Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Judas Iscariot - To Embrace the Corpses Bleeding

By Andy Curtis-Brignell. I discovered my 'thing' pretty late. Not that, don't be stupid - I'm referring to the virulent notion that there's SOMETHING you're supposed to do with your life.
By Andy Curtis-Brignell.


I discovered my 'thing' pretty late. Not that, don't be stupid - I'm referring to the virulent notion that there's SOMETHING you're supposed to do with your life. Normally caught some time before 'career goals' replace 'I want to be an astronaut' but after you stop believing in Santa, children experience this illness chiefly in temporary fads and phases, but, like polio, sometimes it fucks you up for life. Black Metal was my thing, and I caught it late, at 15. Judas Iscariot were in the first crop of 5-10 black metal bands I ever heard, and 15 years on I'm still feeling the effects of this exposure.

The man behind Judas Iscariot, Andrew Harris, seems to have caught it early, putting out the project's first demo in 1992, particularly when one considers that most of the black metal albums we consider genre defining hadn't been made yet. In this sense, Harris was perfectly positioned at the nexus of the burgeoning black metal culture, and this is reflected in Judas Iscariot's music. Black Metal, or at least its original iterations, can generally be identified by region sonically – the descending chord progressions and melancholic chill of Scandinavian black metal; the awkward timing and ascending nodes of French and Benelux black metal; the bass heavy and percussive South American scene, and so on. Harris combined these elements in various forms at different points in Judas Iscariot's discography, but on To Embrace the Corpses Bleeding, the final Judas Iscariot full length, he finally presents his unified vision and immediately withdraws from the scene in the liner notes of the CD. How bold, how dramatic, how enfant terrible! That this is a self-reflexive move is beyond doubt – this is 'gaze on my works ye mighty and despair' territory.

Where previous albums seemed to be challenges to other bands or movements - see Distant in Solitary Night's precise, metronomic deconstruction of post-Transilvanian Hunger Darkthrone and Heaven in Flames' two fingered salute to Emperor's speed and synthesizers – To Embrace... is both varied and unified. It also has the most consistent and effective sound production of Harris's entire career, the warmth and fat tone of the rhythm section presenting an elegant juxtaposition against the icebound guitar and vocals – the music was written in the USA and the lyrics in Romania and Germany, and you can feel the old world and the new straining against one another. This, along with the artwork lifted from Dore's Ancient Mariner engravings, makes perfect sense when one considers Harris's immediate relocation to Europe following the completion of the Moonlight Butchery EP the same year as this album. His last works before escaping into solitude speak of dislocation, isolation – a perfect soundtrack for the vast ocean Harris would cross both personally and musically. However this is no forlorn retreat. From the liner notes to the strident song titles which proclaim 'In the Valley of Death, I am their King', this is the king withdrawing to his mountain, not the creature crawling beneath it. The overt fatalism of Dethroned, Conquered and Forgotten two years before feels a million miles away. This might be the end, but it brings with it the winds of Ragnarok – maybe not a bang, but certainly not a whimper.


Tagged with 2002, Andy Curtis-Brignell, black metal, Judas Iscariot, Metalhit

Iotunn - The Wizard Falls

2016 has already been a good year for metal, with quite a few high profile releases delivering the goods. But, somewhat to my surprise, the album that has left the biggest mark on me so far is the The Wizard Falls EP from up and coming Danish "total metal" band Iotunn.

Cover art Eliran Kantor

2016's already been a good year for metal, with quite a few high profile releases delivering the goods. But, somewhat to my surprise, the album that left the biggest mark on me so far is the The Wizard Falls EP from up and coming Danish "total metal" band Iotunn. Up and coming may be a misnomer, as Iotunn surrounds themselves with the trappings of a much more experienced band: cover art by the masterful Eliran Kantor, and a crystal clear and beefy production (those drums got PUNCH!) by the Flemming Rasmussen.

