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
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
The variety of the black metal genre is dizzying to say the least. However, whether it is the nihilistic fury of the genre in its conventional form or the catchy infusion of rock in black ‘n roll that floats your boat, any variance on the central theme of black metal for me can only be deemed successful if it retains that “spine” as the core of what it does. Atmospheric black metal has an obviously well-established presence in music already. With bands like Drudkh creating earthy and organic outputs under the sub-genre alongside more cosmic creations from the likes of Darkspace also occupying the same space. The infusion with the niche is also a recognised branch with artists such as Summoning taking a more symphonic approach to their version of atmo-black.
In the case of WITTR, we are on the more earthy side of proceedings, not in a foul or uncouth sense of the word though, more in the meaning that this sound close to nature. For clarity though, this feeling of proximity to nature does not rely on any samples of running water or birdsong. What we get here is all done using balance, repetition and consistency that breeds a real sense of evolution in each song.
Two Hunters has not been an instant connection for me by any means. As I write this review, I am about five listens in this time around and have previously tried to connect with the record on numerous different occasions over the past decade or so. What is obvious to me from these repeated visits, is that this is a record that rewards quality time spent with it. It is an album that is not written to grab the attention in a gawdy manner. I would go as far as to say that any attempt by me to do anything else other than sit in front of the speakers for a good few listen throughs of this would be futile. The beauty within the record lies within its simplicity and subtle variations (not all of which work, more on that shortly) in pace, atmosphere and direction. There is a steadfastness to Two Hunters that makes it the success that it is, coming across as an album written to be exactly what the artist wanted it to be as opposed to being composed with any appeal-factor considered.
Now, it does not always work for me in terms of them getting the balance correct. Jessika Kenney’s ethereal vocals are haunting and moving I agree, and their inclusion is a positive here, but I do not think they are positioned quite correctly on the beginning of Cleansing. I get the feeling that they could have layered the tempo change better with a better use of build as opposed to the hasty sounding interruption of the guitar which destroys the mood that has been so beautifully built by those clean vocals.
That is my only criticism though. In a life were time to sit down and enjoy a record seems increasingly stretched it is always endearing to find an album that can provide such immediate gratuity for you spending a shade over forty-five minutes of your day with it. Going back to my opening paragraph on this review, the sound of WITTR is obviously routed in black metal and it relies on little variation from that conventional sound, using mood superbly to deliver an authentic and textured listening experience.
Genres: Black Metal
As with a few thrash/death albums at the time, Into the Macabre suffers from terrible production. This is apparent from the start (proper) of the opening track. In some regards this adds to the charm and appeal of the music, in others it also fails to showcase the full potential of the band. The rabid riffs and face-searing intensity of the music overall sounds badly muffled. Whilst it does add to the “necro” and “macabre” traits of the act and album title respectively it does at the same time make things sound really rushed or hastily recorded (no doubt on a tight studio timeline).
In terms of death/thrash for the time though, Necrodeath can almost put no foot wrong. We did not really know any different back in 1987, did we? We had had Seven Churches from Possessed, the clumsy yet unquestionably authentic debut from Sepultura and were yet to experience a full length from Protector. The vocal comparisons to Millie from Kreator are inevitable of course so let us get them out of the way early on here. Ingo’s grim, blackened delivery has less high-end range than the Kreator frontman’s does and to that end the whole sound of the vocals makes them sound eviller than Mille’s. Against the backdrop of those (murky) thumping drums and raging riffs they are a perfect accompaniment and should be viewed beyond just being Kreator clones.
Even with the less-than-ideal production job you can hear the quality of the bands thrash metal. It is a raging torrent of maniacal and violent thrash metal that was to be championed by the likes of Sadus and Demolition Hammer that uses death metal sonics and leads (and occasionally vocals) to add an extra edge of extremity to proceedings. There is no let-up in the intensity, not even once. When the band do drop into a slower pace or tempo, they deploy atmospheric menace to great effect. As such it is an album that demands your attention and can therefore clearly live beyond whatever horrors got done to things at the mixing desk. In a way it is an album that demands your attention in a way were it almost seems to recognise it is trapped under ice somewhat on the sound stakes but doesn’t give a fuck anyway and can still get your attention regardless.
