Sonny's Forum Replies

Stunning list this month, Vinny. It may actually be my favourite of all those you have produced so far, with not a single duff track to my ears, even Pantera didn't piss me off after so many great-sounding tracks and it provided a brilliant soundtrack to my Friday afternoon. Special props must go to the tracks from Shah, Armory, Deathwish, Sacrifice and Death Strike, the first three of which I am completely unfamiliar with. Honorable mentions to other unknowns, Mortal Scepter, Demonizer, Torture Squad, Expander and the SSS track (although I do know some of their stuff I hadn't heard this one). Always nice to hear some Testament, Sodom, A.R.G. and Sacred Reich as well. Nicely done, my friend and thanks a lot for all the effort expended providing a quality listen.

Hi Ben, sorry, I have another. Could you add italian solo funeral doom project Il Vuoto, please?

I've never got round to this one, but if the music is as atmospheric as the cover then it should be a treat.

Here is my original (brief) review of this and I must admit to being somewhat underwhelmed. Still, this was more than four years ago, so I will endeavour to re-listen to it during the month and see if my opinion has changed during the intervening, pandemic-ridden years.

 "Slumber were a Swedish band who released this, their only full-length album, in 2004. The band split in 2011, the members forming progressive metal band Atoma immediately afterwards. Fallout features melodic death doom metal with a hefty dose of symphonic metal trappings such as keyboards and choral backing vocals. The growling main vocals seem to buried down in the mix and are somewhat smothered by the clean-sounding guitar and the keyboards. There also seems to be an inordinate amount of cymbal mixed quite high that I found quite intrusive and distracting.

Generally, I find this gothic / symphonic version of death doom metal leaves me a little underwhelmed - I prefer my death doom to be more melancholy or abyssal-sounding and less bombastic. So whilst recognising that a lot of doom metal afficianados think highly of this, I've got to confess that it's not really for me."


Hi Ben, my suggestions for April:

Narbeleth - "On the Sight of Dusk" (from "A Pale Crown", 2024)

Rotting Christ - "Ad Noctis" (from "Genesis", 2002)

Xasthur - "Soul Abduction Ceremony" (from "Nocturnal Poisoning", 2002)

March 2024

1. Witches of God - "The Magician" (from "Into the Heart of Darkness", 2019) [submitted by Sonny]

2. Altar of the Stag - "Dyatlov" (from "Visceral Offering", 2024) [submitted by Vinny]

3. Fudge Tunnel – “Hate Song” (from “Hate Songs In E Minor”, 1991) [submitted by Daniel]

4. Draconian - "The Abhorrent Rays" (from "Arcane Rain Fell", 2005)

5. Hour of 13 - "The Crawlspace" (from "The Ritualist", 2010)

6. The Flight of Sleipnir - "Awaken" (from Skadi", 2017)

7. Spectral Voice - "Death's Knell Rings in Eternity" (from "Sparagmos", 2024) [submitted by Sonny]

8. diSEMBOWELMENT – “River of Salvation (My Divine Punishment)” (from “Deep Sensory Procession Into Aural Fate”, 1991) [submitted by Daniel]

9. Goatess - "Know Your Animal" (from "Goatess", 2013)

10. KYPCK - " Чёрная дыра" (from "Черно", 2008)

11. Black Wound - "Vermin Firstborn" (from "Warping Structure", 2023) [submitted by Vinny]

12. Funeral - "Yield To Me" (from "In Fields of Pestilent Grief", 2002) 

13. Earth – “A Bureaucratic Desire For Revenge Part 2” (from “Extra-Capsular Extraction” E.P., 1991) [submitted by Daniel]

14. Dukatalon - "Angels in Red" (from "Involuntary Action", 2020)

15. Loss - "Horizonless" (from "Horizonless", 2017)

Hi Ben, could you add dutch death / black metallers Lucifericon, please?

Hi Ben, could you add US stoner metal band Rifflord, please?

Could you add US one-man black metal act Void Ritual please, Ben?

February 27, 2024 09:19 PM

I don't have enough technical knowledge to debate this, so will have to take your word for it, Daniel. I suppose in another five or ten years somebody will be telling me Ride the Lightning and Show No Mercy aren't metal.

