June 23, 2017

Ex Eye - Ex Eye

By Justin C. This one's a bit of a treat for me to write up, because as a former sax player myself, I've long been an admirer of Colin Stetson's playing. You can hear all manner of his
By Justin C.


This one's a bit of a treat for me to write up, because as a former sax player myself, I've long been an admirer of Colin Stetson's playing. You can hear all manner of his weird and wonderful sounds at his own Bandcamp. The fact that he's gathered together a band, Ex Eye, that's heavy enough (or at least, using my term, metal adjacent™ enough) for Relapse to release their self-titled debut is pretty exciting.

Stetson contributes both alto and bass sax on this album. No, that wasn't a typo--I mean bass sax, not baritone. There's a performance video of the album's opener, "Xenolith; The Anvil," on Bandcamp, and that metal behemoth you see around Stetson's neck is a bass sax, which is what happens if you light some candles and leave an alto sax and a tuba alone to mate. Most people don't know it's a thing at all, and there aren't many who specialize in it. A decent chunk of the bass-y thunder you'll hear in "Xenolith" is a result of that sax and the synths mixed in. And although this is an instrumental album, but you might be fooled at times. Some of the human/animal-like sounds you'll hear halfway through "Xenolith" are also coming from that sax.

The opener has almost a 70s, proggy feel to it, but the next track, "Opposition/Perihelion; The Coil" shows that Stetson isn't averse to using more intricate "sheets of sound," a term coined by reviewers of John Coltrane's overwhelming soloing in the late 50s. It's a lot to take in at first, but it's best to just let the intricate arpeggios wash over you until a moodier, sparser sound arrives halfway through the song, letting the synths, drums, and guitars shine through with the sax dancing in the background. As if knowing that might have pushed you passed your recommended daily allowance of ALL THE NOTES, the next track, "Anaitis Hymnal; The Arkose Disc" starts with a gentler, more mystical vibe, although that vibe gets a shot of adrenaline when the track dips its toes into some blast beat-type drumming a little ways in.

I've talked a lot about the sax on this album, but the rest of the band deserves a lot of credit as well. At times, it's hard to tell where the synths and guitar end and the sax begins, and that's part of what elevates the music. This isn't a jazz quartet playing with distortion to try to push into fusion, rock, or metal--it's a different entity entirely, running roughshod over any genre lines I could really throw at you. I know there's a decent contingent of people who hate horns in metal, and this album can be difficult to approach sometimes, but as I often do when I review things that are a bit more outre than usual, I urge you to give this a chance. The songs are long (and even the song titles are long and strangely punctuated), but I think this will reveal itself to you over multiple listens. Any open-minded fan of music will likely find a lot of things here to sink their teeth into.

Tagged with 2017, Ex Eye, Justin C, post-rock, progressive rock, Relapse Records

June 22, 2017

Mavradoxa - Lethean Lament

By Justin C. I'm a sucker for bands that fall under the broad umbrella of "atmospheric black metal." I'll listen to it all day long with a smile on my face. It's my Kryptonite. So it's even more exciting when something
By Justin C.


I'm a sucker for bands that fall under the broad umbrella of "atmospheric black metal." I'll listen to it all day long with a smile on my face. It's my Kryptonite. So it's even more exciting when something truly remarkable raises itself above the rest of the field, and Mavradoxa's second album, Lethean Lament, does just that.

The album opener, "Cicadan," is a perfectly pleasant acoustic intro, complete with violin, but it only hints at the direction of the rest of the album. "The Phantom Visages" roars in with a dirty, Sabbath-y guitar tone with a doomy/folky vibe that runs through the whole album. The vocals have just a touch of extra grit to them, sounding almost as if the singer were on the edge of emotional/physical exhaustion, but pushing through nonetheless. To my ears, the musical influences run more to a classic doomy sound with lots of Iommi-an riffs rather than any second-wave worship, and in that respect, the band shares similar territory with Falls of Rauros. I know I name-check that band a lot, but I think that's only because Falls of Rauros is both very good and also helps broadly define a subgenre of nature-inspired black metal with classic rock and metal influences, and Mavradoxa fits very nicely in with that company. Both bands make me feel that same sense of melancholy, triumph, and awe all wrapped together.

The shining jewel of this album has to be the nearly 18-minute "Crimson Waves of Autumn." A brief, shimmering acoustic intro starts things off. The melodic lines plus the clean vocals, both solo and harmonized, give the first third of this track a very nice, Alcest-y feel. It's lovely, and the contrast with periods of heavier, chunkier riffing makes it all the more effective. Just after the 6:30-minute mark, harsher vocals enter, and the accompanying melodic line is just perfection. It makes me feel things that I'm not even sure how to articulate. As I said, it's a sense of melancholy and triumph all at once. And this isn't even halfway through this monument of a track.

If I had one minor complaint with the album is a whole, it would be the length. It's an hour and 6 minutes, and although that's no record-setter by any means, the album stacks four songs in the 11 to 18 minute range in between the relatively short intro and outro tracks, and the fifth track, "From Fog," suffers a bit in comparison to the beauty of "Crimson Waves of Autumn" and "Across the Nival Grove." "From Fog" isn't a bad song at all, but after being emotionally wrung out by the earlier tracks, it does make the end of the album drag a little bit.

That said, I feel bad even spending that many words on a misjudgment in sequencing/length, because this is truly a remarkable piece of "Laurentian black metal," as the band calls themselves as a nod to their Canadian origins. I suspect I'll very likely put this band in heavy rotation alongside my favorites from Falls of Rauros and Alcest, and that's pretty high praise from me.

Tagged with 2017, atmospheric black metal, Hypnotic Dirge Records, Justin C, Mavradoxa

June 21, 2017

Death Fortress - Triumph of the Undying

By Bryan Camphire. Death Fortress churns out malicious bone-crunching black metal. They make music with a vengeance, unhinged and foaming at the mouth. It's the sound of a horde of hell hounds rabidly chasing your
By Bryan Camphire.

Artwork by Raul Gonzalez.

Death Fortress churns out malicious bone-crunching black metal. They make music with a vengeance, unhinged and foaming at the mouth. It's the sound of a horde of hell hounds rabidly chasing your sinful soul toward irrevocable damnation.

On Triumph of the Undying, the tone is evil and punishing. The minor key melodies are full of menace. The serrated guitars mirror the hoarfrosted hellscapes depicted on the cover art. The low slung bass is like ten tons of blue-green undulating sludge. And the drums ...the drums ...the drums. Shawn Eldridge plays like a man possessed, like he's tirelessly trying to turn the kit inside out as he attacks it with every ounce of his being.

Death Fortress spread destruction with the voracity of a hungry wildfire. The songs careen forwards at breakneck speed, consuming all and sundry with heinous jagged tongues. Now and then the music slows to half-time, presenting the full extent of the scorched remains like a helicopter surveying acres upon acres of ashen death.

Deathless March of the Unyielding, the previous long player by Death Fortress, was one of the sickest releases of last year. Triumph of the Undying is leaner and meaner without losing any of the quality we have come to expect from this band. It's a short set: six songs clock in at just about thirty minutes flat. Once again, Death Fortress have delivered another masterful set of uncompromising black metal, full to the brim with grit and gristle.