Genres: Thrash Metal
Once more unto the breach as I take on my second Oranssi Pazuzu full-length. The first foray into their discography saw a shiny gatefold vinyl copy of Mestarin Kynsi arrive in the post such was my level of enjoyment from it. On the basis of that experience I approached this record thinking I knew what to expect having digested the aforementioned release over many sittings. Although probably near impossible to predict let alone map, an Oranssi Pazuzu record does come with some discernible traits. Chaotic yet progressive structures, scathing black metal assaults and dense atmospherics, drenched in waves of psychedelic hysteria and near cosmic lengths of reach. All of these are present virtually on track one on Värähtelijä.
There's nothing pretty about anything OP have done (I suspect - yet to experience all of their discography). Their 2016 album is absolutely terrifying yet immensely impressive at the same time. Throughout its seven tracks there is an ominous sense of being lulled into a false sense of security by the calmer, more organised passages that crackle with the tension that comes with knowing that an imminent disruption to this equilibrium is due. Things never feel settled on this record and that makes for a unique listening experience. As such, it is an album that bristles with tautness bordering on sheer panic. Sometimes the follow through of that threat never comes within the track that it starts to build in, instead you find yourself peering at the counter to see if a particular track has gone away or if the same one has taken some unearthly shift and you are yet to be hit with the next disorientating impact.
You can almost be forgiven for thinking that at times, two different tracks are playing. Like when you are streaming music and accidentally start an album on YouTube through the same audio source. This is the real clever bit as since the album overall has minimal direct black metal links, the ethos of the harsh and scathing nature of the genre is substituted by the band deploying the psychedelic sounds as direct contrast to rhythms or tempos to develop this sense of opposing forces or interests. The wavering sounds of a keening organ-like effect throughout the title track is a mesmerising example of this. What starts off as playing like some dark soundtrack to some Scandanavian detective drama soon takes on a real otherworldly slant. Likewise, the stabbing strings of Hypnotisoitu viharukous invoke this same sense of distraction from core elements of the track to offer unique contrast.
When in full on riff mode, the band are slapping Opeth-esque licks on the table like playing cards in a hi-stakes game of poker. Although they play their cards close to their chests for the most part of each track, I would suggest that the crippling combinations that (somehow) form such inspiring structures are down to one or two cards up their sleeves also.
Two records into the discography and I am completely sold on Oranssi Pazuzu. Their brand of psychadelic black metal with progressive influences is perhaps a genre all by itself, but wherever your genre boundaries land on this one it is still one of the best records to come out of Finland in the last decade, indeed maybe even out of Europe as a whole.
Genres: Black Metal Post-Metal
The levels of hope and positivity in many power metal bands' sound can be the difference between me turning off a record or sitting through the entire length. Many bands fail to live up to the "power" promised by the genre tag and as is already documented by myself here I fail to get along with most of what I hear within the boundaries of such music. It was with the same amount of trepidation that I approached Apex having heard very little of the band to understand whether or not I was going to be coming away from the venture with that bitter taste on my tongue again.
What is clear from the off is that there's an energy to UtA that more or less from the first track left me in no doubt that I was going to enjoy this album. This wicked blend of devilish lead work coupled with solid riffing and equally assured percussion remedied any fears that I had coming into my opening few sessions of listening to it. When you add into the mix the fact that the vocalist is capable of applying her voice to control perfectly the pace of both individual tracks and the album as a whole then you know you are onto a winner. Brittney has a real knack for leaping up a couple of notches on the intensity and key of her voice to drive a track further along its usually epic trajectory, keeping the vocals firmly in the driving seat alongside two clearly very talented and hungry sounding guitarists. Above everything I hear on the record it is her vocals that I take away as the main memory of the album. What is even more impressive is that there's none of that shrieking and piercing bollocks that goes on with most of her female and (more so) male contemporaries which just shows the confidence she has in her own ability and how that fits in perfectly with the rest of the band also.
On the flip side of the otherwise perfect vocals of Brittney, there's the really annoying attempts of growls from Grant which are at times laughable. Coming off as more of a hiss than any real growl of substance, they just add a comedy element where I expect they had been intended to add some real menace and threat. They are the one thing that kept this album from full marks in all honesty and I am genuinely so annoyed with them it is untrue.