This wouldn't mean much if Iotunn didn't also deliver in the playing, and the writing-of-songs departments. And deliver they do, The Wizard Falls sounds like a band that has been doing this for a long time, and become very good at it. Powerful and progressive songs performed with superb skill and confidence. For a prime example check the epic closer "Frost"; starting with the golden tonsils of singer (and bassist) Benjamin Jensen stretching out on the first few lines, before segueing into the effective chugging of the chorus. The song takes you down engaging paths, and does it effortlessly. Reaching the end of the journey with an extended solo; fluid and melodic, just like the days of olden.

You may have noticed I haven't discussed what kind of music actually plays. It's difficult to put Iotunn into one of those neat genre boxes. Progressive power metal is a good start, at least if you consider the more muscular US version of the genre. As the "days of olden" hints at you can hear classic heavy metal in Iotunn's songs. But also thrash metal, progressive rock, and even a few black metal style vocals. Total metal indeed. While not being groundbreaking or totally innovative, I think it's safe to say that Iotunn has a sound shared by very few (if any) current bands, and that in itself is refreshing.

Tagged with 2016, Iotunn, progressive power metal

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Universe217 - Change

By Kevin Page. Change. Always a touchy subject when it comes to metal bands and its fans. On one hand, not everyone wants to hear (and buy) the same album over and over, nor do musicians feel like infinitely repeating themselves.
By Kevin Page.


Change. Always a touchy subject when it comes to metal bands and its fans. On one hand, not everyone wants to hear (and buy) the same album over and over, nor do musicians feel like infinitely repeating themselves. On the other hand, you don't want a band you love and adore to make a sudden left turn and sound totally different (since there's a reason you connected with their music in the first place). So what does Greece's Universe217 have in store for us this time around on their 4th full length album?

Photos © s.alt. All rights reserved.

Change. In the way that you want a band to change: better songwriting, better production, new ideas, the feeling of a cohesion between its members. Yet staying true to what they are and what they sound like. Plenty of bands over the years in all genres of music have done it the right way: Alice in Chains, (early) Morbid Angel, Led Zeppelin. It certainly doesn't seem like a hard concept to execute, yet fewer and fewer bands seem to do it.

While I myself never subscribed to the theory that lead vocalist, Tanya, carried the band, I could understand the sentiment. Seriously, she is in a class all her own. No one else sounds like her and few have the power and emotion she pours forth. If you read my reviews of their prior EP (Ease) and full length (Never), I described her voice as a more metal and less raspy Janis Joplin with the power of an Ann Wilson (Heart). Musically though, this album showcases a band on equal footing and no longer does the music take a backseat to the soaring and emotionally driven vocals. There's a sonic immediacy to it, with a richer, fuller sound and with more textures to it than prior releases.

Photos © s.alt. All rights reserved.

Change. Is a band growing together, maintaining their established vision, yet adding elements to keep things fresh and interesting. I've deliberately avoided talking about anything specific in regards to the genre this falls into. The band doesn't like to be sliced and diced and put into a box. Let's just say it's heavy music and you should give it a listen.


Tagged with 2016, experimental doom metal, Kevin Page, Universe217, Ván Records

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Tarot - Reflections

By Jeff Treppel. Not the Tarot with the shouty guy from Nightwish, these Tasmanian devils possess a decidedly anachronistic point of view. This stuff sounds like 70s pulp fantasy book covers look – and not the badass ones done by Michael Whelan. They reside in the Shire, not Mordor.
By Jeff Treppel.

Cover art by Karmazid

Not the Tarot with the shouty guy from Nightwish, these Tasmanian devils possess a decidedly anachronistic point of view. This stuff sounds like 70s pulp fantasy book covers look – and not the badass ones done by Michael Whelan. They reside in the Shire, not Mordor.

