February 21, 2018

Locktender - Friedrich

By Justin C. Have you ever rediscovered one of your own purchases? I had that happen with Locktender's brilliant Rodin. I liked it when Matt Hinch first wrote about it for our site, and then I let it slip into the depths of my digital catalog.
By Justin C.


Have you ever rediscovered one of your own purchases? I had that happen with Locktender's brilliant Rodin. I liked it when Matt Hinch first wrote about it for our site, and then I let it slip into the depths of my digital catalog. Not until a couple of years later, making the start of a long drive on rural roads in Vermont, did I stumble on it again, and I was reminded how blown away I was by both the musicianship and the content: an album paired with an artist, including the sculptor Rodin and the author Kafka before that. Bombing down those roads (because I drive too damn fast, always) with Locktender’s emotional heft pushing me along, I got excited again.

Little did I know that the gap between Rodin and the band's latest, Friedrich, would be a long four years. And little did I know that I wouldn't immediately take to Friedrich.

Friedrich deals with Caspar David Friedrich, an 18th century German landscape painter. Usually I'm bored with landscapes--much like my metal, I want to get to the weird modern stuff elsewhere in the museum. But given the period he worked in, Friedrich's paintings often having a haunting, surprisingly modern feel. I urge you to take a look at the paintings (and the band’s lyrics) at Locktender's site.

With this album, Locktender decided not only to cover Friedrich, but to also tell a story over the entire course of the album. It’s a story of a man lost, shipwrecked and conscripted into a foreign army, fleeing to a monastery, and ultimately drowning himself, questioning everything about his life and faith. It's bleak stuff, but yet opener "The Monk by the Sea" serves as a grand entrance, striking an almost a triumphant tone in spite of the fact that the lyrics describe a man giving himself up to the ocean. Riffs of every variety abound, but in a cohesive way, and vocals are primarily of the hardcore-scream variety, although there's a hefty dose of clean singing, including the album's most haunting refrain: "Please let this overcome me. Tide in, tide out. Steps in a cleansing direction. Cold chills across my bones. Please let this overcome me."

What's not to like? Well, on first listens, I sometimes found the album's heart-on-sleeve emotional impact almost too much. To my ears, the band leans a bit more heavily on their screamo influence than they have on past albums, and I wasn't sure how I felt about that, either. Granted, the band has always been open about this influence, and they even list "screamo" as a tag on their Bandcamp page (along with the brilliant "philosophercore""). The epically building "Winter Landscape" features some particularly vulnerable and pained rendition of the "Please let this overcome me" vocal motif, with gang vocals on a slight delay. "The Abbey" even includes an exaggeratedly shaky vocal style that I also associate with emo/screamo, and I just wasn't sure. Could I like this and still maintain my cool, detached reserve?

But in the end, this album grew and grew on me. The band's musicianship is still brilliant. Quiet passages build into explosions and fade away, emotions stay raw, everywhere from rage to despair to quiet melancholy. Sure, a lot of us tend toward more impenetrable and cerebral metal, but I think there's still a part of us that wants memorable, anthemic choruses, even if they feel a bit over the top, and Locktender delivers. On the day I wrote this, I caught myself absentmindedly singing, "tide in...tide out...," and I knew I'd been hooked for good, and any "I'm too cool for this” pretension melted away. I urge you to give this band, and this album in particular, the same chance to work its spell on you.

Metal Bands-you-might-have-missed-camp 2017

By Calen Henry. Things you might have missed. I'll be honest, I only checked out Dumblegore because of the band name, among the best of 2017. It turns out, though, that they totally rule, though they don't sing about Harry Potter.
By Calen Henry.

Things you might have missed.


I'll be honest, I only checked out Dumblegore because of the band name, among the best of 2017. It turns out, though, that they totally rule, though they don't sing about Harry Potter.

Dumblegore play "Spooky Metal" the stuff drenched in B-movie horror tropes, but their spin on it is unique. They marry fuzzed out stoner doom, spooky organ, and a kind of "laid-back Mantar" vocal approach with punk rock attitude (and often song structure). It's a little bit black metal, a little bit stoner rock, a little bit punk and a whole lot of fun. The master is decent too, a respectable DR 8.

Come for the silly name stay 'cause they rock.



Vaivatar are Finnish. That seems to be the only information available about the band which is always a great sign!

They play a strange mix of symphonic but raw black metal. It's extremely busy, but extremely melodic with very inorganic sounding synths. It gives them a sound like Havukruunu meets Master Boot Record by way of Castlevania. The guitar distortion and the synths are eerily similar so it can be hard to tell which is which adding another outré layer to the music

It's epic, but mysterious, dense but soaring, and Pay What You want, also a nice master at DR 8.

.

Cover art by Bring.

I LOVE Angel Sword but feel like I'm mostly alone in my love of their mix of Motorhead vocals and sloppy Iron Maiden instrumentals, but I don't care. They rule! Their 2016 release Rebels Beyond the Pale is still in heavy rotation for me, and though this is only an EP more Angel Sword is more Angel Sword.

I initially checked them out because of their so bad it's amazing album covers, and wrote them off as inept traditional metal due to some odd chord structures and vocals but I was missing out. Underneath the intentional roughness of their presentation are fantastic songs. They keep it classic; nothing is lighting speed, lots of the songs are in major keys, and many are even about heavy metal. But it's all so well done, just sloppy enough to seem totally genuine but get across the wicked riffs, choruses, and gang vocals.


