December 31, 2012

Haemoth - In Nomine Odium

Review by Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.

It has been six years since French black metallers Haemoth released an album, and by the sound of things, they spent every second of that time nursing a simmering fury. From the opening moments of "Odium," crackling energy pours off the album like a heat haze.

The production is ugly, as much black metal is, but deliberately so, full of buzz and blare that snarl in the listeners' ears and are as much a part of the instrumentation as the hissing vocals or ominous, blaring riffs. The treble is turned up incredibly high, giving everything a metal-on-metal harshness that sounds like red-hot filings burrowing into your eardrums.

In terms of mood, intensity and sound quality, In Nomine Odium is an unqualified success. The riff structures tend towards the repetitive side, without a lot of variation or surprise. "Spiritual Pestilence" shakes things up the most; it's an instrumental with a slower, looming rhythm and thoroughly unsettling composition. If you're looking to drink some nihilistic tincture, the indiscriminate hate of In Nomine Odium is exactly what you're waiting for.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Void Forger - Ruined Demo

Written by Ulla Roschat.

The blending of Doom, Sludge, Black Metal and HC Crust Punk seems to have become popular amongst bands. I have no objections against this kind of mixing genres..., if it’s done well.

Void Forger do it damn well. The three piece band from Bucharest/Romania formed in 2011 and Ruined Demo (2012) is their first release. The demo consists of three songs with a total playing time of somewhat more than 17 minutes.

I don’t know what exactly made me fall in love with all three songs of it. Is it the way the different genre-elements are so clearly distinguishable, almost like cleanly kept apart from each other and yet the sound is so sweetly organic? Is it the variability it offers in the changes of genres, the fast shredding Black Metal, the slower skull crushing heavy sludge and the outbursts of HC speedy beats? Is it the doomy grooves, the chaotic drumming and tapped ending riff in “Pointless Media”, or the breathtaking addictive killer bass riff in “Relief”, or the slow, sludgy, almost Funeral Doom like, but rolling, pounding drum rhythm and chaotic distortion in “Automation”? Most probably it’s all of this. What I can say for sure is that I’m completely stoked by the intoxicating heaviness and filthy, evil, bleak atmosphere in all three songs. The gritty, raw production suits the evil atmosphere well, but could have been a bit less so, for my taste.

I hear a lot of potential in this demo and I’m very much excited about Void Forger’s future releases.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

December 30, 2012

Cenobite - Saint of Killers E​.​P.

Cenobite have released Saint of Killers, a new EP of their curious take on atmospheric and thrashy black metal. The production is much improved. The duo's previous EP The Black sounded like a black 'n roll pastiche. Saint of Killers is raw and in your face, with great sounding drums and vocals. The structure is the same, two catchy songs and one more atmospheric instrumental. So this is more of the same really, but the catchiness factor is higher, and everything is just very well put together. A nifty little EP.

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December 29, 2012

Mournful Congregation - The June Frost

2011's massive The Book Of Kings was the album that moved Mournful Congregation beyond their status as a cult funeral doom band from Australia. It was lauded by many as the doom release of the year, and appeared on many best of 2011 lists. Now all previous full-length albums by the band has been made available on the 20 Buck Spin Bandcamp; including their rare debut Tears From A Grieving Heart, originally released on tape in 1999.

The Book Of Kings was a return to the style of their earliest works, featuring nothing but long, monolithic tracks. The June Frost is structurally similar to Aldebaran 's Embracing The Lightless Depths with longer songs interspersed with shorter instrumentals. The production is a little crisper, the compositions are a little more varied, and there is guitar. Keening solos, ornamental leads, relentless riffs, beautiful harmonies and intricate interplay. Lots of guitar.