It’s hard to examine Reflections without touching upon what came before. It’s pretty easy to tell what their record collection looks (and smells) like. Their strength lies in how cannily they mix the ingredients in their cauldron. There are recognizable pieces here and there, sure: a Buck Dharma guitar flourish in “Strange Dimensions,” atmospheric Rainbow organ underpinning “Heed the Call,” the Led Zeppelin III homage of the title track. Uriah Heep, Pagan Altar, and Gentle Giant poke their heads in frequently. It always feels like you’re right on the cusp of being able to place who they sound like, but you can never quite nail them down. Fortunately, that dance fascinates, not distracts.

There’s a pastoral quality to these songs that really shines through, the production making it seem as if they were captured in a fairy glade. Considering the potential Tarot had on their preceding EP’s – a potential that was often hampered by subpar production – they more than fulfill their promise here. The main point of contention for some people may be The Hermit’s singing, which always sounds just on the verge of going flat. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t (he’s at his best when he’s at his gentlest, like on the beginning of “Living for Today”). It’s not enough to poison the rest. Don’t call Reflections a throwback; call it a peek through the mists to a better time that never existed.

Tagged with 2016, hard rock, Heavy Chains Records, heavy metal, Jeff Treppel., Tarot

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Short and to the point 2.

By Steven Leslie. Now this is how you combine ambient/atmospheric music with black metal. Titaan appeared out of nowhere earlier this year and dropped easily one of the most impressive debut albums I have heard in years.
By Steven Leslie.


Now this is how you combine ambient/atmospheric music with black metal. Titaan appeared out of nowhere earlier this year and dropped easily one of the most impressive debut albums I have heard in years. What is most impressive is the organic way in which Titaan’s sole member Lalartu is able to organically weave in dark ambient sections and even silence in between absolutely feral blasts of black metal, both building suspense and heightening the intensity of the album’s ferocious moments. This is one that you will want to listen to as a whole and truly immerse yourself in as it careens between utterly oppressive aural onslaughts and engrossing atmospheric sections. The multi-layered vocals also deserve a mention as they blur the line between brutal death grunts and savage blackened shrieks. If you like your occult black metal to take you on a spiritual journey into the heart of darkness, look no further.



Cover art by Morkh

Released in late 2015, Serpents Athirst Heralding Ceremonial Mass Obliteration is another gem of black/death metal out of Sri Lanka. Following in the footsteps of the mighty Genocide Shrines, but bringing enough of their own flavor to the mix, this is one fans of rabid and vicious metal will not want to miss. Eschewing the cavernous death metal sound that is so prolific right now in favor of something far more visceral and intense, Serpents Athirst have made a bold statement with this three-song assault. Utilizing razor sharp riffs that will rend flesh from bone and an absolutely filthy vocal assault puts many black and death metal vocalist’s to shame Heralding will leave you battered, broken and terrified in just under 12 minutes. Can’t wait to hear a full length from these hellraisers.



Artwork by Boris Haimov

Israel isn’t exactly the first place that comes to mind when you think of Luciferian black metal, but that is going to change if Mortuus Umbra has their way. Released towards the tail end of 2015, this excellent EP has sadly slipped under most people’s radars despite its undeniable quality. Catechism manages to achieve the same dissonant and enveloping atmosphere Deathspell Omega are masters of without ever entering into copycat territory. Add to that some truly memorable riffs, expressive and varied screams and an excellent production job, hitting that perfect balance that Watain did on albums like Sworn to the Dark, and you have an occult black metal release that is more than worthy of your dollars and your time.



Artwork by Noir Soufre

This is Virvel av Morkerhatet’s first release since their 2010 debut, but it was definitely worth the six-year wait. Virvel aren’t afraid to show off their technical proficiency on this slab of forward thinking black metal. In fact, it is their ability to utilize various time signatures and angular riffs to create an alien atmosphere that really helps this Ukrainian band stand apart from the overpopulated black metal scene. Even more impressive is the band’s ability to balance their precise riffs with quality songwriting, easily avoiding the technical wankery trap bands this proficient often fall into. This is one that will give you a lot of replay value, as there is lots of variety and nuance to discover as you delve deeper and deeper into it’s 50 minute run time. Not quite as a much of a mind-fuck as Dodheimsgard’s latest, but just as engrossing, give this one a shot if you prefer your black metal shooting for the stars as opposed to the basement.