Things I missed, but apparently no one else did.

Cover art by Paolo Girardi.

2013's Manifest Decimation didn't click with me so I glossed over Nightmare Logic until it was all over year end lists, metal and otherwise. Boy, was I missing out. Power Trip play reverb drenched throwback thrash with pop sensibilities. Every riff and every chorus is so catchy. It's one of 2017's most fun and most relevant releases. While a lot of metal concerns itself with how everything is terrible, Power Trip implore us to get out and do something about it. Thankfully since the album's release many have!

Unfortunately the album's production, reverb drenched though it is, isn't a total throwback. It's mastered incredibly loudly and clips almost as hard as it rips. Musically, though, it's a total win.


Track o' the Year


Not metal, but The Deep is the best single track of the year. Commissioned for the podcast This American Life, it's an homage to Detroit electronic artist Drexciya, extending their mythos wherein the children of pregnant African women thrown overboard from slave ships were born and adapted to life underwater.

It's a microcosm of what made Splendor & Misery so compelling; fascinating concept, exquisite execution, and great production. The production matches the watery theme with beats and accents that sound "bubbly"

In The Deep the water-dwellers go from peaceful existence to climate change worry to full-on war with the "two-legs" from the surface. The track is divided into movements as the situation escalates. It starts of slow and laid back but each revelation towards confrontation and eradication of the two-legs increases the pace of the music and lyrics and adds more layers to the beat.

Though I love Splendor & Misery, it was criticized by some for its lack of immediacy, essentially required a full listen through to properly experience it. The Deep is the answer to that. Five minutes for one of the best, and most immediate "concept albums" of 2017

February 16, 2018

Fister / Chrch - Split

Fister and Chrch are both known for being as heavy as really heavy things so putting them together on a split should have caused a collision of black holes. But we're still here and the only black hole you'll find
By Matt Hinch.

Artwork by Ethan Lee McCarthy

Fister and Chrch are both known for being as heavy as really heavy things so putting them together on a split should have caused a collision of black holes. But we're still here and the only black hole you'll find is the one you find yourself in (mentally) after succumbing to the darkness both bands foist upon you with one long song each. One might like to think however, that the resultant gravitational waves from this imagined collision influenced the sheer weight this split contains.

Chrch gives us “Temples”, a nearly 17 minute doom ride that begins with a lonesome guitar intro that seems very Pallbearer-like (if we're doing those kinds of comparisons). Even when the heavy comes there's an undertone that creates the same sort of melancholy, yet married to monolithic doom of the kind not meant to annihilate from the core but to destroy from the outside in. Almost six minutes in that overt doom power takes over as thunderous slo-burning riffs pummel at a measured pace. Atmosphere creeps back in and darkens the heart while squeezing tight. It feels sky high and completely buried at the same time. The vile vocals, sparse as they can be, beckon from a tortured place thick with rasp and vile adding another element to the complex brew. Eventually the track returns to that syrupy slog oozing despair with clean vocals barely audible beneath the crash, bringing in yet more atmosphere leading into towering riffs sure to put a scowl on your face. It then pushes back around to that depressive guitar that began the track. Like completing a circle. Perfect for repetition.

If you're not wise to Chrch and love (old) Pallbearer's style of superb heaviness and heart-wrenching melancholy, look no further. Don't get me wrong. They're far from clones. They're just likely to push the same buttons. But push them harder. If you are already wise to Chrch, this latest service should have you primed for their next LP slated for release in April.

Screams most unholy strip the colour off the picture of pain and darkness Fister are trying to paint with the slogging pace of their concussive “riffs” on “The Ditch”. Repetition wears you down under a mechanical power but the vocals inject muscle to fight your way out of the pit. As you get settled into a loaded 20:28 a spectre of colour suddenly materializes sending tendrils of chaos swirling through the fog in the form of a guitar solo straight from the gut. All that buildup and noise turns to dust as Fister change the atmosphere with their own lonesome guitar. Through this more contemplative section, complete with some interesting noise and whispering, it slowly creeps back to hammering, pulsing, life-sustaining doom. Ascendant riffs run head-on into massive chugs and otherworldly vocals. It continuously pounds the listener like a stamping press, forming something dark and twisted. And much less likely to rise up than it was before.

I'm not sure what Fister has in the pipeline but “The Ditch” should give listeners enough to digest for a while anyway.

Get your doom on, folks.


[Got a heads up from Fister: "our new full length will be out in April on Listenable Records!"]

February 15, 2018

Novareign - Legends

By Calen Henry. Novareign play power metal, the new American style that injects it with traditional metal grit and a bit of death metal heft. They hew closest to other California bands, often sounding like Holy Grail dialed up to Exmortus
By Calen Henry.


Novareign play power metal, the new American style that injects it with traditional metal grit and a bit of death metal heft. They hew closest to other California bands, often sounding like Holy Grail dialed up to Exmortus (and featuring a former member). But they inject a bit of the epic swagger and genre-hopping of recent darlings Unleash the Archers and Aether Realm, as well one of my favourites, Tanagra.

Despite Legends being the band's first full length, they've been together since 2012 and it shows. It's an instrumental fireworks show; drums gallop at lightning speed and riffs fly by. Solos blaze through arpeggios, tapping, and whammy acrobatics.