Hi Ben, could you add US funeral doom project Lucian the Wolfbearer please.

Contaminated - Celebratory Beheading

Released 9th February on Blood Harvest

Contaminated are a death metal crew from Melbourne who have been around for more than a decade now, but who have only just got around to releasing their sophomore, following a full seven years after their debut, Final Man. The man behind the band is Lachlan McPherson who, amongst a number of other projects, is also behind grinders Rawhead, with Contaminated (like Rawhead) originally beginning life as one of his solo projects before being expanded into a full band after the release of his Pestilential Decay demo in 2014.

The band's debut was a cavernous-sounding, raw kind of affair and they have certainly taken huge strides production-wise with Celebratory Beheading. The sound is cleaner and clearer and although I would often see that as a downward step, I think it better fits what the band are trying to get across. The focus here is less on creating a foetid atmosphere than dealing out an object lesson in bruatality, less the lumbering menace of a threat unseen than the more immediate threat of a fist in the face. I guess that Lachy has brought across some of the inherent brutality from Rawhead's grinding, on which he had been concentrating in recent years, which has contributed to making Celebratory Beheading a much more aggressive and violent-sounding album than it's predecessor.

The individual tracks are quite dense, mainly due to a quite heavily distorted guitar sound and a powerful, pummelling drum performance from skinsman Christoph Winkler who is a member of several grindcore outfits such as Internal Rot and Incinerated, where he deals out blastbeats for fun. Vocals-wise, Lachy's bellowing is exceedingly aggressive and he often sounds like he could strip paint off your walls, if not actually tearing them down completely. It's not all hypercharged velocity, however and the band do like to shift down and hit a slower groove from time to time, to add some telling contrast to the more explicit violence of the hi-speed blasting, giving the listener time to gather themselves in preparation for the next blitzkrieg.

Ultimately, this is an album of no-nonsense, raucous death metal, with deathgrind leanings that makes no pretention to being anything other than that and successfully delivers on it's premise of out and out aural violence. Approach it as such and there is much to get your teeth into here.


Hi Daniel, sorry, I have forgotten, how much time are we allotted each month for The Horde suggestions?

I'm a big fan of 2021's "Feel" debut album from Los Angeles death metallers Apparition which we featured here at the Academy at some point so I'm planning to be all over the follow-up "Disgraced Emanations From a Tranquil State" which is due to be released on 22nd March.

Quoted Daniel

I had "Feel" pegged at a creditable 4.5/5 and even bought a vinyl copy, so am looking forward to going another round with the Autopsy acolytes.

A new My Dying Bride album is in the offering, with it's release slated for April 19th on Nuclear Blast. There are several ratings on RYM, so I don't know if it has been leaked early, but only one track, Thornwyck Hymn, is available on Bandcamp so far. That track sounds pretty decent, with the ingredients you would expect from classic MDB all present and correct. Nice cover too.

Here's a new release that I do hold strong hopes for in Chilean thrash metallers Critical Defiance's third full-length "The Search Won't Fall..." which is due to hit the shelves next month. Both of their first two albums have been worth listening to (particularly the last one "No Life Forms" which I thought was really strong) so I'll be checking this one out at some point too.

Quoted Daniel

Definitely stoked for this one. Chile's Pentagram have also got a new one out in April. It's their sophomore, released eleven years after their debut, The Malefice, an album I enjoyed a fair bit. They actually date back to the late-80's, releasing two well-thought of demos back in 1987, so I would be interested to hear how their new material sounds.

I haven't heard of these guys, Daniel, so I will have to put it on my list.

It seems that, like Swallow the Sun's "Moonflowers", Ihsahn has used a full orchestra as backing on his latest album and, like StS did on the "special edition" of "Moonflowers", included an orchestra-only version along with the full version.

I haven't given much thought to Ihsahn for a while now, but Saxy's review has piqued my interest and I will have to check it out sometime.

I too have had mixed reactions to The Body, I really liked their 2016 album No One Deserves Happiness, but hated I've Seen All I Need to See because I just don't get the whole power electronics thing. I will probably check it out, but won't be going into it with very high expectations.

February 24, 2024 08:50 PM

Is the metal status of an album with this, The Ripper, Tyrant and Genocide on it really in doubt?

