December 12, 2018

Veldes - Storm Borrower

By Hera Vidal. As I become more and more open to black metal EPs, there is a sense of comfort in being able to find music that you can listen to despite the length of it. However, many EPs are becoming more like albums; while there are fewer than five songs
By Hera Vidal.


As I become more and more open to black metal EPs, there is a sense of comfort in being able to find music that you can listen to despite the length of it. However, many EPs are becoming more like albums; while there are fewer than five songs on the record, the song lengths surpass the 10-minute mark. It’s an interesting blur that is happening frequently, and it’s amusing to see. This brings me to the three-song EP Storm Borrower, which showcases a distinct blend of ambient tones and black metal that makes it a bit dreamy.

Right off the bat, the beginning of Storm Borrower sounds like if Saor’s Guardians and Unreqvited’s Disquiet got together and made sweet music together, unleashing this into the world. First track “The Songless Forest” has the atmosphere that makes you want to relax and take some time out of reality to just let your mind wander. The growls in the song do nothing to take you out of the atmosphere, allowing the listener to just drift off elsewhere, transcending to some far off place. The surface-level simplicity hides a deeper complexity that caught my attention. For one thing, while the pacing set on the EP almost never changes, the tones buried underneath the melody and the way the voice adds flair to the space outside of the melody’s main reach makes an interesting tonal texture that feels oddly satisfying.

Atmospheric black metal can still sound interesting and new despite the over-saturation of the subgenre itself, and Veldes shows how that can be done. Storm Borrower is a highly enjoyable EP that transcends even the smallest of doubts. It captures your attention and holds it long after it ends. The atmosphere is sublime and dream-like, and you can’t help but smile a little as you come towards the end. Perhaps, at the bottom of it all, this record is meant to be heard when you are by yourself, when you need a pick-me-up that no substance or activity can provide. It is inherently calming.

December 10, 2018

Holy Terror - Total Terror

An Autothrall Classic. Where so many bands in the late 80s were trying to take the formula presented by Metallica and Megadeth and add some accessibility for success, there was another side to the thrash scene entrenched more firmly in the influence of Slayer
An Autothrall Classic. Originally published here.

[On Dissonance Productions' Bandcamp you can find an awesome compilation of late 80s thrashers Holy Terror's entire output. Here is the mighty Autothrall's review of their first full-length, Terror and Submission from 1987.]


Where so many bands in the late 80s were trying to take the formula presented by Metallica and Megadeth and add some accessibility for success, there was another side to the thrash scene entrenched more firmly in the influence of Slayer, Possessed, Venom and the emerging German scene. Holy Terror belonged to the latter, and they had a sound that, by 1987 standards, was quite intense. Filthy, aggressive thrash metal which mastered both the elements of chaos and precision into a violent experience, like a Mad Max road race through the outlying deserts of the abyss. Keith Deen's apocalyptic vocals gave the band a grisly edge, but what really explodes off this recording are the guitars, which peel the rust off the abandoned cars that litter this hellish highway. Just as fast as Exodus, or Possessed, and about as complex.

The intensity showcased across Terror and Submission was a wise decision for Holy Terror, because unlike so many of their peers, they produced an effort that could be remembered fondly. This is still pretty fucking wild by today's standards, and the cult status of this band is well deserved, while so many other, safer thrash metal upstart albums of the 80s languor in the black hole of memory. I can't say that the entire effort is packed to overflow with memorable riffs, but taken as a whole it's 42 minutes of pleasure and pain for any thrash magnate who seeks the less traveled path.

"Black Plague" is disgustingly fast and will hit you like an 18-wheeler on demon auto-pilot. Don't like it? Then don't hitchhike on Rt. 66, motherfucker. The speed blisters and swells like the friction sores that must have caused great injury to guitarists Kurt Kilfelt and Mike Alvord, as their riffs buzz through the recording like a pair of buzzsaw wielding killers in a competition to see who can decapitate the most college students. The leads are just spastic, awesome nonsense, and Deen's vocals range from a harsher style to some clear wailing, but always around the same range. "Evil's Rising" is deep and crushing, but picks up to the same level of speed, with some great vocal howling and drumwork courtesy of Jack Schwartz. "Blood of the Saints" dials back the speed for a crude and rude opening rhythm, but sure enough, it returns to road worthiness with a surprisingly anthemic chorus section. "Mortal Fear" explodes into more chaos at the expected tempo, but "Guardians of the Netherworld" has an old school metal tint, pumping pace where Deen really gets to shine, basically Holy Terror doing ancient power metal.

