GRAND MAGUS - Iron Will CD
Rise Above Records
After the first listen I would've thought this was something from the early 80s. There were plenty of obscure bands doing the Viking mythology thing. But nowadays it's called Battle Metal and GRAND MAGUS should be the true kings of that genre. Hailing from Sweden this power trio led by J B Christoffersson (SPIRITUAL BEGGARS) on guitar and vocals have hammered out (get it?) some cool "retro" Heavy Metal "dude". I can just picture myself standing in some smokey mid-sized rock club. Which actually is not very hard to do. But the club is packed with guys and gals all wearing leather jackets, spiked wrist bands poking out from their sleeves as they raise their arms up giving the two fingered fist salute. Everyone is banging their heads as GRAND MAGUS is on stage cranking out simple and yet totally heavy fucking shit.
This dink opens with "Like the Oar Strikes the Water" which is a decent starting off point. You've got some acoustic guitar in the beginning which gives it a Folk Metal appeal. But after a few seconds the song takes off with some DIO era SABBATH speed and a cool guitar lead. Next up is probably my favorite cut on the CD, "Fear is the Key" which also has a DIO era SABBATH feel to it. Very dynamic sounding NWOBHM type stuff. The following two cuts are actually one. "Hovding" is simply a Geezer Butler style bass intro which leads us into the title cut. It's also got that DIO era SABBATH feel to it but with a lyrical style taken right out of the MANOWAR song writing handbook. A melodic hook ladened cut with a simple guitar solo and an on going chorus which is totally fucking retro.
This is followed up with "Silver Into Steel" which once again has that DIO era SABBATH thing going with a little Bruce Dickenson style vocals thrown in for good measure. "The Shadow Knows" has a riff worthy of Dave Murry/Adrian Smith, even the lead guitar too. I'm actually banging my head to this fucking song! The one cut that changes the whole pace and style of the CD is "Self Deceiver". This sounds like something CANDLEMASS would've recorded a few years back. It's damm good and it shows that the band can really lay down some evil Doom. The theme continues on "Beyond Good & Evil" with more CANDLEMASS/SABBATH inspired Doom. And if that fucking riff isn't Iommi's I'll go to an Emo show and like it. Trust me it's Iommi's all right. The final cut "I am the North" is probably the only sleeper on the release coming in at 9:04. More SABBATH worship but decent enough in an epic sounding way. All in all a truly excellent release.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
BLACK ALTAR - Death Fanaticism CD
Odium Rex Records
This is excellent Black Fucking Metal! Imagine GORGOROTH with a little melody and some lite keyboards added. Yeah that's what this Polish outfit is all about. Actually it's just one man, Shadow, whose the genus at work here. Dark Fanaticism lies in that realm between slick over produced commercially accepted Black Metal and the low-fi recorded on Pro-Tools in your home studio brand. It is in here that the best of the beast reigns supreme for true genre purists. This is only his second full length, although he's been recording since the nineties.
Where do you fucking start? Vocally this is incredible since Shadow has a commanding range which consists of throaty harsh screams that will peel paint along with a haunting rasp-like cackle. And then there's that sick fucking twisted laugh on "The Void". That will freak the shit out even the most die-hard Black Metal worshipper whose heard it all. You haven't heard nothing until you listen to this release 10 times in a row. This guy must use hot tar to gargle with to get vocals this intense. Musically this is flawless in style. The keyboards are held in the background to add atmosphere. While the guitars crunch to the point of disfigurement. The drumming is perfect The vocals are up front but do not overpower the music. It almost has that "live" feeling to it as if a full band was playing in front of you on stage. Obviously that's not the case here but then that's why it's so great. Dark Fanaticism is all about invoking dark imagery and a horrific
atmosphere. I'd say Shadow has achieved that goal.