Getting back to the positive vibes though, what UtA do over the ten tracks that make up Apex is balance the catchiness with the detail that the more learned power metal fan would enjoy. For all the memorability of The Matriarch there's heaps of fantastical lyrical content and storytelling to encourage you to get under the skin of those big feisty riffs and track the storyline of the album further. This leads me to that fucking superb artwork of course which is "The Immortal" - the main character of the album asleep on one of his 1,000 year slumbers. If ever an album had artwork that matched the quality of the contents inside it is Apex. In researching this review I read an interview with the headline of "Unleash the Archers: Escapism Without Regrets" which I think is a perfect summary of just how entertaining this band are beyond just the sheer capability of the artists involved, they have clearly poured themselves into this record and the thought and effort in song writing, composition and arrangement shines across this record.
I leave this record each time feeling thoroughly entertained. Feeling like I have rediscovered my mojo for the enchanted legends and the fantastical landscapes in which they take place. An immensely uplifting record and one that is going on the vinyl purchase list.
Genres: Power Metal
Hailing from Germany, Kanonenfieber (cannon-fever) have released a debut album that covers the expanses of both black metal and death metal over nine World War 1 themed tracks. The album was made to commemorate the countless victims of WWI and uses reports, documents and letters from the war to give real authenticity to the recordings. You get spoken word extracts from broadcasts at the time and also the artwork is an anti-war poster by Mihály Biró considered the founder of political poster art, so there really has been a conscious effort here to explore the subject matter of the album in as much detail as possible.
In terms of musical content you get hateful black metal vocals (which are all the more enhanced by being done in German which just adds perfect edge to them), interwoven with harsh blackened death metal that is used really well to ramp up the pace and add further intensity to tracks. There's even an acoustic, folk number at the end sang in a clean yet benign and resigned tone that really underlines the futility of the war. The artist/s (there's no much info on who the band are or how many of them there are in the band) uses the sounds of the battlefield to good effect without giving the feel that this is some Marduk record and they use pace really well with most tracks having some genuine traditional/heavy metal moments.
When you are dealing with such a sensitive subject matter that has been done to death many times before (Hail of Bullets and 1914 I am looking at you) it is easy to fall into some niche metal marketplace, but Kanonenfieber are too smart with their content. They reflect the controlled chaos of war in their song writing and structures. The superb pace change in Grabenlieder where they use gunfire to bring in the death metal part of the song is superbly timed. They even have some sense of melo-death to Grabenkampf as it plays out from within an almost doom style structure.
I literally stumbled across this album on Instagram when one of the journo's I follow there shared the cover on Bandcamp Friday and I have since gone and purchased the CD and t-shirt from the record label Bandcamp page. One of my neatest finds of 2021 thus far.
Genres: Black Metal Death Metal
Mare Cognitum is a one man atmo bm project from the US. Heavily invested in the themes of space and cosmic mysticism, Jacob Buczarski created the project in 2011 and since then Mare Cognitum ("the sea which has become known" in Latin) have grown into an established act on the atmospheric black metal scene. We have been treated now to five reasonably well received full-lengths and a couple of splits over the past decade and for a computer programmer, Jake takes the listener far beyond the boundaries of the planet earth and explores the universe on each of his releases.
I read an interview with him when researching my review and he is personally influenced by all the classic bm artists you'd expect (Emperor etc..) but he also listens to a lot of film and video game scores which I think comes across in the vastness of his song writing on Solar Paroxysm really well. The triumph of this release is the scope of the album which although immense in subject matter and content also does a really great job of focusing on the details, spotlighting the album's fantastic use of pace and tempo, aggression and melody, harshness and ethereal beauty to create a truly intricate painting of the mysteries of the cosmos and Jake's mind also.
I hear a lot of influences in the sound here. From the lush tremolos of Fen and Drudkh to the warm and full melodies of the latter of the aforementioned bands. But there's also the earthy dankness of WITTR present in the shift, passage and flow of tracks. The sum of all parts shows a penchant for ethereal layers of atmosphere that build into entities reminiscent of Spectral Lore and Darkspace also. I even get a smattering of Xasthur on Terra Requiem as Jake's vocals drop into a ghastly whisper riding over a rolling tremolo riff. What you get here is a very textured and tactile album, you almost want that amazing artwork on the cover to be raised and ridged like the music itself so you can trace your fingers along the landscape as you listen to the music.
I could go on for hours about how good this album is. It has caught me completely off-guard as I didn't set out on the morning I discovered this to listen to any atmospheric bm that day and instead stumbled across this masterpiece of the sub-genre. All hail Jake Buczarski.