There is so much going on that, upon first listen, it can all blend together to simply sound like "some neoclassical band", but the album unfolds upon repeated listens revealing all manner of catchy riffs and choruses as well as some diversions into Necrophagist-ey death metal riffing. Impressively, it doesn't come off as self indulgent, but earnest and fun. Novareign don't think they're better than you. They can shred and want you to have as much fun listening as they do shredding.

Front to back, Legends absolutely rips and any fan of the new wave of US power metal will be in for a treat. I get the feeling, though, that the best is yet to come for Novareign . It sometimes sounds like they're pulling of the instrumental acrobatics effortlessly and that they could actually be doing a bit more, compositionally, which is a bit of a back-handed compliment. Their shredding is already top notch, but there are moments of sheer brilliance where an arpeggio or riff goes in a different direction than it first seems and I want to see that creativity pushed further, since their musical skill is amply clear.

Similar to the musicians, it sounds like singer David Marquez is holding back a bit, though there are moments of absolute brilliance that really show what he can do like the sustained note at the end of "Call on the Storm". Across the album, though, he doesn't quite reach the heights of Holy Grail's James Luna, but I think he could.

None of this drags the album down, though. It's a blast, and a really great addition to the US power metal canon but it leaves me feeling like their next record will blow this one away and could shatter expectations the way Apex did, taking an already great band to the top. I'll certainly be along for the ride.

February 14, 2018

Hound the Wolves - Camera Obscura

By Ulla Roschat. Go get your mind's space gear (head phones), because it's got an invitation by Hound the Wolves to join them on a psychedelic journey through Drone, Doom, Stoner soundscapes with their debut album Camera Obscura.
By Ulla Roschat.

Cover art by Adam Burke

Go get your mind's space gear (head phones), because it's got an invitation by Hound the Wolves to join them on a psychedelic journey through Drone, Doom, Stoner soundscapes with their debut album Camera Obscura.

The journey has four stages and takes about 30 minutes.

The first one, the opening song, "If Lost In Mind" is a kind of an intro song. There doesn't seem to happen very much, but it perfectly lays out what the music is about. There is such a hypnotic power to it that entrances and lures you into its spritualistic vibe, opens your mind and senses for what's to come. Drone based, slow paced, echoing, reverberating sounds, ethereal vocals that seem to come from different directions, surround and enshroud you. A rotating droning sound like a spinning gyroscope, or prayer wheel adds a ritualistic element and it softly lifts you up. The very next moment you get hurled into space and into the next song.

"Masquerade" starts off heavier, faster and more aggressive, but there’s always a spacious open sound and a sense of elusiveness. Soon the song slows down and slides into a mysterious gloomy atmosphere with a dark Drone background and murky melodies. Propelling driving drums and bass and many layers of sounds mount into a climactic build up carrying the song to its glorious end. There's a great Sludge and Post Metal feel to this song with different kinds of dynamics and tensions. Throughout the album  the vocals always match the respective moment's mood perfectly well and contribute to its sense of harmony and completeness, but nowhere on the album this is as striking as it is in this song.

"Omnia In Numeris Sita Sunt" then calms everything down again and floats along a gloomy space road in a slow pace . This song somehow seems to balance out the unsettling mood of its predecessor. The mesmerizing vocals, that repeat the song title in mantra-like chants and the rotating, spinning  sound from the opening song brings back the hypnotic, ritualistic feel of that song.

The 4th and final song "Everything Lies Veiled In Numbers", doesn't only share the title with the 3rd song, just in a different language, it also has a similar kind of structure and dynamics. The mood differs, though, going more into a melancholic direction, but it's no less obscure, gloomy and magical.

Camera Obscura is truly trippy and meditative. The way this five piece band from Portland /OR layer the sounds and melodies, keep it all spacious and elusive, lucid and obscure at the same time, connect it with a genuine spirituality that avoids all cliché, is quite unique, highly emotional and powerful.

The track "Everything Lies veiled In Numbers" is featured on The Wicked Lady Show 158

February 13, 2018

Basalte - Vertige

By Hera Vidal. Jean Piaget had an interesting theory about object permanence, the concept that objects still exist despite not being observed. He believed that this was one of an infant’s most important accomplishments, as they could understand
By Hera Vidal.


Jean Piaget had an interesting theory about object permanence, the concept that objects still exist despite not being observed. He believed that this was one of an infant’s most important accomplishments, as they could understand that objects had a separate, observable existence. Of course, in the concept of permanence as a whole, nihilism as a philosophy states that nothing has a real existence, even the words that are being written at this moment. In metaphysics, nihilism states that there might be no concrete objects at all, and, if there were, they might not be replaced. This is one of the main concepts Basalte explores on Vertige (“vertigo”), an album that seems to convey the sense that nothing is permanent.

Fin de siècle funèbre, un cadavre tourne le dos au ciel,
creuse vers ses semblables, y cherchant son désespoir.