AURA NOIR - Hades Rise CD
I have to give these guys credit for their "never say die" attitude. Even after Aggressor's accident and Apollyon joining IMMORTAL, they've gotten back together. And they're still kicking out old school Blackened Thrash like when they started back in 1993. But if you're expecting another Deep Tracks of Hell or Black Thrash Attack then you'll be slightly disappointed. Those were great releases back in the 90s. This is great for 2008 and it's a decent follow-up to their 2004 release, The Merciless. When it comes to AURA NOIR, Thrash is their business and business is still good and ugly. This time around Blasphemer only contributes guitar leads to three songs, "Unleash the Demon", "Death Mask" and "Iron Night/Torment Storm". Also Danny Corralles (AUTOPSY/ABSCESS) adds a guest lead on "Gaping Grave Awaits". And by the way all of those songs are good. AURA NOIR have stuck with the formula that fans want. The one big difference you'll notice is in the drum style, because of Aggressor's accident Apollyon has taken over all drumming. Not that Apollyon is bad it's just that Aggressor was much more aggressive behind the kit. But otherwise this is a decent release for fans who might've left the fold. Like I said earlier, it's the attitude.
ABIGAL WILLIAMS - In the Shadow of a Thousand Suns CD
Here we have an American Symphonic Black Metal band nailing the modern day DIMMU BORGIR and CRADLE OF FILTH formula down completely. Well sometimes imitation is the greatest form of flattery but this is a little disturbing. I mean there are very few modern day Black Metal bands that don't borrow something from the past. In all honesty, those who don't are not part of the genre. But after the cheesy keyboard intro, and it is fairly cheesy, the first couple of songs sound like they would've fit perfectly on DIMMU BORGIR's OR COF's last release. In fact midway through listening to this CD I was getting bored with it. Which is just what I felt about DIMMU BORGIR's and COF's last releases too. Hey I'm not trying to come off sounding like some elitist jerk. It's just that the similarities are so blatantly obvious and to not point it out would make me sound foolish.
But let's give them some credit. This is actually better than CRADLE OF FILTH's last release. Musically it's what you come to expect from a Symphonic Black Metal band that's geared toward the Hot Topic crowd. You've got plenty of orchestral styled keyboards, punishing guitars and bass, and blast beat drumming. All of the drumming on here, with the exception of three cuts, was performed by Trym Torson of EMPEROR/ZYKLON fame. Although only a guest here he simply takes over this release with driving rhythmic pounding like a machine gun. The vocalist, Ken Sorceron, comes off sounding alot like Dani Filth with that patented high pitch screech. But probably the most important thing about this release is that it was produced by James Murphy of OBITUARY and DEATH fame. The sound on here is so clean and crisp that you could eat off of it. Which is something that will chase away purists like sunlight to a vampire. But like I said earlier this release wasn't geared toward them in the first place.
Monday, October 20, 2008
BEHEXEN - My Soul For His Glory CD
Widely accepted by those who bow down to the alter of evil as one of the best Black Metal bands Finland has to offer. (Although I'm sure AZAGHAL might have a different opinion.) You could forgive them for taking a few years to release a follow-up to their previous opus of blasphemy, By The Blessing of Satan. So on here the band continues the tradition of laying down an almost impenetrable wall of fucking noise. Except BEHEXEN have expanded their sound to include more than just relentless blast beats and tremolo riffs a plenty. Even Torag's vocal style has changed a little. Instead of the tried and true shrieking like a banshee throughout there's some death like growls coming out. Personally I'd rather have the shrieks since they add to the chilling delivery that was why their past releases were so terrifying to the unsuspecting listener. Also the guitars are not buried over by the bass. In fact the guitar sound on here is definitely different then before. The rhythm and leads are clean, precise and at times, having an atmospheric quality.
