Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Krallice - Ygg huur

By Justin C. It feels weird to categorize Krallice as black metal at this point, given their latest album, Ygg hurr. Granted, they were never dyed-in-the-wool second-wave worshipers, so the shift in sound on their latest album isn't quite as abrupt as it might seem at first. To be honest, my first thought was, "Krallice made a Gorguts album!"
By Justin C.


It feels weird to categorize Krallice as black metal at this point, given their latest album, Ygg hurr. Granted, they were never dyed-in-the-wool second-wave worshipers, so the shift in sound on their latest album isn't quite as abrupt as it might seem at first. To be honest, my first thought was, "Krallice made a Gorguts album!" But listening to it back to back with Colored Sands, I realized that wasn't quite the full story. There's as much of Dysrhythmia's torturous prog goodness here as their is Gorguts, but given that all of these acts share members, it's not surprising that a lot of influence would bleed through them all.

Krallice at Incubate Festival 2014. Photo by Jostijn Ligtvoet

There's still a hefty dose of the Krallice's patented, extra-dissonant tremolo riffing, but those riffs butt heads with plenty of much stranger fare. Check out the first minute or so of "Over Spirit." The intro sounds like some kind of demented wind-up toy losing steam, but then it runs headlong into a truly righteous tremolo riff. The switch from chugging aggression to an airy, suspended guitar line in "Bitter Meditation"? Utterly beautiful.

The album opener, "Idols," has what might be one of my favorite riffs so far this year. It's a snaky single-note line, complete with counterpoint, that at times sound almost like a canon. (And I mean the musical type of canon here, not the artillery type of cannon.) You know how shredders in the 80s were always going on about their classical influences, which meant that they'd occasionally throw in a Bach line or a trill in a solo? Yeah, this riff puts all of that wankery to shame.

Krallice at Incubate Festival 2014. Photo by Jostijn Ligtvoet

What else is there to like here? Plenty. The bass is up in the mix and hard driving. The percussion is fascinating in its own right, but as with the best rhythm sections, it blends in with the rest of the music rather than trying to stomp all over it.

All that said, I did find this a hard album to warm up to. It took a while for my initial disappointment over this being "not a Krallice album" to fade. But once I learned to stop trying to dissect how much Krallice vs. Gorguts vs. whatever it is, I liked it a little bit more each time I listened to it.

Tagged with 2015, avant-garde black metal, Justin C, Krallice

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Unhold - Towering

By Calen Henry. The only reason I’m even aware of Unhold’s existence is because they opened for A Storm of Light at a show I attended on a whim, in Geneva, in 2008. I’ve been a fan ever since, despite a lack of any new material from them since then. It turns out they broke up in 2012, then reformed, added a piano player / third vocalist, and dropped a new record in January.
By Calen Henry.

Illustration by Philipp Thöni/BlackYard

The only reason I’m even aware of Unhold’s existence is because they opened for A Storm of Light at a show I attended on a whim, in Geneva, in 2008. I’ve been a fan ever since, despite a lack of any new material from them since then. It turns out they broke up in 2012, then reformed, added a piano player / third vocalist, and dropped a new record in January.

Unhold, like many contemporary doom/sludge bands use Neurosis as a jumping off point and pepper their music with meandering post-rock interludes. But, they do it better than almost anyone else and the addition of keyboards has brought the group’s sound to another level. Towering is utterly phenomenal. They seamlessly blend crushing doom, ambient passages, stoner rock, post rock and some spacey psychedelic passages into a kind of cinematic-post-stoner-doom.

Complementing the genre acrobatics are three different vocalists ranging from Scott Kelly style well-bellowing, to spoken-word passages, to soaring Coheed and Cambria style leads, to beautiful female vocals provided by new member Miriam who also plays keyboards and really rounds out the group’s sound.

With such diverse influences and sounds Towering could be a mess but it’s far from it. The disparate sounds are brought together with stunning cohesion to make a true album experience. No one song captures the band’s sound; in fact I was initially offput by the unmelodic first half of album opener "Containing the Tyrant", but after having listened through the whole album and coming back to the start I “got it” and was completely hooked.

Towering is a journey through everything Unhold has on offer and one of the best albums of the year.

(It’s also worth noting that the Pangolin shirt they’re selling is probably the best metal shirt available on Bandcamp)

Tagged with 2015, Calen Henry, post-hardcore, progressive sludge metal, Unhold

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Black Wing - .​.​.​Is Doomed

By Justin C. Welcome to another installment of my random series of Metal-Adjacent Reviews(tm). This time, I'm going to talk about Black Wing, an electronic solo project by Dan Barrett, the fellow behind the somewhat-more-metal Have a Nice Life. Both of these projects are out on The Flenser, hence the aforementioned metal adjacency.
By Justin C.


Welcome to another installment of my random series of Metal-Adjacent Reviews(tm). This time, I'm going to talk about Black Wing, an electronic solo project by Dan Barrett, the fellow behind the somewhat-more-metal Have a Nice Life. Both of these projects are out on The Flenser, hence the aforementioned metal adjacency.

I have pretty eclectic music tastes, but truth be told, I'd probably be tempted to skip over something categorized as a "depressive chillwave" album. But I got sucked in by the striking album artwork for Black Wing's "...Is Doomed", and the fact that The Flenser is handling this. No matter what they put out, it's bound to be interesting, and I'd have to categorize this album as well beyond "interesting". The style may be electronic, but its messy, beating heart is big enough to blot out the sun. There's a mathematical precision to the music, but there's also Dan Barrett's voice, be it solo, processed, or presented as a choir, adding an inescapable hook and emotional grounding.