Tagged with 2017, black metal, Bryan Camphire, Death Fortress, Fallen Empire Records, free download

June 20, 2017

Datura - The Harrowing

By Karen A. Mann. North Carolina’s Datura takes an all-inclusive approach on their metal odyssey, touching on thrash, doom, sludge, black metal and even a little prog on The Harrowing, their first full-length release.
By Karen A. Mann.


North Carolina’s Datura takes an all-inclusive approach on their metal odyssey, touching on thrash, doom, sludge, black metal and even a little prog on The Harrowing, their first full-length release. The band ventures out in many musical directions -- sometimes at an angry, Crowbar-esque plod, but more often at breakneck speed --on the album’s eight songs. But their main avenue of choice is old school death metal, the type that would have fans of Carcass, Slayer and Death banging their heads.

The album opens with “Keeper of the Light,” which begins in doom territory, then speeds up angrily and quickly. Two of Datura’s most distinctive elements quickly reveal themselves: the unholy growl of vocalist Kellie Gates and the sweet, clean leads of guitarists Allen Foster and Raymond King. These two elements work together to make The Hallowing so effective. Gates’ scathing voice combines with raw guitar melodies and a punishing rhythm section (courtesy of bass player Adam Cohen and drummer Brian Watson) to create a beastly wall of sound, with those clean elements ripping through. Back-to-back songs “Battle Worn” and “Charm of the Rat King” showcase the band’s strengths.

But while Datura is always heavy, their sound isn’t always aggressive. The title song is a soft instrumental with haunting, shimmering riffs. That’s just a short break before the band roars back with “Haxan,” an angry thrasher that slows down to a sludgy crawl. The Harrowing ends with the band’s most ambitious song, “WVLFCVNT,” which builds up ominously with shimmering guitars before throwing a thrashy punch and settling into a death ‘n’ roll groove.

Datura’s willingness to explore keeps their sound from ever growing stagnant, and yet they always remain consistent and cohesive. The Harrowing is a harbinger of exciting things to come from this band.

Tagged with 2017, Datura, death metal, doom metal, Karen A. Mann, thrash metal

June 16, 2017

Impetuous Ritual - Blight upon Martyred Sentience

By Bryan Camphire. Blight upon Martyred Sentience. The title of the third record by Australian death metal sorcerers, Impetuous Ritual, merits contemplation. Sentience can be taken to mean any kind of life. To be martyred is to have died for some sort of purpose.
By Bryan Camphire.


Blight upon Martyred Sentience. The title of the third record by Australian death metal sorcerers, Impetuous Ritual, merits contemplation. Sentience can be taken to mean any kind of life. To be martyred is to have died for some sort of purpose. Martyred Sentience can then be thought of as referring to anything that lives and dies for any sort of purpose or belief. This record is a Blight upon all of that.

It begins like an act of arson: kindling, smouldering. The guitars creep up in the opening seconds like a bad omen flickering in front of your face. Then it catches. The death knell is rung. The full band descends together like a winged demon scorching the ground. Rhythm and meter come and go. "Void Cohesion", the first track, delivers on the promise of its title.

Impetuous Ritual seem to aim at taking death metal to previously unimagined extremes of darkness and depravity. You would be hard pressed to try to find music made with harmonic instruments that turns any notion of harmony so completely inside-out as much as this. It is alien sounding. It is unrelenting. In nine songs over the course of some forty-three minutes, Impetuous Ritual deliver pure sonic madness, demonstrating complete mastery of the cavernous demented style of death metal that they helped to found. The band has once again bested themselves in their pursuit of aural perversion. It's both sadistic and delicious.

Tagged with 2017, Bryan Camphire, death metal, Impetuous Ritual, Profound Lore Records

June 14, 2017

Unleash the Archers - Apex

By Calen Henry. Vancouver power metal / melodeath stalwarts Unleash the Archers are celebrating their 10th anniversary with the release of Apex. Evolving from the fun "party power metal" of Time Stands Still, it's an original fantasy concept album and it's the kind of career
By Calen Henry.

Artwork by Ken Sarafin.

Vancouver power metal / melodeath stalwarts Unleash the Archers are celebrating their 10th anniversary with the release of Apex. Evolving from the fun "party power metal" of Time Stands Still, it's an original fantasy concept album and it's the kind of career defining achievement worthy of that ten year milestone.

Though I've been a fan for a few years, the influx of quality releases this year almost caused me to miss Apex. It wasn't until I heard about the record's stellar production that I actually listened to it. It sounds absolutely phenomenal. The mix is dynamic enough that the drums have real punch and the bass is present in every track. It's a record that makes you disappointed that other albums could sound this good, but don't.

Unleash the Archers 2015. Photos © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

Musically, the album delivers on every level. It fulfills the promise the band hinted at on previous releases. Like Khemmis and Pallbearer, Unleash the Archers are unconcerned with any kind of genre boundaries and deliver their concept through a series of expertly composed and performed tracks. The sound is rooted in power metal, anchored by Brittney Slayes' powerful performance, but frequently crosses into melodic death metal and even features some bluesy leads and breakdowns.

The songs ebb and flow through styles and tempos with nothing seeming out of place, superfluous or self indulgent. Everything works towards the album's concept, led by some of the absolute best vocals in metal. Slayes is an astonishing singer, delivering an incredibly powerful performance often in more of a classic metal range than power metal soprano/falsetto.

Unleash the Archers 2015. Photos © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

The lyrical flow is absolutely expert and some of the tracks have an almost folk music-like lilt that succeeds not only in delivering the narrative but, combined with Slayes' ability and the band's songwriting, stand out as some of the best songs in metal today. The narrative itself, though somewhat cliched, is excellent. Not since Dawnbringer's Night of the Hammer have metal songs told stories in such a compelling way. In contrast to a lot of power metal, there is no "cheese factor". Apex comes off as genuinely serious and compelling. The band are highly literate nerds judging by the track-by-track videos on Napalm Records' youtube channel. Featuring Slayes in front of a bookshelf filled with fantasy books ranging from George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire to Justin Cronin's Passage series, it guides the listener through the story of the Immortal, forced by the Matriarch to bring her four sons to her for a blood sacrifice to gain immortality.

Back to front there isn't a bad track or a second of filler. The album is front loaded with faster tracks but the flow of the album is flawless and it's actually hard to pick standout tracks. Apex is nearly without fault and truly the stuff of legend.

Tagged with 2017, Calen Henry, John Mourlas, melodic death metal, Napalm Records, power metal

June 9, 2017

Necrot - Blood Offerings

By Matt Hinch. Recently I talked about a little band featuring a member of Vastum (Shelby Lermo) called Extremity and their debut, Extremely Fucking Dead. It's one of the best death metal albums of the year so far by far. Well, hold on a minute.
By Matt Hinch.

Cover art by Marald Van Haasteren

Recently I talked about a little band featuring a member of Vastum (Shelby Lermo) called Extremity and their debut, Extremely Fucking Dead. It's one of the best death metal albums of the year so far by far. Well, hold on a minute. Hot on the heels of that bruiser comes Blood Offerings, the debut (proper) full-length from the Bay Area's Necrot, also featuring a member of Vastum! That would be vocalist/guitarist/bassist Luca Indrio. Rounding out the deadly trio is Vastum alumni and current Atrament drummer Chad Gailey and Saviours guitarist Sonny Reinhardt.