The opener, "Let the Horror and Chaos Come" will be a shock to old fans but I like it. Kinda reminds me a little of what you'd hear on the opening of a DODSFERD release. The song rocks instead of repels. From that point on the songs move from fast blasts to slow mood inspired despair. The song 6.6.6. will really throw purists for a fuckin loop. Good since people get too complacent with their favorite genres. I'm guessing that BEHEXEN are taking a cue from DARKTHRONE on this release. In other words create what makes you (the band) happy and fuck everyone else. Like the choir-like vocals that jump on into the title cut and on the song "Born in the Serpent of the Abyss". Then there's "And All Believers Shall Be Damned" which is my favorite cut on here. It's a perfect example of why a band should at least challenge their fan base a little. It's one thing to sit in your (choose one: Basement, Attic or Bedroom) alone with a grim look on your face listening to your favorite BEHEXEN CD from the past. It's another to be pumping your fucking fist in a club watching BEHEXEN playing some of these songs on stage. Which will probably happen sometime soon since HORNA are on tour here in the states too.
KAMPFAR - Heimgang CD
So far this year there have been two Black Metal releases that have knocked me back a loop. Not because of their sheer power or intensity but for the additional elements the bands have incorporated into their sound. Here is the third one of that type. This Norwegian Black Metal band not only blends Folk into their sound. It comes off sounding majestic and there's the knock out factor. Maybe it's just the effects of the season right now but listening to Heimgang is like being embraced with the essence of Autumn. Any band can add some Folk elements to their music. A acoustic guitar passage here maybe some flute in another place. KAMFAR simply infuses their Black Metal sound with this Pagan spirit without the use of traditional Folk instruments.
Now of course if you stare at the front cover long enough you'll be overwhelmed with an arboreal feeling. But it's the music that simply possesses the listener. The guitars, drums and bass gently flow on a melodic pace through out this whole release. Yes it's harsh but all the tracks on here conjure up this earthly sense. Obviously this was recorded in a studio. But when listening to the songs on here. I can picture KAMPFAR playing them in some valley. Their sound echoing off each mountainside. While the lion's share of Black Metal draws upon dark themes. KAMPFAR's is more earthy as if the countryside is speaking to you. Telling tales of the land and the people of old who walked upon it. Since vocalist, Dolk, sings in his native language it only adds more to this epic and dark listening experience.
The CD opens with "Vantro" then slowly builds momentum onward with songs like "Inferno" and "Dodens Vee". The guitars have this organic feel to them while Dolk's harsh vocals grab you by the collar to pull the listener in closer. Here he is screaming in your face while the rest of the band encircles you with furious sounds. Although the band does take a few slow down breaks here and there. The pace of the songs stays quick without being repetitious. Only at the end of the CD on "Vandring" does the band finally ease off the fury and allow you to rest. But if you're like me then you are pushing the replay button over and over again.
DAYLIGHT DIES - Lost to the Living CD
It's good to see a hometown band do good once in a while and DAYLIGHT DIES has surpassed that mark. Their 2005 sophomore release, Dismantling Devotion, garnered critical acclaim. The band also wound up on tour in 2006 with KATATONIA and MOONSPELL. So after spending much of 2007 recording this their third full length and second with Candlelight Records. It's time to see whether their studio time was well spent. And after a few listens I think it's an almost flawless Melodic Doom release.
What DAYLIGHT DIES has achieved on Lost to the Living" is what various past great Doom bands have lost. That being the ability to put out some decent Doom Metal be it in the Gothic, Melodic or Progressive vein. PARADISE LOST had a great release last year with In Requiem, also on our SCUMFEAST METAL FAVORITES FOR 2007 list, but that's the extent it. Other past greats like KATATONIA and ANATHEMA have both turned into entities that could find their way onto DJ playlists at dance clubs. And not the kind of clubs I'd ever go to. Now I will say DAYLIGHT DIES has been heavily influenced by those three bands, along with OPETH. But while their detractors, mostly those who think the US can't produce a decent Doom Metal act, might point that out to be a bad thing. I say to hell with it since it's more like a passing of the torch. And the proof is on this disc.