I love the sound of the electric guitar. Funeral doom, because of the glacial speeds, allows the guitars to sing and lets each distorted note ring out. With song titles like A Slow March To The Burial and Suicide Choir you know this isn't going to be a fun record. But the guitars create a sort of majestic beauty, and the end result is strangely uplifting. This funeral doom makes me happy.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

December 27, 2012

Necrot - Into the Labyrinth

Cover by Lukas Krieg, logo by David Torturdød

The second demo from Necrot is available on their Bandcamp. Into the Labyrinth is punishing and pummeling old school Death Metal that goes straight for the jugular. The songs are more varied than on their first demo has, another example of "old school" not necessarily meaning primitive. The production on the first demo was crusty, but had a certain punkish crispness. You'll hear none of that here; Necrot moved from the garage and deep down into the infernal dungeon. The sound is certainly not original, but delightfully rumbling and fuzzy; and you're still able to pick out some (not all) of the actual playing. Necrot shoots read hot Death Metal straight into your accepting veins.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

For the perfect old-school feeling grab Into the Labyrinth on tape from Blood Divine.

December 23, 2012

Blut aus Nord - 777 - Cosmosophy

Cosmosophy, the conclusion to Blut aus Nord's 777 trilogy is available on the Debemur Morti Productions Bandcamp. The trilogy has seen the band move onward from their base of convulsing black metal. While Sect(s) was the harsh sounds of hellish machinery, brutal and blastbeat laden, The Desanctification removed a layer of metalness and added post-rock and more industrial influences.
[The Desanctification] is like a ritual, a sad ritual. Sect(s) was a brutal and desolate admission of failure, like the tragic sound of perdition.
Though less aggressive than Sect(s), The Desanctification is still quite a heavy album. But on Cosmosophy more layers of metal are peeled of and what emerges is a kind of blackened ambient music; the harshness is almost gone, but the darkness is still there, a grandiose and in places almost serene darkness.
Cosmosophy will be the most atmospheric album of the trilogy. I’m going to include more electronic sounds and new things in the sound of Blut Aus Nord, like a jazzy approach in a few parts.
The whole trilogy works as a extremely coherent, musical piece. Like the way the first two songs on Cosmosophy echoes the ending of The Desanctification, which itself is a twisted mirror image of Sect(s). Try listening to it all, it is one of the rare trilogies where the sum is better than the parts. The quotes are from this Invisible Oranges interview with Vindsval from Blut aus nord.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

December 22, 2012

Hunter's Ground - No God But The Wild

Review by Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.

Appalachian black metal project Hunter's Ground recorded their debut full-length in the heart of the Virginia wilderness. No God But The Wild was recorded in a single 23-hour session using generator-powered equipment. The result is a raw, almost desperate effort, worn raw at the edges and numbed by exhaustion, but still pulsing with a primitive, starving energy.

This is a hardscrabble record, an attempt to capture the vibrant, unkind wildness of the landscape. Appalachia is in many ways the North American equivalent to the great European forests of the past, an expanse large enough for people to escape into or be consumed by. No God But The Wild primarily pays homage to the more ravenous and dangerous character of nature, but there are also moments that celebrate the tender and sublime, like "Speaking in the Tongues of Trees."

The unsophisticated production serves as an effective foil to the reverence that Hunter's Ground have for their subject matter. No God But The Wild reminds us that, as surrounded and comforted as we are by technology, the natural world remains a wild, hungry thing.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

December 20, 2012

Bosse-de-Nage - III

Review by Justin C.

Profound Lore had a stunning list of releases this year, including the third full length from the mysterious black metal band Bosse-de-Nage. Searching for information about the band yields little. They don't bother with promotion, touring, interviews, or even names. There's nothing to distract from the music, and it's well worth your attention.

Bosse-de-Nage combine black metal with a healthy dose of post-rock that's very reminiscent of Slint. Ferocious metal with pained screams gives way to quiet, almost stately interludes in which the instruments are given a chance to breathe. The vocals sometimes become spoken word performances, and the lyrics are as interesting as they are strange. The opening track, "The Arborist", tells a surrealistic story in a second-person narrative. It explains how "you" have made a deal with a shadowy figure to be placed into a hole near a tree, where you are expected to meditate. Bickering with other people in other nearby tree holes proves to be a distraction, although the ending seems to be happy, depending on what the protagonist hoped to gain. What is this story about? Does it describe a communing with nature that we've failed to accomplish? Is it an allegorical story about isolation? I really have no idea, but since the first time I heard the song and read the lyrics, it's often come to my mind at unexpected times. I enjoy surrealist writers like Kafka and Borges, and much like their work, I enjoy thinking about the story told in these lyrics, even if an easy interpretation isn't at hand.

