October 31, 2015

Label Spotlight: Pulverised Records

By Kevin Page. Singapore label, Pulverised Records, have been purveyors of all things extreme since 1996. Three of their most recent releases are from the old school death metal variety and all from Sweden. Now most people fall in two categories when it comes to OSDM: they either can't get enough of it or they simply can't tolerate it.
By Kevin Page.

Singapore label, Pulverised Records, have been purveyors of all things extreme since 1996. Three of their most recent releases are from the old school death metal variety and all from Sweden. Now most people fall in two categories when it comes to OSDM: they either can't get enough of it or they simply can't tolerate it. While none of these releases are going to convert the non believers, all of them are excellent examples of the genre and are sure to wet the unquenchable appetite of its fans.

Art by Ragnar Persson

With seemingly no ties to the past or its members in other projects, Bastard Grave are the newest of the bands we are discussing, but you wouldn't know it from their sound. They are definitely inspired by early Entombed, (whether they would admit to that or not) with a hardcore/grindcore vocal bark. 10 tracks of unapologetic Swedeath. What Lies Beyond is their debut album and first official release (no litany of EP's or splits before this). HM-2 lovin', bitch!


Artwork by Mattias "Flesh" Frisk

Under the Church features two thirds of the former Swedish death metal cult band, Nirvana 2002, so you can take a wild guess what to expect here (wink). After releasing a 21 minute EP last year, they are now gracing us with their debut full length album, Rabid Armageddon. Filthy, crusty, d-beat OSDM, with crushing hooks. Lots and lots of fuzzy chainsaw guitars, pick slides and rumbling bass. Plus, look at that cover art! The eyes are literally under the church, like a evil hat. Wonderfully creepy, just like the music. (note - this album is my favorite of the bunch).



I saw lots of people getting excited over the prospect of a new Wombbath album prior to its release. Frankly, I didn't share the same sentiment. I had their debut, Internal Caustic Torments, when it came out in 1993 and wasn't impressed 22 years ago. So I viewed this sudden interest as people equating a band who had released an album during death metal's original heyday with being automatically important/relevant. But I was curious and willing to keep an open mind. Guitarist Hakan Stuvemark is the sole original returning member and I presume the main songwriter on their sophomore full length, Downfall Rising. What the band have done is stepped up their game in every department. The production is totally professional with a sledgehammer to the cranium sound. The musicianship is lights years ahead of the debut (no worries, there's no technical wankery to be found). The songs are structured better with no odd transitions or overly redundant moments. Frankly, this is so much better that it sounds like an entirely new band (which mainly it is).

Tagged with 2015, Bastard Grave, death metal, Kevin Page, Pulverised Records, Under the Church, Wombbath

October 29, 2015

Drudkh - A Furrow Cut Short

By Matt Hinch. They say you're only as good as your last album. In the case of Ukrainian black metal collective Drudkh that happens to be A Furrow Cut Short. Also, people are discovering bands all the time so instead of trying to compare Furrow to the band's extensive catalog I'm going to take it for what it is; a spectacularly compelling black metal
By Matt Hinch.


They say you're only as good as your last album. In the case of Ukrainian black metal collective Drudkh that happens to be A Furrow Cut Short. Also, people are discovering bands all the time so instead of trying to compare Furrow to the band's extensive catalog I'm going to take it for what it is; a spectacularly compelling black metal album full of strength, pride and reverence.

With seven songs spanning almost an hour many tracks sound like epics, especially “Cursed Sons II” with its string arrangements, and four other tracks break the nine-minute mark.

Furrow is definitely black metal but of a warmer sort. It's not bleak or icy, nor abrasive yet it still packs a measure of menace. That's mostly due to the paint-stripping rasps that contrast the otherwise majestic feel of the album.

While the percussion consistently pummels and the tremolos soar on multiple levels, the atmosphere imbued by the many layers is what makes it so captivating. It's an album of constant motion where even in the quiet moments you feel as though you're falling through time.

But as truly masterful melodies cascade and weave amongst themselves the mind is pulled in different directions, wanting to follow the beauty wherever it leads. However, it's not distracting. Despite being a lot to take in the listener stays grounded and assimilates the heart-rending expressiveness as a whole.

One can feel desperation, longing, pain and struggle in Drudkh's ambitious arrangements, as if the music is driven from them by a force not of their own. And while somewhat hidden in the production, the bass is outstanding, laying down a muscular base to ground the timeless windswept melodies.

On A Furrow Cut Short Drudkh hold the listener in an iron grasp, leaving them no choice but to let the music flow through their hearts. It doesn't bear down though. Instead it injects strength and confidence and lifts the listener to a higher plane especially where "To The Epoch Of Unbowed Poets" gets downright heavenly.

In my opinion this is easily Drudkh's best work to date, or at least the one that has resonated the most. In a year of stellar black metal releases it may be easy to overlook Furrow but the way Drudkh are able to fuse drive and melody into such powerful songs should never be ignored.

