Monday, March 30, 2015

Katavasia - Sacrilegious Testament

By Kevin Page. Katavasia is a new Greek supergroup consisting of members from renowned bands such as Varathron, Aenaon, Hail Spirit Noir, and Agnes Vein. I had the pleasure to discuss their debut album
By Kevin Page.

Katavasia is a new Greek supergroup consisting of members from renowned bands such as Varathron, Aenaon, Hail Spirit Noir, and 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.


Tagged with 2015, Katavasia, Kevin Page, melodic black metal

Friday, March 27, 2015

Triumph and Agonia

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
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, so I thought I would detail a few of my favorites.

Cover art by Necromantic Art

Stench was 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.



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.



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.


Tagged with 2013, 2014, Agonia Records, Andy Osborn, Aosoth, black metal, death metal, Nocturnal Breed, Stench, thrash metal

Thursday, March 26, 2015

XII Boar - Pitworthy

By Matt Hinch. 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
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!


Tagged with 2015, Matt Hinch, sludge metal, stoner metal, XII Boar

Monday, March 23, 2015

Caïna - Setter of Unseen Snares

By Justin C. Setter of Unseen Snares was my first introduction to Caïna, which is primarily a one-man black metal project from Andy Curtis-Brignell. Caïna has a pretty extensive back catalog
By Justin C.


Setter of Unseen Snares was my first introduction to Caïna, which is primarily a one-man black metal project from Andy Curtis-Brignell. Caïna has a pretty extensive back catalog, a lot of it available on their own Bandcamp as well as from Profound Lore, and there's some truly challenging, avant-garde work to be found there. Setter of Unseen Snares, on the other hand, is more immediately accessible while still being pretty mind blowing.

After a brief intro that includes a sample from HBO's True Detective (I suspect we'll be hearing a lot of metal bands using Rust Cohle's misanthropic soliloquies), the album charges right into "I Am the Flail of the Lord." I am physically incapable of listening to this song without scream-singing along. The title and main lyric is a paraphrase of a statement attributed to Genghis Khan, and Caïna's stripped-down, industrial-tinged black metal will make you, too, want to start conquering most of Asia. The next three tracks are similarly addictive and straight to the point. On first listen, I was disappointed that the last track, "Orphan," came so quickly, because I wanted much more.

Photo by Jo T.

Luckily, more is what you get. Unlike the previous 4-minute-ish tracks, "Orphans" is a 15-minute opus. After a slow-building intro, the punchy growl that's dominated most of the vocals on the album so far are replaced with emotive clean singing reminiscent of Warning. There are no two ways about it--the vocals aim straight for the heart, as much of this track does. The instrumental track becomes more melodic in a way that feels mournful and cathartic all at the same time. Curtis-Brignell's growls return and are joined by glacial doom straight out of Jesu's playbook, ultimately morphing into wall-of-sound tremolo riffs that might very well make you feel like you're levitating. The soaring ending is pure, emotional beauty. I've done a lot of name-checking in my description here, but make no mistake, this is a unique blend that is truly Caïna's own making.

This album haunts me in the best of ways. If there were a CD version available, I’d probably feel compelled to buy it both on Bandcamp and in physical form, in spite of an already out-of-control CD collection.


Tagged with 2015, Broken Limbs Recordings, Caïna, Jo T, Justin C, post-black metal

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Leviathan - Scar Sighted

By Aaron Sullivan. What can be said that has not been said before when it comes to Jef Whitehead’s one man Black Metal band Leviathan? There is no doubt he is one the best the US has to offer
By Aaron Sullivan.

Artwork by Wrest

What can be said that has not been said before when it comes to Jef Whitehead’s one man Black Metal band Leviathan? There is no doubt he is one the best the US has to offer in Black Metal and over time has established himself as consistent and productive as any of his contemporaries in the US or abroad. The release of Scar Sighted is no exception. The album shows once again why his music is so beloved.

This is the first full length since 2011's True Traitor, True Whore. Much in his life has changed since that album and all of it positive. The stories surrounding the time True Traitor was being recorded are well documented and not worth repeating here. Since then Jef has sobered up, found companionship and love in not only his new relationship with Stevie Floyd (Dark Castle/Taurus) but also their daughter Grail (who accompanied her father on the cover of the march issue of Decibel). Have no fear, these positive changes have not turned his music into something romantic and sappy. Far from it in fact. What it has done is refocus his vision for Leviathan. While many found True Traitor to be a bit of a misstep. Scar Sighted finds him starting right where 2008’s masterpiece Massive Conspiracy Against All Life left off.