Tagged with 2015, 2016, ATMF, Avantgarde Music, black metal, Invictus Productions, Mortuus Umbra, Serpents Athirst, Steven Leslie, Titaan, Virvel av Morkerhatet

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Making Fuck - A Harrowing End

By Matt Hinch. They say not to judge a book by its cover. But what about judging a band by their name? I’d advise against that too. But honestly, Making Fuck did strike me as a “Seriously?” band name.
By Matt Hinch.


They say not to judge a book by its cover. But what about judging a band by their name? I’d advise against that too. But honestly, Making Fuck did strike me as a “Seriously?” band name. However! The band is good and once you find out the name is inspired by the movie Clerks (“Would you like some making fuck? Berserker!”) it changes things. That’s cool. So I’ll let it pass. It also gets a pass because new album, A Harrowing End is some serious stuff.

Frontman Kory Quist (The Ditch & The Delta) does move in a pretty serious direction here. As if a song titled “Mormon Guilt” didn’t give that away for the Salt Lake City product. The album title is apt as well as it’s often harrowing. It’s an interesting mix of doom and discord riddled with desolate melodies and melancholic atmosphere.

Much of that atmosphere is likely due to the use of electric cello. There’s something about the way the instrument fills a sonic space, surrounding the listener. There’s a sort of detached warmth it lends. It’s quite hard to explain. But it’s a great element that takes the band and album to the next level of appreciation.

Now, you may be thinking “Huh. Salt Lake City and classical stringed instruments?” and yes, there is a guest spot from none other than SubRosa’s Kim Pack. (I can’t wait for a new album from them by the way.) She brings a dynamic element to the title track’s plodding pace and depressing nature, fitting right in to the soundscape perfectly.

Here, and elsewhere, Quist’s vocal approach shows two sides. On one hand its tone relates to hardcore; full of heart and emotion. But instead of sharp barks he lets his voice stretch out driving home the point that the pain cannot be glossed over or pushed aside. It must be felt and worked through.

In general, smooth flowing riffs are broken by shudders or the aforementioned discord never really letting the listener get comfortable. The melodic elements are strong, coalescing neatly with powerful percussion and heavy doom. Putting it all together puts the listener in a cage of conflict between anger and despair.

At times A Harrowing End can get downright nasty. “Jesus Christ Inc.” brings to mind former heavyweights Gaza with uncompromising vocals bellowed over world-beating riffs, leaving you bruised and defeated. Its follow up “Memento Mori” is fantastically mellow and lush. The cello warms and forebodes as melodies filter through the levels of consciousness avoiding carpet bombs of blackened, emotional tremolos; bleak but not cold.

Overall A Harrowing End is an emotionally charged doom album infused with enough melancholia to turn even the brightest sky grey. While not a make or break element, the cello gives it that something extra you didn’t know it needed. Varied tempos and movements give the album a dramatic feel in keeping with the um, harrowing atmosphere. Near nonsense name aside, Making Fuck and A Harrowing End are a nice surprise for fans of SubRosa, Kowloon Walled City and others like them.


Tagged with 2016, doom metal, Making Fuck, Matt Hinch, sludge metal

Friday, March 11, 2016

Helgamite - Hypnagogia

By Karen A. Mann. Helgamite, hailing from Virginia’s lush and mystical Shenandoah Valley, describe themselves as "an unearthly giant. … The head of Helgamite stretches out of the earth’s atmosphere and high into the cosmos
By Karen A. Mann


Helgamite, hailing from Virginia’s lush and mystical Shenandoah Valley, describe themselves as
"an unearthly giant. … The head of Helgamite stretches out of the earth’s atmosphere and high into the cosmos, looming in space where the sound of heavenly bodies becomes transmuted into spacious ambience, buzzing, humming and planetary heaviness."
The band’s second album, Hypnagogia (which, by the way, is the mind’s transit state between being awake and being asleep), is like a journey through a dreamlike landscape, to commune with, and glean knowledge from this giant. This giant isn’t always the most friendly, and the journey doesn’t always go as planned.