Tagged with 2015, black metal, Drudkh, Matt Hinch, Season of Mist

YOB - Clearing the Path to Ascend

By Natalie Zina Walschots. Since reforming in 2008 after a year of being formally out of commission, the identity and future of YOB has seemed in a state of flux. Led by Mike Scheidt and joined, in the current incarnation, by drummer Travis Foster and bassist Aaron Rieseberg, YOB released a drone-heavy, wandering record as their comeback in 2009's The Great Cessation
By Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.


Since reforming in 2008 after a year of being formally out of commission, the identity and future of YOB has seemed in a state of flux. Led by Mike Scheidt and joined, in the current incarnation, by drummer Travis Foster and bassist Aaron Rieseberg, YOB released a drone-heavy, wandering record as their comeback in 2009's The Great Cessation, and 2011's Atma was as raw and writhing as the previous effort was drawn and heaving.

Photo © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

With Clearing the Path to Ascend, there is a definitive sense of confidence, of peace and authority that formally announces that the Oregon doom lords have assumed their throne once again. That's not to say that the group aren't still in a state of transformation, as their sound gradually unfurls and continues to evolve, but rather that here, it feels much more directed rather than exploratory. The huge, complex production values that were lacking on Atma are back with a vengeance on Clearing the Path to Ascend, and the huge, soaring breadth of the record and the rich, sumptuous depths of the textures enable Scheidt and company to more effectively explore the subtle and varied emotional palette they choose to sample.

Photos © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

The progressive, eerily melodic elements that YOB emphasize in the songwriting echo the themes of personal exploration and enlightenment that they are engaging with. There is massive progression from opening track "In Our Blood," a vast and congealing slog of a doom anthem, to the warmth and shocking fragility of closer "Marrow." The amount of technical and emotional ground that YOB are able to carry across these four tracks is phenomenal, and makes Clearing the Path to Ascend the album that marks the band's return to the height of their power.

Tagged with 2014, doom metal, John Mourlas, Natalie Zina Walschots, Neurot Recordings, stoner metal, YOB

October 25, 2015

Artist Spotlight: Spectral Lore

By Kevin Page. I was able to track down the elusive Ayloss, the sole man behind the Greek black metal band Spectral Lore for this special interview and discussion on his recent (and future) work. Since 2012 you've been quite busy with releases. 2 full length albums, 3 splits and 1 EP. That's quite a bit of material for one person in a 3 year span. What would you attribute to this prolific outburst?
By Kevin Page.

I was able to track down the elusive Ayloss, the sole man behind the Greek black metal band Spectral Lore for this special interview and discussion on his recent (and future) work.

Since 2012 you've been quite busy with releases. 2 full length albums, 3 splits and 1 EP. That's quite a bit of material for one person in a 3 year span. What would you attribute to this prolific outburst?

It might look like this judging from the release dates, but you must take into consideration that III, the biggest and most concentrated Spectral Lore album of this period, was basically composed between 2008 and 2013 (that’s why it’s called the third album) so in reality my productivity has been more linear than it looks. Still, there has been a rise I guess, although I would not call it an outburst. I spend a lot of time doing albums and many times I’d wish it was a faster, more streamlined process. The reasons were that this had been a good period of my life, inspiration was flowing quite often, but it also was an effect of consciously seeing myself as a music-maker, Like this is what I should be doing, my calling and so on. I plan to be making a lot of music in the future too, if the practical difficulties of life don’t get that much into the way.

Artwork by Benjamin A. Vierling

It seems you deliberately eschew the typical black metal aesthetic of nihilism and negativity. III deals with positivity and expanding your boundaries (among other things). Talk about that aspect.

I do definitely eschew nihilism, This viewpoint doesn’t stand any criticism whatsoever, but I wouldn’t say that about “negativity” in general, this is a very cloudy notion so one would have to define what they mean with that. Spectral Lore has almost nothing to do with the themes of typical black metal, so I don’t really call my music like that anymore (my influences are much wider anyway) but it is definitely no poppy songs either that tell us we should always have a positive attitude to life, right? In an absolute, abstract sense I do believe in positivity as in continuing to live, grow, progress, transcend and so on, as pretty much every reasonable person. But the human psyche is not an entirely rational agent. At least in the way that they are manifested in our consciousness, a large part of human desires are irrational, remnants of old paths of evolution, responses to problems that don’t exist or have become very different nowadays.

For example, when you’re depressed or in a very bad mood, your thoughts aren’t making any sense, or you might be making reasonable thoughts but they might not be able to improve your mood at all. Clearly, “something else” is needed. By expressing negative feelings, sometimes even by being attracted by them and seeking them actively, there happens a catharsis, which is what the soul seems to need. Of course, the trick is to not let the irrational consume you, but to make it be subordinate to logic and a positive outlook indeed. So, there is definitely “negativity” in Spectral Lore as well, for example the first part of III is quite dark and depressive, "Sentinel" is very dissonant and aggressive, even hateful. But it was a kind of middle path that always attracted me, a point somewhere between light and dark, so to say.