Vertige starts dissonantly, with random piano notes being played to cover up the sound of the guitar’s feedback slowly creeps from the album. As the guitar gets louder and the piano becomes more atonal, the listener can sense that there is a certain amount of uneasiness and uncertainty that clouds the album’s mood. This is what you will hear for the rest of the album, even as the music lapses into frenzied rhythms that mirror rage and anger. The atmosphere is at work here; even with the blast beats and the howling vocals, it’s the soft, melodic undertones that truly captures the emotions being conveyed. It also adds some interesting tones that act as a cue for the listener to get a sense of what’s going, even with the language barrier. For example, on the song “Acouphène”, there is a persistent ringing that accompanies the song before the main melody fully sinks in. The ringing remains in the background; you can only hope it ends quickly before getting some Advil to cure the headache you can get from the ringing. This is one of the many effect the album has to have the listener completely listen to the album and bask in its story. It also flows well, allowing for the album to play in one smooth sitting, although I don’t think it should be played that way.

Another concept that caught my attention was structural; there are four stories being told on the album. From what happens to a corpse after it has been buried (“Ce que le corps doit au sol”) to the persistent ringing in your ears that leads to sleepwalking and insanity (“Acouphène”), each vignette shows how something can lack permanence. A corpse rots away; the ringing in your ears can be covered by either another sound or, in this case, death; a vial is emptied of its contents; the disappearance of euphoria after the body has metabolized a drug’s effects. This is an album that took the concept of metaphysical nihilism and ran with it, as there is nothing that can replace what has been lost. In the universe the album creates, things sway and change, but lose their permanence. They are abstract and hard to conceptualize, leading to a dizziness that becomes overwhelming. You aren’t fast enough to catch the changes; any sudden movement leads to vertigo, and you are left with the dissonance of it all.

All in all, Vertige is an album filled with a density that requires multiple listens to fully grasp what’s going on. Its concept is highly abstract but understandable, and it requires your full attention. However, choose to selectively listen to parts of the album, and the atmosphere of the album changes. It’s compelling and worth the runtime. Come for the music, stay for the metaphysical nihilism.

February 10, 2018

Dream Tröll - The Witch's Curse

By Bathy Kates. Hello metal warriors! Long time, no see! I’m back to tell you about a band I wrote about many moons ago on Metal Bandcamp: Dream Troll. Hailing from Leeds, England, the band delivered a righteous offering of traditional metal
By Bathy Kates.


Hello metal warriors! Long time, no see! I’m back to tell you about a band I wrote about many moons ago on Metal Bandcamp: Dream Troll. Hailing from Leeds, England, the band delivered a righteous offering of traditional metal that added a sleek coating to the Barbarian metal sound. The Knight of Rebellion was like Iron Maiden and Manilla Road running on Windows 10. And guys, I have to be honest with you right now. Start actively supporting this band right now, because they are going to be the next big thing in traditional and power metal. I promise you. With this new EP, The Witch’s Curse, the band strikes while the iron (maiden?) is hot and proves that their debut was no fluke.

A revelation I had about Dream Tröll while listening to The Witch’s Curse for the first time that I did not include in my original write-up is that the band really isn’t a full-on “throwback” act. It’s subtle, but the band knows how to make their music sound modern both in composition and in production. This hit me during the first track on the EP, “In The Name of Isabella”, where the music breaks down into a bit of a hard rock groove as new vocalist, Paul Walsh, sings “Listen up boy you've only got one chance…”, and suddenly we’re barely in a metal song anymore. Of course, the mighty riffs returns full blast but the short detour adds so much to the character of the music. Hell, there’s even some tasteful cowbell on this thing in later tracks. The same tight production from Rebellion also adds to the more modern approach to a classic sound.

Witch’s Curse is a bit more theatrical than Rebellion. Where their debut album, despite the title, had orderly and neat hooks, Walsh adds some grit and spirit to his lyrical delivery, painting a vibrant picture of the medieval tales and occult drama. To further assist their epic storytelling, their long songwriting is back and better than ever. Dream Tröll never just lets a song write itself with boring, generic riffs. Each section of the song is expertly crafted to fit the words and story. There’s so many harmonies, diverse riff choices, clean sections, and a thrilling rhythm section. It’s actually very reminiscent of Blind Guardian’s approach to their music, especially in their later albums. It’s not that their writing the most dense and complex music of all time. Dream Tröll , like Olbrich and Kursch, simply has a firm grip on their sound and know exactly how to paint the story with the talent that they possess.

This EP will certainly give fans of Knight of Rebellion something more to chew on while they wait for the full follow-up from Dream Tröll. Keep an eye on these guys and check out their absolutely brilliant traditional heavy metal on their Bandcamp page. You will be singing along in no time.

February 6, 2018

Tints of Obsidian - What You Missed in 2017

By Justin C. Much like the Christmas shopping season, sometimes it seems like the end-of-year album lists come earlier and earlier each year. Inevitably, this means some otherwise excellent albums released in November and December get lost in the shuffle.
By Justin C.

Much like the Christmas shopping season, sometimes it seems like the end-of-year album lists come earlier and earlier each year. Inevitably, this means some otherwise excellent albums released in November and December get lost in the shuffle. I'm here to educate you on what you weren't paying attention to: two outstanding splits from bands known and unknown and a full-length from a newcomer.


In late November, black metal bands Barshasketh and Outre released a split called Sein / Zeit. We haven't talked about Barshasketh around here since way back in 2011, which is a shame because they've made some fine albums since then, including their latest full length, Ophidian Henosis. For this split, Barshasketh contribute the Being ("Sein"). Their black metal here has a touch of dissonance and a driving energy. The rhythm is sometimes chunky, sometimes galloping, but always addictive.