All the trademarks of Leviathan are contained within. Obscure movie clips. Twisting guitar lines. Tortured vocals. Driving drums. Atmospheres that are both beautiful and sinister all at the same time. There are the barnburners like "Dawn Vibration". And then there are the almost Funeral Doomish songs like the title track. This really does feel like it has bits of everything his discography has to offer while still feeling fresh and forward thinking. There are even times one is reminded of his much revered (especially by me) side project and album Lurker of Chalice. The layers contained within each song beg for repeated listens. With each one you hear something new. I for one am a sucker for using movie clips in albums and Jef does it as good as anyone. The first words heard in the album are of a man saying, “Every fuckin’ thing that crawls, is gonna pay.” before exploding into a Blackened abyss. The final words uttered at the end of the hauntingly atmospheric song Aphōnos, come from a woman saying, “I want to see it in your face. I want to see it in your eyes. I want to see it in your tears.” Just reading those two quotes alone it gives you a pretty good idea of what awaits the listener.

Leviathan is on a small list of bands that after I’ve listened to their albums I feel spent. As though my entire being has gone through something. The atmospheres created by the music are so all encompassing that you begin to feel claustrophobic at times. Other times the song seem to be pulling things out of my emotionally, sometimes feelings I didn’t even know existed in me. Artists like this remind me why I love music and the power it can have over it’s listener.

The phrase “triumphant return” has been used for many an artist. But this is a fitting phrase to use for this album. While True Traitor may have been a bump in the road for some, Scar Sighted has solidified all that people love about Leviathan. It is an album that stacks up very well to his massive discography and perhaps even outshines a few. Triumphant return indeed.


Tagged with 2015, Aaron Sullivan, ambient, black metal, Leviathan, Profound Lore Records

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Deceased - Supernatural Addiction

An Autothrall Classic. Fearless Undead Machines (1997) was a pretty good horror metal concept album, from one of Americas best old school advocates Deceased, but three years later they would
An Autothrall Classic. Originally published here.

Cover art by Allen Koszowski

Fearless Undead Machines (1997) was a pretty good horror metal concept album, from one of Americas best old school advocates Deceased, but three years later they would trump that release with the more melodic, classic metal tinge of Supernatural Addiction, which I consider to be the band's strongest work to date. If you're a fan of the band's earlier, heavier work, fear not, because the primal death/thrash metal roots are abundant. But the injection of pure 80s inspired NWOBHM melodies into the mix adds a depth to the writing which simply did not exist in large quantities prior to this.

Deceased 2011. Photo by Metal Chris

Like the cover art implies, the focus of this album is to celebrate the more cerebral, psychological side of horror than the visceral corruption covered on Fearless Undead Machines. The writings of Poe, the classic ghost story, the dark black and white horror of silent film, all of these are inherent influences which translate well into the lyrics. "The Premonition" is a driving track with some soaring if haunting melodies, and King's Venom-like voice is at its peak, mixed in extremely well with the rhythm guitars and leads. "Dark Chilling Heartbeat" has a pair of fine, winding leads to intro the shuffling, somber tone of the obvious tribute to Poe's Telltale Heart. "A Very Familiar Stranger" is a raging roadster based on The Hitchhiker. Other excellent tracks on the album include the blistering "Frozen Screams", the morose and beautiful "Doll With the Hideous Spirit", and the fright fest "Chambers of the Waiting Blind".

Deceased 2011. Photo by Metal Chris
Six days and still they starve him as they offer mercy none,
For the hate it brews within them from his past,
In his body there is panic as he senses dread approaching,
He starts screaming for this torture ride to end
Like some of the past records, Supernatural Addiction uses a different sort of lyrical approach from the typical metal album; where the words simply speak the narrative of each tale, organized into a rough approximation of verse and chorus. I wouldn't call them poetic so much as a death metal Rod Serling sitting by the fireplace, recounting visions of the macabre. The mix of this album is simply unmatched by anything else in the history of the band, and like its predecessor, each track is loaded with a slew of riffs to explore. Few artists can balance such an excellent array of influences as King Fowley and crew, thus Supernatural Addiction winds up another cult classic for the ages. Whether you enjoy the pioneering thrash/death metal sounds of Possessed or Venom, or the more melodic NWOBHM/power/speed metal of the 80s, this album has many a moment for you. While I have never found any of their albums to be perfect, they are easily one of the more consistent metal bands of the past 20 years.