In regards to your question of how the expanding of boundaries is expressed, this is also an example; by exploring and understanding our "dark" side. But it is such a central theme in my lyrics which is like asking me to explain all of them briefly. There is no gain for the reader in this; in fact, I try to write them in a rather direct way so that it won’t be needed. Let me mention instead some subjects which interest me and lie on the background of the albums; life’s origin and relationship with the universe, destiny of the human race, evolution of consciousness, technology/futurology, politics and ideology, psychology, individuation, structures of reality.



After III, you released a split album with Nachtreich called The Quivering Lights. Interesting collaboration. How did this come about?

Peter from Nachtreich simply sent me an email, said he followed my project for years and suggested a split album. It was to be a small thing in the beginning, as they had the unreleased track "Lights" and they offered a one-to-one track split EP, but I suggested to make something bigger and of a more conceptual and collaborative nature. We finally decided to basically build a whole album from the "Lights" track. I made a track in response to Lights, "Quivering" and then Nachtreich wrote a new track after hearing mine, which I then responded to with another one and so on, until we had 6 tracks. You can say that we built a kind of narrative eventually, a story, so we decided to mix the order of our tracks and blend the borders between a split album and a collaboration.



Which leads us to the Voyager EP that was released earlier this year. It seems to build on the theme and feel of Cosmic Significance on III. Listening to this ambient/electronic (non black metal) reminds me of going to the planetarium in school and also recent video games like Mass Effect.

Τhanks. Although I've never played Mass Effect, I've seen the reference again in a few places, so possibly there's a similarity. This was a fun album in all aspects - for this year, I've decided to stop with full length and split releases in the regular style (which is pretty much a collection of every genre of music that I like) and experiment, releasing EPs in specific styles that I hadn't explored a lot until now. I wanted to do a pure ambient/electronic album for long time now, so I decided it was about time. Inspiration came from space exploration games (the album is kind of structured like a soundtrack - you've got the epic tracks, the exploration tracks, the dark/horror tracks and so on) mostly from EVE online and from electronic music artists that I like such as Steve Roach, Stellardrone, Solar Fields, Ian Boddy.

You're right in that it seems like a continuation of "Cosmic Significance" and I realized it too, but it was somewhat of a coincidence that III finished with a song in that style, I would do it anyway. Although I'm not proficient at all with electronic music production, I'm happy with the musical result - technically. I'm aware that it's lacking, but I believe it was a good first step towards that direction. I will probably do a second part of Voyager in the near future.


Currently you are working on yet another EP to be released in the not to distant future.  What can you tell us about that?

So, Gnosis is the second album in the experimental series. It's actually the most metal and less experimental though, as it kind of turned into more traditional Spectral Lore material in the song structure aspect. The idea was to play oriental music with a metal instrumentation, without me particularly studying this music beforehand, but letting it out of my unconscious by invoking the idea of it (Greek folk music, as basically most of its traditional culture, is essentially a mix of European and oriental influences, actually leaning towards the latter -a fact that creates an interesting dissonance on the modern Greek, who sees himself/herself as culturally aligning with the West- so I already had a pretty good unconscious grasp of it), thus creating a kind of fusion, a new sound.

This brought forth the idea of synthesis, which is something that I explored lyrically from a variety of angles, from cultural (Gnosis as the union of individual and cultural knowledge) to mystical (the notion of the uniting of opposites and the emergence of higher levels of existence, in particular soul/consciousness in man, and possibilities of a global evolution of it). It has been an inspiring process. Gnosis is a peculiar album, not quite an EP (it's 49 minutes) and not quite a full-length, definitely not a regular album and not quite a totally experimental one. It stands in-between of everything, in a way.
Tagged with 2014, 2015, ambient, atmospheric post-black metal, Kevin Page, Spectral Lore

October 23, 2015

Genevieve - Escapism

By Justin C. I found Genevieve's new album, Escapism, tricky to write about. That's partly because it draws influence from multiple genres--I've read it described as experimental black metal elsewhere, and although I can't completely discount that, it only tells a small part of the story. But I fear the bigger risk is that whatever I say (or don't say)
By Justin C.

Art by Brandon Geurts

I found Genevieve's new album, Escapism, tricky to write about. That's partly because it draws influence from multiple genres--I've read it described as experimental black metal elsewhere, and although I can't completely discount that, it only tells a small part of the story. But I fear the bigger risk is that whatever I say (or don't say) might put you in the wrong mindset to absorb this music.

