Friday, January 29, 2016

Chthe'ilist - Le Dernier Crépuscule

By Professor D. Grover the XIIIth. Chthe’ilist sound like Demilich. There, we’ve gotten that out of the way. Greetings and salutations, friends. Today, we will plumb the depths of a madness emanating from Quebec in the form of Le Dernier Crépuscule (French for "The Last Twilight", presumably not a reference to Breaking Dawn) and the Finn-worshipping Chthe’ilist.
By Professor D. Grover the XIIIth.

Artwork by Paolo Girardi

Chthe’ilist sound like Demilich.

There, we’ve gotten that out of the way. Greetings and salutations, friends. Today, we will plumb the depths of a madness emanating from Quebec in the form of Le Dernier Crépuscule (French for "The Last Twilight", presumably not a reference to Breaking Dawn) and the Finn-worshipping Chthe’ilist. As I mentioned (and as has been mentioned in likely every article regarding the band in the history of time), Chthe’ilist draw no insignificant amount of influence from infamous Finnish oddballs Demilich. It’s an unavoidable comparison, given both bands’ predilection for off-kilter riffs, but to simply dismiss the band as pure Demilich worship is pure folly.

While we’re addressing misconceptions regarding Chthe’ilist, let’s not forget that despite the band’s name and apostrophe-ridden song titles like "Vecoiitn’aphnaat’smaala" and "N'triiodctuion'to Iagorsmataanph" (from the similarly apostrophe-ridden Amechth'ntaas'm'rriachth demo), none of the band’s material is drawn from the Cthulhu Mythos. This is not to say that the band’s lyrics aren’t influenced by the works of Lovecraft, because the influence is clear on lyrics such as these:
A lone traveller gazes at the stygian horizon, as twilight fades below the distant mountains. Slowly, shades of darkness descend upon the desolated plains before him, and a sense of dread plagues his mind: the certitude that something is lurking amidst the withered trees, haunting him ever since the sun has vanished.
But it is important to note that the lyrics are almost entirely based on original works by the band.

You will notice, of course, that I said “almost entirely”, and that is where we come to one element of Chthe’ilist’s work where there are no misconceptions. If the title of the album’s final track, "Tales Of The Majora Mythos Part 1", doesn’t make it abundantly clear, Chthe’ilist have written songs based on The Legend Of Zelda (specifically, Ocarina Of Time and Majora’s Mask). The deeply unsettling tone of the lyrics may seem a bit at odds with the atmosphere of the Legend Of Zelda games initially, but the combination is incredibly effective in practice:
A cursed moon hangs low in the tumultuous skies, glowing ominously over plains of arid desolation. A stone tower stands before these haunted lands, its structure perpetually ascending toward the heavens. Bitter lamentations from lingering spirits echo through the valley, speaking of a forgotten aeon. Rumours of ancient men, and their war against the gods, bridging their world to the sacred realm.
Musically speaking, I mentioned the similarities to Demilich, and I also mentioned how Chthe’ilist are far more than a mere Demilich clone. The bands share a predilection for odd compositions and unconventional, sometimes discordant riffing, and there’s a technicality to the music that bears certain similarities, but Chthe’ilist draw a great deal of influence from a number of other classic death metal bands, from Gorguts and Convulse to Adramalech and Incantation. (Certainly, vocalist Philippe Tougas bears more of a sonic resemblance to Craig Pillard than Antti Boman, aside from some moments and interludes that find Tougas creating some truly alien sounds with his vocal cords.)

Chthe’ilist are comprised of Tougas (who provides lead guitar, bass, and synths in addition to vocals AND plays in a number of other bands, including Serocs and the underrated First Fragment), Claude Leduc (who handles guitar, synths, and some occasional bass), and Philippe Boucher (an insanely talented drummer who is also in Beyond Creation). The trio are incredibly talented and rise admirably to the challenge of creating such challenging, compelling material, layering unusual riffs with eerily beautiful leads, the occasional dash of slap bass, held together by some astoundingly versatile drumming. The production is simultaneously spacious (thanks to some well-implemented reverb) and suffocating, but none of the musical elements are lost in the mix and everything is distinct without feeling sterile or robotic.

If I had a complaint about the album, it would be that the music is by its very nature rather inaccessible and difficult to wrap one’s head around. Without a number of repeat listens, the songs can be difficult to remember and may turn off the more casual listeners. However, digging beneath the surface and immersing one’s self in the music can be incredibly rewarding, revealing an album that stands out from a sea of squeaky clean tech death bands and HM-2-wielding Swedeath revivalists. The investment in time is well worth it.

So, as I said earlier, Chthe’ilist sound like Demilich, and that’s okay, but it’s important to remember that there’s much more to Le Dernier Crépuscule. This is one of the deepest, most inventive death metal creations you will hear all year, and to miss out would be to do yourself a great disservice.

Tagged with 2016, Chthe'ilist, death metal, Professor D. Grover the XIIIth, Profound Lore Records

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Satan's Fall - Seven Nights / Tyfon's Doom - Yeth Hound

Written by Andy Osborn.

Finland has a complicated history with heavy metal. While it’s clear Oz’s 1983 classic Fire In The Brain was the birth of the genre in the country, few bands kept the tradition alive over the next couple of decades. Sure, groups like, Lordi, Apocalyptica, and Tarot held a certain appeal, but their popularity can hardly be attributed to their songwriting skills as they largely relied on gimmicks to win their fans. With few heroes to look to, the genre was largely ignored and Power, Death and Black metal largely captured the nation’s attention. But a few years ago something changed. A new breed of heavy metal youngsters started to appear and start paying homage to the glory days of old. Bands like Speedtrap, Lord Fist, Aktor, and Ranger proved that Finnish heavy metal never died, it simply went dormant.

So I’m excited to report that the movement those bands started lives on in 2016. This month, two short releases stand out that that prove the scene is growing ever stronger is Finland. Both - named after the trials of evil deities - keep the fire alive with tricks that are both familiar and exciting.


Satan’s Fall’s Seven Nights Demo is a quick foray into what makes classic heavy metal so enjoyable. With a charismatic lead singer, deft songwriting chops and memorable hooks, it’s a very promising start for this brand-new band. “Poisonhead” is a world-class rocker of a tune, with fiery leads constantly playing off of each other - it’s clear they have have a classic guitar duo in the making. It’s short, to the point, and impressive; everything a demo needs to be to get the attention of the world.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]



Living in the same fantasy realm, but in a class of their own, Typhon’s Doom occupy the land home to heroes like Manilla Road - meaning they’re a scrappy band of traditionalists who aren’t necessarily the most technically proficient or or concerned with a slick production. Their charm comes from their dedication to the craft and the fun atmosphere they’re able to produce with a relatively small sound. The eight-minute epic “Gate to a New Reality” is the perfect example of this. It relies on a brilliant galloping riff that twists and churns throughout the song and gives a sense of adventure and might to the track that few bands can achieve. It’s a perfect nostalgia trip for those seeking old sounds, but still wanting something new.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


Both bands are brilliant in their own way and have clearly done their homework. The fundamentals of guitar-oriented badassery are omnipresent in their work - and that’s what heavy metal is all about. It may be just a small taste of what the country has to offer, but combined with other recent outputs, it’s a sure sign a new age of heavy metal is bursting forth in the land where it seems all other genres reign supreme.



