Tuesday, December 16, 2008
This Spanish band sent me their 2007 four song demo/promo a few weeks ago and I liked it enough to go online to their label and get the full length. Note to all bands out there I rarely will do such a thing especially if you're from overseas and I'm trying to meet a fucking deadline. Now with all that said the main reason why I jumped through a few hoops to get this was because SPELLCRAFT prove that there's exceptionally great Black Metal from all over the globe. It all depends where you look for it. Or in their case it came in my mailbox. Big surprise here is that four of the cuts on their full length are also on the demo. No problem because those four plus the other three on this release make up for a great release.
The main reason I like this is that SPELLCRAFT are not part of this "innovation" bug which has invaded Black Metal over the past few years. Which in my not so humble opinion has had a diluting effect on the genre's greatness. Their sound is traditional mid-nineties era blasphemy which is always going to be a bent page in my black and burnt book of favorites. By no means is this "paint by the numbers" type shit either. They're from Spain not Los Angeles. It's taking the weathered template of heathen hell spawned Black Metal and putting their own personal touches to it. To me this band is Spain's answer to GORGOROTH and as far as I know they're not banned from anywhere yet.
The songs on Stirpe Obscura have a way of holding the listener in a cold vice grip. You can't just drop this dink into the stereo and go about your business. Or in my case try to write a review while listening to it play in the background. The songs are crafted with so much complexity. Your listening one moment to something fast and melodic for a moment then the cut dives into an atmospheric well. On other songs the opposite is in full swing. The release opens with a decent barrage of drums, riffs and vocals from cords that have to be in pain. The cut subsides about three quarters of the way through as the vocal "howls/moans" drift away we're left with a short acoustic guitar ending. The riffs come from the dual guitars of Murcilag and Aldromk. They create a wave of noise that seems to grow continuously into a mighty beast. And yet the production on this release seems to hold both six string maniacs in check. It feels like you're being held over the abyss but at that most excruciating second they refrain from sending you over. SPELLCRAFT has put human torture to music.
Speaking of being tortured the rhythm section on here is solid punishment. Unlike many of their counterparts here in the U.S. it doesn't have that artificial feel. Even though the piledriver like precision going on is inhuman to say the least. If you have a splitting headache then Stirpe Obscura is not the release you should be playing in order to comfort your nerves. Although because I'm a corrupt bastard I blasted this one morning because I heard the upstairs neighbor come home around 4 AM. Since his nocturnal actions ruined my slumber I just decided to return the gesture at 7 AM. I'm sure he loved the vocals by Midgard as well. Midgard uses a mixture of cold rasps, eerie long winded moans and clean vocals throughout this release. Each vocal style is just as hostile as the other and never repetitive.
On the whole the nation of Spain has a contender in the ugly wide world of Black Metal supremacy. Or at least a member of the Extreme elite whose shadow dwelling counterparts should all be proud to welcome into the fold. Strangely enough SPELLCRAFT have been around for a decade and this is only their second full length. Obviously after listening to this for a few days continuously it's easy to see that the band was not in a rush. For those of you who like your Black Metal with an attention for deadly detail then this is one for you to have. I'll be surprised if they don't lay in obscurity much longer. If the larger record labels are still on the hunt in 2009 for Black Metal acts which are at least interesting then they should be looking towards Spain for SPELLCRAFT.
SVARTTHRON - Bearer of the Crimson Flame CD
Inferna Profundus / Nocturnal Woodlands Records
This release by Lithuania Black Metal duo SVARTTHRON is the type of sound for late night listening. The music has a somber atmospheric tone. The songs range from slow moody pieces to mid-paced numbers. Plus the vocals are more like low rasps from a depressed sort. The slower numbers almost touch on Doom territory which after 2 AM sounds great. There's nothing like a huge blast of hate in the early morning hours even if it has some "epic" tones. This is over 42 minutes of depressing Black Metal. Anything less would never be as agonizing or painful to bear. For me whenever I'm listening to depressive sounding Black Metal. The idea of yanking an electrical cord free from an appliance, rigging it up to the ceiling fan and off-ing myself never comes to mind. But I do consider the notion that there are others not as strong willed as I. So as much as the band wants me to suffer from their musical version of dramatic hell. I'm just smiling my way through the whole listen experience. I can do that because somewhere there's an individual who is drowning from these seven cuts. My advice to them is to inhale deeply. A blissful slumber will take over and you'll be forgotten. This is recommended for anyone who has a friend into Emo. And as we all know, a friend who's into Emo is not a friend you want to have. Better to hasten their demise.