As I said, black metal, even with the "experimental" modifier, doesn't completely cut it. After a mood-setting opening track, "Charnel Flow" and "Memory" does put me in mind of some of the more discordant and jagged black metal that you might expect from the French scene right now, like Deathspell Omega or Aosoth. But Genevieve sheds expectations pretty quickly. To begin with, the instrumentation is slightly unusual. On top of drums and bass, you get a baritone guitar for extra bottom-end punch and a fretless guitar, which adds a slippery, sometimes Middle Eastern feel. Check out the absolutely lovely title track, which is solo guitar with a bit of classical/flamenco flair. It has the loose feel of an improvisation without drifting far from its melodic center. Making the title track an instrumental unlike anything else on the album is quite a statement, even if your humble reviewer isn't quite sure what that statement is. Perhaps, "Ye who enter, abandon all expectations"?

Genevieve throws in plenty more non-black metal elements. The vocals range from growls, yelps, screams, and, in the case of the beginning of "Fell," a mix of singing, proclamation, and harsh whispers. Not content to rest in a quietly menacing place, this track gets angry in a hurry with blasting, some righteously heavy bass lines, and surprisingly melodic guitar lines. Is "melodic blackened grind" a thing? I think it might be on this album.

And that shows where my difficulty is. At times, the album sounds blackish, deathy, grindy, mathy, doomy, and everything in between. But, aside from the outro track, which in my opinion is a bit too long, the album works. It jumps around in a frenzy, with the occasional breather here and there, but strange as it is to say, it's also restrained. The songwriting doesn't try to leave the listener behind, as it can in some challenging music. I'm not sure I fully understand the album yet, even after many, many listens, but I feel pulled along by it nonetheless.

Tagged with 2015, experimental black metal, Genevieve, Grimoire Records, Justin C

Vhol - Deeper than Sky

By Calen Henry. Vhol are a strange supergroup. I’m not sure anyone was expecting the debut album from Hammers of Misfortune, YOB, and Agalloch members to sound like an intergalactic transmission of aliens performing crusty second wave black metal and NWOBHM simultaneously. but it did and it was absolutely fantastic. It was, admittedly a bit of an acquired taste
By Calen Henry.

Artwork by Brandon Duncan

Vhol are a strange supergroup. I’m not sure anyone was expecting the debut album from Hammers of Misfortune, YOB, and Agalloch members to sound like an intergalactic transmission of aliens performing crusty second wave black metal and NWOBHM simultaneously, but it did and it was absolutely fantastic. It was, admittedly a bit of an acquired taste; extremely dense and claustrophobic but always with a melodic undercurrent. It certainly could take more than one spin to get into and by front loading it with some of the less accessible tracks it became even more difficult.

Deeper than Sky is much more immediate album. The lead track that streamed on Bandcamp, leading up to release day, featured more melodic vocals and guitars than those early tracks on Vhöl. The whole focuses even more on melody, and trades most of the black metal for thrash. The majority of the record flies by at breakneck speed but the subtle musical changes as well as less claustrophobic production make it much more accessible, without sacrificing what made Vhöl an exciting album.

An impressive refinement to a band who’d already created a completely new sound in metal, Deeper than Sky is way more fun than most metal this dense and complex. Of particular note in the "fun department" is the track "Paino". It's Vhol through and through, but all the lead acrobatics are on piano, rather than guitar.

Vhol, as a band, work so well because of each member's unique contribution. The fuzz bass and the lightning drumming meld with the guitar and vocals to make a bizarre and bizarrely cohesive unit. By lightening some of the denser sounds and lessening the black metal influences the band have opened up their sound making everything shine that much more.

Mike Scheidt’s vocals, though still thoroughly unique (and likely polarizing) tend towards more melody than the debut album as well. He employs a lot of melodic falsetto and shout singing on some of the thrashier tracks, again making the whole album just sound fun.

John Cobbett’s guitar work is undoubtedly the show stopper, though. His deft axe handling was key in holding together the sonic insanity of the first record but what he’s doing on Deeper than Sky is simply astonishing. Every riff is fantastic and they range from soaring NWOBHM dual guitar attacks to machine gun thrash riffs and slow interludes. The title track "Deeper Than Sky", amazingly, showcases all of this in a single track. It’s written as a three part sonata with three ragers separated by quiet interludes. It’s arguably the best guitar work on a metal album this year and the support of the rest of the band makes it unlike anything else out there.

Deeper than Sky makes it clear that these aliens are done broadcasting from space and are ready for the big time.

Tagged with 2015, black metal, Calen Henry, crust, heavy metal, power metal, Profound Lore Records, Vhol

October 21, 2015

Hexenjäger - Demo

By Ulla Roschat. Hexenjäger, a young 4 piece doom band from Saint-Nazaire/France offer us their first demo released earlier this year. It comprises of two songs, "Hexenjäger" and "Murk", both classic stoner doom with a traditional clean vocal style and a psychedelic touch. The first song "Hexenjäger" (German for witch hunter) is a slow paced, slow burning beast and 20 minutes of length.
By Ulla Roschat


Hexenjäger, a young 4 piece doom band from Saint-Nazaire/France offer us their first demo released earlier this year. It comprises of two songs, "Hexenjäger" and "Murk", both classic stoner doom with a traditional clean vocal style and a psychedelic touch.

