string picking that sound like they are playing the hair of the dead just completes this whole middle section of the album. As the crushing chaos of Nuages lands (reminiscent of Altarage it should be noted) I am sold on the record already, I am online buying the vinyl.
My mental health gets quite complex as I get older and as such a lot of music does not register like it used to. I am in a “plunge” right now with no idea why or how long for so the density, brevity, and calculated chaos of Wiegedood’s latest release simply just speaks to me right now. Emotionally tumultuous and focusing on the inner self, TABATEOTR is a triumph for a band who continue to grow with each release.
The half mark off is simply because closing track Carousel seems to be based on the same structure as Now Will Always Be and it is just not as successful by way of comparison and is probably a track too far. My closing statement here is that I listened to this record today (about the fourth or fifth run through) at 11am as I came home from errands and I have no need to listen to anything else for the rest of the day. This is an utterly satiating and substantial release that has proven essential to my listening needs.
Genres: Black Metal
After hearing War & Pain many years ago (although not in the 80's) I gave up on Voivod. My thrash metal taste was too basic to appreciate what Voivod were doing. To me it served no purpose other then to be a dilution of thrash metal and so had no place in my CD/vinyl/tape collection that housed the likes of Slayer, Exodus, Anthrax, Kreator, Sodom and Sepultura. Maturity (or growing old in laymen's terms) has some advantages; my tolerance of the avant-garde / progressive elements in music within sub-genres that I long ago established my comfort zone in has improved with age. Whilst I won't pretend to be completely onboard with Voivod off the back of Killing Technology, it most certainly has been more palatable than my first excursion with the band was.
It is certainly worth pointing out the punk influence on the band's 1987 offering. Hell, at times they remind me of the Dropkick Murphys with that throaty rasp on Tornado in particular. The clever part to Killing Technology is that it is so well balanced between that rather loose vocal style and the more complicated rhythms and timings of the songs. I would not say that album number three from the Canadians is thrash metal yet at the same time it is most certainly not progressive either. It feels like it has the potential to land in both camps but is almost immodest with both genres, often turning their backs completely on them and simply jamming out punky yet inoffensive tunes.
Whilst the energy levels certainly match the intensity of thrash and the timings also reflect more Infinite clan leanings, things never settle on any direction as such. This does not make for a confused or chaotic sounding album by any means. The band are consistently irreverent when it comes to being boxed into any particular brand, sub-genre or style and I have to respect them for that alone if nothing else. Killing Technology sounds like the album Voivod wanted to make, for themselves if for nobody else. They might think like a progressive thrash band but they play like a crossover band. Nine tracks of fun are exactly what you get here and that is because I genuinely believe that Voivod had fun making this record.
Highlights for me are the title track, Tornado, Overreaction and Ravenous Medicine but there is not a whole lot not to like here. Clearly technically adept the band display this without being showy; dropping in leads casually almost as if unaware of their brilliance. Vocally, I do not feel connected with Snake's style for the full 48 minutes or so but they most certainly are an integral part of the success of the album at the same time. Let nothing detract from just how painless a listen this album is though, if an old thrasher like me can get this some 34 years after it dropped then there's real testimony to the relevance of this record over three decades in.
Genres: Progressive Metal Thrash Metal
Taking the discography in chronological order I lose interest in Exodus somewhere around Impact is Imminent. With the first three albums from the band being all I really needed in my collection I simply stopped bothering after the flawed yet still very entertaining Fabulous Disaster. Knowing Souza's ability to get up and leave the band at the click of his fingers and Holt's excellent sideline in Slayer over the years, it did make me wonder why they even bothered anymore. 2014's Blood In Blood Out received favorable comments on the internet but it still didn't ignite any fire in me to seek it out and give it a listen. In all honesty it was Tom Hunting's unfortunate cancer diagnosis that got me looking at the band's activity again and so a listen to Persona Non Grata inevitably followed.
Worth saying that why I do not dislike it as such, opening and title-track Persona Non Grata is not that strong an opener for me. It is saved however from what soon becomes obvious as being the albums real strength - its sonics. With all tracks being written by Holt (with the exception of track 3 that is written by the other guitarist, Lee Altus), it is understandable as to why the album is so riff and sonics driven. Holt's years of experience show on Persona Non Grata and this is probably one of the most entertaining thrash metal albums I have heard all year. The relationship between the two guitarists sounds tight throughout this album and the variety in pacing and indeed styles makes the album an all the more enticing prospect. Inevitably, Souza is the other standout performance on here. His voice sounds better than I remember it being back in the day in all honesty and his vocal chords shred as well as either of the aforementioned six-stringers.