The CD opens with "Cathedral" a song that showcases the band's grasp of Progressive sophistication and beauty along with pure painstaking despair of Doom. Guitarist Barre Gambling leads us on a melodic path. While Nathan Ellis's guttural growling vocals keep the listener grounded in reality. "A Portrait in White" is my favorite cut on here. The pace is faster with hints of PARADISE LOST moodiness. Great guitar work especially at the song's climax and Ellis's vocals sounding like a beast caught in a trap. "The Morning Light" is another intricate arrangement layered in romantic depression. No I'm not about to slit my fucking wrists. I would play this thing late at night around turn in time. "A Subtle Violence" sounds more slowed down Progressive Metal than Doom. It also sounds restrained as if an explosion was averted at the precise moment. Gambling's ability to control the tempo here is amazing. I'm expecting him to just rip through the song but it doesn't come to pass. Early on I said that Lost to the Living was an "almost" flawless melodic Doom release. The "almost" part comes by way of two cuts sung with clean vocals by bassist, Egan O'Rourke, which are "Last Alone" and "Woke Up Lost". Hey look nothing against the guy or the band. Both cuts break up the structure of the music on the CD. It's just that I'm not one for hushed clean sounding melodic songs in Metal. Otherwise all the rest is fine and firmly places DAYLIGHT DIES into the ranks of their genre heroes.
BAHIMIRON - Southern Nihilizm CD
Here's a band from Texas playing Scandinavian styled Black Metal. Now for those of you reading this from across the Atlantic ocean, yes I can hear your laughter. Well if you think this is so fucking funny then how about a Symphonic Black Metal band with no keyboards, a singer who dresses EMO, sings SCREAMO and they don't wear corpse paint from North Carolina? That's right and I have seen them twice. I almost forgot to mention that one of their guitarists wears a DIMMU BORGIR t-shirt on stage. So laugh at that please because it's really funny. This on the other hand is not funny and it's actually quite good. But for those of you who still might not be convinced on the offset let me explain something to you. Texas has probably executed enough people to exceed the population of Oslo, Norway. If you are some piece of human garbage, a complete waste of human resources or air and you plan on murdering someone. Don't do it in Texas because they will catch you and execute your sorry fucking ass. When it comes to executions in Texas they put them on the fast track. They hand down guilty verdicts in capital murder cases like European nations hand out free health care. I have a lot of friends from Texas. In fact I have never met someone from Texas that wasn't a sick cruel minded fuck. There's gotta be something in the water.
BAHIMIRON exemplify that nasty Texas attitude on this their second full length but first one on Moribund Records. Southern Nihilizm sounds like something which would've been released back in the 90s. I don't think there's anything wrong with that then run away now losers. The total style of their musicianship comes off more in the vein of past Swedish Black Metal than the Norwegian brand. The band shoots for the fury and aggressiveness of the genre which they hit bulls eye. I like Grimlord's vocals, a mix of sick shrieks and guttural gore growls. Probably learned while listening to the tortured sounds of a wild hog while someone performed unspeakable acts upon it. Yeah they've got wild hogs in Texas a whole fucking bunch of em and they're big too. The musicianship at times does take a back seat to the vocals. I would've liked it all evened out but hardly anything to really fuck this up. The sound is pure hate which is presented over to you like a back handed slap to your face. Using their left hand of course. Really good stuff to ruin your life with.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
HATE - Morphosis CD
Since they're a Polish Death Metal band alot of losers are going to compare them to fellow countrymen, VADER and BEHEMOTH. Or at least use those two bands as the yardstick to measure HATE by. I think HATE does a great job standing up on their own cloven feet. On a whole I like it alot since they are not another blast beat crazed Tech Death clone. There's almost a melodic Black Metal feel to their sound especially on "Immum Coeli". Now with that said this CD is a winner in my book of evil already. But I'm always looking and listening at this genre through the eyes and ears of a black hooded torture chamber attendant. For example does it induce brutal pain upon those who will not confess their sins against Death Metal? Yes it does like on the song "Catharsis" with it's fast and furious blasting, melodic leads, plus those guttural vocals. Next up, will the pain slowly rise to the point where it's not slow torture anymore but instead a brutalized maiming? "Erased" is my pick for something like that. And finally can it scare off Death core children dressed in their obligatory backwards baseball caps? Once again the answer is yes. After the CD's spooky title cut intro the band dives into "Threnody" a song that would create panic into any bunch of unwashed minions. I can definitely say I like HATE.
