Friday, July 20, 2018
HALLIG - A Distant Reflection of the Void
I've made it clear many times that I consider what people call black metal's first wave to be more of influences than an actual genre creation. It's black metal's second wave when things came together. So we're looking at a 30 year old genre that's been stretched thin as well as repeated over as far as it's varied sub-genres go. Now whenever I look at it today I find it rare to find bands that push beyond their predecessors but just do well at it.
Germany's HALLIG do quite well at creating melodic black metal that takes hold of you. For me it's the twin guitar usage and how the melodic song structures flow. It really grabs you to the point where you are not going to lose interest or predict their outcomes. The drum work on here is penetrating as well as equal to the string instruments. Sometimes it does take a back seat.
The only thing which stands out from tradition are the vocals or at least the way they're projected. There's an array of styles being pushed here were you're left wondering is it one person or multiple persons. You've got viking grunts and harsh screams along with clean caustic singing. There are times when it all comes across as that Euro battle metal using blackened death as it's base.
HALLIG started out in 2010 and prior to this released a full length in 2012 and followed it up with an EP in 2016. Obviously they've worked hard on this latest one, A Distant Reflection of the Void. To me musically it's a masterpiece of epic melodic black metal proportions. I'm not too keen on the vocal styles being implemented but hey that's just me. Others might find the variety for more interesting.
CRAWL - Rituals
Transcending Obscurity Records
When I saw this was death metal from Sweden I kinda was optimistic. Then I gave it a listen and well my attitude changed dramatically. CRAWL does feature a group of musicians firmly rooted in death metal by way of their other bands or former bands. One of those bands is DEMONICAL who I know well. A couple of others are DECOMPOSED and DISCARNATE. But musically CRAWL is a fusion of death metal and hardcore.
That style is nothing new in fact another cool band from this label, the Rogga Johansson/ Dave Ingram project DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN, does a damm great job at it. DISFEAR makes a career of it when they're not trying to resurrect AT THE GATES again. Even the early days of Swedish death metal have some elements of hardcore as well as thrash in their sound. CRAWL actually bleeds out hardcore grooves that reminds me of the late 80s / early 90s style which the new kids called crust (we just called it all hardcore back then).
As far as the death metal attributes CRAWL brings forth I'm thinking latter day DISMEMBER. By the way this is CRAWL's debut full length. They put out a demo and an EP in 2015. I'm guessing this is just a cool side project by a couple of guys who wanna play something other then straight up death metal.
LURK - Fringe
Transcending Obscurity Records
The first time I listened to this was when I was getting ready for work. Ah no couldn't do that one. Music like this should not be coercing through one's mind when they're dealing with people. So when I got home later that evening I popped a beer, pushed play and settled in to the unsettling sounds from this release.
LURK hail from Finland, a nation that's certainly producing a lot of wild sounding extreme music this year. While I was listening to this my thoughts were of depicting myself lost in a hellish menagerie. During the opening cut I was wondering what if PROFANATICA were an atmospheric sludge metal act? Of course as the release continued on other doomish textures exposed themselves.
On this the band's third full length LURK have a few undeniable underlining influences that are blackened and deathly. But for the most part they're firmly planted in sludgey doom that's heavy handed as well as distorted. The vocals vary from harsh screams, cavernous growls as well as haunting vocals. Eight songs in 44 minutes which at times are horrific trance inducing.
Thursday, July 19, 2018
IMMORTAL - Northern Chaos Gods
Well the big metal news for 2018, at least from the mainstream metal media, is that IMMORTAL are back. BUT Abbath is not with them. Well so fuckin what, right? I mean there are plenty of fans who lost interest in the band back in 1997 when guitarist Demonaz had to stop playing because of severe tendinitis. Although he did stick around as songwriter and most likely inspiration but the band did become Abbath's vehicle from then on.
1999's At the Heart of Winter, which saw Abbath take over on guitar marked the point when IMMORTAL went from grim & frosty black metal to grim, frosty & thrashy BATHORY influenced metal and eventually turning into a northern darkness version of KISS. Look I'm not cutting it down, seriously I'm not, but one wonders what would the band's career have turned out if Demonaz never left.
Of course when Demonaz came out with his solo album, March of the Norse, in 2011 the answer was made. It's because of the greatness of that offering I kinda knew what to expect on this one. So after one listen to Northern Chaos Gods my first thought was that this could've been At the Heart of Winter 2. Better yet, if Demonaz did not come down with tendinitis back then we would be heralding this as an iconic release from the 90s instead of today.
Basically this release carries the ethos of Battles in the North and the mythos of Blashyrkh. It's all in the same vein of what IMMORTAL moved onto but with epic tracks like "Mighty Ravendark" and "Gates to Blashyrkh". It just feels like what it had should have been. Nailed to that you've got thrashy blackened cuts like the title cut plus "Into Battle Ride" which will get you to go fuckin nuts. You will be bouncing off the fuckin walls. You'll also be (if you're a fan) remembering every nuance this band has done over the years.