I have to be honest at this point: The previously released track "My Body Betrayed Me" was a huge draw for me when getting into this album. Barrett has mentioned that he was suffering from some health problems while recording this. As part of the press material, he explained, "I was dripping a lot of blood all over the place. It was all very undramatic and fleshy and strange." As I'm writing this, I'm also going through a strange, often-maddening health crisis of sorts, and the heart-on-its-sleeve lyrics of this song hit me like an industrial-strength narcotic. Lines like, "I know I'm dead / but do I care? / I was barely there / and now, I'm less" take on extra weight when your body is throwing out all manner of strange test results and treatment-resistant pain. I think I would have loved this song anyway--it's direct, elegant, and powerful--but I definitely had a hole in my heart perfectly shaped to receive this song. (I wouldn't be surprised if I also had a hole burned in my hard drive from listening to this on repeat. And possibly a literal hole in my cardiac organ. I don't think the doctors have ruled that out yet).

That said, there's plenty to get into here even if you're strictly a metal person and/or not currently being betrayed by your body. The title track, as promised by the album title, is in fact dark and doomy, even if it's not in a Sabbath-y or Saint Vitus-y kind of way. The darkness is punctuated by a certain amount of melodic lightness, and that goes for most of the music on this album. It's melancholy, but there are moments of meditation, and perhaps even a sense of redemption. Or maybe it comes down to what I heard the great philosopher Chris Cornell say in an interview, explaining the appeal of dark music. I'm paraphrasing from memory, but he basically said, "You hear depressing music, realize you're not the only person who ever felt that way, and guess what? You feel a little better."

So do you need some music to put on in the car on a coming sunny, fall day, when you're just not sure how you feel about life and what it's offering you at the moment? Something that elevates you even if it's describing a messier, sadder reality? Dan Barrett's got you covered. Highly, highly recommended.

Tagged with 2015, Black Wing, electronica, Flenser Records, Justin C

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Artist Spotlight: Thy Catafalque

By Professor D. Grover the XIIIth. Greetings and salutations, friends. For those of seeing my name and wondering who the hell I am, allow to to briefly introduce myself. I am Professor D. Grover the XIIIth, and you may remember me from such obscure blogs as The Number Of The Blog, Oculus Infernus, and No Clean Singing. If any of those sites rings a bell, excellent.
By Professor D. Grover the XIIIth.

Greetings and salutations, friends. For those of seeing my name and wondering who the hell I am, allow to to briefly introduce myself. I am Professor D. Grover the XIIIth, and you may remember me from such obscure blogs as The Number Of The Blog, Oculus Infernus, and No Clean Singing. If any of those sites rings a bell, excellent. If not, that is unfortunate, but hopefully you will take the time to consume my mad scribblings anyway. Now, to the point at hand.


I have been recruited for this article because I am, in short, a massive Thy Catafalque fanboy. I have been known to vocally proclaim my entirely platonic love for Thy Catafalque mainman and all-around musical genius Tamás Kátai. Thy Catafalque, for the unfamiliar, is a Hungarian avant-garde black metal band, although labeling it as such does the music a disservice, as the project’s music is so uniquely expansive and varied that a simple label can do little to truly describe it. However, as a starting point, such a label is the nearest touchstone that I can provide, and so it shall have to do for the moment.

The band’s roots are fairly simple, starting as a collaboration between the extremely prolific Kátai (who at the band’s inception was also releasing music under the monikers of Darklight, Towards Rusted Soil, Gort, and Gire) and guitarist János Juhász. Thy Catafalque’s initial material was decidedly more black metal than avant-garde, and in truth I haven’t listened to those albums a great deal, but even then they bore the imprints of Kátai’s unique sensibilities, which I will cover momentarily. As of the last Thy Catafalque album, the brilliant Rengeteg, Kátai had taken over as the band’s sole member, but the change did not affect the band’s sound much, which as I will discuss is a very, very good thing.

Thy Catafalque have a new album, titled Sgùrr, coming soon via Season Of Mist, and as that time approaches there has been a flurry of activity, with re-releases of the entire Thy Catafalque catalog on vinyl and CD, including the most recent (and sold out) compilation of The Early Works, which encompass the first three Thy Catafalque releases into a single 3-disc package, and the name-your-price Bandcamp release of the lone full-length Gire album, a Hungarian death metal project featuring Kátai’s synth-work and drum programming that is most likely the closest thing in sound to Thy Catafalque that I have managed to find up to this point. Most importantly, Thy Catafalque’s two most important releases have seen remasters and have also been released on Bandcamp as name-your-price downloads, and it is these releases I am here to discuss.


The first of these releases is 2004’s Tűnő idő tárlat (translated, An Exhibition of Vanishing Time), an album as daring in composition as it is brilliant. It takes true testicular fortitude to start your album with two 9+ minute tracks bookending a massive 18+ minute epic, but the opening journey of "Csillagkohó", "Neath Waters (Minden Vízbe Mártott Test)", and "Bolygó, bolyongó" bear testament to just how insanely great this album is. Across these three tracks, the listener is dragged through searing black metal, pounding industrial, trancelike electro, and dreamlike ambient passages with little regard for one’s sanity. It’s an exhausting, exhilarating way to start an album, and afterward there are still five more tracks to go.

It’s important to note at this point that while I can attempt to describe exactly what you will hear on these albums, I will fail miserably at doing so. That much is an absolute certainty. You have to hear the tracks for themselves to truly understand what I am attempting to convey. Fortunately, technology being what it is, you can listen to the album via the embedded widget as you read along! I cannot recommend highly enough that you do this, because it is the only true way for you to experience such an intricately nuanced album.