Full Disclosure: Andy is now an employee of Bandcamp, but he swears on all that is unholy his recommendations come with only the best intentions for the bands in mind and not the company’s bottom line.

Tagged with 2016, Andy Osborn, heavy metal, Satan's Fall, Tyfon's Doom

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Wildernessking - Mystical Future - 2

Written by Justin C.


I've gotten into a somewhat unfortunate pattern lately, ending each year with some unpleasant surgical procedure. Luckily, I've also gotten hold of album promos around the same time that have provided some comfort. Last year, Lotus Thief got me through a rough patch of recovery, and this year, it was Wildernessking's turn to figuratively babysit me with their new album, Mystical Future. Stylistically, these two bands don't share a lot of sonic territory, but both have that all-important power to take you to other places.

The intricacies of how Wildernessking fits into the vague "post-black metal" category has been covered elsewhere, and our friend Andy Synn at No Clean Singing does the topic much more justice than I could. That said, I have to admit that I came to be a bit obsessed with perhaps the least black metal track on the album, "To Transcend." This would be a lovely piece of music that would probably easily translate to almost any genre, although of course there are some far-away-yet-still-harsh vocals deep in the mix, keeping things black and frosty. The delicate instrumentation puts me firmly in mind of walking down an abandoned beach in the cold off-season. And believe me, I clung to that feeling during a December bone biopsy when a doctor was literally using a hammer to chisel away a piece of my hip bone under only a local anesthetic. So somewhat unfairly, this album will always have a close tie to the feeling of someone trying to pound a railroad spike into my pelvis, but on the plus side, this wide-ranging music was an excellent refuge, and I think it will easily outlast any unsavory associations.

"To Transcend" might be more delicate than the rest of the album, but it's part and parcel with the overall feeling the band has achieved here. At times, I hear strong hints of shoegaze, particularly in "With Arms Like Wands," but it's been truly absorbed into the band's unique sound. The melodies are aching and powerful, and they often come in on waves of sound. There's still plenty of black metal to be found, of course, but the throat-burning vocals, melodic tremolos, and blasting drums, when present, all serve a very particular vision of songwriting, making detailed discussions of influence and stylistic cues beside the point. In fact, I had plans of a more detailed, perhaps even academic breakdown of the band's progression, but I ultimately abandoned that idea. The album is so expansive, and oftentimes wistful, that it seemed like a more analytic approach would be like teaching an art appreciation course focused solely on the chemical compositions of the paint used. The five tracks make up a cohesive whole, in concept and sound, and teasing it apart wouldn't do it justice. Wildernessking are pushing on the boundaries of black metal, which does the whole genre a great service, and Mystical Future is a remarkable gem to kick off 2016 with.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2016, black metal, Justin C, Wildernessking

Monday, January 25, 2016

Wildernessking - Mystical Future - 1

Written by Ulla Roschat


Disguised as the second full length atmospheric black metal album of South African four piece band Wildernessking, “Mystical Future” is in reality… a dream… a sweet dream, a sad dream, a violent and furious dream, nightmarishly scary and of poetic beauty.

With the opening song "Wild Horses" it sneaks into your sleep. Gradually, almost slowly and cautiously it expands and unfolds itself in your sleeping brain and builds, from what initially feels sort of minimalistic, into rich atmospheres and the song leaves you with a promise of melodic beauty and exciting dynamics.

Already deeply intrigued by this intro, the next song "I Will Go To Your Tomb" starts to grab and tear at your heart and soul. With enthralling furious riffs, harsh aggressive vocals and a breathtakingly propelling drumming it unleashes a whirlwind of raging moods juxtaposed to the gloomy fabric of the melodies, yet complementing them ever so wonderfully.

And as if the dream wants to avoid the risk of waking you up by its unsettling dynamics, it wants to be dreamt to its end after all, the next song "To Transcend" is a contemplative break bringing back the minimalistic feel from the beginning. But make no mistake, the song has its own kind of intensity bringing a slightly eerie ethereal atmosphere to the music, created notably by the softly echoing vocals here.

Wildernessking 2012. Photos by Luke Daniel

The following "With Arms Like Wands" is all furious aggression again, and the combination of a great songwriting and the musician's ability to play off each other perfectly well creates a strong dynamic of build ups and complex sound.

The closing song "If You Leave" takes up the doomy brewing mood of the first song and female vocals are introduced here. They beautifully mingle with and complement the vicious male vocals and both lead you into the world between dream and wake.

The perfect balance of black metal violence and melancholic melodies, woven into well and tightly structured songs lets the album find its own flow into an organic cohesion that's totally spellbinding and of a deep emotional impact!

Although Wildernessking is a rather young band, they formed 2011, and their discography is still small (one debut full length album and two EPs ) “Mystical Future” sounds like the mature manifestation of a unique brand. Not only does it show an evolution in their songwriting, their sense of progressive dynamics and ridiculously beautiful and catchy melodies, not only does it show their capability to create unique and captivating atmospheres, this album seems to call out: This is Wildernessking!


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2016, black metal, Ulla Roschat, Wildernessking

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Dave’s Demo Roundup Vol. VIII

Written by Dave Schalek.

The holidays are a distant memory. The demos are coming at me fast and furious, let’s get right to them, shall we?