MERCILESS DEATH - Realm of Terror CD
Heavy Artillery Records
Before I even heard this release my friend, Big Jon, was told by someone else that the sophomore effort by this West Coast Thrash outfit was not as good as their debut. True but then the circumstances are different. Before we didn't know what to expect from their debut full length Evil In The Night. Well that's not true since Big Jon, I and a select few who stuck around after a clueless crowd left actually watched MERCILESS DEATH on stage kick fucking ass at Volume 11 Tavern here in Raleigh, NC in 2007. And their debut turned out to be one of our favorite releases of 2007. If we were just choosing one from a Thrash category then it was number one. So you just can't compare the two. And if you are, then you're missing the point about Extreme Metal. So just sell your copy of this and pick up something more your speed like EVILE, TRIVIUM or SANCTITY. Just go to the nearest Big Box store, head to the music section that reads "metal for clueless pussies" and pick up some of that crap. Leave the good stuff for people who actually like "real" Thrash that's not the buffoonish ANTHRAX rehash. Realm of Terror is a perfect follow up release that continues where 2007's Evil In The Night left us hanging for more. At least a few minutes short of thirty which is long enough in Thrash terms. MERCILESS DEATH are simply evil incarnate which is what great Thrash from the past was all about. Think EXODUS, POSSESSED and DEATH ANGEL all rolled into a trio who are doing more than conjuring up past ghosts. This is dancing with corpses who climbed up out of their graves just to keep the pit alive. While clowns debate the "worthy-ness" of the new METALLICA release, I'm blasting this second helping of hell fueled spawn. Wahfuckinhoo!
ENSLAVED - Vertebrae CD
Nuclear Blast Records
I have nothing against bands who want to expand the horizons of their craft and move onward. As long as they remember, like people who move from one place to another. Once you have a new address your old one is forgotten. A perfect example for my case is here with Norway's ENSLAVED. They are former veterans of the Norwegian Black Metal/Viking genre. Yes the key word here is "former" because if you thought their last two releases were in the Prog style. You haven't heard nothing yet. No doubt someone has already labeled this "Progressive Black Metal" in earnest to create a new genre term. That person will be executed at dawn. Like I mentioned earlier once you move on then your old address is yesterday's news. ENSLAVED might still add some raspy vocals and brutal blastbeats to their songs. But the bottom line here is that they have progressed away from Black Metal. So they're more of a Progressive act now with the added Blackened overtones. Actually they've been heading in a direction of their own choosing for the past decade. I'm not following them either.
But for those of you expecting Blackened Psych or even something along the lines of a DARK-FLOYD. You'll be disappointed to the point of sickness. As soon as the first song "Clouds" started I wondered if that was Herbrand Larsen playing keyboards or the guy from STYX? As the song moves onto a more rock oriented vibe I'm wondering will I turn into a New Age hippy if I play this more than once. "To The Coast" reminds me of what this band once did great. It's as if they wanna play some Black Fuckin Metal but not for long. Their cult leader must have entered the studio mid-way through the recording. OK guys that's enough nostalgia, get back to the earth fart/synth pop crap. "Ground" is a total PINK FLOYD worship to the point where you'd think Gilmour was doing the guitar solo. By the fourth cut, the title track, I'm ready to die. I wanna find some Indie Rock loser and choke em with this ambient shit. "New Dawn" is another cut that starts off promising, which is a real stretch, but then follows down a path lined with the worst moments of their Isa and Ruun releases. "Reflection" is definitely a cut for fags to dance to. I thought "Center" was probably the worse cut on here. Then the final cut "The Watcher" followed it which proved me wrong. In fact "The Watcher" actually clears all doubts that this is pure New Aged garbage. I pity the people who will like this. It's not Metal at all. It's the background muzac playing while cult members, wearing jumpsuits and new sneakers, are downing cups of arsenic laced Kool Aid. Thankfully we still have this band's early material to enjoy. Although it'll be a while before I play Vikingligr Veldi or Frost. Maybe after a few showers because after listening to this I feel dirty and not in a good way. One more time for emphasis, THIS IS NOT METAL! IT IS VERY BAD SOUNDING PROG-ROCK!
Friday, December 12, 2008
HORNA - Sanojesi Aarelle 2xCD
As far as Black Metal goes, this Finnish band is always consistent when it comes to putting out releases that are pure filth. They've been one of my favorites for awhile now and I've had the pleasure of turning many people on to them. Much to their descent into the abyss I might add. This double CD of blasphemy was a tough listen to say the least. Basically I say that because of the length and not the material. Listening to one disc of HORNA is enough to have black bile oozing out from unseen pours in my music room's walls but two discs! Well fuck it I needed to paint the damm room anyway. But seriously once you've absorbed one disc of nastiness then there's the second one to contend with. But let's look on the bright side of this blazing firebrand from Finland. Two discs of HORNA is enough to blacken your soul till Spring and maybe further then that. If I'm listening to this then I know Spring will not come for a while. And that's a good thing.
Also while one disc is an absolute maelstrom of violent Black Metal fury. The other is more in the vein of haunting your dreams or at least your neighbor's if you play it loud enough in the dead of night. It must be like some cold white hand coming out from under their bed. It yanks them out of their precious sleep and down through the floor boards they come. Into Hell they arrive but actually it's just a room I have to blast music in and work on the computer. Some people call it a home office. Others have named it the room of unspeakable horrific sounds. So happy for you to have dropped in. Would you like to worship at the altar of the Horned True One while I get you something to drink. Sorry I'm all out of beer and wine, how about some goat semen? Yes I am drunk but not from booze but from this release.
