August 17, 2017

Rebirth of Nefast - Tabernaculum

By Bryan Camphire. Rebirth of Nefast is a one man black metal project from Iceland by way of Ireland. The band's debut long player, Tabernaculum, is thoroughly honed and expertly crafted. This should perhaps comes as no surprise
By Bryan Camphire.


Rebirth of Nefast is a one man black metal project from Iceland by way of Ireland. The band's debut long player, Tabernaculum, is thoroughly honed and expertly crafted. This should perhaps comes as no surprise considering that Rebirth of Nefast is the brain-child of the recording engineer who runs Studio Emissary in Reykjavik, Stephen Lockhart, who is responsible for the recordings of several seminal albums of the burgeoning black metal scene there. On Tabernaculum, Lockhart's perfectionism is on full display, pulling out all the stops throughout the entirety of this sinister release.

A strong sense of aesthetics pervades the record. It's clear that the production of these songs is every bit as premeditated as the songwriting. However, make no mistake, the fact that the album is highly polished never detracts from Tabernaculum's prevailing sense of menace. In an interview from 2015, Lockhart states,

...there is a small contingent within the Black metal scene who consider everything that does not sound like it was recorded in 1993 with 4-track recorder illegitimate. For me, where this argument falls completely short, is the idea of relying on poor production to provide atmosphere. If Black metal does not sound ‘dark’ or ‘evil’ when you can hear everything that is going on, then there is something seriously wrong with it.


To that point, Tabernaculum is certainly a work that takes full advantage of sophisticated studio techniques to set in place its thick aura of darkness and dread. The result is an album of modern black metal that sounds evil as mortal sin.

Each track is a world of detail, where even the faintest sounds in the background play a significant role in the overarching feeling of gloom. Barely audible keyboard patches cling to guitar tones like cobwebs on so many flying buttresses inside this haunted cathedral of music. Exactly how many guitar tracks are at play at any given moment on the record is deliberately obscured. The songs unfold like tapestries interwoven with magic and mystery.

The six tracks on Tabernaculum each hover around ten minutes in length. Every tune showcases dynamics. All cuts have both fast and slow sections. Many include quieter parts which make the heavier sections all the more striking. The vocals range from hoarse groans to hushed breathy murmurings. All this is cooked up in a black cauldron teeming with a piquant intoxicating fog. A malevolent and majestic offering, Tabernaculum sits on an infernal altar poised to quicken the circulation of your five litres of blood.

Tagged with 2017, black metal, Bryan Camphire, Oration, Rebirth of Nefast

August 15, 2017

Amorphis - Tales from the Thousand Lakes

By Nate Garrett. On their second full-length album Tales from the Thousand Lakes, Finnish band Amorphis crafted an ambitious concept album based on Kalevala, the national epic of their home country. Twenty-three years after its release, it remains a staple of forward-thinking death metal.
By Nate Garrett.

Cover art by Sjlvain Bellemare.

On their second full-length album Tales from the Thousand Lakes, Finnish band Amorphis crafted an ambitious concept album based on Kalevala, the national epic of their home country. Twenty-three years after its release, it remains a staple of forward-thinking death metal.

Opening track "Thousand Lakes" is an instrumental written and performed by then-newest member of the band, keyboardist Kasper Mårtenson. Tales From The Thousand Lakes’ cover painting is a transportive piece of art that evokes a frigid, haunting atmosphere, and this piano-driven intro is the sonic realization of that vibe. Furthermore, the epic poem on which the album is based begins with a creation myth, and when a chorus of bells enters to signal the end of the introduction and beginning of the album itself, it indeed feels as though this is the genesis of something awe-inspiring.

The song "Into Hiding" immediately showcases the band’s utilization of emotive single-note melodies. Throughout the album, these leads soar above the chord progressions of the rhythm section and elevate each song to a level of archetypal familiarity. In more recent years, this approach to lead guitar in songwriting has been used to great effect by fellow Finns Hooded Menace (more atonal, less melodic), and contemporary neighbors Kvelertak (more rock n roll, less traditional folk). Another element introduced by this song is the addition of clean singing. The clean vocals are introduced gradually and are an acquired taste, but once the initial shock has subsided they do enhance the album. Two tracks in, the band has already implemented piano, synth, and operatic vocals, things that were either nonexistent or used sparingly on previous releases. It’s already clear that Amorphis are intent on traversing new territory on this record.