Friday, October 10, 2008
AZAGHAL - Omega CD
The reason why Moribund Records is my favorite label is very simple. They find all these great bands and expose new listeners to works we would not have ever heard about on these shores. Case in point, this Finnish four piece AZAGHAL have been
around since 1995, have released six full lengths plus a dozen or so EPs and Split
releases. And now thanks to Moribund, more people will get to hear AZAGHAL's brand of Black Terror Metal Hell. I'm glad as well since this is a blistering Black Metal barrage that switches tempos from intense to atmospheric in a way to keep your attention. And that's just the music, vocally there's a split from harsh powerful to out right screaming to guttural thunder. Taking as a whole package this 9 cut CD is the equivalent of a Black Metal Crusade on all non-believers of the genre. Another important note is that the production on here is not thin sounding. I'm not saying it's clean and pure like the wind driven snow. That would be sacrilegious to the genre. It's just that AZAGHAL took the time to place all the instruments and vocals in balance to not have one overpower the other. Comparisons to their more notable Norwegian or Swedish brethren are inevitable. But taken individually the songs on Omega are murderous.
Starting with the opener, "Taman Maailman Prinssi", which comes out at you like
opening the door to a room filled with starving rats. Out they come and chew you to pieces. Hey cool sounding eerie intros are fine by me but opening songs that kill
plus set the menacing pace are my favorite. The vocals are savage, guitars alternate from frantic strumming to melodic swirls and of course the drumming is pure blast beating intensity. "Pirun Verta" is another brilliant piece of bile erupting mega-blasting with riffs that chase you down. Plus the synth near the end just adds more depth to the song. By the third cut,"Quetzalcoatl", an almost epic style seems to come into play which broadens everything that you've already listened to on here. "Kuolonkaarme" might try to rein them back into the fiery blast furnace of hell spawned riffage but not for long. Other songs like "Vihani Raivoavina Valtamerina" and 'Kuolemankulti" are place you into a symphonic realm. The closing cut, "Kaikkinakevan Silman Alla", is the soundtrack song to a scorched earth policy.
I have a bad habit of throwing lines out like "one of the best this year". But
honestly when December rolls around and I have to put together a favorites list.
AZAGHAL's Omega CD will be on it. Now is it the overall best Black Metal release of 2008? Well so far the competition is fierce but I will say that this is so far in
EXECRATION - Syndicate of Lethargy CD
Here's just another great new Death Metal band who've gone back to the genre's roots to dig up what some modern bullshitters have tried to keep buried. EXECRATION play Death Metal, not Tech Death, not over the top brutality for the sake of being brutal and it's definitely not fuckin melodic either. EXECRATION have a powerful heavy as fuck sound that's sinister when they're ripping and frightening when they move into Doomish tempos. Take for example the song "Swarming Locusts" which is a second short of being an eight minute lumbering beast. You could just imagine yourself unable to move while this "thing" slowly comes towards you, closer and closer. You are going to fuckin die but the suspense is what will actually do the most damage to your psyche. You want some Epic sounding Death Metal that's the equivalent of eleven minutes of terror? Then repeated listenings of the cut "Clinging to Existence" is just for you. Consider it your penance for listening to bands who blast noise for the sake of noise.