As always with HORNA, I can't understand a damm thing of what they're singing about since the lyrics and song titles are in Finnish. But I'll just take a guess and say it's of a nature that is evil. Yeah like that was hard to figure out, but in the booklet there are some English translations. Personally I just like to listen and make up my own ideas. Like the whole second disc is about people succumbing to a disease which makes their limbs immobile and they have to crawl on their bellies. Fortunately I'm immune to it so I just have to step over these human snails. Ah yeah maybe I should just learn Finnish instead. Speaking of which I blame all of my evil thoughts on the vocals of Corvus. The man has a raspy tone that haunts the easily scared but strengthens those who crave this stuff. Actually I think Sanojesi Aarelle is the best release they've ever done especially if I compare it to the other releases I have of theirs. And I've got most of them.
MGLA - Groza CD
Northern Heritage Records
Sounds like mid-period BURZUM being strained through Black & Roll at least part of the time. This is my first introduction to the Polish duo's material. Supposedly they are the biggest thing in the homeland's Black Metal scene since sliced bread, goat or when GORGOROTH played Krakow in 2004. I'll tell you this the production value on here is outstanding and they're only a fucking two piece? There are plenty of similar acts here in the U.S. that would kill or spend a day in church, in disguise of course, for this kind of production on their releases. Like I said it's heavy on the Black & Roll side of the aisle until the tempo changes and the blast beats crash the dance. But don't consider this "melodic" at your puny life's peril. You'll wide up with two corpse painted thugs with hatchets at your door some night. If there's a third guy then it's a label representative. Nuff said on that point. You think I'm kidding around? Just read some of the lyrics, these guys don't give a flying fuck about anything with the exception of clean sounding production. You need that in these modern times since low-fi Black Metal ain't cutting it in some people's eyes. By the way there's only four cuts on this dink (?) albeit they are lengthy numbers.
ORLOG - Elysion CD
Det Germanske Folket
Being the outstandingly honest person I am, yeah right I'm corrupt. I have to give credit where it is due. When it comes to Epic sounding Black Metal the newer U.S. bands can't hold a candle or a fake ceremonial dagger to their European counterparts. Case in point here, Germany's ORLOG on this their second full length have a sound that's cold and cruel. They sound frightening which is what Black Metal is all about. It's supposed to have that air of hostility which scares off the inclusive types. Listening to this reminds me of the time I first heard DARK FUNERAL, similar style and the same effect on your senses. Everything explodes all at once with a barrage of guitars, blastbeats and extremely harshly screamed vocals. I can imagine being at a club with ORLOG on stage. The club owners lock all the doors and these Germans just pound out this vile assault of sound. I'll be up front screaming "Yeah"! while I'm sure there will be those trying to escape. But there is no escape you pathetic fools. And afterwards the staff will be scraping your remains from the walls.
Elysion is an explosive release which will simply take hold of your world and shake it literally apart courtesy of the dynamic musicianship and compositions. The opening cut "Sturm" (storm) sets you up for an experience of listening that will have you forget whatever "mainstream" garbage you've been exposed to of late. Trust me when it comes to garbage music I need expunging on a daily basis. "Im Schattenrausch" (in shadow ecstasy) starts out like a slithering beast but soon rises up to consume you. "Das Licht der toten Welt" (the light of the dead world) also starts out at a slower pace only to kick into high gear tearing your legs out from under you. This is what I want from a Epic sounding Black Metal band. Just line up the buckets of vile and let the worthy ones partake in the drinking. Three songs in and I was hooked even though this dink has four more cuts of cruelty. The title track ends this session of torment. No filler crap either since ORLOG save the best for last. The song simply bludgeons you like a gang initiation with everything you've heard previously on this dink.
FOLKODIA - Odes to the Past CD
Stygian Crypt Productions
Here we have various members from FOLKEARTH getting together with some other Folk/Viking Metal artists and forming another international band. The music is very similar to FOLKEARTH obviously but more so in the Folk style. The Metal parts are not as strong still it's a great listen. There's plenty of organic instruments used on here like flutes, violins, whistles and pipe instruments. The vocals are shared by men and women so you'll get the melodic and the metallic rasps. I know some people who go apeshit whenever they hear a flute in a Metal song. They're still pissed at JETHRO TULL winning that Grammy award for best Metal album of the year over METALLICA. Hey people let it go! Besides who cares about Grammys when you've got decent Folk/Viking sounds encircling your world.
LORD BELIAL - The Black Curse CD
Usually an end of the year surprise is a good thing but not with this release. This is very laid back Melodic Black Metal. The riffs are luke warm. The drumming is pushed into the background in order not to offend. There's some added keyboards and strings that add little help to this. The harsh vocals carry no passion whatsoever. Listening to this was more of an investigation to find something cool within the fifty two plus minutes of The Black Curse. The only thing I found out is that I don't like this at all. This Swedish outfit has been around since 1995 and this is the best they could come up with for an eighth full length? You know what's worse than this is that some poor schmuck is going to write nice things about this. How would you like to be that uninformed fuck who is about to lose all credibility just because he/she got a freebie and wants to be nice. Fuck Nice!