Amorphis 2015. Photos by Dvergir

"The Castaway" features more memorable leads, this time being played in unison by guitar and synth. The verse riff is among the catchiest on the album, and the chorus is as majestic and beautiful as the constraints of death metal will allow. On this tune, Amorphis dip their toes into some elements of doom metal, but they don’t fully dive in until the next song, aptly titled "First Doom". This track is among the album’s heaviest, and one of only two songs that features original lyrics (the rest are traditional, taken from the aforementioned Kalevala). Next is "Black Winter Day", which features more prominent synth and operatic singing. The tone of the album has been firmly established at this point, so the return of the keys and clean vocals is welcome and no longer jarring.

The rest of the album continues upon this course. Guitar and synth leads intertwine above powerful, familiar chord progressions. Savage death metal vocals dominate, but occasionally give way to dramatic singing. The entire affair unfolds and echoes with a dark, chilling quality. Amorphis begin to take even more chances toward the last couple of songs. This culminates in a couple of left-field passages in closing track "Magic and Mayhem", that reside somewhere between industrial, techno, and dance music. If I had to pinpoint a weak point in the album, I suppose this would be it. However, as out of place as it may be, I still enjoy it.

Any band that takes chances in order to evolve and remain fresh will inevitably face criticism for it. Metallica were called sellouts as early as the introduction of acoustic guitar on Ride the Lightning. Fortunately, great bands will always take risks. In all likelihood, Amorphis knew they would alienate death metal purists by making an album like Tales from the Thousand Lakes. Fortunately they didn’t let that stop them from recording a thrilling, one-of-a-kind masterpiece that the rest of us can still enjoy over two decades later.


Nate plays in Spirit Adrift and Gatecreeper.
Tagged with 1994, Amorphis, death metal, doom metal, Dvergir, Nate Garrett, progressive metal, Relapse Records

August 13, 2017

Heinali and Matt Finney - How We Lived

By Craig Hayes. My mental health has taken me to some exceptionally dark places over the years. Most notably when taking my own life seemed like the only option I had left. I’ve always been conscious that killing myself would destroy my family
By Craig Hayes.


My mental health has taken me to some exceptionally dark places over the years. Most notably when taking my own life seemed like the only option I had left. I’ve always been conscious that killing myself would destroy my family, and possibly irk the few friends I have left in this world. But there’s a good reason they call it mental illness.

Being mentally unwell often leads me to believe that my absence would hurt less than my continued presence –– for all concerned. But I’m not telling you this because I’m trying to be dramatic or elicit any sympathy. Many of us have moments in our lives where the void beckons, and trying to stitch together a broken mind and disordered life in the midst of emotional chaos is a relevant issue right here.

I was 9 years old when I saw my first psychiatrist: 37 years later I’m still fighting to survive. What I’m looking for most is understanding. What I want is to have my self-loathing exorcised. I know I’m not alone in desiring either of those things. And that’s exactly what Heinali and Matt Finney’s new album, How We Lived, provides.

Matt Finney is a spoken word poet, and the Alabama-based storyteller speaks to the lost, betrayed, and forgotten. Finney articulates things we find hard to admit, let alone share. And, as I’ve said before, Finney is no stranger to demons; he is here, with his battered heart in hand, to underscore that life is a hard-fought battle sometimes.

I first encountered Finney via his collaborations with Ukrainian multi-instrumentalist Oleg Shpudeiko –– aka Heinali. Heinali and Finney’s recordings in the early 2010s were defined by dark prose swathed in often lush avant-garde electronics. The duo’s sprawling tracks featured a heavy, cinematic ambience framed by frequently gorgeous atmospherics, and with (highly recommended) releases like Ain’t No Right and Conjoined, Heinali and Finney drew fans from all quarters.