Almost everything I've seen regarding Necrot likens them to Bolt Thrower. I couldn't name a Bolt Thrower song if I tried (nor could I for the other name bandied about, Autopsy) but that doesn't mean the meat and potatoes death metal that crushes your ears on Blood Offerings won't endear itself to like-minded individuals. It just might mean spending some time with Bolt Thrower is necessary. But there's no rush to visit a classic band when Blood Offerings has all the makings of a classic itself.

The first thing to notice is how the album never quits. From start to finish it simply kills. The rhythm guitars fire off enough chugging riffs and speed-laden runs to subdue any foe while the leads burn their bones to ash. Dictating the carnage, Indrio shreds his throat with the kind of growl that isn't totally indecipherable and drips with a bloody sheen that never feels too forced or ridiculous. In other words, perfectly suited to the necrotic filth around them.

Photos by Carmelo Española.

Let's not forget how much of a machine Gailey is. His energy is non-stop. To keep a creature like Necrot continually pushing forward requires horsepower and stamina. Both of which are present in spades. His cymbal work is outstanding, especially on the title track.

Necrot capture the essence of what makes death metal death metal. It's something that makes the muscles flex, the neck specifically. Spectacular riff after spectacular riff unleash the beast within balancing speed and power. If I wanted to marvel at complexity I'd listen to prog. This is straightforward but not stupid. There's a lot going on sometimes but you don't have to “figure it out”. They find that propulsive drive, that chugging rhythm, that “crush it all” mentality and work it hard. Sure they throw in some fine-fingered touches but they don't make fretboard Olympics the focus. Just beat me over the head with a bag of shrunken heads and keep it coming!

I'm not trying to dumb it down, but sometimes you just have to put your shit away and rage. That's where Blood Offerings comes in. A lot of death metal has and will be released this year but Necrot and Blood Offerings will definitely make the podium when all is said and done. It's an outstanding 40 minutes of destructive power and sickening riffs you should be willing to offer blood for.

Now when can we expect a Necrot, Extremity and Vastum tour? Can Memoriam come too? Would anyone survive?

Tagged with 2017, death metal, Matt Hinch, Necrot, Tankcrimes

June 7, 2017

Coldfells - Coldfells

By Karen A. Mann. Blackened doom trio Coldfells hails from a town just across the Ohio River from Wheeling, WV -- an area of astounding natural beauty that’s been hit hard economically. The band also is part of a close-knit heavy music scene, and includes members of at least
By Karen A. Mann.


Blackened doom trio Coldfells hails from a town just across the Ohio River from Wheeling, WV -- an area of astounding natural beauty that’s been hit hard economically. The band also is part of a close-knit heavy music scene, and includes members of at least three other bands you need to know about: the haunting, acoustic Nechochwen, classic doomsters Brimstone Coven and blackened sludge monsters Plaguewielder. Coldfells reflects these influences and their environment with music that’s both soothingly ambient, scathingly bleak, and always heavy.

Their first full-length, released via Bindrune Recordings in March of this year, features five lengthy haunting paeans to nature in both lushness and decay. (The band released a two-song EP, Black Breath, in 2014.) Comparisons to Agalloch and Paradise Lost aren’t really off the mark: Coldfells seems to equally shift between cold, despairing black metal and stately doom. Fans of Ulver’s Black Metal Trilogie, especially Bergtatt, will also find a lot to love about this release.

The album begins hauntingly with “The Rope,” which opens with an eerie organ melody and a chorus of clean, soaring voices singing wordlessly. Soon the song gives way to chunky, blackened riffs, and harsh vocals. The lyrics are mystical and mournful, seeking truth and despairing of reality.

The remainder of the album follows this recipe fairly closely: Quiet intros give way to blackened assaults that roll in like storm clouds, engulfing everything and raining doom. The album hits its peak with the last two songs. The sludgy “All Night We Flew,” uses subtle, and unexpected, piano melodies to soften the oppressively angry rhythms.

The last song, “Eons Pass,” is the album’s doomiest and most discordant. It also makes good use of the ambient sound of a storm, along with acoustic guitar and piano, before ending on a thunderous note. The feeling is haunting, tranquil and melancholy.

Overall, Coldfells is a noteworthy debut full-length that showcases a band completely in harmony with its environment. If you’re at all able, you should listen to it in the woods, or by the ocean or anywhere away from civilization, in order to experience its power.

Tagged with 2017, blackened doom metal, Coldfells, Karen A. Mann

June 3, 2017

Elder - Reflections of a Floating World

By Karen A. Mann. Elder was already a force to be reckoned with before Lore, the 2015 release that expanded their sound worlds beyond stoner-ish heavy psych and introduced them to a wider audience. A staple on critical year-end lists, Lore was an arresting slab of Allman Brothers-style
By Karen A. Mann


Elder was already a force to be reckoned with before Lore, the 2015 release that expanded their sound worlds beyond stoner-ish heavy psych and introduced them to a wider audience. A staple on critical year-end lists, Lore was an arresting slab of Allman Brothers-style improvisation mixed with Pink Floyd’s experimentation, led by singer/guitarist Nick DiSalvo’s soaring guitar and wrapped up in five wide-ranging, multi-part compositions. Lore was such an achievement that it was easy to wonder how the band would top themselves on their next release.

Well, they did, easily. While Lore opened the door to a new world for Elder, Reflections of a Floating World finds the band venturing out boldly, exploring every nook and cranny of this new soundscape, and sending us six sonic postcards from beyond. With the copious addition of Mellotron, keyboards and pedal steel (thanks to guest musicians Michael Risberg and Michael Samos), Elder’s sound takes on a lush adventurousness only hinted at on Lore.

Photos by Abrisad.

The opening song, “Sanctuary,” sets the roadmap for the album. Opening with DiSalvo’s signature riffing, the song evolves into a spacey jam with psychedelic, polyphonic melodies and quiet interludes.

After a quiet, Floydian intro, “The Falling Veil” shifts to the type of progressive riffing found on Lore’s “Compendium,” with time signatures that shift unexpectedly. Matt Couto’s snare drum is the one constant, acting almost like a trail marker as the song ventures into unfamiliar terrain.

Expecting the unexpected is always a good strategy with Elder. The only moment in which Reflections of a Floating World takes off into an ill-advised direction is “Sonntag,” a full-on ode to Krautrock that’s pleasant enough in its hypnotica, but seems a bit out of place with the rest of the album. Elder is back to its classic sound with the last song, “Thousand Hands,” which offers an appropriate bookend to the album, ending Reflections of a Floating World with a shimmering wall of sound, and setting the bar even higher for Elder’s continued musical evolution.

Tagged with 2017, Abrisad, doom metal, Elder, Karen A. Mann, stoner metal

June 2, 2017

Völur - Ancestors

By Justin C. So how do we categorize a trio of drums, violin, and bass with two vocalists? Well, bassist/vocalist Lucas Gadke (also of Blood Ceremony), in an interview with Burning Ambulance, says, "First and foremost, we are a doom band", so let's go with that.
By Justin C.


So how do we categorize a trio of drums, violin, and bass with two vocalists? Well, bassist/vocalist Lucas Gadke (also of Blood Ceremony), in an interview with Burning Ambulance, says, "First and foremost, we are a doom band", so let's go with that. It does fit--the music is slow and deliberate--but as in so many cases, it's far from the full story.