I knew this was bad a quarter of the way into the opening cut "Pazuzu". Throwing in some innovation to cover up boring generic Black Metal riffs is not the way to open an album. I was ready to review this one lying on my back. I just about laid out on the floor. And this ain't "shoegazer" material people. The production is way overdone to make this sound crystal clean. The song “Trumpet of Doom” is probably the best cut out of three contenders. But the production really white-washed the blackness out of it. Plus the use of the keyboards is more insulting than complimentary. I wanna throw up right now in an epic way. “Sworn” is so mediocre that it drains instead of breathing life sustaining vile into the listener. This is like being in a horrible relationship. The kind that suck the fuckin life out of ya. And it's not supposed to be that way.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
BATTLEROAR - To Death and Beyond CD
Cruz Del Sur Records
So no shit there you are stranded in your home after a snow storm has blanketed the countryside. It's you and a couple of buddies. You are bored and have nothing to do. I repeat you and your "MALE" buddies have "NOTHING" to do. The cable is out so no TV or Internet but at least you still have power and a refrigerator full of beer. Also one of your buddies, the guy you'll probably eat first if worse comes to worse, has a small stack of Epic Power Metal CDs to play. Think about it, men, beer, stranded, Power Metal? Ah yeah right, the only thing missing is the Hercules Unchained DVD.
So you look through your buddy's stack of CDs in order to fill in the boredom. The first CD is that DRAGON band which you were bored with before they got big. Next up it's MANOWAR, to fight to kill forever more! Ok you can put your arms down. The video of their Euro Tour was cool the first time you saw it and the same can be said about the music. Next up it's MANILLA ROAD, yeah that band which music critics like to name drop in order to show off their snobbery. We'll leave that one for people with no lives except for the ones they have on Forum sites. Finally you find this one, To Death and Beyond. So into the stereo it goes and what comes out is?
Holy diver, this guy sounds like Ronnie James Dio back in the day fronting SAXON. Fuckin A this is cool. Makes me wish I was a teenager again with long hair and a denim jacket with IRON MAIDEN's Killers album cover painted on the back. And lets not forget the pack of Camel Filters in the jacket pocket and a bag of "you know what" in your pants pocket. Hell yeah and these guys are from Greece! I wonder if this is available on 8-Track? I wonder if anyone I know still has an 8-Track Tape Deck. And if they did it would obviously be in their basement. Along with all those black-lite posters they bought from Spencer's Gifts in that brand new thing they're calling a "mall". Yeah like those things will be popular, I doubt it.
Should I get serious now? This is BATTLEROAR's third full length but their first for this Italian label. For modern day Metalheads their sound is described as Power Metal. Old fucks like me just called it Metal back in those days of yore. Back then you only had two types of music. There was the stuff you and your friends liked and then there was crap. I'm sure you've heard stories from your parents. And no it was not just one big Heavy Metal parking lot. But seriously folks I can't believe how "perfect" this dink sounds as far as originality. Epic vocals, acoustic guitars and violins, power drumming and power chords. And look at that fuckin cover? It's cool as fuck! Listening to this has even effected my writing because I sound like a 17 year old. Cool!
DODSFERD - Death Set The Beginning Of My Journey CD
I am the biggest DODSFERD fan in North Carolina. That's not a boast it's the truth so deal with it. (No I don't run the fan page) So naturally I'm gonna have the newest one by Wrath, aka: Nikos Spanakis the one man Greek Black Metal maniac, as soon as it was available. As for all of you others, the lesser fans, you need this one because it's number one in a three part CD trilogy. Wrath will be releasing the second one early in 2009 and will have the third part done before you've taken this out of your stereo. The man doesn't waste time with meaningless things. He's a Black Metal fucking genius who spares no genre boundaries when it comes to writing and recording his craft. The music is generally the same styled old school Black Metal. It's extremely raw sounding with treble screaming riffs that go on for ever. Then there's the vocals which are really tortured wails of pain, anger and desperation. I'm an expert when it comes to tortured wailing, just look in my basement. But anyway if that sounds exciting to you, the music and not my basement hobby, then you need to pick this latest DODSFERD release up.
As on previous releases there's always a track or two that sounds like Blackened Thrash. On this release it's "I Can Easily Destroy All The Things I Have Created", which has more groove than the crackhead you gave your spare change to this morning, dumbass. Most of the other cuts, there's a total of six altogether, are epic sounding and lengthy. Even the song titles are long like the opener "You Were Talking About a Kingdom; What the Fuck is That!!!" or the follower "The Day You Will All Rot, I Will Bury Forever My Hate"! This is another pattern which Wrath favors on all his releases. Hatred is the way of all things when it comes to the song writing of Wrath/DODSferd. I don't know if it pays the bills but he sure has alot of it to spread around.
OCTOBER FALLS - The Womb of Primordial Nature CD
Have you ever stood near a window or maybe out on your porch during a thunder storm? Trust me it's an incredibly enjoyable experience. There's that peaceful sound of the rain falling and then suddenly this explosion of thunder rips apart the night. Then the calm of the rain returns but soon enough that boom returns. I love that shit. It frightens the crap out of alot of people but not me. This release gives me the same sensations to an extent. OCTOBER FALLS (aka: main man Mikko Lehto) combines folk textures with the monolithic bombardment of Black Metal to your senses. Peaceful interludes of acoustic guitar are suddenly shattered by violent yet melodic guitar and drum assaults. Acid drenched vocals cry out over the musical supremacy being pounded out. This stuff is epic and powerful as is with nature.