These days whenever I hear a band play Death Metal inspired from Floridian and NY bands from the past I'm in my happy place. I'm in a field surrounded by huge bunnies with big fangs and I order them to chase down all those polo shirt wearing fucks who say they're into Death Metal. I think the song, "Voracious", would be perfect background music for that hunt. Although all the cuts on here are worthy. The title cut is a non-stop bludgeoning being performed perfectly by this Norwegian bunch. This might be the release that Death Metal fans should go out on a search for. I just got fuckin lucky.
CELESTIAL BLOODSHED - Cursed Scarred and Forever Possessed CD
Moribund Records/Debemur Morti Productions
Some people think it's easy to write about a release you really enjoy. That's a load
of shit! It's the stuff you absolutely despise which is easy to write about. For the
good stuff you need to be in that right frame of mind. For me it's always late at
night when other sane people are sound asleep. That's when I blast the good stuff and the words come pouring out like blood from a wound. Take this for instance, the debut full length from this Norwegian three piece Black Metal band. It's perfect for late night listening since it has that 1990's raw and atmospheric style going on like past Norwegian Black Metal greats. I know some people (losers) will balk at that saying there's nothing new going on here. Well fuck you losers! The most fucked up people in Metal just can't understand that fans of Black Metal actually wanna hear bands like CELESTIAL BLOODSHED.
At least I'm definitely one who does because there are those times when I too hate
everything and everyone. So I find solace within the tormented vocals which on here are more in a Death Metal style than the usual rasps. You need to scream over the guitars which come out blasting frenetic riffs. When things do slow down a bit the vocals are like whispers calling out to you. It makes the whole thing more menacing to say the least. The production is the way it should sound like, cold and grim. The seven tracks on here reveal the beauty of nihilism which to me is always refreshing. I'm kinda tired of bands trying to push themselves away from the Black Metal genre in order to "expand the boundaries". When Black Metal wannabe bands start doing "ballads" or doing "unplugged" videos, I'll be blasting this and preparing my weapons for battle. Hopefully this won't be this band's only release. I look forward to their follow-up.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
EXMORTUS - In Hatred's Flame CD
Heavy Artillery Records
Imagine if this happened. Take the essence of early Death Metal, the piss of Yngwie and of course the after show vomit from an EXODUS gig. Pour the contents into a blender, mix it all up and feed it for breakfast to four kids from Calif throughout their childhood. When those kids grow up they will become the band EXMORTUS. Now for an Extreme Music fan like myself this all sounds great. It's like an all you eat Metal buffet. In Hatred's Flame simply knocks down genre barriers and slaps the faces of smug purists. Keep in mind that Heavy Artillery Records has been important in releasing some of the best new Thrash acts of late. Bands like MERCILESS DEATH and AVENGER OF BLOOD being incrediable examples. But EXMORTUS is beyond pigeonholing.
Where do you start? Ok vocal-wise it's old school Death Metal but not a total cookie monster episode. The guy is actually singing in a gruff rasp with some bellows breathing at times plus a few screams and growls. Lyrically you'd think this was a Battle Metal release with song titles like "Valor and Might" or "Glory on the Battlefield". Musically EXMORTUS run wild all over the fucking Death/Thrash template. The riffs are intense. The drums mix blast beats with steady rhythms. And then those Yngwie Malmsteen leads run wild through out. Listen to "Axe's of War" for an Yngwie treatment gone wild. The best of everything coming together as one is on songs like "Storms" and "Fimbulwinter". Although I'd say everything about this release is great. And years from now we'll be speaking about In Hatred's Flame as one of the best of the decade.