Outre brings the Time ("Zeit") and an additional track, and from the first off-kilter, thrashy strains of "Zeit," you can tell that they're a bit more zany in their approach. Is zaniness allowed in black metal? I say yes. The jangly chords and manic vocals add a bit of playfulness to the full-speed meanness in the riffing, and it's a great combination. I wasn't familiar with Outre before this, but I'm going to check out their back catalog.



Siberian Hell Sounds has, thus far in their career, produced short blasts of blackened, crusty noise, with songs usually hovering around the three-minute mark. When I saw that they contributed one, 20-minute-long song to a split with Convulsing, I was worried. Could their signature sound be extended to funeral doom lengths without getting tedious? The answer is yes. Who would have guessed that the band had ambitions to make a damn mini-epic with what I'd actually call legitimate movements while never taking their foot off the gas in terms of intensity?

Convulsing's track is similar in scope and sound, although if anything, their rough parts sound even nastier, although perhaps that's just in contrast with the delicate, barely-there ambient sections, doomy sections, and slow-creepy-death sections, to name just a few of the fascinating interludes contained in this one, long track. Like Outre, Convulsing is another band I need to check out in more detail. This split was another late November release that I feel like slipped by too many people.



In December--if you'd been paying attention--Dsknt brought war to your ears (and sometimes to vowels) with their album PhSPHR Entropy. Their style is definitely bottom heavy, pairing low growls with a bass-heavy production. For reasons I probably can’t defend in a musicological sense, I’m put in mind of Portal--I think they share a dense muscularity, but the big difference is that Dsknt doesn’t employ Portal’s suffocating impenetrability and focuses on songs that mere mortals can comprehend. I couldn't resist the dissonant jabs of guitar overlaying the black-death churn on album opener "Exhaling Dust," and the rest of the album is equally compelling.

February 2, 2018

Hooded Menace - Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed

By Calen Henry. Hooded Menace's new LP grabbed me from the first riff. On Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed they dive deep into doom and gloom creating a slab of devastating Gothic tinged death doom laced with melody and dripping
By Calen Henry.

Cover art by Adam Burke.

Hooded Menace's new LP grabbed me from the first riff. On Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed they dive deep into doom and gloom creating a slab of devastating Gothic tinged death doom laced with melody and dripping with atmosphere. It's the aural equivalent of a decaying manor, once stately rooms still as death, their lace hangings decayed and still, layers of grime hiding the once grand trappings.

The album opens with the two guitars building a slow melody, the kind that usually lasts a few seconds before thundering into a massive HM-2 powered Swedeath riff. But in "Sempiternal Grotesqueries" the riff slowly builds, then morphs into another plodding melodic riff before it picks up into a death stomp.

For a 40 minute record Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed is delightfully unhurried, reveling in every grotesque riff and lingering lead. Despite the pace there's never a dull moment. Tempos vary from funeral doom to slightly more mid-tempo and dual guitar interplay morphs into tomb-shaking death and even into some stomping deathrock riffs with slightly shimmering almost clean leads.

Though most of the members changed since the last album the band is and always has been Lasse Pyykkö's project with him writing and arranging all the material. The vocalist is new which changes the sound a bit, but musically it fits the band's catalog, just a deeper down the Gothic doom rabbit hole. It sounds like Ghost's take on death doom, and indeed it was mixed and mastered by Jaime Gomez Arellano who handled Ghost's Opus Eponymous. The rest of the presentation fits the Gothic shift. Tracks, and indeed the album itself could have been named by an AI picking the most Gothic words in the most Gothic sequence.

The production, for the most part, is excellent and enhances the atmoshere. The drums are thunderous and the guitar tone, just a hair below "Sunlight Studios", is devastating on riffs and darkly pretty on leads. The master, though is quite loud and it does clip occasionally. It's not hugely problematic but an album of such massive songs deserves a more dynamic master like Vainaja's vinyl masters.

With Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed Hooded Menace have created a record with everything I didn't know I wanted from death doom. Longtime fans should also be pleased as the band hasn't drastically altered their sound, simply improving the formula they had already laid down.


[Note: in September, at the Kill-Town Death Fest 2018, you can hear Hooded Menace dig into the past and play their 2008 debut Fulfill the Curse.]

January 31, 2018

Come to Denmark (and die)

How time flies when you're dead. The last of the legendary Kill-Town Death Fests was The Funeral Edition in 2014. But it seems you can't keep a good corpse in the ground and September 6-9 it's time for Kill-Town Death Fest 2018
Artwork by David "Torturdød" Mikkelsen

How time flies when you're dead. The last of the legendary Kill-Town Death Fests was The Funeral Edition in 2014. But it seems you can't keep a good corpse in the ground and September 6-9 it's time for Kill-Town Death Fest 2018 - The Resurrection! 23 (of 35) bands have been announced so far, and the lineup is to die for. Below I have listed all the bands in announcement order, some with a little note telling you why their set is dead special. I will add more bands as they are announced.

Before band number 30 (the KTDF house-band Undergang) was announced the organizers told that the festival is now sold out! That's pretty amazing, and a testimony to how much Kill-Town Death Fest has been missed. If you got a ticket or are curious, you can check here for practical information. I can add that since the venue has changed smoking is no longer allowed at the concerts (though they're are smoking rooms indoors). And that's one thing I'm not gonna miss from the old fests. Anyway, enough of me talking. Have some Death Metal and see you in September?