A war is raging on inside us, guarded by the horde
With lesser gods of higher rank, prodding them to war
No Father, Son, or Holy Spirit
Nor defences from the foe
All are battered, tortured, shattered
Allegiance without death is woe

The lyrics to much of the album read like a poor man's Paradise Lost, much more serious and well written than other bands of the era were capable of delivering. "Distant Calling" has some great power melodies that wind up before the verse, and it's another of their classic metal charge pieces and one of the very best songs on this album. "Terror and Submission" features a kickass, burning lead over the dense, grinding melodies, and "Tomorrow's End" is just sheer, crashing momentum, like a windstorm approaching across a desert at 10x the normal speed. The bridge has a hyper, ascending rhythm that swerves back into the lightning verse, and there's a crunchy thrash breakdown in there as well. "Alpha Omega - The Bringer of Balance" is perhaps my very favorite track from the album, with a wealth of amazing riffs that are both caustic and beautiful, creating an epic atmosphere of desperation and warfare.

Terror and Submission has one of the best 'apocalyptic' tones of any thrash or speed metal album in history, right alongside Holy Moses' Finished With the Dogs or Znöwhite's Act of God (the latter of which came out the year after this). It's completely aggressive without needing to sacrifice good songwriting or musicianship, and I truly wish more bands had gone this route instead of going all Metallica lite. This is a great record, that belongs in any true thrashers collection, and it would not be their last...


[Autothrall also likes Holy Terror's second album Mind Wars.]

December 7, 2018

Domkraft - Flood

By Matt Hinch. When I saw Domkraft's name pop up in my email I took notice. I couldn't immediately remember what their previous album (The End of Electricity) sounded like but I knew I was excited. This was more than an “oh yeah, I remember that band” moment.
By Matt Hinch.


When I saw Domkraft's name pop up in my email I took notice. I couldn't immediately remember what their previous album (The End of Electricity) sounded like but I knew I was excited. This was more than an “oh yeah, I remember that band” moment. As expected, digging into their new album, Flood was no disappointment. Note also that this is the first release on a new label called Blues Funeral Recordings. Gotta keep an eye on that. I mean, it's run by Jadd Shickler of Meteor City/Magnetic Eye fame so I'm not worried about quality.

Domkraft deal in the psych/stoner/doom/sludge realm with emphasis on the psych doom. Obviously they prefer to keep the song lengths long, giving the hypnotic, repetitive riffs time to become superglued inside your head. We're not talking mind-numbing repetition though. In fact, the word “prog” has been thrown around in reference to Domkraft. They're no King Crimson but there is a complexity beyond the pulsing, head-nodding doom riffs that swirl and snake around you, enveloped in a fog of red-eyed delight. (They're probably fans of King Crimson though.)

Those bone-rubberizing riffs form a sturdy backbone. They're heavy and dark and a little mean but not gothic or depressing. Part of that may also be from the vocals. From the gut, and more bellow than anything, they berate the listener from the middle distance making Flood sound epic and open while the rest of the sound feels right on top of you.

I know they're not alone in this but Domkraft have a way of keeping things simple enough to remain grounded but it's laced with enough of the good stuff to at least evolve the mind into a state of higher being. They'll mix a measured pace and consistent volume with sneakily powerful builds, affecting psych, and percussive energy.

This unheralded Swe-doom band can compete with the likes of say, Conan and even Sleep. Flood should take you to the same places or even a little further on a somewhat different path given they deal with porous borders. (Not a political statement.) Domkraft set themselves apart with a more colourful atmosphere (and album cover). Even though they don't totally weird out the pervading feeling of tonal bliss and psychedelic aptitude maintains a consistent buzz for the whole 40+ minutes.

By the time you get to album closer, “Dead Eyes, Red Skies” you can even pick out the more overt blues touches. Just one more twist in the plot. Throughout, this many tentacled beast continually feeds on the kind of riffs you want to let soak in. Just open all your pores and feel it penetrate, working the psych magic from within. Domkraft may be doombringing riff miners but they have a depth outside of that. But who in their right mind is going to tell them to stop digging? There's always a demand for gold!