Speaking of the band (aka: IMMORTAL 2018) Demonaz's guitar work is thrashy in riffage as well as power chord roughness. It ain't the old ways but hey give the guy a break. He ain't the greatess guitarist from Norway anymore but is still worthy. Vocal wise he's a harsh causer singer which is a fresh breath from Abbath's evil frog style. Horgh is back on drums and is super incredible. Long time friend and producer Peter Tagtgren of HYPOCRISY takes on bass duties.
Can I just say I love this record?
BACKWOODS PAYBACK - Future Slum
Small Stone Recordings
Waitaminute I thought all Small Stone Record's bands had at least one ex- ALABAMA THUNDER PUSSY member. OK I better check the bands on the t-shirt I got years ago. But something of interest, this band's drummer is Erik Larson and I've probably seen him more fuckin times performing in bands than you can shake a stick at.
I've seen him play in AVAIL at a house party here in Raleigh, NC. many years ago. Actually they set up in a dirty back yard. Then KILARA played the first Scumfest in 1997 at a punk/metal club I use to work at called the Caboose. ALABAMA THUNDER PUSSY played there as well many times. And THE MIGHT COULD played a show years ago in downtown. I bought their CD off the guy.
But anyways here's his new band, well he's been involved in it since 2016. Basically this is a three piece made up of Mike Cummings on guitar and vocals. Jessica Baker on bass and Erik Larson on drums. Musically this points in the direction of stoner rock but there are times when it comes across as Sub Pop 1988. Can you say Grunge Revival?
This is the fourth full length by this Pennsylvania power trio. Yes it has that early grunge element but not in that bad way we all remember it. There's a low-fi gritty feel to their songs. Add to that some vocal trade-offs from Cummings and Baker. They even slip in some punk rock influences. All in all an enjoyable release that will rekindle some past memories.
SAHON - Chanting For The Fallen
Transcending Obscurity Asia
Korea has been in the news of late so hey why not check out some South Korean metal or more to the point, thrash. Full disclosure on my part, I am ignorant as far as Korean metal goes. So this was an education to say the least. First off SAHON have a history. They've been around since 1999, have five full lengths and an EP prior to releasing this one here.
Now before I go any further I need to ask you all a question. Can you name a thrash band today whose been around for twenty years and still has a sound that ferocious as well as dedicated to the genre basics? Take all the time you need. OK that's enough because you'd be hard pressed to come up with one. Right now I wanna check out this band's debut release Made in Judecca from 2002 or their follow up Kill But Shut Your Fucking Mouth from 2003. Just to see what they were like then because this one is killer.
Chanting For The Fallen is full on old school thrash and I'm on the fence as to where this band takes their influences from. I'm leaning towards that they've created their own style. Then again I do hear some Teutonic thrash style in a few songs. They also like MOTORHEAD. But in the end they've learned to filter it all to fit their own thrash vision. I think that's pretty cool.
MARDUK - Viktoria
Century Media Records
When the label dropped the song "Werwolf" weeks ago I was like "Ah have they gone punk and what's with the kids singing the chorus?" To say I was surprised is an understatement. Of course when I finally picked up my copy of this, the surprise element was gone. It was replaced by complete dissatisfaction.
I guess the obligatory personal history overview of this band and I needs to be written. Yes I am a long time MARDUK fan. I've stuck with em through each of their eras. I love their old straight up black metal material. The Panzer Division era was fantastic. And when Mortuus of FUNERAL MIST took over on vocals I thought they'd become a lot more interesting. I don't have favorites because I've liked all of it.
Now I'm not saying bias is in effect when listening the various MARDUK releases. They have some superb releases and plenty of decent ones. Viktoria definitely falls into that latter category. I'm also being nice about it since it took plenty of listens to win me over since there's a lot of problems with it.
Let's start with the obvious, it's a short release at a running time around thirty-three minutes. Of course their more recent albums have been much longer. So this is definitely a step back for them. The opening track / single "Werwolf" is a throwaway cut for me. It sticks out like a sore thumb and could've been part of an EP. MARDUK are very familiar with putting out EPs. Out of the nine songs on here most are of the fast mode ala Panzer Division Marduk style. There's plenty of recycling of riffs.
As far as the slower tracks that are supposed break from the monotony, they seem to be incomplete as if this recording was rushed. And that's the rub I get from this. It's as if hey they're on tour and need a full length out to sell along with all their other merch. Throw some suggestive cover art on the release as well to go with their latest jaunt with infamy from their naysayers. It all seems more of a corporate ploy than true black metal.