Note: You can find more Deceased on Bandcamp. A remastered version of their 1991 debut Luck of the Corpse from Horror Pain Gore Death Productions. And their latest full-length, 2011's Surreal Overdose, from Patac Records.

Tagged with 2000, Autothrall, death metal, Deceased, Metal Chris, Metalhit, thrash metal

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Porta Nigra - Kaiserschnitt

By Majbritt Levinsen. When I got offered to listen to Porta Nigra's Kaiserschnitt ahead of the release date I felt an extreme eager to hear it, but also an unnerving hesitation.
By Majbritt Levinsen.

Cover art by Metastazis

When I got offered to listen to Porta Nigra's Kaiserschnitt ahead of the release date I felt an extreme eager to hear it, but also an unnerving hesitation. The thought of being let into those smoky rooms, filled with the decadence and wonder of a bygone era both appealed to me but also raised a bit of fear for the unknown. But to find out what these two gentlemen from Germany had concocted on their new album I stretched out my arm, lifted the heavy drapes aside and looked into that old room again...

I had hoped to sneak in unnoticed but got caught off guard when I realized that while the room still felt the same, Porta Nigra had changed their suits. Cast aside the lazy atmosphere and absinthe drenched thoughts for mad warmongers dressed in stiff uniforms, waving their rifles in the air declaring their truth to the world. Add shady ladies with doubtful agendas and industrialized power and you are almost there. But there is more, as there always are with these two geniuses.

I curse my lacking knowledge of German. I understand enough of the lyrics to get an overall picture, but too little to really get them. That said: I really enjoy "Femme Fatale", "Kaiserschnitt" and most surprisingly even the extremely melancholic and depressing "Kein Schöneres Tod" for the lyrics. "Kein Schöneres Tod" shares the title with an old German folk-song/soldier-song from the 17th century. Porta Nigra does many fascinating things on this album, but this is by far the one song that I felt most surprised about. Maybe I have interpreted it wrongly, but it fits as Kaiserschnitt is an album dedicated to the victims of ‘The War To End All Wars’ - the 1st World War and the megalomania of Kaiser Wilhelm II. There's also mentions of some of the femme fatales of history, such as Eva, Lilith and Mata Hari. And thanks to "Femme Fatale" Bram Dijkstra’s book "Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-De-Siecle Culture" is now on my to-buy-list.

I really liked Fin de Siécle for it’s theme throughout the album; it held together from start to finish and so does Kaiserschnitt. The essence of Porta Nigra's decadence is still there, the unease is there, but there is more anger, despair and power behind the words and in the execution of the tracks. If there ever was any doubt about their creativity, there should be none after this album. Porta Nigra dives down into the murky waters of the past and delivers it elegantly, with a crooked smile on their lips, on a somewhat bent and dirty silver plate for us to feast upon, urging us to also look back and take note of the past before it is forgotten.


Tagged with 2015, black metal, Debemur Morti Productions, Majbritt Levinsen, Porta Nigra

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Transylvanian Tapes: Swamp Witch, Cease, and Cloak

By Justin C. Half a year ago, right here on Metal Bandcamp, I wrote about a bunch of first-rate releases from Oakland, California-based label Transylvanian Tapes. Included in that post was mention of Agglomeration XXIV
By Craig Hayes.

Half a year ago, right here on Metal Bandcamp, I wrote about a bunch of first-rate releases from Oakland, California-based label Transylvanian Tapes. Included in that post was mention of Agglomeration XXIV, the latest bile, doom, and cough-syrup crust release from Oakland miscreants Bädr Vogu. I mention Bädr Vogu again, because the band’s misanthropic punk/metal racket is well worth tracking down. But also because that same punk attitude combined with underground metal’s noxious noise is right there on recent Transylvanian Tapes releases from Cloak and Cease, and it's definitely there on Swamp Witch’s latest ten tonne mind-fuck, The Slithering Bog.