How We Lived is Heinali and Finney’s first collaboration since 2011. But Finney has worked with other artists over the years. His collaborations with prolific dutch musician Maurice de Jong (Gnaw Their Tongues, Seirom etc), under the It Only Gets Worse banner, are also dramatic and soul-stirring. But with due respect to de Jong, Finney’s work with Heinali set a benchmark that has yet to be bettered.

There’s a world-weary tale behind How We Lived’s creation, and it’s a story worth telling, because it shapes and informs the entire album. After Ain’t No Right’s release, Finney’s life began to fall apart, and following family illness, deaths, and a few creative catastrophes, Finney retreated to a backwoods trailer, where he ceased writing, and sought escape in drugs and alcohol.

It was partly the realisation that his work with Heinali had played such a crucial role in his creative life that Finney was able to slowly find his way back –– both artistically and personally. And How We Lived certainly highlights that tension between the drive to create and the desire to utterly destroy oneself.

How We Lived’s four lengthy songs feature some of most emotionally charged and powerfully affecting work that Heinali and Finney have ever produced. “Relationship Goals”, “Wilderness”, “October Light” and “Perfect Blue” deliver stunning (and often harrowing) narratives, which Heinali frames with evocative music. But here’s the difficult part.

At this point, I’d generally begin to unpack an album’s songs. I would slice ’em and dice ’em, and endeavour to describe their ingredients. But I’m not going to do that with How We Lived’s tracks.

That’s not because those songs aren’t worth the effort; as I said, How We Lived is Heinali and Finney’s most meaningful collaboration yet. But I don’t want to reveal the album’s specifics, because I want you to hear those songs free from my (or anyone’s) influence or interpretations.

In other words, How We Lived needs to be experienced, not explained.

I understand that might not be what you’re looking for here. That’s okay –– I’m sure dozens of other reviewers will pick apart How We Lived with due precision. I just think that it’s an intimate album that deserves to experienced as a whole, free from spoilers or prior dissection.

I will say this though: How We Lived is a haunting piece of art that evokes decaying landscapes –– both psychological and geographic. It delivers harsh truths, plumbed from suffering and bitterness, and cognizance arises from moments of anguish.

How We Lived reminds us that when life falls apart our minds and bodies don’t attack on a single front. They gnaw and they claw at us, insidiously. They tear into different anxieties, from entirely different angles. Until slowly, but surely, those emotional ramparts we’ve so carefully constructed begin to crumble.

Potential remedies are available, should you find yourself in that situation, and there are often opportunities to seek help along the way. I’d encourage you to take full advantage of both, if you’re feeling like your walls are collapsing. But How We Lived also exists as a means to shore up your defences.

I’m not so naive to suggest that listening to How We Lived is going save to your life. It’s not a miracle cure. But it’s certainly a crucial restorative. You will find solace in the album because it acknowledges (with brutal honesty) that life fucking hurts.

Sometimes, the shared admission of that fact is all we need to make it through another day. And there’s no question that How We Lived reaches out from the depths of despair to say: “I hear you. I understand”.

In doing so, How We Lived illustrates why listening to dark art created by troubled souls is so important to our own continued existence. The album resonates deeply, providing vital catharsis, and while it’s unquestionably bleak, it’s also beautifully grim.

How We Lived lets us know that we are not alone. It helps strengthen our resolve to fight on –– until we step out of darkness.

Misery has never sounded so uplifting. Or so emboldening.

Tagged with 2017, ambient, Craig Hayes, electronica, Flenser Records, Heinali and Matt Finney

August 10, 2017

Pyrrhon - What Passes for Survival

By justin C. My relationship with Pyrrhon has been an on-again-off-again one. I really enjoyed Mother of Virtues, but in spite of the excitement around it, I had a very hard time finding my way in to the Growth Without End EP
By Justin C.

Artwork by Caroline Harrison.

My relationship with Pyrrhon has been an on-again-off-again one. I really enjoyed Mother of Virtues, but in spite of the excitement around it, I had a very hard time finding my way in to the Growth Without End EP. Nothing Pyrrhon does could be considered easily approachable, but for whatever reason, the full-length Mother of Virtues drew me in and the EP didn't.**

I didn't expect to be reviewing their new full length, What Passes for Survival, but here I am. "Tennessee" was the track that caught my attention, a track that starts out with a doomy, bass-driven feel and a glumly melodic riff that comes in and out of focus as dissonance intrudes. In typical Pyrrhon style, the track doesn't really stay in that place, but those flashes of dark beauty among the chaos was enough to draw me in.