Genres: Black Metal
My footprint in the Fallen clan is quite limited (there's good reason why I didn't pick it for my fourth clan during last year's challenge when the opportunity arose) and this is largely because I like the idea and concept of doom metal often more than I actually like the content overall. Albums like Epicus... and Nightfall make me want to listen to more doom metal. The constant sense of drama and pending tragedy appeals to my dark nature and I love the huge sound to the riffs and their looming menace. The fact is though that for me the genre doesn't always live up to the expectations that the Candlemass debut promised when I first heard it. Arguably, the first four Candlemass records broke the whole genre for me as I soon realised that there was very few vocalists out there that could live up to the talent and range of Längquist and Marcolin, or even match pound for pound the riffing of Björkman and harrowing leads of Johansson.
So, I confine myself to the odd review within the clan and tonight I find myself reviewing one the greatest doom metal records of all time. I think this rating comes from all of what I have mentioned above in relation to this record. The great vocals, the sterling instrumentation and that constant feel of dense sorrow hanging over proceedings make the whole experience so very memorable. Indeed it is a record you would struggle not to take some lasting memory away from after just one listen I would say.
The album not only perfects the doom sound it lives and breathes the very core of doom in all that it presents. Whether it is the haunting resonance of Längquist begging "Please let me die in solitude" on the opening track or just the staggering imagery the lyric sheet overall can conjure when you read it, it is obvious that doom was woven into the very fabric of this record from the off. It doesn't actually feel like an album either. It has a length in terms of a track listing that make it look like an EP and even at 43 minutes it is not a doom album that relies on repetition and fathomless song durations to get its point across. Despite the heaviness and the quality on show the album doesn't fuck around or risk outstaying its welcome. It feels almost concise to me yet still leaves me hungry for more which is what all good records should do.
Genres: Doom Metal
One of the great things about black metal is that just as I think I have heard it all and am exhausted with the genre I discover a dark gem from the past that I have somehow missed. Unearthing Nehëmah from their murky and yet mystical depths is one such treat. With a very much occult-laden tone to proceedings (the liner notes offer remembrance to Crowley and Lovecraft no less), Requiem Tenebrae is a sprawling album, shrouded in its own ethereal atmosphere with some good ol’ fashioned tremolo providing necessary brevity for the second wave aficionados out there.
The first thing that leaps out at me here is the unusual structure of things in that of the first three tracks, two are instrumentals. They sit astride the majestic The Great Old Ones and frame this dark masterpiece superbly. Track three offers up some dark choral effects that transfer into The Elder Gods Awakening perfectly. After just three tracks there is a real sense of cohesion already.
Clearly, track four is where the Darkthrone influence shows through as the band deploy classic “Blaze…” or “Transylvanian…” era second wave with a black ’n’ roll edge thrown in for good measure. Synths also play a big part in the cloying atmospherics of this record, seeping across tracks, adding mystery and a sense of depth to proceedings. I hear elements of Inquisition in hear also and I think the overall longer runtime on tracks adds to this influence. Tracks have that lurch to their progress which is also reminiscent of the aforementioned band.
This is well put together bm. Tracks can stand up on their own as well as be integral parts of the overall album. There is something memorable about all tracks, even after just your first listen and the album feels well-rounded and complete, like everything gets drawn to a natural conclusion. The only critique I can aim is that I am not convinced the drums are mixed at all properly and at times I only pick up their rolls (certainly the cymbals also), even when blasting they don't impress any authority really. Unafraid to wear their influences on their sleeves, Nehëmah offered a wonderful insight into how authentic and atmospheric bm could be delivered on the same record and it is a true shame that they are no longer together.
Genres: Black Metal
The last Akhlys release blew my fucking mind. It was intense to the point of being overbearing. Between the expansive song writing and layered atmospherics, the whole experience was a cloying and totally memorable one. As with most of Naas Alcameth's output, this project follows a familiar level of infrequency of output with a whole five years having passed since the project's sophomore release. The more recent venture he had undertaken with Aoratos last year made me aware of the continued quality of his work under whatever band name he was working under and so my hopes were high for Melinoë.
Using Evan Knight (or Eoghan as he is known here) for the drums following the success of collaborating on Aoratos, Naas continues to forge ahead with making Akhlys an exciting and terrifying project in equal measure. The blue print for this album differs only very minutely from The Dreaming I, instead opting to build on the "wall of noise" theme so prevalent on that record and make things just a tad more coherent and accessible in places on this one. That's not to say this record lets up on the momentum created by its predecessor in anyway, if anything it is a far more challenging record. But, I do find it a lot more sticky than previous output and this was obvious with the preview tracks - which after hearing just two of them I had the vinyl on pre-order.