This is not to say that Hunting's drums and Gibson's bass performances are lost or sub-par by way of comparison. The assured twanging rumble of Gibson's bass tracks across the whole album, subtle yet assertive as it goes and Hunting shows no signs of struggles from his illness as he turns in a solid performance on the skins. The weaknesses on Persona Non Grata are two-fold really. Firstly, it is too long. There's no way this album needs to be an hour long. It is good enough for eight tracks instead of twelve, with Cosa Del Pantano, Elitist and Antiseed all being great places to start cutting at. Secondly, Persona Non Grata is massively inconsistent. It is hard to believe the same guy who wrote The Years of Death and Dying also was responsible for the unnecessarily dramatic album closer also. Showing a penchant for dropping in a couple of mid-paced tracks like Prescribing Horror and the aforementioned The Years of Death and Dying (which drips groove metal also by the way) makes tracks like the title-track seem baffling in comparison. However, this is still a great Exodus album that should give some of the younger bands in the scene some real food for thought. There is a depth to the song writing and indeed some aspects of range in Souza's vocals to boot and although not flawless by any means Persona Non Grata is a solid album that reminds us that there is very much life in the old dog yet.
Genres: Thrash Metal
Two years on from their Rise of Death demo, Sweden's Eternal Evil find themselves releasing their debut full-length via Redefining Darkness Records. The teenagers that make up the band play a brand of black/thrash that is far from new (not to these ears at least), with blazing intensity and no-nonsense tunes being the main menu on offer here. To a large extent, their youthful vigor carries TWABtUS in terms of making it a real bludgeoning experience but one that you sort of completely expected and so can excuse just as easily as you can enjoy.
If the album title alone wasn't proof enough for you of the direction of the band then a quick scan of the track listing will confirm the B-movie histrionics let loose here. Bestial Fornication, Minotaur of Evil, Satanic Forces and Witch's Spell all point you firmly in the direction of 80's horror flicks, coupled with their slasher flick font for their logo this all makes for a very (darkly) humorous outing. Let us not ignore also that laughable artwork of course. It is easy therefore to think of this as being a poorly put together list of songs by some young boys just cocking around in one of their garages. To some degree this is true. There is little in the way of variation on this album (notwithstanding the fact that it is a blackened thrash album so what the fuck do we expect) and if not paid close enough attention to you can easily dismiss TWABtUS as holding little in the way of interest.
Fact is though there is some good (not great) stuff on here. A few tracks start off really promising on the riff front, blending elements of speed metal into what will soon become the rhythmic charge of thrash metal riffs for the main part. Check out Terror of the Sphinx for evidence of this, starting off not only brilliantly but having a great section in the middle also with dueling guitars to boot. By far the strongest track on the album, this five minutes of fury does still have the predictability that plagues much of the album but it is an absolute blast. The run of speed built up on the tracks from Minotaur of Evil through The Nocturnal Omen (check out the sonics on the latter) and into Satanic Forces is where the rough edges show in all their nefarious glory and this is where the album has you by the balls.
The shorter tracks are were the album suffers a bit in all honesty yet the furious intensity that they generate on these is impossible to ignore and the shorter tracks feel more like the band stretching their legs and honing their abilities with pace and tempo; saving the (slightly) more technical stuff for the five minute plus tracks. The point I am making here is that if this what a handful of 17 -19 year old lads can do on their debut release than the potential here is obvious. Yes, they need to mix it up a bit and most certainly bring the drums forward in the mix for their sophomore if they get to one. Lyrically things sound as naïve as the track titles suggest they are going to be but that can only improve with age and to be honest if they continue to develop their song writing and playing skills then I could cope with the lyrical content very easily.
It is easy to knock these guys (I have seen reviews of this album already that do so) but for a first outing I thing this is a solid foundation stone for the band to build from. I admire the effort and the sheer audacity to release such an ugly yet promising record so early on in your career. Long may it continue.