Here’s a three song demo from Kriegzittern, a German duo mining primitive death metal for inspiration. Falling somewhere in between early Swedish death metal and Incantation along with other, like-minded dark death metal bands, Kriegszittern show their familiarity with the genre quite nicely. Frostbite features three heavy songs backed up by a rough, yet deep and organic, production. Kriegszittern also display variety in their songwriting with tempo changes, catchy riffs, and gruff vocals. Not exactly original, but Kriegszittern are sure to please death metal fans as they obviously know their way around the genre. An earlier, untitled demo from Kriegszittern is also available at their Bandcamp page.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]



Don’t ask me how to pronounce it (or spell it; I’m cutting and pasting here), and information about the band is scarce, but this Byelorussian outfit plays brutal death metal with burped vocals and plenty of blastbeats to go along with riffs and a noodling bass that occasionally borderlines upon technicality. The production is rough on this two-song demo, but the songs are catchy enough to pique your interest. The demo is available for $4 US on their Bandcamp page (which seems a bit pricey to me), but information about other releases is not mentioned. The Bandcamp mentions a full-length debut being in the works; I’ll let you be the judge in determining whether or not it’s worth tracking down.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]



A duo with numerous connections to New York- area death metal bands (including Disma), Wall Of Water formed with a stated intention of transcending genre boundaries within heavy metal. That they have done with this two-song demo, a mash up of doom, black metal, grindcore, and noise. A bleak atmosphere pervades the music with a thin production, and a wide range of tempos is employed to shift the lines between genres. Vocals range from a growl, to a shout, to a screamed rasp, and the music occasionally devolves into moments of noise-like incomprehensibility. The result is rough, but is obviously intended as a preview for what may be to come if an eventual full-length is in the offering.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2013, black metal, blackened death metal, Dave Schalek, death metal, Eximperituserqethhzebibšiptugakkathšulweliarzaxułum, free download, Kriegszittern, technical death metal, Wall of Water

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Latitudes - Old Sunlight

Written by Sean Golyer.

Artwork by Thomas Neulinger

Latitudes is a band that has largely (and criminally) flown under the radar amongst metalheads for far too long. Even I admit to this guilt having only discovered them in late 2013, but I've never looked back since. Old Sunlight sees them quite possibly at their best, so now is as good of a time as any to get on board. If you're already familiar with their past material, you'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect here: a marriage of progressive, black, and sludgey riffage in a mostly instrumental presentation that defies genre classification. Not much has changed in this regard, nor should it, and is instead a refinement of all the best parts of their last two albums into something more engaging.

Their production has always been excellent since their debut, and the mix on display this time around is no exception. Layers upon layers of guitar weave a wealth of many timbres: crunchy, thick, meaty, saturated, and dissonant, all interchanged throughout for a dynamic listening experience from moment to moment. The drums are warm, boomy, and all-encompassing across the stereo field, keyboards are used to great thematic effect and never come across as corny or unwarranted. The bass mix is my only personal complaint. I know it’s there, I can feel it, but I have a tough time hearing or distinguishing it. It could be that the guitars a bit more down-tuned and sludge-y than past albums, thus eating up space normally occupied by the bass, or that they’ve toned back on the edge/distortion they’ve used on the bass in past recordings. Either way, it’s not quite as present and aggressive like it was on such tracks as “Myth Cathexis” or “Dreamland Precipice”. Regardless, this album still gives my sub a run for its money.

The masters I heard did tend to lean towards a more “compressed” Dynamic Range score (roughly DR 7 on most tracks), but I never really felt this was hurting the master in a way that was detrimental to my listening experience. At worst, the drums do tend to feel a bit “buried” and tame and could use some more headroom for its transients to breath, but this could just as well be the result of a guitar-dominant mix. There’s really great pacing in the songwriting to break up the heavy and soft moments which alleviate any concerns over ear fatigue. Overall, I personally felt it was a fairly pleasurable album to listen to.

As mentioned earlier, this is a mostly instrumental affair much like their past work. This can understandably lose some listeners’ interest without that driving, human element. Arguably their best songs are the ones they do actually utilize their vocalist, something that also happened to ring true in the past. I really do find myself wishing they’d be more willing to utilize vocals more often. Regardless, I can say with confidence that the musicianship and songwriting is at its tightest and most engaging since their inception. Every song is a journey all its own, waiting for you to explore every little nook and cranny along the way. There’s rarely a dull moment and they never really stumble into the classic prog-metal pitfall of being technically proficient while devoid of life and soul. There are plenty of moments to soak in the atmosphere and emotion, allowing you to feel the breadth of the sonic picture they’re creating between the all melodic chaos.

Ultimately, this is a solid third effort from Latitudes that’s more than worth your time. I may have focused on some of my personal nitpicks, but that should not be interpreted as me not enjoying this album. Rather, they’ve set a high bar for themselves up until this point, so I expect great things from them. Old Sunlight more than satisfies my thirst for more material from them, and generally emphasizes all of their most interesting and catchy elements into a densely-packed, 45-minute experience.

Recommended for fans of: Cult of Luna, Krallice, (old) Mastodon


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


Audio Disclosure

-Promotional 320kbps mp3’s were used in the making of this review
-MP3’s were converted to .WAV files to come up with DR scores

Referenced on:
-Sennheiser HD600 headphones through Digidesign Mbox 2 headphone pres + AD/DA
-Klipsch Promedia 2.1 speakers


Tagged with 2016, Debemur Morti Productions, Latitudes, post-metal, Sean Golyer, sludge metal

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Label Spotlight: Transylvanian Tapes. Vol. 4

Written by Craig Hayes.

This is the third in a continuing series of posts highlighting recent releases from Oakland, California-based label Transylvanian Tapes. I first encountered the label back in 2013, when the decidedly fetid and pile-driving death metal found on Caffa’s bruising debut, Day Of Disease, caught my ear. Since then, Transylvanian Tapes has issued a bunch of impressive cassette and digital releases. So let’s dive into some more of that riotous noise.

Cover art by Zachary Lopez

The last marshalling of recent releases from Transylvanian Tapes was a doom heavy affair. Releases from Beira and Devoid made an appearance in Vol. 3 of this series, as did the formidable debut from doom titans Chrch. However, this time round we’re kicking off with a couple of releases that are far filthier, infinitely more diabolic, and both deliver their ungodly sermons at whirlwind speed.

First up is Northern Californian trio Defecrator, who certainly score high on the black-hearted villainy card with their debut, Tales of Defecration. There’s certainly no hand-wringing or worrying about whatever enlightened rules heavy metal has to adhere to this week in Defecrator’s sound or aesthetic. There’s just scorn and bile. And a marked hatred of you, and me, and seemingly every-fucking-thing.

If the sacrilegious and bestial roar of uncompromising bands like Archgoat, Proclamation or Blasphemy is something you enjoy, then you’re likely find that Tales of Defecration fits the bill too. There are three brain-battering and hellbound hymns from the twisted minds behind Defecrator on the release. As well as cover of “Condemned to Hell”, originally performed by veteran Finnish troublemakers Impaled Nazarene. Essentially, Defecrator just ram black and death metal down your throat with swarms of jagged riffs, turbo-speed percussion, and throat-slit growls intoning more-evil-than-evil prose on Tales of Defecration. So, you know, if you're seeking subtlety and grace, look elsewhere.

