Monday, March 30, 2015

Katavasia - Sacrilegious Testament

Written by Kevin Page.

Katavasia is a new Greek supergroup consisting of members from renowned bands such as Varathron, Aenaon, Hail Spirit Noir & Agnes Vein. I had the pleasure to discuss their debut album, Sacrilegious Testament, with Astrous (guitarist and main songwriter). Here is my "InteReview".

Cover art by Agostino Arrivabene

The first thing I hear once Cosmic Nightmare begins is "The Sign of Evil Existence" (Rotting Christ). Especially the monolithic drum pattern. But that doesn't last, you get the spooky keyboards in there with the mid pace riff and then again back to uptempo to end off the lead track. Straight and to the point, pretty much what you want to begin an album.
"Katavasia's sound is straight to the point. No strange layers, no strange drum patterns, only pure greek black metal atmosphere. We follow the spirit of the 90s adding our own identity. We are offering the original values of the past based on the fresh vision we have".
True, there is nothing strange or 'out of left field' on this album. It's pure no doubt, but there is a definite freshness and not just mimicking an old sound.
"We are musicians who respect ourselves, This is something that can be proved by the sound of our main bands. So even if the purpose of Katavasia is to achive a nostalgic mood, we can't be copycats. On the other hand I can't deny that our sound is based on old school, some times familiar patterns. For that reason I believe that Sacrilegious Testament is a successful album, it's balanced and flexible".
What song do you enjoy the most on this album (and why)?
"I will choose "The Chariot of Emperor". I love the epic feeling of this track. Also I think it's quite cool because of the duet between Necroabyssious (vocals) and Sakis (guest vocals from Rotting Christ). Since I am admirer of 90s greek black metal, an almost 'historic' duet like this, can't leave me untouched. Also, the guitar solo of Achilleas C. for me is brilliant, don't you think?"
I won't disagree you on the sentiment but "Visions of the Misty Night" is my favorite. Love the opening riff, the guitar at 1:10 and the tortured vocals.
"Yes, this is a very important spot, too. You know, I believe that the positive thing with this album is that it has so many elements, so that anyone could find something to individualize. Whether it is an intense and fast outburst , or a doom and heavy riff, or even a melodic moment."
You were responsible for writing almost all of the material. Was there any song(s) that came very easy or very hard (and had to be reworked) or that other members needed help completing for you?
"Every song was composed very easily. I think that this was due to the music coming directly from my heart. These things rolled very loosely and without much analysis. However, Achilleas C.’s help was essential referring to the songs’ structure, adding some riffs and ideas here and there. In addition to that, Haris’ keyboard themes gave a mystical atmosphere, as well as the intense and full of energy drumming of Foivos. At the end, I can’t skip the gorgeous performance of Necroabyssious in the vocal section. He really managed to achieve a demonic and furious tone."
Do you have plans for an eventual follow up? Since you are "reliving the past", doesn't a follow up make it even harder to do and potentially lessen the impact?
"Firstly, every member of Katavasia has its main band, in which we drain artistic concerns. On the other hand, Katavasia is something not over-analyzed at all, but something we do for our personal satisfaction. Now, releasing new material is related to our free time and our mood. Referring to your last question, I think that most of the people out there don't judge based on the age of something (of course, being a pioneer is very significant), but they judge based on how honest and dignified is a piece of art. Or at least, this is what I want to believe."
Astrous, thank you for your time. And thank you for creating one of the best albums of the year.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Friday, March 27, 2015

Triumph and Agonia

Written by Andy Osborn.

Although they have been around since the turn of the millennium, the past few years have been incredible for Polish label Agonia Records. A staggering amount of unhinged black and death metal acts have recently joined their ranks and rocketed them to be among the elite European labels. Their releases are no stranger to the annals of Metal Bandcamp, but there’s simply too many great albums to cover in depth. But it’s the perfect time for a round-up, because until April 1 all full-length downloads are just $3, so I thought I would detail a few of my favorites.