There's only four cuts on The Womb of Primordial Nature and they are represented by Roman numerals I, II, III, and IV. Obviously Mikko Lehto spent more time composing the lengthy cuts and not song titles. Be that as it may the beast is loose amongst the sleeping babes. And as it creeps along from crib to crib it rips apart each one with savagery and harshness that is equal to anything in nature. It's also a theme which I like to see going on in the present Black Metal genre. Instead of "Hail Fuckin Satan", I'm hearing more bands and artists create music that's nature themed. Obviously some people realize that humanity is out of it's league when it comes to the power and awe of the onslaught of the elements. Listening to The Womb of Primordial Nature reminds us all that it's not wise to run naked out in a thunderstorm.
ENDLESS BLIZZARD - Remember Your Death CD
It's gotten to the point that whenever I start to review a new U.S. Black Metal release. I'm surprised when it's NOT a one man project. Guess what? This is another one man project from Los Angeles of all places. Well the weather out there on the left coast might not be much help as far as inspiration. But everything from Las Vegas westward is pretty much in moral decline so the guy does have that. The biggest surprise here is the quality in the production as far as one man Black Metal projects go. This basically rides the fence between classically low-fi and clean sounding studio perfection. Musically it's your basic style of melodic depressive orchestration with enough tremolo guitar violence to rival a drill wielding mad dentist. The guitar playing is what sets this apart from the unholy flock of other U.S. one man Black Metal projects. Imagine the sound of a blender full of large roaches running on high. Yeah that crunching sound is what sticks out the most about this release. Plus main man Roskva rips into a few searing solos that will choke the weak. His vocals are devoid of any humanity which is always a plus. Another thing on here which stands out better than most one man projects is the drumming. Roskva handed that chore over to a session guy, L Sxuperion. Great idea since it's the drumming (aka: frantic blast beats) which push this material. Add that to the down tuned melodies and this comes off like a maelstrom. Most of the cuts are shorter than your normal fair with the exception of two lengthy numbers. These two cuts, "Cultivated by Darkness" and "Buried Still Breathing/Remember Your Death" are actually the best numbers on here.
BATTLELORE - The Last Alliance CD
First of all you've gotta love the cover artwork. It just screams "Epic" when you stare at it. As for the music I'm familiar with this Finnish band's brand of Battle Metal from hearing their previous release, Evernight. So now here's this new one which is their fifth overall. The same styles are in place as before. You've got the combination of male and female vocals sung over a background of Symphonic Metal with lyrics dealing in fantasy subjects. If you recognize this template and are tired of it. I say try it one more time especially when it comes to this release.
As far as the male vocals go Tomi Mykkanen does have a menacing growl when he's in the Death Metal voice mode. But it's the melodic singing from Kaisa Jouhki which gives the songs on here a mystic edge. Her vocals have that floating on air kind of feel which is needed for this type music. Also like on their last release there is a balance between the two vocal styles on the various cuts which is important. This is something that BATTLELORE exceeds in were as similar bands don't have that type of vocal chemistry.
Musically they still rely heavily on the keyboards for creating the orchestrations but the guitars are much more prominent this time around. Usually in this genre they're kept back in a supporting role. Once again BATTLELORE smashes the template.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
DARKTHRONE - Dark Thrones and Black Flags CD
There are those in the Metal media who believe themselves to be smarter than the bands they write about. I am not one of them but I read articles by those who do. They believe themselves to be opinion makers, trend setters and that if they point then the Metal community will run. DARKTHRONE has been telling those types of cretins to fuck off ever since their music career started. And just like with their F.O.A.D. release from 2007. This new one is another huge middle finger salute to all of whiners, clowns and would-be tin pot banana republic dictators out their in the Metal media. DARKTHRONE is going to do whatever the fuck they want as far as recording music. And if those bozos don't like it, can't understand or explain it away. Then tough shit, chew harder clown.
This new one sounds more Punk Rock/Hardcore (the good stuff) than the boring crap that's been pouring out of that genre for the past twenty years. And a Black Metal band shall lead the way. Straight from the opening cut “The Winds They Called the Dungeon Shaker”, I'm about to jump out of my seat and slam someone into a wall. But first I need a beer, yes a fuckin beer! That's right drinking beer and listening to the new DARKTHRONE CD. Normally you would figure people would be huddled around some circled pentagram. Not anymore because now we're knocking each other over. "Death of All Oaths" and “Hanging Out in Haiger” are also exceptional cuts that will have you flipping out, in a good way of course. That's if you are not a whiny little piece of shit.
Yeah I know there's going to be a horde of younger Black Metalheads who will contemplate falling on their cheap Made in China ceremonial daggers. So fuckin what! Remember when ENTOMBED released Wolverine Blues in 1993 and then later in 2001 they put out Morning Star? You would've thought a flood had occurred with all the water from the tears of Death Metalheads crying. Same goes with this, stop crying and enjoy it. Hey if you ain't laughing during "Hiking Metal Punks" then you are really fucked. Luckily DARKTHRONE have thrown you a bone to gnaw on with "Norway in September". Another thing even though this is not "troo" Black Metal which came out before you were born or worse when you thought Grunge was cool. DARKTHRONE are still just as cold and frost bitten sounding as ever. So deal with it people because you never know, Varg might be coming out with a gangsta rap album next year. Wow was that loud "thump" the sound of a thousand Black Metal kids keeling over in shock?