Even if you ignore the cryptic lyrics, it's hard not to be swept away by the beautiful melodic lines that weave throughout the songs. Sometimes they're just one thread in a wave of furious music, and sometimes they're allowed to come front and center in a quiet section, but they're always compelling, even anthemic. Most arena rock bands would love to be able to write melodies like this and play them so convincingly.

I don't feel like I can do a review of this album without mentioning the drumming in particular, because it's simply astounding. I'm willing to bet that the drummer, whoever he or she is, has had some serious jazz training in the past. The technical skill is obvious, but the sense of musicality displayed is something you hear from only the best drummers. The patterns, beyond just keeping the beat, shift and move in a way that's fascinating to follow. I would listen to an album composed and recorded by the drummer alone, and as a guitarist, that's not something I find myself thinking very often.

This album took me a while to get close to, but repeated listens are both worthwhile and highly recommended.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

December 18, 2012

Woods of Ypres - Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light

Woods of Ypres' swansong album Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light has been added to the Earache Records Bandcamp. It's a soulful, dark gem of an album that was released early this ear; and has been included in a few of the

Woods of Ypres' swansong album Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light has been added to the Earache Records Bandcamp. It's a soulful, dark gem of an album that was released early this ear; and has been included in a few of the "Best of 2012" lists I've seen so far. Two of those lists were written by contributors to Metal Bandcamp, so I'll defer to my betters and let them do the talking.

From Atanamar Sunyata's Top 10 Albums of 2012 from Metal Injection:

David Gold’s last will and testament has been a constant companion throughout the year. Metal may often be obsessed with death, but Woods 5 is an academic study of life’s cessation, the eradication of love, and the passing of our dreams. These concepts are conveyed via infectious songwriting in tongues of morose, melodic doom. Ingenious hooks, captivating vocals and righteous rhythms demand introspection, uncontrolled headbanging, and more than a little bit of singing along. David Gold tells us in no uncertain terms that “the dead are to be forgotten.” David’s music, however, makes this request impossible
From Andy Osborn's End of Year Round-Up from The Alchemist's Cave:

I was lucky enough to spend time with David Gold before he passed away when Woods crashed at my house during their North American tour last year. I’m not going to pretend I knew him well but from the short time I spent with him, he was an extremely kind and passionate person who poured his soul into his music. This album is the final product of that catharsis, and it eerily and ironically deals extensively with the prospect of death. Woods V is the best thing he has ever produced, and a fitting tribute and legacy to a life cut much too short.

December 17, 2012

Zillah - Substitute For A Catastrophe

Scottish technical death metal band Zillah wrote on their Facebook page that For the rest of December you can grab all of our digital back catalogue for FREE from our bandcamp page. This includes their full length Substitute for a Catastrophe from 2006, originally released on Retribute Records.

This is angular and dissonant technical death metal. The sound is rough and abrasive, nothing slick or triggered here. The songs are complex and contains the requisite spastic breaks and mathy riffs, but also contains many very headbangable passages and even a few quite catchy parts. Many technical metal albums sound detached; the musicians are concentrating on getting all those nice technical bits right, and have no time to express any emotions. Substitute for a Catastrophe has an almost hardcorish sense of furious anger, mainly due to the vocals and the loose playing. Zillah brilliantly infuses their technicality with a raw nerve.

The band has been on hiatus due to lineup issues. But last year a one track demo appeared (also available on the Bandcamp), and now a new album has been slated for release in 2013.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

December 16, 2012

Worshiper - To Binge and Purge in LA

Review by Aaron Sullivan.