That's not to say that Survival is an easy listen or falls into an easy categorization. Call it avant garde death metal, although summing it up as "death metal" is like summing up a Category 5 hurricane as a "rainstorm." As with previous work, Doug Moore is the frontman who does ALL THE VOCAL THINGS. Screeches, shouts, super-low gutturals, you name it. He plays "bad cop vs. worse cop" in the album opener, finishing the track off with the repeated refrain of "Make me what I am / Make me the servant I was meant to be." The instrumental part of the music matches Moore's intensity. Every kind of slashing, stabbing, bruising riff is represented here, and the bass tag-teams with both guitar and drums to great effect. I found myself scribbling down descriptions like "frantically rolling bass," "insect swarm riff," and occasionally "!?@#&!?!?@!"

What really hooked me are the repeated motifs and brief bits of melodicism, sometimes struggling to break through to the surface. The 12-minute mini-epic, "Empty Tenement Spirit," has a very satisfying descending riff that the first section of the song keeps tumbling back into, even as the song structure tries to tear itself apart. Wait another six minutes, and you can hear vocals that sound like an angry giant, matched by an earth-shakingly heavy, stomping riff.

There's really no substitute for immersion, though. Parts of this album will reach out and grab you, but you're not going to wander around humming parts of it after a half-assed listen or two. You need to find a way to crawl inside it and live with it, even when it's viscerally uncomfortable. The last two minutes of the album still give me the heebie-jeebies, both because of the challenging music and because of a sound effect that I can only liken to someone being beaten with a sack of chains. The cover art uses beautiful colors and shadings to surround an animal trying to chew its own leg off to escape a trap, and there's probably no better metaphor for the sounds themselves. Fight it, struggle with it, and resist it, but definitely engage with it.


**Even if, like me, you had a hard time with Growth Without End, I do highly recommend the track "Turing's Revenge," which shows off Pyrrhon's cerebral side. The lyrics talk about Alan Turing, a brilliant English mathematician who spent World War II cracking German codes. He was what most people would label a war hero, but he was criminally prosecuted by the UK in 1952 for homosexual acts. He chose chemical castration as an alternative to prison time, and he died two years later from what was very likely suicide. The government found it in their hearts to to pardon him posthumously...in fucking 2013.
Tagged with 2017, Justin C, Pyrrhon, technical death metal, Willowtip

August 9, 2017

Iah - Iah

By Karen A. Mann. Relative newcomers to the stoner/desert rock scene, Argentina’s Iah offer astral enlightenment through hypnotic melodies that keep the listener engaged, even without words. Formed in 2016, the band took it’s name from
By Karen A. Mann.


Relative newcomers to the stoner/desert rock scene, Argentina’s Iah offer astral enlightenment through hypnotic melodies that keep the listener engaged, even without words.

Formed in 2016, the band took it’s name from the Egyptian god of the moon, which is appropriate given their expansive, mysterious tendencies. Their instrumental compositions mix post-rock, prog, doom and stoner elements into a heady formula that elevates the listener to another astral plane.

Iah has two releases to it’s credit: a self-titled four-song album released in January of this year, and a two-song companion EP released in June. Though released separately, the two create a cohesive whole, and are meant to be heard together.

The first release starts off with “Cabalgan los Cielos,” a solid composition that’s heavy on delay, sludgy riffing and spacey interludes. The band pays homage to classic stoner rock, notably Colour Haze, Kyuss and Karma to Burn, through hypnotic melodies and a rock solid rhythm section that keeps the interstellar guitar elements grounded. As you might expect, Iah can tend toward the jammier side of stoner rock, especially on “Ouroboros” and “Stolas.” That latter song ends with some surprisingly doomy melodies, ushering in “Eclipsum,” the release’s final, and heaviest, song.