For some metal fans, Völur's Ancestors is going to be a big ask. You'll be pressed to hear anything "metal" in a basic sense until nearly halfway through the 15-minute opener, "Breakers of Silence." But for those open-minded enough, I urge you to stick around. Throughout the album, you're treated to a mix of clean and harsh vocals from Gadke and violinist Laura Bates. Sometimes the vocals harmonize to great effect, even when one is harsh and the other clean. Bates's violin does triple duty, sometimes classical sounding, sometimes folky, and sometimes as a distorted, ripping substitute for a lead guitar. Gadke's bass duties are similarly diverse, switching up between clean and distorted bass guitar as well as double bass, moving between melodic and rhythmic duties, and all anchored by the just-what's-needed drumming of Jimmy Payment (also of Do Make Say Think, who are also excellent).

Völur 2014. Photos by Danielle Griscti.

What's the listening experience like? That's a tough summation. After the more languid opener, the next track, "Breaker of Skulls," has a sound both harsher and more occult. The descending bass line underneath eerie violin is classic, witchy doom. But as you'll find if you read the interview I linked before, the band's drawing from a lot of influences and genres, and your ears should confirm that. The halfway point of "Skulls" sees the violin playing some of the most overtly folky material on the album, but it's a fleeting moment before the song moves into more mournful sounds.

One of the things I like best about this album is that the band pulls so much in and in such a fresh way, there are rarely moments when you can sum them up as just "folk-influenced" or "death-doom" or anything else that tickles your ears. All the influence is pulled into their own, fresh perspective and singular sound, and that's no easy trick. Sure, the songs are long and might seem drone-ish on occasion (although the whole album still clocks in under an hour), but keep those ears open. Themes are stated and reappear. Vocal and instrumental lines twist around each other. There's never a point when the songs repeat themselves for no good reason. The music might be a slow burn, but it will carry you along if you let it.

The band says that this album is the second in a four-album cycle. The first, Disir, dealt with feminine myths, whereas Ancestors deals with Disir's masculine counterparts. The third will apparently turn its attention to gods and goddesses, and in the Burning Ambulance interview, Gadke hints at the possibility of even more diverse instrumentation. Sometimes life interferes with the best-intentioned bands, but I hope they pull off the full four-album concept. I'm definitely in.

Tagged with 2017, atmospheric folk metal, doom metal, Justin C, Prophecy Productions

June 1, 2017

Progenie Terrestre Pura - oltreLuna

By Calen Henry. Oltreluna is Italian Sci-Fi metallers Progenie Terrestre Pura's second album. Progenie Terrestre Pura mix black metal, synths and electronica, similar to Mesarthim (though they predate the Australian duo by a few years), but the result is very different.
By Calen Henry.


oltreLuna is Italian Sci-Fi metallers Progenie Terrestre Pura's second album. Progenie Terrestre Pura mix black metal, synths and electronica, similar to Mesarthim (though they predate the Australian duo by a few years), but the result is very different.

Many "cosmic black metal" bands focus on evoking the vastness, wonder and loneliness of space. Mesarthim, in particular; their hugely dynamic mix with distant sounding guitars and vocals supported by synths at home in a 70's documentary evokes a particular cosmic atmosphere. Rather than evoking space, Progenie Terrestre Pura specifically evoke modern epic science fiction by taking a decidedly modern approach to their synth-ey metal.

The metal side of the coin features very distorted guitars and vocals, almost to the point of industrial metal and the electronic parts feature harsher sounds, favouring sawtooth synths and dubstep pulsing. This is complemented by an array of ethnic instruments and percussion as well as some chanting, rounding out the sound. Like Mesarthim, though, everything cohesively fits together.

Though lumped into "atmospheric black metal" they lean much more on melody and riffs than many of their genre comrades. Most of the metal parts are guitar led with soaring melodies underpinned by frenetic percussion. Though the overall sound of the band is great, the commitment to melody is what really sells it for me. It anchors the whole record in a way that can be lacking in atmospheric music.

The downside to the otherwise excellent record is the production. oltreLuna is very dynamically compressed muddying the detail in the metal sections in particular. There are some amazing passages with a fantastic guitar lead over top of interesting rhythm guitar, supported by synths and excellent drumming, but the mix creates a much less distinct separation than there should be for the band's epic scope.

Despite the production complaints Progenie Terrestre Pura are a truly unique metal band and well worth checking out.

Tagged with 2017, ambient, atmospheric black metal, Avantgarde Music, Calen Henry, Progenie Terrestre Pura

May 30, 2017

Possession - Exorkizein

By Kevin Page. I've had the good fortune of being along for the journey with this Belgian black/death band since Iron Bonehead released their demo, His Best Deceit, in 2013. Now after 2 additional EPs (Anneliese from 2014 and 1585-1646 from 2015) we finally have their debut album
By Kevin Page.

Artwork By C. Moyen (Thorncross).

I've had the good fortune of being along for the journey with this Belgian black/death band since Iron Bonehead released their demo, His Best Deceit, in 2013. Now after 2 additional EPs (Anneliese from 2014 and 1585-1646 from 2015) we finally have their debut album and boy is it something to behold.

If you are new to the band, nothing immediately screams out originality from their brand of musical brutality. There's just something about it though, almost indescribable, that makes it stand out from the crowd. Perhaps it's their ability to masterfully straddle the line between black metal and death metal while appealing to fans of both genres simultaneously. Vocally this is much closer to black metal with a vomited "rasp". Musically it's heavy with lots of low end fuzz that you want in your death metal, while still maintaining that otherworldly evil bestial quality of black metal. If I had to draw a comparison, envision Marduk's Those of the Unlight as a death metal album. Still evil as all hell but with thick guitars and vicious riffs.

All of this madness was still accomplished with some tweaks to the lineup; gone is original vocalist Mestema, replaced by bassist Viriakh, while they welcomed in Iblis as the new bassist. This was a seamless transition and the band hasn't slowed down for a moment.

While it's near impossible for a band to stand out from the pack these days with this style (absent some crazy gimmick), Possession are able to be at the head of their field simply with top notch songwriting and a blistering energy to match. Highly recommended. Essential. Buy it now. Insert whatever hyperbole you choose.

Tagged with 2017, black metal, death metal, Iron Bonehead Productions, Kevin Page, Possession

May 27, 2017

Drug Honkey - Cloak of Skies

By Ulla Roschat. It's been five years now since Drug Honkey released Ghost in the Fire and I remember how it totally blew me away. So I was in eager anticipation of Cloak of Skies from the moment it was announced. And what can I say, yeah, they did it again.
By Ulla Roschat.

Artwork of Paolo Girardi.

It's been five years now since Drug Honkey released Ghost in the Fire and I remember how it totally blew me away. So I was in eager anticipation of Cloak of Skies from the moment it was announced.

And what can I say, yeah, they did it again. Cloak of Skies speaks the language of my dungeoned demons and unleashes them to scare the shit out of me, in the most positive sense.

The four piece band from Chicago/Illinois continues the path of their unique approach to psychedelic Death Doom Metal, with industrial elements and an extreme and extensive usage of sound effects.