KEEP OF KALESSIN - Kolossus CD
Nuclear Blast Records
If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm a jaded motherfucker. And when it comes to reading hype about a band's upcoming release. My bullshit detector goes off like a nuclear bomb. Case in point with this release by KEEP OF KALESSIN since it was called "the most anticipated Black Metal release of the decade", "Black Metal's fastest rising stars", "the new state of the art Black Metal release", etc. The problem is that they're not really Black Metal at all, at least not in the traditional sense. They're more of what you would call genre bending. Not that
there's anything wrong with it since we have plenty of bands doing Blackened Thrash, Blackened Death Metal,etc. (Speaking of bending what's up with the face powder and eyeliner? What are they Black Metal metro-sexuals too?) Now getting back to the music, KEEP OF KALESSIN are simply just one of many newer bands that are like garnish on top of the Black Metal soup. They simply float on top of the genre by adding so many other elements (seminal Thrash, Tech Death, Progressive piano interludes). That's why people who actually despise Black Metal went apeshit over their 2006 release Armada. And for all of you losers who want to cite street cred to the band because in the past MAYHEM's Attila and SATYRICON's Frost were band members, forget it chumps. This has been the guitarist/composer Obsidian C's vision for years now. One more interesting thought is the deja vu factor. A year ago there was another highly anticipated release by a Norwegian Black Metal act on Nuclear Blast Records, DIMMU BORGIR. They too came out with a highly produced release that purposely stretched the boundaries of the genre in order to be more accessible to
listeners. Also raising up the debate again about mainstream versus underground Black Metal.
But the overall proof is in the music and my first initial reaction is "what's so state of the art about this"? Songs like "Ascendant", "Against the Gods", and even "A New Empire's Birth" sound like something ripped off of any recent Epic Battle Metal/Pagan Metal band releases. So for any Metal media snob who would call Battle Metal ridiculous I have to ask "what's your excuse then for liking this?" Personally I do like alot of Battle Metal and that's what KEEP OF KALESSIN have put together on here. The band does throw a few bones at ya like on "Warmonger". But the rest of this CD is chock full of pseudo-progressive intricate melodies which is
something more akin to the background music for a viking battle scene than a satanic ritual. Once again, not that there's anything really wrong with that. And KEEP OF KALESSIN are touring with ELUVEITIE, a Swiss Battle/Pagan Metal band, right now. So let's keep things honest here. Alot of these Battle/Pagan Metal bands lean heavily on Melodic Death Metal influences as the basis for their sound. KEEP OF KALESSIN simply use trigger drum infused Thrash and some Black Metal influences into their own Battle Metal style. And if TURISAS can wear the red and black war paint then these guys can adorn themselves with face powder and black eyeliner. As long as
it's sweat proof because if it's not well then they're really going to look funny.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
ARKONA - "Ot Serdca K Nebu" CD
From Russia with Slavic Pagan Folk Metal Love. I first learned about ARKONA a few months back when I was checking out some Pagan Folk Metal videos. But as soon as I checked out this release I became an instant fan. But by no means is ARKONA just another new band who've jumped in on the Pagan Folk/Battle Metal genre explosion of late. In fact ARKONA are the top Pagan Folk band in Russia. They formed back in 2002 and have put out a handful of releases. This one here originally was released in the fall of 2007. But Napalm Records stepped in to re-release it in the hopes that ARKONA will be more than just a hit in there home country. They're looking towards the world now. And after a few listens I think they are well on their way to getting
there. Their name comes from the last pagan Slavic city castle which was an ancient religious center on the island of Rugen dedicated to the god, Swietowit.
Now I know that the readers of Scumfeast Metal are kinda squeamish whenever I start writing about a Pagan Folk or Battle Metal band. Yes this release has all the musical trappings of what you've become accustomed to with the Pagan Folk Metal genre. You've got your flutes, accordions, acoustic guitars and even some progressive sounding keyboards which are coupled with the heavy guitars and pounding drums. But on Ot Serdca K Nebu, which translates into English as "From the
Heart to the City", ARKONA provides the listener with a dark moody release with many elements of Black and Death Metal into their patented Pagan Folk sound. The basic key to the band's sound is their vocalist/songwriter, Masha "Scream" Arhipova, who can sing clean vocals like Silje Wergeland of OCTAVIA SPERATI plus she screams and growls like Angela Gossow of ARCH ENEMY. Even better is that it's all sung in Russian which gives it a more traditional feel to it.