As the end of the year approaches (or end of world if you believe those pesky Myans) I was looking to see if there were any albums I may have missed. Instead I discovered one that look to be more than two years old, but man am I glad to have found it.

Hailing from Philadelphia PA. comes Worshiper. They play a dirty gritty style of Sludge. Think Noothgrush or Eyehategod. Guitars crunch and squeal oozing forth riffs while drums are beaten into submission. Songs are not long with only one approaching 4 minutes. But these songs are not bursts of sounds but rather mid paced Sludge. Like wading through peanut butter. Vocals are raw throaty wails buried beneath the music adding to the overall rawness of the album. The bonus track is a live one. Totaling over 15 minutes allowing the band to expand more on what they were doing in the shorter songs. And you realize nothing of their sound is lost when performed live.

These kind of random finds are my favorites. You were never looking for them in the first place yet once they are found they make an impact. Now information on this band is hard to find. Even pictures seem not to exist. But the good news is they have a bandcamp and the album is ‘name your price’. Though the band tells you “Shit’s free. Get it.” If raw Sludge is your thing, then you should do as they say.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Serpent Ov Old - Withering Hope

Serpent Ov Old's Withering Hope may have the sound of raw and pure black metal; the guitars are fuzzy, the drums are tinny, and the bass non-existent. The insane screams and croaks of the vocalists are buried in the mix; making them sound almost like white (black?) noise. But the songwriting is something else, this is pretty far from non-stop simplistic tremolo riffing. Songs are complex, and you find melodic and catchy parts littered among the blast beats and the furious guitars.

And man those guitars... many of the songs feature fantastic and totally over the top soloing, moving them into symphonic black metal territory; just without any of the symphonic bits. And then there's the title track with the evil croaks and machine like drumming, on top of a sea of buzzing guitars. When suddenly a pop choir starts alternating lines with the croaked vocals, moving the song into... I don't know where really, but I know I like being there.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

December 15, 2012

Scarlet Hollow - What If Never Was

Cover art by Jerry Mack

Scarlet Hollow - What If Never Was is album that resides in the borderland between progressive rock and progressive metal, somewhat close to the province occupied by Porcupine Tree. Their musicianship is impeccable, but Scarlet Hollow never descends into Dream Theater style prog noodlery. Allison VonBuelow has a clean and unpretentious voice that is often allowed to carry the melodies without walls of keyboards to back her up; in fact for a progressive band keyboards are using quite sparingly. This coupled with the clean and smooth production makes it possible to enjoy each instrument, where especially the drumming stands out. Diego Meraviglia knows when to apply complex fills and when to things keep simple and heavy. Check out one of the darker tracks As The Blade Falls below for a good example of his work, then go to the Scarlet Hollow Bandcamp to hear the rest of the album.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

December 14, 2012

The Shadow Principle - Golden State

Review by Aaron Sullivan.

From the ashes of Murder At The Well comes Shadow Principle. With a new drummer came a new direction, new album and new name.

Golden State see them mixing elements of Post Punk, Metal, and Prog Rock. The kind of Prog they play is the kind I enjoy the most. It’s that sneaky kind where at first listen it sounds as though it is your normal rock song. But underneath lurks the little flourishes that show there is so much more going on. The bass playing is great. At times played as though it were the lead instrument, which allows the guitarist to do more in the background adding atmosphere and depth when not playing riffs. Drumming is solid, helping to drive songs and adding the heaviness to the band. Vocals are a stand out. Channeling his inner Bowie. While that style vocal with this type of music may sound weird when read, it is a great mix when heard.

Further proving their connection to Prog, Golden State is a concept album. As the band explains on their Bandcamp page:
Lyrically the songs on Golden State examine the myth of the California Dream from the perspective of a native outsider: someone who should fit in but doesn't; someone who appears to be living the dream but isn't. What's it like to be from a place, but not feel particularly of that place? In what ways is that question made more troubling when appearances--and what's lurking beneath them--are at odds?
For their first record as a new band they show a maturity well beyond their years as a band. This is a band that means business and is not worried about fitting in but rather standing out. Fans of Rush, King Crimson, Tool, Radiohead, and just good music in general should give this a listen.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

December 13, 2012

Titan - Burn

Review by Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.