Unlike the other songs on this release, there’s no build up to this one. “Eclipsum” begins with a sludgy, head-bobbing wah-driven riff that veers off into an ambient passage before crashing back in at the end.

Iah gets heavier on the two-song EP, while also adding more structure to their compositions.The band is at its best on the final song, “Nuboj,” which reveal the band’s progressive and post-rock influences through a combination of straight-ahead heavy rock, soaring guitar melodies and Pink Floyd-style ambience.

Overall these two releases serve as an impressive debut from this new Argentinian band.

Tagged with 2017, Iah, Karen A. Mann, post-rock, stoner rock

August 7, 2017

False - Hunger

By Matt Hinch. The Gilead Media release schedule has been crazy this Summer, to say the least. Plus, each release offers something different. For this one, it's different for more than one reason. Gilead and its fans are
By Matt Hinch.

Cover art by Steve Wilson.

The Gilead Media release schedule has been crazy this Summer, to say the least. Plus, each release offers something different. For this one, it's different for more than one reason. Gilead and its fans are no strangers to Minnesota black metal powerhouse False. The label has released their split with Barghest, their untitled EP, and their 2015 untitled LP. Which are all spectacular by the way. What's different on Hunger, their new two-song EP, besides actually having a title, is its brevity. False are known for routinely breaking the 10 minute mark. The untitled LP had five songs ranging from over 15 minutes to just under nine and a half. However on Hunger both songs TOTAL eight and a half minutes. I'm sure it was a challenge to reign it in but the results speak for themselves.

“Anhedonia” starts off a little slow and the pace does waiver throughout the 4:03 runtime but it stays true to what we've come to expect from them. The keyboards are prominent and as usual give the track a grand, orchestral feel. Of this earth, but not of this time. Tremolos race like horses whipped into a frenzy by their master's crop and soar over dark and foul vistas. You can feel the duality in your bones. The struggle between crushing darkness and a relentless rhythm section versus the often uplifting keys and guitars. Of course, the ghastly and vile vocals render all other feelings moot.

False 2015. Photos by François Carl Duguay.

“Hunger” wastes even less time (but more time) flaying flesh from bone. The pace here is more constant. i.e. Full velocity for most of the 4:29 runtime. But many of the same sentiments imparted by “Anhedonia” are replicated here. The percussion blisters, the guitars rage, melodic tremolos get buried deep in the mind, the vocals make you want to hide. However, the keys are a little more subtle and complimentary but do come to the fore and imbue a sense of angelic grace amid the torrent of audial violence.

It may be less than 10 minutes long but Hunger packs in as much nihilistic yet triumphant black metal as you need. Whether False's move toward noticeably shorter songs is a sign of things to come (I hope not. It's great but not necessary.) or merely an experiment in self-control is really not worth debating. Just take it for what it is: one of USBM's very best satiating your hunger for darkness should the fullness of their 2015 LP be waning.

Draw the shades, free your mind and let Hunger take hold.

Tagged with 2017, black metal, False, François Carl Duguay, Gilead Media, Matt Hinch

August 4, 2017

Friday funeral doom shopping list

By Manny-O-War. In a brief amount of time, say a few short months, it’s become a tradition on Thursdays to open up the lines of communication that social media affords us and play some Desert Island. Each week we select a genre
By Manny-O-War.

Artwork by Lars Simpkins

In a brief amount of time, say a few short months, it’s become a tradition on Thursdays to open up the lines of communication that social media affords us and play some Desert Island. Each week we select a genre, sub-genre or other category of music and each “contestant” (no one really wins or loses) selects five albums that they would bring with them to a desert island. Recently, we tackled the slow, undulating genre of funeral doom. It was met with much joy and participation, odd given the genre’s monicker. It was also a week where many people shared new bands and experiences with each other. And that’s the real motivation behind the desert island game on Thursdays: to allow people to explore categories of music they may not have previously delved into. It’s easy, using a hashtag on Twitter or a post on Facebook, for people to learn about any number of exciting artists held dear by people they respect, don’t know or perhaps are pals with. While not every desert island week leads to music purchases, it’s encouraging when someone takes the initiative to learn about bands and purchase the music directly from the artist.