Announcement 1.


Announcement 2.
Bay Area crushers Necrot will do their first ever European performance at KTDF – The Resurrection!


Announcement 3.
for only the second time in Europe, Philadelphia filth mongers Pissgrave!


Announcement 4.
to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their debut album Fulfill the Curse, Hooded Menace will headline our Gloomy Sunday and perform the album in its entirety!


Announcement 5.


Announcement 6.


Announcement 7.


Announcement 8.


Announcement 9.
Rippikoulu performing their legendary 2nd demo Musta seremonia in its entirety!


Announcement 10.
Wormridden for the first time live ever on European ground


Announcement 11.


Announcement 12.


Announcement 13.
the first ever European performance of Triumvir Foul at KTDF 2018!!!


Announcement 14.


Announcement 15.
the North West mutilating barbarians Torture Rack who will be performing their very first European gig ever at KTDF! [but alas, they're not on Bandcamp]

Announcement 16.
the first European performance ever of Cemetery Urn at KTDF 2018!!!


Announcement 17.


Announcement 18.


Announcement 19.
the first and for now only Euro appearance of Scolex!!!


Announcement 20.


Announcement 21.
The band has played in Finland and Russia, but this will be the first time they venture a bit down south of Finland.


Announcement 22.


Announcement 23.
for the first time ever in Europe, the reeking fresh corpse of Fetid!


Announcement 24.


Announcement 25.
for the first time in the Nordic lands the cavernous horde of Mefitic!


Announcement 26.
the crawling heavy death metal band Mortiferum for the first time ever in Europe!


Announcement 27.
Tonight we have another “first time in Europe band” coming your way, all the way from Portland, Oregon, the mighty Sempiternal Dusk!!!


Announcement 28.
Hyperdontia will play their debut show at KTDF 2018!


Announcement 29.
Ascended Dead will play their first ever European show at KTDF 2018!!!


Announcement 30.


Announcement 31.
The band we are about to announce has been around since 1988 and up until now never played in Europe.


Announcement 32.
Runemagick will be playing their first show in 13 years at this years KTDF!!!!


Announcement 33.
They started out all the way back in 1986 and haven´t played Europe since 2004 [None of Mortem's full-length albums are on Bandcamp. This is a compilation of their early demos, plus four tracks from the 2006 EP Devoted to Evil]


Announcement 34.


Announcement 35.


January 29, 2018

Agrimonia - Awaken

By Matt Hinch. If, like me, you've never listened to Agrimonia before (or at least don't remember), that should have no effect on how much you may enjoy their fourth full-length, Awaken. Everyone has to start somewhere.
By Matt Hinch.


If, like me, you've never listened to Agrimonia before (or at least don't remember), that should have no effect on how much you may enjoy their fourth full-length, Awaken. Everyone has to start somewhere. Agrimonia may be from Sweden but Awaken feels more like it belongs in the U.K. Most bands that came to mind while listening were of the English variety. At least the death-doom ones. I don't really listen to the Peaceville Three either but I can hear their influence. Mind you, no one is going to mistake this for Paradise Lost.

I also find that Awaken does the same things for me that Primordial does on a musical level but without the folk feel and the vocals here are far less triumphant and more dry, raspy, and demonic. It's the mix of power and melody that does it. At times they'll break you down with a powerful, hammering riff but you know it's just a matter of time before the melodies swoop in to pull the listener skyward. This may sound odd for an album such as this but it kind of makes you feel good.

The dynamics are the strongest element Agrimonia put forth. Ethereal atmosphere and those ever-present melodies compete with the coarse vocals and charged riffing with the aid of acoustic flourish. The calculated layering gives Awaken a grand, spacious feel creating an immersive experience that given the proper attention can transport the listener to better places.

They do vary the approach up though. It's not the same formula every time. “Foreshadowed” has a simpler, more ground and pound sound that comes across more “full sounding black metal” than “fast death-doom”. The title track takes things even further away from their core sound. It's basically an acoustic number with percussion and enveloping strings. Coming right after the fire of “Foreshadowed” it's a nice change of pace leading into the almost 13 minute “Withering”.

That one has atmosphere to spare. Background synths swell beneath a desolate guitar line until everybody joins in and brings the darkness with them. There are swaying riffs, straightforward drive, a menacing swiftness that sweeps you from your feet, a good pummeling, and soothing parts to ease your wounds. Speeds and moods change multiple times challenging the listener to keep up but it's a terribly engaging track that never feels forced.

Another highlight for this writer is “Sparrow”. It follows the usual path for the album moving between styles (in a broad sense) effortlessly. Bitter toned guitars slice through piano-assisted atmosphere creating that oppositional standard that dominates the album. There's an epic black metal vibe, a stomping death assault, forlorn melodies, more synths, and the chilling vocals all crashing into each other to eventually float off into the ether. As you can tell, there's a lot going on here and throughout the album.

Awaken has the ability to capture you and subject them to darkness and pain yet fill your ears with so many melodies and other such accoutrements that the darkness is transcended and lifts you up with a sense of light. Awakening you from the night so to speak.