Music-wise all of the songs on this release are great especially since the band adds enough variety to their mix. At one point you're being punished with "Nad Propastyu Let" which in English is "Over the Abyss of Ages". Then there's the title track which I tend to keep playing over and over. "Sva", a cut near the end of the CD is another favorite, plus the doomish "Oy Pechal-Toska". The whole release is full of variations on a theme which make it a package worth your while. Just drop this CD in your stereo and prepare for one long mountain ride.
MARBLEBOG - Forestheart CD
Autopsy Kitchen Records
This originally came out as a cassette release and as a limited CD back in 2005. Thanks to the folks at this label, it's been reissued on vinyl and limited CD. MARBLBOG is another one man Black Metal outfit. The man behind the music is Vorgrov from Hungary and he brings something to this genre that's not typical. Yes you've got dark ambient keyboard passages, raw Black Metal treble infused guitar strumming. But instead of paying homage to Satanic themes, Forestheart is focused on nature. There's six songs in all starting with "Opening" with it's eerie swirling keyboards (almost like early 70s Space Rock) which gets you into the right mood. When I first
listened to this my thoughts turned to the times when I'd walk through the woods alone. There were times when the thick over head tree canopy would block out much of the sunlight. This would create shadows and dark spots that turned things a little creepy. Speaking of which "Opening" contains this blood curdling screams that are inhuman. They're almost like an animal shrieking in pain and sorrow.
"I Am The Forest" follows and is the most powerful cut on here. Great guitar riffs that add to the forest/nature mystery. I'd even say it's haunting at first then moves onto some clean acoustic guitar melody. Plenty of screams, howls plus samples of wind, birds, and the use of the most non-Black Metal instrument of all time, a jews harp. The added drum rhythms bring forth a majestic Pagan Folk-like atmosphere. "Flame of Wisdom" slows things down to a crawl bringing on the feeling of pure misery. While "Howling of Purity" is a total opposite with an upbeat display of power. The final cut on here simply titled "Closing" starts off with a sample of what sounds like gas bubbling up in a swamp or bog? The eerie synth sounds return then slowly crawls onto this Stoner Rock bass passage. A great experimental way of ending this release.
There are so many things about this release that break it away from the now typical one man Black Metal band mold. And that's important since the lion's share of the one man outfits have no problem following the well traveled path first walked by Varg Vikernes years ago. Vorgrov has entered the forest at a place of his own choosing. Alot of thanks goes to this label since "Forestheart" is one important release which should not be left to just a few.
ARCKANUM - Antikosmos CD
Moribund Records/Debemur Morti Productions
Shamaataes, the mastermind behind ARCKANUM, is somewhat of a one man cult Black Metal hero. It seems when you wait a long time to record a followup to your previous release that status is applied. For Shamaataes it's been ten years to release new material and this one is only his fourth full length over a long career. Antikosmos (Anti-Cosmos) is definitely worth the wait.
Musically it's a blend of Blackened Thrash, Death and Doom which is like getting all of your hate in one dink. And frankly isn't that all we really want out of life? There's eight songs in all (although one cut is actually a spoken word recital) with a running time of thirty seven minutes for the whole CD. The music is powerful to the point of which it invokes angst ridden hatred from the listener. And yet Shamaataes still drops in some simplistic melodies which make this not boring. Also there's some in between song samples of bird cries, chants and wolf howls so yes it's an exciting listen. Plus he has an old school sounding cold, harsh vocal delivery. Yes actual vocals, not just shrieks, growls and barks, all sung in native Swedish tongue. The lyrics are written in a ancient runic language which also adds to the release's sinister mood.