The remaining five tracks are equally dynamic, from the dirgelike riffing of "Héja-nász az avaron" and the ethereal female vocals (provided by session vocalist Nikoletta Gerzanits) of "Zápor" to the thumping drums and blistering riffs of "Az ősanya szól ivadékaihoz" and the stark soundscape denouement of "Varjak fekszenek". The most intriguing thing to my ear with this album is the mix of disparate musical styles, and not only that they are present on the same album and within the same songs, but often that they are present at the same time. This is noteworthy, because often with avant-garde and experimental music you will see bands switching between styles rather than combining them. Often you will hear ambient passages and clean instrumentation underlaid by a heavy electronic beat (the drums are entirely programmed and very distinct, an element of the Thy Catafalque sound that has existed since the beginning), or heavy riffs interwoven with melodic synth lines or the aforementioned clean instrumentation (see the latter half of "Az ősanya szól ivadékaihoz", where the riffs give way momentarily for a mix of piano and violin before joining right back in, until the whole thing is swept away by a pulsing, building electronic section). It is, to be honest, unlike anything I have ever heard.



Actually, that’s not entirely accurate, because we also have Róka hasa rádió (translated, Fox Belly Radio), the 2009 followup that matches Tűnő idő tárlat for sheer brilliance and audacity. Rather like its predecessor, it challenges the listener immediately by starting with an 11-minute track and then following that up with a 19-minute epic. Album opener "Szervetlen" serves notice that you are in for another journey, featuring some insanely heavy guitars and programmed percussion, interspersed with clean vocals (provided by Woodland Choir/Quadrivium singer Attila Bakos, who would also lend his voice to Rengeteg) and Kátai’s distinctive keyboards.

The second track, the aforementioned 19-minute epic "Molekuláris gépezetek", is truly special. It is the track that first made Thy Catafalque’s music truly click for me, and I cannot say enough about it. It starts with sheer blackened fury, all roiling guitars, hazy tortured vocals, pounding drums, held together by a pervasive synth melody. It quickly scales back, incorporating Bakos back into the mix and changing up the drums, and then around the 6 minute mark it takes an absolute left turn, dropping almost all instrumentation except for a shuffling drumbeat, some clean guitar, and a spare synth melody. It then changes up the drumbeat ever so slightly and adds, of all things, a saxophone melody and the beautiful clean vocals of Ágnes Tóth (who also would go on to contribute on Rengeteg). Eventually, it strips everything down to just the synths for a bit before swinging back into the drums and Tóth’s vocals. Then, when the listener has been lulled into a false sense of security around 15 minutes in, the song comes blasting back. It is an absolutely insane way to write a song, and by all rights it shouldn’t work, but it simply does.

Again, it is an absolutely exhausting and exhilarating way to start an album. From that point, Kátai plays it a bit more traditional, with the remaining seven tracks ranging from 4-6 minutes, although the music is no less weird and varied. Bakos and Tóth play important roles, with Bakos assuming the lead vocals on "Köd utánam" and "Esőlámpás", both of which combine his cleans with driving guitar riffs and the sort of utterly unforgettable synth melodies that seems to be Kátai’s specialty. "Űrhajók makón", on the other hand, gives Tóth free reign over yet another beautiful keyboard melody. The synth programming actually takes more precedent on Róka hasa rádió, playing to the album’s concept (as described by Kátai, “revolving, rotating movements of past and future, colours, sounds, long lost scents by a strange transmission from a timeless radio”), although Juhász’ guitar riffs play their own essential role, and Kátai’s bandmates in Gire, Balázs Hermann and Zoltán Kónya, provide additional bass and guitars respectively. If anything, Róka hasa rádió is even more adventurous and experimental than its predecessor, although both albums are utterly brilliant and unlike anything else out there.


I would be remiss in not at least mentioning Rengeteg, the 2011 followup to Róka hasa rádió released through Season Of Mist. Rengeteg found Kátai continuing the project as a solo act, upping the aggression ever so slightly and reining in things a bit (the longest track here is a mere 14 minutes and comes in the album’s midsection), but make no mistake, it is still most definitely a Thy Catafalque album and retains everything that makes this band special.


It seems fitting to conclude with the information we have regarding Sgùrr (translated, The Top Of A Mountain from Scottish Gaelic, a nod to Kátai’s new home in Scotland), the forthcoming new Thy Catafalque album. Due October 16th, the album promises to be another shift in sound. Says Kátai,
The title of this album derives from Scottish Gaelic and means 'the top of a mountain'. Yet most of the songs are equally about water, mountains, their interrelationship and the symbols attached to them - inspired by the Scottish Highlands and weird enough the Hungarian Lowlands. There are not many vocal lines at all, but when there occur, they are not pleasant. Compare to previous albums this music is mostly unfriendly, bristling and cold compared to the previous albums. I guess everything is more metal this time.
At this time, there is a single full track available for streaming, the drums-guitar-violin instrumental "Alföldi Kozmosz", and an ambient minute-and-a-half teaser on YouTube previewing an unspecified track. Both serve only to further heighten my need to hear this album. In the meantime, well, at least I have a couple of classics to occupy my time.

Tagged with 2004, 2009, 2011, 2015, avant-garde metal, free download, Professor D. Grover the XIIIth, Season of Mist, Thy Catafalque

Friday, September 18, 2015

Tyranny - Aeons in Tectonic Interment

By Kevin Page. If you don't know of the band or never got a chance to hear their debut, that's okay, we're in the same boat. It was after all, a decade ago (2005) when they unleashed their debut, Tides of Awakening on the currently defunct Firedoom Music label. Now, brought seemingly back to life via Dark Descent Records, Aeons in Tectonic Interment is here to swallow you into it's madness.
By Kevin Page.


If you don't know of the band or never got a chance to hear their debut, that's okay, we're in the same boat. It was after all, a decade ago (2005) when they unleashed their debut, Tides of Awakening on the currently defunct Firedoom Music label. Now, brought seemingly back to life via Dark Descent Records, Aeons in Tectonic Interment is here to swallow you into it's madness.

