Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Bölzer - Hero

By Calen Henry. Despite blowing up in the metal underground in 2013, Hero is Bölzer's first full length album. Their legacy is built on a single track, "Entranced by the Wolfshook", featuring a riff so good that it has overshadowed everything they have since released. It's impossible to talk about Bölzer without talking about that riff. "Entranced by the Wolfshook", in a single riff, is Bölzer.
By Calen Henry.


Despite blowing up in the metal underground in 2013, Hero is Bölzer's first full length album.

Their legacy is built on a single track, "Entranced by the Wolfshook", featuring a riff so good that it has overshadowed everything they have since released. It's impossible to talk about Bölzer without talking about that riff. "Entranced by the Wolfshook", in a single riff, is Bölzer. Their sound, raging tremolo riffs back flipping between extreme low end and high end supported by driving drums is both phenomenal and original.

Bölzer have since fallen victim to their own prowess. "Entranced by the Wolfshook" is un-followup-able, yet everything they do is checked against it. Reading reviews of Hero makes it seem as though the only way their full length debut could possibly have delivered is to have been comprised entirely of "Entranced by the Wolfshook", but also not because no one really wants that....

Photos by Pedro Roque.

I have to admit to myself and now the Internet at large that I never really liked either of their previous EPs, apart from the riff. The way their trademark riffing was spun out into songs pulled too much from the sides of death metal that don't appeal to me resulting in an overly busy cacophony supported by fantastic riffs.

Within the framework of Bölzer's sound Hero is a drastic change. The trademark sound is drawn out into cohesive songs that combine crushing riffs with elegant transitions and showcases an unabashed commitment to melody. I love it. Every change makes me like it more than their previous work. It's everything I didn't realize I wanted Bölzer to be.

The riffs are stretched out over entire tracks and themes are repeated between tracks giving the album incredible cohesion that rewards repeated listens. The vocals supporting these titanic compositions are much cleaner than before combining a sort of melodic bellowing, reminiscent of Troy Sanders' vocals in Mastodon, and a kind of commanding oration completing the martial Roman feel the band has toyed with since Aura.

Don't believe the anti-hype. Bölzer know exactly what they are doing, how to do it, and that no one else can do it.

Tagged with 2016, black metal, Bölzer, Calen Henry, death metal, Pedro Roque

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Forndom - Dauðra Dura

By Hera Vidal. Atmospheric black metal has always been my favorite kind of black metal due to the eerie softness of the music and the slow build-up between major movements. However, what I like most about atmospheric black metal is the way it makes the listener forget everything—time, space, and reality—and how it transcends the listener elsewhere.
By Hera Vidal.


Atmospheric black metal has always been my favorite kind of black metal due to the eerie softness of the music and the slow build-up between major movements. However, what I like most about atmospheric black metal is the way it makes the listener forget everything—time, space, and reality—and how it transcends the listener elsewhere. However, transcendence into death and the afterlife should be something that needs to be looked into. After all, what’s the point of exploring the possibility of dying if you are going to only explore it in the lyrics?

Would you be willing to offer a deeper explanation of Dauðra Dura, which translates to "Door to Death"?

Within a Christian perspective, you have two options: either you go to damnation in Hell for your sins, or you go to Heaven. The life you live now is the one and only chance you get. Within Norse religion, the way that death is understood is very different. It very seldom contains any kind of realm for punishment, and when it is seen, it is very much likely that the source is under Christian influence. I would say that the album is about the journey to Hel within Norse religion as seen from different perspectives. Hel is not simply a place where the dead linger—it is also a place of Wisdom. Hel is a mournful place, but it is also the pathway we all must take sooner or later, god as man.


What I am finding to be exceptionally relevant in atmospheric black metal now is the use of a droning hum that serves as the atmosphere creator. Thus far, the majority of the black metal albums I have listened to this year have had that droning hum, some used to great effect and thus creating music that resonates deep within somewhere. However, unlike the majority of said albums, Dauðra Dura (“The doors of death” in English) is succinct in using the atmosphere, and places emphasis on its instruments rather than its vocals or the after effects of the droning hum.

On this album, you can hear echoing drums, acoustic guitars, and violins, with other traditional instruments, such as horns. The music borders on meditative, and it tends to be rather repetitive. However, the instruments, weaved and combined with the constant prominence of that droning hum (possibly created through a synth), are what makes the album so compelling. In fact, the strongest aspect of the album is when the sound changes, and it no longer borders on the repetitive tonality that seems to be in vogue these days. It would have been nice to hear other chants throughout the album, but changing that would have most likely ruined the album’s atmosphere.

This album also reminds me of funeral music; while listening to this, I was constantly reminded of Chopin’s Marche Funebre and I fully expected it to come up while listening to the album. The chanting also reminds me of funerals, except I don’t know whose funeral I am attending. The music does sound religious; as to whom the chanting is directed to remains unknown. By the end of the album, the listener feels that their long walk to the afterlife is over and have met God, who allows him to finally rest. I don’t know if L. Sward’s voice would be the musical equivalent to meeting God, but it’s the closest analogy we have for comparison.

All in all, it’s a beautiful, well-crafted album that conveys religious music a la Batushka, with the exception that is not as bombastic as Litourgiya. It does border on being repetitive, but it’s comforting and peaceful. Anyone who is looking for something loud and bombastic should not listen to this, but if soft, airy music is more your forte, then I wholeheartedly recommend this album.

Tagged with 2016, ambient, atmospheric black metal, Forndom, Hera Vidal, Nordvis Produktion

Friday, January 13, 2017

Suppressive Fire - Nature of War

By Karen A. Mann. North Carolina’s war-obsessed death-thrashers Suppressive Fire offered their first full-length in early 2016 with Bedlam, a powerful slab of Teutonic-inspired military thrash that had all the subtlety of a bayonet in the stomach. The band doesn’t stray too far from that line of attack on their latest release, Nature of War. Even artist Matt Slime’s cover art is grim and nihilistic
By Karen A. Mann

Artwork by Matt Slime.

North Carolina’s war-obsessed death-thrashers Suppressive Fire offered their first full-length in early 2016 with Bedlam, a powerful slab of Teutonic-inspired military thrash that had all the subtlety of a bayonet in the stomach.

The band doesn’t stray too far from that line of attack on their latest release, Nature of War. Even artist Matt Slime’s cover art is grim and nihilistic: Inspired by true events from World War I, it depicts hapless, gasmasked soldiers in a trench being eaten alive by starving wolves.

With this release, the band did add a new member to strengthen their assault. Bass player/vocalist Aaron Schmidt shifted to guitar and vocals, while Will Saenz was brought in to take over bass duties. This gives Nature of War a fuller, more focused sound, propelled by the double guitar blitzkrieg of Schmidt and Joseph Valhal as well as Schmidt’s scalding vocals.

After a brief build up, the album’s opener, “Violent Enlightenment,” throws you into battle with little time to react. From there, the album plays like a series of brutalizing mini skirmishes with stinging solos, pummeling beats, and the occasional slower part that gives you just enough time to catch your breath.

At its heart, Suppressive Fire is a rock band with a true appreciation for the riff, and nods to Thin Lizzy and Judas Priest can be heard throughout the album. Still, songs like “Dreaded Bastards,” “Earthripper” and “Nature of War” keep the band firmly entrenched in thrash territory, with death and destruction gleefully reigning.

Tagged with 2017, black metal, Karen A. Mann, Suppressive Fire, thrash metal