In all, Tales of Defecration is one seriously fucking ugly debut. And I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. It’s a murderous and decidedly coarse release too. And it's ruthlessly vitriolic.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]



Next on the list of horrible noise to emerge from Transylvanian Tapes’ grotto at breakneck speed is the debut from Hallucinator. The band’s Primeval Power demo is chock full of blistering metal that's similar in tone and velocity to the pitch-black thrash of bands like Desaster and Deströyer 666, or O.G fire and brimstone henchmen Aura Noir.

Primeval Power features plenty of scorching black metal and hyper-aggressive thrash, and there's even some Hammer Horror keyboards throw in, just to amplify the eeriness. Everything is delivered at a lightning-fast pace. It's all bleeding-raw, and sawtoothed round the edges. And full-throttle tracks like “Mad Reaper” and “The Hiss in the Skull” are a raucous reminder that sometimes the most unrefined and strident metal is also the most enjoyable of all.

Primeval Poweris ragged as hell. But all that unhinged and unbridled energy shows a lot of promise for Hallucinator’s future endeavours.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]



San Francisco-based trio Brume bring some damn tasty bluesy and fuzzy metal to the table with their five-track release, Donkey. The band’s debut features abundant stoner swagger, and plenty of spliff-friendly doom. All of which isn't too dissimilar to the kind of slow-baked psychedelic metal that bands like Witch Mountain or Windhand have produced.

Certainly, Brume frontwoman Susie McCullan’s voice has the same entrancing magnetism and power that we've heard from Windhand’s Dorthia Cottrel, and Witch Mountain’s ex-vocalist Uta Plotkin. The rest of Brume are no slouches either. Drummer Jordan Perkins-Lewis pounds the skins and cymbals with gigantic concussive strikes on Donkey. While guitarist Jamie McCathie dishes out gargantuan Sabbathian riffs that rumble and reverberate for an age.

Transylvanian Tapes have released a number of doom albums so far, and Donkey is right up there alongside Chrch’s Unanswered Hymns as the best of the bunch. Brume might not reinventing the wheel with Donkey, but the album crashes and smashes with enough aplomb and creative thunder to awaken the Gods. It's gloriously heavyweight and enthralling music. And kudos to Donkey producer Ryan Massey, because this album sounds massive.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]




Notes: Most of the links points to the band's own Bandcamp pages. For the tape releases go to the Transylvanian Tapes page.

Tagged with 2015, black metal, Brume, Craig Hayes, death metal, Defecrator, doom metal, free download, Hallucinator, thrash metal, Transylvanian Tapes

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Author & Punisher - Melk en Honing

Written by Calen Henry.

Artwork by Russell MacEwan / Force Majeure Art

Tristan Shone’s Author & Punisher might be the most literally metal band in existence. Shone makes his brand of industrial metal almost exclusively with custom machines he designs and fabricates.

The sonic character of Shone’s machines is wholly unique, but oddly familiar. The machines have bizarre metallic sonic palettes but are employed to replicate the guitar and drum assault of “normal” industrial music. That coupled with Shone’s Marilyn Manson style shout-singing make for “comfortable” music with an abrasive undercurrent unlike anything else.

If there’s a complaint to be leveraged it’s that over the course of an entire album the music can blur together somewhat, but this could be a personal observation coming from someone who isn’t entrenched in the industrial sound.

Photos by Jason Ernst

The music itself is a straightforward mix of Godflesh style industrial droning and 90s Nine Inch Nails melodic industrial music. But that's part of what makes Melk en Honing so successful. It’s sonically adventurous but musically straightforward.

Shone consciously reigns in the musical experimentation instead crafting memorable songs with distinct instrumental and vocal hooks and letting the unique sonic texture of his machines shine through. It’s a much more successful approach than experimenting with both the sounds and the music. The listener is able to immediately “get” the music to the point where the provenance of the machines is icing on the cake rather than the main attraction.

If you prefer a different electronic approach to machine industrial metal there’s always Pretty Eight Machine.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2015, Author & Punisher, Calen Henry, drone, electronica, Housecore Records, industrial metal

Friday, January 15, 2016

Lycus - Chasms

By Justin C. If you find funeral doom to be a bit too languid at times, Lycus has the solution to your problems. Their new album, Chasms, is a particularly intense kind of melancholy. Sure, there are the clean chant-like vocals, as found on their last outing, Tempest, but there are also growls and blackened rasps.
By Justin C.

Artwork by Paolo Girardi

If you find funeral doom to be a bit too languid at times, Lycus has the solution to your problems. Their new album, Chasms, is a particularly intense kind of melancholy. Sure, there are the clean chant-like vocals, as found on their last outing, Tempest, but there are also growls and blackened rasps. There are plenty of slow-and-low riffs, but there are also high-flying tremolos. There are plenty of drums that sound like a cliffside collapsing, but there are pulsing rhythms and frantic blasts as well. And you'll usually find all of these over the course of any given song.

Lycus 2014. Photo by Carmelo Española.

Listening to Chasms back to back with 2013's Tempest reveals that the band hasn't abandoned any of their strengths or drastically changed their approach, but the song complexity and atmosphere have both been ratcheted up. The opener of "Mirage" is like the soundtrack to a late night drive in a big city, but before the two-minute mark, that car is slowly coasting off the end of a pier. While on fire. "Obsidian Eyes" has some great overlapping guitar lines that almost seem like they're shifting in and out of phase with each other. The ringing guitar and the subtly shifting drums in the opener to the title track would be interesting enough on their own, but they're joined by a cello winding a melody over them. There's an almost-symphonic feel to the compositions, but with all the discordance and crushing heft you need from metal.

Lycus 2014. Photo by Carmelo Española.

I went through a bit of an evolution listening to this album. The monumental heaviness and emotional punch drew me in immediately. I did find myself missing some of the melodic hooks from Tempest that stuck so easily in my ear, but the shifts and complexities in Chasms dig into your brain in a different way. It crawls like funeral doom, but it's restless and ever-changing in a way that might not be apparent on first listen. I find myself wanting to point out all the intricacies that have caught my ear, but you'd be better off discovering those for yourself. 2016 is going to have to be a hell of a good year for funeral doom for anybody to top this one.


Tagged with 2016, Carmelo Española, funeral doom metal, Justin C, Lycus, Relapse Records

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Toke / Green Fiend - Ritual Substance Abuse

By Karen A. Mann. Fans of hazy, smoked-out sludge will appreciate Toke and Green Fiend, two weed-obsessed North Carolina bands that reference their favorite vice so often you can practically get a contact high just from listening to them. Both bands self-released fine albums in the fall of 2015
By Karen A. Mann.

Fans of hazy, smoked-out sludge will appreciate Toke and Green Fiend, two weed-obsessed North Carolina bands that reference their favorite vice so often you can practically get a contact high just from listening to them. Both bands self-released fine albums in the fall of 2015, but you can get a quick hit of what they’re all about on their upcoming split release, the Cough-inspired Ritual Substance Abuse, Two songs from the release are available on their respective Bandcamp pages.