The first song "Hexenjäger" (German for witch hunter) is a slow paced, slow burning beast and 20 minutes of length. It starts off with a horror movie sample setting the scene and the atmosphere of an inquisition theme, which the music picks up as it sets in. Highly repetitive and minimalistic riffs, slow and low with a touch of psychedelic sounds create spine chilling atmospheres of a ritualistic brutality and relentlessness. The clean vocals are kind of riding on the drawn out riffs like a surfer on a wave that has just enough tension not to collapse and this makes everything even more depressive and heavy. It’s not easy to keep up this low simmering tension over a timespan of 20 minutes, but Hexenjäger master it pretty well with those pinches of psychedelic and ambient sounds, pinches only, to not disturb the minimalistic style.

The other song "Murk" is "only" 8 minutes long, faster and more variable in pace than "Hexenjäger", but it’s still slow. Here the emphasis goes more in the direction of a fuzzy bluesy stoner doom with the same "hovering" clean vocals.

This demo shows much musical potential, an individual take on the doom genre with different nuances in just two songs. I’m really excited to hear more from Hexenjäger.

The song "Murk" is featured on The Wicked Lady Show 91

Tagged with 2015, doom metal, free download, Hexenjäger, sludge metal, Ulla Roschat

October 16, 2015

Thy Catafalque - Sgùrr

By Professor D. Grover the XIIIth. Greetings and salutations, friends. It is I, your esteemed Professor, and I return to you to examine one of the year’s most intriguing new releases, Thy Catafalque’s masterful Sgùrr. Many of you may have already read my retrospective on Thy Catafalque, which discusses the importance of the band’s later works
By Professor D. Grover the XIIIth.


Greetings and salutations, friends. It is I, your esteemed Professor, and I return to you to examine one of the year’s most intriguing new releases, Thy Catafalque’s masterful Sgùrr. Many of you may have already read my retrospective on Thy Catafalque, which discusses the importance of the band’s later works; for those of you who haven’t, go ahead; I’ll wait.

And welcome back. Now, the impetus for writing such a retrospective was in no small part due to the impending release of this album, which at that time I had only heard a portion small enough to whet my appetite. Sometime thereafter, I was privileged enough to get to hear it, and so I began to prepare the groundwork for the very article you are presently reading. For those of you who have tried it, reviewing an album is not always easy, but it’s immeasurably easier when it’s an artist or album that you are passionate about, and as you may have gleaned from my previous article, there are few artists I that inspire me like Thy Catafalque.

As with Rengeteg, the predecessor to Sgùrr, Thy Catafalque is the solo work of Tamás Kátai along with a few musical guests. Of note, prior collaborators Attila Bakos and Ágnes Tóth do not appear on Sgùrr, as the album features almost no clean vocals; however, the album does feature guest vocals and double bass from Kátai’s former Gire bandmates Zoltán Kónya and Balázs Hermann, respectively, as well as the violin talents of Dimitris Papageorgiou. That there are no clean vocals (excluding the spoken word intro, narrated by Viktória Varga, and the operatic outro, sung by Ágnes Sipos - more on this in a moment) is noteworthy, as their absence serves to further differentiate Sgùrr from the albums that precede it.

Evolution between albums is one of Thy Catafalque’s defining characteristics, a consistent thread throughout the band’s history that continues with Sgùrr. As mentioned, there are no clean vocals, a shift from the last several albums, but it is far from the only difference. The album itself is bookended by a pair of brief tracks, both titled "Zúgó", and help to provide an odd sort of symmetry to the album’s structure that is notable when looking at the tracklist and song times. The album’s main concept involves the relationship between mountains and water, inspired by the Scottish highlands of Kátai’s current home and the Hungarian lowlands of his former, and the album’s structure forms a sort of valley (consisting of three short tracks, some of the album’s fastest and heaviest) between two massive mountain peaks (in the form of two 15-minute-plus epics).

Kátai is certainly no stranger to experimenting with album structure, and so it comes as no surprise that he continues to play with the listener’s expectations on Sgùrr. After the intro, a point when most bands would blast the listener with one of their heaviest tracks, Kátai instead chooses to lead with "Alföldi kozmosz", the initial track premiered from Sgùrr and one that features an intriguing mix of acoustic guitar, violin, and Kátai’s signature drum programming. It’s a curveball straight out of the gate, and yet the track is effective in getting the listener involved thanks to its upbeat, folky stomp. "Alföldi kozmosz" also serves as a notice to the listener that, yes, this is a Thy Catafalque album and bears the recognizable hallmarks of a Thy Catafalque album, but it’s also going to be something that takes those elements and hammers them into something different.