Design and art direction by James McDonough

Toronto, ON-based metal/hardcore monsters Titan, after releasing a couple EPs over the past several years, have finally released their first full-length record, in the form of Burn. Titan have just embarked upon an ambitions European tour to support the record, which will be released by React with Protest overseas, though the domestic release will be on Titan's label, Hypaethral.

While Titan have for years busied themselves creating the sounds of the apocalypse, with Burn they have settled on a more specified and refined end: fire. It is as if Gozer the Gozerian asked them to conjure the form of their destruction and when they cleared their minds all they could see were flames. As well as their longest and most comprehensive composition, Burn is also their most precise. The guitar work is nimble and flexible ― even on the broader strokes, the fattest riffs, the leads recall the bright heat of a samurai's blade.

What smoulders at the core of Burn, though, is destruction with a very specific motive: this is fire that wants to purify, heat that wants to cauterize. There is a deeply generative, productive energy that informs this album, and as much as Titan are bent on setting the world aflame, I can't help but feel it's because they want to see what flowers dare grow in the ashes.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

December 11, 2012

Wolfhetan - Was der Tag nicht ahnt

Review by Sean Cordes.

Wolfhetan plays an atmospheric, pagan influenced brand of black metal. While that sounds pretty ordinary, they have a very distinct sound. The three-man project from Thuringia is highly melodic, but has as much ferocity as any classic Darkthrone release. Songs are lengthy and at times repetitive but they never overstay their welcome—they shift and develop similar to how Der Weg Einer Freiheit's songs develop, and they form a coherent whole—the songs are journeys in themselves, and they come together to create a larger journey through the album.

There are also some slight progressive touches interspersed throughout the album, including the second track, Abschied, a song which on its own is oddly rhythmic with its swung drums and marching, staccato bassline, but which fits right at home in the context of the album. Clean interludes also make appearances, which is nothing new in black metal, but they are always tastefully done (see here the beautiful final track, Ankunft).

The closest comparison I can draw to Was der Tag nicht ahnt is some similarity with acts like the aforementioned Der Weg Einer Freiheit, Imperium Dekadenz or In the Woods…, and perhaps Nocte Obducta. Be that as it may, the record is, in the end, a masterfully done, decidedly Romantic journey, burgeoning with bittersweet European pride. Volkommenheit and Tagtraum, tracks 3 and 6 respectively, are some of the best black metal tracks to be released this year. Was der Tag nicht ahnt is well worth the almost 70 minute run-time.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

December 9, 2012

Ludicra - Hollow Psalms

By Justin C. Ludicra disbanded in 2011, but luckily for us all, they've just recently started posting their earlier work on Bandcamp as pay-what-you-choose downloads. This includes their excellent first full-length, Hollow Psalms.
By Justin C.

Cover by Aesop

Ludicra disbanded in 2011, but luckily for us all, they've just recently started posting their earlier work on Bandcamp as pay-what-you-choose downloads. This includes their excellent first full-length, Hollow Psalms.

Photo by Taylor Keahey.

As with most of their work, Ludicra brings a lot of different elements to their black metal base on Hollow Psalms. Besides the blast beats, tremolo picking, and vocal roar you'd expect, you'll also find radical tempo shifts, chant-like clean vocals, acoustic guitar, and even the occasional flute. None of this is new to black metal, but Ludicra's brilliance was in combining all of these seamlessly. The opening track, "Tomorow held in Scorn," opens in full fury, but it's not long before the song shifts to a slower tempo and slips into a quiet, almost jazzy interlude before going back on the attack. The title track opens with an acoustic guitar accompanying a mournful flute line, but this isn't pretty filler. The acoustic guitar is played with a heavy attack, almost as if the guitarist is trying to pull the strings off the guitar. It may be quiet, but it perfectly sets the mood before the rage starts. "Heaped Upon Impassive Floors" alternates between full-band blasts and an eerie, clean electric guitar line. If all of this sounds a bit schizophrenic, it's not. All of these different sounds aren't thrown in for their own sake--they serve the music.