This time they keep the underlying structures a bit more recognizable so they don't appear completely unhinged. The songs are definitely rooted in death/doom riffs and groove and are of a minimalistic structure, but don't leave you any less disturbed and terrified, by their nightmarish, dystopian soundscapes they roll out.

And this time they also have two guest appearances, Bruce Lamont (Yakuza, Corrections House) and Justin K. Broadrick (Godflesh, Jesu).

Photos © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

The first song "Pool of Failure" is like a huge droning engine gets started inviting you to a psychedelic trip... to the deepest, darkest chambers of your soul? ...or to hell? Anyway, this is a slow motion nightmare... an invitation impossible to decline, because it's as compelling as it is insane.

In the following "Sickening Wasteoid" more sorts of distorted sounds are added. Waves of synths like waves of hot, filthy lava push, drag and press you through an atmosphere so thick it's nearly unbreathable and so toxic it hurts your lungs and it fills your brain with nauseating dizziness.

Fast oscillating sounds, staccato like stoically monotonous vocals add a sense of a malfunctioning system and growing insanity in "Outlet of Hatred". Too much of all this filth threatens to leave you just stuck in it.

And despite the climactic build up of "(It's Not) The Way" that creates an intense, ritualistic and hypnotic atmosphere and a torturing insane climax at the end, there's no feel of a cleansing, a turning point or any kind of relief.

"The Oblivion of An Opiate Nod" steers everything into a storm of blazing, blistering pain and paranoia.

Photos © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

In the title song "Cloak of Skies", finally, things get to the point. The appearance of Lamont's saxophone here, introduces a sense of soberness and sanity with its clean, clear tone, but is placed into the most chaotic, most psychotic song of the entire album and the lonely sound of normality brilliantly clashes with all the madness, pain and filth in a kind of showdown. If it ends in salvation or apocalypse, who knows.

Again Drug Honkey created aural insanity, turned psychosis into sound. Their unique and extensive use of synths, effects and industrial noise elements brings properties to their sound that are essential for the atmosphere the band conjures throughout the 50 minutes of lysergic insanity.

And especially the vocal quality has the most eerie and horrifying effects on me. The extreme modulation and distortion of the human voice, like it's done here, carries a creepy sense of man morphing into monster.

But in the end you come out of this. The last song releases you from the psychedelic nightmare, but, like this is a remix of the first song "Pool of Failure" by Justin Broadrick, you come out with your brain remixed.


The song "Sickening Wasteoid" is featured on The Wicked Lady Show 140
Tagged with 2017, doom metal, Drug Honkey, experimental death metal, John Mourlas, Transcending Obscurity, Ulla Roschat

May 25, 2017

Loss - Horizonless

By Nate Garrett. Within mere seconds of opening track “The Joy of All Who Sorrow,” it is apparent that Horizonless is an ambitious expansion upon the crushing, hopeless, and tragically beautiful elements that make Nashville’s Loss such a masterful funeral/death doom band.
By Nate Garrett.

Artwork by Adam Burke.

Within mere seconds of opening track “The Joy of All Who Sorrow,” it is apparent that Horizonless is an ambitious expansion upon the crushing, hopeless, and tragically beautiful elements that make Nashville’s Loss such a masterful funeral/death doom band. In the opening lines, vocalist/guitarist Mike Meacham’s howls are higher in pitch, a technique that exposes a raw and visceral emotional quality. Over the course of the album, Meacham employs these tortured shrieks, as well as several other vocal styles, to great effect. Which is the story of Horizonless in a nutshell… Loss is experimenting with new sounds and exploring new methods of devastating the listener sonically and psychically. The familiar trademarks are still here, such as the ultra-deep death gurgles, unresolved chords disintegrating and swirling across guitar tracks, driving bass lines, and massive drumming. Yet the band isn’t content to rely upon its tried-and-true methods. By the time the opening track climaxes in a chaotic black metal whirlwind, it’s even more obvious that these guys are pushing the boundaries of their comfort zone, and the results are spectacular.

The second track on the album, “I.O.” is the first of four interludes, each being the brainchild of a sole member. This first interlude is courtesy of drummer Jay LeMaire. The sequencing of the album is song, interlude, song, interlude and so on. Meacham’s is track four, bassist John Anderson’s is track six, and guitarist Tim Lewis’s is track eight. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that though Horizonless would hardly suffer without these tracks, they do add to the bleak vibe rather than detract from it, and they help to create an immersive experience. Lewis’s contribution “Banishment” most closely resembles a full-fledged song and is my personal favorite.

“All Grows on Tears” showcases some of my favorite things about this album. First of all, Loss fully utilizes both guitar players. In fact, the guitars are rarely playing the same thing. They slither and intertwine, forming harmonies, dissonance, and broader chords than just one guitarist is capable of producing. Meanwhile, the bass drives the root notes, embellishing only when it’s absolutely necessary and tasteful. In many ways, the string arrangements are more akin to classical music than any sort of rock or blues foundation. This approach could get messy in the hands of a lesser band, but Loss finds a way to never lose sight of the compelling chord progressions, even when the guitars are in the depths of a tonal maelstrom. The bass and drums are consistently locked in, which helps maintain a sense of familiarity. This song concludes with a surprisingly melodic progression that evokes nihilistic triumph in the midst of the omnipresent despair.

Melody is recurring throughout Horizonless, and is used expertly on every song on the album. “Naught” begins with a haunting clean section and by its conclusion reintroduces elements of black metal, mutating into possibly the most anguished track on the album. The title track is a standout, an epic dirge that again finds Meacham employing new vocal techniques. The biggest surprise of the album comes in the form of a clean vocal section. The chant-like, mournful singing accentuates the funereal nature of the music and is one of the most powerful moments of the record.

Album closer “When Death Is All” is as strong a conclusion as one could hope for. The introduction of guest vocalists Stevie Floyd, Wrest, and Billy Anderson (who also produced and engineered) results in an even broader, more vivid sonic pallet. The band drones on amidst a swirl of moans, eventually driving into a more mid-tempo assault featuring vocals that sound as if they’re being produced by an ancient, mummified corpse. To put the nail in the coffin, a single guitar establishes a tragic descending chord progression which the entire band sink into. Loss rides this passage to the bitter end, awash with harmonized vocals that seem to howl from the void, and a heartbreaking guitar lead as sad as anything the band has ever done.

Horizonless, for being as smothering, depressing, and bleak-sounding as it is, evokes a broad spectrum of genuine emotion. It carries the solemn weight of death, yet brims with stunning melody and triumph. Highly recommended.


Nate is Spirit Adrift, and plays guitar in Gatecreeper.
Tagged with 2017, death metal, funeral doom, Loss, Nate Garrett, Profound Lore Records

May 23, 2017

Wode - Servants of the Countercosmos

By Justin C. I know a lot of people were excited about Wode's self-titled album from just over a year ago, but it took me a little while to warm up to it. It seems strange to me looking back, because as Andy Synn wrote over on No Clean Singing
By Justin C.

Cover Painting by Mitchell Nolte.