That’s where Bandcamp comes in. It’s likely that you’ve seen the ##metalbandcampgiftclub hashtag floating around. Maybe you’ve been gifted a record or two, maybe you’ve gifted a record or two or maybe you’ve just seen the hashtag around. Regardless, you can read more about that here if you’re so inclined. Desert Island has given us yet another way to use Bandcamp as a sort of social networking application. It’s an easy way to find, stream and purchase works by artists that you’re interested in checking out. And, this Friday, August 4, 2017, Bandcamp has done something unique: they’ve committed to donate 100% of their profits, for the entire day, to the Transgender Law Center, a nonprofit organization that works tirelessly to change law, policy, and culture as well as defend transgender individuals who may suffer from those who seek to undermine their legitimacy. Bandcamp did something similar previously when it donated all proceeds to the ACLU. These are trying times not only for Americans suffering under a rigid, unwielding and hateful administration but also throughout the world where religion and government are often interchangeable institutions. It’s commendable that Bandcamp is willing to be such a proud supporter of human rights and it’s inspiring to see such a business as a beacon of hope in this oddly commerce-centric culture.


[Max: these albums are simply my shopping list gained from perusing Manny's #desertislandfuneraldoom posts. A few classics, some major releases from recent years that I somehow missed, and most excitingly: a handful of great albums I've never heard about before.]









[Bonus album: I just picked up this excellent mix of drone and funeral doom from Norway's Hjarnidaudi. As this short review from Metal Archives states "Fuzzed out guitars guitars flying everywhere, big walls of slow dirge rhythm, stuff that's melodic and disturbing and generally awesome".]

Tagged with 2006, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, Arcana Coelestia, Bell Witch, Catacombs, Ēōs, Esoteric, Eye Of Solitude, free download, Funeral Moth, Funeral Mourning, Hjarnidaudi, Mourning Cloak, Slow

August 3, 2017

Owlcrusher - Owlcrusher

By Bryan Camphire.. Ireland's Owlcrusher have just released a colossal LP of crushing apocalyptic doom. I first heard of this fine record by way of a social media account of Malthusian. Any release that is recommended by a band
By Bryan Camphire.

Artwork by Andrew Cunningham

Ireland's Owlcrusher have just released a colossal LP of crushing apocalyptic doom. I first heard of this fine record by way of a social media account of Malthusian. Any release that is recommended by a band as great as that is something worth checking out, went my logic. Still, I wasn’t prepared to be bowled over by a debut as solid as this.

The record is self-titled. It features three long-form songs that clock in at 43 minutes total. Tempos are slow; the band takes it's sweet time to bore these tunes deep into your skull. The production is massive. This was reputedly many years in the making, and it shows. Attention to detail is evident throughout every minute of this blisteringly heavy release.

The second track, like the band name and the album title, is also called Owlcrusher. For this reason, the name merits some thought. In many cultures, owls are thought of as being messengers of the dead. In the Indonesian language, to name but one example, the term for owl is ‘burung hantu’, which, transliterated, means, ‘ghost bird’. An Owlcrusher could be an inter-dimensional equalizer.

Taking cues from the beautiful cover art--which, incidentally, was done by a member of Malthusian--an Owlcrusher might be a demonic hand that disposes of the husks of these emissaries between the realms of the living and the netherworlds after they’ve outlived their purpose. …Or the name might have some altogether different meaning. In any case, it’s evocative and thusly it suits this music.

What gripped me right away about this music is that it plays with both major and minor scales within single chord progressions. Darkness cuts through the light and vice versa. These contrasts make for songwriting rich with tension and release. It's a very deliberate choice, and one that's executed here with tremendously dramatic results.

The first track, "Feeble Preacher", deploys a vast array of vocal styles. Agonised cries intermingle with guttural throat song interspersing with liturgical chants. It’s a heady cocktail to be sure. You can almost smell incense wafting from a brass decanter as the power chords resound as though throughout a vast cathedral. It is both hypnotic and cavernous.

Time is elastic throughout this record. Fittingly, the drummer maximizes the expansive amounts of space created within the music. As each cadence crests, the percussion predicates the phrasings with ample finesse.