Photos by Karen

The album begins with a creeping, effect-laden riff, that segues into a thunderous roar. Vocalist William Breeden, whose voice is almost always buried under layers upon layers of effects, sounds like that unearthly giant, and sounds really angry at having been disturbed.

Hypnagogia swirls and soars with buzz saw guitars, off-the-rails slide guitar, discordant feedback and enveloping blast beats. Just when you think you know where this journey is headed, guitarist Casey Firkin swoops in with, of all things, a crazy squawking saxophone.

Helgamite specializes in keeping the listener off-kilter through a series of freak outs interlaced with pummeling blackened doom. When Hypnagogia ends on the same creeping riff on which it began, it feels like the journey has some full circle.



Tagged with 2016, doom metal, Helgamite, Karen A. Mann, sludge metal, stoner metal

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Carpathian Forest - Defending the Throne of Evil

By Autothrall. Carpathian Forest has always stood out among the Norse black metal scene because of their uncanny self awareness. There is of course their propensity to create some of the coldest, most evil black metal
An Autothrall Classic. Originally published here.


Carpathian Forest has always stood out among the Norse black metal scene because of their uncanny self awareness. There is of course their propensity to create some of the coldest, most evil black metal ever to grind its bones and saunter forth from a crypt or cavern, but you get the feeling that just about everything you find amusing about them, they'd be laughing alongside you with a beer and a grim smile. And yet, somehow, they avoid becoming a caricature of the form.

Carpathian Forest 2013. Photo by Dvergir

Regardless, this is an extremely impressive band, releasing masterpiece after near masterpiece. Defending the Throne of Evil is their fourth long-player, and no exception to the dynasty. There are some songs here which I have not stopped listening to in the five years since the album dropped. "The Well of All Human Tears" is not only one of the best song titles ever in this genre, but it's also one of the best songs, with that doom laden trudge towards oblivion kicking off at around the 1:00 minute mark. Yes, you know the one I'm talking about. They retain their ability to simplify some of their riffing into a more rock structure, but never losing the black metal edge. So much to love here. "It's Darker Than You Think" with its melodic bridge and great lyrics. "Ancient Spirits of the Underworld" and "Skjend Hans Lik" are two of the more straightforward, metal tunes.

Carpathian Forest 2013. Photo by Dvergir

The album also has its experimental edge. "Cold Murderous Music" is actually a trip hop number with a saxophone following Nattefrost's amazingly grim vocals. He's still got one of the best tones in all black metal. There is "The Old House on the Hill", a piano horror piece, also featuring his vocals.

It's practically impossible to go wrong with this band, and while Defending the Throne of Evil might not be their very best material, it certainly comes close and even features some of their best tracks. This means you must have it. Why are you still here?


Tagged with 2003, Autothrall, black metal, Carpathian Forest, Dvergir, Season of Mist

Monday, March 7, 2016

Just the Facts - March 2016

By Kevin Page. Welcome to another installment of Just the Facts. That means less nonsense and drivel you have to endure from my keyboard while getting right to the music at hand.
By Kevin Page.

Welcome to another installment of Just the Facts. That means less nonsense and drivel you have to endure from my keyboard while getting right to the music at hand.


Band:Rebel Wizard
Location:Australia
Genre:Black/Heavy Metal
Formed:2013
Did you know?:Sole member, NKSV, is actually Bob Nekrasov of the long standing atmospheric/ambient black metal band, Nekrasov.