Photo by Taylor Keahey.

The production is clean and precise without sounding slick. One of the results is that beast so unusual in black metal: an audible bass line. Ross Sewage's fluid bass lines act as a true complement to the guitars instead of simply doubling them and disappearing in the mix. The combination of the bass and Aesop's drumming make for a rhythm section that's worth listening to in its own right.

As of this writing, the band has also posted their self-titled EP and the full album Fex Urbis Lex Orbis. All three of these are "deluxe" packages, including CD liner notes, poster art, and even some videos with the downloads. If you're like me and found out about this band only after they'd broken up, you'd do well to pick up everything you can. According to the band's Facebook page, they see this as a non-profit activity, with any donations being used to fund the free download option. Go download all of this, kick in some cash if you can, and enjoy this amazing band's legacy.

[Note: since this review was published all of the releases on the Ludicra Bandcamp have been set to streaming only. Right now the only Ludicra album available on Bandcamp is The Tenant released by Profound Lore Records.]

Corsair - Corsair

Artwork by Marie Landragin from Corsair.

Corsair's self-titled and self-released debut is available on the Shadow Kingdom Records Bandcamp, in preparation for a re-release early next year. This is a mix of Thin Lizzy style heavy metal and progressive rock; and a perfect fit for Shadown Kingdom Records with the labels love of Heavy Rock and early Heavy Metal from the 70's.

And yeah, Corsair does have a 70's vibe, but it is by no means a retro album. The songwriting is complex, yet grounded; the songs are filled to the brims with catchy melodies and riffs. Singing is clean and soulful (and shared by three members of the band, each with their own distinct style). My favorite part is the heartfelt rendition of these lyrics from Falconer
From inside and within these walls
through the window its all right, its alright
But outside and on the streets
It's all a mess, it's all a mess
The twin guitar work of Corsair is a real highlight. Smooth harmonizing, and lots of little fills and interesting melodic leads throughout the album. As this review from Metal Review states You’d have to be pretty black and cold inside if you can listen to this without your hands placed in front of you on an imaginary guitar. Also check out The Obelisk's pretty detailed interview with bassist Jordan Brunk.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Note: I'm linking to the Shadow Kingdom Records Bandcamp because that's where I learned about Corsair. The album is also available, two dollars cheaper, on the bands own Bandcamp.

December 7, 2012

A Very Old Ghost Behind The Farm - Primary Septagon

Written by Ulla Roschat.

The Horror Movie

“A Very Old Ghost Behind The Farm” - what a band name - a band name that sounds like the title for an old black-and-white horror movie telling old fashioned quirky nightmarish stories of spooky creatures that haunt you and unfold their subtle horror upon you.

AVOGBTF is a 4 piece Sludge Doom band from Toulouse/France, formed in 2009. Primary Septagon (2010) is their second release and first full length album. And indeed this album keeps the promise the band name makes. The band’s headstrong take on the Doom Sludge genre mixes punkish elements with the drug fuelled Doom, bluesy swampy Sludge and an occult atmosphere (the use of a theremin is very conductive to create this atmosphere) and turns the 7 songs of Primary Septagon into a movie of short of 50 minutes.

Right in the beginning rather uptempo punk tunes induce images of freakishly grinning little devils, dancing and whirling around and chanting spells. There are weeping noises. Is this the wind howling through the old farm house or the lament of tortured souls? The pace slows down and a bluesy southern swamp Sludge (there are even little hints of country tunes) adds a gluey sticky atmosphere. No doubt you’re out in the country, the right place to meet supernatural creatures that perform ancient diabolic rites.The raspy abrasive vocals hit you like the anger of a very old ghost who has been cursed since like ever and the curse can only be lifted when he scares someone to death and he is grimly determined that this someone be you. Occasional sweet guitar solos remind you that somewhere far away there’s something called normality, but out of reach for you since long. Gloomy back vocals and singing children scare the shit out of you. Then a weird trippy slowness drugs you up and in the end the ghost unleashes all his ancient horrors in a powerful rage to destroy you and all the little “punk” devils from the beginning are back to laugh and mock at you.