The track that follows, "Oldódó formák a halál titokzatos birodalmában", is perhaps the clearest example of how the album uses the familiar Thy Catafalque sound to create something new. It’s one of the album’s two mountain peaks, and as such is a journey unto itself, driven by a propulsive riff/synth melody combination and some of the most creative drum programming yet heard on a Thy Catafalque album. (I understand that programmed drums can be a detriment to a lot of artists, but one of Kátai’s most consistently interesting elements is the drum sound and the beats and rhythms he creates, and Sgùrr is no exception.) The song features the first hint of the speed and heaviness that dominates a good portion of Sgùrr, but it also demonstrates Kátai’s love of varying song structures with an extended breather in its midst. More than anything, this is the song that defines the album and what it does.

This leads to the valley of the album’s midpoint, featuring the slow, melodic descent into the foothills on "A hajnal kék kapuja", followed by the turbulent river of "Élő lény" and the violent rapids of "Jura", perhaps the two heaviest songs on the album. Both tracks deliver the sort of blackened fury that characterized Thy Catafalque’s early work, but both tracks are tempered by Kátai’s incomparable sense of melody. From here, we ascend back into the peaks with "Eilde Sgùrr Mòr", a track named for a Scottish mountain, and the song builds from a similarly furious beginning to a more mid-paced ascent, some brief horn-sounding synths that bring Sear Bliss’ best work to mind, and then the song grinds almost entirely to a halt, setting the stage for a slow descent to the other side. The album concludes with the moody, almost dirgelike "Keringő" and the operatic a capella of the second "Zúgó".

Perhaps more than any previous Thy Catafalque album, Sgùrr feels like a journey, a hike through the realm of nature yet unspoiled by the infringements of civilization. It is at once familiar to fans of Thy Catafalque’s previous work and something new, a continuation of an established style and an evolution of that style all at once, something that few artists ever manage to successfully do. (Indeed, I racked my brain trying to think of a good comparison, and the best I could come up with is Trent Reznor’s ever-changing style with Nine Inch Nails.) All the trademarks of Kátai’s work are present, from the thunderous guitar riffs and distinctive drum sound to the incomparable synth melodies, but the way that they are presented and deployed serves to create an album that both fits comfortably into the Thy Catafalque discography and yet stands out as its own unique work.

I suppose what I’m trying to say, friends, is that Sgùrr is one of the most interesting, creative, brilliant albums of the year. It is a collection of excellent songs, yes, but it is meant to be consumed as a whole, listened to in a single sitting with no distractions. This is music being made for the sake of music with an utter disregard for styles and trends, art that is wholly without compromise being created simply because its creator was inspired. This is what music should be.

Tagged with 2015, avant-garde metal, Professor D. Grover the XIIIth, Season of Mist, Thy Catafalque

October 15, 2015

Sielunvihollinen - Hautaruhtinas

By Celtic Frosty. Lead guitar is a critical component of metal. It can just as easily ruin a song with an ill-placed or poorly played solo as elevate a good song to a great one with a hard-charging hook or melody. On their debut album Hautaruhtinas, Sielunvihollinen show themselves to be masters of the latter. These Finns play Dissection-style black metal with a hearty dose of early Bathory.
By Celtic Frosty.

Artwork by Maxime Taccardi

Lead guitar is a critical component of metal. It can just as easily ruin a song with an ill-placed or poorly played solo as elevate a good song to a great one with a hard-charging hook or melody. On their debut album Hautaruhtinas, Sielunvihollinen show themselves to be masters of the latter. These Finns play Dissection-style black metal with a hearty dose of early Bathory. That in itself seems an intriguing combination, but it’s the work of Sielunvihollinen's lead guitarist that truly raises their craft a notch above the underground hoi polloi.

I don't know who their ace-in-the-hole lead guitarist is - there are no details about band members on Metal Archives or the band's Facebook page - but his contribution to these songs cannot be understated. His leads are simple, hook-oriented, and clean, driving the melody and atmosphere of each song with confidence. From ragers like "Tämä tahto taivu ei koskaan", with that impossibly catchy melody that wouldn’t sound out of place on a goth punk record, to slow, dungeon-dwelling blackness like "Kammiooni hämärään" with those echoing, haunting 4 note progressions that kick in about halfway through the song and drive the sorrowful atmosphere home, this guitarist has an uncanny knack for knowing exactly what to play and when to play it.

Not to be outdone, Sielunvihollinen's vocalist is as charismatic as they come. I don't speak Finnish, but according to Metal Archives, the lyrical themes are "anti-Christian, anti-Islam, and Satanism." And given the fact that Sielunvihollinen is Finnish for "adversary", I think we can piece together the general gist of the vitriolic bile this guy is spitting. And while other black metal vocalists who deliver similar screeds of hate have a tendency to take themselves way too seriously, our man in Sielunvihollinen seems to be having fun with it. He plays to the pleasure centers beautifully, especially on album closer "Sodanjulistus", where he just lets it all hang out and goes straight for that bombastic hook.