Melinoë is a suffocating listen. Its main driving force the oppressive nature it imposes on you as a listener, whether through all out battery or utilising menacing atmospherics that would sit just as well on the soundtrack to most horror films, you can't help but fear the sounds it produces. The experience leaves you feeling like being lost at sea and having to swim for some distant shore and the tumult of the tide just endlessly pulls you down to the darkest depths of the blackest waters. Even when you manage to get your head above water again it is not long before you are pulled back under.
The melodies deployed are acutely distressing, swarming and mining at your very core as they circle you like taunting demons. These harrowing moments are what save you from getting totally lost at times, they are well-timed and the album deploys more atmospheric tracks and passages to great effect to give the overall feel of a well-paced record.
The only challenge I have is with the production on the first couple of tracks. It feels a bit stifling upon the first couple of listens and the impact of the music is blunted somewhat as a result. I don't recall this issue on the stream so appears to be a new challenge with the vinyl pressing I have. The fact that it is an album that is supposed to have that element of mystery and ethereal threat is what makes this almost passable (it certainly doesn't ruin the record at least). If you enjoyed The Dreaming I though you'll love this.
Genres: Black Metal
An injustice has been addressed during the writing of this review. Namely that I had paid so little attention to Paysage d'Hiver that I genuinely thought they only had one release (their brilliant self-titled) and their latest offering in 2020 to their name. A quick look on a wonderful new invention called "The Internet" soon revealed the monstrous levels of my ignorance and has now led me to the discography of one of my emerging favourite artists.
For anyone else existing in ignorance, Paysage d'Hiver is Tobias Möckl from Darkspace (where he is better known as Wroth on vocals and guitar). Paysage d'Hiver is his solo project harking back to prior the existence of Darkspace where he goes by the title of Wintherr, performing all instruments and vocals himself. The concept (literally) of his releases are that all of them form one big story, not always in linear narrative, with whole demos/EP's or sometimes individual songs making up parts of that story. The vastness of aforementioned story should not be underestimated as there are ten demos and (as of this year) one full-length that comprise this tale. And there's more to come.
I am quite partial to a bit of Darkspace and Tobias' influence on that band is never made more obvious than when listening to his solo outings. The sound is a dense and turgid mix of raging black metal, replete with blast beats and tremolos galore; yet also there is often atmospheric and ambient passages (sometimes whole tracks) that balance a very varied and intense offering like Schattengang. Track number two on here goes through various shifts and turns during the twenty-plus minutes that it stretches over, but never once does it get lost or boring. This is especially true when you have the knowledge around the story-telling aspect of what Tobias is trying to achieve here and the real neat trick is trying to place the events of Schattengang in the bigger picture.
For a second release that is now some twenty-two years old, this is strong stuff. The songwriting prowess is already very well established and the vision to be able to write such expansive and vast narrative whilst holding the listener captivated is nothing short of brilliant. The soothing and bleak ambience of the track that close this release (I have the three track version), Atmosphäre massages my actual brain as I listen to it. With my eyes closed it is almost trance inducing, feeling the rotation of the world type stuff. What a great discovery.
Genres: Black Metal
An album that I don't think I have ever (or will ever) fully fathom, Nespithe is certainly unique in both sound and delivery. From a vocal perspective it is indecipherable, genuinely sounding like the vocalist is so low that the sound must be resonating off the very walls of his own bowels. Although you cannot get away from them being the focal (or vocal point - get it?) point of the album they are but one piece of a very strange puzzle.
The whole album appears to lurch and flounder to me. That's not say it is out of control in anyway though, it just feels barely controlled, like the band have unleashed something that even they were not expecting on the world and aren't really sure what it is going to do next. Even for the more avant-garde side of DM there's some elements here that conjure up more than a few curved balls.
Tracks seem to veer and swerve a lot of the time and (again - not necessarily a bad thing) this has me constantly trying to ground everything and play catch up after what feels like multiple reset buttons have been pressed. In my day job I have to work with a lot of complex equations and sums and Nespithe feels like it is one that has multiple variances on how the total can be reached, like it needs looking at from different approaches and I am still never sure how I got to that figure. It's mathematical genuis is fascinating, like it sees things from angles that I cannot.