I know a lot of people were excited about Wode's self-titled album from just over a year ago, but it took me a little while to warm up to it. It seems strange to me looking back, because as Andy Synn wrote over on No Clean Singing, Wode is "purely and unashamedly 'Black Metal' in nature – unsullied by time or trend, with no prefixes, suffixes, addendums..." If there's one metal subgenre that I'm the most accepting of (and I think we all have that one), it's black metal. Maybe I overlooked it because of its pureness. Maybe at that time I wanted something weird, with 13-minute-long songs with hurdy-gurdies and lyrics sung in a dead language. Who knows? But I've finally been sucked in by their no-nonsense charms.

With their new album, Servants of the Countercosmos, Wode hasn't broken into any new territories. This is still a band that plays straight-up black metal with just a hint of traditional heavy metal sensibility mixed in. The vocals are still a very satisfying rasp--satisfying in the same way that scratching an itch that you've been trying to ignore for two hours. The riffs are plentiful and memorable--the raging rumble punctuated with doomy melodicism that opens "Temple Internent" is a personal favorite, and there are plenty more where that came from.

What Wode has done with this new album is a slight refinement, and I think it's for the better. Most of the tracks on their new album run in the four-to-six-minute range, which I think suits their sound much better than the eight- and nine-minute tracks from their self-titled. I know that, even though I enjoyed the riffs in the last two tracks of the album, the album suffered a bit from being drawn out at the end. Even in the one case where they do go long on the new album, "Chaosspell," they've gone for a more refined structure that holds your interest over the track's length, leading very nicely into the acoustic "decompression" track that closes the album. Sometimes that kind of track can end up being an annoying non-entity, but this is one is subtle, delicate piece I'd feel comfortable playing in front of a classical guitar crowd.

Trying to find the balance between pushing forward while retaining what made you good in the first place is difficult at best, but I think Wode has done it here. If you liked their last one, they've given more of what they did so well, but at the same time they've tweaked the formula ever-so-slightly, but still to great effect.

Tagged with 2017, black metal, free download, Justin C, Wode

May 21, 2017

Wende - Vorspiel einer Philosophie der Zukunft

By Natalie Zina Walschots. The sense of isolation and mystery that pervades Wende, the solo project from multi-instrumentalist and compose Zamiel (who is also a member of the Chicago three-piece black metal project Skinwalker)
By Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.


The sense of isolation and mystery that pervades Wende, the solo project from multi-instrumentalist and compose Zamiel (who is also a member of the Chicago three-piece black metal project Skinwalker), would situate it perfectly within windswept, much-mythologized Scandinavian landscape. But instead of Norway, this deeply philosophical (but no less frostbitten) project is based deep in the woods of the Okanagan, in Washington.

Originally released in an extremely limited and hard-to-acquire format in 2011, the first full-length from Wende, Vorspiel einer Philosophie der Zukunft ("a prelude to the philosophy of the future") has finally been given a wider release, and deservedly so. The record is a strange construction, alternating between tracks of blisteringly acerbic, Burzum-like black metal and much more introspective, instrumental ambience. The effect is profoundly unsettling, but the sense of ebb and flow, construction and dissolution, suits the intellectual framework of the project well.

The one unifying aspect of the record is how cold it is; every riff is as merciless as flesh sticking to frozen metal. But the way the cold manifests can be profoundly different, from the deep cold vacuum of space evoked by the ambient tracks to the violent icy blasts of the more aggressive parts of the record. The environment conjured by Vorspiel einer Philosophie der Zukunft is unremittingly hostile, but also unquestioningly beautiful, if you can handle the threat of frostbite.

Tagged with 2011, atmospheric black metal, Moribund Records, Natalie Zina Walschots, Wende

May 20, 2017

Necromantia - Scarlet Evil Witching Black

An Autothrall Classic. Necromantia's use of the 8-string bass in place of the traditional 6-string guitar has made them a unique force in the black metal genre, especially when you consider how long they've stuck to the technique.
An Autothrall Classic. Originally published here.

Cover art by Panos Sounas

Necromantia's use of the 8-string bass in place of the traditional 6-string guitar has made them a unique force in the black metal genre, especially when you consider how long they've stuck to the technique. That is not to say Scarlet Evil Witching Black is entirely void of the traditional guitars; they are used here for acoustic moments as well as leads.

It stuns me how little this has any effect on the band's hell-spawning vitriol, because these are some of the most savage guitars ever committed to disc. Scarlet Evil Witching Black is the crowning moment for a band who receives far too little credit, and it's arguably the crowning achievement of the Greek scene. The 8-string bass is not the band's only forte, as pianos and saxophones also exist in this negative plane, and a subtle and beautiful orchestration provides a brilliant counterpoint the rugged, raw thrust of the two basses. Magus Wampyr Daoloth has a sinister edge to his vocals, like the frolicking of imps and homonculi about the burning palaces of Hell.

I'll weave an invocation
To insanity and rebirth
Fiery lightning hold my hand
Show me your face in black waters
My worst, declared enemies
Are my most devoted slaves
They inspire me a wolf idolatry
I'll burn them in my witch-pyre

All the material is enormous and evil. "Devilskin" enters with distant whipping winds, and the cordial sounds of a music box-like lullaby, before the raging basses erupt like an abandoned palace of heaven crashing into a volcanic, abyssal maw. "Black Mirror" begins with a doomed gait, glorious sunken memories evoked through the dingy, dual bass. "Pretender to the Throne (Opus I: The Usurper's Spawn)" uses some interesting, shouting vocals along with the incredible basswork and synths. At :43, one of the greatest riffs ever kicks in, a vile march towards the jaws of Leviathan. "The Arcane Light of Hecate" is a ritual, orchestral piece without the metal elements...and yes, a creepy fucking saxophone solo! Unbelievable.

Oh powerful queen, thy the knowledge of fear
Dangerous when crossed, the art of sorcery
The bringers of joy and misery
Thy children never tell thy mystery

The metal continues with the downward spiral of leadwork and driving bass of "Scarlet Witching Dreams", and the hellish, bludgeoning of "The Serpent and the Pentagram". Then you are treated to a familiar classical sample that leads into "Pretender to the Throne (Opus II: Battle at the Netherworld)". While a great song, this is perhaps the one piece on the album that was not entirely compelling. But the scintillating monument to sorrow, "Spiritdance", makes up for this with its ever-weaving orchestrations acrest the tumult of the clean and harsh vocals, and the bass wasteland.

Scarlet Evil Witching Black is a sick album. It's the best of Necromantia, and one of the most unique creations in the underworld magmasphere of occult black. Inspired by its rituals and imagination, it made an amazing companion piece to Therion's masterpiece Lepaca Kliffoth (which also released this year). A true masterwork of Greek misanthropy.

Tagged with 1995, Autothrall, black metal, Necromantia, Osmose Productions

May 17, 2017

The Fierce and the Dead - Field Recordings

By Karen A. Mann. Fans of progressive metal would be well-advised to check out London’s The Fierce and the Dead, an instrumental group that has built an extremely loyal fan base with four albums’ worth
By Karen A. Mann.


Fans of progressive metal would be well-advised to check out London’s The Fierce and the Dead, an instrumental group that has built an extremely loyal fan base with four albums’ worth of well-crafted, guitar-heavy tunes.

A great starting point is the band’s latest release, Field Recordings, which was recorded live at Britain’s Ramblin’ Man Fair in July 2016. The album comprises six songs from throughout their career, including their “hit single” (announced as such with a good bit of humor) “666...6”.

Photo by rjforster.