Green Fiend from Charlotte (home of Antiseen, Young & In the Way and many more) covers the old J.J. Cale chestnut “Cocaine,” which is best known via Eric Clapton’s loose, bluesy version. But Green Fiend covers it in a much more appropriate manner, with vocalist Taddeo sounding like he’s been doing coke non-stop for days and is now on the verge of murdering someone.


Toke hails from Wilmington, the port city that also spawned Weedeater and Sourvein. Their contribution to the single is “Four Hours For Hours,” which begins with the sound of a bong being hit, and spirals into a syrupy, bluesy dirge, with some seriously corroded vocals.

[Note: Both Toke's contributions to the split are now exclusively available on their new full-length (Orange), which Karen reviews here]
Tagged with 2015, Green Fiend, Karen A. Mann, sludge metal, stoner metal, Toke

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Hooded Menace - Darkness Drips Forth

Written by Matt Hinch.

Cover art by Justin Bartlett

Most fans of underground metal should be familiar with Hooded Menace by now. The cowled Finns have become renowned for their filthy death/doom saturated by cavernous, bone-chilling growls. Those sentiments still apply on latest album, Darkness Drips Forth. However, whereas on previous work Hooded Menace leaned more on the death side, Darkness Drips Forth brings the doom. With four tracks spanning a massive 43 minutes DDF takes a slower path ensuring demise.

The overall sound of Hooded Menace remains intact but the riffs here are much slower for the most part. Funereal even. Of course, it's not all sagging strings and syrupy tempos.

Hooded Menace turn on the melody and pick up the pace more than enough to give the album the dynamics and depth that keeps the band among the genre's elite. It's as melodic as it is crushing and the tempo changes thrust the listener into the heat of destruction and yank them away from the precipice of impending death.

On the whole, DDF feels as grand and stately as we've come to expect. The thick riffs and cascading melodies match the feeling of conquest often felt. Even if the fight is internal. It's that emotional connection that really hits home as well. For all the determined negativity that seeps from their tone and plodding nature, the melodies open things up to encompass despondency, anguish, heartache and hope.

Dread, terror and menace still rule the day. Tar thick doom riffs and bowel-evacuating tone bulldoze beneath those spectral melodies sending shivers down the spine. On DDF the encapsulating darkness is more calculated and instead of chasing the victim down and killing quickly, Hooded Menace stalk their prey and savour their death.

While not a “standard” Hooded Menace album there's nothing here that will turn away long time fans. The ancient ghosts of cold, desolate wastes will still haunt Hooded Menace's cavernous death/doom, mortality will still wither in the face of massive riffs and darkness will still relentlessly drip forth.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2015, death metal, doom metal, Hooded Menace, Matt Hinch, Relapse Records

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Lion's Daughter - Existence is Horror

Written by Justin C.

Artwork by Paolo Girardi

I first learned about The Lion's Daughter from their collaboration with a folk band called Indian Blanket. That album, a folk/sludge mash up called A Black Sea, is remarkable, and I recommend it highly to anyone interested in hearing just how well modern, dark folk can be mixed with a heavier sound. But now, just a little over two years later, we have a new full-length from The Lion's Daughter, Existence is Horror, and it's an undiluted rager.

This album is full-bore blackened sludge, running at about 40 minutes with no filler whatsoever. Even the intro track, which could easily just become a minute and a half of throwaway material from most bands, has a pulsing heartbeat of distorted bass and a an atmosphere of slow menace. But once the second track kicks in full force with stomping drums and vocal-cord-shredding roars, there's no turning back. The weird thing, though? For an album called Existence is Horror, with song titles like, "Nothing Lies Ahead" and "A Cursed Black End," it's a hell of an energizing listen. Sure, you might want to burn off that energy mostly by breaking stuff, but it's hard not to get fired up listening to it.

The musical pleasures are many. Neurosis is a strong influence, but the songs don't tire me out in the way that Neurosis often does. (Sorry, Neurosis fans. They're really good, but they wear me out.) The songs churn, changing tempos often but in a surprisingly non-jarring way. Tremolo riffs echo and ring before diving down into low, ripping gunfire. I love the bass in particular. Sometimes it bounces, sometimes it doubles the guitar riff like in "A Cursed Black End," and sometimes, like in "Midnight Glass," it takes on a melodic role under a droning guitar part. I love it when a good bassist doubles between rhythm and melody.

All told, there's a hell of a lot of racket here being made by just three guys, but it twists and turns, letting you enjoy it with close attention or as the soundtrack to a rage freakout. Existence is horror is a sentiment that's probably shared by a lot of metal bands and their fans, but albums like this make it a bit more palatable.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2016, blackened sludge metal, Justin C, progressive sludge metal, Season of Mist, The Lion's Daughter

Friday, January 8, 2016

Pharaoh: The Inevitable Future

Written by Chris Black.

To round off our Pharaoh celebration here are a few words from Chris Black regarding the future of the band. Interspersed with a couple of songs from their 2011 EP Ten Years. As always, thanks for reading and thanks for listening.

Cover Artwork by JP Fournier

It's true that Tim has had a few medical things to deal with recently and that they are indeed minor. Everyone needs a tune-up here and there as we enter middle age, and the truth is that Tim makes 29 look pretty damn good!

That said, like myself, Tim is a relatively small piece of the machinery for the stage we're at, which is kind of a simultaneous process of not only songwriting but also making the pre-production versions of the songs that will then guide us through the recording process. And that really depends on Matt more than anyone else. His expenditure of time and energy in creating these albums is enormous at any stage, and it begins with not only a large share of the songwriting responsibility, but also basically deconstructing, learning, and rebuilding everyone else's contributions into a more or less standardized demo form. It's an incredible amount of work, and for Matt, that's really just the beginning! The whole process depends on Matt, and I trust him to know when the time is right to put these roller-coaster wheels in motion.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


In the meantime, the song pile is slowly building. I can say for sure that we have the direction and many of the pieces for at least 6 songs. Some working titles include "Ride Us to Hell" and "Lost in the Waves". We also have an album title, a cover concept, and a theme for the lyrics and imagery that will follow. "Concept album" is probably overstating it, but as with Be Gone, we plan to tie most or all of the songs to the same anchor.

Right now musically it's quite diverse, although things will surely smooth out once all the pieces are in place. So far, it has the aggression of Bury the Light but plenty of other shades. There's a bit of that Memento Mori majestic stuff as well as an upbeat track in the vein of "In Your Hands" or something like that.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with Chris Black, Cruz Del Sur Music, Pharaoh, power metal

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Pharaoh: Guitar Solo Master Class

Written by Chris Black.