The Slithering Bog follows on from Swamp Witch’s grimy and grim debut Gnosis, which was a similarly downtuned trawl through tripped-out and tar-thick sludge. Like Gnosis, The Slithering Bog also has a heavyweight crust of distortion surrounding its subterranean sound. And there are plenty of deep ‘n’ dark chasms of amp-melting, psychedelic doom to get lost in on The Slithering Bog as well. Best of all, The Slithering Bog has a filthy psychoactive aura throughout––one heavy on the negativity and nastiness––and that has a lot to do with Swamp Witch laying out their tunes in an ultra-heavy, slow-motion fashion. It’s all deliberate. Menacing. And like sonic kin such as Noothgrush, Indian or Grief, the result is gruelling, festering, and ultimately, wretched. No surprise then that The Slithering Bog is highly recommended.



Artwork by Joey Camello

Humanity, the 2014 Transylvanian Tapes debut from metallic hardcore band Cease, is also hulking, heavy, and smothered in distortion and dirt. However, Humanity’s contents are delivered at a far brisker pace, and are indebted to Entombed’s buzzsaw approach. Humanity duly features brute blasts of hardcore-injected and HM-2 hammering punk and (death) metal. So, if you’re a fan of the punk/metal bludgeon of Nails, Black Breath, or similar crossover roughnecks, you’re guaranteed to appreciate Cease’s modus operandi, and the depths of their viciousness. Also, Cease have followed up Humanity with a bulldozing self-titled demo released in January this year. Get ‘em both. Now.



Artwork by James Hammontree

Where Cease and Swamp Witch bring a bruising wall of noise, Bay Area punks Cloak deal in spiky shards of sound on their debut, Succumb. There’s a lot of old-guard worship to be found on Succumb, with Cloak digging into the roots of black and death metal on songs that rumble in parts, and slice coldly (although definitely not cleanly) in others. Succumb is lo-fi, Deathcrush lo-fi, and it features similarly blown-out vocals and tracks that are brittle and jagged with sawtooth edges in equal measure. Atmospheric melodies add to all the villainy, and with four songs delivered in 20-minutes, there’s more than enough bleeding-raw basement black metal on Succumb to get under your skin and perk your interest in hearing even more.


Tagged with 2014, 2015, black metal, Cease, Cloak, Craig Hayes, doom metal, free download, hardcore, sludge metal, Swamp Witch, Transylvanian Tapes

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Twingiant - Devil Down

By Matt Hinch. Are you ready to get down? Devil Down that is, the newest from Phoenix foursome Twingiant. One can feel the desert winds blowing through their southern-fried stoner sludge
Written by Matt Hinch.


Are you ready to get down? Devil Down that is, the newest from Phoenix foursome Twingiant. One can feel the desert winds blowing through their southern-fried stoner sludge.

It starts off eezy breezy but soon enough the chugging rhythms and foot-stompin' riffs take hold and drive the listener into the dust. But there's a balance to be had here as well. As primal as it can be, especially the rhythm section, the guitars are surprisingly deft and able to rend the sky in two with emotional lead that dance through the cool night air.

It's heavy as a lead weight but instead of being full-on sludge, Twingiant take you on a retro, hard rockin' ride across the black top laid down decades ago. "Through the Motions" features some seriously sweet licks and an old-school, stoner/psych vibe amid its hardened rhythms. "Tiger Lily" hints at The Sword with striking guitar harmonies and were it not for the fiery bellows it would definitely seem to come from another time.

Speaking of that bellow, it's nasty. It's like vocalist/bassist Jarrod Le Blanc didn't just drink the whiskey, but chewed up and swallowed the broken glass too and growls through the bubbling blood at the back of his throat. On "Daisy Cutter" though, during the instrumental section one may think Twingiant could do without a singer at all until the beastly roar obliterates any notion of the thought.

Twingiant weave through an array of tempos to infiltrate the mind and soul of the listener. Jeff Ramon pummels with as much venom as Le Blanc and his amp-wrecking bass. Tony Gallegos and Nikos Mixas work in tandem to keep the listener both grounded and weightless. Their solos are more about evoking feeling than dazzling with technically.

Devil Down is an unassuming and honest album barreling through the desert, choking on the dust but maintaining a zest for fueling a retro-styled trip. Muscle meets melody, retro meets the roar and we'll gladly follow the Devil Down below the horizon with the setting sun's glow in our face.