Genres: Thrash Metal
Germany’s Division Speed play a brand of frantic speed/thrash metal that although lacking in blackened traits, still manages to promote such an ethos and mentality with their rampant energy and unceasing intensity. Barely pausing for breath on this their only full-length, this is speed metal done how speed metal should be done. The frenetic riffing really shines through on the band’s debut effort with the use of gang vocals bringing a real thrash sound to the album also.
Embracing the tongue-in-cheek nature of their sound the band all name themselves with various aliases. Tailgunner, Hunter, Venomessiah and Aggressive Perfector all listed as band members. Even the guest (gang) vocals include credits for the ludicrously named Beast and Henry Metal. Main vocalist Hunter deploys a gruff and breathy vocal style that echoes around the album as they remain the focal point of much of the album.
In terms of variety overall though, as I mentioned earlier these guys tend to have this full-on approach to their song writing and barring a couple instrumental tracks you are pretty much in for more and more of the same for fourteen tracks. Let’s not forget that this is a speed/thrash metal record though and if we wanted complexity, variety, and a plethora of influences we’d probably be writing a review in The Infinite clan after all. There are still some monstrous builds on here though (Black Wolves) that do real justice to the bands maturity and ability to make vibrant and utterly scathing speed/thrash metal.
Tracks like Blazing Heat showcase the ability of the band perfectly, using sonic leads atop the relentless pacing to great effect. This track is tiring to listen to in so many regards but again those gang vocals break up the intensity somewhat making the unforgiving tempo much more palatable.
Not sure if there are plans for a sophomore release but based on this I would welcome more stuff from these guys with open arms.
Genres: Speed Metal Thrash Metal
Not being the world’s biggest fan of Christmas (or of Majestica) seeing this album come up for review this month in the Guardians clan made me shudder somewhat. These facts withstanding it is impossible to deny the unwavering commitment to their artform that Majestica display on this album. The fact that I can acknowledge this after just the first three tracks of this album bodes better than originally thought for the Swedes.
Before getting into the detail of the album proper, let me just apply some context to my opening statement about not being Christmas’ biggest fan. I do not hate Christmas as an annual event, more the fact that it is so vividly commercialised and capitalised that it feels a far cry from the true meaning of it. The side of Christmas that Majestica deliver here is the bit I don’t mind so much. The pomp and circumstance of the band’s brand of symphonic power metal is perfect for such a themed album.
The artists involved are capable musicians. With Sabaton guitarist Tommy Johansson handling the majority of the songwriting and Alex Oriz, Joell Kollberg, Chris David and Tommy all sharing vocal duties across the album, it is obvious that real thought went into this album. Yes, it is cheesy as fuck! Yes, it has a shit-ton of polish applied to it (it’s a symphonic power metal album after all) and it is so far away from my usual comfort zone that I need a compass, passport, and a few booster jabs to get back “home” safely but the point is, I DON’T FUCKING CARE! This album is like a giant yuletide hug and even if you don’t want hugging then you have no choice in the matter because it’s shiny, glitzy arms are massive and will grab you no matter how quick you try to run.
Be slightly annoyed by the way that they weave the tune of a hundred Christmas carols into the music as it ploughs through grandiose power metal structures. Feel a little uncomfortable at how infectious those over-the-top the vocals are all, hide your incessant foot-tapping under your desk and fight the urge hang some lights but you know you are loving this.
I rarely enjoy power metal nowadays, but this is how it should be done. Mercilessly contagious and fantastically theatrical, A Christmas Carol is a blueprint for a hundred wannabe power metal to study and understand that you either go hard or go home.
Genres: Power Metal Symphonic Metal
Exumer’s sophomore album is a complete unknown to me, indeed the band has a very limited footprint in my world. Having heard their debut album a coupe of times and being sufficiently unmoved to progress further into their discography I would have very easily missed out on a bit of a gem had this not been put up for feature this month on MA.
The first thing I note however is a criticism. The drums start off strong in the mix as opening track Winds of Death begins but soon disappear behind a wall of heaving vocals and rabid riffing and although they are most certainly there throughout the album, they are never clear enough to be fully appreciated.
Percussion challenges aside, Rising From The Sea is a blinding thrash metal record. It is utterly relentless in its delivery and cunningly melodic at the same time. The melodic riffs that alter the pace of the title track so well are just one example of these nuances that make this more than just a balls to the wall thrash metal record. The title track reminds me of the kind of structuring that Megadeth deployed years later on Hangar 18, with the swirling sonics being more reminiscent of Slayer, however.