More often than not I found myself hearing various things across the album that reminded me of Woods of Ypres. It doesn't carry the same emotional weight as Woods 5 but Awaken comes close. It is a powerful album ready and willing to dig deep and become part of you. Great albums provide an escape. Escape into this one.

January 15, 2018

Chaos Moon - Eschaton Mémoire

By Ben Handelman. Chaos Moon, once a relatively inactive outfit, has grown increasingly active and prolific since its reemergence in 2014. With the release of last year’s ferocious Eschaton Mémoire, the band has staked out territory
By Ben Handelman.

Album art by Jef Whitehead

Chaos Moon, once a relatively inactive outfit, has grown increasingly active and prolific since its reemergence in 2014. With the release of last year’s ferocious Eschaton Mémoire, the band has staked out territory that should take it from buzz band to “must-hear” status, if anybody’s taking proper note. The sinewy "The Pillar, Fall, and The Key" begins the assault in a proper fashion. There are shades of ambiance that neither comfort nor soften, but rather add to the general queasiness, especially as things begin to deteriorate halfway through. It's in the moments where things drop out that Chaos Moon's loose and limber take on haunting (or perhaps haunted) black metal shines its brightest, as the density is harder to fully appreciate until an element is peeled back momentarily. The true face may remain unknown, yet the individual components of it all rise up from the burbling unease, allowing just enough clarity to keep the listener from complete unawareness.

Cryptic phrasing aside, what Chaos Moon does best is remove the listener from present space and create another entirely. The album’s three lengthy tracks flow into places beyond one’s active mind, creating a hypnotic result in even the most focused audience. Music that interacts with the listener in an almost visual way is inherently more potent, and this is the territory much of Eschaton Mémoire covers. It’s delicate and deliberate, almost fluid in quality, yet when it decides to snap, it’s the most pointed sensation. These separate moods circle each other constantly, channeling something that would seem otherworldly, yet is innately animalistic and painfully human.

Is Eschaton Mémoire good? Undeniably. It is one of the most cathartic black metal albums to come out in recent memory. Is good the goal, though? Probably not. This isn’t about being good or bad, although a review inevitably forces the author to pass some sort of judgment. Instead, this is about feeling. There is so much happening, especially in the twenty minute sprawl of the title track, which is an emotional and spiritual ride. From the truly feral vocal approach to the subtle strains of tortured melody that creep in through both synthesizers and brittle guitar leads, there’s almost more than can be contained or conveyed with mere words. Sure, on the surface this is a black metal album, and there won’t be any specific sounds that can’t be understood here, but as an experience this is worth a deeper visit. Headphones on, world tuned out. Get into it and let it get into you.

January 8, 2018

Auðn - Farvegir Fyrndar

By Calen Henry. Even after the explosion of interest in the Icelandic black metal scene Auðn are a bit of an outlier. Though their icy, jangly, dissonant riffs definitely fit into the Icelandic sound they bring in other styles
By Calen Henry.

Cover art by Víðir 'Mýrmann' Þrastarson

Even after the explosion of interest in the Icelandic black metal scene Auðn are a bit of an outlier. Though their icy, jangly, dissonant riffs definitely fit into the Icelandic sound they bring in other styles creating a unique sound in an oddly crowded scene from the tiny island nation.

Their self-titled debut mixed the Icelandic approach and atmospheric black metal with beautiful results. Farvegir Fyrndar keeps the icy black metal but shifts the mix from atmospheric black metal to post-rock.

It works a bit to Auðn's detriment that they've chosen to mix two styles that are very much in vogue. It makes their approach and execution seem less fresh than it really should. They fall somewhat victim to the information overload of the Internet age. You've heard all the things they're doing before just not together or combined this well. Don't be fooled. Auðn are excellent. Icy, nihilist black metal in the vein of Misþyrming, Naðra, and Sinmara mixed with the lovely post-metal of Sólstafir is a wonderful combination.

Though I personally prefer their self-titled debut's more atmospheric take on the frozen rage of Iceland, Farvegir Fyrnar is a great evolution of the band's sound. I particularly like their penchant for compound time (notes grouped into three, rather than two). That being said, the production on this new record is a touch lacking compared to the debut, with little in the way of dynamic range.

Through no fault of the band’s Farvegir Fyrnar is at risk of getting lost in the plethora of metal albums, black metal albums, post-rock albums, and Icelandic black metal albums. Those interested in that list shouldn’t let it go ignored. Auðn have forged themselves a place in modern metal, polishing the frozen heart of Icelandic nihilism to the sheen of post-rock.

January 3, 2018

Vesicant - Shadows of Cleansing Iron

By Bryan Camphire. Vesicant is a blackened death metal two piece out of New Zealand. On their ferocious debut, Shadows of Cleansing Iron, they deliver seven knotted dismal cuts full to the brim with suffocating dread. The music is
By Bryan Camphire.


Vesicant is a blackened death metal two piece out of New Zealand. On their ferocious debut, Shadows of Cleansing Iron, they deliver seven knotted dismal cuts full to the brim with suffocating dread. The music is peppered with odd meters all over the place, having the nightmarish effect of having to navigate your way out of a minefield in the dark as you watch your blood drain from your body slowly into the dirt. No one section overstays its welcome, fortunately. The frequent changes in the landscape result in a compelling listen front to back.