This is a two piece band from Finland featuring Lauri Lindquist (vocals, bass, keyboards) and Matti Mäkelä (guitars, vocals, samples). You may know of Matti from his other bands, Corpsessed and Profetus. I'm going to try and forgo the obvious and not harp upon the fact that this is slow, repetitive and drawn out. I mean, it's funeral doom, those are trademarks of the genre, there's no getting past that. The barrier to entry isn't an easy one to overcome for a lot of people. But there's something about this album that just might pique the interest of those that would normally be hesitant to dive in. A menacing chaotic dirge with an extra layer of grimy evilness pervades all 51 minutes of its runtime. And heck, a funeral doom album under an hour could help the impatient crowd a bit.

The lead track, "Sunless Deluge", lumbers on as you would generally expect for its first 9 minutes before weaving in a ultra heavy yet eloquent guitar pattern for its final 90 seconds, giving you a sense of rebirth and hope. But that optimism is quickly smashed to pieces once the follow up kicks in, "A Voice Given unto Ruin". To play off the album title, it feels like the plates of the earth are slowing opening, while you get sucked into its endless void. My favorite track would be "The Stygian Enclave", whose midsection just emanates a moody nothingness thanks to its use of wonderfully placed keyboards. Overall this tune seems to encapsulate the whole sound and feel of the record. Even though I'm a fan of this style of metal, most funeral doom bands don't really have these moments in songs that you can point to or remember. Aeons in Tectonic Interment bucks this trend, while staying true to what it is.

Tagged with 2015, Dark Descent Records, funeral doom metal, Kevin Page, Tyranny

Grift - Syner

By Majbritt Levinsen. This album is the essence of reflections made by a person that has had too much time to think in his own solitude. A person that honors the past, dwells on it and lets it dissolve into the present. I know from reading about Erik Gärdefors, the mastermind behind this album, that he draws inspiration from the southern Swedish landscapes that he grew up in
By Majbritt Levinsen.


This album is the essence of reflections made by a person that has had too much time to think in his own solitude. A person that honors the past, dwells on it and lets it dissolve into the present. I know from reading about Erik Gärdefors, the mastermind behind this album, that he draws inspiration from the southern Swedish landscapes that he grew up in and from various Swedish poets, old movies, and Ingmar Bergman. With a clear vision he has transformed these sources of inspiration into 6 tracks of calm and focused black metal melancholy.

And so the album begins with the grieving sounds of a hurting piano/harmonium before the atmospheric black metal comes in together with the evening mist and the quiet night. The philosophic mood settles in, and though I’m not alone in the house, it feels like the surrounding floats further and further away, leaving me alone with "Aftonlandet", my feelings and my thoughts.

The slow but powerful agonizing "Svältorna" is so incredible beautiful in its melancholy. That vast sound that carries the shrieks, which echoes through sleeping landscapes must awaken even the most dormant feelings of anybody that cares to listen.

You might have seen the wonderful melancholic video to the song "Svältorna". It portraits a beautiful, but also harsh, black and white landscape with two generations (Erik and his father) wandering in the landscape of Kinnekulle. The video is mellow and strikes a quiet mood, which invites us to spark our imagination and make up our own interpretation of its meaning. Daniel Blomberg, from the crust/hardcore band M:40, shot and edited the video and also sings the second verse of the song.


The most stripped down and bare track on this album is without a doubt "Slutet Hav" and here Eric has captured the essence of the Nordic pensive melancholy. You can feel the crisp icy winds kissing your cheeks, you can hear the silence.

The following track "Undergörare" is more upbeat and has, like the rest of the album, traditional Scandinavian folk music inspirations. I can’t help feeling I’m being asked to dance. A pair of sturdy firm arms grips my waist and an arm and whirls me around, leads me, guides me in a dizzying and nauseating dance, that I don’t really want to participate in but in the same time feels comfort in.

The closing track "Eremiten Esaias" starts with no surprises; grinding atmospheric black metal guitars, pounding drums without any bigger variation, a steady bass and Eric's agonizing roars. But around the middle of the song it opens up and lets some magic and air in through all of the doom and gloom. Andreas Brink adds to this sonic escape with some lap steel that closes off this album together with Eric on harmonium.

Besides of Daniel Blomberg and Andreas Brink, Erik has invited other friends to join in on this album. Daniel Abrahamsson from The Ascendant and Excessum plays a guitar solo on "Det Bortvända Ansiktet" and Andreas Pettersson from Saiva and Stilla lends his clear vocals to "Undergöraren".

All in all Syner is a beautiful album, capturing the Nordic melancholy by its core. It is an album that might get you to think about your own ancestry and the landscape you grew up in. How you are tied to your past and how we all wonder where we are aiming our lives. The airy atmospheric black metal riffs combined with the rhythm of old Scandinavian folk songs gives the album an overall feeling of laid back sadness. I must say I was pleasantly surprised and I hope you will be too.

Tagged with 2015, black metal, Grift, Majbritt Levinsen

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Ufomammut - Oro: Opus Primum

By Natalie Zina Walschots. Ufomammut are an experimental metal act based in Italy. Their name is a portmanteau of U.F.O. (the abbreviation for "unidentified flying object," often used to describe what people believe are alien spacecrafts) and "mammut," the Italian word for mammoth.
By Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.

Artwork by Malleus

Ufomammut are an experimental metal act based in Italy. Their name is a portmanteau of U.F.O. (the abbreviation for "unidentified flying object," often used to describe what people believe are alien spacecrafts) and "mammut," the Italian word for mammoth. It's clear that they hope to evoke something both gigantic and nimble, embodying both immensity and mystery in their songwriting. With Oro: Opus Primum, they are entirely successful in this endeavor; you don't get labelled "space doom" for being straightforward and predictable. Their sixth full-length album is shockingly invasive, the squeezing, circular song structures wriggling deep into the listener's psyche.