December 5, 2018

Vvilderness - Devour the Sun

By Hera Vidal. The news has been dark lately. There have been enough mass murders and killings in America to make one almost desire to tune out the world and hide under the covers, waiting for the end to come.
By Hera Vidal.

Cover art by Vvildr

The news has been dark lately. There have been enough mass murders and killings in America to make one almost desire to tune out the world and hide under the covers, waiting for the end to come. It also makes one hyper-aware of what could potentially kill them, especially when they fall under a certain label or group that someone wants to destroy. There have been too many instances of death and destruction and, for one glorious moment, we all want to disappear. Because most of us cannot afford to leave society’s confines, we have to find other ways to escape, and one of those ways is music. While black metal continues to churn out controversy after controversy, it can still heal us. It can still make us feel something akin to hope despite the dumpster fire that continues to burn into the concrete of our homes. This brings me to Vvilderness’s album Devour the Sun, an album that brings hope and good tidings to the table through the melodic tones of the music.

Even though Devour the Sun starts off with a melancholy that can chill you to the bone, the second track “Sól” brings some color to the dreariness of what you first heard. While the black metal remains embedded in its core, “Sól” creates a majestic tonality that elevates the music to another level, taking advantage of the listener’s awe as the music weaves in and out of airy notes and contrasting layers of acoustic instruments. This continues on the third track, “Devour the Sun”, continuing the theme of acoustics as it weaves more sounds together, creating a warm dissonance that doesn’t seem to be out of place within the scheme of things. Devour the Sun reminds me of the album Infinite Ocean by M.H.X.’s Chronicles, as they both have a dissonance that acts in accordance with a theme. With Infinite Ocean, it had to do with the sea. With Devour the Sun, it has to do with purification and reincarnation, and considering the softness of the sounds at work here, there is something highly ritualistic that Devour touches. It almost feels like you are moving through parts of a ritual, as if you are being cleansed by listening to this.

As the album moves onward, the music takes a turn for the dreary and the melancholic. Gone are those bright, melodious tones that have been part of the general structure at this point. Now, it has shifted to a folk-like aspect, as if the music is preparing you for what’s to come. Whether it is burning your body into a pyre or becoming dust on the ground, it feels like you are being led to your final destination, and you can only walk towards it. With the closing song “Aftershine” – a song that spans 10 minutes, filled with strings that reverberate and echo throughout it – the listener is taken through a deeply sonic journey that is filled with warmth and joy that doesn’t let up until about halfway through. Once the joyous sounds are gone, you are left within this sonic abyss where the music drones, as if you have reached your destination and you are about to be sent elsewhere. However, unlike the droning I am familiar with, which fills you with dread and uncertainty, it makes you feel comfortable. It feels like you have fallen asleep and have just opened your eyes, now awake to embrace your reality, whatever that may be.

All in all, Devour the Sun is an album that comes close to purifying your world from the destruction you live in. For that moment in time, you exist in the sounds of hope, joy, and ritual, and you can only hope to take that with you once you are back in reality. This is an album I will definitely come back to – there is something that makes me want to explore it once more, as if no one can resist the siren’s call of hope.


[Devour the Sun is also available in a vinyl remaster. It's a little cheaper, and it has two songs - one for each side of the LP.]

December 3, 2018

P.H.O.B.O.S. - Phlogiston Catharsis

By Ulla Roschat. Once again the French band P.H.O.B.O.S. live up to their name. With their 4th full length album Phlogiston Catharsis, which they released in September this year through Transcending Obscurity,
By Ulla Roschat.

Artwork by Synckop

Once again the French band P.H.O.B.O.S. live up to their name. With their 4th full length album Phlogiston Catharsis, which they released in September this year through Transcending Obscurity, they scare the living daylights out of you in about 47 minutes and 8 songs. You can even choose among your inner fears and demons, choose which they summon.

With their mix of Industrial Doom and Black Metal they conjure an atmosphere where the good old filthy, evil demon, that goes for your flesh and bone, your heart and soul, leaping out from the dark and obscure, feels at home as well as the SF nightmare that transforms yourself from a human being into a biomechanical "cyborgian" monstrosity. The horror is complete either way, combine them and you'll enter a new dimension of angst ridden insanity.