Tagged with 2014, Matt Hinch, stoner metal, Twingiant

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Alcest - Écailles de lune & Les voyages de l'âme

By Justin C. It's always cool to see a long-established artist suddenly appear on Bandcamp. You can pick up things missing from your collection, or just get higher-fidelity copies of things you already had.
By Justin C.

It's always cool to see a long-established artist suddenly appear on Bandcamp. You can pick up things missing from your collection, or just get higher-fidelity copies of things you already had. Now, when Prophecy Productions joined Bandcamp, we got a whole slew of new digital goodies, including Alcest. I briefly debated about whether Alcest really needed a write up here--doesn't everybody already know them? But on the other hand, there are always new people getting into metal, and it's easy to miss some gems. Or maybe the often-polarized opinion of this band scared you off, and you didn't have me whispering into your ear about why you should listen.

Photo by Webzine Chuul.

Alcest is primarily the work of Neige (a.k.a., Stéphane Paut). He started Alcest as a pretty standard, raw black metal outfit, but after the 2001 demo, Neige took Alcest into a new direction. A lot of people categorize Alcest as post-black metal, but the favorite genre label I've seen attached to them is "blackgaze." Neige mixes melodic shoegaze and black metal in a way that's simply brilliant. If you really think about it (and ignore the knuckle-headed screams of "sell out!" and "girlfriend metal!" that Internet Tough Guys love to apply to Alcest), the melding of shoegaze and black metal isn't actually that strange. Both genres typically rely on waves of sound washing over the listener, and what are blast beats and tremolo-picked guitars if not (angry) waves of sound? Sure, black metal is typically a bit more aggressive than, say, My Bloody Valentine or Catherine Wheel, but sonically, they have similar aesthetics, if different executions.

Cover art by Fursy Teyssier

It was hard to pick what albums to focus on, but for my money, 2010's Écailles de lune and 2012's Les voyages de l'âme stand as the pinnacle of what Alcest has achieved so far. Aside from the early demo, Écailles is probably one of the heavier albums in Alcest's catalog. "Écailles de lune (Part I)" serves as a melancholy intro to the album, but listen carefully: At around the 8-minute mark (Neige doesn't mind a slow build), we get some blast beats and lovely tremolo guitar, even if they're a bit less frosty than typical for black metal. Hang around for the next track, "Écailles de lune (Part II)", and after a deceptively gentle intro, you hear the first proper black metal shrieks of the album. I love Neige's clean vocals--they're subdued and non-showy while still conveying deep emotion--but I'd also happily listen to an album full of his raw shrieks. "Part II" eventually moves back to shoegazier territory, but it makes the blackened fury seem all the more intense.

Photo by Webzine Chuul.

It pains me to say it, but if you're disappointed by the heaviness level of the first two tracks of Écailles, you're probably not going to like Alcest. The shoegaze parts of the music and Neige's clean vocals aren't brief respites or interludes; they're integral to the sound. But if you're still with me, I have to convince you to also listen to Les voyages de l'âme, because it holds a firm place on my list of favorite albums post-2000, and perhaps on my list of favorite albums ever.



Cover art by Fursy Teyssier

Les voyages de l'âme does move Alcest a bit further away from its black metal roots, although you still get some great blackened fury in "Là où naissent les couleurs nouvelles" and "Faiseurs de mondes". What stands out on Voyages is the maturation of Neige's melodic sensibilities. He was always good, but what he did on Voyages is at a different level. The lush guitars and vocal melodies in the album opener "Autre Temps" immediately take me to another place, which seems appropriate because Neige has explained that Alcest is largely inspired by a dream world from his childhood. This album also sees Neige's blending of the heavy and light become nearly seamless. The gentle intro to "Là où naissent les couleurs nouvelles" is brilliantly revisited in the song's blackened sections. The transition thrills me every time, no matter how often I hear it. And the vocals and guitars in the title track? I don't even know how to put those feelings into words.

Photo by Webzine Chuul.

Alcest's lovely 2014 album Shelter moved firmly into a pop/shoegaze sound, and as with most Alcest albums, the reaction was polarized. However, Neige has changed directions before--Alcest's first proper full-length, Souvenirs d'un autre monde, had nary a black metal scream on it, so it's hard to say where he'll end up next. I'd hate to see Neige completely abandon his black metal roots, but on the other hand, his musicianship will show through no matter what he's doing, and I suspect Alcest albums are going to be an "insta-buy" for me for a long time to come.