And here the septagon of 7 songs closes. Make sure you jump out of it, a second before it does so, or you’ll be caught in it and be cursed to scare someone to death like “The Very Old Ghost Behind The Farm” (7 words! is this a coincidence?)

All right, this is MY movie to this soundtrack, yours can be completely different, or maybe you’ll “only” be listening to a damn good headstrong Doom Sludge album that has a most distinct style.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

December 5, 2012

Enslaved - Frost

By Andy Osborn. Their second full-length, Frost is the album that solidified Enslaved’s place in the black metal grimoire, launching what continues to be a decades-long career as one of the genre’s most interesting and varied acts.
By Andy Osborn.

Their second full-length, Frost is the album that solidified Enslaved’s place in the black metal grimoire, launching what continues to be a decades-long career as one of the genre’s most interesting and varied acts. Though guitarist Ivar Bjørnson was only 17-years-old, his command of desiccated riffage was already on par with his fellow infamous countrymen, while 20-year-old Grutle Kjellson was shrieking like a banshee permeated with the stuff of the album’s title.

Now considered a classic of Norwegian Black Metal, the young band was already setting themselves apart from the herd by approaching the style not from the satanic madness that was already a fad, but from a perspective worthy of the heritage and old gods upon which the album is based. The Norse-themed collection gives hints to the band’s progressive tendencies as they dabble with a mix of electronics, acoustic guitar overlays and song structures light years ahead of the typical death-obsessed buzzsaw picking played by their peers. It’s at the same time wholly black metal and wholly something else; almost 20 years later the album still has a captivatingly original sound. The almost non-existent bass and treble-obsessed guitars are a far cry from the heavily polished sheen Enslaved’s production will later take, but the flat sounds conjure up a heart-melting nostalgia.

While the album is as interesting and dynamic as you would expect from the band, it’s not without its missteps. The Vikings get a bit too close to Asgard on “Yggdrasil,” a bombastic war chant that goes nowhere and accomplishes little. And it’s clear the band is still afraid to fully showcase their unique voice, with a few songs playing standard bm fare and showing a restraint in their mead-fueled expression.

From the Mortal Kombat-esque bridge on “Fenris” to the furious tremolo assault on “Wotan,” Frost is a perfect foreshadow to the band’s long and varied catalog. The still-youngsters are only toying with the arsenal that they are yet to unleash upon the world, but they do it with such enjoyment and execution that the album stands on its own chilly legs, still revealing itself almost two decades later as a pinnacle of black metal experimentation.

Vesperian Sorrow - Stormwinds of Ages

Review by Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.

Artwork by Jon Zig

Vesperian Sorrow are a symphonic black metal band that hail, unusually, from Austin, TX. They formed in 1994, but adopted their current name in 1999. Vesperian Sorrow are less openly Satanic than most tr00 and kvlt bands, preferring instead to deal with themes like the vastness of the cosmos and human despair in their music. Stormwind of Ages is only their fourth full-length and is the first recorded material they've released since 2006.

The symphonic elements on the album come primarily in the form of synths and keyboards, as well as some choral vocals, which appear so low in the mix that they may be synthesized as well. The production is very clean and crisp – a tidiness that suits the gleaming complexity of the music well. The black metal aspects of Vesperian Sorrow's sound are most present in the wet, gargling, harsh vocals and the angry-hornets' nest guitars. The drumming is dynamic and varied, from the blast beats on "An Empire to Mourn" to the military-inspired, restrained pulse of "Crown of Glass."