Photos by François Carl Duguay.

The record begins slowly, almost languidly with "Empireum", easing the into listener's mind, but by the time "Aureum" gathers its strength, the music becomes a greased probe directed deep into the core of your grey matter. Throughout the album, samples of distorted voices, radio signals, chants and feedback cause the songs to take on a strange, otherworldly quality. Even the most familiar sounds are stretched and recontextualized until they become alien, made new and strange. It often feels as though Ufomammut are manipulating gravity, allowing one to float weightless one moment and then slam you down crushingly the next. Invasive and unknowably vast, Oro: Opus Primum is an excellent listen if you're looking to be blown apart.

Tagged with 2012, doom metal, François Carl Duguay, Natalie Zina Walschots, Neurot Recordings, psychedelic stoner metal, Ufomammut

Monday, September 14, 2015

Label Spotlight: Goathorned Productions

By Kevin Page. Colombian label, Goathorned Productions was formed in 2004, specializing in black metal. While they themselves are not currently on Bandcamp (maybe they are too kvlt?), the band's on their roster that we are featuring here are.
By Kevin Page.

Colombian label, Goathorned Productions was formed in 2004, specializing in black metal. While they themselves are not currently on Bandcamp (maybe they are too kvlt?), the band's on their roster that we are featuring here are.

Cover artwork: Prometheus Art & Design

Very little is known about Temple of Gnosis, a new Serbian band, which came into existence here in 2015. Mysterivm Magnvm is their first release and the work of a single man, who goes by the moniker H.M.T. Doomy symphonic occult ambient death metal (did I use enough adjectives for you?) is what you will experience musically. Lyrics/concept deal with the Western esoteric traditions and the alchemical process of enlightenment (and yes I had to google that to figure out what it meant). It's a slow (but not funeral) burn. It conjures up of images of mages and druids tinkering with potions in a laboratory, yet these arcane beings are actual horrific monsters in hooded robes in a dimly lit room. I'd be frightened of it if I wasn't so enthralled.



Next up is another new band, Aion, hailing from Switzerland and formed in 2013. Verses of Perdition is also this band's first musical endeavor (though all of its members are also in Necrosemen, that released an EP in 2013). Aion are firmly rooted in orthodox black metal, but with dissonant riffs than spiral you down into the chasm of chaos. They will change up tempos over the course of it's 36 minute run time, but they manage to simultaneously hypnotize you while going for the jugular.


Cover art by Hathrul

In 2007, Columbia's Demogorgon changed their name to Ignis Haerecticum. After a demo, single and split album, 2014 marked the year of the band's first full length, Luciferian Gnosis. On my initial listen it just sounded like traditional black metal to my ears. But since I always gives every release at least multiple listen before even attempting to write a review, I noticed I was really overlooking something. There's a balance between tradition and the dissonant French scene, a la Deathspell Omega. I asked myself, "how did I not hear this?" Was I just expecting a raw South American band and only concentrated on that aspect? But it's not even really raw, as the production is solid, yet not overly polished. Over its 49 minute run time they manage to mix things up tempo wise quite nicely. It's rumbles along like you would hope for, but they also slow things down when needed. The band have definitely struck an interesting mix of sounds here and it's something I'm genuinely looking forward to hear how they explore in future releases.

Tagged with 2014, 2015, AION, black metal, death metal, doom metal, Goathorned Productions, Ignis Haereticum, Kevin Page, Temple of Gnosis

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Demigod - Slumber of Sullen Eyes

By Autothrall. Along with the similarly-named Demilich, Demigod represent exactly 1/2 of the best Finnish death output of the 90s. Slumber of Sullen Eyes is an album of remarkable depth for 1992, incorporating somber melodies and atmosphere into its base brutality.
An Autothrall Classic. Originally published here.

Cover art by Rob Smits

Along with the similarly-named Demilich, Demigod represent exactly 1/2 of the best Finnish death output of the 90s. Slumber of Sullen Eyes is an album of remarkable depth for 1992, incorporating somber melodies and atmosphere into its base brutality. This band has never disappointed me, but I still identify most strongly with their roots, fusing deep, Floridian-influenced death metal grooves with cosmic and mystical themes.

A brief intro erupts into the searing "As I Behold I Despise", with a basic if killer riff transforming into a groove reminiscent of Bolt Thrower. Of note is the lengthy bridge segment where the bands becomes highly atmospheric, adding melodies and tasteful leads. "Dead Soul" crushes with a thrashing low-end riff over steady double bass rhythms, again the groove recalls early Bolt Thrower (and maybe a little Dismember on this tune) but capitalized on its use of leads to create a progressive edge for its day. "The Forlorn" opens with an excellent riff, dual guitar harmonies creating a classic death hammering which alternates with a shifting groove. "Tears of God" is a death/doom piece with scarce use of synths to add a layer of atmosphere above its tireless and frightening groove and step. The title track has an air of Pestilence in its chords and composition, one of the most enduring tracks on this release. The remainder of the tracks are all good, with special attention to the bass strumming of "Fear Obscures from Within" and the excellent descending rhythm of "Towards the Shrouded Infinity".

Lifeless are their minds
In the embrace of death
In infinity awakened souls
Shall remain forlorn
The journey through eternities
Mists and blackened skies
I became the one
Beyond all mortal purity

One gets the feeling listening to Slumber of Sullen Eyes that it was very much ahead of its time. While it's not an entirely unique experience, it does use its own influences to set the stage for much to come over the next decade. Brutal and percussive, there was plenty to appeal towards the pit population, yet the material is much deeper. Finland never developed a death metal scene in the 90s to rival that of neighbors Sweden, but Demigod was certainly worthy, and they remain so even if we don't hear from them as often as we might like.