Right from the start you're immediately thrown into an atmosphere that is uncanny and terrifying. Relentless drums grab, pull and push you, while a distorted, oscillating guitar sound and echoing drones create an industrial kind of oily grimy, stenchy, nausea inducing sludge. But soon P.H.O.B.O.S. establish a hypnotic and compelling groove as well, the only hook to hold on to, and rather sooner than later to get hooked on - a psychedelic edge that somehow insists on the existence of independent humanity, or at least organic life, opposing the intrusion of mind and body by programmed machines.

With every minute that the album progresses the biomechanical and brain altering metamorphosis does the same, Once the program has started it drives on inexorable and merciless with glacial precision and evil impetus. Disturbing eerie noises and vocals like beastly, demonic snarls grab for you through veiling smoke to choke you, rip your heart out or rearrange your brain cells.

Unrelenting, propelling drums, dissonance, menacing drones all flow together and grow into a maelstrom of terror and insanity. The mechanic atmosphere is soaked with a sense of twisting, warping and shifting of inner and outer worlds. The subtle, underlying psychedelic vibe comes to surface from time to time, with repetitive, mesmerizing rhythms that carry spiritual, even religious aspects, as if to claim the last remaining traces of humanity.

Phlogiston Catharsis immediately grabs you and hurls you into another world, into atmospheres and soundscapes that are overwhelmingly dense and intense, and especially the omnipresent duality of disturbing chaotic dissonances and hypnotizing repetitive rhythms makes it as terrifying as it is beautiful and compelling.

December 1, 2018

The Foundry

Cutting edge contemporary heaviness displayed and discussed. By Bryan Camphire. With Vitrun Carpe Noctem return after a five year spell and exceed the high standards set on their excellent previous full length, In Terra Profugus. The six songs on offer
Cutting edge contemporary heaviness displayed and discussed.

By Bryan Camphire.

Artwork by Stephen Wilson

Carpe Noctem - Vitrun
Iceland. 6 songs, 52 minutes, Code 666, October 5th, 2018.

With Vitrun Carpe Noctem return after a five year spell and exceed the high standards set on their excellent previous full length, In Terra Profugus. The six songs on offer this time around twist and turn with many minor key melancholic melodic sections. The guitars make ample use of ebow and and tremolo arm, bending stretching and smearing pitches all across the band's darkened soundscapes. The third track, "Og hofið fylltist af reyk" (and the temple was filled with smoke), is a highlight for me; midway through the music reaches a fever pitch, and just when it seems that the band could not possibly ratchet the tension any higher, the song explodes like so many collapsing steeples being reduced to ash. Vitrun is the Icelandic word for vision, and this combined with the record's harrowing album art might suggest that the band is interested in exploring themes of the tangled aspects of perception. This much is certain, Vitrun is a strangely beautiful offering from these high caliber black metal experimentalists.


Artwork by Babar Moghal.

Ars Magna Umbrae - Lunar Ascension
Poland. 8 songs, 36 minutes, Independent, October 5th, 2018.

This one man band's name translates as The Great Art of Shadow. What struck me most about this release upon first listen was the strange innovative guitar work. Sinister snaky lines evince feelings of dread from the very start. Subsequent listens revealed that Lunar Ascension places a heavy emphasis on composition, with strong dynamics and drastic tempo changes in nearly every song keeping things interesting. There is a murderousness on display here that’s reminiscent of early Blut Aus Nord. When looking for how black metal has moved forward in 2018, consider this record.


Artwork Mar.A.

Cultes des Ghoules - Sinister, or Treading the Darker Paths
Poland. 5 songs, 55 minutes, Hells Headbangers, September 23, 2018

"Is it you, my master, whatever your name is, or is it just me, filled with divine bliss?" If you want to be filled with divine bliss of which the singer of Cultes des Ghoules speaks, listen to Sinister. This is yet another excellent offering to the band's weird catalog of releases. Slow lurching repetitive mesmerizing music to listen to around a fire in the woods whilst making animal sacrifices to unholy divine beings. The guitars are toothy and full of grit. The bass cuts through the mix nicely and will set fists swinging. The drums are commanding and in the pocket sans frills. I like to think of this singer as what Ozzy might sound like if he began releasing music for the first time in present day Poland instead of, you know, being the great grand father of heavy metal. There is something special and mysterious about this release, the band's thirteenth offering in thirteen years...