Quoted Sonny

I would suggest that most of the A side is clear cut with the three of the four songs being clear examples of heavy metal but, upon revisiting the album in great detail over the past week, I've found that the B side is nowhere near as cut & dry.

Quoted Daniel

I would say Tyrant, Genocide and Island of Domination are metal so, for what it's worth, in my opinion, Sad Wings is defintely a metal album. We aren't seriously considering this to be non-metal are we, that would be revisionism gone too far for me to take I think.

Interestingly, for those who don't know, due to a pressing error, sides A and B were reversed from how the band intended and if you play side B then side A the album seems to flow better.

Fange - Perdition

Released 9th February

I was impressed by these french industrial sludge-meisters' 2021 album, Pantocrator, and although their Privation album from last year somehow passed me by, I have been looking foward to this one for a while now. Riff-wise and with the general instrumentation, this bears a significant Fear Factory influence, with some pretty immense and sludgy machine-like riffing and harsh distortion that often sounds like the sound of escaping steam buried down within the mix. The tinniness of the programmed snares adds another layer to the dystopian, Blade Runner-esque atmosphere the band is (successfully) striving for. Within this evocative, machine-dominated atmosphere intrudes the only-too-human, angered vocals of singer Matthias Jungbluth whose hardcore-style delivery gives the album a sludge metal twist with his railing against the world the band have so vividly created lays bare the alienation of his soul. I don't think any language is better than French at sounding pissed-off and Matthias here sounds really pissed-off.

The Fear Factory comparison is more pronounced here, I think, because the band have sought to add more melodic hooks into their overall sound, rather than doubling-down on the alienating atmosphere of Pantocrator. Now this is an approach I would probably normally be sceptical about, but I think it still works here and the band manage to retain the atmosphere of their alienating machine-like rhythms, even though they sometimes give the listener more of a handhold into the album. Is it as good as Pantocrator? Probably not, I guess time will tell, but it is still worth the mere thirty minutes of your time you would need to spare to lend it your ear.


February 24, 2024 03:25 PM

Wow, today is the 30th anniversary of Cradle of Filth's first and best album, The Principle of Evil Made Flesh, a record I have a soft spot for, as it was one of the first albums I got into upon my return to metal in the late 90's.

Also a shout-out to the woefully ignored, The Wounded Kings, whose terrific doom album, Consolamentum, is ten years old today.

Morbid Saint - Swallowed by Hell

Released 9th February on HR Records

Come to this expecting another Spectrum of Death and you will certainly go away disappointed. I have long ago learnt to approach new releases by long-mothballed bands with a certain degree of cynicism, so I went into this with zero expectations.

Morbid Saint now contains three of the members from their Spectrum of Death days with vocalist Pat Lind and guitarist Jim Fergades rejoining the only ever-present member, guitarist Jay Visser, bassist Bob Zabel and drummer DJ Bagemehl. Swallowed by Hell is a very different proposition from Spectrum of Death, with the raw aggression of youth being replaced by production values several magnitudes higher and the songwriting and musicianship of long-serving professionals. This results in an album that is perfectly satisfactory and that has some decent riffs and a high level of professionalism, but that simply fails to engage on a second and more important level with the listener, that of the passionate performer appealing to the passionate listener. I believe that, as a metal fan, inside me I still have the passion and fire that once burned so brightly for all to see, but which age and the trials of live have dulled to the point where it can be very difficult to summon it to the surface once more and a certain detached cynicism often wins out over my more passionate tendencies. That is exactly how I think Swallowed by Hell has manifested, with the band believing they still have that fire and zest they exhibited so profoundly more than three decades ago, whilst secretly finding it increasingly challenging to bring it to the fore. So that leaves us with an album that is perfectly fine when considered in isolation, with some decent riffs, nice solos, a rhythm unit determined to batter us into submission and an angry and aggressive-sounding vocal performance. But we (and maybe even the band) know that it is, in reality, a facsimile of what the band were once capable of, a bit like a grizzled old bare-knuckled boxer who could still give the average Joe a heart-stopping wallop, but who would be turned into a bloody mess by younger and hungrier bucks looking to make a name for themselves.

All things considered, this could certainly be a lot worse and is by no means a disaster, but as I often wonder when faced with obviously inferior product from any certain band is why would I listen to this in preference to the classic? And the truth is, I don't know as I would, so whilst this would be fine for a few listens I don't feel it has any real staying power.