A deep sense of balance pervades this music, and it draws upon the history of the form just enough to allow it to innovate. Owlcrusher have prayed at the pyre of Burning Witch, imbibed plenty of Toadliquor and supped from the Fleshpress long enough to know how to make a great doom record through and through. The band just signed to Seeing Red Records, and it's heartening to know that this tremendous record is seeing a proper release. Owlcrusher is definitely a welcome addition to the hallowed canons of doom.

Tagged with 2017, blackened doom metal, Bryan Camphire, Owlcrusher, sludge metal

August 1, 2017

Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult - Necrovision

By Steven Leslie. It’s often a mystery why some bands explode in popularity, while other equally talented bands wallow in obscurity throughout their existence. Whether it is a case of location, lack of press coverage, poor distribution or just plain old bad luck
By Steven Leslie.

Artwork by Thorny Thoughts Artwork.

It’s often a mystery why some bands explode in popularity, while other equally talented bands wallow in obscurity throughout their existence. Whether it is a case of location, lack of press coverage, poor distribution or just plain old bad luck, it is a shame that excellent bands like Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult don’t get the recognition that they deserve. Releasing their first demo in 1999, the Germans have not released a bad album in their 10-plus year career. While Necrovision, their fifth full-length, is by no means new, it’s limited availability (at least here in the States) and only recent appearance on Bandcamp will make it new to many listeners. And like all the band's previous works, it offers a plenty of aural pleasures for any fans of second-wave black metal.

Nocturn does follow a fairly traditional black metal template, but they are far from the one-trick, one-dimensional copycat bands that are so prevalent these days. They have continued to hone their sound and songwriting technique over the years, imbuing each and every song with a dark spirit and individual nature that ensure they hold up over repeat listens. The critical component in this is the band’s understanding and use of dynamics. Instead of endless blasts and homogenous dirges, each of Necrovision’s nine songs (excluding the typical throwaway ambient intro) guide the listener through a series of twists and turns, culminating in a diverse and highly satisfying journey into the darkness.

MDF 2015. Photo by Ashley Adams.

Interestingly, the first thing that jumped out on early listens was the spectacular drum performance by Horrn. While he can blast with the best of them, he opts instead to use this technique as an accent instead of the template around which all the songs are built. This helps guarantee that when a blast is employed, it gets the listener's full attention and delivers all the impact of a mac truck colliding with a mini cooper. More impressive is Horrn’s deft usage of fills. He intuitively understands how to use them as accents to help propel the song forward and keep the listener’s attention, without ever sacrificing the underlying beat’s groove. Equally comfortable with a rollicking mid-paced stomp as an all-out percussive onslaught, Horn provides a diverse and powerful backdrop against which Velnias and Onielar overlay their powerful riff work.

The dynamic drum performance is matched by the excellent riff work provided by this duo. As with the drum work, it’s the variety here that helps make Necrovision stand out from its peers. Whether it’s a slower atmospheric build, mid-paced groove, or concussion inducing blitz, Onielar and Velnias seem to have the perfect riff. Equally impressive is their ability to seamlessly blend these tempo changes together, highlighting their adept songwriting skills. This duo shows the same keen understanding of song craft that Horrn does, enabling them to maximize the impact of each and every riff they play. No single hook or melody overstays it’s welcome, constantly shifting and evolving, often leaving the listener begging for more and guaranteeing future listens. The warm production sound is a boon here as well, helping differentiate the band from the slew of black metal bands mining the “icy northern” riff style of their infamous Norwegian peers, and allowing their contagious melodies to firmly sink their hooks in the listeners damaged brain.

Vocally, Onielar delivers the goods as well. While her performance is quite traditional and certainly not as varied as her superb display on the latest Bethlehem release (a must listen if you haven’t already), her harsh croak lays perfectly on top of the music imbuing it with occult atmosphere and satanic might. If you have heard Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult before, rest assured that the quality of their back catalog is maintained, and if you're new to the band Necrovision is as good a place to start as any. One thing is for sure, this Germanic black metal institution is one that you need to add to your collection.

Tagged with 2013, black metal, Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult, Steven Leslie, War Anthem Records