Tagged with 2010, 2012, Alcest, Justin C, post-metal, Prophecy Productions, shoegaze, Webzine Chuul

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Imperial Triumphant - Abyssal Gods

By Andy Osborn. With Abyssal Gods, Imperial Triumphant return with their first substantial effort. Since 2008 the Brooklyn-based dissonance mongers have been stingy with their offerings
By Andy Osborn.

Cover art by Andrew Tremblay

With Abyssal Gods, Imperial Triumphant return with their first substantial effort. Since 2008 the Brooklyn-based dissonance mongers have been stingy with their offerings; only a handful of EPs have seen the light of day along with a 2012 “full-length” that clocked in at a mere 25 minutes. Finally, a full 40 minutes of new music crawls its way out of the darkness just a year after joining the already fantastic roster of Aural Music.

The band should be no stranger to those familiar with the world of bonkers black metal. Following in the footsteps of experimentalists like Deathspell Omega, Thantifaxath, or even Nightbringer, Imperial Triumphant are part of what I like to refer to as the other post-black metal movement. Focusing on technicality, harsh melodies and unpredictable song structures above all else, it’s a far cry from those stuck in the Second Wave or trying to bring ambient wandering into the mix. Abyssal Gods builds on their already signature sound, diving deeper into a cavern of beautiful chaos.

Every song is a mixed bag of frenetic musicianship, seemingly random arrangements, and otherworldly vocals. And honestly, on paper that sounds like something I should hate. But the music is enthralling as it absorbs your mind and soul and demands attention. It’s a horror movie that you can’t look away from. What sets Imperial Triumphant apart from similar groundbreakers is there is no art school pretension or kvlter-than-thou mentality. They don't obfuscate their identities or claim membership of a secret occult order and behind all the mayhem is the clear sound of a talented band having a great time. There’s a moment near the beginning of “Opposing Holiness” that gives a glimpse of the band’s soul. These few seconds of a fun acoustic ditty before the song completely explodes into madness is one of the most memorable parts of the album.

Colin Marston’s production is beefy as usual, and he put most of the emphasis on the drums and bass, making the listen just that much more challenging. But it’s a nice contrast to virtuosic showoffs to find yourself searching for the intricate guitar lines instead of having them scream their importance at you. “Metropolis” ends the album sounding like the band doing their best impression of a insane 50's lounge act, enhancing the confusion of what was just experienced. Abyssal Gods takes this niche style of black metal to a whole new level, making it both more fascinating and challenging than ever before. And even if there’s likely few riffs or melodies that you’ll find yourself remembering later, it's an exceptional foray into sonic madness that's unlikely ever to be repeated.


Tagged with 2015, Andy Osborn, Aural Music, black metal, Imperial Triumphant

Just the Facts - February 2015

By Justin C. Welcome to what I plan on being a monthly feature. You won't have to see me try and wax poetic to get to the good stuff. All the albums featured will have been released during the month in question.
By Kevin Page.

Welcome to what I plan on being a monthly feature. You won't have to see me try and wax poetic to get to the good stuff. All the albums featured will have been released during the month in question. I'll give you the info you need and you can skip right to the music. So without further ado...


Band:Oral Fistfuck
Country:Switzerland
Label:Rising Nemesis Records
Genre:Brutal death metal
Sounds like:The bands actual name!
Interesting fact:The song "Inside the Cage" contains vocals of the bassists 6 month old son recorded during multiple morning breakfasts, combined together, reversed and lowered 30 octaves



Artwork by Mortuus

Band:Devathorn
Country:Greece
Label:W.T.C. Productions
Genre:Black metal
Sounds like:Orthodox black metal with a modern flair
Interesting fact:Several aspects of the album's Draconian theme refer to the spiritual practices of its members



Artwork by Jeff Christensen

Band:James Norbert Ivanyi
Country:Australia
Label:Self released
Genre:Progressive instrumental rock/metal
Sounds like:For fans of Sean Ashe & Plini
Interesting fact:Ivanyi performs all bass, keyboards and guitars, while drummer Dave Horgan helped him with the mix/master


Tagged with black metal, brutal death metal, Devathorn, James Norbert Ivanyi, Kevin Page, Oral Fistfuck, progressive metal, World Terror Committee