I would give it a 3.25/5 if it were allowed, but will be generous and go with a 3.5/5

February 23, 2024 09:03 AM

I did check out the Persefone EP, Andi, and, despite it initially failing to impress, I found it grew on me with further listens. It is quite densely written and there is a lot going on during it's 26 minutes. I have yet to feel confident enough in my opinion to review it though.

February 22, 2024 11:46 PM

Anyway, today's track is "The Ripper" which is clearly heavy metal.

Quoted Daniel


February 22, 2024 05:18 PM

Here are my top 10 new releases that hit the shelves in January:

1. Mourning Dawn  - "The Foam of Despair" [Atmospheric Sludge Metal]
2. Hauntologist - "Hollow" [Atmospheric Black Metal / Post-metal]
3. Narbeleth - "A Pale Crown" [Black Metal]
4. Sovereign - "Altered Realities" [Technical Thrash / Death Metal]
5. Deconsekrated - "Ascension in the Altar of Condemned EP" [Death Metal]
6. Inquisition - "Veneration of Medieval Mysticism and Cosmological Violence" [Black Metal]
7. Malist - "Of Scorched Earth" [Black Metal]
8. Lair - "The Hidden Shiv" [Sludge / Doom Metal]
9. Saxon - "Hell, Fire and Damnation" [Heavy Metal]
10. Sepulcher - "Veins of the Void EP" [Thrash Metal]

#1-4 are solid 4/5s and the rest are respectable 3.5s.

A good month for black metal and some love from me for a couple of post-metal-ly efforts. January isn't usually the best month for new stuff, but this has been a reasonable start to the year and there are a few albums out in February that I have my eye on, with the new Darkspace having already jumped to my new #1 and well worth checking out for anyone who hasn't yet.

February 22, 2024 04:49 PM

Sovereign - Altered Realities (2024)

I am a man of unsophisticated taste, particularly in music, as illustrated by my indifference to the dissonant and avant-garde, jazz in particular being anathema to me. In relation to this, for the longest time I considered technical death and thrash metal as also outside my comfort zone, but a dive into the earlier years of death metal resulted in the discovery that a certain level of technicality was indeed something I could enjoy, as epitomised by the Death and Atheist back catalogues. There is, however, a degree of technicality beyond which I switch off as it becomes more and more "jazzy" as per Gorguts and their ilk.

Anyway, this lengthy preamble to a review of Norway's Sovereign is relevant as they play a technical style of deaththrash that sits right slap-bang in the middle of my sweet spot for technical metal whereby the technical flourishes are sufficient to bring variety and interest without pushing into a more jazz-adjacent territory that I am more uncomfortable with. To be more precise, they play thrash metal with tech-death aspirations, influenced by mid-period Death albums and possibly by the current South American thrash metal, particularly that of Chilean bands like Ripper, Demoniac and Slaughtbbath.

Although this is the band's debut full-length, they are not newbies, with members, or ex-members, of Stormbeist and Execration and with Nekromantheon's live guitarist, Tommy Jacobsen taking on lead duties, a duty he discharges with impressive aplomb. His leads are incendiary and thrilling, with a high level of dextrous competency, sitting squarely on the right side of shredding, becoming neither flaccid nor self-indulgent and reminding me a little of how James Murphy's work lifted Death's Spiritual Healing, which is meant as high praise indeed - check out the final minute of Nebular Waves for a stellar example. They may not be the tightest band to play technical deaththrash, but they are sufficiently skilled that a slight looseness makes them sound more passionate than the stifling necessity of technical perfection often allows for. They have some solid riffs with energetic songwriting that incorporates the technical flourishes to add colour to the tracks rather than becoming the whole raison d'être. This is definitely an approach I wholeheartedly endorse and it has resulted the band coming up with an album that just sounds better with each repeated listen and which is one of a select few brand new thrash albums not from South America that I will happily keep returning to.


February 22, 2024 12:13 AM

Undoubtedly metal. Is the metal status of an album with this, The Ripper, Tyrant and Genocide on it really in doubt?

Hi Ben, I'm sure you are on top of it, but could you add the new Darkspace, Dark Space -II, please?