While taking obvious cues from later era King Crimson, the band’s improvisational, often jammy sound also recalls Television, Kyuss and even contemporaries Elder. Each song is a multi-part journey that takes the listener from swirly looped melodies to insistent, skronky noise and back again, all wrapped around a driving rhythm section that remains consistent in the midst of the controlled chaos of the guitars.

Photo by rjforster.

The album’s highlight is the second-to-last song, “Palm Trees,” from the band’s 2015 release, Magnet. Beginning with a simple, repeated riff, the song builds to a trance-like crescendo, whereupon the guitars drop off, and the bass and drums continue on, signaling a transition to a faster, heavier, more discordant ending.

After giving Field Recordings a good listen, I recommend you check out the band’s back catalog, particularly Magnet, which is their most recent release of new material. These are on Bandcamp as well.

Tagged with 2017, Karen A. Mann, progressive metal, progressive rock, The Fierce and the Dead

May 15, 2017

Excommunion - Thronosis

By Bryan Camphire. In three month's time, one guitarist will have released three of the most intense metal records you're liable to hear this year. Kyle Spanswick plays in three crushingly heavy bands, all of whom are releasing
By Bryan Camphire.

Cover art by Lauri Laaksonen from Desolate Shrine.

In three month's time, one guitarist will have released three of the most intense metal records you're liable to hear this year. Kyle Spanswick plays in three crushingly heavy bands, all of whom are releasing records in rapid succession. April brought us Terra Damnata by Nightbringer. June will deliver us Holókauston by Bestia Arcana. This month we have Thronosis by Excommunion, and what a ferocious record it is.

Excommunion forges blackened death metal sui generis. Thronosis wastes no time boring its way into your skull like trepanation. The first track begins full tilt with drums blasting relentlessly and guitars pummeling the listener into submission. It's striking when a band can make an odd meter seem smooth; yet it's impressive on a whole different level when a band can take a regular time signature and make it feel off kilter. That's what happens during the first minute of the first track, "Twilight of Eschaton". Weird twists and turns abound. But it's at at the one and a half minute mark when things get really interesting. The guitars cough out a single chord down-stroked. The drums crescendo. The entire band drops out. In an instant the full band returns, the bell on the ride cymbal is hammered relentlessly and the riffage erupts into headbang-inducing lighter-raising fury. This destruction barrels forth until the three minute mark. Then the tempo drops, and the group drops out yet again. A start-stop tremolo-picked death-doom riff chugs in like an archaic army collectively heaving a battering ram, splintering everything in its path. The final riff brings things to close combat. The siege has breached the castle walls, and the violence advances forth into unhinged knife-wielding evil. Seven minutes have elapsed and this band has offered forth more intensity in a single song than most groups offer in an entire album.

Thronosis consists of four tracks and clocks in at under a half hour. You'll find no filler material here. The song architectures are calculated with utmost precision and conciseness. There is no room for the mind to wander. It's best to submit to the onslaught and let yourself be led down this record's destructive path. No detail is left to chance. The production is immaculate. The guitar sound calls to mind the venerable tech death masters Sarpanitum. The moshpit-ready blackened death evokes the Spanish masters of the form, Altarage. Yet, with all their start-stop rhythmic complexity, dynamic tempo changes, pick-squealing riffs, weird phrasing and headbang-inducing riffs, Excommunion definitely chart their own territory. Thronosis throws you headlong into a spiraling morass of dizzying ferocious death metal. A half hour spent in this unmitigated darkness will leave you reeling and thirsting for oblivion.

Tagged with 2017, atmospheric black metal, brutal death metal, Bryan Camphire, Dark Descent Records

May 14, 2017

Vastum - Carnal Law


Vastum's Carnal Law is great old-school sounding Death Metal, but it is also more than that. Let's start with the music; the esteemed Full Metal Attorney tells a tale:

San Francisco, 1993: A few of guys see Autopsy play, trade bootleg Incantation tapes, and hear a rote description of My Dying Bride's As the Flower Withers (without actually hearing the album itself). They get piss-drunk, buy some time at a studio, and lay down six primitive, raw, doomy death metal tracks. After making and selling a dozen copies, they lose the master tape, and the erstwhile band just sort of fades into nonexistence ... Eighteen years later, a savvy construction worker with a Possessed tattoo finds a copy while tearing down a condemned apartment building.

The music is tightly executed, and the solos are like little sharp bursts of laser light. The dual growls of Daniel Butler and Leila Abdul-Rauf are terrific. As Cosmo Lee noted: "Vastum may have the first male-female vocal pairing that does not divide roles along gender lines."

Photo by Taylor Keahey.

The music of Vastum is deathly goodness for sure while, as the Full Metal Attorney tale also hints at, not being overly original. What does make the band stand out is the psycho sexuality of the lyrics, like this bit from "Re-Member"

Left the penis with my Father
A womb with my mom
Heart with my Mother
Exogamous laws…
Broken…

This post has been updated with the remastered version of Carnal Law. Giving me a chance to add a quote from a recent interview with Leila and Daniel - lest you think the lyrics are meant as some sort of banal provocation

Leila: In my lyrics, I’m not referring to sexual perversion per se, but perversion of societal law, and the complex and unconscious sexual dynamics of relationships in conflict, and the shame, pain or horror attached to them. These complexities weave a web of codependency and confusion that blurs, or shifts, the imbalance of power—the dichotomy between one in power and one in a place of powerlessness. In this context, there is no advantage or disadvantage to either position, just an endless war-like nightmare of cyclical emotional pain.

Their music may be death, but lyrics are very much about life. Twisted sexual life, but life nonetheless. Death metal songs about about "bruised carnal melancholy" (again quoting Mr. Lee); it is appropriate that Vastum is latin for "empty" or "deserted"...

Tagged with 2011, death metal, Taylor Keahey, Vastum

May 11, 2017

Saule - Saule

By Justin C. If you're familiar at all with the vague-but-popular "post-metal" and "post-rock" tags, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect from an album labeled that way. The vocals will be sparse (or absent completely)
By Justin C.


If you're familiar at all with the vague-but-popular "post-metal" and "post-rock" tags, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect from an album labeled that way. The vocals will be sparse (or absent completely), there will be alternating passages of calm and heavy, song lengths will be long, and, in many cases, nothing about the music will stick in your head. There are exceptions, of course. Planks did it very well (and their final album, Perished Bodies was probably their best). Russian Circles continue to do it brilliantly. To this list, I'm going to add the Polish band Saule, who have just released their self-titled debut. It doesn't hurt that they have a secret weapon that lifts them above the pack, but I'll come back to that.

Saule fits pretty well with my genre description. There are lush and solemn passages interspersed with explosions, with clean guitars and distorted riffs competing for attention. The ebb and flow works nearly perfectly. I'll get my one gripe about the album out of the way--the closing song, "O," is a decompression/drone-type track that adds very little to the proceedings. But aside from that minor misstep, I found myself drawn along with this album, and it really is a whole-album experience. I think "III" and "V" are standout tracks, but in general, I'd be surprised if anybody jumped into their car after work and said, "I've had 'II' stuck in my head all day, and now I'm going to blast it!" It's not that kind of music.

