December 31, 2015

Label Spotlight: Dark Essence Records

The Norwegian label Dark Essence Records is now on Bandcamp, sharing the page with their parent (and non-metal) label Karisma Records. Dark Essence mostly focuses on extreme metal bands from the label's hometown Bergen. Their roster is home to high profile names like Taake and Aeturnus, but here are three bands you may not have heard before, all from Bergen, and all profiled by the mighty Autothrall.

Artwork by H'grimnir from Helheim

Although their end products might bear a only passing resemblance, I've always likened the progression of Helheim to that of their countrymen Enslaved. Unafraid to evolve themselves into varied configurations, but somehow managing to retain the razor disposition of their early works, these Norsemen explore sound with absolutely no concern for the whining of a reactive audience. Chances are, if you're still on board with the band after 15 years, you're expecting some mild transformation through each of their full-lengths, and Heiðindómr ok mótgang, their 7th, is no exception to this, evenly distributing its creativity through passages of strained beauty and primordial strength. (read the rest of the review here).

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Artwork by Robert Høyem

It's hard not to think of Viking metal as being beaten to a pulp these past two decades, what with a great many subpar acts springing up in the genre and diluting its novelty. I'm sure many have the purest of intentions, and should in no way be faulted for celebrating the subject (especially if its a point of their personal ancestry), but tossing in a few folk instruments and playing forgettable, mead drunken melodies to offset a few substandard black metal charging rhythms is simply not going to cut it. What does this have to do with Norway's Galar? Well, they are one of the few acts to happen along, and not only cut it, but cut the entire forest down to its roots with a sharply hewn axe. Til alle heimsens endar is the band's sophomore album, following up solid debut Skogsvad from 2006, and the band manages to sum up exactly what's been so great about their forebears like Enslaved, Týr, early Borknagar, and Viking-era Bathory without crossing streams too closely with any of them. (read the rest of the review here).

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

2007's Cursed Madness was a well-received debut from this Norse cult, one of the few bands out there who manage to crossbreed death and black metal into a manageable and interesting form. This follow-up, Thorns in Existence, offers progress even beyond the debut, an interesting and for the most part original work. This not only impresses via the members' musical capabilities, but the immersion into its many twisted corridors of grief and vitriol. (read the rest of the review here).

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

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