Darkspace - Dark Space -II (2024)

Released 16th February

Darkspace is a vehicle for the impressive mind of Tobias Möckl, aka Wroth, aka Wintherr, the man behind Paysage d'Hiver and one of, if not the, premier exponent of frigid, frost-bitten atmospheric black metal, whether it be via the narrative journey of Paysage d'Hiver's Traveller through blizzard-riven forests or Darkspace's exploration of the icy voids of interstellar space.

It has been a decade since Darkspace last released any new material, while Wroth concentrated on Paysage d'Hiver, writing and recording the project's masterpiece Im Wald and then it's follow-up, Geister. Now that he has reached some sort of resolution with Paysage d'Hiver, he has been able to focus on Darkspace and this latest work, Dark Space -II. I think the minus 2 nomenclature is significant and places this latest piece before the very earliest Darkspace releases in the project's overall aesthetic timeline. This makes absolute sense, as it builds on elements from the early days, with Dark -1.0 from the first EP seemingly the base upon which the new album's sole track, Dark -2.-2 is built, the earlier work's ideas being expounded upon here, resulting in an expansive forty-seven minutes reworking of it's icy ambience.

The track begins with an emotionless female voice intoning scientific or philosophical theses over ambient keys, which continues throughout the entirety of the piece, but comes to the fore as an introduction and during an interval between the piece's two major "acts". After a few minutes, this ambient introduction is joined by programmed drums and a chugging, chunky, industrialised guitar riff that is reminiscent of the one used on the track Dark 1.2 from the 2003 debut full-length and which here sounds similar to the riff of Rammstein's Links 1-2-3-4. This industrial-sounding riff and the monotone way the spoken words are delivered sees Wroth exploring a different kind of coldness here, with reference to emotional frigidity in addition to his usual dissection of merely physical iciness, illustrating perfectly how the two can be equally debilitating. Eventually his own desperate shrieks and subdued black metal riffing join the fray, although they are deliberately buried down in the mix so as to merely add a further layer to the already-established ambient texture rather than taking centre stage and leading the way.

Around twenty minutes in, the riff subsides and we are treated to an interval of sorts with the spoken word outpourings of our female companion on this interstellar trip once more moving to centre stage. A portentious piano theme then takes up the reins, joined by droning guitar chords and a deeper, gruffer vocal that is once more buried such that it acts more as a textural addition than any kind of narrative device. This second act does see some slow progression and does feature some slight building of atmosphere, right up to the piece's ultimate release which sees the return of the opening act's chugging industrialised riff for the finale and sees it ending in probably it's most "metal-sounding" section.

The overall effect of Dark Space -II's subjugation of the black metal elements in favour of the more ambient and textural, sees the band using the toolbox of black and industrial metal to produce what is essentially a drone metal album which has more in common with early Earth or Nadja than any resemblance to more traditional atmospheric black metal. Now I'm not sure how this will be received by the usual fans of Darkspace, although Wroth has dabbled in this more textural style before, but for myself as a lover of quality atmospheric drone metal, I can see many analogies between that style and what Darkspace have delivered here with Dark Space -II and I found it to be a rivetting experience with a refreshing approach to drone metal.


Do you have anything for March, Ben?

Hi Vinny. I only have three this month:

Megadeth - "This Day We Fight!" (from "Endgame", 2009)
Sepulcher - "Towards an Earthly Rapture" (from "Panoptic Horror", 2018)
Sovereign - "Counter Tech" (from "Altered Realities", 2024)

February 14, 2024 02:15 PM

Narbeleth - A Pale Crown (2024)

Ah, Cuba, the home of the world's finest cigars, Twentieth century revolutionaries and the first, although in all probability not the last, potential flashpoint to nuclear armageddon. It is also the original home of Dakkar, the man behind black metal project Narbeleth, although he now calls Galicia in Spain home. It may just be my ignorance showing here, but I never heard of much of a metal scene in Cuba, yet it makes perfect sense for a band like Narbeleth, black metal being pretty much an outsider's style of metal, I would imagine Dakkar being very much an outsider in the Caribbean place of his birth.