There is a ton of references to other Teutonic bands of course, with Kreator, Destruction and Sodom all popping in as influences although Kreator started out around the same time as Exumer so more the likely the influence is a shared sound. Vocalist Paul Arakari has that perfect thrash metal style with his gruff vocals a perfect complement to the instrumentation. Although not exactly stellar performances (they are a bit too wild sometimes) Bernie and Ray Mensh make a huge impression with their rhythm and lead work, even if they could have done with reining it in a bit on occasion.
I think the direction f the production was correct on this as the sound does capture that raw, underground intensity that us extreme metal fans crave so much. That having been said, the album sounds like it was recorded in a studio as opposed to a basement or rehearsal space. Whilst never coming off as overly professional, the band retain that energy that they display with wanton abandon at times, centring them as underground in their sound.
For album number two this was one hell of a thrash metal record, notwithstanding that some of the rawness was genuinely down to the ability (or lack of) of some of the musicians involved. However, I take nothing away from Exumer on this record because its rough edges are all part of the charm it exudes and they are more than forgivable.
Genres: Thrash Metal
As we get into October, I have already mentioned that I am in an unusual “mop up” phase of picking up on some key releases I have either missed or am yet to get around to listening to. One of the glaring holes in my year thus far is the latest release from Austin Lunn under his Panopticon banner. It is worth mentioning that I am still several albums light from Austin’s back catalogue and so I don’t have the luxury of being able to judge his latest offering in comparison to other more recent ones. There are most definitely some differences and enhancements to the sound on …And Again Into the Light, the majority of these being positives. As Sonny alludes to, if you have found a lusher and richer sounding album this year then you have done very well indeed.
Panopticon has managed on this latest offering to pose an incredible balance of the melodic and accessible sounds we know is within his repertoire already with some of the heaviest and alienating black, death and doom metal at the same time. It plays as a single entity still though, despite all these nuances that I mention it is not an album of two halves or individual thirds even. The tapestry that gets displayed over the eight tracks is vast but incredibly visual as well; unafraid to show his wares to all and sundry, Austin Lunn really does expel every drop of his creative and artistic ability on his tenth full-length.
I will drop in an early criticism which may iron itself out with yet further repeated listens, but the vocal mix here is not right on a few tracks where the harsher and scathing black metal attack is raging. I am used to vocals sitting behind other instruments in extreme music, but these fall into the category of being buried by everything else at times. Not that I am here listening to the album looking to follow the lyrics word for word, but there are times when I must check if they are the vocals are their or not. Their haughty breathiness is a great fit for the aesthetic, but the delivery is ever so slightly off for me.
Now we have the one negative out of the way let’s get back to the brilliance of …And Again Into the Light. There is no doubt that this album remains an absolute triumph both as a standalone release in 2021 and as an addition to an already great discography. The balls required to open any album with an acoustic number are owned by someone with real confidence in their own ability and that there will be a connection with the audience instantly. The album itself does not drop one heavy note until around a third of the way through the second track and goes from a four-and-a-half-minute opener into a near eleven-and-a-half-minute epic before we have even gotten to unlocking the remaining six tracks to come.
The heightened since of frenzy and tension that A Snowless Winter builds into in the centre of the track-listing gives the album a real spur at the midway point as it then dives into the cavernous death metal style of Moth Eaten Soul which is perhaps the heaviest thing I have heard Lunn perform to date. Yet even during the albums heaviest and inaccessible tracks there remains a real sense of melody and rhythmic structure to hold the attention superbly. There are parts to the aforementioned Moth Eaten Soul that make me feel it might be the best death metal track of 2021.
Although not as abundant as in other releases, elements of folk and bluegrass do still flourish on the album. This time around the emotion that drives the song writing has seen a much more aggressive sound with a doom-like density applied to the whole album but the snippets of the more roots-laden music act as palate cleansers (or appetiser in the case of the opening track). I think the direction of Panopticon in 2021 is just superb though and if Lunn can continue to write such challenging and frankly raging extreme metal then long may it continue. Equally, the exuberance of tracks like The Embers at Dawn are so absorbing in their ethereal beauty that some of the most soothing music of 2021 for me also exists within these eight tracks. Again, the build on this track in particular before it becomes a blasting bm piece is excellent and heightens the sense of tracks always developing and flourishing.