Note: The version of Slumber of Sullen Eyes available on the Metalhit Bandcamp is the 2006 remaster featuring 4 bonus tracks.

Tagged with 1992, Autothrall, death metal, Demigod, Metalhit

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Festival Spotlight: Shadow Woods Metal Fest

Shadow Woods Metal Fest "the new mid-Atlantic, open-air, camping-based metal fest" has really piqued my interest. Not because of the camping bit; frankly I'm feeling a little too old for that (there will be cabins available though). There's also the minor problem of the festival being in Maryland, and me being in Denmark...


Shadow Woods Metal Fest "the new mid-Atlantic, open-air, camping-based metal fest" has really piqued my interest. Not because of the camping bit; frankly I'm feeling a little too old for that (there will be cabins available though). There's also the minor problem of the festival being in Maryland, and me being in Denmark... No of course it's the lineup of bands of that got me interested. But before we dig into that, let's get some of the practical information out of the way:

"The inaugural installation of Shadow Woods Metal Fest, kicks off on September 25th - 27th, 2015, in White Hall, Maryland, about 30 minutes north of Baltimore. There will be ZERO ticket sales at the gate for - advance presales to those 21 years of age and older is the only way into the fest, which is also BYOB. There are only 350 tickets in total to be sold, and three-quarters have already been snapped up."

And as for the lineup; there's bona fide Metal Bandcamp favorites like Falls of Rauros, who released what was probably my all-round favorite album last year. And Immortal Bird who released one of the best albums of this year. Metal Bandcamp stables like Anicon and The Flight of Sleipnir. Exciting newcomers like Dweller in the Valley and Snakefeast. And of course Midnight who I'm sure will be good clean satanic fun for the whole campsite family.

The Shadow Woods Metal Fest website has complete details and links to tickets and the fest merch store There's also Bandcamp links to nearly all the bands involved. But if you're interested in reading a few words about some of them, here's ten bands from the lineup that we have covered previosly. Enjoy, and if you get a ticket and go, have a fantastic fest.


Falls of Rauros.
As much as this album is a loving showcase of guitar compositions, nobody in this band is slacking off. The drums are fierce, restrained, and intricate at the same time, and the interplay of the bass with both the guitars and the drums is incredibly well done. You can hear all of this because the album is mixed in a way somewhat unusual for metal--all of the instruments and vocals are more or less at the same level. It's the kind of production more common to jazz albums, but it works amazingly here, letting each individual instrument room to breathe. Read more.


Immortal Bird.
Rae Amitay's vocals remain a fantastic centerpiece. Yes, they're raspy, screaming goodness, just like you'd expect and hope for, but they also bleed with emotion, be it rage, sorrow, or despair. One could probably argue that most metal vocals are packed with emotion, but it's no small feat to clearly convey such a depth and breadth of feeling while you're screaming like a banshee. Read more.


Anicon.
Anicon are Owen Rundquist and Nolan Voss from New York. They make dense, melodic black metal in the vein of Inquisition, albeit with a vocal rasp that is less distracting than Dagon’s. Their debut self-titled EP is produced by the ubiquitous Colin Marston, resulting in a sound that is not over-polished but enunciated, particularly in the gut-punch of the drums. Read more.


The Flight of Sleipnir.
On the band's latest album—the 12-track, fittingly titled Saga—melodic and smoky doom riffs form the base of many tracks, and, as the title implies, this is their most adventurous album yet. It continues the fundamental musical themes the band have always explored, and in that respect the mist-shrouded fjords it evokes are welcomingly familiar. However, it's not so much the terrain itself but a deeper exploration thereof that sets the new album apart. Read more.


Hivelords.
There are many words that get used to describe metal bands, especially of the black or blackened variety: evil, demonic, twisted; but Hivelords manage to pull off something I find more rare: deep, ominous, creeping, oozing, existentially threatening. Their sound suggests a maturity far beyond their years. Most musicians toil for years before they find such a perfect union, but Cavern Apothecary manages it all. Read more.


Black Table.
Simply put Black Table's Sentinel is post-black metal. For a more in-depth description I would go with black metal mixed with the grime of sludge, the angular riffs of hardcore, and the melodies of post-rock. A smorgasbord of heaviness. Black Table are talented musicians, and their sound is intricate. But Sentinel is not filled with progressive noodling; there are brilliant riffs aplenty and the songs, especially opener Heist, are quite catchy. Read more.


Dweller in the Valley.
Younger Dryas is raucous and raw, belligerent and blackened beyond saving. Dweller in the Valley play with a driving energy that's impossible to ignore. All facets of their blackened death metal gleam in their own way despite their light swallowing qualities. Dweller in the Valley are already a potent force and could very well establish themselves as a name to be remembered in the American black metal scene. Read more.


Velnias.
The atmosphere created on these 5 songs make them feel as though they are played outside by the light of lit torches. Beautiful acoustic passages give way to foreboding DOOM dirges before crashing into chaotic Black Metal. Never jarring in it shifts but rather pieces in a puzzle that were meant to be put together. Vocals are deep raw shouts. Guitars buzzing and raw. Drums holding pace with the rise and fall of the tempo. At times coming across as a rawer version of Agalloch. But by no means a copy. Read more.


Snakefeast.
The unusual line up of instruments for this album alone arouses my curiosity… vocals, bass, drums, cello, sax… and unusual is the listening experience that the quartet from Baltimore/MD called Snakefeast offers us with its debut The Pythoness. It could roughly be called progressive blackened sludgy jazz, but it combines so many different stylistic elements, that it forcibly resists to be pigeonholed. Read more.


Midnight.
The compilation contains 21 tracks of their blistering blackened heavy metal, complete with '80s-style solos, devastatingly fun hooks and Athenar’s signature blasphemous, raspy vocals. While it of course doesn’t feel as whole or flow as smoothly as a proper full length, it fits the band’s raw and in-your-face style perfectly. Read more.