Musically, Narbeleth are very much an old-school black metal act, with recognisable and memorable tremolo riffing in the style of luminaries such as Immortal and Satyricon, with a cover of the latter's "The King of the Shadowthrone" even closing out the album. The production isn't as raw as we would have expected from the band's influencers thirty years ago, but the modern production values don't rob the music of any of it's icy aggression and is such that it enables all the constituent parts to be heard clearly. Dakkar has a real ear for a frosty-sounding riff, with his true talent coming in knowing exactly when to throttle back the tempo and when to put his foot down, as it were. This transition between full-on blasting and a more mid-paced tempo provides a lot of the impetus and dynamism in his songwriting and is wielded exceedingly deftly. He also possesses one of those frost-rimed voices that has you imagining visible clouds of icy breath issuing from his lips as he shrieks his occult-heavy lyrics into the night sky.

It would also be remiss of me not to mention the second band member, Vindok, and his supporting role on drums, which he fulfills perfectly, providing a precise battery which injects added impetus to the faster sections and adds depth to the slower tempo parts. Nothing showy, but well-judged and effective black metal skinsmanship. All things considered, I found this to be an immensely enjoyable trip back to the 1990's black metal heyday, with a bit of a modern twist in the higher production values, but that manages to remain authentic-sounding and illustrating perfectly that you don't need to have grown up in the frozen forests of Scandinavia to be able to produce trve black metal frostiness.


February 14, 2024 02:06 PM

Excellent work, Ben. Your dedication is something that I sincerely applaud. Here's to the next 50k!!

Hi Daniel, my nomnations for March are:

Atheist - "Fraudulent Cloth" (from "Jupiter", 2010)
Cave Sermon - "Beyond Recognition" (from "Divine Laughter", 2024)
Immolation - " Of Martyrs and Men" (from "Unholy Cult", 2002)
Ribspreader - "The Skeletal Towers" (from "Reap Humanity", 2024)

If you don't think the Cave Sermon track is death metal enough then feel free to reject it, I am still acclimatising myself as to what qualifies for inclusion and what doesn't.

My suggestions for March, Ben:

Abysmal Lord - "Golgotha Crucifixion" (from "Disciples of the Inferno", 2015)
Paysage d'Hiver - "Eintritt in die Sphaeren..." (from "Winterkaelte", 2001)
Revenge - "Heathen Hammer" (from "Triumph.Genocide.Antichrist", 2003)
Sardonic Witchery - "Barbaric Bastards of Mass Destruction" (from "Barbaric Evil Power", 2024)

It's a little bit over my allotted 20 minutes so if you wish to you can ignore the Sardonic Witchery track.

February 10, 2024 09:43 PM

My top 10 is also dominated by the mighty Candlemass, but that's not really surprising. I have left out Candlemass Live, because great album though it is, it contains tracks that are already on the list on one album or another.

1. Candlemass - "Nightfall"

2. Solstice - "New Dark Age"

3. Candlemass - "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus" (1986)

4. Scald - "Will of the Gods Is Great Power" (1996)

5. Isole - "Silent Ruins" (2009)

6. Candlemass - "Tales Of Creation" (1989)

7. Solitude Aeturnus - "Alone" (2006)

8. Isole - "Bliss of Solitude" (2008)

9. Death the Leveller - "I" (2017)

10. Candlemass - "Candlemass" (2005)

February 09, 2024 09:38 PM

I think that ultimately it must come down to the site owners to decide the policy for genre differentiation as ultimately it comes down to their vision for how they want the site to operate with respect to genres and how broad or narrow they wish the site's genre focus to be. Sure we could pick every release apart and debate the minutiae to arrive at a definitive sub-sub-genre, but what's the point, when you could just be digging on some cool sounds instead of stressing over whether something needs yet another new pigeonhole to be put into.

I get the whole "the listener may not like sub-genre A, but love sub-genre B" argument, but give people credit for being able to pick out what they do and don't like from within a reasonably broad genre definition. It sometimes sounds like we are saying that new music discovery is a trial rather than something exciting and we fear that  some listeners may be too fragile to accidentally hear something they don't enjoy and need to be shielded from the possibility.

All this deep-genre talk feels to me like reading an operating manual for a Ferrari rather than actually driving a Ferrari. Personally, I'd rather we kept the genres reasonably broad and let people make their own minds up. 

February 03, 2024 01:43 PM