Pharaoh has always had a tradition of asking their personal guitar heroes to play guest solos on their records. In October 2014 Chris Black wrote a series of Facebook posts chronicling each of these songs, from the newest to the oldest. Here is a compilation of these posts into what can only be called a Pharaoh Guitar Solo Master Class! (additional commentary provided by Matt Johnsen from an interview he did with Teeth of the Divine in 2012).


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Let's get started! Most recently the great Mike Wead contributed a real dazzler on "Castles in the Sky" from Bury the Light. He captured perfectly the sinister and majestic atmosphere of this song, and used lots of his unique classical flair. We love it! Thanks again to Mr. Wead and congratulations on a great career with Memento Mori, Hexenhaus, Abstrakt Algebra, Mercyful Fate, Candlemass, Bibleblack, and of course King Diamond!

Matt Johnsen: "I suggested Mike Wead. I know a lot of Swedish and Scandinavian writers and musicians, and I figured that it would take me a couple days to track this guy down. It took a while [laughs]. I had to burn through a lot of contacts before I was finally able to get in touch with him, and when I did, it was my friend Teddy Möller, who’s in the band Loch Vostok and a bunch of other bands, he gave me Mike’s cell phone. And I’m like, Christ, I’ve got to call a Swedish dude out of the blue? Say, “Hey, I’m this guy you never heard of, will you play a solo on my album?” Unfortunately I was never able to get through to his cell phone. I don’t know if I left a message or if it was just the Swedish phone system telling me that the number had been disconnected. I had to go back to Teddy and say, “Look, man, cell phone didn’t work. Email the guy or something; make an introduction.” And he did, and I sent the stuff to Mike, and he was like, “Wow, I do a lot of guest solos and usually I charge people, but your shit’s cool so I’ll do it for free”"


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Matt Johnsen: "And again, we got Jim [Dofka] to come back just a killer solo in “Year of the Blizzard.” I think it’s actually the best solo he’s done for us and very atypical of him. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Jim Dofka’s stuff, but most of his solos tend to be entirely harmonized, front to back, and they have sort of familiar patterns and sounds. And this one, it’s nothing like that. It’s hardly harmonized; it’s played on a single coil guitar, it’s a great lead."


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

"Ten Years" is a very special track indeed, as it features TWO musicians especially close to Pharaoh's heart! The first solo on this track is a raunchy burner from our band co-founder Keith Barnard. Keith is known for his work with Final Prayer and Blood Vomit, but he was also a part of Pharaoh for the very early (and very gradual!) genesis period. We parted ways amicably, but his powerful style left a permanent influence on the direction of the band. It was great that we were able to reconnect with him and have his contribution to this song. The second solo in "Ten Years" comes courtesy of our longtime comrade Jim Dofka! Mr. Dofka has contributed a solo to each of our albums, and here it's total fireworks as usual. We normally reserve a fast romp section for him, and he always takes the bait! Check it out!


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

This is a heavy one to say the least! We are quite proud to have our song "Dark New Life" feature one of the absolute best guitar duos in the history of rock music: Mark Reale and Mike Flyntz of Riot! Mike goes first, then they play a harmony section together, before Mark finishes things out. It still takes our breath away to hear this today. We take inspiration from the entire Riot catalog as musicians and songwriters and also have some very special memories of seeing Mark and Mike together onstage. They truly made it look easy, and believe us when we say: it isn't! Best wishes to the whole Riot family! Keep up your hard work!


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

...and here also is our "regularly-scheduled special guest" Jim Dofka with the final solo in "No Remains". Those quick alternating ascending/descending phrases in the second half are pretty maddening!


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Now we arrive at an album that seems to be the favorite of many: The Longest Night! The opening cut "Sunrise" features a fantastic solo from another of our perhaps-unsung guitar heroes, Mr. Chris Poland. The solo section is quite mellow and smooth for Pharaoh, and Chris's legato and unexpected note combinations work perfectly to sustain and then build the energy of the song overall. Matt really wanted Chris Poland for this section specifically, since it would cater to Chris's wide musical vocabulary. He has, after all, played everything from jazz fusion with Ohm to punk rock with the Circle Jerks to progressive metal with Damn the Machine and of course thrash metal with Megadeth, not to mention releasing two solo albums along the way. Cheers Chris for a great job, and thanks for making Matt a very happy boy! (btw Matt takes over at 5:01 and holds his own pretty well.)


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Also give this one a try! As the band goes somersaulting into the ending vamp, who should show up with the fireworks but Jim Dofka! This was slated to be a fade-out, but Jim decided otherwise!


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

From our 2003 debut album After the Fire, the song "Solar Flight" remains quite popular to this day. It features the first of what would be many guest solos from Jim Dofka, a longtime friend and true unsung guitar hero if ever there was one! Jim's velocity and phrasing are unique and his sense of melody quite rare. From this point forward, it was decided that Jim would contribute one of his masterpieces to every Pharaoh album. We're very happy and proud that Jim has become a part of the Pharaoh sound in this way. It's also worth mentioning that he was the one to get us in touch with Tim Aymar in the first place, so you could say that Jim Dofka's influence on Pharaoh is more or less infinite! Thanks everyone who is reading these.


Tagged with Chris Black, Cruz Del Sur Music, Pharaoh, power metal

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Pharaoh - Be Gone

An Autothrall Epic Win. Originally published here.

Album art by JP Fournier

Pharaoh is quite likely the best melodic metal band we've got in the States right now. In fact, if I've got any criticism of the band at all, it's that they are TOO melodic. TOO catchy. To the point where it's painful to realize there are musicians this good writing such riffs you'll never have a prayer of beating. It should be a crime! Okay, this is hardly a real criticism...Pharaoh rules, and after two great albums they have produced their third and best yet. While I haven't been a fan of Tim Aymar's vocal work in other bands (sorry Control Denied), he excels here.

Each of the nine tracks on the album is an instant classic, laden heavily with melodic textures and Aymar's resonating yet harsh vocal performance. The songs are distinctly modern and original, yet they also capture the elusive quality which made so many 80s US speed/thrash metal songs so great...surely this band channels the spirit of Fates Warning, Watchtower or Helstar in ways that so few really can. This is also the riffiest metal album heard all year, if it were simply a matter of who has the most good riffs, this would be my #1 choice. Matt Johnsen is writing some of the best melodic material in the world. This album floors pretty much anything out of the 'power metal' scene in Europe, and there are single songs on the album which are arguably better than the entire Dragonforce discography. That a spastic and shallow band like that gains worldwide recognition while Pharaoh lies in relative obscurity is a testament to how the standards of the 'metal' community have been lowered to blindly accept speed, popularity and empty technical prowess over song craft.