Tagged with Anicon, Black Table, Dweller in the Valley, Falls of Rauros, Hivelords, Immortal Bird, Midnight, Snakefeast, The Flight of Sleipnir, Velnias

Friday, September 4, 2015

Mgła - With Hearts Toward None / Exercises in Futility

By Andy Osborn. It’s always exciting when a band goes from unknown to being inserted into everyday discussion of the scene. Sure, arriving at the forefront of the metal web doesn’t make you rich and famous, but in our little world there isn’t much more to hope for--and there’s nothing more satisfying to watch from a fan’s perspective. Much like Bolzer did with their first EP
By Andy Osborn.


It’s always exciting when a band goes from unknown to being inserted into everyday discussion of the scene. Sure, arriving at the forefront of the metal web doesn’t make you rich and famous, but in our little world there isn’t much more to hope for--and there’s nothing more satisfying to watch from a fan’s perspective. Much like Bolzer did with their first EP, Mgła exploded into the collective metal conscious after With Hearts Towards None was released. I remember a solid couple months in 2012 when I saw them mentioned in one place or another just about every single day. Naturally, I succumbed to the hype. I picked up the new album and prepared myself for auditory revelation.

What I heard surprised me. Not because it was unlike anything I had ever heard before, but because it was so damn familiar. Just high quality, epic black metal with a melodic sheen. Some of the songs were absolutely ragers, unsurprisingly, but it took me a few listens to understand it all. And then I realized Mgła’s greatest strength: Their uncanny ability to shy away from all forms of bullshit. There are absolutely no distractions. You’ll notice a distinct lack of pointless intros, outros, interludes and half-assed invocations to Satan. They provide a nonstop assault of only the best that black metal has to offer. Hell, even the lyrics are more than just passable, they’re downright poetic. A rarity for the style. Mgła reinforces the importance of black metal by ripping out every song, melody, and note that’s not essential. All killer, fuck the filler.


The three EPs are a great starting point, and contain largely what you would expect from the band early in their days. With hints of the future greatness to comes, the songs are largely unchanged from what they are making today, but with a much rawer production and a more relaxed attitude towards song construction. The first full-length, Groza, actually stands alone among the Mgła releases. It’s the least accessible and sees the band aiming for more of a mid-paced style with less emphasis on melody. It’s not bad by any means, but it’s more of a grower and the kick-to-the-face style the Poles are known for simply isn’t there. It’s moody and has their classic sense of groove, but lacks that certain memorability that’s so endearing.

Mgła at Maryland Deathfest 2014. Photos by Metal Chris

As I mentioned, With Hearts Toward None is what started turning heads, and rightfully so. The first few seconds are thunder, and the storm only gets more awe-inspiring from there. It has the perfect blend of melody and tight songwriting that pairs so well with their aggressive nature. They pay their respects to their forebears with the almighty tremolo, but not excessively because it’s laid over a dynamic backing of--gasp--chunky palm muting. It’s a near flawless record that has that magic quality making sure all the songs fit, but without overlap or sense of deja vu. But the final track is where it all comes together, an absolute masterpiece. Its epic opening is something that stuck with me since I first heard it and the triumphant explosion that follows is one of the greatest moments in black metal.


Exercises in Futility follows the same path as its predecessor. There’s the careful balance of accessibility and aggression, coupled with fantastic production that makes every instrument shine and worthy of attention. "IV" and "V" in particular stand out as some of Mgła’s best work as they tighten the grip on the listener until unleashing the addicting hooks that they’re careful not to overuse. It’s not a huge departure from what they’ve done before, just more of the quality we should expect. The six tracks weave through their memorable moments with ease, and the nuance is enough to demand endless listening. While maybe not as revelatory as what came before, it shows exactly what Mgła does best and why they have the popularity they deserve.

In this era of post-everything, ungodly genre marriages, and image-obsessed divas, it’s essential to have bands like Mgła to cut through it all. And to see them gain success from it all should give hope that there will always be worthy bannermen to follow. Mgła is making triumphant, epic music without overthinking it or trying to show off. And that’s exactly what black metal needs.

Tagged with 2012, 2015, Andy Osborn, black metal, Metal Chris, Mgła

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Disrotted - Disrotted

By Matt Hinch. I’m not sure what Disrotted means (as it concerns the band's completely rotted sound) but I know that in the case of this band and their self-titled album it doesn't mean they're a death metal band or one of the number of grindcore/d-beat Dis- bands. No, this Chicago outfit is all about the doom. Massive, droning, punishing, hateful doom.
By Matt Hinch.


I’m not sure what Disrotted means (as it concerns the band's completely rotted sound) but I know that in the case of this band and their self-titled album it doesn't mean they're a death metal band or one of the number of grindcore/d-beat Dis- bands. No, this Chicago outfit is all about the doom. Massive, droning, punishing, hateful doom. Disrotted is four tracks spread over 43 minutes that push the listener to the edge of endurance.

"Spell of Madness" starts off the lumbering hate with a hammering plod and a spiraling atonality rising from the muck. Deep growls emanate from the depths beckoning death with a slavering malevolence. Turning the gigantic marching pace into something more dynamic, black metallic tremolos (still downtuned as fuck) push the pace and instill a different sense of terror.

Photo by Carmelo Española.

The aptly titled "Brain Death" is a harrowing endeavor with driving notes cracking the ground to send the listener tumbling in slow motion into the abyss, slamming into every outcrop on the way down to be left broken and alone. One can't help but scowl in the face of the way they can manifest such a sense of dread. A scowl more of accomplishment than of displeasure. At this point those not as accepting of molasses thick doom may find their attention wandering but this sort of measured and persistent cadence isn't easy to pull off while creating such sinister and dark atmosphere. Yet it’s the kind of heaving, stunning doom that resonates through the whole body no matter how you choose to experience it.