FOLKEARTH - Songs of Yore (acoustic) CD
Stygian Crypt Productions
No I'm not drunk on mead. Although I did put a dent in a bottle of it at a friends house back in October. Good stuff and it goes well with homemade pizza. And no it is not a typo. You are reading it right, ACOUSTIC. Your next question is WHY? Well that's cause this is FOLKEARTH and they, as in eighteen musicians from nine countries, have released a stripped down version of "their vision". Basically these are their songs without the Black, Death and Epic Metal overtones. Songs of Yore is more than just a true Folk release. To me this is a test which will uncover the truth behind all of this new Pagan/Folk Metal mania. For all of you out there in the wastelands who say you like this genre then here you go. This is what you'll be hearing when the power goes out. Can you handle it? As for me yes I do. Those of you who have their Father of Victory release will notice that the majority of the songs on here are from that one. Albeit they are the "troo" folked-out versions. Be prepared for plenty of acoustic guitar, harps, flutes, mandolins, violin and accordion.
FOLKEARTH - Father of Victory CD
Stygian Crypt Productions
I've never been a fan of American Folk music. So I just can't explain why I have developed such an interest in Folk Metal especially the Pagan variety performed by Scandinavian as well as Central and Eastern European bands. My only explanation is that the music is good. It has this earthy ebb and flow which tugs at your psyche. The historical significance is enough to blow one's mind if you realize that the lore behind the music is sometimes over a thousand years old. The music has roots that are planted deeper than anything other Metal musical genres can provide the listener. Plus the compositions carry more diverse human experiences which can be related to with ease by almost anyone. That's my guess to why this genre has exploded with popularity amongst fans of Metal. And I'm not talking about the fair-weather types who jump around from whatever is popular at the moment to the next. I'm talking about people who actually "LIKE" music and can appreciate the significance and impact it has on our culture and those of the past.
Which brings us to FOLKEARTH who are fairly unique within the whole Pagan/Folk Metal genre. Their story starts back in 2004 when a bunch of musicians from various countries, who were already into Pagan/Folk Metal, banded together to create something even more magnificent. Since they really didn't have one country to be strictly from they chose the name FOLKEARTH. I first got into them after hearing their By the Sword of My Father release and have been a fan ever since. Father of Victory is the fourth full length from this international supergroup. And as before this is some of the best Pagan Folk/Viking Metal to be heard south of Asgard. What makes FOLKEARTH as well as plenty of other great Pagan/Folk Metal bands so brilliant is their ability to balance the two elements of Folk and Metal within the songs. They way they add in the flute or violin parts whether it's role is prominent or support. Also with FOLKEARTH the male/female vocals are not an overdone cliche as with many bands. Finally there's a good division between the harder edged cuts and softer numbers. Yeah I know the term soft might not go well with Extreme people.
ISKALD - Revelations of Reckoning Day CD
ISKALD are a two piece band from Sortland, Norway who've just released one of the better sounding melodic Black Metal releases this year. Regular Scumfeast Metal review readers are right now screaming "wait a minute, how many melodic Black Metal releases have you reviewed this year"? That's true, usually it's the Ambient stuff, brutally Satanic or Symphonic Black Metal that the scene has been overwhelmed with of late. So this release is definitely a breath of fresh air, albeit a cold one. Simon Larsen takes charge of the guitars, bass, keyboards, and vocals while Aage Krekling handles the drums and vocals. I'm assuming they'll have session musicians while on tour. And hopefully they'll play here in the states sometime in 2009. But with all that aside this release, their second, is a mixture of all things which make me a fan of Black Metal.
All great releases are a sum of their various parts. Revelations of Reckoning Day is a great release because it contains elements of past perfection and improved upon it. Even jaded losers will bend over and kiss their ignorant opinions goodbye once they hear this. ISKALD have taken that icey melodic intensity which IMMORTAL used to have (and hopefully they'll have it back in 09) and placed it into symphonic arrangements which makes this sound epic. Their use of keyboards is minimal most of the time. The guitars, drums and yes bass, that you can actually hear, are center stage. Another key on here is the variety of sound structures being poured out in each and every song. One cut might take you on a furious DISSECTION like attack while the next is reminding you of EMPEROR painting a snow covered Scandinavian landscape. Here's another way of looking at it. Stare at the cover art while this is playing and soon you'll feel an icey cold grip take hold of you. Fight it off as you might but eventually you'll be that figure freezing in the cover art.
All the songs on here are excellent. From start to finish it's an essential release for 2008. The first cut "Ruin of Mankind" opens with a hiss as if it came from some frozen warrior or the North. The song runs at a galloping speed as if to slow down would freeze you over. "A Breath of Apocalypse" is more of an epic sounding number that continues where the opening track's speed leaves off. The guitars and blast beating drums combine to give the impression of a swirling snow storm. The cold harsh vocals leave little to imagine otherwise. The song does break down to a slower marching type pace in the middle. We are talking about the Apocalypse here. "Warriors of the Northern Twilight, Part II" is a lengthy but incredible number which never grows boring as some lesser acts would make it. Like the rest of this release it's an epic adrenaline rush all of the way through. Their Norse warrior ancestors would be proud of this.