"Speak to Me" is the perfect opening track, as the drums and guitars phase in they create a foundation for Aymar's clarion call vocals, which have an edgy tone to them reminiscent of bands like Omen. "Dark New Life" is an immediate anthem which wears its glory on its sleeves before breaking down into some grittier power metal riffing, and it also has an amazing solo section. "No Remains" starts with a winding guitar melody to die for, followed by some of the most excellent charging rhythms on the album, and a monumental chorus. "Red Honor" starts with an even more technical and awesome riff, and then proceeds to get even BETTER with the next riff. "Buried At Sea" is perhaps the most morose track on the album, yet still adorned in the graceful and epic feel of the rest. We're not even close to done here...the leading riff of "Rats and Rope" is fucking stunningly awesome, and the way the vocals and verse guitars interact is gorgeous. "Cover Your Eyes and Pray" is the closest you'll have to a 'ballad' here, and it's not quite a ballad at all, but a slower paced, driving melodic number which once again reminds me of Omen or early Fates Warning. "Telepath" is the most instantly catchy of the tracks, and why shouldn't it be with that insanely catchy, sad and melodic verse. The final track is of course the slowly developing "Be Gone" which is hypnotic and intense with its flowing guitar work.

The lyrical concept to the album is the eventual eradication of humanity through our own stupid actions, but Pharaoh approach this with lyrical skill that amplifies the emotion of the music, such as:
Time running or
The hollow houses blooming
Faith now a falsehood
The only god is sickness
Just one way
To starve alive another day
Dying fed
By harvesting the dead
I can't find a single damned flaw here, the album is spotless. It's the type of classic people will hopefully be pointing to for the 'oughts' of the 21st century when making their future 'best of' lists. I know I will be. Few albums of this sort have come into existence since the Golden Age of 80s metal, and this is by far my favorite melodic/power/speed metal album of anno 2008. You owe it to yourself not to let it pass you by. Pharaoh, against all odds, have achieved perfection. A masterpiece. Get infected.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2008, Autothrall, Cruz Del Sur Music, Pharaoh, power metal

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Pharaoh and Cruz Del Sur, the beginnings

Written by Enrico Leccese, owner of Cruz Del Sur Music

Cover Artwork by JP Fournier

Pharaoh plays a very important role in the history/profile of Cruz Del Sur Music. Not only was their debut album After The Fire the label’s first release back in 2003, also, they are the band with the highest number of releases (6) on the label itself.

They also introduced me to some of the finest people I have been working with, especially Matt Crooks (from Division, and now Pharaoh’s live second guitar player) who has recorded all their albums except After the Fire and French artist JP Fournier responsible for all their cover artwork.

I have had the pleasure to meet the guys several times, though I am still missing to know bassist Chris Kerns in person. Through these years I often had a drink with Matt Johnsen and Chris Maycock during their visits to Europe, and with Tim Aymar when the band played Germany’s Keep It True festival in 2008.

The funny anecdote about how we knew each other is that in the late nineties I was living in Argentina running a label (Icarus) to which Chris M. submitted his band Dawnbringer. In his letter, he also mentioned he had a side-project with some other guys and they “hired” Mr. Aymar to sing a cover of Iron Maiden’s “Aces High” featured on Chris’ own Maiden America: Iron Maiden Tribute release (Twilight Records). At the time Control Denied’s only album was just released and Tim’s marvellous performance was under everyone’s eyes. Anyway, we were blown away by the cover and saw so much potential in the band that we decided to release Dawnbringer's Catharsis Instinct in 2000 just to be sure to pin Pharaoh for a future release! Who would have known Dawnbringer became such a “big” band after a decade!

I would say Pharaoh gave Cruz Del Sur a strong and authoritarian profile since the beginning of our collaboration, showing the label was no joke. They were the band from which everything started, so I can never be grateful enough for that Dawnbringer promo!


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2003, Cruz Del Sur Music, Enrico Leccese, Pharaoh, power metal

Monday, January 4, 2016

Pharaoh - The Longest Night

An Autothrall Win. Originally published here.

Cover Artwork by JP Fournier

Though it's not quite so pristine and re-listenable as its own successor Be Gone, The Longest Night makes a number of improvements over the Pharaoh debut, and inches towards the band's current sound with class. Once again, we've got a group not willing to merely settle for the part and parcel of power metal tropes, but attempting to make strides in the field that help refresh and revitalize the form, keeping it relevant and half way intelligent while celebrating its roots. Not that a number of the band's forebears haven't done the same, but while Omen, Manowar and Virgin Steele might have provided some of the base ingredients for the Pharaoh recipe, alongside overseas legends like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, this album at no point seems needlessly backwards or nostalgic. It sounds like it looks, blue lightning lashing out at the masses marching forward in sublimation.

Matt Johnsen dials up the melody here even further, with a lot of his dual lines trumping After the Fire in terms of their sheer infectiousness, and the rhythm guitars through a lot of the record seem like a better backdrop, splayed more into open, ringing chords that better carry the man's natural electricity. The backing riffs are not all that distinct themselves, yet superior to what he was writing a few years prior, and better conductors for the almost unbearable lightness of the leads' being. Not to mention that the general mix of the album helps enforce this glittering glaze of harmony. The drums and guitars are better balanced, and though Aymar slices straight through with the bold grit of his inflection, it all feels somewhat more progressive and potent simultaneously, even on a piece like "In the Violet Fire" where the band is alternating between its passages of cleaner guitars and more emotional vocals with the rushes of melodic speed metal that feel like later 80s Fates Warning infused with Iron Maiden at their prime, only more surgical and technical in how the melodies flood the listeners' brains.

I enjoy more or less every song on this album, whether it's the straight power of "Fighting" which almost sounds like something Hammerfall might write, the frenetic "I Am the Hammer" which at times reminded me of Germans Rage, or "The Longest Night" itself which provides a glorious evolutionary stopgap between Number of the Beast and Awaken the Guardian. Probably the only exceptions for me would be the two lengthier pieces, opener "Sunrise" and "By the Night Sky". Both have plenty of choice riffs and moments, and dynamically they don't indulge in tiring repetition, but I feel like they could have been snipped off at 4-5 minutes and better kept my interest; not to mention that I question the logic of putting "Sunrise" up front when there were far better choices strewn throughout the album that would hook the audience without any chance of growing dull in their depths. Otherwise, it's pretty goddamn consistent, even the instrumental finale "Never Run" succeeds in the video game/chase scene melodies coursing through its peppier riffs; and the guest leads via Chris Poland (ex-Megadeth) and Jim Dofka are tasteful and flush with their surroundings.