Despite closing with two twelve minutes plus tracks, I sit right to the end of the album. I find I am just as eager to get to the next track as I am to uncover the detail of the current one playing at the time and there are very few albums nowadays that can hold that excitement for me. This has shook up my end of year list quite substantially.
Genres: Black Metal
Enforced must be the most unconsciously listened to band in my house for the past 6-12 months. As I approached Kill Grid, I recalled the many playlists I had heard around the internet with these guys on there, thrashing and bashing their way into oblivion like we are already in the throes of Armageddon.
Anyone who reads what I review or talk about in the world of thrash nowadays will listen to Kill Grid and instantly understand why this is right up my alley. Super-aggressive thrash metal done with an almost death metal attitude (without straying over into the territory sound wise) and a real talent for dropping those Power Trip-like chops in there to bring a real feast of crossover riffs in from out of nowhere.
This is just the same vibe and energy that captured my attention back in the day with the likes of Exodus, Slayer and Metallica. Crossover influences aside, Enforced have just as much fun in the relentless delivery of their thrash metal. It is like listening to classic era Slayer repeatedly at some points and is an album that leaves me with a fucking huge, smug grin on my face as I listen.
Relying less on blackened influences unlike some of their contemporaries, Enforced seem to have captured the real essence of thrash metal over the nine tracks on offer here. Wagstaff and Monahan are a pair of beasts on guitar and more than prove their thrash credentials with their chopping riffs and sonic wizardry. Knox Colby has a gruff vocal style that does not rely at any point on high-end screeching. The vocals are reminiscent of Max-era Sepultura and in fact the whole band can generate that level of power that I would associate with that era of one of thrash’s most influential acts. Bishop’s drumming is solid, and the motoring bass of Ethan Gensurowsky is audible throughout making most tracks feel tight and complete.
This is a thrash album I want to revisit as soon as it has finished because it heightens my mood superbly. There are bits of old-school thrash worship in here that can become exhausting perhaps for some, but I do not mind them at all. As a result of them I have so many reminders of albums and tracks by some of my favourite artists it is hard not to be impressed by the authenticity of Enforced.
*I will note for anyone planning to check out this album that something goes wrong around a minute and thirty seconds into the first track where the whole track just becomes muffled. This is the digital version I am listening to, so quality is by no means assured but this really throws me off course for a good few seconds before the sound somehow corrects itself.
Genres: Thrash Metal
Despite a poor start, Es grauet is an interesting and varied record, certainly within the boundaries of black metal. The less-than-ideal opening to the album just seems to be a poorly framed intro that is perhaps essential to the concept but does appear to set off on a rampant and melodic tone that then seems to be reset ahead of the first track (proper) only to soon start all over again.
In what I can only describe as a mix of folk-influenced black metal coupled with some traditional metal elements not unlike Malokarpatan (for example), Es grauet is the third full-length album from the Swiss duo. Deploying a range of conventional metal instruments alongside accordions, yodelling and a cello sounds like a recipe for disaster I grant you, however the dramatic yet never over the top vocal performance actually increases the entertainment value and underlines the conceptual value of the album perfectly. These “zany” elements all combine to deliver a lush sense of theatre without the album slipping into amateur-dramatics territory.
The overtly warm production values accentuate the story telling elements superbly and the instrumentation is dynamic when it comes to adding to the emotion, drama or atmosphere of key parts of the record. Granted, you are talking a good few listens before all of this truly clicks – certainly I am at listen number 7 or 8 as I write this review and Es grauet is anything but immediate. However, what it lacks in initial accessibility it more than makes up for in terms of the reward for the effort of spending quality time with it. There is no denying that even in the acoustic moments the energy level is a high still as the levels of enchantment in such passages.
As with all concept albums (or at least my experience of most) things do feel a little bit clunky in terms of the overall composition and given that I have no idea what the story is the sense of being a bit lost does occur more than once. That being said I can more than forgive this when I look at the quality of the album overall and I will admit to now needing to place this higher in my AOTY list for black metal than I first expected it to be located. It is as eccentric as the album artwork suggests it will be, yet it is also equally as colourful as Robbie C. Ward's painting hints it as being.