TORTURE SQUAD - Hellbound CD
This band might be from Brazil but their take on Thrash was ripped from European roots. Oh yeah and I like it especially the slight Death Metal touches musically and vocally. Finally I'm hearing some decent new Thrash that's not U.S. born, bred and fed copious amounts of EXODUS & SLAYER. Not that there's anything wrong with that but it's good to hear a band from somewhere else do it. Britain would be the exception to that statement. I'm not saying throw every U.S. Thrash release away, grab your bullet belt and hop on a plane to Brazil. Hellbound is not perfect but it sure as Hell is good. The whole thing has that mid-eighties sound quality going for it as far as the production. Good Thrash riffs accented with some decent solos. The drums actually sound like they're being played by a human and not a computer. Then of course there's the vocals which had me hooked from the moment this guy started. I like how he mixes Death Metal growls into all of it.
Has some genre creating fool came up with the term Death Thrash yet? Obviously it had to have been done even though I wouldn't use the term. Personally I'd just call TORTURE SQUAD a great Thrash band. But you know the Metal vehicle has also been described as a clown car so anything is possible. Yes I know that was a mean spirited thing to say but you know that I am evil. Honestly you can't swing a studded guitar strap at the Wacken Fest without hitting some schmuck who wants to be the first to coin a Metal genre phrase. Well I'll call this ten great tracks of decent sounding Thrash.
Monday, December 1, 2008
STORMLORD - Mare Nostrum CD
Italians always have a flair for the theatrical which is the case with this release. And it's not over until the fat lady, who does show up in the choir, sings. I'm serious since STORMLORD have spared no genre in order to record this opus. Gothic arrangements relying heavily on the keyboards with Black Metal vocals and Power Metal melodies. Now if your head hasn't exploded just yet you might want to look out for the TYPE O NEGATIVE/69 EYES vocal-isms sprinkled into a few songs amidst the harsh screaming. Touches like that only add to the whole Epic Black Metal-ness of Mare Nostrum. Plus there's this whole Middle Eastern flavor going on in the songs. I hate to say this, ah no I don't, but this is like CRADLE OF FILTH on a Roman holiday. And the fat lady has worked her butt into a few more of the cuts.
Mare Nostrum must be a concept album from the front cover painting of an ancient ship in peril from a sea monster. There's various maritime signature songs like "The Castaway", "And The Wind Shall Scream My Name" and "Legacy Of The Snake", see front cover painting for that one. It's a nine cut orchestrated journey which lasts at least 45 minutes. Any longer and you might jump overboard. After my second listening of this I was ready to drown myself in the bathroom toilet. Which is a nice thing to say about this extremely over produced Gothic sea urchin of a dink. This is grandeur on a depressing scale. Does anyone have an idea what the band was playing on the Titanic the night it sank? If I was going out on a lake in a canoe with a friend and she had this CD on her Ipod. I'd say no thanks toots, I'll swim.
SYLOSIS - Conclusion of an Age CD
Nuclear Blast Records
At first I thought I was in for some inventive English Thrash but then the Metalcore breakdowns kicked in. Some more surprises consisted of melodic clean vocal passages in the harsh vocals. Toss in some AT THE GATES worshipping and you know a few Progressive guitar introductions. No this is not up my alley but on a short pier yeah. Right now there's about a hundred or more US bands doing the same thing. I don't care if they're from England or the leads are taken from (name your favorite Swedish Death Metal guitarist here). I was expecting something in the vein of Thrash and got you know what. Where I used to work at we had this generic satellite radio system. The station titled "metal" would play all of this mainstream crap on it. I couldn't bare listening to it. I would tell the bartenders to turn it on to a classic rock (aka: CROCK) station or anything else but that mainstream metal (Metalcore) crap. Friends of mine who love their Metal would come in and hear Elton John or Dylan playing in the place. They would ask how could I stand to listen to that stuff? I would explain to them that the metal station we had was worse. Of course they didn't believe me at first and wanted to hear for themselves. Five minutes into it they'd come running up to me begging for me to change the station. I'll bet you that this debut CD by SYLOSIS, who are not Thrash, is being played on that station right fuckin now.
GRAVDAL - Sadist CD
At first I was a little disappointed with this release. I figured "unholy shit" they're from Bergen, Norway! But after the first listen I wasn't screaming "Hail to the Dark Lord". I wasn't planning any phone calls to Gaahl telling him it's time to pack it in there pal. In fact I thought Euronymous must be rolling over in his grave laughing. Yeah I wasn't happy at all with this one. But after a few days I gave it another shot, the release that is, I was totally sober. I always try to find something of worth with every Extreme Metal release when I do these reviews. The mainstream shit can rot away as far as I care. But bands like GRAVDAL have something going on with their music which can easily be overlooked. Especially if you are use to over the top type Black Fuckin Metal that roars at you. GRAVDAL on this their debut release have a sinister appeal to them. Musically it's straight forward Norwegian Black Metal and if it came out in 1993 then it would be an essential cult classic. But it's 2008 and if you're gonna go for the raw sound of yester-year it better be filthier than watching a goat fuck the week old corpse of a fat lady and eat it afterwards. Now that's filthy!