At the forefront of Vesicant's detailed songcraft, the drums propel the music forward with deft musicality. Mere time keeping this is not. Commanding martial snare rolls abound in slow parts as well as in the faster sections. Odd accents are thrown in all over the place, all off kilter and sinister. In one moment the percussion is tightly locked up with the iron-sprung grip of a bear trap. In the next moment the drums are loose and unbridled, as though giving chase along a blood-stained crooked trail. Note the different speeds of the blasts within a single riff as the "Uncoiled Desolator" begins to unfurl its ugly self scarcely a minute into the track. This high level of nuance in the drumming compels one to pay closer attention with each listen.

The detuned guitars sound as if the gain is turned up all the way on the amps. It's a scorching noisy sound that cuts. The riffs strike an excellent balance of being both both catchy and unpredictable. Harsh guitars meld with the martial drums in a way that's abysmally oppressive, like you're clawing your way out of a pine box six feet deep til your flesh turns to bone.

Song titles here seem to hint at deeper darker meanings. "Enceladus" could refer to a World War 2 vessel or to a moon of Saturn. "Uncoiled Desolator" could refer to anything from a bandolier to the Prince of Darkness on the eve of the Apocalypse. These kinds of evocations add to the sense of foreboding present throughout Shadows of Cleansing Iron.

Vesicant emerges as one of those rare bands who pack more ideas into one song than most bands manage to fit into an entire record. This may not be obvious at first sit down with this album because if one were to drop the needle at any given point on Shadows of Cleansing Iron, you will hear a very singular heavy sound throughout. Quiet breakdowns are nowhere to be found on this record. It is all one ferocious onslaught. However, upon close inspection, rows upon rows of teeth reveal themselves. It's a sound that's precise, consistent and well-sharpened. Shadows of Cleansing Iron is a ripping debut full-length release from very promising fresh talent.

January 1, 2018

The Beastwars Trilogy

By Calen Henry. None of the Beastwars albums are new, but in the fall the band made all their albums Pay What You Want on Bandcamp (until April 2018) to support singer Matt Hyde's cancer treatment so it seems like a good time for a retrospective on their trilogy of albums.
By Calen Henry.

None of the Beastwars albums are new, but in the fall the band made all their albums Pay What You Want on Bandcamp (until April 2018) to support singer Matt Hyde's cancer treatment so it seems like a good time for a retrospective on their trilogy of albums.

Thus far the band has recorded a trilogy of albums focusing on a combination of apocalyptic description and introspection; either describing destruction or musing on coming to terms with the resulting death. The albums aren't exactly concept albums but along with the overarching concepts there are recurring images; birds, mountains, rivers, and magic that represent the struggles with life and death on which the band focus. The band's original goal was a trilogy so it remains to be seen if they keep going. Either way, they've recorded an exciting trilogy of albums like no other band, in a crowded and sometimes boring genre; stoner doom.

Artwork by Nick Keller.

Beastwars came to my attention in 2013 with Blood Becomes Fire but I didn't really get them until I went back to the self-titled, specifically the opening song "Damn the Sky".

It is as fine a manifesto as any band could have, summing up the band's unique take on stoner doom, with a layer of grunge, in one track. Anchored by a mid-tempo guitar pseudo-gallop and the band's characteristic crunchy bass, Matt Hyde's vocals shine. Like no other vocalist he careens between a gravelly smooth croon and a god bothering howl introducing tenets of the band's world:

Take me to the top of the hill
Where the birds refuse to fly
Raise your hands your hand to the damned sky
Watch those twin moons collide


Photos by Mark Derricutt / Chalice of Blood.

Artwork by Nick Keller.

Beastwars appears to be set in a time of magic and myth with references to ships as well as magic, while Blood Becomes Fire is set in the future and features the point of view of a time traveling astronaut. It also marks a musical shift for the band; both noisier and more melodic.

Where Beastwars takes the band's mantra, "Obey the Riff" pretty literally, Blood Becomes Fire anchors the huge guitar riffs with more angular bass (and sometimes guitar) riffs but introduces more melodic guitar leads. It takes the band's unique spin on stoner doom to a new level, really giving the band a sound like no one else. It also works with the lyrical shift, from impending doom to the aftermath of apocalypse.


Artwork by Nick Keller.

The final album in the trilogy, The Death of All Things, mellows out the band's overall sound but maintains a level of ferocity, especially in the vocals, that makes for a sound unmatched in modern metal.

Though the album features the band's lyrical touchstones like mountains, rivers and magic, the album is less concerned with description and more with thoughts on the death of all things. The lyrical shift, combined with the musical shift makes the album all the more successful. The more mellow, deliberate tracks are a master class in stoner doom composition. Most bands can only wish to write one track as good as "Witches', let alone a whole album.


I'd also be remiss to talk about Beastwars without mentioning Nick Keller's fantastic cover art for each album. His vivid paintings give the slight visual push that helps transport you to the worlds the band creates. I'm sure the LP sleeves are amazing.

The only blemish on the band's catalog is production. All three albums are mastered very loudly. It's only truly a detriment on the first record which has noticeable clipping, but it can make all three records, back to back, an exhausting listen. And, at 40 minutes apiece, the albums beg to be binged.

That aside, Beastwars are something special. They took a tired genre back to its roots and built a characteristic sound through three musically and lyrically cohesive albums, each having its own sonic identity. Anyone with even a passing interest owes it to themselves to check them out and let’s hope there's more to be heard from them.