For the most part, Hautaruhtinas has been tragically overlooked since its June 2015 release. With any justice the word will spread about this talented young upstart before those end of year lists are finalized. After all, it’s not often that one finds a diamond in such a heavily mined genre.

Tagged with 2015, black metal, Celtic Frosty, Sielunvihollinen

October 5, 2015

Atlantean Kodex - The White Goddess

By Zach Duvall. In the interest of wasting very little of your time, we’re going to get right to the main point: Just about exactly two years ago, Germany’s Atlantean Kodex released what can now firmly be called a modern classic in The White Goddess. The album is just about flawless in concept and delivery, and is rich with the kind of nuance that keeps you coming back repeatedly
By Zach Duvall


In the interest of wasting very little of your time, we’re going to get right to the main point: Just about exactly two years ago, Germany’s Atlantean Kodex released what can now firmly be called a modern classic in The White Goddess. The album is just about flawless in concept and delivery, and is rich with the kind of nuance that keeps you coming back repeatedly, but this only begins to scratch the surface. The following will attempt to communicate some of what it is that makes Atlantean Kodex such a special entity within the world of heavy metal and music as a whole. The 900 metric tons of hyperbole is included as a bonus.

The easy part of describing The White Goddess is Atlantean Kodex’s general sound: A doom base with much of the gloom replaced by either haunting sorrow or power metal’s battle-worn triumph, plenty of Bathory bombast, and an unabashed indulgence in all things epic. Add in a progressive mindset, absolutely deliberate and methodic songwriting, and soaring lead vocals lacking in any sense of ego or arrogance, and you’ve got the picture.

But to say that this accurately captures what Atlantean Kodex is all about would be a gross understatement. From note one, The White Goddess is just about more. You may not hear many individual elements or ideas that are innovative in any real way, but make no mistake, this is one ambitious band. Conceptually, emotionally, and from the standpoint of execution, The White Goddess absolutely exudes a kind of regal class. This is a quality that cannot be taught; it must be felt by every musician involved in the process. The vocals alone impart a kind of importance, as if the fate of the world hinges on the events and concepts being described in the words, regardless of what is actually being said. And once this impression comes across, it passes into every monolithic doom riff, every arpeggio lead, and every soft acoustic break.

Of course, good songs help, and The White Goddess is loaded. After a wildly effective album overture – and it is indeed an overture, not an intro – “Sol Invictus (With Faith and Fire)” pretty much reveals the band’s primary goal: The bar of intensity must be raised ever higher, without fail. Beginning with an a cappella singing of the title, everything feels massive. With each monumental landing of the (unthinkably divine) chorus, the listener feels as if the song is spending its last bit of energy, only to be outdone with the next appearance. After the final iteration, you are spent, and the album is only getting started.

That the rest of the album manages to hold up after these nearly 11 perfect minutes is a testament to Atlantean Kodex’s confidence in not only the quality of the subsequent songs, but also their overall album flow and concept. The following acoustic break is necessary, as is the doom balladry of “Heresiarch (Thousandfaced Moon)” – which features yet another unforgettable chorus – before “Twelve Stars and an Azure Gown (An Anthem for Europa)” is able to deliver a bit more in the traditional heavy metal department. Pacing is key, as are songs that fit perfectly together despite sounding more and more unique with each spin of the album.

The most unique of these, and by far the heaviest from a pure feeling standpoint, is “Enthroned in Clouds and Fire (The Great Cleansing).” Absolutely overflowing with Bathory charm (and chants, and rhythms), it initially feels a bit derivative, but Atlantean Kodex brings a melodic ability to their vocals that Quorthon obviously never did, and this track is their peak in that department. The melodies are generally simple, and slowly developing, but when delivered over that bombastic base, each is more magical and heart wrenching than the last. For not the first time on the album, the listener is spent, but the return of a feeling of triumph and majesty on the closing title track offers deliverance, and one final leg of Atlantean Kodex’s journey. They even toss in some tasty Iron Maiden-esque harmonies for good measure.

To put it lightly, The White Goddess is quite a thing. More accurately, it is a singular experience, a truth that is only growing more firm with the passing of time. There is a divinity, a holiness to Atlantean Kodex’s music that can only be appreciated when heard, and only truly felt after The White Goddess has been given ample time to completely worm its way into your subconscious. That, I assure you, will be time well spent.

Tagged with 20 Buck Spin, 2013, Atlantean Kodex, doom metal, epic heavy metal, Zach Duvall

October 2, 2015

Deafheaven - New Bermuda

By Justin C. When I set out to write about Deafheaven, I didn't have any intention of commenting on the amount of ire that New Bermuda (and Myrkur's new album) has riled up in the metal community. The reaction is filled with a level of hate, conspiracy theory, and genre nitpicking that I find comical. You can dislike whatever music you want without giving yourself a rage aneurysm, right?
By Justin C.