So to the band's credit I'd say at least half of Sadist is worthy enough for the goat
treatment mentioned in the previous paragraph. I'll tear into this by the basics. First off the vocals are decent. The singer obviously has a naturally cruel sounding vocal delivery. There's times when you can actually hear him reach his range limit. If this was an overly produced piece of crap you would never catch that. A producer would take that out in a heartbeat. Personally I'm glad this was recorded in a way that's probably more true to their live sound than alot of other bands coming out today. Yes I'm talking about the new crop of overly produced US bands who are really sounding phony of late. By the way there's nothing phony about GRAVDAL.
Musically I thought this band had a steady bass player because on some songs I heard him and then there's no bass at all. Guitar wise I have no complaints at all. Did Infernus teach these guys how to play? Because some songs on Sadist would easily compare with older GORGOROTH. That's a compliment guys, run with it. I especially liked how GRAVDAL slows things up on certain cuts letting the guitars roll over you. Not like a steamroller of course but instead like someone zipping up a body bag that contains a naked female corpse. By the way great cover photo! Finally there's the drumming which is competent as far as straight forward Black Metal goes. Fenriz hasn't found an heir to his throne just yet.
Like I mentioned earlier at first I didn't care for this but decided to give it a chance. I'm glad I did since this is just GRAVDAL's debut. Obviously their follow-up is going to blow away alot of people soon enough. Actually I'm betting on it since I decided not to write reviews for the new ones by SATYRICON and CRADLE OF FILTH. Prove me right guys, you're from Bergen for Satan's sake.
ELITE - We Own The Mountains CD
Back in June I was reading an article from a Metal mag where the author made the claim that I thought was presumptuous. The author stated that as of 2008, bands from other countries had taken the Black Metal banner out of the hands of the Norwegians and ran away with it. The guy based his opinion on how all of these bands from other countries had added touches from other genres. The basic idea was to give their Black Metal sound the innovation needed to make it more accessible to modern listeners. Ah, yeah whatever. Obviously this was before the release of ELITE's third full length, We Own The Mountains. This is like a cold blast of winter wind coming down from the mountains. The kind of wind that will either freeze the unexpected in their tracks or slice their flesh like a razor. And that should be no surprise since ELITE hail from Mo I Rana, Norway which is just below the polar circle. The music on here is as cold and unforgiving as their winters. It is also sharp enough to cut through whatever bull lay before them.
ELITE are not straight forward Norwegian Black Metal. They add touches of many other genres to complete their sound. If you wanna call it innovation then fine. If you wanna call it Pagan then that's closer to the mark. As for me I see it as something which many of the genre's best bands have always been doing for years. The difference is that the good ones, like ELITE, add things in subtle ways. For example on We Own The Mountains I can definitely hear touches of Melodic Death Metal and maybe some Thrash influence. But ELITE manages to mesh everything together so the songs have this steady flow to them. It's more like being enveloped by an epic storm from the north. Tempos shift in song structures, the guitars sweep in and out like wind gusts. In fact this is one of the more interesting guitar sounds I've heard all year from a Black Metal band. It's got that CHARGED tone that's not over produced but still not too raw where it would come across like fuzz. DARKTHRONE will always be kings of Black Metal fuzz. ELITE has this crisp fresh sound that's needed in this genre now. The vocals are of the harsh variety and blend in sync with the music. I know there will be others who will nit-pick their way through this release. I could just as easily spot an influence here or a borrowing of something from a past great too. But I'll leave that childish bullshit to the losers who wouldn't know good music even if it crashed on them like an avalanche. As for as I'm concerned this is definitely one of the best releases this year.
DEMONIZER - Triumphator CD
Once I saw song titles like "Alcoholic", "The Wolf Inside" and my favorite "Bestial
Ejaculation". I kinda figured that I would like this one. Here's the third release from this Belgium band and unfortunately it's my first time hearing DEMONIZER. So their back catalog is now on my future "must get" list of past releases. Triumphator is faster paced Scandinavian style Black Metal/Blackened Thrash that will murder your family if you played it for them. Not that I'm getting any ideas mind you. I love my family and for fifty bucks you can too. But let's get back to the issue at hand which is this release.
I'd say DEMONIZER lean more towards the Thrash side the room but it's the European variety and not U.S. Thrash. These Belgium's are not in it for good times or for everyone to have some fun. Speaking of no fun the band has two guest vocalists on here, Nornagest from ENTHRONED and Noctiz from PARAGON IMPURE. There's two guys who would rather spit on you than say hello. The bottom line is that there's nothing new here as far as Blackened Thrash goes. But that's not a concern for real fans of this genre, present company included. Innovation is a word not used in Black Metal circles with pentagrams inside them. Evil is, so lets just stick with that part of the devastation. This release is like mechanized death roaring at you at high speed. And once this Belgium murder machine gets close enough to you. It will shred the skin from your bones. Give it a chance and then when I see your skinless frame lurching down the street. I'll know you're a fan. As far as I'm concerned I've got thick skin. But DEMONIZER is peeling it away each time I play this.