Genres: Black Metal
The ability to transcend traditional black metal borders into doom metal (or transcend traditional doom metal borders into black metal as it may just as well be) is still fascinating a concept for me. Since discovering Yith this past year and becoming instantly enchanted with his genre-crossing exploits I have frequently thought how odd it is that I had never even considered blackened doom to be a thing given how well the two genres seem to fit together. Part of the allure here is the ability for melancholy and sorrow to take many auditory forms. The dirge of doom metal makes for a protracted expression of such emotions whereas black metal's wailing tremolos can just as easily turn these feelings into a more confused and angry sounding response.
I think what Yith does best is balance the two styles perfectly so that regardless of the track you are listening to the consistent theme of the album is obvious without becoming overbearing. The repetitive elements of both genres also play to the strength of this emotional recoil also only here you get double your money as the choice is available to sample that repetition under varied pacing and tempos. Passage is a crushing experience without ever being overly reliant on the weight of the doom aspects of the instrumentation alone. It feels like an album with a depth of intensity that outweighs the sum weight of its more monolithic tendencies. With a fair old smattering of atmospheric black metal it is not long before I find myself with a choice of fathomless pits to hurl myself down to experience a particularly acute sense of darkness.
As a largely non-fan of doom beyond death-doom and the occasional sludge record this mixture bodes well in terms of me thinking that I have found an artist with a solid understanding of black metal as it is still this part of the equation that I find strongest; almost like the doom is asked to fit around the blackened core as opposed to the other way around. Comparisons with Mizmor are inevitable (Liam Neighbors was my vehicle to getting here folks) but I think by way of that comparison, Passage feels a lot more toned down on both key elements than Cairn was. If I had to make any criticism then it would be that it is a tad samey across the album but as I keep reminding you, there's a heavy doom influence here so at the end of the day, what do I fucking expect?
Genres: Black Metal Doom Metal
Falling into the bracket of melodic black metal occupied by the likes of Mgla, the sound of Spectral Lore has more depth than their Polish counterparts. The Canadians deploy a Behexen-like fury to their pace and tempos which makes for a strangely accessible yet equally frantic experience. Whilst I do not disagree that large parts of the record sound like they are the same ideas regurgitated and repeated, at the same time I do think that when you do maintain that same level of polish and quality to proceedings then some repetition is more than acceptable.
Setting their stall out early on, Spectral Wound slash open the melody wound from the off with the domineering Imperial Saison Noire which is as solid an album opener as you could wish for. It marks the arrival of the album perfectly, sets the pace nicely and whets the appetite immediately for more. This is black metal played with such a high level of fervid and dogged determination that I cannot help but be captivated from the off. To a large extent, I don't care if the album fails to vary all that much; when the output is this good why fix what ain't broken?
The sense of urgency and desperation in the song writing and pacing is positively tactile. Wave after wave of melodic and powerful riffs crash into the listener and still maintain those cold and harsh edges to them at the same time. Tracks such as Mausoleal Drift sound every bit as dank and doom-laden as the title suggests but it all comes to you so effortlessly as you listen, there's no need for any searching or lifting layers here to get to the detail, it is all laid bare for you in all its naked glory.
Genres: Black Metal
As mentioned elsewhere on here, Saxon hold a particular place of nostalgia in my heart for being the first band I ever played (but didn't own at the time) on vinyl. I am almost duty-bound to check out most of what they put out even though it usually means some level of disappointment on some of their modern output. However, like pretty much everyone else who has reviewed this so far I was caught off-guard by how good Thunderbolt is. It sounds like a band that are younger than he actual age of the participants yet at the same time exudes a level of confidence that only comes with years of experience.
The main things about this album are the consistency of the energy levels and quality of the tracks on offer. Riffs race across the record as the rhythm section maintains a pace of bash and rumble that allows for a bit of flair from the strings; the lead work being of particular note here. Quinn and Scarratt are on fire here and Glockler sounds equally imperious on the drum kit. Biff's trademark nasal vocals are distinct and almost haughty on the symphonic majesty of Nosferatu (my album highlight) and yet still have that down-to-earth twang and inflection to certain words that sound like a northerner trying to sound more eloquent than their accent permits.
I will not pretend to love all of the album, They Played Rock And Roll does not work for me as a tribute. Not that I expect lyrical genius in all honesty but the lyrics here sound naive and clumsy with the Lemmy excerpt not really ringing as authentic and nostalgic as perhaps intended. But you cannot deny the rampant battering of Predator even though the vocal effects get a little OTT for my liking, but where the majority of the quibbles arise on this record there usually is something of a much better quality not too far away.