I don't know if there's a mathematical formula for balancing out the soft and loud so that this kind of album holds your attention, but if there is, I think Saule's got a damn good estimation of it. On top of that, Saule has that secret weapon I hinted at before: the vocals. They may have done themselves a disservice by burying the vocals in the background for most of the opening track, but when they kick in, they're fantastic. The timbre of the singer's voice is very reminiscent of a lower, gruffer Roger Daltrey, and I'm loving it. I'd be surprised if it were intentional--I think it's just how this individual's voice works--but that semi-familiar, gravelly rasp is spine tingling, especially for a fan of The Who. It's potent and expressive, and the vocal lines in "III" even put me in mind of "Love, Rain O'er Me" from Quadrophenia. I can't back that up with a harmonic analysis, but they both have a beautiful, yearning quality to them. And of course, we all finally get to hear what Roger Daltrey's black metal rasps and death metal growls might have sounded like if The Who had gone a very different direction in their later years. Saule's vocalist sticks mainly to his "clean(er)" register, but I can’t imagine anyone complaining about his voice being too saccharine or pretty for metal.

I found myself drawn to this album immediately, in large part becuase of the vocals, but I think for some folks, it will take some time to warm up to. I urge you to give the first few tracks a chance before you hop on to the next thing. You'll be happy you did.

Tagged with 2017, Avantgarde Music, Justin C, post-metal, post-rock

May 10, 2017

From The Metal Archives Vol 6 - Moribund Records

[When I add labels to the Metal Labels on Bandcamp page I usually scan their releases looking for anything interesting I might have missed. The reviews on The Metal Archives are a great help when doing this: a couple of great reviews
By the reviewers from The Metal Archives.

[When I add labels to the Metal Labels on Bandcamp page I usually scan their releases looking for anything interesting I might have missed. The reviews on The Metal Archives are a great help when doing this: a couple of great reviews means an album I should probably check out. With this series I'd like to share some of my finds - in this edition we feature three quite different releases from Moribund Records, that just celebrated "24 years of the Devils Metal".]

Cover art by Marcelo HCV.

Slowly crawling walls of orchestration are created through synthesizers, and over this he layers plucky, often strange, distorted guitars that hover below the bombastic string sections, ethereal female tones that hover at the edge of perception, and a mix of diabolic rasps and male choirs. Together these elements crash like the waves of warring shores throughout history and space, across various epochs and realms of possibility. It's an alien, complex emotional onslaught that is anchored only by the mighty weight of the symphonic ballast. 55 minutes of riveting obscurity that should silence skeptics of such extreme and unorthodox brilliance. [read autothrall's full review here]



As "Breathless" opens this album, the process of gradually unleashing this albums demons begin. There are already numerous things going on beneath the layer of seemingly chaotic distortion. The bass, for example, is bombastically mesmerising its victims, luring them to an early grave with their demonic and hypnotic musings. The bass is an integral part of Death Obsession and should be single out for praise by every reviewer who even dares to touch this album. As a long-time fan of black metal, I assume, neigh, I expect the bass to be omitted from proceedings. Most black metal musicians don’t seem too fussed about harnessing the subtle creativity and dynamism of the glorious bass. The bass is probably my favourite instrument, so I was bound to love this album. [read Perplexed_Sjel's full review here]


Cover art by Joe Petagno.

The recent excitement about Satan's Host is that in 2011 Harry Conklin came back after Jag Panzer's recent break up. It is not uncommon nowadays for a classic, underground band to resurface in the digital age and sound just as amazing as they did before. But in this case, the story is different: they actually sound better than before. And that is what brings us to By the Hands of the Devil, the first album with this lineup. One could have expected them to just go back to the classic “true” metal style that has become more prevalent in the past decade, and that could have been cool. However, they could not deny their black metal resurgence, so one would think there is an impasse. On the one hand you got a band that has been playing black metal for the past ten plus years, and on the other hand one of the most memorable and beloved vocalists of the heavy metal/power metal world. So, what do they decide to do? Of course...mix power metal with black metal, duh!

Yes, if we are fixated with putting names on things, the best description for what you hear in this album is just that: blackened power metal. You may ask: is that even possible?! Well, don't ask me and listen. [read EspadaNegra's full review here]

Tagged with 2009, 2010, 2011, atmospheric black metal, black metal, blackened heavy metal, Brown Jenkins, doom metal, I Shalt Become, Moribund Records, power metal, Satan's Host, symphonic black metal

May 7, 2017

Thy Worshiper - Klechdy

By Hera Vidal. I like my black metal the way I like my relationships: straightforward, but with emotional complexity and the occasional bout of dramatics. Black metal dramatics, however, are best found in the music, usually in the atmosphere the album sets to create.
By Hera Vidal.


I like my black metal the way I like my relationships: straightforward, but with emotional complexity and the occasional bout of dramatics. Black metal dramatics, however, are best found in the music, usually in the atmosphere the album sets to create. In this case, Klechdy is a definite black metal gold mine filled with the dramatics and bombastic atmosphere black metal nowadays seems to lack.

Thy Worshiper is a Polish black metal band based in Dublin, Ireland, which adds a lot of flavor to its rich, folk sounds. Klechdy is an album filled with complexity and excellent musicianship that does not disappoint. The way it incorporates black metal, folk, and melodic tranquility into its music is just off-the-charts amazing, and this album deserves the praise it has received. The most interesting part of the whole thing is that it is a whopping 79 minutes long, and it delivers from beginning to end. Beginning with the opening track, “Gorzkie zale”, the album seems to elevate into a sense of quiet, atmospheric pulling that doesn’t change, but it never reaches peak. It is incredibly soothing and you start to lose track of yourself as the album slips into melancholy. The folk tones and the female vocals are the main driving force of the music, and they seem to emphasize a sense of peace, of acceptance. It’s quiet and it’s so emotionally complex, you have no idea how to deal with the cold warmth it brings.

However, things change toward the end of the first of the half of the album. With the sixth track, “Wschody”, the black metal elements that had been used sparingly jump into the album and set the tone for the remaining half of the album. Everything becomes harsher—the male vocals are harrowing, the music has the blast beat quality of black, and the female vocals begin to wail. The dramatics get to 11, and they stay there for the remainder of the album. It’s such a change that it takes a while to get used to, but, when you do, it is an absolute delight. It’s dark, a bit jazzy, and heavy, with flowing passages of music and beautiful vocals. At the heart of the matter, the vocals are the best part of the whole album, and the exquisite touches of other instruments, such as the violin, really drives the melancholy home.

An interesting note: the lyrics for each of the tracks can be found in both Polish and English, and they offer a window into the album’s themes. I do suggest looking into them to see what the album discusses and what you, the listener can get from it. There is a lot of religious imagery and commentary on death that is evident, which reminds me a bit of Batushka’s Litourgiya. It almost feels like Klechdy is Litourgiya’s more open-minded and flamboyant sibling.

All in all, Klechdy not only pushes the envelope forward on black metal boundaries, but it also bends them a bit so that the music can gravitate anywhere it pleases. The excellent musicianship shows that the band has built on its reputation on its composition and orchestration, and the fact that the music never wavers shows the stamina the band has to create compelling, beautiful music. There are no boring parts in Klechdy and it’s worth its 79 minute-running time. I would not be surprised if this album achieved classic black metal status down the line.

Tagged with 2016, black metal, death metal, folk metal, Hera Vidal, Thy Worshiper