Band:Scumripper
Location:Finland
Genre:Black/Thrash/Death Metal
Formed:2015
Did you know?:ANYTHING? I can't find a word on this band. I messaged then to give me something, but no dice I'm afraid...
Update: One of our Finnish readers has told us that Scumripper features Niko of Lord Fist on guitar and vocals.



Cover art by Luciana Nedelea

Band:Ecferus
Location:USA (Indiana)
Genre:Black Metal
Formed:Unknown
Did you know?:Sole member, Alp, is responsible for all instruments/vocals. Even though the formation date is unknown, they have now released two full lengths (both mastered by Colin Marston), along with a split and an EP, since 2015.


Tagged with 2015, 2016, black metal, death metal, Ecferus, free download, heavy metal, Kevin Page, Rebel Wizard, Scumripper, thrash metal

Friday, March 4, 2016

Inverloch - Distance | Collapsed

By Justin C. Inverloch's debut EP, Dusk | Subside, came out way back in 2012, right around the time I was getting seriously back into metal (and also around the time my very first review appeared on this site).
By Justin C.


Inverloch's debut EP, Dusk | Subside, came out way back in 2012, right around the time I was getting seriously back into metal (and also around the time my very first review appeared on this site). Inverloch was getting some good attention, in no small part because it featured two former members of the short-lived but very well-regarded funeral doom progenitors Disembowelment. I didn't really "get" Disembowelment at first, because I think my ears just weren't ready for how low and slow funeral doom can get. I eventually came around to Disembowelment, but at the time, I found Inverloch's death/funeral doom mix much more accessible.

Now, four years after that first EP, we finally get a full length from Inverloch, Distance | Collapsed. Now, there are plenty of bands that mash up "x genre" and "y genre," with varying degrees of success, but Inverloch's rumbling death metal and funeral doom mix is damn near flawless. It's easy to jolt a listener with a quick change just for change's sake, but Inverloch never makes a misstep that way. I'm never drawn out of the music because of an awkward transition. Take the opening, sort-of-title track, "Distance Collapsed (in Rubble)." The stomping death metal eventually gives way to sad slowness, but you never get that jarring feeling of, "Wait, what just happened?" Sure, you can pin down the shifts in sound if you're looking to dissect the songs that way, but it's just as easy to be carried away, leaving intellectualism behind. Sometimes, they even put the two sounds right on top of each other, like the churning riff over the slow doom in the middle of "Lucid Delirium." It's a fantastic pairing overall, never letting you get too doomed out or, conversely, numb to the death rampage. This album is a relatively trim 40 minutes, but I could easily listen to 80 minutes of death/doom this good.

I've already shot my mouth off about what album(s) might rule 2016 for funeral doom, so I'm going to stop saying dumb stuff like that, especially since we're only in March and I've already been blown away by yet another doomy offering. But we've definitely got another standout here.


Tagged with 2016, death metal, doom metal, Justin C, Relapse Records

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Aeon - Aeons Black

Written by Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.

Cover art by Necrolord

Swedish underground death metal slayers Aeon have chosen an even more apocalyptic than usual approach with fourth full-length Aeons Black. There is a black metal-esque, cadaverous glee in the way they approach blasphemy, but trade none of their meaty death metal riffs for the hissing, reedy chill. There's also a smoky crustiness to the tone that aligns Aeon more closely with death metal in the Southern states, such as Deicide, than their Swedish death metal countrymen.

There is grandness to the scale of the songs that's new to Aeon, like the towering riffs that open "The Glowing Hate," giving Aeons Black a dark majesty. Vocalist Tommy Dahlström puts in a particularly fine performance, his lyrical delivery at once bestial and perfectly articulate. Aeon rely on superior songwriting (such as on the stunning "Garden of Sin") rather than brute strength to set themselves apart from their peers, and have carved out a successful niche for themselves as intelligent monsters.


Tagged with 2012, Aeon, death metal, Metal Blade Records, Natalie Zina Walschots