The ability of the muscians involved can't be questioned as they deliver a demanding yet clean and competent performance. I have no doubt that the challenges that I have with this record are with me and not the actual band/album. Sonics dive in and out of tracks like swopping songbirds, emitting some cosmic chirping that bends the very air around it. The drummer surely has more than two arms in order to be able to map the rhythm of such complex structures and the audibility of the bass at all times is a rare trait in death metal. You have to work to get all this though, there's no "background music" here folks, this is stuff that demands your attention. You have to listen to the detail to even begin to understand the bigger picture and that may be a bit too much for some death metal fans.
For a band with such a small amount of recorded output, Nespithe is a standout release not just in the discography of Demilich but it is also a very big flux in the biological mass of death metal as a whole. Take a shower in its madness whilst you try and figure it out.
Genres: Death Metal
I am quite particular about my power metal. I don't profess to be a big fan of it as a sub-genre by any means but I do know what I like and have found there to be a reasonably short list of preferred releases to revisit once I had gone through large amounts of pompous and overly grandiose nonsense to be honest. Blind Guardian actually are responsible for my favourite power metal album ever with their 1995 release Imaginations From The Otherside sitting top of my pile (well, more likely a slight bump) of such records. There are other releases that I have time for in their discography such as At The Edge of Time and Nightfall In Middle Earth which both have their moments but don't quite offer complete experiences.
Strangely enough I hadn't ventured much earlier than 1995 into their discography (given my general distaste for their latter day material, going back seems such a logical direction for me in terms of expansion of my knowledge and experience of the back-catalogue) so their 1992 effort, Somewhere Far Beyond was not familiar to me until this week. The first thing to mention sounds obvious to state, but this album is so very clearly a Blind Guardian record. Their trademark fluent and skillful musicianship shines through from the very start of the record along with their mastery of writing memorable and absorbing songs that take the listener on a journey.
The arrangement too is well calculated, structured to present a narrative of time travelling bards coming together to tell their stories as depicted on the grand and rather colourful artowrk that adorns the front cover of the release. As you move through the album track by track the dashes of brilliance that were to become virtually omnipresent on the follow up album leap out like sun flares, scorching the ether around the album, burning with the promise of what we know is to come in three years time.
As a result, despite these moments described above, the album doesn't feel complete. Perhaps if I had waited and listened to this record before Imaginations... I might have been more enamoured with it as a whole. In comparison it feels hindered somewhat and I find myself willing a bit more quality to ooze out of it that in reality was yet to be learned by this point in their careers. I found the 2007 remastered version to be entertaining enough still with the couple of demos/alternat versions of songs added on to the end. As a standalone album this is a great example of how Power Metal should be done, my messy timeline aside it probably does desrve a higher rating than the number of stars I have awarded.
Genres: Power Metal
Blackened death/doom? Sort of like a more deathy Samael/Varathron-paced black metal album? It is hard to explain Christ Agony's sound to the layman as there are few like them in the world of metal, certainly around in 1993 anyways. For a (then) three piece they made a big noise, full of crunching riffs and spewing vocals. Granted it is lyrically naive but overall still offers something new and different nearly twenty years on.
What's that? Never heard of Christ Agony? Me neither until finding them here in the dusty archives of the "c" section under "Bands". Turns out they are Polish and have a lengthy career of some three decades (albeit on and off). Unholyunion was their debut after a couple of demo releases from 1990 onward and the band found a home on Carnage Records for their debut full-length.
Straight away something is different to your normal bm record. There's only four tracks, ranging from ten to fifteen minutes in duration and there's bone crunching riffs like on an Asphyx record. The pace varies as well so it is not all one-dimensional slow and laboured riffing, there's blast beats to contend with her also to liven things up. There's atmospheric passages to invoke a bit of drama and menace where necessary that give tracks some real sense of depth and density.
It is hard to get too lost in it though because it is only four tracks and the track lengths all could do with a trim and they lack enough variation for the track lengths to make them really interesting. The pace never gets down to blackened drone/doom/death proportions but the track lengths could have you think the prospect is there. Vocally it is a bit guilty of some immaturity with a couple of parts were the word "Satan" gets growled ever few bars or so and it just feels amateur even for 1993. Although not a bad record there was definitely room for improvement.
Genres: Black Metal