Generally, the combination of black metal and orchestral elements is often poorly executed and consequently, often disparaged. While Vesperian Sorrow are not redefining any genres or transforming them from within with Stormwind of Ages, they have assembled a collection of well-constructed songs and have a solid sense of their musical identity.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

December 4, 2012

Hell - III

Hell - III is the final installment in a trilogy seeing Hell move from a filthy, sludgy kind of doom to a more orchestrated and atmospheric sound. Adding blackened elements, drone, and beautiful clean guitar parts. And actually making the
Gustave Dore - Purgatory IX

Hell - III is the final installment in a trilogy seeing Hell move from a filthy, sludgy kind of doom to a more orchestrated and atmospheric sound. Adding blackened elements, drone, and beautiful clean guitar parts. And actually making the sludgy, doom sound incredibly heavy, because of the contrast with the more atmospheric passages. Vocals are utterly harrowing screams; this combined with the Gustave Dore art adorning all three albums, and the choir section of the second track "Decedere" made me think of

Falling from you heavens to the hellish dirt of our hellish earth
your voice silent, music, drone, will never enter your ears ever again

An hermit monk sitting in an decrepit temple on top of a secluded mountain. Screaming in hatred and torment to the Gods that have abandoned him. And writhing in quiet rapture when filled with hallucinogenic revelations coming from his twisted mind. Or somewhere beyond.

The track below is the last one from Hell - II. It fits in very well with the two songs from III. Together these three songs have been in heavy rotation since I bought them. I really can't recommend this enough.

December 2, 2012

Valborg – Nekrodepression

Review by Sean Cordes.

Artwork by Peter Böhme.

Valborg is one of many obscure, inter-related German acts on the prolific Zeitgeister Music roster. Their music is a gloomy, atmospheric brand of doom with heavy death metal influence and some progressive touches (even a “kraut-rock” feel here and there?) thrown in for good measure. The tones they produce are MASSIVE; the drums punch you in the gut and the guitars, bass, and gruff vocals pummel you to a pulp while you’re down. The formula is pretty simple, but they do it extremely well: simple but good mid-paced, crushing riffs (interspersed with a few faster or more rhythmic ones) are paired with some clean or synthesized interludes that create a dynamic contrast, and make the hulking barbarous mass even heavier. There is a distinctly eerie underpinning to the music here as well, with ringing discordance and the aforementioned clean breaks in the doom.

Despite all that though, there’s some distinctly fun parts to the record that keep it from being too serious an affair (funeral doom, this is not)—take Under the Cross for instance: it conjures the image of a Conan-type character shouting at Christians whilst holding a horn of ale in one hand and brandishing an axe in the other. Meanwhile, Taufe is an entirely ambient keyboard-driven track, showcasing the creepy, somewhat “kraut-rock” vibe Valborg incorporates to their sound. The final two lengthier tracks, In Ekklesia and Opfer, respectively, marry the eerie atmosphere with the crushing heaviness present throughout the album. In the end, Nekrodepression is another excellent, very original work. You won’t hear another record like this all year.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

FrostSeele - PrækΩsmium

Review by Aaron Sullivan.

Released earlier this year and with no prior demos or E.P.’s. Germany’s FrostSeele give us their Atmospheric Black Metal debut PrækΩsmium. This is essentially one man’s vision, who also goes by FrostSeele, brought to fruition with the help of session musicians. But this is far from some bedroom project.

With only 5 songs totalling 45 minutes of music, songs are made to be epic feeling and sounding. Expansive tracks (two over the 10 minute mark) allow FrostSeele to add many elements to a single song. Going from acoustic strumming to mid-paced Black Metal with Die Architektur des Seins. Or the song Du, starting with a Depressive Black Metal vibe and ending with an all out Black Metal assault before closing with a soft piano and guitar mix. Also using synth and violin in many songs, and wrapping it all in crisp and full production. Vocals are typical for type of genre and really only show up in two songs as the others are primarily instrumental. Musically this made me think of a sunnier October Falls at times.

Every now and then a band seemingly comes out of nowhere and releases an album that makes people take notice. While nothing here is overly original for this genre, PrækΩsmium is well made and sets up a template for this band to grow from. A possible year end favorite for this reviewer.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]