Monday, September 22, 2014

Hollow - Mordrake

Written by Matt Hinch.

Mordrake is the debut from Montreal symphonic black metal/melodic death metal fiends Hollow. Not to be confused with the seven other Hollows listed on Metal Archives. The group consists of vocalist Mott, guitarist Cadaver, bassist Snow and drummer Blaac. However, there's enough symphonic and keyboard elements here that one would think it would be listed on their lineup but there's no one to lay the blame on.

I kid! I'm not much for symphonics but other than in a few places (like the start of the album) they serve more as accents to enhance the atmosphere rather than dominating the listening experience. Choral voices, strings, brass and synths all work their way into the tight spaces between the blistering attack Hollow are adept at laying down.

The sub-genre tag the band is saddled with isn't exactly on point. The black metal elements come mostly in the atmosphere and Mott's demonic rasps. He also brings a formidable (if unoriginal) deathly growl to match the full depth of their searing death metal. In addition, he employs a clean vocal as well, as the diversity of the band also ventures into epic and Viking-esque realms.

Personally I hear quite a bit of thrash influence pumping through Mordrake. Galloping rhythms and unfettered speed have the biggest impact and there's no doubt Cadaver can shred his way through solo or a hundred. The album was recorded with no "triggers, midi or cut-and-paste" making the brilliant musicianship on display all the more impressive. Blaac in particular is equally talented at hyper-activity and nuance. While Snow puts his gnarly tone and forward-thinking basslines to good use.

As Hollow work their way toward the three-part closing "suite" that lends the album its name, complexity and depth reveal further influence. From folk melodies and prog to shades of NWOAHM and power metal, Mordrake incorporates numerous elements while maintaining the venom and power of their base blackened death/thrash modus operandi. While the RIYL spread includes Dimmu Borgir, Emperor and Cradle of Filth - all apt - Hollow may be more in line to gain praise from fans of Children of Bodom.

Hollow are serious about their corpsepaint and serious about their chops. Let Mordrake be the proof in the pudding that these guys are not to be overlooked.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Protokult - No Beer in Heaven

Written by Matt Hinch.

While not necessarily folk metal, Hoth made me take another look at the genre. Not a long hard one but enough that I noticed Protokult and their latest, No Beer in Heaven. No beer in heaven? I know I'm not going there anyway so no matter.

Methinks this Toronto-based group of European transplants is doing their best to get in all their drinking down here on Earth. Opener “Get Me a Beer” certainly gives that impression. It's a somewhat cheesy way to open an album that's not based on drinking as a concept. Fun sure, but so is the darker fare that follows.

Guitarist/vocalist Martin Drozd and vocalist/woodwind Ekaterina Pyatkova make a good team in the “Beauty and the Beast” style of vocal trade-off. Drozd is diverse with barrel-chested declarations, deathly growls and drunk Viking hollers. Actually he often sounds like Glen Danzig. Pyatkova too takes on some different roles. She can soar with the eagles in operatic fashion but is best suited to her folk voice with a hint of yodel to it. At times she even sounds a bit like Dolores O'Riordan of The Cranberries.

As one would expect there's no lack of melody here. Vocals, woodwinds and keys all contribute in that regard, complimenting driving riffs and epic passages. Where Protokult succeed is in producing hard-edged metal with enough bite that the folk elements don't take the album down the path that leads to ridiculousness. Also, they don't necessarily stick to one formula. Thrashiness, alternative leanings and pomp all find their place.

At 15 tracks over an hour and three, it can't all be gold of course but even the weaker tracks usually have a redeeming riff or passage. Although a more concise album wouldn't have hurt. There's a little fat that could have been trimmed for sure. Especially on the album's later half. That's where Protokult get a little adventurous. “Brotokult” is a kind of dance hall/trance/KMFDM synth track and “We Smoke the Ganga” is reggae, but very tongue-in-cheek.

No Beer in Heaven is pretty solid overall but shows the band has some work to do to tighten things up a bit. However, musicality is never in question. But hey, if you want something lighthearted to get your feet wet in the folk metal pool, Protokult might be the answer. At the very least it'll get stuck in your head whether you want it to or not.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Psychotic Gardening - Hymnosis

Written by Matt Hinch.

Winnipeg's Psychotic Gardening bring the heavy with their icy take on death/doom. They've been around in some form or another for the better part of 18 years. And you'd have to wonder how many times the subject of a name change came up and was shot down. Almost as bad as fellow Canadians Nostril Caverns but thankfully the music more than makes up for the bad name.

Their fourth album, Hymnosis is a combination of doom-tinged death metal and foot-dragging doom, sometimes within songs but most often they stick to one style per track. “Defile” features a killer riff to go along with serious crunch and a defined sense of dread. “Genome Degradation” gets pretty groovy while maintaining tonal corruption. Plus, the dual black/death vocals prevent the track from sounding too Rob Zombie-ish.

Their doom tracks take the low and slow path but hold the lengths below six minutes, keeping the album moving. Big riffs and just enough atmosphere make for a depressing Candlemass-gone-demonic vibe. A nice little treat before the album's subdued, Type O Negative sounding closer is a cover of Death's “Open Casket” with guests Tim Roth (Into Eternity) and Chuck Wepfer (Broken Hope). They did a superb job of making it their own.

While not breaking any new ground in the genre Psychotic Gardening have made a pretty good death/doom album that's stuck with me for months since it's release. Never mind the name, give it a spin.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]