Put Thunderbolt on for anyone just getting into heavy metal and they will lap it up. At the same time it is fully rounded enough of an album to please the more established metalhead and even raise a few eyebrows along the way.
Genres: Heavy Metal
In over six years of listening to The Dreaming I, on a near 3 monthly rotational basis, I still have to say it is one of the most impenetrable releases to grace my vinyl shelves. That having been said, it is one of the few records I can truly connect with on a spiritual level and truly feel metaphysically cleansed after listening to it. Ahead of me furthering my progress in the Modern Era challenge for the North Clan, I cannot think of a better example of modern black metal than Naas Alcameth’s 2015 release. It delivers a unique take on atmospheric black metal using a terrifying transcendence whilst at the same time offering of level of harsh and conventional black metal that is pitiless and monstrous in equal amounts.
The debut release under the Akhlys name (Supplication) was dark ambient affair – which I haven’t listened to in all honesty – and these elements are deployed here to great effect here on the sophomore which ramped up the black metal significantly. As such, you must wait for things to get going on The Dreaming I as cavernous depths are forged by the atmospherics that kick off most tracks. This can be a distraction for some but for me personally it lets me connect with the record, allowing me to sink to the depths where the main events take place and feel its stifling and fetid air against my skin. I am not a deeply spiritual person by any means, but I can truly switch off from the world around me when I listen to this album. Time ceases to be relevant, distractions become nigh on impossible and the ability to touch and sense the horrific, cloying, oozing mass that the record seems to grow in the palms of my hands is strangely soothing.
I think I notice something new with every venture into The Dreaming I (which I guess is the point). The wall of noise that greets the listener on most tracks needs taking apart slowly, blood red brick by blood red brick in order to start to comprehend the true mastery at play across these five tracks. Melodies undulate and stab into proceedings from behind the slabs of tremolos, like shrill screams at times they soar and elevate everything around them to ghastly heights of unworldly etherealness, whilst never allowing the coarse and crude darkness to release its grip overall. The bass seeps in, sloth-like at times, maintaining a subtle yet still somehow malignant presence. My only criticism of the instrumentation is that in the cacophonous fury of the mix the drums are a tad lost in places – namely on the opening track, whilst on other occasions they are clearly audible and making a definite contribution.
This inconsistency in the drums stops this album from achieving full marks, yet still this remains one of my standout records from the last decade. I do not always get on with everything Naas Alcameth records (or allegedly says), but The Dreaming I remains a pinnacle of success in terms of his output. Melinoë, from 2020 actually out does its predecessor but that is already noted by me elsewhere on MA.
Genres: Black Metal
I picked up Ordinance from a recommendation thread on another site, from a black metal fan who likes the simpler things in life. No progressive wankery here folks just straight up raging black metal with approx. zero fucks to give is the order of my newfound forum acquaintance. This penchant for no frills bm is certainly the main feature of these Finn’s sound as they rattle through seven tracks of consistent and authentic black metal exemplifying the primitive and grim nature of the genre superbly.
Except, there is more to In Purge… than initially meets the eye and you do not have to search that hard to find it. If you listen quite near to the surface, you will hear elements of traditional metal bubbling up through the depths of belligerent black metal that is the overwhelming impression the album initially gives. Gathering Wraiths is a perfect example of this, giving a rear-guard to the frontline assault of the more conventional black metal.
Throughout In Purge… you will hear Darkthrone (find me a modern bm record that does not seep this influence in at some point) but there are nods here to Immortal as well as a million other acts both historic and modern. The album is still a journey though, it just happens to be one that isn’t too big on rest breaks. It has the ethic of a black ‘n roll record without the ‘n roll part (although it does touch upon this sub-genre more than once). There is no attempt here to generate dense atmospheres, instead the album relies on nothing more than the dirty and formidable momentum of the music to create a level of cruelty almost organically.
As a fan who enjoys a bit of variety in their metal menu there is a lot to be said for a conventional black metal album that draws me into a physical purchase (CD arrived this past week) after just a couple of listens on the internet. I do not even think that the band are that unapologetic of their delivery, more that this style just comes so naturally to them there is an almost sub-conscious intolerance for any requirement to step out of this norm.
Straight up black metal for fans of black metal who like most black metal out there but occasionally just needs a palate cleanser to refresh the tastebuds with some kvlt bm.
Genres: Black Metal