Tim Aymar was already a strong component on the first album, but with The Longest Night he too surpasses himself, with a wider range of emotional heights and pitch. Much easier to pick out individual, memorable lines than After the Fire, even in the mere verses of the songs, though they're not so bright, meticulous and haunting as those throughout Be Gone. He's especially potent when he's tracking off against himself, swapping lines in songs like "I Am the Hammer" where the airy reverb and effects built a strong contrast to the pounding of the rhythm guitar, but he's husky and dark enough that he even manages to stand out against the group's central, driving characteristic: Johnsen's melodic tsunami. All in all, a killer effort with nearly every component polished and spit-shined to a simmering perfection, and songwriting of depth and courage which, even at its most derivative feels like far more than a retrospect tribute. To think that they would get even better...


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2006, Autothrall, Cruz Del Sur Music, Pharaoh, power metal

Pharaoh!

Written by Dan Lawrence.


Power metal needs its evangelical wing. Truly.

But despite that need, power metal fans, particularly in America, can be an odd, awkward bunch. We're fired by the rightness of our cause, of course, but we know that if we push too hard, the blowback of ridicule and tuning out is always waiting just inches below the surface. Good music should always speak for itself, but some styles will always need an extra push to really connect.

Given that context, Pharaoh is pretty much the perfect band: they don't fit most of the flowery preconceptions that so many people hold about power metal. They don't sing about elves or fairies; none of their songs are medieval campfire singalongs; and they don't treat neoclassical shred as a sacred icon. In fact, over the course of their four unimpeachable albums, Pharaoh have established themselves as the quintessential exemplar of that ambiguous, mongrel genre: "US power metal."

But to whom, really, does Pharaoh compare? The short answer - and the real reason they're deserving of the red carpet treatment - is, "No one, or at least not exactly." Truly, they are difficult to pin an exact match on, but if they are unique, that's not to say they are without peer. They share a similar stoutness and traditional stomp with a band like Argus, while also resonating with some of the steelier Priest-isms of Primal Fear. At their most dramatic, it's not too much a stretch to hear echoes of Sanctuary, although Pharaoh also shares with The Lord Weird Slough Feg the ability to sound both playful and deadly serious at once. Hell, at times it even seems like Pharaoh sounds a bit like what might happen if Cynic's Focus had been a power metal album.

But their comrades are not what define them, particularly when the fusion of talents in the band is equal part unlikely and unavoidable. In fact, with the partial exception of High Spirits, I like Chris Black in Pharaoh far better than in any of his other projects. Similarly, while Pharaoh would be next to nothing without Matt Johnsen's seemingly effortless guitar, his work with Black in Dawnbringer rarely hits home for me. And despite his overwhelmingly evident skill, I never particularly cared for Tim Aymar in the context of Control Denied. Through whatever alchemical mystery, Pharaoh is the ideal venue for these disparate talents.

Cover Artwork by JP Fournier

This is an appropriate time of year to be writing about Pharaoh. When doubt, anxiety, and depression claw, all music is not created equal in its restorative capability. Plenty of power metal leans a little too positive and bright to feel authentic as self-medication. When you're low, the last thing you need is something high that feels like it's lying to you. Pharaoh, though, is chemically incapable of abetting wallowing. The music is too strident, stirring, and invigorating, but never anything less than truthful.

Because of these reasons and many others, Bury the Light is probably my favorite Pharaoh album (although The Longest Night makes a damned close play). More importantly, any time I listen to it feels like a righteous act of self-care. From the absurdly grandiose "Leave Me Here to Dream" (with its none-more-potent "No, not tonight / No, no, no" chorus the foil of Johnsen's rapid-fire uplift throughout) to the somehow Zeppelin-esque "The Year of the Blizzard" and the beautifully elastic rhythmic feint of "Castles in the Sky," Bury the Light is a monument to the power of music to awe and inspire. The outro that reprises the ending of "The Spider's Thread," however, is the masterstroke that truly marks the album of Pharaoh's most complete vision. That people aren't breaking down your door every other week to make sure your personal copy is still in good working order is some sort of crime.

"The Spider's Thread" reaches its climax with the line "Oh, can I ever hope to recover?" Although the song's answer to that question is not necessarily a positive one, "Bury the Light" on the whole has proven again and again to be one of those rare magical albums that always helps to keep my mind from going to a dark place. Sometimes you listen to music because it mirrors the mood you're already in; sometimes you listen to music because it creates in you the mood you'd like to be in. Pharaoh is ceaselessly the latter - a steady salve and companion.

If that doesn't inspire you to evangelism, then nothing will. Come, sisters and brothers: let's go out into the world together.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2012, Cruz Del Sur Music, Dan Lawrence, Pharaoh, power metal

Saturday, January 2, 2016

I kept detailed notes on all metal albums released on Bandcamp in 2015, analyzing them all thoroughly using verified scientific methods. Below you can read the result of my meticulous research: The 12 objectively best extreme metal albums on Bandcamp in 2015.

Nah...

Similar to last year this is simply 12 pages in my Bandcamp diary, containing some of the albums that stuck with me the most. Only time will tell if they are all truly keepers; on the other hand I'm still quite fond of most entries from last year.

One thing that surprised me was how little death metal I kept coming back to. Not for lack of quality releases, my ears were simply not tuned to the metal of death in 2015 (though Vastum's Hole Below was a candidate, if only I had spent more time with it). I should to rectify this at some point; so please tell me: which death metal releases from 2015 do you think you'll be coming back to?

Thanks to all you readers out there. See you around in 2016.


February 7th, 2015.

February 24th, 2015.

April 20th, 2015.

April 20th, 2015.

May 26th, 2015.

July 14th, 2015.

July 30th, 2015.

September 4th, 2015.

As if it wasn't a lifetime spent on connecting the dots
There was no pattern
As if the irony was more than a defense mechanism
And we could actually laugh for a change
As if steel hooks in our backs were more than a nuisance
And we could actually feel something

"Exercises in Futility VI"



September 18th, 2015.

September 18th was a good date for funeral doom fans. By a wonderful coincidence two Finnish grand masters of the genre, Tyranny and Skepticism, released long awaited new albums on that very day. Tyranny's Aeons in Tectonic Interment contains glacial riffs that slowly engulfs you in fathomless misery. Compared Skepticims's Ordeal is a more dynamic, even uplifting affair with tempo shifts, guitar solos, breaks, and haunting organ melodies "full of fog and perpetual longing".

Both albums are formidable examples of the funeral doom genre (one I never seem to tire off). Combined they serve as evidence that you can find great variety even within the funeral doom template. Ordeal is probably my most listened to album of 2015, but Aeons (especially the last song "Bells of the Black Basilica") is also an essential part of this diary.


October 16th, 2015.

December 4th, 2015.


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Tagged with 2015, 2016