Cover art by Necromantic Art

Stench is the side-project of Tribulation members Jonathan and Johannes, and it really shows. Their spaced-out take on death metal clearly carries over here, but it’s a bit more to the point than in their other gig. Nowhere near as proggy or psychedelic, Ventures still uses the similar eerie guitar tones and focus on intrigue to result in a sound that’s more ethereal than deadly. And at 38-minutes, it’s a relatively easy romp through the fucked up minds of these dastardly Swedes. There may be fewer memorable melodies and drug-induced bridges, but their unique songwriting still made Stench one of the more interesting death metal projects around.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Cover art by Benjamin A. Vierling

I’ll admit, I completely skipped over this one when it was released in 2013. Despite the phenomenal reviews, I was simply too overwhelmed by the band's back catalog, reputation, and the length of IV: Arrow in Heart to take the dive. But now that the dust has settled and I've had some time to reflect, it becomes clear why Aosoth is lauded as one of the top French black metal acts. Maybe not quite as out there or experimental as some of their other countrymen, they are still a force to be reckoned with. The song lengths lend themselves to atmospheric black metal, while the beefy production parts of the songwriting are death metal through and through. The result is a staggering onslaught of never-ending twists and turns through a journey of devilish proportions. Epic in scope and execution, IV is wrapped in a miasma of poisonous fog that’s addicting as it is sinister.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Cover art by Kjetil Nystuen

This Norwegian Black Thrash band has flown largely under the radar since they formed almost twenty years ago. The war-obsessed old schoolers throw in everything you want out of the genre; fun riffs, ridiculous solos, songs of battle, and a never-ending feeling that they need to pay constant homage to Venom and Motorhead. Galloping through Fields of Rot is a joy as S.A. Destroyer pummels you with his classic 80s screams. Equal parts Slayer and Marduk, the songs aren’t exactly diverse, but their ripping power is undeniable. This style can be very hit and miss and this 2007 album was likely the high point of the band’s career, but Fields of Rot goes to show that when done right, worshipping the first wave of black metal is a battle worth fighting.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Thursday, March 26, 2015

XII Boar - Pitworthy

Written by Matt Hinch.

Cover artwork by Beak - Six of One

I'm not as in touch with any “buzz” on the interwebs as I used to be but I have seen enough to know folks are diggin' on XII Boar. And after ripping through their first full-length, Pitworthy I'm inclined to agree. The power trio of Timmy Hardrocks (guitar/vocals), Adam “Bad-Dog” Thomas (bass) and Dave Wilbraham (drums) sure do make some fun metal 'n' roll.

Their approach is simple; heavy-ass rock, catchy riffs and sweet solos. Nothing too over the top or straying from the path. Well, the 11+ minute “Quint” might be pushing it a bit but not beyond the walls of acceptance. It's their “epic closer”.

Up to that point though it's pretty straightforward rock. Their performance is locked tight and heavy on the groove. And there's no doubt they know how to work a room. Just lay on that crunchy tone and neverending riff-o-rama and watch the place explode. Throw them on a bill with Admiral Sir Cloudesly Shovell and the venue will crumble.

Judging by that southern groove and their list of influence (High on Fire, Weedeater, Iron Monkey, Motorhead, Sabbath etc.) you would expect these lads to reside in Louisiana or Texas or something but no. They're from the UK. Which makes some sense given their proximity to Irish whiskey and scotch. You can hear that type of drink roughen up Tommy's gruff, weathered vocals.

They've got some killer choruses up their patched jean vests too, especially on “Young Man” and the single “Rock City”. Both of those feature some great bass work from Bad-dog, to the point they could be considered solos.

Stuck in the middle of all the loudness and crashing cymbals is “Crawdaddy Blues”. (Do they even have crawdads in the UK?) It's a jangley acoustic blues number with no vocals that solidifies the bluesy influence infecting Pitworthy.

Pitworthy is loaded with straight up killer rockin' metal with sludge/stoner edge and an unpretentious, fun nature. Pitworthy indeed and perfect for knockin' back some drinks and gettin' down. Plus, that album cover would make an awesome shirt!

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]