Photo by Carmelo Española.

"Celestial Empire" seethes with an unstoppable hatred, stomping everything in its path. Noisy feedback makes the blood runs cold. This is far from the traditional sense of doom (Trouble et al.) brought to the fore through lyrics but rather it is brought upon through tone and heaviness. Again, Disrotted move from long, drawn out notes into more blackened ones like cresting a hill and racing down its slope to crash into their instruments making monumental reverberations spread like the sonic break of a nuclear bomb.

Closing out this test of mental stamina is "Restless Death". Again aptly titled as the listener squirms under the relentless plod toward their final end. Strained amps fight to stay together as hints of melody poke through the din. Arresting feedback and growls most foul call an end to the suffering endured with a pleasurable pain.

Photo by Carmelo Española.

Disrotted is simply devastating. The wheel turns, the path is drawn and all those (un)lucky enough to find themselves buried beneath the putrid piles of ultimate doom Disrotted leave in their wake first tremble under the sickening might before succumbing to the rot.

Tagged with 2015, Carmelo Española, Disrotted, doom metal, Matt Hinch, sludge metal

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Desert Storm - Omniscient

By Ulla Roschat. Omniscient is about 50 minutes and ten songs of a blues infused southern stoner rock with a definite psychedelic vibe, touching metal territory, especially with the vocals, and spiced with funky jazzy elements as well as with calm acoustic parts. It’s also the 3rd full length album of NOLA based … wait, no … Oxford, it’s Oxford UK they come from… all right
By Ulla Roschat.


Omniscient is about 50 minutes and ten songs of a blues infused southern stoner rock with a definite psychedelic vibe, touching metal territory, especially with the vocals, and spiced with funky jazzy elements as well as with calm acoustic parts. It’s also the 3rd full length album of NOLA based … wait, no … Oxford, it’s Oxford UK they come from… all right, Oxford based five piece rock/metal band Desert Storm.

The opening song "Outlander" is a fast paced blues laden groovy stoner track. With this track the band comes strutting into a dark dive bar, like a genie released from the bottle, blaring boldly: "We are Desert Storm and we are going to set this place ablaze!". With this magic spell the bar comes to life…. there’s drinking, joking and shouting, stories are being told, with passion and emotion.

Each of the following songs is like a different aspect of what is going on in the bar, each of a distinct character with a measured intricacy, surprising moments and twists, but they are complected, with intertwining textures, magically bound together by a secret formula that is only effective within the walls of this bar.

While the first songs are all dominated by a groovy stoner vibe that is slowly sliding into a dark heavy swamp atmosphere, the 5th song "Home" is a kind of break, a hauntingly beautiful, dark, bluesy folk tune with clean vocals. From here the songs take on more of the jazzy, funky, boogie attitude, without ever letting go of the southern boozy swamp feel.

With the last song "Collapse of the Bison Lung" the genie struts out of the bar as bold as he came in, stomping and raging with one last crushing blast to make sure the destruction is complete and the magic goes up in smoke.

Open the genie’s bottle, or simply push the play button for Omniscient and Desert Storm will take you to the magic bar with their intoxicating homemade spice blend of bluesy, funky, psychedelic and dark folky tunes they use to create their unique style of southern downtuned heaviness.

The song "Home" is featured on The Wicked Lady Show 83

Tagged with 2015, Desert Storm, rock, southern metal, stoner metal, Ulla Roschat

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Anopheli - The Ache of Want

By Justin C. There are a lot of ways for metal bands to incorporate instruments that aren't common to the genre. In some cases, like the banjo solo on Taake's Noregs Vaapen, they surprise but then disappear almost as quickly as they arrive. In other cases, like Jørgen Munkeby's sax in Shining or Otrebor's hammered dulcimer in Botanist, they are an integral part of the band's sound.
By Justin C.


There are a lot of ways for metal bands to incorporate instruments that aren't common to the genre. In some cases, like the banjo solo on Taake's Noregs Vaapen, they surprise but then disappear almost as quickly as they arrive. In other cases, like Jørgen Munkeby's sax in Shining or Otrebor's hammered dulcimer in Botanist, they are an integral part of the band's sound. And of course, in some unfortunate cases, a band with more money than sense will hire a string section or a whole damn symphony orchestra to simply double some riffs and bass lines for no musical purpose (*cough* Metallica and Guns 'n Roses *cough*).

Anopheli and their cellist, Nicole, are a fine example of doing this right. The band very accurately self describes itself as "melancholy doom-laden emo punk," and there are a lot of great things happening with this music, but the cello parts are certainly some of the more striking. On Anopheli's latest album, An Ache of Want, the cello is front and center, carrying melodic lines and naturally riffing with the guitars. The album's closing song, "Trade," has a great example of this interplay, with the cello and guitar sharing and trading motifs back and forth. You might not expect a crust punk band to be striking in a compositional sense, but sometimes exceptions to the rule are very happy exceptions, indeed.

But I don't want to make this sound like the band just plays slightly heavy chamber music, because they also happen to be furious and emotionally raw. The line up for this particular album credits three vocalists, featuring plenty of dueling male/female lines. Guitars range between distorted, clean, and acoustic, and likewise, the rhythm section delivers what's needed, both in the doomier and more explosive sections. The band can bruise and delight in equal measure, and it’s a blast listening to them mix them together.

Their previous album, A Hunger Rarely Sated, is also well worth checking out--and I'd almost forgotten how much I enjoyed it until I went back to re-listen to it when prepping for this review--but The Ache of Want is a huge step forward for this band. It may wear its heart (and its rage) on its sleeve, but repeat listens reveal its subtlety.

Tagged with 2015, Anopheli, crust, doom metal, free download, Justin C