Cover art by Allison Schulnik

When I set out to write about Deafheaven, I didn't have any intention of commenting on the amount of ire that New Bermuda (and Myrkur's new album) has riled up in the metal community. The reaction is filled with a level of hate, conspiracy theory, and genre nitpicking that I find comical. You can dislike whatever music you want without giving yourself a rage aneurysm, right? But then I noticed something interesting: One Million Moms is an organization (that actually only has about 40,000 members--they like to round up) of conservative goofballs devoted to trying to boycott things in the interest of protecting the precious children from dirtiness. Their latest target? The reboot of The Muppets TV show. That's right--Kermit the Frog, known for such brutal jams as "It Isn't Easy Being Green" and "The Rainbow Connection," is part of a cesspit of cultural depravity now (and apparently Miss Piggy is too feminist or something).

Why bring this up? It turns out that with a few word replacements, the moms’ rhetoric is pretty much the same as that used by the most vehement critics of Myrkur and Deafheaven. The Muppets is "not what Jim Henson imagined and created!" the moms yell, much like tr00 kvlt black metal fans when they say, "Deafheaven is not what Quorthon/Euronymous/Fenriz imagined and created!" So congratulations, thin-skinned metal fans: You share a fear of change and irrational hatred with moms that think Fozzie the Bear is an abomination that will corrupt their children. Waka waka!

Photo by Pedro Roque.

O.K., fine, I'll shut up about The Muppets and talk about music. I loved Sunbather, but I didn't give much thought to what Deafheaven's follow up might sound like. Heavier? Lighter? It turns out it's a mix of both. George Clarke's vocal stylings sound both more varied and more vicious this time around, but in contrast, the "lighter" parts of the music are even gentler than what was on Sunbather. This is probably most evident on closing track "Gifts for the Earth." Oh, stop worrying, it's not an "environmentalist song"--the "gifts" are decaying corpses. But the lovely guitar work under Clarke's hissing and snarling is downright sunny. "Come Back" starts with gentle strumming, quickly shifts into a more orthodox-sounding blast, and then morphs again into positively tropical sounds from what almost sounds like a pedal steel guitar. Purists will find this to be an affront to all that's unholy, but I dig the hell out of it. All forms of art need to progress or die, and although all experiments might not succeed, Deafheaven's sure works for me.

Photo by Pedro Roque.

Alcest has become a common shorthand for "black metal with pretty parts," but on this album in particular, I hear a lot more influence from 80s and 90s indie rock. Sure, there's an Alcest-y bit of pretty tremolo in the opening tune, but I also hear bits of Siamese Dream-era Smashing Pumpkins and The Cure. I think Smashing Pumpkins might even be a better comparison than Alcest in some ways because of their own mix of pretty music contrasted with sorrowful/angry lyrics, even if the vocal styles are completely disparate.

So does New Bermuda top Sunbather? That's hard to say. I was "in a mood" the other day and ended up listening to "Dream House" five or six times in a row, and although there's no track here that has that immediate, anthemic quality that some of Sunbather has, I have to agree with a comment I read (I wish I could remember where, for proper citation) that said the individual tracks of New Bermuda might not hit that lofty "Dream House" level, but as an entire album, New Bermuda is stronger. I've definitely found it to be a grower over the week I've listened to it, so I wouldn't be surprised if, a year from now, it's gotten to equal footing with Sunbather in my rotation.

Tagged with 2015, Deafheaven, Justin C, Pedro Roque, post-black metal

Just the Facts - September 2015

By Kevin Page. Band: A Loathing Requiem. Genre: Technical death metal. Label: The Artisan Era. Country: USA (Nashville, TN). For fans of: Mirrorthrone, Spawn of Possession, Necrophagist. Info: Formed in 2007, this is their 2nd album. Solo project of Malcom Pugh (guitarist Inferi).
By Kevin Page.

Artwork by Justin Abraham

Band:A Loathing Requiem
Genre:Technical death metal
Label:The Artisan Era
Country:USA (Nashville, TN)
For fans of:Mirrorthrone, Spawn of Possession, Necrophagist
Info:Formed in 2007, this is their 2nd album. Solo project of Malcom Pugh (guitarist Inferi)


Cover art by Rodrigo Bueno

Band:HellLight
Genre:Funeral doom/death metal
Label:Solitude Productions
Country:Brazil
For fans of:Ahab, Mournful Congregation, Evoken
Info:Formed in 1996, their debut was not released until 2005. This is their 5th full length album


Cover art by Paul Chapman

Band:Speedtrap
Genre:Heavy/speed metal
Label:Svart Records
Country:Finland
For fans of:Old school heavy metal
Info:Formed in 2007, this is their 2nd full length album. Features members of Death Toll 80K

Tagged with 2015, A Loathing Requiem, death metal, funeral doom metal, heavy metal, HellLight, Kevin Page, Solitude Productions, speed metal, Speedtrap, Svart Records, technical death metal